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The Making of a Missionary

Or Day Dreams in Earnest

A Story of Mission Work in China

By Charlotte M. Yonge

New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1900.

Chapter IV. Cold Water.

All things are best fulfilled in their due time,
And there is time for all things.--MILTON.

EDWARD tried to bear in mind and act upon Mr. Goodrich's advice and his own promise; but he did not find it always easy to do so. There was the strong temptation to slur over his work, and if he found a doubtful word in the lexicon, to make it do, and not seek any further; or if his sum would not prove, to decide that the proof must be wrong, and let it go, even if his answer had not common sense. That would probably have been the case with anything he was eager about; but his grandfather began to observe how much he read, and when he was catching every moment available before starting for school, or curled up in the window seat on a Saturday, would come on him with, "Holloa! what are you after? We don't want bookworms! A young chap like you ought to be after football or somewhat."

[44] "Football ain't come in yet," said Edward.

(Grunt)--"There's enough for any lad to do that has got a mind to it. You've not been out rabbiting lately, and they are punishing the turnips in the Outfield like a flock of locusts."

"You were at me last time for wanting to take your gun," muttered Edward.

"Eh! what's that? Gun? Ay--take it; only mind what you are about with it. Don't shoot yourself or old Barnes; and mind you bring home enough of the little thieves for Missus's pudding here."

That old-fashioned fowling-piece was a great treasure of Mr. Bryant's, and though his great-grandson had long ago learned to use guns, it always made him angry for the lad to touch it; so it was plain that it was meant as a bribe to forsake the beloved book. However, as Edward tramped out, with the weapon on his shoulder, he was thinking of the joy of releasing a poor negro from a heavy yoke of timber shaped like a Y, and debating in his mind whether it were permissible for a missionary to fight in such a cause.

When he saw the poor bunnies scudding away, [44/45] and showing their little white tails as they rushed for their burrows in the copse, his spirit rose to them, and he shot three, and carried them home triumphantly over his shoulder, with the greater satisfaction because Billy Blake came and envied him his gun, and wanted very much to handle it, which Eddy was too wise, or too obedient, or both, to allow him to do.

"Is that all your bag-?" demanded his grandfather. "When I was your age I should have been ashamed to bring home no more than that, with only an old flintlock fowling-piece, too! But boys are not boys now."

So he mourned and growled while he was eating the rabbit pudding which Mrs. Bryant had made so carefully with onions and beautiful suet. He ate it, indeed two helpings; but declared all the time that if Ted had been half the chap he was at his age, they would be eating the conies instead of the bunnies--the conies preying on his "turmots"!

Opposition is apt to make people, especially lads, more and more earnest in their own pursuits, and the more Edward's reading was interfered with the more set upon it he grew. He [45/46] dreamed a good deal over his plans, and worked diligently since he had been told that the scholarship would be the first step. Even his mother, though at first she liked anything that kept him quiet and out of mischief, began to wish he was more like other lads, and to snub him when he tried to tell her of some strange adventure, a noble exploit, a wonderful conversion.

"There you are at it again; I'm quite sick of hearing of those nasty Red Indian blacks."

"Oh, mamma, you know better; Red Indians ain't black."

"All the same, horrid murderous savages, that would take your scalp and eat you as soon as that porker," said Mrs. Bryant, who, perhaps out of perversity, had mixed up her geography, though she had once known better. And it was worse when Mrs. Bryant happened to fall upon a book with a map, and a colored picture of the Red Indians in all the feathers and war paint.

"Holloa! You've got one of those missionary papers again. That's what you are always after, is it?"

"I wish you would speak to him, grandpapa," [46/47] wailed Mrs. Bryant. "He is always at them--neglecting his studies and all."

"I never do; I've promised not," muttered Edward under his breath; but he was not heard, except by his mother, who was generally ready to take his part; but just now had been made angry.

