Three Hundred a Year
Timothy Shay Arthur, 1851

 

"How much salary do they offer?" asked Mrs. Carroll of her husband, who was sitting near her with a letter in his hand. He had just communicated the fact that a Parish was offered him in the Village of Yardborough, a little over a hundred and fifty miles distant.

"The money is your first thought, Edith," said Mr. Carroll, half chidingly, yet with an affectionate smile.

This remark caused a slight flush to pass over the face of Mrs. Carroll. She replied, glancing, as she did so, towards a bed on which lay three children.

"Is it wrong to think of the little ones whom God has given to us?"

"Oh, no! But we must believe that God who calls us to labor in his vineyard, will feed both us and our children."

"How are we to know that HE calls us, Edward?" inquired Mrs.

Carroll.

"I hold the evidence in my hand. This letter from the vestry of

Yardborough Parish contains the call."

"It may be only the call of man."

"Edith! Edith! Your faith is weak; weak almost as the expiring flame."

"What do they say in that letter? Will you read it to me."

"Oh, yes." And Mr. Carroll read

"Dear Sir: Our Parish has been for some months without a minister. On the recommendation of Bishop Butler, we have been led to make you an offer of the vacant place. The members of the church, generally, are in moderate circumstances, and we cannot, therefore, offer anything more than a moderate living. There is a neat little parsonage, to which is attached a small garden, for the use of the minister. The salary is three hundred dollars. You will find the people kind and intelligent, and likewise biased in your favor. The Bishop has spoken of you warmly. We would like to hear from you as early as convenient. Very affectionately, etc. etc."

"Three hundred dollars!" said Mrs. Carroll in a disappointed tone.

"And the parsonage," added Mr. Carroll, quickly.

"Equivalent to sixty or seventy more."

"Equivalent to a hundred dollars more, at least."

"We are doing much better here, Edward."

"True! But are we to look to worldly advantage alone?"

"We have a duty to discharge to our children, which, it seems to me, comes before all other duties."

"God will take care of these tender lambs, Edith, do not fear. He has called me to preach his everlasting Gospel, and I have heard and answered. Now He points to the field of labor, and shall I hold back because the wages seem small? I have not so learned my duty. Though lions stood in the way, I would walk in it with a fearless heart. Be not afraid. The salvation of souls is a precious work, and they who are called to the labor will not lack for bread."

"But Edward," said the wife, in a serious voice, "will it be right for us to enter any path of life blindfold, as it were? God has given us reason for a guide; and should we not be governed by its plain dictate?"

"We must walk by faith, Edith, and not by sight," replied Mr.

Carroll, in a tone that indicated some small measure of impatience.

"A true faith, dear husband!" said Mrs. Carroll tenderly, while a slight suffusion appeared about her eyes.

"A true faith is ever enlightened and guided by reason. When reason plainly points the way, faith bids us walk on with unfaltering steps."

"And does not reason now point the way?" asked Mr. Carroll."

"I think not. From our school, we receive nearly seven hundred dollars; and we have not found that sum too large for our support. I know that I work very hard, and that I find it as much as I can do to keep all things comfortable."

"But remember that we have rent to pay."

"I know. Still a little over five hundred dollars remain. And the present offer is only three hundred. Edward, we cannot live upon this sum. Think of our three children. And my health, you know, is not good. I am not so strong as I was, and cannot go through as much."

The wife's voice trembled.

"Poor, weak doubter!" said Mr. Carroll, in a tender, yet reproving voice. "Does not He who calls us to this labor, know our needs? And is not He able to supply them? Have you forgotten that the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof? Whose are the cattle upon a thousand hills? Did not God feed Elijah by ravens? Did the widow's oil fail? Be not doubtful, but believing, Edith! And what if we do have to meet a few hardships, and endure many privations? Are these to be counted against the salvation of even one precious soul? The harvest is great, but the laborers are few."

Mrs. Carroll knew her husband well enough to be assured that if he believed it to be his duty to accept a call from Australia or the Indian Ocean he would go. Yet, so strongly did both reason and feeling oppose the contemplated change, that she could not help speaking out what was in her mind.

"The day of miracles is past," she replied.

"We must not expect God to send us bread from Heaven if we go into a wilderness; nor water from the rock if we wander away to some barren desert. This Parish of Yardborough cannot afford living to any but a single man, and, therefore, it seems to me that none but a single man should accept their call. Wait longer, Edward. We have every comfort for our children, and you are engaged in a highly useful employment. When the right field for ministerial labor offers, God will call you in a manner so clear that you need not feel a doubt on the subject."

