Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet: Ch. 22

[+] | [-] | reset

Chapter XXII: An Emersonian Sermon

Certainly, if John Crossthwaite held the victim-of-circumstance doctrine in theory, he did not allow Mike Kelly to plead it in practice, as an extenuation of his misdeeds. Very different from his Owenite "it's-nobody's-fault" harangues in the debating society, or his admiration for the teacher of whom my readers shall have a glimpse shortly, was his lecture that evening to the poor Irishmen on "It's all your own fault." Unhappy Kelly! he sat there like a beaten cur, looking first at one of us, and then at the other, for mercy, and finding none. As soon as Crossthwaite's tongue was tired, Mackaye's began, on the sins of drunkenness, hastiness, improvidence, over-trustfulness, &c., &c., and, above all, on the cardinal offence of not having signed the protest years before, and spurned the dishonourable trade, as we had done. Even his most potent excuse that "a boy must live somehow," Crossthwaite treated as contemptuously as if he had been a very Leonidas, while Mackaye chimed in with—

"An' ye a Papist! ye talk o' praying to saints an' martyrs, that died in torments because they wad na do what they should na do? What ha' ye to do wi' martyrs?—a meeserable wretch that sells his soul for a mess o' pottage—four slices per diem o' thin bread-and-butter? Et propter veetam veevendi perdere causas! Dinna tell me o' your hardships—ye've had your deserts—your rights were just equivalent to your mights, an' so ye got them."

"Faix, thin, Misther Mackaye, darlint, an' whin did I desarve to pawn me own goose an' board, an' sit looking at the spidhers for the want o' them?"

"Pawn his ain goose! Pawn himsel! pawn his needle—gin it had been worth the pawning, they'd ha' ta'en it. An' yet there's a command in Deuteronomy, Ye shall na tak the millstone in pledge, for it's a man's life; nor yet keep his raiment ower night, but gie it the puir body back, that he may sleep in his ain claes, an' bless ye. O—but pawnbrokers dinna care for blessings—na marketable value in them, whatsoever."

"And the shopkeeper," said I, "in 'the Arabian Nights,' refuses to take the fisherman's net in pledge, because he gets his living thereby."

"Ech! but, laddie, they were puir legal Jews, under carnal ordinances, an' daur na even tak an honest five per cent interest for their money. An' the baker o' Bagdad, why he was a benighted heathen, ye ken, an' deceivit by that fause prophet, Mahomet, to his eternal damnation, or he wad never ha' gone aboot to fancy a fisherman was his brither."

"Faix, an' ain't we all brothers?" asked Kelly.

"Ay, and no," said Sandy, with an expression which would have been a smile, but for its depths of bitter earnestness; "brethren in Christ, my laddie."

"An' ain't that all over the same?"

"Ask the preachers. Gin they meant brothers, they'd say brothers, be sure; but because they don't mean brothers at a', they say brethren—ye'll mind, brethren—to soun' antiquate, an' professional, an' perfunctory-like, for fear it should be ower real, an' practical, an' startling, an' a' that; and then jist limit it down wi' a' in Christ,' for fear o' owre wide applications, and a' that. But

 "For a' that, and a' that.
  It's comin' yet, for a' that,
  When man an' man, the warld owre,
  Shall brothers be, for a' that—