THE BAR OF GOLD
By Lillian M. Gask
Long years ago there lived a poor labouring man who never knew what it
was to sleep in peace. Whether the times were good or bad, he was
haunted by fears for the morrow, and this constant worrying caused him
to look so thin and worn that the neighbouring farmers hesitated to
give him work. He was steady and frugal, and had never been known to
waste his time in the village inn, or indulge in foolish pleasures—in
fact, a worthier man could not be found, and his friends agreed in
saying that he certainly deserved success, though this never came his
One day as he sat by the roadside with his head on his hands, a kindly
and charitable doctor from the town close by stopped his carriage to
ask him what was the matter.
"You seem in trouble, my good man," he said. "Tell me what I can do to
Encouraged by the sympathy in his voice, "Weeping John," as he was
called, poured out his woes, to which the doctor listened with much
"If I should fall sick," the poor man finished by saying, "what would
happen to my little children, and the wife whom I love more dearly
than life itself? They would surely starve, for even as it is they
often go hungry to bed. Surely a more unfortunate man has never been
born—I toil early and late, and this is my reward." And once more he
buried his face in his hands, while bitter sobs shook his ill-clad
"Come, come!" said the doctor briskly. "Get up at once, man, and I
will do my best for you. I can see that if you do not kill worry,
worry will kill you." Helping the poor fellow into his carriage, he
told the coachman to drive straight home, and when they arrived at his
comfortable mansion, he led him into his surgery.
"See here," he cried, pointing to a shining bar in a glass case, "that
bar of gold was bequeathed to me by my father, who was once as poor as
you are now. By means of the strictest economy, and hard work, he
managed to save sufficient money to purchase this safeguard against
want. When it came to me, I, too, was poor, but by following his
example, and keeping a brave heart, in cloud and storm as well as
sunshine, I have now amassed a fortune that is more than sufficient
for my needs. Therefore, I will now hand over to you the bar of gold,
since I no longer require it. Its possession will give you confidence
for the future. Do not break into it if you can avoid it, and remember
that sighing and weeping should be left to weak women and girls."
The labourer thanked him with much fervour, and hiding the bar of gold
beneath his coat, sped joyfully homeward.
As he and his wife sat over the fire, which they were now no longer
afraid to replenish, he told her all that the good doctor had said,
and they agreed that unless the worst came to the worst, they would
never touch that bar of gold.
"The knowledge that we have it, safely hidden in the cellar," said his
wife, "will keep from us all anxiety. And now, John, you must do your
best to make a fortune, so that we may be able to hand it on to our
From that day John was a changed man. He sang and whistled merrily as
he went about his work, and bore himself like a prosperous citizen.
His cheeks filled out, and his eye grew bright; no longer did he waste
his leisure in lamentations, but dug and planted his little garden
until it yielded him richly of the fruits of the earth, and the
proceeds helped to swell the silver coins in his good wife's stocking.
The farmer who had before employed him when short of hands, was so
impressed with his altered looks that he took him permanently into his
service, and with regular food and sufficient clothing John's delicate
children grew strong and hardy.
"That bar of gold has brought us luck," he would sometimes say
blithely to his wife, who held her tongue like a wise woman, although
she was tempted to remind him that the "luck" had come since he had
given up weeping and lamentations concerning the future.
One summer's evening, long afterwards, as they sat in the wide porch,
while their grandchildren played in the meadow beyond, and the lowing
of the cows on their peaceful farm mingled with the little people's
merry shouts, a stranger came up the pathway and begged for alms.
Though torn and tattered, and gaunt with hunger, he had an air of
gentleness and refinement, and, full of compassion, the worthy couple
invited him in to rest. They set before him the best they had, and
when he tried to express his gratitude, John laid his hand on his
"My friend," he said, "Providence has been good to us, and blessed the
labour of our hands. In times gone by, however, I was as wretched as
you appeared to be when you crossed the road, and it is owing to a
stranger's kindness that I am in my present position." He went on to
tell him of the bar of gold, and, after a long look at his wife, who
nodded her head as if well pleased, he went and fetched it from the
cellar, where it had lain hidden all these years.
"There!" he exclaimed. "I am going to give it to you. I shall not want
it now, and my children are all well settled. It is fitting that you
should have it, since your need is very great."
Now the stranger understood the science of metals, for he was a
learned man who had fallen on evil times. As he took the gleaming bar
in his hands, while murmuring his astonished thanks, he knew by its
weight that it was not gold.
"You have made a mistake, my friends," he cried. "This bar is not what
you think it, though I own that most men would be deceived."
Greatly surprised, the old woman took it from him, and polished it
with her apron in order to show him how brightly it gleamed. As she
did so, an inscription appeared, which neither she nor her husband had
noticed before. Both listened with great interest as the stranger read
it out for them.
"It is less a matter of actual want," it ran, "than the fear of what
the morrow will bring, which causes the unhappiness of the poor. Then
tread the path of life with courage, for it is clear that at last you
will reach the end of your journey."
When the stranger paused there was a dead silence, for the old man and
woman were thinking many things, and words do not come quickly when
one is deeply moved. At last John offered the stranger a tremulous
apology for the disappointment he must now be suffering through their
"On the contrary," he replied warmly, "the lesson that bar has taught
me is worth far more than any money that you could give me. I shall
make a new start in life, and, remembering that we fail through fear,
will henceforth bear myself as a brave man should."
So saying, he bade them adieu, and passed out into the fragrant