Choice Readings for the Home Circle by Anonymous - HTML preview
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"We can, we will," cried the energetic Sam, not so good to plan as Peter, but good at execution. "We six have pledged ourselves to see you safe through the winter. So cheer up and take hope, for neither you nor your children shall suffer while we can help it."
The widow's hands were clasped and her eyes wandered vacantly from one to the other of her strange visitors. She saw tears of goodness in their eyes, and her own soul's flood burst forth."O God bless you--bless you always." "And we shall have something good to eat, mamma, and something to make us warm?" asked the eldest girl, clasping her mother's knees. "Yes, yes, you shall," exclaimed Drake, catching the child and kissing her clean, pale face. "You shall have it before supper time, too."
The widow gradually realized the whole object of her visitors, and she tried to express her gratitude in words, but they failed her, and streaming tears had to tell the tale of thanks.
After this our society went to see Widow Williams. Hers was a neat cot, but they found suffering painful enough inside. Philip, a youth of about their own age, sat in a large stuffed chair, looking pale and thin, and wasted away almost to a skeleton, and his great blue eyes peered at them wonderingly as they entered. The mother, too, looked careworn and sick, and the dry, hacking cough that sounded in her throat told how much she needed proper food and care.
The youths made their business known as before, and with about the same result. The widow and her son could hardly realize that such a blessing had dawned upon them, but when they did realize it their joy and gratitude knew no bounds.
"Look here," said Sam Green, as soon as they had reached the road, "it strikes me that we are just about a week behind hand. We ought to have commenced this work just one week earlier than we did, for our nine dollars won't quite bring matters all up square to the present time. But if they were square now, they'd keep so with our weekly allowance.""You're right, Sam," said Fulton, gleefully. "Then let's commence back two weeks, eh?" "I think so," said Peter. And all the rest said so, too. So they had eighteen dollars instead of nine.
First, our party went and bought three half cords of wood, which they sent at once to their respective destinations, and they agreed that when the other matters were attended to they would go and work it up. Then they went to the stores and purchased such articles of provisions and comfort as they could agree were best adapted to meet the wants of their charges, and, having done this, they separated into three parties of two each, so as to have each family provided for with as little delay as possible. Besides carrying provisions enough to last a week, they left with each about a dollar in change.
When the poor people saw the promised blessing--when they thus met the fruition of their newly raised hopes, their joy was almost painful. The noble youths were blessed over and over again.
The wood was sawed and split, and put under cover, and then the society returned to the village, as happy as happy could be. On the next day, they went to the church and heard how many heathen had been converted to the peculiar _isms_ of the preachers; and on the day following that, they commenced another week of their newly found _Christianity_."Sam," said the owner of the machine-shop, "what were you and the rest of your party doing last Saturday afternoon?" "Converting the _heathen_," answered Sam.
His employer was a church member, and in for foreign missions, and moreover had often tried to induce Sam into the mysteries. It was some time before Sam would tell the secret, but his boss became so earnest that he at length told the whole story. For awhile the employer gazed upon his journeyman with wonder, but gradually, as a sense of the fact came over him, he hung his head."Sam," he said at length, earnestly, and with a tear in his eye, "let me join your society." "But how'll you raise the money?" inquired Sam. "Money?" echoed the boss. "Look at my bank-book." "Ah, but that won't answer. You must save the money by depriving yourself of some superfluity, or luxury you now enjoy." "Is that the rule?" "It is most rigidly. Our cigars and ale furnish us." "And won't you smoke again?" "Never, while within the reach of my influence there's a human being in want!" "Then I'll throw away my tobacco and beer; may I join at that?" "I'll propose you." And the master machinist was proposed and admitted.
Another week passed away, and the new Christians went again on their mission, and there were more tears of joy, more prayers, and more blessings. Mr. Boothby, the machinist, had gained a new ray of light on the subject of Christian missions.
At length it became known that the poor families of Madisonville had found friends. People were wonder-struck when they discovered how happy and joyous these once miserable wretches had become; and more still when, one Sunday they saw Uncle Israel and his wife, and Mrs. Manley with her two elder children, enter the church.
Of course the truth leaked out, and we can imagine where the public eye of sympathy and appreciation was turned. Before a month was out, more than fifty people had engaged indirectly in the work, by placing money, food, and clothing in the hands of the original six, for them to distribute as they deemed proper.
But there was one rule to which the "society" adhered. They would not receive a cent in money which was not the result of a cutting off of some superfluity, and thus they showed to the people how simple and easy in its work is true charity, and also how many professed Christians not only lose sight of duty, but really lose the greatest joy of Christian life.
It was a glorious day for Madisonville when those six young mechanics met in the village barroom and concocted the plan for their society. And the good has worked in two ways. The members find themselves happier, healthier, and stronger, for having given up their pipes and cups; and the poor unfortunate ones of the town are once again basking in the sunlight of peace, content, and plenty.
How very many professed Christian churches there are in our land which would be benefited by following the example of the six noble youths who still stand at the head of the _Madisonville Benevolent Society_.LIFE THAT LASTS.
They err who measure life by years With false or thoughtless tongue.
Some hearts grow old before their time; Others are always young.
'Tis not the number of the lines
On life's fast-filling page,
'Tis not the pulse's added throbs Which constitute their age.
Some souls are serfs among the free, While others nobly thrive;
They stand just where their fathers stood, Dead, even while they live.
Others, all spirit, heart, and sense, Theirs the mysterious power
To live in thrills of joy or woe
A twelve-month in an hour.
He liveth long who liveth well! All other life is short and vain;
He liveth longest who can tell Of living most for heavenly gain.
He liveth long who liveth well! All else is being flung away;
He liveth longest who can tell Of true things truly done each day.
Most young people are very fond of display in dress. Rings, breastpins, and similar superfluities, are in great demand among them. We have known a girl to spend a month's wages for a single article of this kind, and a young man to run in debt for a cane when he had scarcely clothing enough to appear respectable. The following story of a successful merchant will show to such how these things look to sensible people. Said he:
"I was seventeen years old when I left the country store where I had 'tended' for three years, and came to Boston in search of a place. Anxious, of course, to appear to the best advantage, I spent an unusual amount of time and solicitude upon my toilet, and when it was completed, I surveyed my reflection in the glass with no little satisfaction, glancing lastly and approvingly upon a seal ring which embellished my little finger, and my cane, a very pretty affair, which I had purchased with direct reference to this occasion. My first day's experience was not encouraging. I traveled street after street, up one side and down the other, without success. I fancied, toward the last, that the clerks all knew my business the moment I opened the door, and that they winked ill-naturedly at my discomfiture as I passed out. But nature endowed me with a good degree of persistency, and the next day I started again. Toward noon I entered a store where an elderly gentleman was talking with a lady near by the door. I waited until the visitor had left and then stated my errand.
"'No sir,' was the answer, given in a crisp and decided manner. Possibly I looked the discouragement I was beginning to feel, for he added in a kindlier tone, 'Are you good at taking a hint?'"'I don't know,' I answered, and my face flushed painfully.
"'What I wished to say is this,' said he, looking me in the face and smiling at my embarrassment, 'If I were in want of a clerk, I would not engage a young man who came seeking employment with a flashy ring upon his finger, and swinging a cane.'
"For a moment, mortified vanity struggled against common sense, but sense got the victory, and I replied, with rather shaky voice, 'I'm very much obliged to you,' and then beat a hasty retreat. As soon as I got out of sight, I slipped the ring into my pocket, and walking rapidly to the Worcester depot I left the cane in charge of the baggage-master 'until called for.' It is there now, for aught I know. At any rate, I never called for it. That afternoon I obtained a situation with the firm of which I am now a partner. How much my unfortunate finery had injured my prospects on the previous day I shall never know, but I never think of the old gentleman and his plain-dealing with me, without always feeling, as I told him at the time, 'very much obliged to him.'"
While the years are swiftly passing, As we watch them come and go,
Do we realize the maxim,
We must reap whate'er we sow?
When the past comes up before us, All our thoughts, our acts and deeds,
Shall they glean for us fair roses, Or a harvest bear of weeds?
Are we sowing seeds to blossom? We shall reap some day,--somewhere,
Just what here we have been sowing, Worthless weeds or roses fair.
All around us whispering ever, Hear the voice of Nature speak,
Teaching all the self-same lesson, "As you sow so shall you reap."
Though there's pardon for each sinner In God's mercy vast and mild,
Yet the law that governs Nature, Governs e'en fair Nature's child.
WHY HE DIDN'T SMOKE. The son of Mr. Jeremy Lord, aged fourteen, was spending the afternoon with one of his young friends, and his stay was prolonged into the evening, during which some male friends of the family dropped in. The boys withdrew into the recess of the bay window, at the end of the room, and the men went on chatting about the most important matters of the day, politics, etc. Still apparently entertaining each other, the two boys yet kept their ears open, as boys will, and, taking their cue from the sentiments expressed by their elders, indorsed one or the other as they happened to agree with them.
"Gentlemen, will you smoke?" asked Mr. Benedict, the host. A simultaneous "Thank you," went round, and a smile of satisfaction lighted all faces but one. Not that he was gloomy, or a drawback on the rest, but his smile was not one of assent. A box of cigars was soon forthcoming, costly and fragrant, as the word goes.
