| Parables from Nature|
|by Margaret S. Gatty|
|Parables for children inspired by nature. This collection includes all 29 stories from the first, second, third, and fourth series, originally published in separate volumes. Ages 6-12 |
ACTIVE AND PASSIVE
"They also serve who only stand and wait."
 "RESTLESS life! restless life!" moaned the Weathercock
on the church-tower by the sea, as he felt himself
swayed suddenly round by the wind, and creaked with
dismay: "restless, toiling life, and everybody
complaining of one all the time. There's that tiresome
weathercock pointing east, cried the old woman, as she
hobbled up the churchyard path to the porch last
Sunday; now I know why I have got all my rheumatic
pains back again. Then, in a day or two, came the
farmer by on his pony, and drew up outside the wall to
have a word with the grave-digger. A bad look out,
Tomkins, said he, if that rascally old weathercock is
to be trusted, the wind's got into the wrong quarter
again, and we shall have more rain. Was it my fault if
he did find out through me that the wind was in, what
he called, the wrong quarter? Besides, the wind always
is in somebody's wrong quarter, I verily believe! But
am I to blame? Did I choose my lot? No, no! Nobody need
suppose I should go swinging backwards and forwards,
and round and round, all my life, if I had my choice
about the matter. Ah! how much rather would I lead the
exist-  ence of my old friend, the Dial,
down below yonder on his pedestal. That is a life,
"Restless life! restless life!" moaned the Weathercock on the church tower.
"How he is chattering away up above there," remarked
the Dial from below; "he almost makes me smile, though
not a ray of sunshine has fallen on me through the
livelong day, alas! I often wonder what he finds to
talk about. But his active life gives him subjects
enough, no doubt. Ah! what would I not give to be like
him! But all is so different with me, alas! I thought I
heard my own name too, just now. I will ask. Halloo! up
above there. Did you call, my sprightly friend? Is
there anything fresh astir? Tell me, if there is. I get
so weary of the dark and useless hours; so common now,
alas! What have you been talking about?"
"Nothing profitable this time, good neighbour," replied
the Weathercock; "for, in truth, you have caught me
"Grumbling . . . ? Grumbling, you?"
"Yes, grumbling, I! Why not?"
"But grumbling in the midst of an existence so gay, so
active, so bright," pursued the Dial; "it seems
"Gay, active, bright! a pretty description enough; but
what a mockery of the truth it covers! Look at me,
swinging loosely to every peevish blast that flits
across the sky. Turned here, turned there, turned
everywhere. The sport of every passing gust. Never a
moment's rest, but when the uncertain breezes choose to
seek it for themselves. Gay, active, bright existence,
indeed! Restless, toiling life I call it, and all to
serve a thankless world, by whom my very usefulness is
abused. But you, my ancient friend, you, in the calm
 undisturbed repose, steady and unmoved
amidst the utmost violence of storms, how little can
you appreciate the sense of weariness I feel! A poor
judge of my troubled lot are you in your paradise of
"My paradise of rest, do you call it?" exclaimed the
Dial; "an ingenious title, truly, to express what those
who know it practically, feel to be little short of a
stagnation of existence. Dull, purposeless,
unprofitable, at the mercy of the clouds and shades of
night; I can never fulfil my end but by their
sufferance, and in the seasons, rare enough at best,
when their meddling interference is withdrawn. And even
when the sun and hour do smile upon me, and I carry out
my vocation, how seldom does any one come near me to
learn the lessons I could teach. I weary of the night;
I weary of the clouds; I weary of the footsteps that
pass me by. Would that I could rise, even for a few
brief hours, to the energy and meaning of a life like
"This is a strange fatality, indeed!" creaked the
Weathercock in reply, "that you, in your untroubled
calm, should yearn after the restlessness I sicken of.
That I, in what you call my gay and active existence,
should long for the quiet you detest!"
"You long for it because you are ignorant of its nature
and practical reality," groaned the Dial.
"Nay, but those are the very words I would apply to
you, my ancient friend. The blindest ignorance of its
workings can alone account for your coveting a position
such as mine."
"If that be so, then every position is wrong," was the
murmured remark in answer; but it never reached the
sky, for at that moment the mournful tolling of a bell
in the old church-tower announced
 that a funeral was
approaching, and in its vibrations the lesser sound was
And as those vibrations gathered in the air, they
grouped themselves into a solemn dirge, which seemed as
if it rose in contradiction to what had just been said.
For it gave out to the mourners who were following the
corpse to its last earthly resting-place, that every
lot was good, and blessed to some particular end.
For the lots of all, (it said,) were appointed, and all
that was appointed was good.
Little, little did it matter, therefore (it said,)
whether the lot of him who came to his last
resting-place had been a busy or a quiet one; a high or
a low one; one of labour or of endurance. If that which
was appointed to be done, had been well done, all was
It gave out, too, that every time and season was good,
and blessed to some particular purpose; that the time
to die was as good as the time to be born, whether it
came to the child who had done but little, or to the
man who had done much.
For the times and seasons, (it said,) were appointed,
and all that was appointed was good.
Little, little did it matter, therefore, (it said,)
whether the time of life had been a long one or a short
one, if that which was appointed to be used, had been
rightly used, all was right.
Echoing and re-echoing in the air, came these sounds
out of the bell-tower, bidding the mourners not to
mourn, for both the lots and the times of all things
were appointed, and all that was appointed was good.
The mourners wept on, however, in spite of the dirge of
the bell; and perhaps it was best that they
 did so, for
where are the outpourings of penitence so likely to be
sincere, or the resolutions of amendment so likely to
be earnest, as over the graves of those we love?
So the mourners wept; the corpse was interred; the
clergyman departed, and the crowd dispersed; and then
there was quiet in the churchyard again for a time.
Uninterrupted quiet, except when the wandering gusts
drove the Weathercock hither and thither, causing him
to give out a dismal squeak as he turned.
But at last there was a footstep in the old churchyard
again, a step that paced up and down along the paved
path; now westward towards the sea, now eastward
towards the Lych-gate at the entrance.
It was a weather-beaten old fisherman, once a sailor,
who occasionally made of that place a forecastle walk
for exercise and pondering thoughts, since the time
when age and growing infirmities had disabled him from
following regularly the more toilsome parts of a
fisherman's business, which were now carried on by his
two grown-up sons.
He could do a stroke of work now and then, it is true,
but, the nows and thens came but seldom, and he had
many leisure hours on his hands in which to think of
the past, and look forward to the future.
And what a place was that churchyard for awakening such
thoughts! There, as he walked up and down, his own
wife's grave was not many yards distant from his feet;
and yet, from amidst these relics and bitter evidence
of finite mortality, he could look out upon that
everlasting sea, which seems always to stretch away
into the infinity we all believe in.
Perhaps, in his own way, the sailor had often felt
 this, although he might not have been able to give any
account of his sensations.
Up and down the path he paced, lingering always a
little at the western point ere he turned; and with his
telescope tucked under his arm ready for use, he stood
for a second or two looking seaward, in case a strange
sail should have come in sight.
The sexton, who had come up to the churchyard again to
finish the shaping of the new grave, nodded to him as
he passed, and the sailor nodded in return; but neither
of them spoke, for the sailor's habits were too well
known to excite attention, and the sexton had his work
But presently, when half-way to the Lych-gate, the
sailor stopped suddenly short, turned around hastily,
and faced the sea, steadying the cap on his head
against the gale which was now blowing directly on his
face—looked up into the sky—looked all around—looked at
the Weathercock, and then stood, as if irresolute, for
At last, stepping over the grave-stones, he went up to
the stone pedestal, on the top of which the Dial lay,
waiting for the gleams of sunshine which had on that
day fallen rarely and irregularly upon it.
"If the clouds would but break away for a minute,"
mused the old man to himself.
And soon after they did so, for they had begun to drive
very swiftly over the heavens, and the sunlight,
streaming for a few seconds on the dial-plate, revealed
the shadow of the gnomon cast upon the place of three
The sailor lingered by the Dial for several minutes
after he had ascertained the hour, examining the
figures, inscriptions, and dates. A motto on a little
brass plate was let into the pedestal below: "Watch,
 for ye know not the hour." There was some difficulty in
reading it, it was so blotched and tarnished with age
and long neglect. Indeed, few people knew there was an
inscription there at all; but the old sailor had been
looking very closely, and so found it out, and then he
spelt it all through, word for word.
