I have just finished reading Rescued From Egypt, the third book in a series by A.L.O.E. which Lamplighter refers to as Heroes of Faith. The first was Shepherd of Bethlehem (the hero being David), the second was Exiles in Babylon (the hero being Daniel), and now the hero is Moses. The writing style is the same and some of the characters have rejoined us from the past stories along with the introduction of new occupants at Castle LeStrange. The location is the same with Robert Holdich as steward over the estate, but Sir Digby is on an extended vacation, allowing a wealthy family to take up residence within the castle. Mr. Eardley is starting a new series of lectures on the life of Moses and pays a visit to the castle to welcome the new family and invite them to attend the meetings in the humble cottage of Holdich.
While Mr. Eardley and Robert Holdich return, they do not occupy a central role in the storyline, except in the chapters which are the lectures themselves given to the small congregation. The majority of the plot revolves around the Madden family. Mrs. Madden was wealthy before marrying Mr. Madden also gaining four step-children, all very accustomed to their wealth. Their father had not much left in the way of an inheritance to pass on upon his death. This left Mrs. Madden as somewhat of a figurehead mother who really doesn’t require much of anything from the four children who (I’m guessing) are between the ages of 19-23. The key figure is Arthur Madden, younger than Cora and Lionel, but just a bit older than his sister Lina who adores him. Cora and Lionel frequently sneer at Arthur and how Lina treats him as if he is better than others. It is Arthur who begins to attend the lectures and feels the desire to leave off with useless gaieties like shooting, horse riding, and croquet; and begin to minister to a dirty, poor section of land called Wildwaste.
All during the story, the Maddens are awaiting the outcome of a court case which will determine their financial state. A large sum of money was bequeathed to them by an uncle, but the uncle had disinherited his son in doing so. It was completely contrary for this uncle to turn his back on his son in this way, but the Maddens wanted the will to be followed and thereby gain from the fortune of their uncle. However, Arthur possesses a letter from his father (the uncle’s brother) that contains evidence that would tip the scales of the court case in favor of the uncle’s son rather than the Madden’s. After hearing the lecture from Mr. Eardley concerning how Moses did not regard the riches of Egypt something to be desired, he comes under great conviction feeling that he must submit the letter as evidence in the trial. While notifying his step-mother, his two sisters, and his brother of his intent, he does not follow their wishes in withholding the letter, but sends it on anyway much to their chagrin. He is prodded, ridiculed, and despised by them, (except for Lina), for much of the story.
Arthur has something in mind, though, which God is laying on his heart. He feels drawn toward Wildwaste and begins a ministry there for children in a grocer’s shed. They haven’t had any exposure to biblical teaching and the local tavern keeps many of the men occupied and absentee fathers at best. On one of his first visits he enters a cottage and finds a drunken man beating his helpless wife, Deborah Stone. Two of her children become two of his students who attend his lessons there in Wildwaste. Also in attendance are some former bullies who had been accustomed to terrorizing Lottie Stone, one of the children, who plays a modest role in the story. In a twist of fate, the tavern burns down and Arthur becomes a hero rescuing Dan Ford, the owner of the tavern and a wicked man from the previous story who lived to bring trouble upon another plotline. Ford shows no repentance although the flames would have consumed him had not Arthur risked his life.
The idea of ministering to the poor plays heavily in the lessons to be learned from this story. The author frequently breaks from the plot development into a soliloquy on how the lesson is either being learned by Arthur, or scorned by Cora and Lionel. At one particular juncture, Arthur receives permission from Mrs. Madden to take leftovers or “fragments” to Deborah Stone, whose husband is still wasting their money with Ford in gambling and taking him to a neighboring tavern. Contrasting the point of view of Arthur and the rest of his family, the author writes:
“He overcame his dislike to asking favours, and procured for her some of the washing from the Castle; he also gained Mrs. Madden’s smiling permission that the Stones should have some of the fragments left from her luxurious meals. These fragments Arthur carried to the cottage himself, pelted by the rain – for the weather had set in very wet – and yet more severely pelted by the ridicule of the family. Cora and Lionel might possibly have put down their names for a charitable donation, or have dropped gold into a church-plate, but the idea of a highly-educated, refined young man really caring for the troubles of a washerwoman, really taking scraps of food under cloak to feed hungry children in a dirty hovel, became an unfailing theme for satire and scoffing. Arthur had the approval of conscience to shield him from the effect of ridicule, as he had a cloak to keep off the rain, so he went through both with cheerful resolution. But Lina felt her brother degraded by the humble offices to which he stooped; she could not endure to see him, as she said, “go splashing through the mud to waste his golden hours in teaching the alphabet to miserable children, or paying visits in wretched hovels where the very air which he breathed was sickening!” Such work, she thought, suited Bible-women or Scripture-readers; it was beneath her noble, her gifted brother! Let him be charitable, let him be religious, but only so far as might be consistent with personal comfort and personal dignity.”
The court case takes several turns throughout the book and is not resolved until the very end, keeping the reader in suspense as to the fate of how each person in the Madden family will handle themselves. Also is the prospect that Mrs. Madden will be seeking a husband, which further exacerbates the situation as these young adults are living off her “generosity”, if it can be called that. The antagonist of the story, Ford, plays an ominous role, appearing at key points throughout the book. I will say that two twists toward the end I did not expect until the preceding chapter, and only then a slight allusion was made.
All in all, this is a solid book concerning Christian duty. Arthur knows that his time at the castle is limited. Why even begin a ministry that he will not be able to finish? His concern was answered in the lecture where Moses objected to God to send someone else to deliver Israel. His sister Lina does not share his faith, perhaps in word on occasion, but certainly not in deed. The lecture of Moses as intercessor prompts Arthur to pray for his sister. I find, again, the formula of seeing the preaching of the word of God affect a community in different ways to be of a great encouragement. Many times I feel as if my place to minister is small and perhaps inconsequential. But who knows? Some poor child or some rich nobleman may hear the word of God and be influenced for His kingdom. I recommend the book on its own, and even more so as read as a part of the series.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman