About Scolding

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About Scolding

I


"I'd go and break stones on the road rather than be sitting indoors doing nothing, Will," I heard Mrs. Howland say as I was walking up to the cottage door. The words were spoken sharply, and the tone was in a high pitch.

"Ho, ho," thought I, "if the wind is in that quarter, perhaps I had better make my call at another time;" and I hesitated for a moment. But as I really had some business with William Howland, and as I had got so far, I made up my mind not to turn back.

William Howland is a good man, I verily believe; but I am bound (if I must speak out) to say that he is not——well, not to write too strongly——not over fond of hard work. He has a wife and family dependent on his exertions, and he had recently, two or three weeks previous to this call of mine, lost a place of regular employment, fifteen shillings a week wages, because he could not or would not get up soon enough in the morning.

The case was this. He had, three months before (after a good deal of knocking about, sometimes in work, and rather oftener out of it), applied to a neighbouring farmer for a situation then vacant on the farm.

"I am afraid you won't suit me, Howland," said the farmer; "but, as you say you want work, I'll try you. But you'll understand, I shall expect you at your post by a quarter before six in the morning."

"That's early, sir," said Will.

"Yes, a quarter of an hour before the regular time, I know. But you will have to be timekeeper to the other men, who begin work at six; and it will be proper for you to be on the farm before they come. However, that's the condition on which I shall employ you. Take the place or leave it."

Howland decided that, upon the whole, it was best to take it, which he did; and for a few weeks he managed to be at his post at the appointed time. Then he began to slacken, sometimes being five minutes behind, sometimes ten, until at last he seemed to settle in his mind that six o'clock was the proper time to commence his day's work; and he did not always stick to that. The consequence was he lost his place; and after that, up to the time of my approach to his cottage, he had been out of work.

On entering, I found Mrs. Howland in a pretty considerable fume. Apparently she had worked herself into a heat of temper, which, perhaps, was not altogether unaccountable, even if inexcusable, by reason of her husband being seated near the window, with a book open before him.

"I am glad you are come in, sir," said the wife. "Look at Howland, sitting there, reading half the time, and nothing in the house to eat but what I get in debt for. And I wonder the baker trusts us, that I do."

"My dear," said the husband, who had before accosted me, and was now standing with his hand on the book he had been reading, "the Lord will provide. I am not a bit afraid of help not coming." He said this very mildly, and I must give him the credit of having borne his wife's scolding with meekness.

"Yes, sir, and that's how he goes on," said Mrs. Howland, almost crying. "When I tell him that there isn't a bit of victuals in the cupboard, all I can get from him is, 'The Lord will provide;' and 'tis so with other things,——there's rent not paid, and children's clothes and shoes wearing out; and 'tis all the same cry, 'The Lord will provide,' or 'Cast your burden upon the Lord,' or something of that sort out of the Bible. I declare it is enough to provoke a saint."

"Gently, gently, my good friend," said I, as persuasively as I could. "I am sure you do not mean to disparage the Bible. You have found it before now a great relief in time of trouble, have you not?"

I had reason for saying this, knowing as I do that my poor friend, Martha Howland, notwithstanding a little infirmity of temper, was a truly Christian woman.

"Yes," said she, "I have found it to be so; but————"; and coming to the "but," she stopped short. "Only it does not seem to me right, anyhow, for a man to be sitting in doors half the day, reading the Bible even, when he ought to be looking out for work to keep his family."

"My Martha is something like another Martha we read of in this book," said William Howland, patting his Bible fondly, and speaking kindly, though with a kind of provoking coolness, as I thought; "she is troubled about many things, not that she does not attend to the one thing needful; I don't say that," he added.

"And I reckon if Martha's sister Mary had had a family of little children to look after, and no money coming in, she would have been troubled about many things too," retorted Mrs. Howland.

"Well, to leave these matters now," said I, as I thought that if peacemakers are to be blessed, they have sometimes a delicate and dangerous task to perform, "I have a little job for you, Howland, which will bring you in a shilling. Will you take this letter for me to ———— (I produced the letter and mentioned the place, about three miles off), and wait for an answer?"

To be sure he would, and be glad to oblige me, he said.

I thought, but did not say, that possibly I was obliging him by offering him a shilling for what the postman or the post-office would have done for a penny. The truth is, I knew how badly off my neighbours were, and was glad of an opportunity of putting a shilling in their way without making a show of charity. I could have given the shilling without exacting a return; but it was my whim at that time to make the man fairly earn it, so I only said, "Bring the answer to my house, William, and then I will pay you for the journey."

