a real saint. His pale blue eyes betoken innocence, and the thick spectacles which cover them an inability to pierce very deeply into the wickedness of this world. Receding brown hair and receding forehead proclaim (according to the physiognomists) that uncertain memory which lands him perpetually into a world the details of which seem unfamiliar, but his chin is square and carried high (for, unlike so many of his fellow bourgeois, he knows he has a soul of his own) and there is a suspicion of panache about his up curling moustache.
Mr John Brown may not exactly be the ornament of his parish, but he is certainly one of its strongest pillars. He is always ready to lend a hand—there are few things of which he doesn't know something—and even more ready to empty his pocket. He only asks one thing in return : it is the advice of his parish priest. For Mr John Brown's innocence and absent-mindedness seem to be constantly landing him in spiritual trouble, trouble which, however, he is determined to tackle thoroughly as a Christian should.
• • •
" The Scruples of John Brown " are a daily topic at the presbytery, and the parish priest always says that he has had to learn more about moral theology through answering John Brown's difficulties than he ever heard of in the seminary.
" And a good thing, too, Father," answers his curate, " for if there is one thing about Catholicity that obviously separates it from any other religion it is its insistence that there is a right and a wrong way of doing anything. There's a ton of good-will elsewhere, but what's the use of good-will if you don't know what you're getting at? If you're on the wrong track, the more goodwill the quicker you'll land yourself in the wrong place. There are just as many sinners among us Catholics, but at any rate we know when we're wrong. No danger of our imagining that the wronger we are, the righter we are—and that's just about the state of the world to-day."
" You don't get John Brown coming in three times a day with his posers," answered the parish priest. " It isn't as simple as all that, and the queer thing is that the more petty the matter, the harder it is to find the right answer. Have you heard his latest trouble? "
A parish fête had recently been held, and a pretty good success it had been. Any number even of the non-Catholics had come, and the sixpenny raffle tickets had sold like hot cakes. It had been arranged that the prize money would consist of a third of the gross takings. As a result, the first prize was going to be worth about ten pounds.
" Do you know what sort of a mess John Brown has got into over the fête? " the parish priest continued. " He sold all his tickets and had to come to me for another book. He thought he might as well keep the last three tickets for himself, but of course by this time he'd spent every penny in his pocket at the side-shows, so he borrowed one-and-six from the raffle takings to pay for his own tickets. He naturally forgot all about paying it back until this morning at the meeting of the Raffle Committee when the draw was made. Would you believe it? His ticket drew the first prize, a matter of over ten pounds."
" That's splendid," interrupted the curate.
" More splendid than you think. John Brown's just been in, and he refuses to take the money. He has reminded me that the ticket was paid for with the church's money, not his, for he borrowed it without permission and never even paid it back. And upon my word, I suppose he's right."
Would John Brown have been justified in saying nothing about having borrowed the money, pocketing the prize and paying back the Is. 6d. in the collection?
Lay readers are invited to send their views of the above John Brown scruple. Answers must be not longer than 250 words.
Another John Brown Scruple will be given next week with readers' commentaries on the above one. Each week a solution will be given by an expert theologian.
Letters in connection with this feature should be addressed to " John Brown Scruples," the ' New Catholic Herald,' 67, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4, and must reach this office not later than Tuesday morning of each week,