"Fine cigar," said one, as he held it to his nose, before lighting. "What, Linton, you don't smoke?" "I'm happy to say I do not," was the firm rejoinder."Well, now, you look like a smoking man, jolly, care free, and all that. I'm quite surprised," said another.
"We are hardly doing right, are we," asked a rubicund-visaged man, who puffed away heartily "to smoke in the parlor? I condone that much to my wife's dislike of the weed. She makes a great ado about the curtains, you know."
"For my part, that's a matter I don't trouble myself about," said the host, broadly. "There's no room in this house too good for me and my friends to smoke in. My wife has always understood that, and she yields, of course."
"But you don't know how it chokes her," said young Hal Benedict. "Yes, indeed, it gets all through the house, you know, and she almost always goes into Aunt Nellie's when there are two or three smoking. There she goes now," he added, as the front door closed."Why, it's absolutely driving her out of the house, isn't it?" asked Johnny. "Too bad!" "Why don't you smoke, Dalton?" queried one of the party. "'Fraid of it? Given it up lately? It don't agree with some constitutions." "Well, if you want to know why I don't smoke, friend Jay," was the answer, "I will tell you, I respect my wife too much." "Why, you don't mean--" stammered his questioner.
"I mean simply what I said. When I was married I was addicted to the use of cigars. I saw that the smoke annoyed her, though she behaved with the utmost good taste and forbearance, and cut down my cigars so as to smoke only when going and returning from business. I then considered what my presence must be to a delicate and sensitive woman, with breath and clothes saturated with the odor, and I began to be disgusted with myself, so that I finally dropped the habit, and I can't say I'm sorry."
"I shouldn't be, I know," said another, admiringly. "I'm candid enough to own it, and I think your wife ought to be very much obliged to you."
"On the contrary, it is I who ought to be obliged to my wife," said Mr. Dalton, while the host smoked on in silence, very red in the face, and evidently wincing under the reproof that was not meant."I say that Dalton is a brick," whispered young Benedict.
"He's splendid!" supplemented Johnny, who was thinking his own thoughts while the smoke was really getting too much for him, and presently he took his leave.
The next day Johnny was thoughtful, so quiet, indeed, that everybody noticed it, and in the evening, when his father lighted his pipe with its strong tobacco, Johnny seemed on thorns."I can't think that you don't respect mother," he blurted out, and then his face grew scarlet. "What do you mean?" asked his father, in a severe voice. "I say, what do you mean, sir?"
"Because mother hates the smoke so; because it gets into the curtains and carpet--and--and because I heard Mr. Dalton last night give as a reason that he did not smoke that he respected his wife too much.""Pshaw! Your mother don't mind my smoking--do you, mother?" he asked, jocularly, as his wife entered just then. "Well--I--I used to rather more than I do now. One can get accustomed to anything, I suppose, so I go on the principle that what can't be cured must be endured." "Nonsense! you know I could stop to-morrow if I wanted to," he laughed. "But you won't want to," she said, softly.
I don't know whether Johnny's father gave up the weed. Most likely not; but if you want to see what really came of it, I will give you a peep at the following paper, written some years ago, and which happens to be in my possession."I, John Lord, of sound mind, do make, this first day of January, 1861, the following resolutions, which I pray God I may keep:-- "_First._ I will not get married till I own a house, for I expect my uncle will give me one, one of these days; mother says he will. "_Second._ I will never swear, because it is silly, as well as wicked.
"_Third._ I will never smoke and so make myself disagreeable to everybody who comes near me, and I will always keep these words as my motto after I am married:"'I don't smoke, because I respect my wife.' Mr. Dalton said that, and I will never forget it. "(Signed) John Lord." And Johnny kept his word like a hero.
The world will never adjust itself
To suit your whims to the letter.
Some things must go wrong your whole life long, And the sooner you know it the better.
"Oh, girls! I shall just die, I know I shall!" exclaimed Belle Burnette, going off into a hysterical fit of laughter, which she vainly tried to smother behind an elegant lace-edged handkerchief."What is it, you provoking thing? Why don't you tell us, so we can laugh too?"
"Well--you--see," she gasped out at last, "we've got a new pupil--the queerest looking thing you ever saw. I happened to be in Madam's room when she arrived. She came in the stage, and had a mite of an old-fashioned hair trunk, not much bigger than a bandbox, and she came into Madam's room with a funny little basket in her hand, and sat down as if she had come to stay forever. She said, 'Are you Madam Gazin?' 'Yes,' she replied, 'that is my name.' 'Well, I've come to stay a year at your school.' And then she pulled a handkerchief out of her basket, and unrolled it till she found an old leather wallet, and actually took out $250 and laid it in Madam's hand, saying, 'That is just the amount, I believe; will you please give me a receipt for it?' You never saw Madam look so surprised. She actually didn't know what to say for a minute, but she gave her the receipt, asked a few questions, and had her taken to No. 10, and there she is now, this very minute.""Well, what was there so funny about all that?"
"Why this: she has red hair, tucked into a black net, and looks just like a fright, every way. She had on a brown delaine dress, without a sign of a ruffle, or trimming of any kind, and the shabbiest hat and shawl you ever saw. You'll laugh, too, when you see her."
Belle Burnette was an only child, and her wealthy father was pleased to gratify her every whim. So, besides being far too elegantly dressed for a schoolgirl, she was supplied with plenty of pocket-money, and being very generous, and full of life and fun, she was the acknowledged leader among Madam's pupils.
When the tea-bell rang, the new-comer was escorted to the dining-room, and introduced to her schoolmates as Miss Fannie Comstock. She had exchanged her brown delaine for a plain calico dress, with a bit of white edging about the neck. She did look rather queer, with her small, thin, freckled face, and her red hair brushed straight back from her face, and hidden as much as possible under a large black net, and but for the presence of Madam her first reception would have been exceedingly unpleasant. She was shy and awkward, and evidently ill at ease among so many strangers. As soon as possible she hastened back to the seclusion of her own room. The next day she was examined, and assigned to her place in the different classes, and to the surprise of all she was far in advance of those of her age. But this did not awaken the respect of her schoolmates as it should have done. On the contrary, Belle Burnette and her special friends were highly incensed about it, and at once commenced a series of petty annoyances, whenever it was safe to do so, which kept poor Fannie miserable, indeed, although she seemed to take no notice of it. A few weeks passed by. Her lessons were always perfectly recited. She made no complaint of the slights and sneers of her companions, but kept out of their way as much as possible. Her thin face grew paler, however, and there were dark rings about her eyes. A watchful friend would have seen that all these things were wearing cruelly upon her young life. One Saturday the very spirit of wickedness seemed let loose among them. Madam was away, and the other teachers were busy in their rooms. Fannie had been out for a walk and was near the door of her room when a dozen or more of the girls surrounded her, clasping hands together so she was a prisoner in their midst. For a moment she begged piteously to be released, but they only laughed the more, and began going around, singing something which Belle had composed--cruel, miserable, insulting words. She stood for an instant pale and still, then, with a piercing cry, she burst through the ring, and rushed into her room, closed and locked the door. Through their wild peals of laughter the girls heard a strange moan and a heavy fall."I believe she has fainted," said Belle. "What shall we do?" said another.
For a moment they stood there sober enough; then one of them ran for the matron and told her that Fannie Comstock had fainted in her room and the door was locked.
She had a long ladder put to the window, and sent the janitor to see if it was true. Fortunately the window was open, and in a few moments he had unlocked the door from the inside. The girls were huddled together in a frightened group, while Madam lifted the poor girl and laid her upon her bed. She was in violent spasms. The doctor was sent for, but when the spasms ceased, alarming symptoms set in, and he pronounced it a serious case of brain fever. It is impossible to tell the shame and remorse of the conscience stricken girls. They were not brave enough to confess their guilt, but hung around the sick room, offering their services, vainly wishing that they might atone for it in some way. But their presence only excited the poor sufferer, so that they were all sent away. Day after day passed, and still she raved in violent delirium. The little hair trunk was searched to find some clue to her friends, but there was nothing found in it but the plainest, scantiest supply of clothes. Day after day the doctor came, looking grave and anxious, and at last the crisis came. For many hours she lay as if dead, and not a noise was permitted to disturb the awful silence while they waited to see if she would live or die. At last she opened her eyes; and the suspense was relieved by an assuring word from the doctor, that with careful nursing she would soon be well again. But her convalescence was slow and tedious.
Her former tormentors dared not speak of what they had done, but they sent daily little bouquets of fragrant flowers and other delicacies to tempt her returning appetite. Her eyes would light up with surprise and pleasure at the little gifts. And amidst all her wild ravings not a word of complaint at the ill treatment she had received ever escaped her lips.One day Madam was sitting by her side, and as Fannie seemed to be much stronger, she ventured to ask after her friends.
"I have no friends, Madam, only Cousin John, who has a large family of his own, and has never cared for me. Mother died when I was born. I had a step-mother, but father died five years after, and I've taken care of myself ever since.""And you are only fifteen now?" "Yes, ma'am." "How did you get money enough to pay for a year's board and tuition here?"
"I earned it all, Madam, every cent of it. As soon as I was big enough I went into a factory, and earned two dollars a week at first, and finally $3.50; and I worked for my board nights and mornings.""Poor child!" "Oh no, ma'am, I was very glad to do it." "But how did you keep along so well with your studies?"
"I used to fix a book open on my loom, where I could catch a sentence now and then, and the overseer did not object, because I always did my work well. You see, Madam, I wanted to be a teacher some time, and I'd have a better chance to learn here than anywhere else, so I determined to do it."
