HISTORY OF A FOOTMAN
In a family of high rank, there was a young footman, whose refined and intelligent countenance and distinguished air attracted our attention. Nothing, in his appearance or manners, indicated the inferiority of his condition; even the zeal with which he fulfilled the duties of his position was something quite different from the obsequiousness habitual among those of his calling. The following year, being again on a visit to the same family, we missed the young footman; and, having inquired after him, we were informed by our host that he had left them, for a few days, to go home to his family, had fallen ill there, and had died, almost immediately. “We greatly regret his loss,” added Mr. de G——, “for he was an excellent fellow, and animated by sentiments altogether above his position. He was extremely attached to us, and had given us proofs of the utmost devotedness.”
Some time afterwards, it occurred to us to evoke this young man; here is what he told us: –
“In my last incarnation before the one in which you knew me, I belonged, as you say upon the Earth, to a very good family; but, ruined by my father’s extravagance, I was left an orphan, at an early age, utterly destitute. A friend of my father’s took me into his house, brought me up as his son, and gave me an excellent education, of which I was somewhat too vain. This friend is now reincarnated as Mr. de G——, in whose service you saw me. I had determined to expiate my former pride by being born, in my new existence, in a servile position, a determination that afforded me the opportunity of proving my gratitude to him who had been my benefactor in my previous incarnation. I even had the happiness of saving his life. This humble existence has been very useful to me. I possessed sufficient strength of character to avoid being corrupted by the contact of surroundings that are almost always vicious; and I thank God that I thus earned the happiness I now enjoy.”
Q. In what way did you save Mr. de G—’s life?
A. He was out riding, one day, alone; I followed him, riding a little in his rear, when I saw that a large tree was on the point of falling, close beside him, without his being aware of it. I shouted to him with all my might; he turned his horse quickly towards me, and as he did so, the tree fell across the road, on the very place where he would have been had my cry not called him back. But for the backward movement I had thus caused him to make, the tree would have crushed him.
Mr. de G——, to whom this statement was reported, perfectly remembered the incident.
Q. Why did you die so young?
A. My trial had reached its appointed term.
Q. What profit could you derive from that trial, since you had no remembrance of the motive that led you to undertake it?
A. Notwithstanding my humble position, I was conscious of a feeling of pride that I was happily able to master, so that the trial was really beneficial to me; otherwise, I should have to begin it over again. My spirit remembered the past in its moments of liberty,86 and there remained with me, on waking, an instinctive desire to resist a feeling that I saw to be wrong. This struggle with an evil tendency was more effectual than it would have been if I had preserved a clear recollection of my past. The remembrance of my former existence would have kept up my pride, and would have interfered with the discharge of my new duties; instead of which, I had only to resist the evil tendencies inherent in my new position.
Q. You had received a brilliant education; of what use was it to you, in your last life, since you had no remembrance if the knowledge you had formerly acquired?
A. Inmynewposition,thatknowledgewouldhavebeennotonlyuseless,butinmyway,andit was therefore allowed to remain latent, for the time being; but I have now regained the memory of all that I formerly acquired. Yet, though latent, that knowledge was still useful to me, for it developed my intelligence and gave me a taste for elevated things, which inspired me with repugnance for the ignoble examples that I had under my eyes. But for that anterior education, I should have been a mere lackey.
Q. Servants sometimes manifest, for their masters, a devotion that rises even to abnegation; is such devotion always a result of relations established between the parties in anterior lives?
A. In almost all cases. Such servants have sometimes been members of the same family as their employers, or, like me, have a debt of gratitude to pay; and, in all cases, their devotion helps their own advancement. How little you suspect the intimate connection that so often exists between the sympathies and antipathies of your present life and the relationships of your anterior existences! No, death does not break off those relationships, for they are often carried on from century to century.
Q. Why is it that such instances of devotion on the part of servants are so rare at the present day?
A. Because the spirit of the age, in your world, is one of selfishness and pride, developed by unbelief and materialistic ideas. The faith in goodness is driven away by the greed of gain, and, with it, the capacity of devotedness. Spiritism, by bringing men back to a true belief, will rekindle the virtues that are now dying out.
No better example could be given of the benefits resulting from the forgetfulness of our anterior lives. If Mr. de G—— had remembered who his young servant had been, he would have found it very awkward, and would certainly not have allowed him to remain in that situation; he would thus have prevented him from undergoing a trial that was useful to both of them.