"Well, his studies; maybe that's his master's look-out; though I'm sure he doesn't give half time enough to them. But, as for the rest, I told him to run out and cut me a bit of parsley for the cold pork. 'All right, ma,' he says; never stirs, and I may go and whistle for my parsley."

"I only wanted to finish--"

"Ay, that's the way," broke in the grandfather. "I tell you what, Ted, you -are going just the way to be good for nothing. A scholar won't make nothing of this here farm."

"No one will make much of the farm," muttered Edward, who was old enough to have some notion of the state of affairs; but he could not have said a more unsuitable thing, for it put his grandfather into such a passion as he had never seen before.

In a rage, the old man went back to the [47/48] rougher language of his youth. He swore that all this impertinent idleness came of his being given to that reading, and snatched at the book to throw it into the fire. Edward threw it into his much-terrified mother's lap, crying out that it was not his, but Mr. Goodrich's--and this, though it saved the book, stirred up a fresh storm. "If I find one of them books about again, I'll Goodrich it, you may tell the parson fellow. So that's what he's up to! Putting all this stuff in your head and making you turn against the station where God has called you. That was what the 'catechis' said in my time; but now you must be after all this rot and rubbish! One word more of it, and I'll have you home from your newfangled school, and make my fine gentleman follow the plough, as your betters have done before you."

He struck his thick oaken staff upon the floor as he spoke with worse words of wrath than are here set down, and Mrs. Bryant, dreadfully frightened, and expecting every moment that he would bring on a fit, hustled her son out of the room as fast as she could. Edward had a notion of staying to protect her, but she hastily said: "Oh! [48/49] no, no; you only make it worse. Go off to bed and have done with it."

He could not go to bed, but sat on the stairs in the dark, hearing the gruff, angry voice roar at her till it died away in coughs, and though it broke out again once or twice, there was at last a lull, and it was plain that the old gentleman was smoking himself into a calmer state.

Edward ventured noiselessly to come down into the kitchen to get a candle and some supper, and presently his mother came out to him, looking quite pale after what she had gone through, and bringing the book.

"Take it away, Eddy," she whispered, holding up her hand so as to show that the silence must be preserved; "and never you bring one in again. How could you? I thought he might have died of it, and then what would you have felt?"

"But, mother, you know yourself, that--"

"Hush, hush! He is your great-grandfather--over eighty years old; no need to vex him. 'Twill all come after--"

"And then I shall have got the scholarship, [49/50] and be educated, and be free to go out and give myself--"

His mother nearly screamed out her "Nonsense."

"I mean it, mother," he said, wound up as he was by the excitement of the night.

"Then you mean just to break my heart," she declared, bursting into tears and suppressed sobs, partly the effect of the scene she had gone through, but partly the outbreak of the dismay that had been growing upon her ever since she had begun to watch the course of Edward's reading.

"You ought not to say that, mother. It is the most noble thing a man can do, to work for his Master, and to spread His Name among the poor heathens that have never known Him!"

"Oh, oh!" But it might be well for both that there were sounds like waking in old Mr. Byrant's sitting-room, and outside, the steps of the maid coming home from her message. The mother composed herself, and Edward ran up to his bed, in a state of passion and of dismay, and feeling that no one save himself and Mr. Goodrich cared for the House of God or the spread of His Name.

[51] Still he was not wholly comfortable as to meeting his mother when he came down the next morning. He never knew whether he should meet his grandfather, who sometimes, when rheumatic, did not come down till very late, but at other times would be exceedingly early in rising, wander about the home buildings, rating the men--who never minded how "Old Master" abused them--and coming in long after Edward was off to school, and lecturing on "the benefit of the master's eye," and growling at every one's idleness, till he fell asleep.

Edward was glad to see his boots outside the door, and to gather that it was a sleeping morning. His mother had a nice breakfast for him, and perhaps both felt a little shy as he ate in haste, and the subject was not entered on till he was taking down his overcoat, when she said "Here's the book, Eddy, and don't you borrow any more. It only upsets the old gentleman; and don't let me hear more of that nonsense of yours. You could not do it yet, not for years to came, and I hope by that time you'll be grown wiser."