"What are your plans for the long vacation?" "I must go back to the factory and earn enough to get some warmer clothes for the winter. You see, Madam, why I can't afford to dress better."Madam's heart was full. She bent over the white, thin little face, and kissed it reverently.
That evening, when the girls gathered in the chapel for worship, she told Fannie's story. There was not a dry eye in the room. The moment Madam finished, Belle Burnette sprang up with the tears pouring down her cheeks, and said:
"Oh, Madam! We have been awfully cruel and wicked to that poor girl. We have made fun of her from the first, and she would not have been sick as she was if we had not tormented her almost to death. I was the most to blame. It was I that led on the rest, and we have suffered terribly all these weeks, fearing she might die. You may expel me, or punish me in any way you please; for I deserve it; and I shall go down on my knees to ask her pardon, as soon as you will let me see her."
"My child, I am shocked to hear this. I can scarcely believe that any of my pupils would ill-treat a companion because she was so unfortunate as to be plain and poor. But you have made a noble confession, and I forgive you as freely as I believe she will, when she knows how truly you have repented of your unkindness." By degrees, as she was able to bear it, one after another went to Fannie and begged her forgiveness, which was freely granted. She said, "I don't wonder you made fun of me. I know I was poorly dressed, _and awful homely_. I would have pulled every hair out of my head long ago, only I knew it would grow out as red as ever. But, oh! if I could have felt that I had just one friend among you all, I could have borne it; but somehow it just broke my heart to have you all turn against me."
After this she gained rapidly, and one fine morning the doctor said she might join the girls in the drawing-room for an hour before tea. There had been a vast deal of whispering and hurrying to and fro of late, among the girls, of which Fannie had been totally unconscious in the quiet seclusion of her room.
At the appointed time, Madam herself came to assist her, and leaning upon her strong arms, the young girl walked feebly through the long hall and down the stairs.
"My dear, the girls have planned a little surprise for you, to make the hour as pleasant as possible."
She opened the door and seated Fannie in an easy chair, and the girls came gliding in, with smiling faces, singing a beautiful song of welcome. At its close Belle Burnette approached and placed a beautiful wreath of flowers upon her head, saying: "Dear Fannie, we crown you our queen to-day, knowing well how far above us all you are in His sight, who looketh upon the heart instead of the outward appearance. You have taught us a lesson we shall never forget, and we beg you to accept a token of sincere love and repentance for our treatment of you in the past, which you will find in your room on your return."
Fannie's eyes were full of tears, and she tried to say a word in reply, but Madam spoke for her, and after another song they followed their newly crowned queen to the dining-room, where a most tempting feast was laid in honor of the occasion. Fannie was quietly, tearfully happy through it all, yet so wearied with the unusual excitement that Madam said she must not see the girls' "peace-offering" that night. The first thing she saw the next morning was a fine large trunk, and lying upon it a card, "For Miss Fannie Comstock, from her teacher and schoolmates." Having opened it, she saw it was packed full of newly folded garments, but she had no time to examine the contents, until after breakfast, when they left her alone with her wonderful gifts. There were pretty dresses and sacques, a fine new parasol, gloves and ribbons, cuffs and collars in abundance--indeed, everything that a young schoolgirl could possibly need. Every one of Madam's two hundred and ten pupils had contributed from their choicest and best, to furnish a complete outfit for their less favored mate. At the bottom was a well-filled writing-desk, an album containing all their pictures, and a pretty purse containing five dollars, and the
following note from Madam:
"MY DEAR CHILD: This shall be a receipt in full for all expenses, during whatever time you may choose to remain in the seminary, which I present to you as a sincere token of my love and respect."JEANNETTE GAZIN."
They found her at dinner time on the floor, surrounded by her new treasures, crying like a baby; but it did her good. She was soon able to resume her studies, and was ever afterward treated with kindness and consideration, even though all her hair came out and left her head bald as her face, so she had to wear a queer, cap-like wig for many weeks.
When the long vacation arrived, Belle carried her off to her beautiful home on the Hudson, where for the first time in her life she was surrounded with beauty and luxury on every side, and was treated as a loved and honored guest. It was not long before the hateful wig was cast aside, and Fannie's head was covered with a profusion of dark auburn curls, which were indeed a crown of glory that made her plain face almost beautiful.
Gentle, loving, and beloved by all, she remained in the seminary until she graduated with honor, after which Madam offered her the position of head teacher, with a most liberal salary, which she gratefully accepted.
There are loyal hearts, there are spirits brave, There are souls that are pure and true,
Then give to the world the best you have, And the best will come back to you.
Give love, and love to your life will flow, A strength in your utmost need.
Have faith, and a score of hearts will show Their faith in your word and deed.
Give truth, and your gift will be paid in kind, And honor will honor meet,
And a smile that is sweet
Will surely find a smile that is just as sweet.
For life is the mirror of old king slave; 'Tis just what we say or do,
Then give to the world the best you have, And the best will come back to you.
John Lyman was what his neighbors and townsfolk called a "hard-fisted" man; and he had earned the name by dint of persevering stinginess from boyhood up. He and his good wife Phoebe had accumulated a snug little property, besides the many-acred farm which was to be his when "grandmother" should relinquish her claim to all earthly possessions. So he was really able to live in comfort; but, instead of that, the old red farmhouse, which was his father's before him, was a model of angularity, unadorned and unattractive, both inside and out, only preserving a decent aspect through Phoebe's thrift and neatness.
Six little ones made music in the old house, save when their father was there. His presence always seemed to send a chill to their little warm hearts; for he made them feel that they were "bills of expense," and whenever they clamored for pretty things he told them that they "cost money," and sent them away with a reproof for their desires.
And yet John Lyman claimed that he was _just_. "Don't I pay the minister two dollars every single year?" he would say when the puzzled collectors came to him, bank-book in hand. Of course he did; and, if the reverend gentleman was a smart preacher, he added a peck of beans to his annual subscription, although this came a little hard when the harvest was poor. Not being a church member, he didn't feel called to give to the "heathen," as he was wont to style all benevolent objects of whatever character; and it was generally understood that the two dollars were given on grandmother's account.
Dear Grandmother Lyman! Known and loved by everybody in Peltonville, she was peacemaker, adviser, and, in fact, condensed sunshine in John's household from January to December. She was a _Christian_, too; and John was glad of that, for he believed that she and the Bible were good in case of sickness or death; and, to tell the truth, he had a vague idea that she would see that he had a place in heaven sometime, after he had grown old and tired of this world. But Grandmother Lyman knew better than this; and morning, noon, and night, her prayers ascended for him, her only remaining child, and his family.
One would suppose that such a mother would have every want supplied, even by a _penurious_ son. But Oh! the love of gain had so eaten into John's best affections that it sometimes seemed as if he had forgotten all claims upon him! So it was very trying to ask a favor of him, and his mother denied herself many a necessity before doing it.
Something more than usually important troubled her mind, however, on one bright spring morning as she sat by the kitchen fire. All the funny little wrinkles in her dear old face, which were generally only telegraph lines for smiles to run over, were sobered by some weighty consideration. Her knitting-work lay idle in her lap; and she did not even notice that little Tillie had pulled two of the needles out, nor that mischievous Nick was sawing away on the back of her chair with his antiquated pocket-knife. Whatever the problem was, it troubled her all the forenoon; but after dinner she followed John to the door, and, said she, "I've been thinking, John, couldn't I have a little room somewhere all to myself? I'm going on seventy-eight now, you know, and the children get pretty noisy sometimes; and I thought, maybe, if it wouldn't be too much trouble--" "Hem! Well, really, grandma'm," taking off his hat and scratching his head dubiously, "the children do make a precious hubbub here, that's a fact. But I declare! Well, I'll see." And John went to the field.
As result of the "seeing," on the next rainy day there was heard the noise of hammer and saw in a chamber over the kitchen. This chamber had never been finished or used save as a place in which to store old rubbish of all kinds, and was a gloomy, out-of-the-way room at best. Grandmother Lyman looked rather sober over the prospect; and Phoebe wanted to interfere, but as that was against the rules of the house, John worked on in his own way, until, at the end of two days, and after Phoebe had made several journeys up and down the back-stairs, grandmother was told that her room was ready. The dear old lady dragged herself up to the little chamber, while two little tots came scrambling after, bearing her Bible, hymn-book, Wesley's Sermons, and knitting-work. But it was no "palace of beauty" which she found awaiting her. The room was low, slanting on one side, unpapered, uncarpeted, and only lighted by two little dormer-windows, which did their best to admit pure daylight in spite of the dark gingham curtains so trimly hung before them. A bed stood in one corner, before which was a braided rug, while a stove with two good legs occupied the center of the room.
Grandmother looked out at the windows, but the view was not pleasant; two barns, the watering trough, and the fashionable summer resort of the ducks and geese, that was all. She was not one to complain; but she sadly missed the grand sweep of mountain and valley which had greeted her eyes from the "fore-door" ever since she was brought there a happy bride. Turning to arrange her books on the little table, she sang, in her wavering way,"Thus far the Lord hath led me on;"
and, before the verse was finished, her heart was at peace again. "Doin to stay up here all 'lone, g'anma?" said wee Tillie in pitying accents. "O no! I guess you and Nick will come up real often, won't you?" "I dess so; but 'taint very pitty," said the little one, as she trotted down-stairs again.
