In George Eliot's great story Romola there is a chapter entitled "An Arresting Voice," which tells how Romola, fleeing from the difficulties and trials and sorrows of her life in Florence was met by Savonarola, who commanded her to go back, saying: "It is the truth that commands you, and you cannot escape it. Either you must obey it and it will lead you, or you must disobey it and it will hang on you with the weight of a chain which you will drag forever. You are seeking some other good than the law you are bound to obey. But how will you find good? It is not a thing of choice; it is a river that flows from the foot of the Invisible Throne, and flows by the path of obedience."
The old Russian army had a tradition that when a sentinel had been posted, he could be relieved or withdrawn only by the officer who had posted him, or by the czar himself. During the first World War there was the story of a Russian soldier who was posted as a sentinel in a dangerous position. The officer who posted this sentinel was killed in battle, and the soldier refused to leave his post until an order came from the czar himself.
In the old cemetery at Winchester, Virginia—that starlit abbey of the Confederacy—there is a monument to the unknown Confederate dead. On it are cut these two lines:
Who they were none knows,
What they were all know.
Look at that lonely figure silhouetted there against the evening sky. There where the bridge crosses the river, with his musket over his shoulder, he walks slowly up and down, hour after hour, through the long watches of the night. What is he doing? He is guarding a bridge that is a vital link in the line of communications from the army's base to the battlefield. Over that bridge must pass the trains laden with troops and munitions and supplies. The lonely sentry does not hear the sound of the guns; the heavens are not illuminated at night for him by the flashing of the artillery. Nevertheless, his work of guarding that bridge is just as necessary and just as honorable as that of the soldier in the forefront of the hottest battle.
I slept, and dreamed that life was beauty; I wake, and found that life was duty.—Corrigenda
A duty dodged is like a debt unpaid; it is only deferred and we must come back and settle the account at last.—Joseph Fort Newton
"It doesn't matter what qualifications we have for a job, if we cannot be relied upon to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done," says Richard L. Evans.—Friendly Chat
Yesterday I passed a building undergoing repairs. On one side workmen were removing large quantities of bricks which had crumbled away. Why, I mused, had some brick disintegrated and not others?
"Fifty years ago, when the building was erected," said the foreman, "there came a day when the laborers at the brickyard had trouble with one another. And now, long years after the failure of those men to work together for a single day, a moral is written in crumbling brick."—Friendly Chat
It is seldom very hard to do one's duty when one knows what it is, but it is often exceedingly difficult to find this out.—Samuel Butler, Changing Times
The guard of the train had a rose in his buttonhole. A drunken man came along the platform and snatched it out. The guard went red but said nothing. An onlooker said, 'However did you keep your temper? You said nothing.' The guard replied simply, 'I'm on duty.'
As Christians, we should remember that, wherever we are and whatever happens to us, we are always 'on duty'.
Knowledge is the hill which few may hope to climb;
Duty is the path that all may tread.—Lewis Morris
Then on! then on! where duty leads,
My course be onward still.—Bishop Heber
A minister once came softly behind a religious man of his own acquaintance, who was busily employed in tanning a hide, and gave him a light tap on his shoulder. The man started, looked behind, and blushingly stammered, "Sir, I am ashamed that you should find me thus." The minister replied,"Let Christ, when He cometh, find me so doing." "What," said the man, "doing thus?" "Yes," said the minister, "faithfully performing the duties of my calling."—Whitecross
The traveler was indignant at the slow speed of the train. He appealed to the conductor:
"Can't you go any faster than this?"
"Yes," was the serene reply, "but I have to stay aboard."
General Mackenzie, when commander-in-chief of the Chatham division of marines, during the late war, was very rigid as to duty; and, among other regulations, would suffer no officer to be saluted on guard if out of his uniform. It one day happened that the general observed a lieutenant of marines in a plain dress, and, though he knew the young officer quite intimately, he called to the sentinel to turn him out. The officer appealed to the general, saying who he was; "I know you not," said the general; "turn him out." A short time after, the general had been at a small distance from Chatham, to pay a visit, and returning in the evening in a blue coat, claimed entrance at the yard gate. The sentinel demanded the countersign, which the general not knowing, desired the officer of the guard to be sent for, who proved to be the lieutenant whom the general had treated so cavalierly.—"Who are you?" inquired the officer.—"I am General Mackenzie," was the reply.—"What, without an uniform?" rejoined the lieutenant; "oh, get back, get back, impostor; the general would break your bones if he knew you assumed his name." The general on this made his retreat; and the next day, inviting the young officer to breakfast, told him—"He had done his duty with very commendable exactness."
Morvilliers, keeper of the seals to Charles the Ninth of France, was one day ordered by his sovereign to put the seals to the pardon of a nobleman who had committed murder. He refused. The king then took the seals out of his hands, and having put them himself to the instrument of remission, returned them immediately to Morvilliers, who refused to take them again, saying, "The seals have twice put me in a situation of great honour: once when I received them, and again when I resigned them."
Louis the Fourteenth had granted a pardon to a nobleman who had committed some very great crime. M. Voisin, the chancellor, ran to him in his closet, and exclaimed, "Sire, you cannot pardon a person in the situation of Mr. ——." "I have promised him," replied the king, who was always impatient of contradiction; "go and fetch the great seal." "But sire—." "Pray, sir, do as I order you." The chancellor returned with the seals; Louis applied them himself to the instrument containing the pardon, and gives them again to the chancellor. "They are polluted, now, sire," exclaimed the intrepid and excellent magistrate, pushing them from him on the table, "I cannot take them again." "What an impracticable man!" cried the monarch, and threw the pardon into the fire. "I will now, sire, take them again," said the chancellor; "fire purifies all things."