Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter IX.: CLOSE OF A BRIEF STORY. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 6 (Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek, The Loom and the Lugger Parts 1 & 2)
Return to Title Page for Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 6 (Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek, The Loom and the Lugger Parts 1 & 2)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Chapter IX.: CLOSE OF A BRIEF STORY. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 6 (Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek, The Loom and the Lugger Parts 1 & 2) 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 6.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
CLOSE OF A BRIEF STORY.
Gertrude had long ago told Christian that he must visit Saardam again, some day, and see Master Peter. Christian was as little disposed to forget Gertrude's promises as Gertrude herself; and he repeatedly reminded her of this one. The invitation to Saardam was renewed with all earnestness, but Gertrude would now no longer answer for Master Peter being visible there. She would not say that he was gone; but neither would she engage that Christian should ever see him again: and her reserve on the subject perplexed her little friend. He found he must wait for light upon the matter till he reached Saardam; if that day should ever come.
That day came; and the drooping, worn-out boy found himself, after much toil and many restings by the way, once more placed within view of his favourite prospect, with the beams of the declining sun glistering on the heaving surface of the sound, and the nearer dock-yards chequered with long shadows from the timber-stacks and half-built vessels. It did not diminish the interest of the view that about a furlong of the dyke came within its range, with its trains of passengers hastening to and fro, and all the bustle taking place upon it which Luc and Roselyn thought much better worth attending to than the regular labours of the dock-yard. Christian cast an occasional glance that way while the children were looking out, the afternoon after the arrival of Gertrude and Christian from the north. The rest of the party had been settled some days; but Christian and his nurse had stopped to rest at the abode of the good dame who had offered her hospitality, in case of the invalid passing her way. This old woman had infused a further spirit of thankfulness into the suffering boy; so that, though he felt himself declining daily, he grew more patient as he had more need of patience.
The pastor was now sitting by his side, speaking little, and keeping his eye fixed on the gleaming sea.
“O, look, look!” cried Christian, pointing in the direction of the road. “One, two, four teams of dogs! and the carts piled as high as they can bear. They must be going to the fair.—0, how tired I am “he continued, languidly.” “Here I lie, while that stream of people passes on, on, on,—all busy, all expecting something, and thinking only of being as busy always.”
“You are not the only one, Christian, that feels this,” said the pastor. “Some who are as strong as the strongest of yon traffickers and pleasure-seekers feel, like you, that the hand of God is upon them, to fix them apart while the world passes on. It is not you alone, my boy.”
“I know whom you mean,” said Christian, in a low voice. “Christ stood on the mount and on the shore, and saw all the people going up to the feast.”
“He did,” replied the pastor, speaking in a manner which convinced Christian that he had not met his friend's thought.
“Would you have been busier in France than you are here,” he asked, “if the French king had not sent you away?”
“Perhaps I might; but God appoints his servants their station; and I am content. I am content to be the minister of his grace, and bless him for lightening the hearts of others. He will strengthen me to bear the burden of my own.”
After a moment's thought on the peculiar sadness of the pastor's tone, Christian laid his arm on his friend's shoulder, and whispered,
“I love Gertrude very much too; and I always thought——1 was so surprised when she told me——”
“Say no more about it. my boy. Talk rather of my country, or of my kindred, or of anything else that I have lost”
“I cannot talk at all,” said the boy, whose tears were fast flowing for the pastor, though it was some time since he had shed any for himself. He lay quietly listening to the pastor's consolations, till his mother appeared to say that Master Peter had come to see him. She was evidently wishing to tell something more, if Master Peter had not followed at her heels. The pastor hastened to disengage himself from Christian, that he might rise and make a profound obeisance. Christian, who had never seen his friend offer so low a reverence, especially to a carpenter in his workman's dress, laughed aloud. Mrs. Snoek, much alarmed at this ill-timed mirth, uttered at once what she had been wanting to say;—that Master Peter was a very different Peter from what they had imagined,—no other than the Keiser of all the Russias.