It was to be hoped that the engraver (one Thomas
Trueman), who claimed to have had this warning put up
for the benefit of others, had attended to it himself,
for he had long ago—aye! nearly a hundred years
ago—gone to his last account. The appointed hour had
come for him, whether he had watched for it or not.
Perhaps some such thoughts crossed the sailor's mind,
for certainly after reading the sentence, he fell into
a reverie. Not a long one, however, for it was
interrupted by the voice of the sexton, who, with his
mattock over his shoulder, was passing back on his way
home, and called out to the sailor to bid him good
"Good-night, Mr. Bowman," said he; "we've rather a
sudden change in the wind, haven't we?"
"Aye, aye," answered Bowman, by no means displeased at
this deference to his opinion, and he stepped back
again to the path, and joined his village friend.
"It is a sudden change, as you say, and an awkward one
too, for the wind came round at three o'clock, just at
the turn of the tide; and it's a chance but what it
will keep this way for hours to come; and a gale all
night's an ugly thing, Tomkins, when it blows ashore."
"I hope you may be mistaken, Mr. Bowman," rejoined the
sexton; "but I suppose that's not likely. However, they
say it's an ill wind that blows nobody
 good, so I
suppose I shall come in for something at last," and
here the sexton laughed.
"At your age, strong and hearty," observed the sailor,
eyeing the sexton somewhat contemptuously, "you can't
have much to wish for, I should think."
"Strong and hearty's a very good thing in its way, Mr.
Bowman, I'll not deny; but rest's a very good thing,
too, and I wouldn't object to one of your idle
afternoons now and then, walking up and down the
pavement, looking which way the wind blows. That's a
bit of real comfort, to my thinking."
"We don't know much of each other's real comforts, I
suspect," observed the sailor abstractedly, and then he
"You'll soon be cured of wishing for idle afternoons
when they're forced upon you, Tomkins. But you don't
know what you're talking about. Wait till you're old,
and then you'll find it's I that might be excused for
envying you, and not you me."
"That's amazing, Mr. Bowman, and I can't see it,"
persisted Tomkins, turning round to depart. "In my
opinion you've the best of it; but anyhow, we're both
of us oddly fixed, for we're neither of us pleased."
With a friendly good-night, but no further remark, the
two men parted, and the churchyard was emptied of its
When the sailor sat down with his sons an hour or two
afterwards to their evening meal, said he, "We must
keep a sharp look-out, lads, to-night; the wind came
round at three with the turn of the tide, and it blows
dead ashore. I've been up to the Captain's at the Hall,
and borrowed the use of his big boat in case it's
wanted, for unless the gale goes down with the next
tide,—which it won't,
 I think,—we might have some
awkward work. Anyhow, boys, we'll watch."
"Just what I said," muttered the Dial, as the sound of
the last footsteps died on the churchyard path. "Just
what I said! Everything's wrong, because everybody's
dissatisfied. I knew it was so. We're right in
grumbling; that's the only thing we're right in. At
least, I'm sure I'm right in grumbling. I'm not so
certain about my neighbour on the tower above. Halloo!
my sprightly friend, do you hear? Did you notice? Isn't
it just as I said? Everything wrong to everybody."
The strong west wind continued to sweep through the
churchyard, and bore these observations away; but the
Weathercock meanwhile was making his own remarks to
"There, now! There's the old story over again, only now
it's the west wind that's wrong instead of the east! I
wish anybody would tell me which is the right wind! But
this, of course, is an ill wind, and an ugly gale, and
they're afraid it will blow all night, (I wonder why it
shouldn't, it blows very steadily and well, as I
think,) and then they shake their heads at each other,
and look up at me and frown. What's the use of
frowning? They never saw me go better in their lives.