Meanwhile, John, as he followed the plow, was thinking of the five dollars expended in repairing the room, and trying to persuade himself that he was indeed a worthy son. "Five dollars! It aint every one that would do as much for his mother as I do for mine," he soliloquized. "Too old to go up-stairs! Oh well, when she once gets up she is more out of the way; and she wants quiet, you know."
Be it known that John sometimes found it necessary to reason with himself in order to assure his conscience that everything was as it should be in her domain; and sometimes, as on this occasion, she asked so many questions that he was obliged to talk the livelong afternoon.
He retired that night thinking, "Five dollars for grandma'm's room and the mare lame in both forefeet!" But while these dismal thoughts filled his mind, his body seemed to be very suddenly transported to the kitchen below. He was not alone, however, for a woman was there before him, walking the floor with a child in her arms. Back and forth she paced, carefully holding the pale-faced boy in the same position while he slept.
"Ruth," said a voice from an adjoining room, "that little chap will wear you all out. Can't I take him a little while?" "O no," was the reply. "He likes to have me carry him so, poor little fellow." "Ah," said John to himself, "that's the way mother carried me six nights, when I got scalded so terribly." The scene changed, and he saw himself again. A crushed foot this time, demanding his mother's untiring care. Again and again incidents of his life were re-enacted before him, but always with his mother there, comforting, working, watching, or praying. Whether sick in body or in mind, he saw how, all through his life, a mother's tender love had surrounded him. And then he stood once more beside his father's death-bed, and heard again the solemn charge: "Be kind to your mother, John, and make her old age pleasant. She is all you've got now." With these words ringing in his ears John Lyman awoke to find the perspiration standing on his forehead, and a strange, weird sensation resting on him like a spell, which he tried in vain to throw aside. He tried to compose his mind, and again to sleep; but though nothing peculiarly frightful had troubled his slumber, he trembled from head to foot. In fact, Conscience so long soothed and stifled, had with a terrible effort freed herself, and determined to make one more effort for John's soul. She lashed him unmercifully. She showed him how his soul was growing smaller and meaner every day--how he was just a plague-spot on God's fair earth. He saw himself in a mirror that reflected the inmost recesses of his heart, and he was horrified at sight of the foulness so long concealed.
As the hours wore slowly on toward the day, John grew to hate himself more and more, until, almost stifled in-doors, he rose and went out. Everything wore that unreal look that the first faint twilight gives. Mysterious and still the mists lay along the foot of the mountain, while the stars twinkled in the sky that seemed very, very far away. From force of habit John Lyman strode into the yard where the cattle were; but they only stared at him sleepily, as they lay tranquilly chewing the cud; so he wandered out and down the path that led into the little maple grove, which had been a playground for three generations. As he passed slowly along under the solemn trees, his boyhood days came back to him so fresh that the twoscore years of hard, grinding toil, flew away as by magic. Oh, that happy, careless boyhood! How had its golden promises been fulfilled! A blush of shame rose to the man's cheek as he thought how hard and cold his heart had grown. Hundreds of times he had stood beside the little stream which he had now reached, without noticing a trace of beauty; but now, as the sun lighted the distant mountain-top with a glow that crept over its sides, a gladdening, awakening glow, seen only in the spring, it seemed as though he had never looked upon the scene before. So new, so beautiful! And a wonderful sense of God's nearness stole over him, such as he had not felt before for years, and, at the same time, a new love for his mother, who had so long been the only Bible he read, filled his heart, like a fresh revelation from the Father. The lowing of the cattle recalled him to himself, and he turned homeward, passed up the lane into the barn, and was soon throwing hay into the mangers below. Suddenly he stopped, thrust his pitchfork deep into the hay, and said: "My mother _shall_ have a better room than that if it costs _five hundred dollars_! Now that's so! Hurrah!" Good once more had triumphed over evil, as the experience of the morning culminated in this worthy resolution.
Soon the patter of childish feet was heard, and Tillie cried, "Pa, pa, mother wants to know where you be, 'cause she's been worryin' about you, fear you's sick, and breakses is all gettin' cold this minute. Boiled eggs, too, aint it, Ruth?"
"I'll be in directly," came the answer from the high mow; so happy, chattering, Tillie and quiet Ruth climbed down the high steps and started toward the house. Their father overtook them as they stopped to look at the ducks taking their morning bath, and catching Tillie up, he put her on his shoulder, then drew down the little face and kissed the fresh, sweet lips. "How natural!" one may say. No, not natural for John Lyman, whose children feared far more than they loved him.Tillie was astonished and half frightened, and as she began to wriggle uneasily, her father set her gently down.
In a trice she was beside Ruth, and pulling her head down she whispered in her ear, "Pa just kissed me all his own self, Ruth." "Did he?" said Ruth, opening her eyes very wide. Then she hurried on and walked close by her father's side, while at her little heart fluttered the hope that she too might receive a kiss. But she was not noticed; and very much grieved she shrank away wondering if he loved Tillie best.
"I dreamed of your father last night, John," said grandmother while they were at breakfast, "and you can't think how good and natural he looked." John didn't say anything. During the forenoon John had a long conference with his wife which seemed to be satisfactory, for as he left her he said, "Well, then, you take the things out this afternoon, and Johnson shall come over to do the painting to-morrow." Before night the cheerful little spare room which adjoined the parlor was empty, and the old-fashioned paper, with its ever-recurring pictures of a shepherdess, a hunter, and Rebecca at the well, stripped from the walls.
Silence was imposed upon the children, for "grandma'm mustn't know," and the little things went round the house fairly aching with the importance of their secret, and holding on to themselves for fear they might tell. Mysterious trips were taken in the old market-wagon, and a suspicious smell of new things filled the air; but when grandmother inquired what was going on down-stairs, Ruth clapped both hands over her mouth and Tillie screamed, "O nuffin, grandma, on'y--O Ruthie, come down, quick!"
One bright May afternoon, however, the work was finished, and John, jealous of the privilege, donned his Sunday coat and stumbled up to his mother's room in the most awkward manner to break the news. "Mother, can you come down below a few minutes now?" said he, trying to appear unconcerned."Why, la me!" smoothing her "front" and refolding her neckerchief, "has the minister come? I aint fixed up one bit." "No, no, mother, there's no occasion for fixin' up. It aint much of anything, only me--that is,--well, perhaps you'd better come now."
"John," said the old lady solemnly, laying her hand on his arm, "if it's bad news, just tell me right away. The Lord will give me strength to bear it, just as he has the dispensations all along."Poor John! how to acquaint the old lady with this "dispensation" he didn't know; but Tillie came to the rescue.
"O g'anma," said she, seizing one of the wrinkled hands, "we can't wait another minute. It's all splendid; and Nick, and Ruth, and baby, and I have all got our clean aprons on, and Wesley, he's in, so come straight down," and timing her impatient hops to the tottering footsteps she guided, Tillie soon had grandmother in the midst of a smiling group, while the relieved father brought up the rear.
"Now, g'anma," said Ruth, seizing the free hand, "shut up your eyes tight till we say open 'em," and then the delighted children, followed by the rest of the family, drew her into the old spare room. "Now, now, g'anma, open, open! and what do you see?" they cried, dancing and clapping their hands. Grandmother looked around her in perfect amazement. Truly a wondrous change had been wrought! Beautiful light paper covered the walls, and a bright, soft carpet the floor, while pretty shades hung before the four great windows, whose tassels swung back and forth in the sweet May air like bells, dumb for joy."John, John, what does this mean?" "It's your room, g'anma," shouted a chorus of voices.
"Why, this is good enough for a queen! You can't mean it all for a poor old creature like me," and the darling old lady's eyes began to run over with happy tears, while John tried in vain to find voice to answer, and dear, patient Phoebe sobbed outright.
"Why, g'anma," shouted little Nick at the top of his voice, "I shouldn't think you'd cry, 'cause this is the cutest room in the house; and when me and Wes comes in, we've got to take off our boots and talk real soft. And Oh, just look at this table-cloth and this rug! It feels like velvet! and this stool--do you see?--it's got a cat's foot on every one of its legs. That's to put you foot on, you know; and, O say, can't we play puss in the corner sometimes if we're easy?" "G'anma, I can almost smell the roses," said Ruth, patting the paper.
So with the help of the children the room was christened, everything examined and praised, and at last the noisy little troop withdrew. Then Grandmother Lyman, with a sense of exquisite comfort, sank into the nice, new arm-chair close to the window."Like it pretty well, do you?" queried John, as he took another chair near her.
"Like it? It seems too good to be real. I've thought sometimes that perhaps in my mansion--heavenly, you know--I should find everything soft, and bright, and cozy like; but to have a room like this here on earth, why, John, I can't tell you how thankful I feel. 'Twas lonesome up garret there, and yesterday I dragged in the old cradle and the little wheel to make it seem more social like; but the cradle was empty and broken, and the wheel brought back the old days when I used to sit and spin, while your father husked corn; so they didn't cheer me up much. But I never mistrusted what you was doing down here for me. John, I believe nothing but the Spirit of God could have coaxed you into this. Don't you think I'll see you a Christian yet before I die?" and the anxious mother laid her trembling hand on her son's big brown one.
"Well, mother, I don't know;" then came a long pause, for the farmer, almost as silent habitually as the fields he tilled, could find no words to express his feelings.
