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THE BENEVOLENT ORPHAN.
"Silver and gold have I none: but such as I have give I unto you."-ACTS.
I SPENT the end of the year 1801 with my friend Mr. Meek, an amiable man, whose delight it was to promote the comfort and happiness of his flock, who took particular pleasure in visiting the more respectable families in his parish, and was always a welcome guest. When I speak of respectable families, I do not mean those which were high in rank, or overflowing with wealth, but those whose moral and religious characters were entitled to respect from the wise and good of every station. Hence, you were always much surer to find Mr. Meek in the house of a worthy farmer, than at mammon-hall.
Through his means, I was introduced to several families, from whose acquaintance, I trust, I have derived both pleasure and instruction; for our visits were not formal, and their conversation was at once cheerful and rational. Mr. Meek's manner was sufficiently dignified; and
yet it was so full of gentleness and benevolence as to encourage what may be called a modest familiarity. He was a particular favourite with children, to whose playful prattle he did not think it beneath him to suit his remarks; and when you found him seated by the fire-side of a farm-house, you generally saw one or two. of the young ones leaning on his knee, and looking with an air of confidence and affection in his face. Thus he contrived to instil good principles into their minds, in the pleasantest and most effectual way; for they well remembered every kind word spoken by the minister, and would repeat his observations to their companions, long after he was gone, with a pride which no one could condemn.
Mr. Meek used to say that he had a particular dislike to the custom which many parents have of making the minister a sort of boggle to their children. He could not bear them to say," If you'll not be good, I'll tell the minister!"-because then the poor things always thought of him with terror, and whenever he came in sight of the door, would run away and hide themselves. Instead of drawing near him as a friend, and listening with pleasure to what he had to say, they would perhaps crouch behind the bed all the while he was in the house,
*for fear he should draw the taws out of his pocket to flog them. Mr. Meek wished parents rather to say to their good children, "I'll tell the minister how well you have behaved;" and to the bad, "You shall not be allowed to come in till the minister is gone away, for you do not deserve that he should speak to you."
There was no family in the parish which we took more pleasure in visiting than that at Woodland Hall. The unaffected piety and good sense of Mr. and Mrs. Worthy, and the affectionate and correct behaviour of the children, who had been so judiciously educated by their parents, endeared the whole family to all who knew how to value what was good.
For the subject of this sketch, I propose to give you as accurate an account as I can of what passed at their fire-side the last time I accompanied my friend to their house.
We found the whole family at home, Mr. and Mrs. Worthy, and their five children, viz. Jean, James, William, Elizabeth, and Susan. We had all taken our places round the tea-table, before
"A bleezing ingle, and a clean hearth-stane."
Jean Worthy had begun to spread the bread and butter, and her mother to infuse the tea,
when my friend asked the farmer if he had' heard the news from Seaton. "What news?" said Mr. Worthy, "nothing bad, I hope." No, no," answered Mr. Meek; "if it had been bad news, it would perhaps have reached you sooner. But to do the world justice, although good, it is very much talked of, and seems to give general pleasure wherever it is known." My friend then told the story of "The Honest Farmer," nearly as it is related in the close of this volume. Every one listened with so much attention to the narrative, that the kettle was forgotten on the fire, and Mr. Meek was the first to discover that it was boiling over upon the hearth. When he came to the conversation betwixt Johnston and his wife, about the money their son had sent them from Edinburgh, and especially to that place where he described the good man's struggle with his feelings, when his children joined their mother in imploring him to do, for their sake, what his conscience forbade, Jean and Elizabeth were heard to sob aloud. But when he mentioned the sudden appearance of the good old admiral, to comfort all their hearts, there was a general exclamation of joy from the whole circle. They were quite delighted to hear of George Johnston's good fortune.
"Well!" said Jean, laying down her
knife," he is a noble-minded young man, and well deserves all he has gotten. I am sure he will make a good use of his money." "That he will," said little Elizabeth; "I wish every good man was rich." "Why do you wish that, my dear?" said Mr. Meek. "Do you think a good-hearted man may not be happy, even though he should be poor?"
Eliz.-I don't know, sir. Perhaps he may; but then, you know, he cannot do any good if he is poor.
Mr. Meek. I don't agree with you there, Elizabeth. I have known many poor men very useful. Indeed, there is nobody, however low his station may be, but has in his power to do some good.
Eliz. But if a man is very poor, of what use can he be to families that are starving of hunger and cold? I am sure that day I went to Mammon-hall, I could not help envying Mr. and Mrs. Plum; for there were beggars at the kitchen-door, and I saw a servant give one of them a silver sixpence, and another an old hat for her child.
Mr. Meek. There are many ways of relieving distress, my dear, without giving anything away; and to tell you the truth, I am afraid there is more harm than good done by