"No such thing;" but, happily, he was wise [51/52] enough to keep the muttering between his teeth, as he swung his strap over his shoulder and strode off, without his usual good-bye to his mother, who looked after him, a good deal pained that, as she would have said, her boy was getting beyond her, and with no question in her mind but that she was right and he was foolish, and, might be, headstrong.

He, on his side, was debating whether they had any right to interfere with his reading, when it was of such a kind, and whether he should not go on with it in spite of them, hiding his books in the cart shed, or getting Aline to take care of them. At his age, surely he might choose what he liked! If it were "Jack Sheppard" or any of the sporting books the other boys liked, they might object; but a book like this, and lent him by his tutor--there could not possibly be any reasonable cause for hindering him. He was sure Mr. Goodrich would say the same. His wrath had made him stride on so fast that he found he should be able to avail himself of the half hour allowed for breakfast before school, and he made his way to the lodgings at once.

Mr. Goodrich rose up from his letters and his [52/53] paper with "Good-morning, Byrant; have you come to change your book already?"

"I have it here, sir, thank you; but I want to know whether they have a right to stop my reading?"

"Who are they?"

"My grandfather--great-grandfather he is," said Edward, as if that put it a little further off, "he has set on mother, and they made ever such a row, and say I must not have such books, and I don't see that they have any right. It is not as if they were bad books, but when you lend them to me sir--"

"Hold hard, Bryant; I don't think I have the right, as you say, to lend you what is disapproved by your authorities at home."

Edward's face fell. "Won't you, then, sir?"

"Not unless I could have a talk with your mother about it, and get her consent."

"I don't know that it would be any good, sir. She is awfully afraid of the old gentleman, when he gets into one of his tantrums; and, besides, she says it would just break her heart if I was to go out as a missionary."

[54] "She may think differently by the time you are old enough," said Mr. Goodrich.

"Only, sir," said Edward, "she might do something that would always hinder me. There's this old farm that is tied round my neck just like a burden not that I don't like the place. It has belonged to us since Queen Anne's time, worse luck; but it has got muddled and mortgaged, and all sorts of things; and they say if it comes to me I shall never make anything of it, and shall have to live the life of a laborer, all for nothing, and I don't want to be bound down to do that just to pacify the old man, who does not half know what he is thinking of----"

"I see," said Mr. Goodrich, "it is a hard situation, and a great trial to be patient and dutiful. Your work for the scholarship is in any way a preparation. Remember, your training for the present must be to submit in patience. It is the way to make a man of you, and more, a servant of God! There's the bell, we must be off. Only, my dear lad, bethink you, when you say your prayers, to add the Easter-day Collect, and I think you will find that God will bring your desire to good effect in whatever way it will be."

Edward was not at all delighted with his conversation, nor even to hear again that Mr. Goodrich thought he had a good chance of the scholarship. He thought he had more arguments to bring forward; but Mr. Goodrich was going out to luncheon, and engaged later in the day. He went home walking hotly and sharply; but as he came near the hedge of the Millars' garden he heard Mabel's voice going on as if she were reading, and, peeping through the hedge, he beheld her standing in the midst of a half-circle of dolls--one black and curly, another fair and waxen, a third with no complexion to speak of, a fourth very like a painted monkey. "Now, my dear black brethren and sisters, you had better renounce your idols that are only wood and stone, and leave off burying your poor babies, and tying up their toes all horrid, and getting into rivers to die and burning yourselves to death with your husbands! Don't! I am come to preach to you better things, and to bring to you the blessed Bible."

"Mabel, Mabel, Mab--come in," called Frances. "You are at that silly play again that mamma says is just profane, and you have been [55/56] and taken my Bellanina again that Lady Mary gave me! Out in the sun and dirt too; come in directly, you naughty child!"

"Ah! It is all play and nonsense," muttered Edward to himself; "no better with me than with poor Mab! That's what the world is made of--care for nothing!"

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