"I've been feelin' kind of queer lately, and seems as if everything has changed wonderfully. 'Twas a shabby trick, my putting you up in that old room, and it troubled me considerably one night, and then other things kept coming up, till--well--I believe I'm the worst man on earth. Speaking of being a Christian, I guess likely I might fly about as easy. I wish I was an out-and-out one; but I tell you what, mother, there aint a man in town but that would think I pretended it all so's to make a dollar out of somebody;" and John drew his hand across his eyes, as though there were tears starting somewhere which must be warned to keep away from the windows.Grandmother didn't care if the tears did come in her eyes, for they were joyful ones. [Illustration: Grandmother's Room.]
"Well, the Lord would know better," said she comfortingly, "and by and by others would. It'll be your works, as well as your words, that will tell if you're in earnest."
"That's so, mother, that's so; the minister said that very thing last Sabbath. He's been preaching right at me this two months, and it made me mad at first. I thought I wouldn't give him a cent this year, but I guess he told the truth."
"Yes, of course he did. That's what he's made for. But now, John, you won't give up seeking until you get the blessing, will you? Promise me this and one thing more. Don't let the love of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, tempt you to give way to Satan for one minute."
"Well, I'll see what I can do, but it looks like a great task before me." And John really felt as though he was preparing for a stern conflict. He went out to his work again, while Grandmother Lyman knelt down on the soft, bright carpet, the sunset light falling around her, and sent a prayer up to the Father's throne so full of thanksgiving and love that the answer was not delayed, but came, bringing peace and joy to her trusting heart.Pretty soon Phoebe came stealing in with a look of apprehension resting upon her countenance. "Mother," said she, sinking into the first chair she reached, "I'm afraid John's going to die." "My child, what do you mean?" queried the old lady, pushing her spectacles to the top of her head. "Because he's changed so lately. Fixing up this room, you know, and being so gentle like--what can it mean unless he's going to die?" "Don't worry, Phoebe, John's just getting ready to live. I tell you, daughter, he's experiencing religion." A flash of joy lighted up Phoebe's worn face as she spoke. "Do you think so, mother? Oh, if it only could be true!"
A cry from the kitchen called her thither again, but her heart was light, and old hymns sprang unbidden to her lips, all tuned to the upgushing happiness within. The little ones caught the infection, and capered up and down the old kitchen, until wearied out they dropped off to sleep and to bed.
That day saw the beginning of true happiness in the old red farmhouse. Not but that John passed through many fierce struggles, for the world acquires a strong hold in forty-five years, but with God's help he gained the victory; and humble and happy, one week later he called his little family together, and told them of his new hopes and purposes. We can not describe that scene, but surely the angels saw and rejoiced over it. Then once more, before his friends and neighbors in prayer-meeting, with trembling voice he related his experience. Tears and "amens" greeted it, all testifying to the spirit of true brotherly love. Some, to be sure, there were who said, "Can the leopard change his spots?" But when, Sabbath after Sabbath, they saw that the head of the "Lyman pew" neither pretended to be asleep, nor to have forgotten his wallet when the much-abused green contribution bag swung along, but instead deposited therein the freshest scrip, they said, "Truly, this is the Lord's doings, and is marvelous in our eyes."
Perhaps the story of the change at home is about as Tillie whispered it in the ear of a confidential friend. "You see pa asks a blessin' now 'fore we eats; and then we read the Bible; and he prays the Lord to keep us good all the day long; and so we grow gooder and gooder. Pa bought mother a new black silk dress the other day, and Oh, he's so much lovinger than he ever was before!" Yes, he was "lovinger," as Tillie called him, for truly he had passed from death unto life.
The old homestead, too, soon began to change visibly. The shades of ugliness that had so long hung over it vanished away. Its very angles seemed to grow less acute, and never, in its palmiest days, had it rejoiced in such bright coats of paint. But, with all the brightening up without and within, there was one most cozy place of all where the family was wont to assemble each Sabbath evening. "Seem's though it's always full of rainbows," Nick said; but that must have been owing to the blessed influence of her who sat there, for this dearest of all nooks was "grandmother's room."
God has not promised skies ever blue, Flower-strewn pathways always to you; God has not promised sun without rain, Joy without sorrow, peace without pain; But God has promised strength from above, Unfailing sympathy, undying love.THE YOUNG MUSICIAN
Jonas Johnson was the youngest son of an organ-builder in New England. He was a small, quiet boy, in no way remarkable except in his passion for harmonies. So great was his love for music, that from his most tender years he could not listen unmoved to the singing of his sisters as they went about their homely work; and if the voices happened to be discordant he ran shuddering from the sound. The choir of untutored singers in church services made tears fall from his eyes upon his hymn-book while he joined his small voice with theirs.
Although Jonas let his tears fall unwittingly, the organ-builder saw them and treasured them in his heart. When the boy had reached his eleventh year the family left the country town and came to live in New York. Here the father determined to let his son learn the organ.
"Remember, Jonas," said he, "I am a poor man, and can ill afford to go into this expense unless you do the work before you manfully and patiently. I give you this profession instead of a trade because I believe it to be your wish."
Jonas was entirely satisfied, and his slim fingers quivered in the anticipation of one day being able to move those mysterious white and black keys to the sound and measure of _Te Deums_ and chants. A teacher was selected whose manner of educating was thorough and profound. At the first lesson Jonas became unequivocally assured that the business was a serious one, when after a third time striking G instead of G-sharp, the heavy, quick blow of the master's stick hummed and stung across his hands as they hovered over the organ keys. Poor little fingers! they could work no more that day--they were stiffened and red. He wept so profusely that he was requested to retire and to return in two days.
All the way home he sobbed, and held his hands suspended from the wrists, a most pitiable object. "Ah! you old ruffian!" soliloquized the tearful pupil, "won't my father give it to you for this?"He found his father in the workshop. "Well," cried the organ-builder, "how went the lesson?" He saw there had been trouble.
Jonas with fresh tears showed his chafed fingers and told the event. The father listened with darkened brow, and when the sad tale was ended he solemnly led his son into a back room, and after inflicting a thorough corporal punishment, warned him in a terrible voice never again to complain of his master.
Our hero felt for a while that this was almost beyond human endurance, and for several hours he lay upon a pile of shavings plotting vengeance upon those he considered his worst enemies, when a sudden thrill shot through him at the sound of the rich organ tones. They came from his father's wareroom. Evidently a master hand was there. Jonas sat up and listened. It was the portion of a prelude by Sebastian Bach, and the marvelous harmonies seemed to speak to Jonas as the voice of a spirit. He rose upon his feet, and his whole soul trembled with the wonderful words it spoke to him, though as yet he hardly understood their meaning. He went to the door and gently opened it. The back of the high organ stood opposite to him. He did not wish to be observed, and he passed quietly along at the end of the large room until he saw the musician. Could it be the master? Yes, Jonas recognized the long curling beard, and even the _baton_ as it lay upon a chair. Amidst the glowing chords the boy contrived to pass on unnoticed. He remembered that in two days he must again present himself. Could that terrible personage be confronted with an imperfect scale? The very thought was a shudder. Besides, Jonas felt an inspiration now. He again burned to be a musician. The revengeful spirit had left him--he thought only of Sebastian Bach.
A small organ had been placed in the little garret where Jonas slept. Thither he repaired, and commenced the work that ever since he has performed so well.
The dreaded master found no fault with the next lesson, and as Jonas advanced and he perceived that he studied with a zeal, an earnestness quite unusual in a boy, his stern manner relaxed, and he dared allow all the warmth of his heart to cheer his now beloved pupil.
At the end of five months Jonas met with a great misfortune. His master, after a short and sudden illness, died--which so cut him down that the organ-builder feared for his son's health. The boy stoutly refused to work under any other teacher, assuring the family that he felt able now to go on alone. Early morning and late evening found the young musician at his organ in the garret. Those who read this biography will scarcely believe how great was his progress. But I state facts.
Just after he had entered his twelfth year he happened to overhear two men, in a music store, conversing about a church in the upper part of the city, where the organist was to leave in a few weeks. Jonas listened."He plays in too operatic a style to suit the congregation," said one. "Yes," said the other, "the simpler the playing the better they are pleased." "Where is the church?" asked Jonas. "It is Saint C----'s, in ---- Street."
Jonas returned to his organ, swelling with a new and great idea. The following Sabbath morning he went very early to the church. No person had arrived except the organist who was arranging music in the loft. Jonas stepped up the stairway and came round in front where he could see the selections. The organist turned at the intrusion.
"What do you want here, Sir?" said he.
This simple reply brought a smile to the lips of the questioner. He pointed to a page in the service, and said "Play that." And giving up his seat to Jonas, he went to the side to blow the bellows. Feeling nervous and anxious, Jonas began--at first tremulously, but gaining courage with every chord, he successfully accomplished the task, while the organist ran from the bellows to the music, and from the music to the bellows again in surprise. At the conclusion they both drew a long breath."Well, that is remarkable!" said the organist. "And you want the vacancy?" "Very much," replied Jonas, trembling with pleasure. "Then come here this afternoon, just before church, and I will take you to the minister. He makes all these arrangements."
