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Chapter 44


"And you think Marion likes him?" asked Lady Bernard, when she had in silence heard my story.

"I am sure she likes him. But you know he is so far inferior to her,--in every way."

"How do you know that? Questions are involved there which no one but God can determine. You must remember that both are growing. What matter if any two are unequal at a given moment, seeing their relative positions may be reversed twenty times in a thousand years? Besides, I doubt very much if any one who brought his favors with him would have the least chance with Marion. Poverty, to turn into wealth, is the one irresistible attraction for her; and, however duty may compel her to act, my impression is that she will not escape loving Roger."

I need not say I was gratified to find Lady Bernard's conclusion from Marion's character run parallel with my own.

"But what can come of it?" I said.

"Why, marriage, I hope."

"But Marion would as soon think of falling down and worshipping Baal and Ashtoreth as of forsaking her grandchildren."

"Doubtless. But there would be no occasion for that. Where two things are both of God, it is not likely they will be found mutually obstructive."

"Roger does declare himself quite ready to go and live amongst her friends, and do his best to help her."

"That is all as it should be, so far as he--as both of them are concerned; but there are contingencies; and the question naturally arises, How would that do in regard of their children?"

"If I could imagine Marion consenting." I said, "I know what she would answer to that question. She would say, Why should her children be better off than the children about them? She would say that the children must share the life and work of their parents."

"And I think she would be right, though the obvious rejoinder would be, 'You may waive your own social privileges, and sacrifice yourselves to the good of others; but have you a right to sacrifice your children, and heap disadvantages on their future?'"

"Now give us the answer on the other side, seeing you think Marion would be right after all."

"Marion's answer would, I think, be, that their children would be God's children; and he couldn't desire better for them than to be born in lowly conditions, and trained from the first to give themselves to the service of their fellows, seeing that in so far their history would resemble that of his own Son, our Saviour. In sacrificing their earthly future, as men would call it, their parents would but be furthering their eternal good."

"That would be enough in regard of such objections. But there would be a previous one on Marion's own part. How would her new position affect her ministrations?"

"There can be no doubt, I think," Lady Bernard replied, "that what her friends would lose thereby--I mean, what amount of her personal ministrations would be turned aside from them by the necessities of her new position--would be far more than made up to them by the presence among them of a whole well-ordered and growing family, instead of a single woman only. But all this jet leaves something for her more personal friends to consider,--as regards their duty in the matter. It naturally sets them on the track of finding out what could be done to secure for the children of such parents the possession of early advantages as little lower than those their parents had as may be; for the breed of good people ought, as much as possible, to be kept up. I will turn the thing over in my mind, and let you know what comes of it."

The result of Lady Bernard's cogitations is, in so far, to be seen in the rapid rise of a block of houses at no great distance from London, on the North-western Railway, planned under the instructions of Marion Clare. The design of them is to provide accommodation for all Marion's friends, with room to add largely to their number. Lady Bernard has also secured ground sufficient for great extension of the present building, should it prove desirable. Each family is to have the same amount of accommodation it has now, only far better, at the same rent it pays now, with the privilege of taking an additional room or rooms at a much lower rate. Marion has undertaken to collect the rents, and believes that she will thus in time gain an additional hold of the people for their good, although the plan may at first expose her to misunderstanding. From thorough calculation she is satisfied she can pay Lady Bernard five per cent for her money, lay out all that is necessary for keeping the property in thorough repair, and accumulate a fund besides to be spent on building more houses, should her expectations of these be answered. The removal of so many will also make a little room for the accommodation of the multitudes constantly driven from their homes by the wickedness of those, who, either for the sake of railways or fine streets, pull down crowded houses, and drive into other courts and alleys their poor inhabitants, to double the wretchedness already there from overcrowding.

In the centre of the building is a house for herself, where she will have her own private advantage in the inclusion of large space primarily for the entertainment of her friends. I believe Lady Bernard intends to give her a hint that a married couple would, in her opinion, be far more useful in such a position than a single woman. But although I rejoice in the prospect of greater happiness for two dear friends, I must in honesty say that I doubt this.

If the scheme should answer, what a strange reversion it will be to something like a right reading of the feudal system!

Of course it will be objected, that, should it succeed ever so well, it will all go to pieces at Marion's death. To this the answer lies in the hope that her influence may extend laterally, as well as downwards; moving others to be what she has been; and, in the conviction that such a work as hers can never be lost, for the world can never be the same as if she had not lived; while in any case there will be more room for her brothers and sisters who are now being crowded out of the world by the stronger and richer. It would be sufficient answer, however, that the work is worth doing for its own sake and its immediate result. Surely it will receive a well-done from the Judge of us all; and while his idea of right remains above hers, high as the heavens are above the earth, his approbation will be all that either Lady Bernard or Marion will seek.

If but a small proportion of those who love the right and have means to spare would, like Lady Bernard, use their wealth to make up to the poor for the wrongs they receive at the hands of the rich,--let me say, to defend the Saviour in their persons from the tyranny of Mammon, how many of the poor might they not lead with them into the joy of their Lord!

Should the plan succeed, I say once more, I intend to urge on Marion the duty of writing a history of its rise and progress from the first of her own attempts. Then there would at least remain a book for all future reformers and philanthropists to study, and her influence might renew itself in other ages after she was gone.

I have no more to say about myself or my people. We live in hope of the glory of God.

Here I was going to write, THE END; but was arrested by the following conversation between two of my children,--Ernest, eight, and Freddy, five years of age.

Ernest.--I'd do it for mamma, of course.

Freddy.--Wouldn't you do it for Harry?

Ernest.--No: Harry's nobody.

Freddy.--Yes, he is somebody.

Ernest.--You're nobody; I'm nobody; we are all nobody, compared to mamma.

Freddy. (stolidly).--Yes, I am somebody.

Ernest.--You're nothing; I'm nothing; we are all nothing in mamma's presence.

Freddy.--But, Ernest, every thing is something; so I must be something.

Ernest.--Yes, Freddy, but you're no thing; so you're nothing. You're nothing to mamma.

Freddy.--But I'm mamma's.


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George MacDonald