Squire Adamsson: Or, ‘Where Do You Live?’

First Chapter

by Paul Peter Waldenström and translated by Mark Safstrom

Adamsson’s Estate, Family and Enterprises

On the outskirts of a great city called The World, lay a vast and reputable estate, or country manor, which due to its stunning beauty was widely known by those who lived in the surrounding region, and even from many miles away. The estate was called Industriousness and properly belonged to the city and fell under its jurisdiction, even though it lay outside of it. Everyone believed this estate to be a very productive and profitable holding. For, besides the fact that it included enormous acreage, with all the barns and other trappings that accompany such estates, its income was also significantly increased by the fact that a great ironworks was situated there, which provided the owner with many advantages and a considerable profit. The estate was, furthermore, replete with all the architecture, gardens and other attributes that so often contribute much to intensifying the beauty of nature. At the ironworks were produced Good Deeds of many kinds. Though there were some people, with questionable intentions, who suggested that the goods that the ironworks produced were made from poor material. Nonetheless, everyone was in agreement that they always had a beautiful, eye-catching appearance. They were also usually packaged with handsome labels.

Flowing right through the heart of the estate was a beautiful river, named Self-Centered-Piety, which supplied the inhabitants and livestock with water, as well as watered its vast fields, which also gave an uncommon yield. Yet, this river was most essential to the ironworks. For on the one side, the waterwheel of the ironworks was driven by this water, as it had been dammed up to create a waterfall. On the other side, this same river was used to carry all of the goods produced in the fields and ironworks alike down to the city and surrounding areas. It flowed up against a hill, which was called Selfishness, and even flowed through the better neighborhoods of the city The World. All along this river on the grounds of Industriousness there were small parks, which provided the people with a pleasant spot for rest and refreshment. There were also splendid swimming beaches situated here, which were frequented religiously. People were of the opinion that the water of this river was most refreshing and good for the health. On the surface the water was quite clear. But it had a polluted and muddy bottom. This did not matter though, since at every swimming beach, people had laid out smooth boards over the sludge, so that the swimmers could avoid feeling the bottom.

It was the custom among friends from the better classes to congregate here in these little parks so that they could chat with one another about their business, their work and other important concerns, during which everything proceeded in a proper and decent fashion.

On this estate there once lived a rich and well-to-do country squire by the name of Adamsson. His house was remarkable in many respects, and the people in the neighborhood had many good things to say about this gentleman. Personally, Adamsson was a stately man with a good education – he was a doctor of philosophy, to be specific – decent and respectable, honest in his conduct and measured in everything that he said. He also possessed a particular ability to inspire confidence and respect among his fellow human beings, partly through his genius, partly through his way of being, his hospitality and thoughtfulness. Moreover, he was the chairman of a mission society, which he himself had founded out of zeal for the glory of God and for spreading the word of God among the unbelievers. Of all of the members of the society, he was the most eager and open-handed, and every month without fail great sums were regularly donated by him to an even larger mission society. He was also regarded and praised both privately and publically as the strongest advocate of mission. For his own part, he subscribed to a number of mission publications, and did not hesitate to circulate these among his servants, employees and friends. These publications he read with a passion. With uneasy anticipation he awaited the arrival of these publications each month. When they came, his habit was first to look to see if there was anything mentioned about him or his last contribution. There was one time that he himself had explained to his wife his purpose or motive for doing this. During his absence that time it had namely been she who had been the one to receive the mail, with which had come the mission newspaper. Upon his arrival home, he found her reading through it, and he requested to borrow it for just a moment. Immediately he began to flip through the pages.

“Why are you reading like that?” asked his wife, “or, what are you searching for?”

“Oh…yes,” he answered, “I wanted to look to see if that measly little mite that I had the grace to be able to send in two weeks ago had in fact arrived at the society.”

His wife did not say a thing, but in her heart she admired her husband for this humility, which expressed itself in words like these. About his humility there were many stories that could be told. It was a frequent subject of discussion at the estate and among the neighbors.