The boy went home overflowing with great anticipations. He said nothing to his father on the subject. He dared not trust himself yet. Never did hours pass so slowly as those between dinner and church that afternoon. But the good time came and Jonas was true to his appointment, as was the organist, who took him into the vestry-room, and introduced him as an applicant for the vacancy.Tall, white-haired, and benign the minister stood as Jonas told him his desire. "Yes, my boy, the present organist will leave in three weeks. Will that give you time to become acquainted with our service?" "Yes, Sir." "Then I have only to hear you play before deciding. Will you take the organist's place this afternoon? He will show you the forms." The proposal was sudden and unexpected, and made Jonas' heart quake; but he felt that all depended on his courage, and he accepted.
He took his seat before the great organ with a brave but serious spirit. The bell ceased tolling; the minister entered; and Jonas pressed his slight fingers upon the first chord of the voluntary, which, extemporaneous as it was, may be considered the corner-stone of his life.
The music that afternoon was simple and pure as the heart from which it flowed. Again Jonas presented himself before the minister, who received him in a most affectionate manner."Keep to this simple style," said he, "and we shall never wish to change. How much salary have you fixed upon?" "Indeed, Sir, I never thought of it. I only wished to play in a church."
The minister sat down at a table, and taking pen and paper, went on: "You shall receive what we have always paid--the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars a year. I will draw the agreement. Come now, and sign your name."
"Your chirography is not equal to your organ-playing," continued the minister, smiling, as he saw the childlike, uneven signature of Jonas Johnson: "but one cannot expect everything of such a little fellow. Here, then, is the contract. Take care of it."
Jonas took leave of his friend and hurried home. When the family of the organ-builder gathered about the hearthstone that evening, the youngest came to the father and drew forth his contract."What is this, my son?"
Jonas made no answer, but waited while the spectacles were adjusted on the respective noses of both parents--waited till they had read the agreement, and his father had taken two turns across the floor, and said, "He's going to be a great master, wife. God bless him!" And then he could wait no longer, but ran up to his little garret, and throwing himself upon the cot, gave vent to his welling heart in sobs of joy, and hope, and ambition.
The organ-builder's prophecy came true. The world is now indebted to Jonas for some of its best church music. As a composer and teacher he is "great." Those who are as fortunate as the writer of this sketch in having him as a teacher to their children can truly say they know a "great master" of music.
Jonas' perseverance to become a musician, notwithstanding the severe discipline to which he was subjected, was rewarded by success. And not only was his perseverance commendable in accomplishing a musical education, but in securing a position in which to be useful. And every boy and girl should take this as a lesson, that by their own energy and perseverance may be laid the foundation of their success in life.LYMAN DEAN'S TESTIMONIALS.
I do not believe two more worthy, excellent people could be found than Gideon Randal and his wife. To lift the fallen, and minister to the destitute was their constant habit and delight, so that often they shortened their own comforts for the good of others. Mr. Randal's friends urged him to reduce his charities, as such generous giving might mar his fortune and bring him to want; but his unfailing reply was:--
"I think there's enough left to carry Martha and me through life, and some over. What we give to the poor, we lend to the Lord, and if a dark day comes, He will provide."
A dark day did come, but it was not till after he had reached threescore and ten years. As old age advanced, his little farm had become less productive, and debts accumulated. Being forced to raise money, he had borrowed a thousand dollars of Eugene Harrington, giving him a mortgage on his house for security. The interest was regularly paid, and with this Esquire Harrington was well satisfied; but he died suddenly, and his son, a merciless, grasping man, wrote to Mr. Randal, demanding payment of the mortgage. The old man asked for an extension of the time, but he pressed the demand, and threatened if it was not settled within a given time, to deprive him of his home. Mr. Randal was greatly distressed.
"Martha," he said to his wife, "young Harrington is a hard man. He has me in his power now, and I fear he will not scruple to ruin me. I think I had better go and talk with him, and tell him how little I have. It may be he'll pity two old people, and allow us better terms." "But husband, you are not used to traveling, and Harrowtown is a hundred miles away, and you are old and feeble, too."
"True, wife, but I can say to him a great deal more than I can write, and besides, Luke Conway lives there. I took an interest in him when he was a poor boy. Perhaps he'll advise and help me, now that I'm in trouble."At last, seeing he felt that he must go, Martha reluctantly consented, and fitted him out with wifely care. The next morning was warm and sunny for November, and Mr. Randal started for Harrowtown.
"Gideon," called Mrs. Randal, as he walked slowly down the road, "be sure and take tight hold of the railing when you get in and out of the cars."
"I'll be careful. You take good care of yourself, Martha;" and, with a parting look, the old man hastened on to take the stage, which was to convey him to the railroad station. But misfortune met him at the very outset of his journey. The stage was heavily loaded, and on the way, one of the wheels broke down, which caused such a detention that Mr. Randal missed the morning train, and the next did not come for several hours.
It was afternoon when he finally started. He was anxious and weary from long waiting; and after three stations were passed, he began to ask questions."How long before we get to Harrowtown?" he inquired, stopping the busy conductor. "We get there at half past eight."
Another question was upon Mr. Randal's lips, but the conductor had hurried on. He looked around as if to appeal to some one else, but turned back, talking to himself. "Not get there till into the evening," he said, "and pitch dark, for there's no moon now. I shan't know where to go." The poor old man was sorely troubled.Presently the conductor came back, and as he passed his seat, he stopped him again. "Mr. Conductor, how shall I know when to get out? I've never been to Harrowtown, and I don't want to get out at the wrong place." "Give yourself no concern," was the polite reply. "I'll tell you when we come to Harrowtown. I won't forget you." Soothed by this assurance, Mr. Randal's mind grew tranquil, and he finally went to sleep.
In the seat behind him sat a tall, handsome boy. His name was Albert Gregory. He was bright and intelligent, but his well-featured face was spoiled by a wicked-looking eye and a hard, cruel mouth.He saw the aged passenger fall asleep, and nudged his seat-fellow. "Look there, John. By and by, I'll play a joke on that old country greeny, and you'll see fun."
On rushed the swift express; mile after mile was passed; daylight faded and the lamps were lit in the cars, and still the aged man slept, watched by his purposed tormentor, and the other boy who waited to "see fun."At length the speed of the train began to slacken, coming near a stopping-place. Albert sprang up and shook Mr. Randal violently. "Wake up! Wake up!" he called, sharply, putting his mouth close to his ear. "This is Harrowtown. You must get off here."
The old man, thus roughly roused, started from his seat and gazed around him, bewildered. The change from day to night, the unaccustomed waking on a moving train, the glare of the lights, added tenfold to his confusion."Wh--what did you say boy?" he asked helplessly. "This is Harrowtown. The place where you want to stop. You must get off. Be quick or you'll be carried by."
The noise of the brakes, and the distracted attention of the passengers on reaching a new station, possibly ignorance of the real locality on the part of those near enough to have heard him, prevented any correction of the boy's cruel falsehood. Mr. Randal knew it was not the conductor who had aroused him; but, supposing Albert to be some employee of the road, he hurried to the car door with tottering steps. The name of the station was called at the other end, as unlike as possible to the name of "Harrowtown," but his dull ears did not notice it. He got off upon the platform, and before he could recover himself or knew his error, the train was in motion again.
Albert was in ecstasies over the success of his "joke," and shook all over with laughter, in which, of course, his companion joined. "Oh dear! that's too good for anything!" he cried, "aint it, John?"John assented that it was very funny indeed.
Neither of the boys noticed that the seat lately occupied by poor, deceived Mr. Randal had just been taken by a fine-looking middle-aged man, wrapped in a heavy cloak, who appeared to be absorbed in his own thoughts, but really heard every word they said.
They kept up a brisk conversation, Albert speaking in quite a loud tone, for he was feeling very merry. "Ha, ha, ha!--but I did think the old fool would hear the brakeman call the station, though. I didn't suppose I could get him any further than the door. To think of his clambering clear out on the platform, and getting left! He believed every word I told him. What a delicious old simpleton!"And having exhausted that edifying subject for the moment, he presently began to brag of his plans and prospects.
"I don't believe you stand much of a chance there; they say Luke Conway is awful particular," the middle-aged stranger heard John remark.
"Pooh! shut up!" cried Albert. "Particular! That's just it, and makes my chance all the better. I've brought the kind of recommendation that a particular man wants, you see.""But there'll be lots of other fellows trying for the place."
"Don't care if there's fifty," said Albert, "I'd come in ahead of 'em all. I've got testimonials of character and qualifications from Professor Howe, Rev. Joseph Lee, Dr. Henshaw, and Esquire Jenks, the great railroad contractor. His name alone is enough to secure me the situation."
At this juncture, the strange gentleman turned around and gave Albert a quick, searching glance. But the conceited boy was too much occupied with himself to notice the movement, and kept on talking. Now and then the thought of the victim whom he had fooled seemed to come back and tickle him amazingly. "Wonder where the old man is now. Ha, ha! Do you suppose he has found out where Harrowtown is? Oh, but wasn't it rich to see how scared he was when I waked him up? And how he jumped and scrambled out of the car! 'Pon my word, I never saw anything so comical."
Here the stranger turned again and shot another quick glance, this time from indignant eyes, and his lips parted as if about to utter a stern reproof. But he did not speak. Some hidden motive withheld him.We will now leave Albert and his fellow travelers, and follow good Gideon Randal.
