In My Place.
I cannot wait any longer. I must have my money, and if you cannot pay it I must foreclose the mortgage and sell the place,” said Mr. Merton.
“In that case,” said Mr. Bishop, “it will of course be sold at a great sacrifice, and after the struggles I have made, my family will again be homeless. It is hard. I only wish you had to earn your money as I do mine; you then might know something of the hard life of a poor man. If you could only in imagination, put yourself in my place, I think you would have a little mercy on me.”
“It is useless talking; I extended this one year, and I can do so no longer,” replied Mr. Merton, as he returned to his desk and continued writing.
The poor man rose from his seat, and walked sadly out of Mr. Merton’s office. His last hope was gone. He had just recovered from a long illness which had swallowed up his means with which he had intended to make the last payment on his house. True, Mr. Merton had waited one year when he failed to meet the demand owing to illness in his family, and he had felt very much obliged to him for so doing. This year he had been laid up for seven months, during which time he could earn nothing, and all his savings were then needed for the support of his family. Again he failed, and now he would again be homeless, and have to begin the world anew. Had heaven forsaken him, and given him over to the tender mercies of the wicked?
After he had left the office, Mr. Merton could not drive away from his thoughts the remarks to which the poor man gave utterance, "I wish you had to earn your money as I do mine.”
In the midst of a row of figures, “Put yourself in my place” intruded.
Once after it had crossed his mind he laid down his pen, saying, “Well, I think I should find it rather hard. I have a mind to drop it there this afternoon and see how it fares with his family; that man has arouse my curiosity.”
About five o’clock he put on a gray wig and some old cast-off clothes and walked to the door. Mrs. Bishop, a pale, weary-looking woman opened it. The poor old man requested permission to enter and rest a while, saying he was very tired with his long journey, for he had walked many miles that day.
Mrs. Bishop cordially invited him in and gave him the best seat the room afforded; she then began to make preparations for tea.
The old gentleman watched her attentively. He saw there was no elasticity, no hope in her movements, and pity for her began to steal into his heart. When her husband entered, her features relaxed into a smile, and she forced a cheerfulness into her manner. The traveler noted it all, and he was forced to admire this woman who could assume a cheerfulness she did not feel, for her husbands sake. After the table was prepared (there was nothing on it but bread and butter and tea), they invited the stranger to eat with them, saying, “We have not much to offer you, but a cup of tea will refresh you after your long journey.”
He accepted their hospitality, and, as they discussed the frugal meal, led them without seeming to do so, to talk of their affairs.
“I bought this piece of land,” said Mr. Bishop, “at a low price, and instead of waiting, as I ought to have done, until I saved the money to build, I thought I would borrow a few hundred dollars. The interest on the money would not be near so much as the rent I was paying, and I would save something by it. I did not think there would be any difficulty in paying back the money; but the first year my wife and one of the children were ill, and the expense left me without means to pay the debt. Mr. Merton agreed to wait another year if I would pay the interest, which I did. This year I was for seven months unable to work at my trade and earn anything, and of course, when pay-day come around—and that will be very soon—I shall be unable to meet the demand.”
“But,” said the stranger, “will not Mr. Merton wait another year, if you make all the circumstances known to him?”
“No, sir,” replied Mr. Bishop; “I saw him this morning and he said he must have the money and should be obliged to foreclose.”
“He must be very hard-hearted," remarked the traveler.
“Not necessarily so,” replied Mr. Bishop. “The fact is, those rich men know nothing of the struggles of the poor. They are men, just like the rest of mankind, and I am sure if they had the faintest idea of what the poor have to pass through, their hearts and purses would open. You know it has passed into a proverb, ’When a poor man needs help he should apply to the poor.’ The reason is obvious. Only the poor know the curse of poverty. They know how heavily it falls, crushing the heart of man, and (to use my favorite expression) they can at once put themselves in the unfortunate one’s place and appreciate difficulties, and are therefore ready to render assistance as far as they are able. If Mr. Merton had the least idea what I and my family had to pass through, I think he would be willing to wait several years for his money rather than distress us.”
With what emotion the stranger listened may be imagined. A new world was being opened to him. He was passing through an experience that had never been his before. Shortly after the conclusion of the meal he arose to take his leave, thanking Mr. and Mrs. Bishop for their kind hospitality. They invited him to stay all night, telling him he was welcome to what they had.
He thanked them, and said, “I will trespass on your kindness no longer. I think I can reach the next village before dark, and be so much further on my journey.”
Mr. Merton did not sleep much that night; he lay awake thinking. He had received a new revelation. The poor had always been associated in his mind with stupidity and ignorance, and the first poor family he had visited he had found far in advance, in intelligent sympathy and real politeness, of the exquisite and fashionable butterflies of the day.
The next day a boy called at the cottage, and left a package in a large blue envelope addressed to Mr. Bishop.
Mrs. Bishop was very much alarmed when she took it, for large blue envelopes were associated in her mind with law and lawyers, and she thought that it boded no good. She put it away till her husband came home from his work, when she handed it to him.
He opened it in silence, read it contents, and said, fervently, “Thank Heaven!”
“What is it, John?” Inquired his anxious wife.
“Good news, wife,” replied John; ”such news as I never hoped for or ever dreamed of.”
“What is it? What is it? Tell me quickly! I want to hear, if it is anything good.”
“Mr. Merton has canceled the mortgage; released me from the debt, both interest and principle; and anytime I need further assistance, if I will let him know, I shall have it.”
“I am so glad! It puts new life into me,” said the now happy wife. “But what can have come over Mr. Merton?”
“I do not know. It seems strange after the way he talked to me yesterday morning. I will go right over to Mr. Merton’s and tell him how happy he has made us.”
He found Mr. Merton in, and expressed his gratitude in glowing terms.
“What could have induced you” he asked “to show us such kindness?’
“I followed your suggestion, ”replied Mr. Merton, “and put myself in your place. I expect it will surprise you very much to learn that the strange traveler to whom you showed so much kindness yesterday was I.”
“Indeed!” exclaimed Mr. Bishop, “can that be true? How did you disguise yourself so well?”
“I was not so much disguised, after all; but you could not very readily associate Mr. Merton, the lawyer, with a poor wayfaring man.”
“Well, it is a good joke,” said Mr. Bishop; “good in more senses than one. It has terminated very pleasantly for me.”
“I was surprised,” said Mr. Merton, at the broad and liberal views you expressed of men and their actions generally. I supposed I had greatly the advantage over you in means and education; yet how cramped and narrow-minded have been my views beside yours! That wife of yours is an estimable woman, and that boy of yours will be an honor to any man. I tell you, Bishop,” said the lawyer, becoming animated, “you are rich—rich beyond what money could make; you have treasure that gold will not buy. I tell you, you owe me no thanks. Somehow I seem to have lived years since yesterday morning. What I have learned at your house is worth more than you owe me, and I am your debtor yet. Hereafter I shall take as my motto, ‘Put yourself in his place,’ and try to regulate my action by it.”
We cannot measure the need
Of the tiniest flower
Nor check the flow of the golden sands
That run through a single hour.
But the morning dews must fall
And the sun and summer rain
Most do their part and perform it all
Over and over again.
The path that has once been trod
Is never so rough to the feet
And the lesson we once had learned
Is never so hard to repeat
Though sorrowful tears may fall
And the heart to its depths be driven
With storm and tempest; we need them all
To render us meat for heaven.
FORGIVE AND FOR FORGET.
Forgive and forget, it is better
To fling all ill feeling aside
Than allow the deep, cankering fetter
Of revenge in your breast to abide
For your step o’er life’s path will be lighter
When the load from your bosom is cast
And the glorious sky will seem brighter
When the cloud of displeasure is past.
Though your spirit swell
high with emotion
To give back injustice again
Sink the thought in oblivion’s ocean
For remembrance increases the pain
O, why should we linger in sorrow
When its shadow is passing away,--
Or seek to encounter to-morrow
The blast that o’er-swept us to-day?
Our life stream is a varying river
And though it may placidly glide
When the sunbeams of joy o’er it quiver
It must foam when the storm meets the tide
Then stir not its current to madness
For its wrath thou wilt ever regret
Though the morning beams break on my sadness
Ere the sunset, forgive and forget.