"Shall I go at once, sir?" he wanted to know.

I told him yes; and so he shut up the book, and took his departure, leaving me in his cottage.

"Did you ever see the like of Will?" said Martha, whose wrath was not yet subsided.

"There are many worse husbands than Will," I replied.

"I don't complain of him as a husband altogether," continued she; "but it isn't much of a husband's part either, when he won't look out for work as he ought, and won't try to keep it when he has got it."

"You have told him so, I have no doubt."

"Haven't I, sir? I just have. I have been giving him such a dressing!"

"I thought so. Now do you think that was quite wise, Mrs. Howland?" I asked.

"I don't know what to say about that, sir; but one can't be always wise, you know, when things go so uncommonly crooked."

"But, my good friend, you know where it is written, 'The Lord layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous;' and you being one of that class————"

"No, no, sir; I never set up for being righteous," said my neighbour, hastily.

"I am sure of that," said I. "If you had done so, it would only have been self-righteousness. What I understand by the righteous, in the highest sense, is those who are made so by the righteousness of Christ; and if any one might be expected to have sound wisdom laid up for them, I am sure they have a right to it. Now, you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ; then you are made righteous in Him. Don't you know where it is written, 'Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith'?"

Yes, my neighbour knew this; it was a great comfort to her to know something of the meaning of it, she said.

"Well, then, to come to the point from which we have started, being a Christian woman, your husband, your children, I, everybody, have a sort of right to expect from you the fruits of that wisdom which cometh from above; and, as you know, is 'first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated.'"

"To be sure, sir, there's no doubt of that. But, you see, when a poor woman, whether Christian or not, is hard pushed, and the husband won't do what he ought, why, then maybe she forgets what she ought to remember, and wisdom, as you call it, sir, is just nowhere."

"'If any of you lack wisdom,' said the apostle James, 'let him (or her) ask of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not.' There are two lessons for us there, I think," said I.

"Very likely," said Martha; "and I want teaching badly enough."

"The first lesson is the plain one, that when we are in a sort of trouble we should go to God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, for guidance. The next is, that if God does not upbraid us for our folly, we should take care how we set about upbraiding others."

"And that's true," said Martha; "I never thought of that before."

"And then," I continued, "the Bible, especially the new Testament part of it, clearly sets before us our Christian duty, whatever may be our station and position in life. You know what it says about wives; but I don't think that it is anywhere said, 'Wives, scold your husbands.'"

Mrs. Howland smiled at this. "A funny thing that would be if it did," said she.

"But something is said about the husband being the head of the wife."

Martha remembered this, and thought that no good was likely to come by her scolding her husband, as she acknowledged she had done.

"Certainly no good can come of it, because it is contrary to the law and the gospel."

"But what is a poor wife to do?" asked Martha, in much perplexity; "you don't think it is right for Will to be hanging about indoors all day, or pretty near it, when he ought to be at work, or looking after it——though it is the Bible he is reading?"

"No; I do not. There is a time for all things, and——but I am not going to talk to you about your husband, that wouldn't be fair. Leave him to me; I'll talk to him."

"I'd be thankful to you, sir, if you would," said Martha.

"Only you must promise me not to scold him again, nor yet to upbraid him (that's the word, you know) about anything past and gone. Because, in the first place, it does no good, as you acknowledge; and in the second place it is neither wise nor right. The Christian rule is, 'Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you.' Now, as it seems that scolding does not move your husband, why not try another plan? Let me tell you a fable.

"Once upon a time there was a dispute between the sun and the wind which had the most power. They agreed to test the question upon a traveller on the road, who was wrapped in a cloak. 'I'll blow the cloak off his back,' said the wind. 'No, you won't; but I'll make him throw it off,' said the sun. Now, we will call the wind by the name of Anger, and the sun shall be Kindness; the man's cloak being Idleness or Self-indulgence. Well, the wind began to blow with all its might, and gave the traveller a terrible scolding, so to speak; but it only made him draw the cloak all the closer about him. Then, when the wind had done its best, or its worst, and had not succeeded, came out the sun, and presently it sent down such warm rays (of kindness, you understand) that the traveller could not stand it any longer, but threw off his cloak. So the sun beat."

"Well, I never!"

"You try it," said I.

Man chasing top hat in wind as  Sun and Wind fight over their strengths.