It was quite dark when he stepped from the cars, and he inquired of a man at the station, "Can you tell me where I can find Mr. Aaron Harrington?""There's no such man living here, to my knowledge," was the reply. "What, isn't this Harrowtown?" asked Mr. Randal in great consternation. "No, it is Whipple Village." "Then I got out at the wrong station. What shall I do?" in a voice of deep distress. "Go right to the hotel and stay till the train goes in the morning," said the man, pleasantly.
There was no alternative, Mr. Randal passed a restless night at the hotel, and at an early hour he was again at the station, waiting for the train. His face was pale, and his eye wild and anxious. "The stage broke down, and I missed the first train," thought he, "and then that boy told me to get out here. I've made a bad beginning, and I'm afraid this trip will have a bad ending."There were other passengers walking to and fro on the platform, waiting for the cars to come.
One was a plain-featured, honest-looking boy, who had been accompanied to the station by his mother. Just before his mother bade him good by, she said, "Lyman, look at that pale, sad, old man. I don't believe he is used to traveling. Perhaps you can help him along."Soon a loud, prolonged whistle was heard. The cars were coming.
"Allow me to assist you, sir," said Lyman Dean to Mr. Randal, as the train stopped; and he took hold of his arm, and guided him into a car to a seat."Thank you, my boy. I'm getting old and clumsy, and a little help from a young hand comes timely. Where are you going, if I may ask?" "To Harrowtown, sir. I saw an advertisement for a boy in a store, and I'm going to try to get the situation. My name is Lyman Dean."
"Ah? I'm sure I wish you success, Lyman, for I believe you're a good boy. You are going to the same place I am. I want to find Aaron Harrington, but I've had two mishaps. I don't know what's coming next.""I'll show you right where his office is. I've been in Harrowtown a good many times."
Half an hour later, the brakeman shouted the name of the station where they must stop. Lyman assisted Mr. Randal off the train, and walked with him to the principal street. "Here's Mr Harrington's office," said he."Oh, yes, thank you kindly. And now could you tell me where Mr. Luke Conway's place of business is?" "Why, that's the very gentleman I'm going to see," said Lyman. "His place is just round the corner, only two blocks off."
Mr. Randal looked deeply interested. He turned and shook the boy's hand warmly. "Lyman," he said, "Mr. Conway knows me. I am coming to see him by and by. I am really obliged to you for your politeness, and wish I could do something for you. I hope Mr. Conway will give you the situation, for you deserve it. If you apply before I get there, tell him Gideon Randal is your friend. Good by."
Fifteen minutes after found Lyman waiting in the counting-room of Luke Conway's store. Albert Gregory had just preceded him. The merchant was writing, and he had requested the boys to be seated a short time, till he was at leisure. Before he finished his work, a slow, feeble step was heard approaching, and an old man stood in the doorway.
"Luke, don't you remember me?" The merchant looked up at the sound of the voice. Then he sprang up from his chair and grasped the old man's hands in both his own. "Mr. Randal! Welcome, a thousand times welcome, my benefactor!" he exclaimed. And seating his guest on the office lounge beside him, Mr. Conway inquired after his health and comfort, and talked with him as a loving son. It was evident to the quick perception of the merchant that the good old man's circumstances had changed, and he soon made it easy for him to unburden his mind.
"Yes, Luke, I am in trouble. Aaron Harrington owns a mortgage on my farm, and I can't pay him, and he threatens to take my home," said Mr. Randal, with a quivering lip. "I went to his office, but didn't find him, and I thought may be you'd advise me what to do."
"Mr. Randal," answered the merchant, laying his hand on the old man's shoulder, "almost thirty years ago when I was cold, and hungry, and friendless, you took me in and fed me. Your good wife--God bless her!--made me a suit of clothes with her own hands. You found me work, and you gave me money when I begun the world alone. Much if not all that I am in life I owe to your sympathy and help, my kind old friend. Now I am rich, and you must let me cancel my debt. I shall pay your mortgage to-day. You shall have your home free again."
Mr. Randal wiped great hot tears from his cheeks, and said in a husky voice, "It is just as I told Martha. I knew if we lent our money to the Lord, when a dark day came, he would provide."
The reader can imagine the different feelings of the two boys, as they sat witnesses of the scene. The look of derision, that changed to an expression of sickly dismay, on Albert's face, when the old man came in and was so warmly greeted by the merchant, was curiously suggestive. But his usual assurance soon returned. He thought it unlikely that Mr. Randal would recognize him in the daylight, and he determined to put on a bold front.
For a minute the two men continued in conversation. Mr. Conway called up pleasant reminiscences of "Aunt Martha," his boy-life on the farm, and the peace and stillness of the country town. He thought a railway ride of a hundred miles must be a hardship for a quiet old man. "It was a long way for you," he said, "Did you have a comfortable journey?"
"Well, I can't quite say that. First, the stage broke down and delayed me. Then I slept in the cars, and a boy played a trick on me, and waked me up, and made me get out at the wrong station, so I had to stay over night in Whipple Village. To tell the truth I had a good deal of worriment with one thing and another, getting here; but it's all bright now," he added with a radiant face.
"You shall go with me to my house and rest, as soon as I have dismissed these boys," said Mr. Conway, earnestly; and turning to Albert and Lyman, who anxiously waited, he spoke to them about their errand."I suppose you came because you saw my advertisement?" "Yes, sir," replied both, simultaneously. "Very well. I believe you came in first. What is your name?"
"I am Albert Gregory, sir. I think I can suit you. I've brought testimonials of ability and character from some of the first men--Esquire Jenkins, Rev. Joseph Lee, Dr. Henshaw, and others. Here are my letters of recommendation," holding them out for Mr. Conway to take.
"I don't want to see them," returned the merchant, coldly. "I have seen you before, I understand your character well enough for the present."He then addressed a few words to Lyman Dean. "I should be very glad of work," said Lyman. "My mother is poor, and I want to earn my living, but I hav'n't any testimonials."
"Yes, you have," said old Mr. Randal, who was waiting for an opportunity to say that very thing. And then he told the merchant how polite and helpful Lyman had been to him.Mr. Conway fixed his eyes severely upon the other boy. The contrast between him and young Dean was certainly worth a lesson.
"Albert Gregory," said the merchant, "I occupied the seat in the car in front of you last evening. I heard you exulting and wickedly boasting how you had deceived a distressed old man. Mr. Randal, is this the boy who lied to you, and caused you to get out at the wrong station?"Mr. Randal looked earnestly at Albert. "I declare! Now I remember him. It is! I'm sure it is."
It was useless for Albert to attempt any vindication of himself. His stammered excuses stuck in his throat, and he was glad to hide his mortification by an early escape. Crestfallen, he slunk away, taking all his "testimonials" with him.
"Lyman," said Mr. Conway, kindly, "I shall be very glad to employ you in my store. You shall have good pay if you do well, and I am sure you will. You may begin work at once."Lyman's eyes danced with joy as he left the counting-room to receive his instructions from the head clerk.
Mr. Conway paid to Mr. Harrington the money owed him by Mr. Randal, and a heavy load was lifted from the good old farmer's heart. He remained a visitor two or three days in Mr. Conway's house, where he was treated with the utmost deference and attention. Mr. Conway also purchased for him a suit of warm clothes, and an overcoat, and sent his confidential clerk with him on his return journey to see him safely home. Nor was good Mrs. Randal forgotten. She received a handsome present in money from Mr. Conway, and a message full of grateful affection. Nothing ever after occurred to disturb the lives of the aged and worthy pair.
Albert Gregory obtained an excellent situation in New York, but his false character, and his wanton disregard of others' feelings and rights, made him as hateful to his employers as to all his associates, and he soon found it desirable to seek another place.
He has changed places many times since, and his career has been an unhappy one--another example of the penalty of frivolous habits and a heartless nature.
Lyman Dean is now a successful merchant, a partner of Mr. Conway, and occupies a high position in society, as an honorable, enterprising man.
What is it that gives to the plainest face The charm of the noblest beauty?
Not the thought of the duty of happiness, But the happiness of duty.
"No, let them correct their own mistakes. We don't examine bills for other people's benefit," replied the merchant. "It will be time to rectify those errors when they find them out. All so much gain as it now stands."
The boy's delicate moral sense was shocked at so unexpected a remark. He was the son of a poor widow, who had given him to understand that to be just was the duty of man.
Mr. Carman, the merchant in whose employment he had been for only a few months, was an old friend of his father, and a person in whom he reposed the highest confidence. In fact, James had always looked upon him as a kind of model man; and when Mr. Carman agreed to take him into his store, he felt that great good fortune was in his way.
"Let them correct their own mistakes." These words made a strong impression on the mind of James Lewis. When first spoken by Mr. Carman, and with the meaning then involved, he felt, as we have said, shocked; but as he turned them over again in his thoughts, and connected their utterance with a person who stood so high in his mother's estimation, he began to think that perhaps the thing was fair enough in business. Mr. Carman was hardly the man to do wrong. A few days after James had examined the bill, a clerk from the house by which it had been rendered, called for settlement. The lad, who was present, waited with interest to see whether Mr. Carman would speak of the error. But he made no remark. A check for the amount of the bill rendered, was filled up, and a receipt taken.
"Is that right?" James asked himself this question. His moral sense said no; but the fact that Mr. Carman had so acted, bewildered his mind."It may be the way in business"--so he thought to himself--"but it don't look honest. I wouldn't have believed it of him."
Mr. Carman had a kind of way with him that won the boy's heart, and naturally tended to make him judge of whatever he might do in a most favorable manner.
