The Master of the Harvest by Mrs. Alfred Gatty
A good old-fashioned story for the older boys and girls to read on
the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day.
THE Master of the Harvest walked by the side of his
cornfields in the early year, and a cloud was over
his face, for there had been no rain for several weeks, and
the earth was hard from the parching of the cold east
winds, and the young wheat had not been able to spring
So, as he looked over the long ridges that lay stretched
in rows before him, he was vexed, and began to grumble,
and say, "The harvest would be backward, and all
things would go wrong." At the mere thought of which
he frowned more and more, and uttered words of complaint
against the heavens, because there was no rain;
against the earth, because it was so dry and unyielding;
against the corn, because it had not sprung up.
And the man's discontent was whispered all over the
field, and all along the long ridges where the corn seeds
lay; and when it reached them they murmured out,
"How cruel to complain! Are we not doing our best?
Have we let one drop of moisture pass by unused, one
moment of warmth come to us in vain? Have we not
seized on every chance, and striven every day to be
ready for the hour of breaking forth? Are we idle?
Are we obstinate? Are we indifferent? Shall we not
be found waiting and watching? How cruel to complain!"
Of all this, however, the Master of the Harvest heard
nothing, so the gloom did not pass away from his face.
On the contrary, he took it with him into his comfortable
home, and repeated to his wife the dark words that
all things were going wrong; that the drought would
ruin the harvest, for the corn was not yet sprung.
And still thinking thus, he laid his head on his pillow,
and presently fell asleep.
But his wife sat up for a while by the bedside, and
opened her Bible, and read, "The harvest is the end of
the world, and the reapers are the angels."
Then she wrote this text in pencil on the flyleaf at
the end of the book, and after it the date of the day, and
after the date the words, "Lord, the husbandman,
Thou waitest for the precious fruit Thou hast sown, and
hast long patience for it! Amen, O Lord, Amen!"
After which the good woman knelt down to pray, and
as she prayed she wept, for she knew that she was very
But what she prayed that night was heard only in
And so a few days passed on as before, and the house
was gloomy with the discontent of its master; but at last
one evening the wind changed, the sky became heavy
with clouds, and before midnight there was rain all over
the land; and when the Master of the Harvest came in
next morning, wet from his early walk by the cornfields,
he said it was well it had come at last, and that, at last,
the corn had sprung up.
On which his wife looked at him with a smile, and said,
"How often things came right, about which one had
been anxious and disturbed." To which her husband
made no answer, but turned away and spoke of something
Meantime, the corn seeds had been found ready and
waiting when the hour came, and the young sprouts
burst out at once; and very soon all along the long ridges
were to be seen rows of tender blades, tinting the whole
field with a delicate green. And day by day the Master
of the Harvest saw them and was satisfied; but because
he was satisfied, and his anxiety was gone, he spoke of
other things, and forgot to rejoice.
And a murmur arose among them: "Should not the
Master have welcomed us to life? He was angry
but lately, because the seed he had sown had not yet
brought forth; now that it has brought forth, why is he
not glad? What more does he want? Have we not
done our best? Are we not doing it minute by minute,
hour by hour, day by day? From the morning and evening
dews, from the glow of the midday sun, from the
juices of the earth, from the breezes which freshen the
air, even from clouds and rain, are we not taking in
food and strength, warmth and life, refreshment and
joy; so that one day the valleys may laugh and sing, because
the good seed hath brought forth abundantly?
Why does he not rejoice?"
As before, however, of all they said the Master of the
Harvest heard nothing; and it never struck him to think
of the young corn blades' struggling life. Nay, once,
when his wife asked him if the wheat was doing well, he
answered, "Very fairly," and nothing more. But she
then, because the evening was fine and the fairer
weather had revived her failing powers, said she would
walk out by the cornfields herself.
And so it came to pass that they went out together.
And together they looked all along the long green
ridges of wheat, and watched the blades as they quivered
and glistened in the breeze which sprang up with the
setting sun. Together they walked, together they
looked; looking at the same things and with the same
human eyes; even as they had walked, and looked, and
lived together for years, but with a world dividing their
hearts; and what was ever to unite them?
Even then, as they moved along, she murmured half
aloud, half to herself, thinking of the anxiety that had
passed away: "Thou visitest the earth, and blessest
it; thou makest it very plenteous."
To which he answered, if answer it may be called,
"Why are you always so gloomy? Why should Scripture
be quoted about such common things?"
And she looked in his face and smiled, but did not
speak; and he could not read the smile, for the life of
her heart was as hidden to him as the life of the corn
blades in the field.
And so they went home together, no more being said
by either; for, as she turned round, the sight of the setting
sun and of the young freshly growing wheat blades
brought tears into her eyes.
She might never see the harvest upon earth again; for
her that other was at hand, whereof the reapers were to
And when she opened her Bible that night she wrote
on the flyleaf the text she had quoted to her husband,
and after the text the date of the day, and after the date
the words, "Bless me, even me also, oh, my Father, that
I may bring forth fruit with patience!"