"I feel no doubt now," said Mr. Carroll. "I recognize the voice of my Master, and must obey. And I will obey without fear. Our bread will be given, and our water will be sure. Ah! Edith. If you could only see with me, eye to eye. If you could only take up your cross hopefully, and walk by my side how light would seem all the burden I have to bear?"

Mrs. Carroll felt the words of her husband, as a rebuke. This silenced all opposition.

"I know that I am weak and fearful," she murmured, leaning her head upon her husband, and concealing her face. "But I will try to have courage. If you feel it to be your duty to accept this call, I will go with you; and, come what may, will not vex your ears by a complaining word. It was only for our little ones that I felt troubled."

"The Lord will provide, Edith. He never sends anyone upon a journey at his own cost. Fear not we have the God of harvest on our side."

The will of Mr. Carroll decided in this, as in almost everything else. He saw reason to accept the call, and did not therefore, perceive any force in his wife's objections.

The school, from which a comfortable living had been obtained, was given up; and old home and old friends abandoned. As prompt as Mr. Carroll had been to accept the call to Yardborough, the process of breaking up did not take place without some natural feelings coming in to disturb him. How he was to support his wife and children on three hundred dollars, did not exactly appear. It had cost him, annually, the sum of five hundred, exclusive of rent; and no one could affirm that he had lived extravagantly. But he dismissed such unpleasant thoughts by saying, mentally

"Away with these sinful doubts! I will not be faithless, but believing."

As for Mrs. Carroll, who felt, in view of the coming trials and labor, that she had but little strength; the parting from the old place where she had known so many happy hours, gave her deeper pain than she had ever experienced. Strive as she would, she could not keep up her spirits. She could not feel any assurance for the future could not put her entire trust in Heaven. To her, the hopeful spirit of her husband seemed a blind confidence, and not a rational faith. But, even while she felt thus, she condemned herself for the feeling; and strove with how little effect! to walk sustainingly by the side of her husband.

 

The move to Yardborough

Six months have elapsed since Mr Carroll accepted the call to Yardborough. He has preached faithfully and labored diligently. That was his part. And he has received, quarterly, on the day it became due, his salary. That was according to the contract on the other side. His conscience is clear on the score of duty; and his parishioners are quite as well satisfied that they have done all that is required of them. They offered him three hundred a year and the parsonage. He accepted the offer; and, by that act, declared the living to be adequate to his needs. If he was satisfied they were.

"I don't know how he gets along on three hundred dollars," someone, more thoughtful about such matters, would occasionally say. "It costs me double that sum, and my family is no larger than his."

"They get a great many presents," would, in all probability, be replied to this. "Mr. Abernathy, I know, sent them a load of wood some time ago; and Mr. Barton told me that he had sent them a quarter of lamb and a bushel of apples. And I have, two or three times, furnished one little matter and another. I'm sure what is given to them, will amount to half as much as Mr. Carroll's salary."

"This makes a difference, of course," is the satisfied answer.

And yet, all totaled, the presents received by the whole family, in useful articles, has not reached the value of twenty-five dollars during six months. And this has been more than abstracted from them by the kind ladies of the parish, who must needs visit and take tea with the minister as often as convenient.

Six months had passed since the Mr. Carroll removed to Yardborough. It was mid-winter; and a stormy day closed in with as stormy a night. The rays which came through the minister's little study-window grew faint in the pervading shadows, and he could no longer see with sufficient clearness to continue writing. So he went downstairs to the room in which were his wife and children. The oldest child was a daughter, six years of age, named Edith from her mother. Edward, between three and four years old, and Aggy the baby, made up the number of Mr. Carroll's household treasures. They were all just of an age to require their mother's attention in everything. As her husband entered the room, Mrs. Carroll said

"I'm glad you've come down, dear. I can't get Aggy out of my arms a minute. It's nearly supper time, and I haven't been able even to put the kettle on the fire. She's very fretful."

Mr. Carroll took the baby. His wife threw a shawl over her head, and taking an empty bucket from the dresser, was passing to the door, when her husband said

"Stop, stop, Edith! You mustn't go for water in this storm. Here, take the baby."

"I can go well enough," replied Mrs. Carroll, and before her husband could prevent her, she was out in the blustering air, with the snowflakes driving in her face.

"Oh, Edith! Edith! Why will you do so?" said her husband, as soon as she came back.

"It's as easy for me to go, as for you," she replied.

