Concerning Two Old Friends
THE CONTRIBUTORS’ CLUB
I NEED a new tobacco-pouch; we need a new minister, — so they say. A younger man: our minister is old; so is my pouch, and worn with service, — hard, constant, daily, humble service; it is frayed at the edges: so is he. All old good men are. And we must have new ones, that when we display them other people will not think either that we are out of fashion or that we are too poor to get what we ought to have.
It has worn well, my pouch; it was a good one when I got it, well-made, strong, serviceable, good to look at; so was he. It is good to look at still, I think; certainly not beautiful, but surely friendly, at the very least; and though its buckskin covering be torn and ragged, it serves its purpose perfectly, and it will expand now as well as ever to carry all that I may need; and his great heart finds room for all our troubles.
But my wife tells me it is disgraceful to carry such a worn-out thing about, and being a bit absent-minded I generally fail to notice who may be by to criticise when I fill my pipe. Men understand; the dear wife does n’t, — though she does not want a new minister, thank God! And in a few days my unwillingness to see her really distressed will send me to the tobacconist’s for a new pouch, though I promise you it shall be a duplicate of the old, as nearly as may be; and I will carry it and use it, and I shall grow to love it; and when it is old I shall love it best. But meanwhile, the one I have, quite good, dear, kindly, and accustomed, that must go. It shall not be thrown away, for I keep them all in a drawer of my officedesk ; and when the spring comes and I go into the mountains for a little while to fish for trout, it is always the old ones, the worn and patient ones, the friendly ones, that go with me.
And he, my Dr. Lavender, who cannot hear the music which his nature craves because the homeless must be cared for, nor keep in touch with current theological thoughts because the bodies of the starving ones are worth more than all the costly books in Christendom, — he, who loves us all, and whom some of us love, knows that others of us want (ah, no: wish, rather!) a younger man; and he is going to resign; and “they” are going to accept his resignation. Yet ever shall he go with me into the silent spaces day by day, where, away from this dusty world, the clear, strong wind blows the cobwebs from one’s character; and into that glorious fragrant sunlight where, freed for a moment from the rush and drudgery of living, one really lives.