Very peaceful were the next few weeks that followed,
for all nature seemed to rejoice in the weather, and the
corn blades shot up till they were nearly two feet high,
and about them the Master of the Harvest had no complaints
But at the end of that time, behold, the earth began
to be hard and dry again, for once more rain was wanted;
and by degrees the growing plants failed for want of
moisture and nourishment, and lost power and colour,
and became weak and yellow in hue. And once more
the husbandmen began to fear and tremble, and once
more the brow of the Master of the Harvest was overclouded
with angry apprehension.
And as the man got more and more anxious about
the fate of his crops, he grew more and more irritable
and distrustful, and railed as before, only louder now,
against the heavens because there was no rain; against
the earth because it lacked moisture; against the corn
plants because they had waxed feeble.
Nay, once, when his sick wife reproved him gently,
praying him to remember how his fears had been turned
to joy before, he reproached her in his turn for sitting
in the house and pretending to judge of what she could
know nothing about, and bade her come out and see for
herself how all things were working together for ill.
And although he spoke it in bitter jest, and she was
very ill, she said she would go, and went.
So once more they walked out together, and once
more looked over the cornfields; but when he stretched
out his arm and pointed to the long ridges of blades,
and she saw them shrunken and faded in hue, her heart
was grieved within her, and she turned aside and wept
Nevertheless, she said she durst not cease from hope,
since an hour might renew the face of the earth, if God
so willed; neither should she dare to complain, even
the harvest were to fail. At which words the Master
of the Harvest stopped short, amazed, to look at
his wife, for her soul was growing stronger as her
body grew weaker, and she dared to say things now
which she would have had no courage to utter before.
But of all this he knew nothing, and what he thought,
as he listened, was that she was as weak in mind as in
body; and what he said was that a man must be an
idiot who would not complain when he saw the bread
taken from under his very eyes!
And his murmurings and her tears sent a shudder all
along the long ridges of sickly corn blades, and they
asked one of another, "Why does he murmur? and,
Why does she weep? Are we not doing all we can? Do
we slumber or sleep, and let opportunities pass by unused?
Are we not watching and waiting against the
times of refreshing? Shall we not be found ready at
last? Why does he murmur? and, Why does she weep?
Is she, too, fading and waiting? Has she, too, a master
who has lost patience?"
Meantime, when she opened her Bible that night, she
wrote on the flyleaf the text, "Wherefore should a man
complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?" and
after the text the date of the day, and after the date the
words, "Thou dost turn Thy face from us, and we are
troubled; but, Lord, how long, how long?"
And by and by came on the long-delayed times of refreshing,
but so slowly and imperfectly that the change
in the corn could scarcely be detected for a while.
Nevertheless, it told at last, and stems struggled up
among the blades, and burst forth into flowers, which
gradually ripened into ears of grain. But a struggle
it had been, and continued to be, for the measure of
moisture was scant, and the due amount of warmth in
the air was wanting. Nevertheless, by struggling and
effort the young wheat advanced, little by little, in
growth; preparing itself, minute by minute, hour by
hour, day by day, as best it could, for the great day of
the harvest. As best it could! Would the Master
of the Harvest ask more? Alas! he had still something
to find fault with, for when he looked at the ears and
saw that they were small and poor, he grumbled, and
said the yield would be less than it ought to be, and the
harvest would be bad.
And as more weeks went on, and the same weather
continued, and the progress was very, very slow, he
spoke out of his vexation to his wife at home, to his
friends at the market, and to the husbandmen who
passed by and talked with him about the crops.
And the voice of his discontent was breathed over
the cornfield, all along the long ridges where the plants
were labouring, and waiting, and watching. And they
shuddered and murmured: "How cruel to complain!
Had we been idle, had we been negligent, had we been
indifferent, we might have passed away without bearing
fruit at all. How cruel to complain!"
But of all this the Master of the Harvest heard nothing,
so he did not cease to complain.
Meantime, another week or two went on, and people
as they glanced over the land wished that a few
good rainy days would come and do their work decidedly,
so that the corn ears might fill. And behold,
while the wish was yet on their lips, the sky became
charged with clouds, darkness spread over the country,
a wild wind rose, and the growling of thunder announced
a storm. And such a storm! People hid from it in
cellars and closets and dark corners, as if now, for the
first time, they believed in a God, and were trembling
at the new-found fact; as if they could never discover
Him in His sunshine and blessings, but only thus in
His tempests and wrath.
And all along the long ridges of wheat plants drove
the rain-laden blast, and they bent down before it and
rose up again, like the waves of a labouring sea. Ears
over ears they bowed down; ears above ears they rose
up. They bowed down as if they knew that to resist
was destruction; they rose up as if they had a hope beyond
the storm. Only here and there, where the whirlwinds
were the strongest, they fell down and could not
lift themselves again. So the damage done was but
little, and the general good was great. But when the
Master of the Harvest saw here and there patches of
overweighted corn yet dripping from the thunder showers,
he grew angry for them, and forgot to think of the
long ridges that stretched over his fields, where the corn
ears were swelling and rejoicing.