While Christian looked wistfully in Peter's face to learn if this was true, the Emperor lifted him gently from his couch, and held him in his arms as he had done on the first day of their acquaintance, assuring him that, as he would not allow his fellow-workmen to treat him differently now that they knew who he was, he should be very sorry if Christian grew afraid of him. As he spoke, he looked with a smile towards the opposite side of the room, where Luc had backed into a corner, and Roselyn was peeping from behind her mother's ample skirt.
“Luc looks afraid of you,” said Christian;
“and I might be afraid, if I were Luc. But, sir, I am just going where a great Keiser is no more than a pastor; and I dare say not so much. If I see you there very soon, you will not be a Keiser, and I shall be no more afraid of you than when you were only Master Peter.”
“Very soon, Christian? I hope we shall not meet there very soon.”
“O, yes: ask the pastor,” said the boy, eagerly. “He will tell you that I am going very, very soon.”
This the pastor unhesitatingly confirmed; but added that the Keiser had, he trusted, a long work to achieve before he was called into the presence of the King of Kings.
“O, yes,” said Christian, “how busy you are all going to be; and you, Master Peter, the busiest of all. You are learning to build fleets and cities;—at least, I heard them say so about the Keiser;—and you are getting wise men to teach you all that they know; while I am going to a place where there is no device nor knowledge.”
The pastor suggested that this probably applied only to the place where his body would be laid. This hint sufficed to excite the boy to pour out upon the Emperor a torrent of perplexing questions, about what he thought would become of the spirit. The readiest answer was,—(what was true enough,)—that Christian was completely exhausted, and must not talk any more at present. Peter would come in at the end of his day's work, and tell him about the fleet he intended to build, to ride in the harbour of his new city. Meanwhile, he desired Christian not to think he was going to die so very soon. It was not at all likely. He would send for his best physician from Russia, and tell him to restore Christian, so that the boy should visit him in his new capital, some time or other, when the cough should be gone, and the mysterious pain cured, and life a very different thing to Christian from what he had ever felt it yet.
The upright pastor could not silently let pass any observations of this nature. He reminded the Keiser that, though placed by the hand of God in a position of absolute dominion over multitudes of men,—over their lives and worldly lot, —he was no more the Lord of Life, in a higher sense, than the meanest of his serfs. It was not for him to say that the bowl should not be broken, or the silver cord loosed, when neither was given into his hand.
The mischief,—or what the pastor considered mischief,—was however done. After Peter had left the apartment, Christian employed himself in speaking when he could, and musing when he could not speak, on what he should see, and hear, and learn, and do, if he recovered enough to visit the new capital of all the Russias. He gave notice, from time to time, that he did not at all expect that this would ever happen; it was unlikely that his pain should ever go away entirely, and that Peter should remember him when he should be the great Keiser again. Yet, as his strength ebbed away, minute by minute, his convictions that he was not going to die just yet grew more vigorous. Observing him unable to finish something he wished to say, his mother feared that his pain was coming.
“No, I do not think it will come. No! no pain—” Yet his face expressed terror of an approaching paroxysm.
“I wish the Keiser had not come, or had not spoken presumptuously, as the potentates of this world do ever,” said Gertrude, more moved to displeasure than was common to her gentle nature.
“The Keiser wishes it too,” said Peter, who had entered the room softly, and saw at a glance that Christian's short day of life was likely to close nearly as soon as his own day's work, at the end of which he had promised to entertain the boy with stories that could have no charm for a dying ear. “My poor boy, I deceived you. I have tainted your dying hours. Can you forgive me?”
Christian's now rigid countenance relaxed into the radiant smile which betokened his highest mood of faith. The movement, whether of body or spirit, summoned his pain; but its very first touch released him. He left the greatest of this world's potentates treasuring up the forgiveness of a feeble child, and wondering, as at a new thought, that one who had power over millions of lives should have no more interest than others with the supreme Lord of Life.