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The Footman, Part 2

by Charles Jones with Hannah More

What’s happening: Charles grows up in a peasant cottage with industrious parents. His mother teaches him the importance of prayer and upright living. At 14, he begins work as a live-in servant for the village parson, where he learns the value of honesty, diligence, and refraining from gossiping and gambling. When he is 21, the parson arranges for him to move to London to work for a wealthier man. Before sending him off, he gives Charles a Bible and counsels him to read it often.

After a long journey, I found myself in the great and dangerous city of London. But even though the city abounded with shocking perils and temptations, life at my new master’s home seemed smooth and pleasant. We servants were supplied with comfortable quarters and plenty of good food; and we were not in the least overworked.

At first, I got along very well with the 12 other servants in the household, but things soon became more difficult. 
The other servants made fun of me when they discovered that I didn’t swear, drink, or gamble. When they learned that I said my prayers morning and evening, read each day from my Bible, and went to church regularly, they seemed to vie with each other to see who could taunt me the most.

While people at home had respected my convictions, it seemed that these city dwellers regarded religion as the worst fault a fellow could have. One fellow servant called me Parson Jones; another mocked me for being a Puritan;1 a third said I was a conceited prig;2 and a fourth, a babbling hypocrite. No matter where I went or what I did, I couldn’t escape their scorn.

For three months, I suffered their mockery and ridicule until I was about ready to give up my faith and live as the other servants did. Then one morning at church the minister preached on Matthew 5:11, 12: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.” The sermon applied so directly to my situation that it seemed he was preaching it just for me. With Christ’s words ringing in my ears, I determined to bear my cross with patience. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I began to look for ways to do my fellow servants some good. If any little chore needed to be done, I took care of it, whether or not it had been assigned to me. If another servant tried to start an argument, I said nothing but quietly went on my way. If I happened to see a quarrel between two servants, I tried to patch it up. If I learned of a way I could help another servant, I did whatever was in my power to do. Soon my troubles did not seem so grievous, and I began enjoying my work.

One day I happened to overhear the coachman talking to the cook. “To be sure,” he said, “Charles may be a little too religious, but I don’t think he is the worse for it. It might be better for us if we were more like him. He seems as humble, friendly, and worthy a fellow as anyone I’ve met. I’ve decided not to make fun of him anymore.”

The coachman’s sentiments must have spread, for the taunts gradually ceased. As I continued to look for ways to be pleasant and helpful, my master treated me with confidence and kindness, and my fellow servants began to greet me with friendliness and respect.

Small tests
After I had been with my new master for about two years, he called me into his study. He told me that he believed I was honest and careful, and that he had decided to entrust me with the responsibility of going to the market to buy food and other provisions for the household. Since the daily shopping required me to carry around rather large sums of money, I prayed that God would help me to be strictly honest in all I did.

My first test came when I purchased ten shillings’ worth of fruit. As I turned to leave the shop, the merchant slipped a shilling into my hand. I had never seen the man before, so I knew the gift wasn’t out of friendship. Instead, it seemed strangely like a bribe.

“Sir,” I asked, “did you charge more for the fruit so that you could give this money to me?”

“Why, young man,” he replied, “that is an honest question, and I will give you an honest answer. The fact is that we know that gentlemen of your type expect a tip from the tradesmen they deal with; and so yes, we do charge extra for our goods so that we can give the tip.”

“And so,” I said, “the money you give us really comes from the pockets of our masters.”

“To be sure it does.”

“Well, then,” I told him, “I will take your shilling, but I will put it with my master’s money.”

One Monday morning, after I had settled the accounts for the last week’s purchases, I found that my master had made a mistake against himself of 20 shillings.3 I needed some extra money right then, and it seemed that I could easily keep the 20 shillings without his ever knowing any better. But God would know, I thought. Those 20 shillings are not worth ruining my peace of mind, and destroying my soul.

At the first opportunity, I pointed out the error to my master. “Charles,” he said, “you are right; the mistake is obvious. I have a confession: I made the mistake on purpose, in order to check your honesty. Congratulations on passing the test!”

Wise counsel
One day at market, I met the butler of a nobleman who lived in London. The butler offered me a position in his master’s home, and promised to pay me two guineas4 per year more than I was currently earning. I thanked him and told him I would give him my answer the next evening. That day, I paid a visit to a wise, honest friend. After thinking it through, he said, “Charles, don’t go. When you are in a good place, stay with it. The more years you continue in one occupation, the more you are respected by your master. A good family considers a trusted servant as part of the family. However, servants who move from place to place have no friends in hard times, and can look forward to a dismal future.”

I am happy that I followed his advice. About 12 months later, my master promoted me to be his butler. If I had gone from post to post, I would probably have stayed a footman all my life.

Country home
While I was serving as butler, my master’s family moved into the country. Here I met a farmer’s daughter living near the great house.5 She had high values and a friendly, cheerful spirit. She was pretty enough, but she didn’t flaunt fine clothes or go to dances, nor was she flirting and forward. Instead, Fanny was a thoughtful, modest, and hardworking young woman. The more I saw of her lovely character, the more I wished to make her my wife.

Over the years, I had been able to save 200 pounds. For our wedding gift, Fanny’s father promised to give her another hundred. We decided we would use this money to buy a small farm and support ourselves from our own land.

When I spoke to my master about our plan, he presented another idea. “Charles,” he said, “I would gladly approve of anything that would be in your best interest, although I hate to lose a good servant. Still, I do not think we need to part. I need a man who can manage my whole estate, and I believe you could fill this position while taking care of your own farm.” He promised to pay me a good wage and then offered us a lovely little farm at very generous terms.

I gladly accepted this kind offer. After Fanny and I married, we set up housekeeping in a cozy farmhouse near the gate of my master’s estate. Several years later, my father died and my dear mother moved in with us. Her godly example and Christian principles proved a blessing to our little family.

As I look back at my life, I am more convinced than ever that making God first and best in everything is the surest way to happiness. In fact, I know from experience that nothing else in this world can make us truly happy.


1. Puritans were a strictly religious group who protested against the Church of England.
2. A self-righteous, conceited person.
3. Today worth about $135.
4. A guinea was 21 shillings.
5. The main house of an estate or plantation.

From Young Disciple magazine, Volume 23, Number 22.

Hey, kids! It's your turn to share. What did you learn from this story? How did you like it?

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