Recollections of John Pounds: Let’s give John Pounds a Gift by Reverend Henry Hawkes
One bitterly cold night in December, an esteemed member of my Flock, Mr Frank Faulkner, called upon me. He had driven the Rocket from London to Portsmouth that day, in the face of cutting sleet; but he came in with a countenance and manner so full of generous interest, that there was no appearance of weariness or fatigue.
He said, as he sat down by the fire: “I’ve been thinking a good deal of late – about that good old man, the old cobbler in St. Mary’s Street; with his crowd of little scholars about him; working all the while at his trade for his own poor living; doing so much good, in such a quiet way, among his poor neighbours; so persevering, in that poor little bit of a shed of his; never tiring in his labours for others; and so little noticed, to cheer him.
Scarcely any body seems to take much notice of him. I’ve been thinking, we ought to do something, to let the good old man know, how much we esteem and admire his self-devoting labours for others’ good.
“I agree with you;” I said. “This can easily be done. What do you recommend?”
Mr. Faulkner replied: “I’ve been thinking, it would be a pleasant thing to present him with some testimonial of our sympathy and esteem for his unremitting labours; – so long continued; – going on so admirably in his humble works of goodness and benevolence; – with no show – or pretence; for so many years; always the same; as full of alacrity now – as ever!
In his old age; – more than seventy, – I’m told.” “He is.” “It would cheer his old heart, – to receive such a proof, that friends feel with him, and esteem, and admire – his disinterested perseverance for others’ good.”
“I heartily agree with you. What do you think would be the most suitable to present to him?”
“Oh, nothing very expensive; – simply – a mark of our esteem and friendly regard. I’ve been thinking,” he said, with a look and tone of pleasantry, mingled with deep feeling and admiration; – and he paused: – as if silently dwelling on some pleasant thought. And he began again: gently, and hesitatingly; seemingly – as much in his own thoughts, as in external utterance:
“I’ve been thinking, – as he works – by – the awl;” – and his eye sparkled with pleasantry; – “if we were to present him – with” – and he hesitated a little, – and looked at me – rather inquiringly; – and then said, as if with renewed impulse of delight: – “A silver awl! – I was thinking of.” – He said this with a look – and emphasis – of pleased imagination.
I hesitated. “Would that be in character? Do you think he would value it?”
“Oh yes! – as an expression of our regard and esteem,”
“But don’t you think – something solidly useful – would be more in character; and would be more valued by him? You know, he is a plain, practical man, – in all he says, and does; – with no show; – so thoroughly devoted, all through life, to the solidly useful; – altogether averse to any thing like superficial show. Would he value what he could make no use of?”
Still, our friend, while admitting somewhat the reasonableness of this, had evidently made up his mind – to “ the silver awl!”
I could not see any probability of John Pounds valuing it; except as an expression of our friendly esteem. “But this, you know, we might as fully express, and as pleasantly, by giving him something that might be substantially useful to him; and which would add to his daily happiness.”
“Well, what do you recommend?” Mr. Faulkner at length asked; but evidently clinging to his favourite idea – “the silver awl!”
“Don’t you think, a nice quarto Bible – would be better? – with nice large print, and clear white paper; – to suit his old eyes? And you could have it handsomely bound as you please.”
Mr. Faulkner admitted this would be a suitable present, – and acceptable to the good old man, and would be very highly valued by him. Still, he confessed, he rather clung to the idea – of – “the silver awl! – as – so in character with the old man’s trade, that he lived by; – and – so beautiful a work of art, – as we would have it!” – he said with a spring in his voice, and a look of enthusiasm;…
…“for him to look at; – as a testimonial of our sympathy and admiration! – It would be something for his relatives to treasure up in memory of him, – after he was gone to his reward; – a sort of heir-loom – in the family; – a perpetual reminder for them, how much their good old relative was esteemed by us!”
“Well; – let us take time,” I said; “and think about it.”
And so – we parted – that night; – both agreeing, to give it further consideration; and both agreed, that it was very desirable, to present him with something.
The next Sunday evening, Mr. Faulkner waited for me at the Chapel door, after worship, and, as I was coming out, – he said with a pleasant smile, and a hearty shake of the hand: “I’ve been thinking of what you said, the other night, about the nice quarto Bible, with the nice large print, and the clear white paper; – so pleasant for the good old man’s eyes! – And I think you were right. I quite agree with you, that this would be the best to present to him.”
So we agreed upon it; and began at once to mention it to friends who were standing about the Chapel door. All were pleased with the idea as soon as they heard of it; and contributions began to come readily in. We did not attempt to urge it forward, nor did we wish to hasten it to completion; we rather left it to work its own quiet way, as friend mentioned it to friend, the interest kindling from one to another.
And we suggested the desirability of the contributions being small; that the larger number might have the pleasure of joining in the testimonial; and, especially, that his poorer neighbours might have the privilege of giving their halfpennies and pennies, if they wished to contribute to this pleasant mark of esteem for their dear old Friend, and never-tiring Benefactor!