"No it isn't, Edith. I am strong than what you are. If you expose yourself in this way, it will be the death of you."

Mrs. Carroll shook the snow from her shawl and dress, and brushed it from her shoes, saying as she did so

"Oh no! a little matter like this won't hurt me."

She then filled the tea-kettle and placed it over the fire. After which she set out the table, and busied herself in getting ready their evening meal. Meanwhile, Mr. Carroll walked the floor with Aggy in his arms, both looking and feeling serious; while the two older children amused themselves with a picture book.

As the reader has probably anticipated, the salary at Yardborough proved altogether inadequate to the needs of Mr. Carroll's family; and faith, confidence, and an abstract trust in Providence, by no means sufficed for its increase.

At first, Mrs. Carroll had a servant girl to help her in her household duties, as usual. But she soon found that this would not do. A dollar and a quarter a week, and the cost of boarding the girl, took just about one-third of their entire income. So, after the first three months, "help" was dispensed with. The washing had to be put out; which cost half a dollar, weekly. To get someone in the house to iron, would cost as much more. So Mrs. Carroll took upon herself the task of ironing all the clothes, in addition to the entire work of the house and care of her three children.

For three months this hard labor was performed; but not without a visible effect. The face of Mrs. Carroll grew thinner; her step lost its lightness; and her voice its cheerful tone. All this, her husband saw, and saw with intense pain. But, there was no remedy. His income was but three hundred dollars a year; and out of that small sum, it was impossible to pay one hundred for the wages and board of a girl, and have enough left for the plainest food and clothing. There was, therefore, no alternative. All that it was in his power to do, was done by Mr. Carroll to lighten the heavy burdens under which his wife was sinking; but it was only a little, in reality, that he could do; and he was doomed to see her daily wasting away, and her strength departing from her.

At the time we have introduced them, Mrs. Carroll had begun to show some symptoms of failing health which alarmed her husband seriously. She had taken cold, which was followed by a dry, fatiguing cough, and a more than usual prostration of strength. On coming in with her bucket of water from the well, as just mentioned, she did not take off her shoes, and brush away the snow that had been pressed in around the tops against her stockings, but allowed it to lie there and melt, thus wetting her feet. It was nearly an hour from the time Mr. Carroll came down from his room, before supper was ready. Aggy was, by this time, asleep; so that the mother could pour out the tea without having, as was usually the case, to hold the baby in her arms.

"Aren't you going to eat anything?" asked Mr. Carroll, seeing that his wife, whose face looked flushed, only sipped a little tea.

"I don't feel any appetite," replied Mrs. Carroll.

"But you'd better try to eat something, dear."

Just then there was a knock at the door. On opening it, Mr. Carroll found a messenger with a request for him to go and see a parishioner who was ill.

"You can't go away there in this storm," said his wife, as soon as the messenger had retired.

"It's full a mile off."

"I must go, Edith," replied the minister. "If the distance were many miles instead of one, it would be all the same. Duty calls."

And out into the driving storm the minister went, and toiled on his lonely way through the deep snow to reach the bedside of a suffering fellow man, who sought spiritual consolation in the hour of sickness from one whose temporal needs he had, while in health, shown but little inclination to supply. That consolation offered, he turned his face homeward again, and again bosomed the unabated storm. He found his wife in bed something unusual for her at ten o'clock and, on laying his hand upon her face, discovered that she was in a high fever. In alarm, he went for the doctor, who declined going out, but sent medicine, and promised to come over in the morning.

In the morning Mrs. Carroll was much worse, and unable to rise. To dress the children and get breakfast, Mr. Carroll found to be tasks of no very easy performance for him; and as soon as they were completed, he called in a neighbor to stay with his wife while he went in search of someone to come and take her place in the family until she was able to go about again as usual.

That time, however, did not soon come. Weeks passed before she could even sit up, and then she was so susceptible of cold, that even the slightest draft of air into the room affected her; and so weak, that, in attempting to mend a garment for one of her children, the exertion caused her to faint away.

When Mrs. Carroll was taken sick, they had only fifteen dollars of their quarter's salary left. It was but two weeks since they had received it, yet nearly all was gone, for twenty-five dollars, borrowed to meet expenses during the last month of the quarter, had to be paid according to promise; shoes for nearly every member of the family had to be purchased, besides warmer clothing for themselves and children; and several little bills unavoidably contracted, had to be settled. The extra expense of sickness, added to the regular demand, soon melted away the trifling balance, and Mr. Carroll found himself, with his wife still unable to leave her room in fact, scarcely able to sit up penniless and almost hopeless.

