Sermon by David
"Tell ye what, mates, this sort o' thing won't do. Here we've been at it
these six weeks, and not a penny of wages yet. It's all very fine to
say, 'Stick to your work,' but a man won't git fat on workin' for
nothing, that's sartain!"
"Right you are, Bill. S'pose we knocks off work, and tells Sir James we
won't do no more without he pays us?"
"Gently, lads: remember what happened to the dog as dropped his meat in
grabbin' at the shadder. If we stick to this job, mayhap we'll git our
money some time; but if we knock off, we won't find another job growin'
on every bush, mark ye."
"Well, that's true; but it's mighty hard luck for us, all the same."
So grumbled, under their breath, a gang of English workmen, who were
repairing the interior of one of the great London churches, one fine
summer afternoon in the time of George I. And certainly they had good
reason to grumble. Sir James Thornhill, the court painter, whom the King
had employed to restore and redecorate the building, had his head so
full of his own fine plans and sketches, and of the grand show that the
church would make when all was done, that he had quite forgotten such a
small matter as the paying of his men's wages. So, although the poor
fellows had been hard at work for six weeks and more, not a shilling of
pay had any of them received yet.
"Look here, boys," cried a tall, gaunt carpenter, with a dry,
keen-looking face, "I've always heard say as Sir James is a kind old
gen'l'man at heart, and mayhap it ain't that he don't want to pay us,
but only that he's forgot it, like. Let's just draw lots who shall go
and tackle him about it, and then there'll be no mistake."
The suggestion was at once followed out, and the lot fell upon the tall
This was more than the worthy man had bargained for, and he looked
somewhat nonplussed. However, there was no drawing back for him now. Up
he got, and away along the aisle he went toward the spot where Sir James
Thornhill was standing.
But the nearer he got to him, the slower he walked, and the more
chop-fallen did he appear. Indeed, Sir James looked such a grand old
gentleman, as he stood there like a statue, in his laced waistcoat and
silk stockings, with his powdered hair falling over his fine velvet
coat, and his hand resting upon his silver-hilted sword, that poor Chips
felt as bashful as if he were going before the King himself.
But, as the proverb says, "Fortune favors the brave," and the valiant
carpenter was unexpectedly helped out of his dilemma by the very man who
had caused it. Sir James suddenly turned round, and seeing him coming
up, called out:
"Ah, my good fellow, you've come just in time to do me a service. You
see, I want to be quite sure that that pulpit yonder, which we're just
putting up, is in the right place; for, of course, when the clergyman
goes up into it to preach, his voice ought to be heard equally well in
every part of the church. Now suppose you step up there and make a
speech of some sort, while I stand here and try if I can hear you
"But what be I to say, your honor?" asked Chips, scratching his head. "I
haven't got the gift of the gab like you gen'l'men have."
"Oh, say whatever you like—just the first thing that comes into your
The carpenter's small eyes twinkled, as if a bright idea had suddenly
occurred to him. Up he went, and leaning over the carved front of the
pulpit, began as follows:
"Sir James Thorn'ill, sir! Me and my mates has been a-workin' for you,
in this here church, good six weeks and more, and we haven't seen the
color of your money yet; and now we ain't going to do another stroke,
without you pays us all that's owing!"
"That'll do, my man," said Sir James, hastily; "you may come down. Your
elocution's perfect, but I can't say I quite admire your choice of a
However, the sermon was not thrown away. The very next morning the men
received their wages in full, and Sir James gave the clever carpenter
half a guinea extra for himself.