Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
ANDREW AND ALEXA.
Andrew had occasion to call on the laird to pay his father's rent, and Alexa, who had not seen him for some time, thought him improved both in carriage and speech, and wondered. She did not take into account his intercourse with God, as with highest human minds, and his constant wakefulness to carry into action what things he learned. Thus trained in noblest fashions of freedom, it was small wonder that his bearing and manners, the natural outcome and expression of his habits of being, should grow in liberty. There was in them the change only of development. By the side of such education as this, dealing with reality and inborn dignity, what mattered any amount of ignorance as to social custom! Society may judge its own; this man was not of it, and as much surpassed its most accomplished pupils in all the essentials of breeding, as the apostle Paul was a better gentleman than Mr. Nash or Mr. Brummel. The training may be slow, but it is perfect. To him who has yielded self, all things are possible. Andrew was aware of no difference. He seemed to himself the same as when a boy.
Alexa had not again alluded to his brother's letter concerning George Crawford, fearing he might say what she would find unpleasant. But now she wanted to get a definite opinion from him in regard to certain modes of money-making, which had naturally of late occupied a good deal of her thought.
"What is your notion concerning money-lending--I mean at interest, Mr. Ingram?" she said. "I hear it is objected to nowadays by some that set up for teachers!"
"It is by no means the first time in the world's history," answered Andrew.
"I want to know what you think of it, Mr. Ingram?"
"I know little," replied Andrew, "of any matter with which I have not had to deal practically."
"But ought not one to have his ideas ready for the time when we will have to deal practically?" said Alexa.
"Mine would be pretty sure to be wrong," answered Andrew; "and there is no time to spend in gathering wrong ideas and then changing them!"
"On the contrary, they would be less warped by personal interest."
"Could circumstances arise in which it would not be my first interest to be honest?" said Andrew. "Would not my judgment be quickened by the compulsion and the danger? In no danger myself, might I not judge too leniently of things from which I should myself recoil? Selfishly smoother with regard to others, because less anxious about their honesty than my own, might I not yield them what, were I in the case, I should see at once I dared not allow to myself? I can perceive no use in making up my mind how to act in circumstances in which I am not--probably will never be. I have enough to occupy me where I find myself, and should certainly be oftener in doubt how to act, if I had bothered my brains how to think in circumstances foreign to me. In such thinking, duty is of necessity a comparatively feeble factor, being only duty imagined, not live duty, and the result is the more questionable. The Lord instructed His apostles not to be anxious what they should say when they were brought before rulers and kings: I will leave the question of duty alone until action is demanded of me. In the meantime I will do the duty now required of me, which is the only preparation for the duty that is to come."
Although Alexa had not begun to understand Andrew, she had sense enough and righteousness enough to feel that he was somehow ahead of her, and that it was not likely he and George Crawford would be of one mind in the matter that occupied her, so different were their ways of looking at things--so different indeed the things themselves they thought worth looking at.
She was silent for a moment, then said:
"You can at least tell me what you think of gambling!"
"I think it is the meanest mode of gaining or losing money a man could find."
"Why do you think so?"
"Because he desires only to gain, and can gain only by his neighbor's loss. One of the two must be the worse for his transaction with the other. Each must wish ill to his neighbor!"
"But the risk was agreed upon between them."
"True--but in what hope? Was it not, on the part of each, that he would be the gainer and the other the loser? There is no common cause, nothing but pure opposition of interest."
"Are there not many things in which one must gain and the other lose?"
"There are many things in which one gains and the other loses; but if it is essential to any transaction that only one side shall gain, the thing is not of God."
"What do you think of trading in stocks?"
"I do not know enough about it to have a right to speak."
"You can give your impression!"
"I will not give what I do not value."
"Suppose, then, you heard of a man who had made his money so, how would you behave to him?"
"I would not seek his acquaintance."
"If he sought yours?"
"It would be time to ask how he had made his money. Then it would be my business."
"What would make it your business?"
"That he sought my acquaintance. It would then be necessary to know something about him, and the readiest question would be--how he had made his money!"
Alexa was silent for some time.
"Do you think God cares about everything?" she said at length.
"Everything," answered Andrew, and she said no more.
Andrew avoided the discussion of moral questions. He regarded the thing as vermiculate, and ready to corrupt the obedience. "When you have a thing to do," he would say, "you will do it right in proportion to your love of right. But do the right, and you will love the right; for by doing it you will see it in a measure as it is, and no one can see the truth as it is without loving it. The more you talk about what is right, or even about the doing of it, the more you are in danger of exemplifying how loosely theory may be allied to practice. Talk without action saps the very will. Something you have to do is waiting undone all the time, and getting more and more undone. The only refuge is to do." To know the thing he ought to do was a matter of import, to do the thing he knew he ought to do was a matter of life and death to Andrew. He never allowed even a cognate question to force itself upon him until he had attended to the thing that demanded doing: it was merest common sense!
Alexa had in a manner got over her uneasiness at the report of how George was making his money, and their correspondence was not interrupted. But something, perhaps a movement from the world of spirit coming like the wind, had given her one of those motions to betterment, which, however occasioned, are the throb of the divine pulse in our life, the call of the Father, the pull of home, and the guide thither to such as will obey them. She had in consequence again become doubtful about Crawford, and as to whether she was right in corresponding with him. This led to her talk with Andrew, which, while it made her think less of his intellect, influenced her in a way she neither understood nor even recognized. There are two ways in which one nature may influence another for betterment--the one by strengthening the will, the other by heightening the ideal. Andrew, without even her suspicion of the fact, wrought in the latter way upon Alexa. She grew more uneasy. George was coming home: how was she to receive him? Nowise bound, they were on terms of intimacy: was she to encourage the procession of that intimacy, or to ward attempt at nearer approach?
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.