It's a fine firm wind as ever blew, though it does take
one's breath rather fast, I own. If it did not make
quite so much howling noise, I should have had a word
or two about it with my old comrade below, who sits as
steady as a rock through it all, I've no doubt. There
is one thing I am not quite easy about
myself. . . . In
case this west wind should blow a little, nay, in
 short, a great deal harder, even than now, I wonder
whether there would be any danger of my being blown
down? I'm not very fond of my present quarters, it's
true, but a change is sometimes a doubtful kind of
thing, unless you can choose what it shall be. I
wonder, too, whether people would be glad if I was
gone; or whether, after all, I mightn't be rather
missed? And I wonder, too——"
But it began to blow too hard for wondering, or
talking, or doing anything, but silently holding fast,
for the gale was rising rapidly; so rapidly, that
before midnight a hurricane was driving over land and
ocean, and in its continued roaring, mingled as it was
with the raging of a tempest-tossed sea, every other
voice and sound was lost.
Tracts of white foam, lying like snow-fields on the
water, followed the breakers as they fell down upon the
shore with a crash of thunder, and were visible even
through the gloom of night.
Hour after hour the uproar continued, and hour after
hour the church clock struck, and no one heard. Due
west pointed the Weathercock, varying scarcely a point.
Firm and composed lay the Dial on his pedestal, and the
old church on her foundations, mocking the tumult of
the elements by their dead, immovable calm.
In the village on the top of the cliff many were
awakened by the noise; and one or two, as they lay
listening in their beds, forgot for a time their own
petty troubles and trifling cares, and uttered wishes
and prayers that no vessels might be driven near that
rock-bound shore, on that night of storm!
Vain wishes! vain prayers! As they turned again to
their pillows to sleep, with their children around
 them, housed in security and peace, the blue lights of
distress were sent up by trembling hands into the vault
of heaven, and agonised hearts wondered whether human
eye would see them, or human hand could aid.
And it might easily have happened, that, in that
terrible night, no eye had caught sight of the signals,
or caught sight of them too late to be of use, or that
those who had seen had been indifferent, or unable to
But it was not so, or the Weathercock would have
pointed, and the Dial have shown the hour, and the
sailor looked at both in vain.
And this was not the case!
People were roused from their pillowed slumbers the
next morning to hear that a vessel, with a passenger
crew on board of her, was driving on the rocks. From
cottage casements, and from the drawing-room windows of
houses on the top of the cliff, the fatal sight was
seen, for the dismasted ship, rolling helplessly on the
waters, drifted gradually in front of the village,
looking black as with the shadow of death.
Delicate women saw it, who, all unaccustomed to such
sights, and shuddering at their own helplessness, could
only sink on their knees, and ask if there was no mercy
with the Most High.
Men saw it whom age or sickness had
made weak as children, but who had once been brave and
strong; and their heart burned within them as they
turned away and sickened at the spectacle of misery
they could not even try to avert.
Children saw it, who,
mixing in the village crowd that by degrees gathered on
the cliff, never ceased the vain prattling enquiry of
why some good people
 did not go to help the poor people
who were drowning in the ship?
"Young 'un, you talk," growled one old fellow who was
eyeing the spectacle somewhat coolly through a
telescope; "and it's for such as you to talk; but who's
to get off a boat over such a surf as yon? Little use
there'd be in flinging away more lives to save those
that's as good as gone already."
"How you go on, Jonas!" cried a woman from the crowd.
"Here's a lady has fainted through your saying that; and
what do you know about it? While there's life there's
hope. My husband went down to the shore hours and hours
ago, before it was light."
"With coffins, I suppose," shouted some one, and the
jest went round, for the woman who had spoken was the
sexton's wife. But many a voice cried "shame," as Mrs.
Tomkins turned away to lend her aid in carrying the
fainting lady to her home.
It was strange how time wore on, and no change for
better or worse seemed to take place in the condition
of the unhappy vessel, as far as those on land could
judge of her. But she was at least a mile from shore;
and even with a glass it was impossible to detect
clearly the movements and state of her crew.
It was evident at one time that she had ceased to
drift, and had become stationary, and all sorts of
conjectures were afloat as to the cause; the most
popular and dreadful of which being, that she was
gradually filling with water, and must go down.