His faith had grown weak his confidence was gone his spirits were broken. Daily he prayed for strength to bear up; for a higher trust in Providence; for light upon his dark pathway. But no strength came, no confidence was created, no light shone upon his way. And for this we need not wonder. It was no day of miracles, as his wife had forewarned him. He had, as too many do, hoped for sustenance in a field of labor, where reason could find no well-grounded hope. He knew that he could not live on three hundred a year; yet he had accepted the offer, in the vain hope that all would come out well!

The last shilling left the hand of the unhappy minister, and at least six weeks remained before another quarter's salary would be paid to him. He could not let his family starve; so, after much thought, he finally determined to call the deacons together, frankly state his case, and tell his brethren that it was impossible for him to live on the small sum they allowed.

A graver meeting of the vestry of Yardborough parish, had not for a long time taken place. As for an increase of salary, that was declared to be out of the question entirely. They had never paid any one over three hundred dollars, which, with the parsonage, had always been considered a very liberal compensation. They were very sorry for Mr. Carroll, and would advance him a quarter's salary. But all increase was out of the question. They knew the people would not hear of it. The meeting then broke up, and the official members of the church walked gravely away, while Mr. Carroll went home, feeling so sad and dispirited, that he almost wished that he could die.

The Parish of Yardborough was not rich; though six hundred dollars could have been paid to a minister with as little inconvenience to the members as three hundred. But the latter sum was considered ample; and much surprise was manifested when it was found that the new minister asked for an increase, even before the first year of his engagement had expired.

The face of his wife had never looked so pale, her cheeks so thin, nor her eyes so sunken, to the minister as when he came home from this mortifying and disheartening meeting of the vestry. One of those present was the very person he had gone a mile to visit on the night of the snow-storm and he had more to say that hurt him, than any of the rest.

"Edith," said Mr. Carroll, taking the thin hand of his wife, as he sat down by her and looked sadly into her face, "we must leave here."

"Must we? Why?" she asked, without evincing very marked surprise.

"We cannot live on three hundred a year."

"Where will we go?"

"Heaven only knows! But we cannot remain here!"

And as the minister said this, he bowed his head until his face rested upon the arm of his wife. He tried to hide his emotion, but Edith knew that tears were upon the cheeks of her husband.

The Sequel

Just one year has elapsed, since Mr. Carroll accepted the call from Yardborough. It has been a year of trouble, ending in deep affliction. When the health of Mrs. Carroll yielded under her too heavy burdens, it did not come back again. Steadily she continued to sink, after the first brief rallying of her system, until it became hopelessly apparent that the time of her departure was near at hand. She was too fragile a creature to be thrown into the position she occupied. Inheriting a delicate constitution, and raised with even an unwise tenderness she was no more fitted to be a pastor's wife, with only three hundred a year to live upon, than a summer flower is to take the place of a hardy autumn plant. This her husband should have known and taken into the account, before he decided to accept the call from Yardborough.

When it was found that Mrs. Carroll, after partially recovering from her first severe attack, began, gradually to sink; a strong interest in her favor was awakened among the ladies of the congregation, and they showed her many kind attentions. But all these attentions, and all this kindness, did not touch the radical disability under which she was suffering. They did not remove her too heavy weight of care and labor. All the help in her family that she felt justified in employing, was a girl between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and this left so much for her to do in the care of her children, and in necessary household duties that she suffered all the time from extreme physical exhaustion.

In the just conviction of the error he had committed, and while he felt the hopelessness of his condition, Mr. Carroll, as has been seen, resolved to leave Yardborough immediately. This design he hinted to one of the members of his church.

"You contracted with us for one year did you not?" inquired the member.

That settled the question in the mind of the unhappy minister. He said no more to anyone on the subject of his income, or about leaving the parish. But his mind was made up not to remain a single day, after his contract had expired. If in debt at the time, as he knew he must be he would free himself from the incumbrances by selling a part of his household furniture. In the meantime, his liveliest fears were aroused for his wife, as symptom after symptom of a rapid decline showed themselves. That he did not preach as good sermons, nor visit as freely among his parishioners during the last three months of the time he remained at Yardborough is no matter of surprise. Some, more considerate than the rest, excused him; but others complained, even to the minister himself. No matter. Mr. Carroll had too much at home to fill his heart, to leave room for a troubled pulsation on this account. He was conscience-clear on the score of obligation to his parishioners.