On the estate there lived a poor old lady with the name Mrs. Praise, who was in good standing with the Adamssons. The kindness that they had shown toward her was truly remarkable. One evening like many others, she came calling. Adamsson had just finished reading the freshly delivered mission newspaper; Mrs. Praise was one of those who received the paper as a gift from the squire. When she came in, she asked:

“Has the Squire seen what was written today in the mission newspaper about him?”

He smiled with such kindness and grace, and raising his glance toward heaven, he answered:

“Oh, dear Mrs. Praise – about that we had best not speak, but instead pray to God, that the little bit that I have had the grace to be able to do, might bring some blessing to the miserable unbeliever. Consider this – these unfortunate people live in ignorance and grave ungodliness, such that it is rather the case that we ought to be doing far more for them than we actually are.” At this, a tear appeared in his clear eyes, which were still fixed toward heaven.

“But…” answered Mrs. Praise, deeply moved by the squire’s tenderness and humility, “…but the Squire is still worthy of much praise, for there is hardly anyone who works for these people as much as the Squire does.”

“Yes. But we may not give the glory to ourselves, for if we become conceited, then we sin.”

“Well, yes. The Squire is certainly right about that. Nonetheless, he is still remarkable.”

As Mrs. Praise was about to depart, Adamsson told her that she should feel welcome to visit anytime, “For,” he added, “I appreciate your honesty, and would gladly hear from you more often.”

At this they parted company. When Adamsson came in to his wife, he said:

“It is remarkable what nice, pleasant people there are in this world. Mrs. Praise was just here. She can be a tad bit over the top, of course, but she only means the best. She always makes such a good impression on me, and I feel so good inside after she has been for a visit.”

“Yes, she is exceptional,” answered his wife.

Both Adamsson’s example, as well as the words of praise that he received, were an encouragement to many to forge on ahead in this same beautiful cause, for everyone wished to be good, just like him. It was for this reason that one of his closer acquaintances, who had the name Mr. Admirer, would often declare about him:

“Of all the men that I know, I do not know anyone who has worked for the kingdom of God with the same diligence and self-sacrifice. And,” he would add, “it is remarkable to see the endurance and patience, with which he suffers through the most bitter mockery”1 of his work by the children of the world, as well as to observe the great spiritual light, with which he is gifted, and through which he has exposed false prophets and driven out strange teachings from these parts.” Mr. Admirer was also the father of Mrs. Praise. His motto was:

Thou shall think and speak well of thy neighbor and present everything in the best light.

At his ironworks Adamsson had employed a certain preacher to look after the spiritual well-being of his tenant employees. This preacher’s name was Mercenary, and each evening and morning he conducted a prayer meeting in one of the chapels – one that the squire himself had built – and also preached there at the ironworks every Sunday for a great crowd. It was at the squire’s own orders that no one could work at the ironworks on Sundays, no matter what the production schedule demanded. Thus everyone had plenty of time to go to church. And the workers were quite industrious church-goers. How this came to be can be best explained by the following story.

One Sunday, Mother Pious came home from church looking jubilant, her eyes sparkling with joy. Her husband, who that day had been ill and had not been able to attend the service, asked what had prompted her great joy.

“Well,” she answered, “you will never believe what a marvelous sermon the pastor gave today!”

“In that case, what did he speak on?”

“Well, he preached about the eternal Sabbath rest. And then he said that, if we are diligent and upright and God-fearing, we will be able to reach it. And everyone knows that I have always been upright and God-fearing, and have carried out my service to God just as diligently and properly as any of the rest of my duties. And then he said that up there in Zion we will be able to lay down our tired heads under the shade of palms and by sweet gurgling springs, and, for all eternity, enjoy the fruit of our labor in blessed rest and peace. This is exactly what he said, I remember it word for word. And then he read a hymn verse, where it was written:

‘If we’ve lived by God’s command, we shall there in heaven stand.’2

And this just went on and on. It was so splendid, that even the pastor himself began to weep, and so we all just sat there with tears in our eyes.”