This was the reason (old Jonas said) why part of the
crew had got into the boat that was being towed along
behind by means of a rope, so that, when every other
hope was over, the rest of the men might
 join them, and
make a last desperate effort to escape the fate of the
But still time wore on, and no change took place, nor
did the vessel appear to get lower in the water,
although at times the breakers rolled over her broken
decks, and cries of "It's all over! There she goes!"
broke from the crowd. The man at the wheel seemed still
to maintain his post; those in the boat behind still
kept their places, and the few visible about the ship
were busied, but no one could say how.
At last somebody shouted that they were raising a
jury-mast, though whether as a signal to some vessel
within sight of them, or for their own use, remained
doubtful for a time; but by and by a small sail became
visible, and soon after, it was observed that the
vessel had resumed her course, and that she was no
longer drifting, but steering! It was clear, therefore,
that she had been anchored previously, that the crew
had not given up hope, and that they were now trying to
weather the rocky bay, and get into the nearest
Old Jonas turned away, and lent his glass to others.
The vessel was not filling with water, it was true, but
could such a battered hulk, rolling as it did, ever
live through the "race" at the extremity of the bay? He
doubted it, for his part—but he was disposed to doubt!
Others were more hopeful, and many a "Thank God for His
goodness" relieved the anxious breasts of those who had
hitherto looked on in trembling suspense.
The villagers were gradually dispersing to their
different occupations, when a couple of boys, who had
gone down by the cliffs to the shore, came running
with the news that the old sailor's (Mr. Bowman's)
cottage, the only one near the shore, was shut up, the
key gone, and nobody there.
This new surprise was
heartily welcome, coming as it did to enliven the
natural reaction of dulness that follows the cessation
of great excitement; and the good wives of the village,
with their aprons over their heads, huddled together,
more full of wonder and conjecture over the
disappearance of the Bowmans, than over the fate of the
still peril-surrounded ship. It was then discovered,
but quite by an accident, that some one else had
disappeared—no other than Tomkins, the sexton.
neighbour, on her road home, accidentally dropping in
at Mr. Tomkins's door to ask after the lady that had
fainted, found the good woman sitting over the fire,
rocking to and fro, and crying her heart out.
"Go away, woman!" cried she to her neighbour, as the
door opened. "Get away wi' ye! I want none of ye! I
want none of your talking! I'll not listen to any of ye
till I know whether the ship's gone down or not!"
"The woman's beside herself!" cried the neighbour.
"Why, you don't know what you are saying, surely. The
ship isn't likely to go down now! There's a mast and a
sail up, woman!"
"Aye, aye, but the 'race'!" cried Mrs. Tomkins, rocking
to and fro in despair.
"The 'race' will not hurt it, there's a many says. It
was only old Jonas that shook his head over that. Eh,
woman, but you've lost your head with watching them.
Where's your good man?"
Mrs. Tomkins almost shrieked, "There! he's there—with
them! I saw him through Jonas's glass."
 The neighbour was thunderstruck. Here was news indeed.
But she pressed the matter no further, thinking in
truth that Mrs. Tomkins's head was unsettled, and so,
after soothing her a bit in the best fashion she could,
she left her to talk the matter over in the village.
Mrs. Tomkins was not unsettled in her head at all. She
had been one of those who had had a peep through
Jonas's glass, and, to her horror, had detected, by
some peculiarity of dress, the form of her husband
sitting in the boat behind the vessel. The terror and
astonishment that seized her rendered her mute, and she
had retired to her own cottage to think it out by
herself—what it could mean, and how it could have
happened—but she had caught Jonas's remark about the
"race," and on reaching her own fireside all thoughts
merged in the one terrible idea that her husband might
go down with the devoted ship.
The report of Mrs. Tomkins's hallucination soon spread,
and there is no saying to what a pitch of mysterious
belief in some supernatural visitation it might not
have led, had not the arrival of Bowman's daughter in
the village, and the account she gave, explained the
Bowman and his sons had not gone regularly to bed at
all on the night previous, but, true to their
intention, had kept watch in turn, walking up and down
along the front of their cottage, which stood upon
ground slightly raised above the shore. It was the old
man himself who happened to be watching when the first
blue lights went up, and it was then considerably past
"What a mercy!" was his first exclamation, after
hurrying to the cottage, and bidding his sons follow
 him to the Hall; "what a mercy!" and he threw up his
right arm with a clenched fist into the air, his whole
frame knit up by strong emotion. The boys, not knowing
what he meant, had only stared at him in surprise for a
moment, for there was no time for talking.
But the mind
of the old man had, with the first sight of the lights,
gone back to his churchyard lounge, to his observations
on the weather, to the startling inscription, and to
his determination to watch and provide. It had gone,
forward, too, as well as backward. Forward, with the
elastic determination and hope, which comes like
inspiration to a good cause; and for him, by
anticipation, the daring deed had been done, and the
perishing crew rescued. "—What a mercy!"—the
exclamation comprehended past, present, and future.
As by the position of the signals of distress, Bowman
judged it would be best to put off the boat from the
place where it usually lay, he locked up his cottage,
(for the girl refused to be left there alone,) taking
the key with him, and proceeded at once to the Hall;
but recollecting that his friend, the sexton, had made
an urgent request to be called up, should any disaster
occur, one of the lads ran up the cliff to the village,
to give notice of what they were about.
But before he was halfway there, he met poor Tomkins
himself, who, rendered restless and uneasy by Bowman's
fears and the terrible weather, had come out to enquire
how matters were going on. Thus, therefore, he joined
their expedition at once, while his wife remained as
ignorant of his movements as the rest of the village.
The Captain, a fine old sailor, round the evening of
whose days the glories of Trafalgar shed an undying
 halo, had made it clearly understood, when applied to,
that, in case of the boat being wanted, his own
assistance, also, might be depended upon; and he was
true to his word; so that as soon as the dawn had
broken, five men were to be seen on the beach under the
Hall, up to their waists almost in water, struggling
with the foaming breakers, and pushing off, with an
energy which nothing but the most desperate resolution
could have given them, a boat from the shore.
were spoken; the one gave orders, and the rest
obeyed—promptly, implicitly, and willingly, as if they
had worked for years in company; and thus, life and
death at stake, they rowed over the waste of waters
with mute courage, and a hope which never for an
instant blinded them to the knowledge of the peril they
And thus it was that ere the full daylight had revealed
to the villagers the disaster at sea, and even while
they were shuddering for the fate of the supposed
doomed vessel, help and comfort had reached the
despairing hearts of the bewildered men on board.
There were plenty of people afterwards to say that
anybody might have known—if they had only thought about
it—that that man who was lashed to the wheel, and who
had never changed his position for an instant, could
have been nobody but the grand old Captain who had
been so long in the wars!
There were plenty also to say that Bowman, old as he
was, was constantly on the look-out, and was sure to be
the first to foresee a disaster, and suggest what ought
to be done, even when he could not do it himself; and
didn't everybody know too, that Tomkins was always
foremost to have a hand in a job, whatever it might be?
 The vessel cleared the "race," and got safe to the
harbour, and half the village went with Bowman's
daughter and Mrs. Tomkins (now weeping as hard for joy
as she had before done for terror), to meet them as
What a talking there was! and what bowing to the
Captain, who, dripping wet and cold, had nevertheless a
joke for everybody, and even made Mrs. Tomkins smile by
saying her husband had come with them on the look-out
for a job, but happily his professional services had
not been required, though he had done his duty
otherwise like a man.
But the wet fellow-labourers had to be dried and taken
care of, and the half-exhausted crew had to be attended
to and comforted; and the time for chatting comfortably
over the events of that night did not come till
people's minds and spirits had cooled down from the
The weather cleared up wonderfully after that terrible
storm had passed over, and the following Sunday shone
out over village and sea, with all the brilliancy of
It was just as they were issuing from church after
morning service, that the Captain observed Bowman
standing by the porch, as if waiting till the crowd had
passed. He looked far more upright than usual, and had
more of a smile upon his face than was commonly seen
there. The Captain beckoned to him to come and speak,
and Bowman obeyed.
"This has made a young man of you, Bowman," was the
Captain's observation, and he smiled.
"It has comforted me, Sir, I'll not deny," was Bowman's
"I hope it will teach as well as comfort you,"
 continued the Captain, with a half good-natured, half
stern manner. "You've been very fond of talking of age
and infirmity, and 'cumbering the ground,' and all that
sort of thing. But what it means, is, quarrelling with
your lot. We may not always know what we're wanted for,
nor is it for us to enquire, but nobody is useless as
long as he is permitted to live. You can't have a
shipwreck every day to prove it, Bowman, but this
shipwreck ought to teach you the lesson for the rest of
"I hope it will, Sir," cried Bowman.
"Not that you've so much credit in that matter, after
all, as I thought," observed the Captain with a sly
smile. "By your own account, if it hadn't been for
these comrades of yours in the churchyard here," and as
he spoke the Captain pointed with his stick to the Dial
and Weathercock, "you might have gone to bed and snored
composedly all the night through, without thinking of
whether the storm would last, or what it would do."
Bowman touched his hat in compliment to the joke,
recollecting with a sort of confusion that, as they
were bringing the vessel into port, he had told the
Captain the whole story of his noticing the change of
wind at the particular hour of three, harping nervously
and minutely on the importance of each link in the
little chain of events, and dwelling much on the
half-effaced inscription, the words of which had never
left his mind from the moment when he got into the
Captain's boat, to that when they reached the shore in
Scarcely knowing how to reply, Bowman began again—
"Well, your honour, it's really true, for if it hadn't
 "I know, I know," interrupted the Captain, laughing.
"And now let us see your friends. I must have a peep at
the inscription myself."
The old sailor led the way over the grassy graves to
the Dial, and pointed out to his companion the almost
There was a silence of several minutes, after the
Captain had bent his head to read; and when he raised
it again, his look was very grave. Except for the mercy
that had spared their lives in so great a risk, the
hour might have been over for them.
"Bowman," cried the Captain at length, in his old
good-natured way, "these comrades of yours shall not go
unrewarded any more than yourself. Before another week
is over, you must see that this plate is cleaned and
burnished, so that all the parish may read the
inscription; and as to the Weathercock, I must have him
as bright as gilding can make him before another
Sunday. Come, here's work for you for the week, and the
seeing that this is done will leave you no time for
grumbling, eh, old fellow?"
Bowman bowed his lowest bow. It fell in with all his
feelings to superintend such an improvement as this.
"And while you're looking after them, don't forget the
lesson they teach," continued the Captain.
Bowman bowed again, and was attentive.
"I mean that everything, as well as everybody, is
useful in its appointed place, at the appointed time.
But neither we nor they can choose or foresee the
On the following Sunday, the sun himself scarcely
exceeded in brilliancy the flashing Weathercock, which
hovered gently between point and point on the old
church-tower by the sea, as if to exhibit
 his splendour
to the world. Not a creak did he make as he moved, for
all grumbling was over, and he was suspended to a
nicety on his well-oiled pole.
Below, and freshly
brightened up and cleaned, the Dial basked in the
sunlight, telling one by one the fleeting hours, while
the motto underneath it spoke its warning, in letters
illuminated as if with fire. Many a villager hung about
the once-neglected plate, and took to heart those words
of divine wisdom,
"Watch, for ye know not the hour,"
and many an eye glanced up to the monitor of storms and
weather, and echoed the "What a mercy!" of old Bowman
"Are you silent, my sprightly comrade?" enquired the
old Dial from below, of his shining friend above.
"Only a little confused and overpowered at first," was
the answer of the Weathercock. "My responsibility is
great, you know. I have a great deal to do, and all the
world is observing me just now."
"That's true, certainly," continued the Dial. "Things
are coming round in a singular manner. Everything's
right, after all; but under such a cloud as we were a
short time ago, it was not very easy to find it out."
"Undoubtedly not, and a more excusable mistake than
ours could not well be imagined. People, with fifty
times our advantages, are constantly falling into the
"Which is such a comfort," pursued the Dial, smiling as
he glowed in the sunbeams. "However," added he, "that's
a good idea of the old gentleman
 that was here just
now, and I shall try and remember it for future
occasions, for it really appears to be true.
'Everything is useful in its place at the appointed
time.' That was it, wasn't it?"
"Exactly. And, conscious as I feel just now of my own
responsibility, I could almost add, (in confidence to
you, of course, my ancient friend,) that I have a kind
of sensation that everything is useful in its place,
always, and at all times, though people mayn't always
find it out."
"Just my own impression," was the Dial's last remark.
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