At last, and this before the year had come to its close, the drooping wife and mother took to her bed, never again to leave it until carried forth by the mourners. We will not pain the reader by any details of the affecting scenes attendant upon the last few weeks of her mortal life; nor take him to the bed-side of the dying one, in the hour that she passed away. To state the fact that she died, is enough and painful enough.

For all this, it did not occur to the people of Yardborough, that in anything they had been lacking. They had never given but three hundred a year to a minister, and, as a matter of course, considered the sum as much as a reasonable man could expect. As for keeping a clergyman in luxury, and permitting him to get rich they did not think it consistent with the office he held, which required self-denial and a renouncing of the world. As to how he could live on so small a sum that was a question rarely asked; and when presented, was put to rest by some backhanded kind of an answer, which left the matter as much in the dark as ever.

Notwithstanding the deep waters of affliction through which Mr. Carroll was required to pass, his Sunday duties were but once omitted, and that on the day after he had looked for the last time upon the face of his lost one. Four Sundays more he preached, and then, in accordance with notice a short time previously given, resigned his pastoral charge. There were many to urge him with great earnestness not to leave them; but a year's experience enabled him to see clearer than he did before, and to act with greater decision. In the hope of retaining him, the vestry strained a point, and offered to make the salary three hundred and fifty dollars. But much to their surprise, the liberal offer was refused.

It happened that the Bishop of the Diocese came to visit Yardborough a week before Mr. Carroll intended taking his departure with his motherless children, for his old home, where a church had been offered him in connection with a school. To him, three or four prominent members of the church complained that the minister was mercenary, and looked more to the loaves and fishes than to the duty of saving souls.

"Mercenary!" said the Bishop, with a strong expression of surprise.

"Yes, mercenary," repeated his accusers.

"So far from it," said the Bishop, warmly, "he has paid more during the year, for supporting the Gospel in Yardborough, than any five men in the parish put together."

"Mr. Carroll has?"

"How much do you give?" addressing one.

"I pay ten dollars pew rent, and give ten extra, besides," was the answer.

"And you?" speaking to another.

"The same."

"And you?"

"Thirty dollars, in all."

"While," said the Bishop, speaking with increased warmth, "your minister gave two hundred dollars."

This, of course, took them greatly by surprise, and they asked for an explanation. "It is given in a few words," returned the Bishop. "It cost him, though living in the most frugal manner, five hundred dollars for the year. Of this, you paid three hundred and he paid two hundred dollars."

"I don't understand you, Bishop," said one.

"Plainly, then; he was in debt at the end of the year, two hundred dollars, for articles necessary for the health and comfort of his family to pay which he has sold a large part of his furniture. He was not working for himself, but for you and, therefore, actually paid two hundred dollars for the support of the Gospel in Yardborough while you paid but twenty or thirty dollars apiece. Under these circumstances, my friends, be assured that the charge of being mercenary, is exceeding wrong!

"Nor is this all that he has sacrificed. An insufficient income threw upon his wife, duties beyond her strength to bear; and she sank under them. Had you stepped forward in time, and lightened these duties by a simple act of justice she night still be living to bless her husband and children! Three hundred a year for a man with a wife and three children, is not enough; and you know it, my brethren! Not one of you could live on less than double the sum!"

This rebuke came with a stunning force upon the ears of men who had expected the Bishop to agree with them in their complaint and had its effect.

On the day Mr. Carroll left the village, he received a kind and sympathetic letter from the official members of the church enclosing the sum of two hundred dollars. The first impulse of his natural feelings was to return the enclosure, but reflection showed him that such an act would be wrong; and so he retained it, after such acknowledgments as he deemed the occasion required.

Back to his old home the minister went, but with feelings, how different, alas! from those he had experienced on leaving for Yardborough. The people among whom he had labored for a year, felt as if they had amply paid him for all the service he had rendered; in fact had overpaid him, as if money, doled out grudgingly, could compensate for all he had sacrificed and suffered, in his effort to break for them the Bread of Life.

Here is one of the phases of ministerial life, presented with little ornament or attractiveness. There are many other phases, more pleasant to look upon, and far more flattering to the good opinion we are all inclined to entertain of ourselves. But it is not always best to look upon the fairest side. The cold reality of things, it is needful that we should sometimes see. The parish of Yardborough, does not, by any means, stand alone. And Mr. Carroll is not the only man who has suffered wrong from the hands of those who called him to minister in spiritual things yet neglected duly to provide for the natural and necessary needs of the body.