Mother Pious was similarly moved as she gave her enthusiastic and stirring account of this sermon for her sick husband. When he had dried his eyes, he answered with a sigh: “Well, it is no wonder that we are so eager to go to church, when there one can hear such priceless words. Oh, I do hope that I will be well enough next Sunday!”

Somewhat later, Mercenary received a large city pastorate in The World. For his installation he held a lavish banquet, where wine and strong drinks were served. The bishop raised his glass several times to the new pastor, to The WorldChurch, to the council, and so on. Adamsson also gave a toast. When everyone headed for home, they were all rather euphoric. One member of the council said to the bishop:

“The morning’s service was impressive, the meal was delicious, and this evening has been a delight.”

His sentiment was confirmed by the bishop.

With an unquenchable zeal Adamsson tended to the needs of the sick and the poor. Never was anyone so diligent as he was in visiting the cottages of the destitute and miserable. Wherever he went, he was always welcomed with jubilation and greeted with eyes that sparkled with joy, by old and young alike. Once, in response to this, his faithful friend Mr. Admirer jokingly said about him:

“I dare say that it was a mistake that Adamsson came down here to earth, for he seems to have been created for a higher world.”

This judgment was shared by everyone who knew him at all. There was only one person who was known to hesitate in sharing this praise. Whenever she heard it, she chose instead to shake her head and mutter her suspicions. Often she said, quite plainly:

“With the Squire, things are not as well as they seem.”

When someone asked her what she thought of this ‘remarkable’ man, she generally kept silent, but one time when she answered, she said quite succinctly and with a sigh:

“That poor man. It will never go well for him.”

It was clear that words like these, coming from a middle-aged, decrepit old bird (she was namely the widow of a cotter), would rain on everyone’s parade and cause much vexation. People thought, quite wisely:

“What does she understand about such things? Does she think that her words can possibly matter more than all those words of praise that Adamsson has received from distinguished men, both privately and publically? Or is it not as the old proverb says:

‘Ye shall know them by their fruits?’3

In particular, comments like these had been prompted by the “shameless slander,” as people called it, that she had once leveled at Adamsson, when she had told him that he was a false-hearted man. The incident had namely played itself out in the following way:

Mrs. Praise had just lauded Adamsson for his great zeal.

“One must work while the sun shines,” answered the squire.

The little old woman, hearing these words, said with a gentle and still voice:

“Things are not as well as the Squire might believe. The Squire is false-hearted. All his good deeds and his practice of godliness is simply an attempt to escape the sorrowful realization that things are not as they should be with him.”

It should not come as a surprise to anyone that this was difficult to tolerate. Soon everyone knew what this little old woman had said. Because of this, no one was able to completely be on good terms with her again. People gave her their scorn, which they called pity. But they commonly referred to her as “that poor old cotter-woman.” Her proper name was Mother Simple.

Adamsson’s good name grew all the more. Naturally he was a representative in the above-mentioned mission society. And as he had a more prominent social standing, his name was printed in the report of the membership with a larger font than the others. He had risen to being chairman of the board quite quickly, as well. In this role, just as in all the others, he was exceptional. With one word, one could say about him that he in all things belonged to other people. His accounts and business he never administered himself. Instead they were taken care of by a taciturn treasurer and bookkeeper, who had the name Conscience. This man had previously been a councilman and civil secretary in The World but had been ousted from that office as a result of the anxiety that he often had voiced and caused.

Such was nature of this Squire Adamsson, and though much more could be said about him, what has been said so far are the most characteristic and important details.

1. Rev. 2:2-3 (Waldenström’s own note)

2. ‘Och när jag levat, som jag bort, du för mig öppnar himlens port.’ From a hymn by J.O. Wallin (1779-1839), a central figure in Swedish hymnody.

3. Matt. 7:16

See all articles by Paul Peter Waldenström

Mark Safstrom is Chief Editor of Pietisten, and teaches Swedish language and Scandinavian literature at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.

See all articles by Mark Safstrom