And he came in gloomy to his home, when his wife
was hoping that now, at last, all would be well; and
when she looked at him the tumult of her soul grew beyond
control, and she knelt down before him as he sat
moody in his chair, and threw her arms round him, and
cried out: "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not
utterly consumed. Oh, husband! pray for the corn
and for me, that it may go well with us at the last!
Carry me upstairs!" And his anger was checked by
fear, and he carried her upstairs and laid her on the bed,
and said it must be the storm which had shaken her
nerves. But whether he prayed for either the corn or
her that night she never knew.
And presently came a new distress: for when the
days of rain had accomplished their gracious work,
and every one was satisfied, behold, they did not cease.
And as hitherto the cry had gone up for water on the
furrows, so now men's hearts failed them for fear lest
it should continue to overflowing, and lest mildew
should set in upon the full, rich ears, and the glorious
crops should be lost.
And the Master of the Harvest walked out by his
cornfields, his face darker than ever. And he railed
against the rain because it would not cease; against
the sun because it would not shine; against the wheat
because it might perish before the harvest.
"But why does he always and only complain?"
moaned the corn plants, as the new terror was breathed
over the field. "Have we not done our best from the
first? And has not mercy been with us, sooner or
later, all along? When moisture was scant, and we
throve but little, why did he not rejoice over that
little, and wait, as we did, for more? Now that abundance
has come, and we swell triumphant in strength
and in hope, why does he not share our joy in the present,
and wait in trust, as we do, for the future ripening
change? Why does he always complain? Has he himself
some hard master, who would fain reap where he
has not sown, and gather where he has not strewed, and
who has no pity for his servants who strive?"
But of all this the Master of the Harvest heard nothing.
And when the days of rain had rolled into weeks
and the weeks into months, and the autumn set in, and
the corn still stood up green in the ridges, as if it never
meant to ripen at all, the boldest and most hopeful became
uneasy, and the Master of the Harvest despaired.
But his wife had risen no more from her bed, where
she lay in sickness and suffering, yet in patient trust,
watching the sky through the window that faced her
pillow, looking for the relief that came at last. For
even at the eleventh hour, when hope seemed almost
over, and men had half learned to submit to their expected
trial, the dark days began to be varied by a few
hours of sunshine; and though these passed away, and
the gloom and rain returned again, yet they also passed
away in their turn, and the sun shone out once more.
And the poor sick wife, as she watched, said to those
around her that the weather was gradually changing,
and that all would come right at last; and sighing a
prayer that it might be so with herself also, she had her
Bible brought to the bed, and wrote in the flyleaf the
text, "Some thirty, some sixty, some an hundredfold";
and after the text the date of the day, for on that day
the sun had been shining steadily for many hours. And
after the date the words, "Unto whom much is given,
of him shall much be required; yet if Thou, Lord, be
extreme to mark iniquity, O Lord, who may stand?"
And day by day, the hours of sunshine were more in
number, and the hours of rain and darkness fewer, and
by degrees the green corn ears ripened into yellow, and
the yellow turned into gold, and the harvest was ready,
and the labourers not wanting. And the bursting corn
broke out into songs of rejoicing, and cried, "At least
we have not waited and watched in vain! Surely
goodness and mercy have followed us all the days of
our life, and we are crowned with glory and honour.
Where is the Master of the Harvest, that he may claim
his own with joy?"
But the Master of the Harvest was bending over the
bed of his dying wife.
And she whispered that her Bible should be brought,
and he brought it, and she said, "Open it at the flyleaf
at the end, and write, 'It is sown in corruption,
it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour,
it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised
in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual
body!'" And she bade him add the date of the
day, and after the date of the day, the words, "O Lord,
in Thy mercy say of me—She hath done what she could!"
And then she laid her hand in his, and so fell asleep in
And the harvest of the earth was gathered into barns,
and the gathering-day of rejoicing was over, and the
Master of it all sat alone by his fireside, with his wife's
Bible on his knee. And he read the texts and the dates
and the prayers, from the first day when the corn seeds
were held back by drought; and as he read a new heart
seemed to burst out within him from the old one—a
heart which the Lord of the other Harvest was making
soft, and the springing whereof He would bless.
And henceforth, in his going out and coming in from
watching the fruits of the earth, the texts and the dates
and the prayers were ever present in his mind, often
rising to his lips; and he murmured and complained no
more, let the seasons be what they would and his fears
however great; for the thought of the late-sprung seed
in his own dry cold heart, and of the long suffering of
Him who was Lord and Master of all, was with him
night and day. And more and more as he prayed for
help, that the weary struggle might be blessed, and
the newborn watching and waiting not be in vain, so
more and more there came over his spirit a yearning
for that other harvest, where he and she who had gone
before might be gathered in together.
And thus—in one hope of their calling—the long-divided
hearts were united at last.