These Are My Troubles, Mr. Wesley
IT was a prosperous merchant, before whose fireplace John Wesley sat conversing, after a cold and comfortless circuit of the coal-fields; and the wind veered, and blew a puff of smoke down the chimney. It made the merchant’s eyes water, and he thus mistook it for a sorrow; and turning to the evangelist, he said mournfully, “Ah! these are my troubles, Mr. Wesley!”
Had it been Charles Wesley instead of John, a real instead of a satiric sympathy might have been extorted. To live in such a penury of sorrow’s that he must beg for these husks of grief, and scant crumbs of the bread on which self-pity feeds — was not this a trouble, Mr. Wesley ? His self-esteem grown so thin and poor — his Nessus shirt worn threadbare — scarce a prickle left to bless him! “ Ease is the worst enemy of happiness,” says Mr. Chesterton; and reviewers smile and call it a pretty paradox. It is a sermon from the text Isaiah xxxii, 11, — a sermon full of personalities, directed plumb at me Others, too, I see, sleek neighbors, who might join me in a pew to hear the Reverend G. K. C. hold forth upon this theme. We seldom hear these bracing, pungent., insolent, thrilling truths in church!
I am poverty-stricken in this sort myself. I have few’ better sorrows to boast than the city merchant. Our chimney never even smokes; for a mason built it who know’s more of chimneys than was known in the days of Wren. But we have sorrow’s of a like calibre. My housemate and I have some such sorrows together, and we have others apart. Here I paused, to endeavor to think of them; but my mind was a vacuum. I was obliged to call out to my dear J. O. H., —
“What bothersome things have wre in the house ? ”
“Bothersome things — I don’t know what you mean.”
“Why, Wesleyan troubles.”
“Oh — I don’t know. The roof used to leak.”
“That was before wre had it slated.”
“Well, I can’t think of anything else. Oh yes — the furnace-damper.”
“That’s been mended.”
“Two blinds always bang when it blows.”
“And you bump your head coming up the cellar stairs.”
“For a long time the ice-box doors wou’d n’t shut!”
“And oh, the deep drawer in the spare-room bureau won’t open!”
We are getting a nice crop of them. These are our troubles, Mr. Wesley! But I have a more respectable one of my own beside — I have hay-fever. I deserve pity for that. (I very appropriately sneeze twice at this point.) I have, too, a trouble connected with J. O. H. herself. She will take the pile of mendables I keep on a chair, and she will spread them all over my counterpane. She has another despicable trait. She often reminds me of something forgotten just as we set forth for the village together; and then calls after me, as I speed back to our house, “I’ll wait for you at the drugstore
She has a worse, a more intolerable fault than this and one I should not mention were her initials really J. O. H. She never hears me out! I have theories, which I would like to develop under the stimulus of an intelligent listener; but merely because she has finished her breakfast,— merely because she “has a letter to write,”—she walks away and leaves me talking. I have never expressed my opinion of this habit to J. herself. I would not wound her feelings. She thinks herself considerate, because, from time to time, she listens to my reading aloud of poetry. It is considerate — it is kind; but they are poems that she ought to like. I cannot understand her lack of appreciation of “ Kinmont Willie.” I have read it to her again and again, but she has not learned to like it yet. I know, indeed, that some of my idiosyncrasies are non grata to her.
She dislikes my stodgy boots, and that Scottish plaided ribbon which I often wear in the morning, and think very pleasing. I am sure she dislikes, though she refrains through affection from saying so, my habit of humming long pieces of poetry to a monotonous no-tune, when I am dusting. I have an indulgeable — fault, shall I call it?—of being always a few minutes late. It arises from a praiseworthy dislike of wasting time. If I am a very little late for an appointment, the other person is always there; and thus no time is lost — off we go together at once. J. declares that the other person has wasted time waiting for me; and persists in censuring me, while she pities that party of the second part. I must admit that she has “ some spunks ” (a,s Alan Breek would say) of reason on her side; but after all, it is an interesting sort of fault. All my so-called faults have a sort of charm about them. And yet I am often willing to apologize for them. Does J. O. H. ask my pardon for coming into my room and spreading out my mendables on the quilt ? Far from doing so, she inquires, “ Flow long has this garment been without a patch ? ”
These are my troubles, Mr. Wesley. Though my years have overflowed the twenties, I still live in bounty in this kind house, and my path “ runs down with butter and honey.” I have passed these many years, not alone generally free from pain and illness, but full of a positive sense of well-being, and wakings, ££ to feel like the morning star.” I am flattered with affection ill-deserved; and my time is filled, and even pleasantly crowded, with welcome small responsibilities, and agreeable cares. Alas — am I one of those Daughters of Ease whom the prophet bade to tremble ? Can I think of no worse troubles than these I have mentioned ? These paragraphs, for all their verbosity, have an emaciated look. Yes, there is one — a looming, though secondhand trouble; one which the late Lord Shaftesbury felt, and remembered in his Diary. It is the thought of the mute sorrows of the beasts. Alas, “the beasts that perish” at our hands! When shall we think it a part of respectability to make their perishing swift? Their trouble is our trouble, Mr. Wesley! It is chronic with my dear J., and quotidian with me. We might have thought of that, when we were trying to think of a bothersome something in the house!