Madam How and Lady Why by Charles Kingsley


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Page 1

Presently in comes Master William, the other pupil, dressed, I suppose,
as wretched boys used to be dressed forty years ago, in a frill collar,
and skeleton monkey-jacket, and tight trousers buttoned over it, and
hardly coming down to his ancles; and low shoes, which always came off in
sticky ground; and terribly dirty and wet he is: but he never (he says)
had such a pleasant walk in his life; and he has brought home his
handkerchief (for boys had no pockets in those days much bigger than key-
holes) full of curiosities.

He has got a piece of mistletoe, wants to know what it is; and he has
seen a woodpecker, and a wheat-ear, and gathered strange flowers on the
heath; and hunted a peewit because he thought its wing was broken, till
of course it led him into a bog, and very wet he got. But he did not
mind it, because he fell in with an old man cutting turf, who told him
all about turf-cutting, and gave him a dead adder. And then he went up a
hill, and saw a grand prospect; and wanted to go again, and make out the
geography of the country from Cary's old county maps, which were the only
maps in those days. And then, because the hill was called Camp Mount, he
looked for a Roman camp, and found one; and then he went down to the
river, saw twenty things more; and so on, and so on, till he had brought
home curiosities enough, and thoughts enough, to last him a week.

Whereon Mr. Andrews, who seems to have been a very sensible old
gentleman, tells him all about his curiosities: and then it comes out--if
you will believe it--that Master William has been over the very same
ground as Master Robert, who saw nothing at all.

Whereon Mr. Andrews says, wisely enough, in his solemn old-fashioned
way,--

"So it is. One man walks through the world with his eyes open, another
with his eyes shut; and upon this difference depends all the superiority
of knowledge which one man acquires over another. I have known sailors
who had been in all the quarters of the world, and could tell you nothing
but the signs of the tippling-houses, and the price and quality of the
liquor. On the other hand, Franklin could not cross the Channel without
making observations useful to mankind. While many a vacant thoughtless
youth is whirled through Europe without gaining a single idea worth
crossing the street for, the observing eye and inquiring mind find matter
of improvement and delight in every ramble. You, then, William, continue
to use your eyes. And you, Robert, learn that eyes were given to you to
use."

So said Mr. Andrews: and so I say, dear boys--and so says he who has the
charge of you--to you. Therefore I beg all good boys among you to think
over this story, and settle in their own minds whether they will be eyes
or no eyes; whether they will, as they grow up, look and see for
themselves what happens: or whether they will let other people look for
them, or pretend to look; and dupe them, and lead them about--the blind
leading the blind, till both fall into the ditch.

I say "good boys;" not merely clever boys, or prudent boys: because using
your eyes, or not using them, is a question of doing Right or doing
Wrong. God has given you eyes; it is your duty to God to use them. If
your parents tried to teach you your lessons in the most agreeable way,
by beautiful picture-books, would it not be ungracious, ungrateful, and
altogether naughty and wrong, to shut your eyes to those pictures, and
refuse to learn? And is it not altogether naughty and wrong to refuse to
learn from your Father in Heaven, the Great God who made all things, when
he offers to teach you all day long by the most beautiful and most
wonderful of all picture-books, which is simply all things which you can
see, hear, and touch, from the sun and stars above your head to the
mosses and insects at your feet? It is your duty to learn His lessons:
and it is your interest. God's Book, which is the Universe, and the
reading of God's Book, which is Science, can do you nothing but good, and
teach you nothing but truth and wisdom. God did not put this wondrous
world about your young souls to tempt or to mislead them. If you ask Him
for a fish, he will not give you a serpent. If you ask Him for bread, He
will not give you a stone.

So use your eyes and your intellect, your senses and your brains, and
learn what God is trying to teach you continually by them. I do not mean
that you must stop there, and learn nothing more. Anything but that.
There are things which neither your senses nor your brains can tell you;
and they are not only more glorious, but actually more true and more real
than any things which you can see or touch. But you must begin at the
beginning in order to end at the end, and sow the seed if you wish to
gather the fruit. God has ordained that you, and every child which comes
into the world, should begin by learning something of the world about him
by his senses and his brain; and the better you learn what they can teach
you, the more fit you will be to learn what they cannot teach you. The
more you try now to understand _things_, the more you will be able
hereafter to understand men, and That which is above men. You began to
find out that truly Divine mystery, that you had a mother on earth,
simply by lying soft and warm upon her bosom; and so (as Our Lord told
the Jews of old) it is by watching the common natural things around you,
and considering the lilies of the field, how they grow, that you will
begin at least to learn that far Diviner mystery, that you have a Father
in Heaven. And so you will be delivered (if you will) out of the tyranny
of darkness, and distrust, and fear, into God's free kingdom of light,
and faith, and love; and will be safe from the venom of that tree which
is more deadly than the fabled upas of the East. Who planted that tree I
know not, it was planted so long ago: but surely it is none of God's
planting, neither of the Son of God: yet it grows in all lands and in all
climes, and sends its hidden suckers far and wide, even (unless we be
watchful) into your hearts and mine. And its name is the Tree of
Unreason, whose roots are conceit and ignorance, and its juices folly and
death. It drops its venom into the finest brains; and makes them call
sense, nonsense; and nonsense, sense; fact, fiction; and fiction, fact.
It drops its venom into the tenderest hearts, alas! and makes them call
wrong, right; and right, wrong; love, cruelty; and cruelty, love. Some
say that the axe is laid to the root of it just now, and that it is
already tottering to its fall: while others say that it is growing
stronger than ever, and ready to spread its upas-shade over the whole
earth. For my part, I know not, save that all shall be as God wills. The
tree has been cut down already again and again; and yet has always thrown
out fresh shoots and dropped fresh poison from its boughs. But this at
least I know: that any little child, who will use the faculties God has
given him, may find an antidote to all its poison in the meanest herb
beneath his feet.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 18th Aug 2019, 19:33