"I wish he had corrected that error," he said to himself a great many times when thinking in a pleased way of Mr. Carman, and his own good fortune in having been received into his employment. "It don't look right, but it may be in the way of business."
One day he went to the bank and drew the money for a check. In counting it over he found that the teller had paid him fifty dollars too much, so he went back to the counter and told him of his mistake. The teller thanked him, and he returned to the store with the consciousness in his mind of having done right."The teller overpaid me by fifty dollars," he said to Mr. Carman, as he handed him the money. "Indeed," replied the latter, a light breaking over his countenance; and he hastily counted the bank bills. The light faded as the last bill left his fingers. "There's no mistake, James." A tone of disappointment was in his voice. "Oh, I gave him back the fifty dollars. Wasn't that right?"
"You simpleton!" exclaimed Mr. Carman. "Don't you know that bank mistakes are never corrected? If the teller had paid you fifty dollars short he would not have made it right."
The warm blood mantled the cheek of James under this reproof. It is often the case that more shame is felt for a blunder than a crime. In this instance the lad felt a sort of mortification at having done what Mr. Carman was pleased to call a silly thing, and he made up his mind that if they should ever overpay him a thousand dollars at the bank, he should bring the amount to his employer, and let him do as he pleased with the money."Let people look after their own mistakes," said Mr. Carman.
James Lewis pondered these things in his heart. The impression they made was too strong ever to be forgotten. "It may be right," he said, but he did not feel altogether satisfied.
A month or two after the occurrence of that bad mistake, as James counted over his weekly wages, just received from Mr. Carman, he discovered that he was paid half a dollar too much.
The first impulse of his mind was to return the half-dollar to his employer, and it was on his lips to say, "You have given me half a dollar too much, sir," when the unforgotten words, "Let people look after their own mistakes," flashing upon his thoughts, made him hesitate. To hold a parley with evil is to be overcome.
"I must think about this," said James, as he put the money in his pocket. "If it is true in one case, it is true in another. Mr. Carman don't correct mistakes that people make in his favor, and he can't complain when the rule works against him."
But the boy was very far from being in a comfortable state. He felt that to keep half a dollar would be a dishonest act. Still he could not make up his mind to return it, at least not then.
James did not return the half-dollar, but spent it to his own gratification. After he had done this it came suddenly into his head that Mr. Carman had only been trying him, and he was filled with anxiety and alarm.Not long after Mr. Carman repeated the same mistake. James kept the half-dollar with less hesitation.
"Let him correct his own mistakes," said he resolutely; "that's the doctrine he acts on with other people, and he can't complain if he gets paid in the same coin he puts in circulation. I just wanted half a dollar."
From this time the fine moral sense of James Lewis was blunted. He had taken an evil counselor into his heart, stimulated a spirit of covetousness--latent in almost every mind--which caused him to desire the possession of things beyond his ability to obtain.
James had good business qualifications, and so pleased Mr. Carman by his intelligence, industry, and tact with customers, that he advanced him rapidly, and gave him, before he was eighteen years of age, the most reliable position in the store. But James had learned something more from his employer than how to do business well. He had learned to be dishonest. He had never forgotten the first lesson he had received in this bad science; he had acted upon it, not only in two instances, but in a hundred, and almost always to the injury of Mr. Carman. He had long since given up waiting for mistakes to be made in his favor, but originated them in the varied and complicated transactions of a large business in which he was trusted implicitly.
James grew sharp, cunning, and skilful; always on the alert; always bright, and ready to meet any approaches towards a discovery of his wrong-doing by his employer, who held him in the highest regard.
Thus it went on until James Lewis was in his twentieth year, when the merchant had his suspicions aroused by a letter that spoke of the young man as not keeping the most respectable company, and as spending money too freely for a clerk on a moderate salary.
Before this time James had removed his mother into a pleasant house, for which he paid a rent of four hundred dollars; his salary was eight hundred, but he deceived his mother by telling her it was fifteen hundred. Every comfort that she needed was fully supplied, and she was beginning to feel that, after a long and painful struggle with the world, her happier days had come.
James was at his desk when the letter was received by Mr. Carman. He looked at his employer and saw him change countenance suddenly. He read it over twice, and James saw that the contents produced disturbance. Mr. Carman glanced towards the desk, and their eyes met; it was only for a moment, but the look that James received made his heart stop beating.
There was something about the movements of Mr. Carman for the rest of the day that troubled the young man. It was plain to him that suspicion had been aroused by that letter. Oh, how bitterly now did he repent, in dread of discovery and punishment, the evil of which he had been guilty! Exposure would disgrace and ruin him, and bow the head of his widowed mother even to the grave."You are not well this evening," said Mrs. Lewis, as she looked at her son's changed face across the table, and noticed that he did not eat. "My head aches." "Perhaps a rest will make you feel better." "I'll lie down on the sofa in the parlor for a short time."
Mrs. Lewis followed him into the parlor in a little while, and, sitting down on the sofa on which he was lying, placed her hand upon his head. Ah, it would take more than the loving pressure of a mother's hand to ease the pain from which he was suffering. The touch of that pure hand increased the pain to agony."Do you feel better?" asked Mrs. Lewis. She had remained some time with her hand on his forehead. "Not much," he replied, and rising as he spoke, he added, "I think a walk in the open air will do me good." "Don't go out, James," said Mrs. Lewis, a troubled feeling coming into her heart. "I'll walk only a few squares." And James went from the parlor and passed into the street. "There is something more than headache the matter with him," thought Mrs. Lewis.
For half an hour James walked without any purpose in his mind beyond the escape from the presence of his mother. At last his walk brought him near Mr. Carman's store, and at passing he was surprised at seeing a light within."What can this mean?" he asked himself, a new fear creeping, with its shuddering impulse, into his heart. He listened by the door and windows, but he could hear no sound within. "There's something wrong," he said, "what can it be? If this is discovered what will be the end of it? Ruin! ruin! My poor mother!"
The wretched young man hastened on, walked the streets for two hours, when he returned home. His mother met him when he entered, and with unconcealed anxiety, asked him if he were better. He said yes, but in a manner that only increased the trouble she felt, and passed up hastily to his own room.
In the morning the strangely altered face of James, as he met his mother at the breakfast table, struck alarm into her heart. He was silent, and evaded all her questions. While they sat at the table the door-bell rang loudly. The sound startled James, and he turned his head to listen, in a nervous way."Who is it?" asked Mrs. Lewis. "A gentleman who wishes to see Mr. James," replied the girl.
James rose instantly and went out into the hall, shutting the dining-room door as he did so. Mrs. Lewis sat waiting her son's return. She heard him coming back in a few moments; but he did not enter the dining-room. Then he returned along the hall to the street door and she heard it shut. All was silent. Starting up, she ran into the passage, but James was not there. He had gone away with the person who called.
Ah, that was a sad going away. Mr. Carman had spent half the night in examining the accounts of James, and discovered frauds of over six thousand dollars. Blindly indignant, he sent an officer to arrest him early in the morning; and it was with this officer that he went away from his mother, _never_ to _return_.
"The young villain shall lie in the bed he has made for himself!" exclaimed Mr. Carman, in his bitter indignation. And he made the exposure completely. At the trial he showed an eager desire to have him convicted, and presented such an array of evidence that the jury could not give any other verdict than guilty.
The poor mother was in court, and audibly in the silence that followed came her convulsed sobs upon the air. The presiding judge addressed the culprit, and asked if he had anything to say why the sentence should not be pronounced against him. All eyes were turned upon the pale, agitated young man, who rose with an effort, and leaned against the railing by which he stood, as if needing the support.
"Will it please your honors," he said, "to direct my prosecutor to come a little nearer, so that I can look at him and your honors at the same time?"
Mr. Carman was directed to come forward to where the boy stood. James looked at him steadily for a few moments, and turned to the judges. "What I have to say to your honors is this [he spoke calmly and distinctly], and it may in a degree extenuate, though it cannot excuse, my crime. I went into that man's store an innocent boy, and if he had been an honest man I would not have stood before you to-day as a criminal!"
Mr. Carman appealed to the court for protection against an allegation of such an outrageous character; but he was peremptorily ordered to be silent. James went on in a firm voice,--"Only a few weeks after I went into his employment I examined a bill by his direction, and discovered an error of twenty dollars." The face of Mr. Carman crimsoned.
"You remember it, I see," remarked James, "and I shall have cause to remember it as long as I live. The error was in favor of Mr. Carman. I asked if I should correct the figures, and he answered 'No; let them correct their own mistakes. We don't examine bills for other people's benefit.' It was my first lesson in dishonesty. I saw the bill settled, and Mr. Carman take twenty dollars that was not his own. I felt shocked at first; it seemed such a wrong thing. But soon after he called me a simpleton for handing back a fifty-dollar bill to the teller of a bank, which he had overpaid me on a check, and then--""May I ask the protection of the court," said Mr. Carman. "Is it true what the lad says?" asked the presiding judge.
Mr. Carman hesitated and looked confused. All eyes were on his face; and judges and jury, lawyers and spectators, felt certain that he was guilty of leading the unhappy young man astray.
"Not long afterward," resumed Lewis, "in receiving my wages I found that Mr. Carman had paid me fifty cents too much. I was about to give it back to him, when I remembered his remark about letting people correct their own mistakes, and said to myself, 'Let him correct his own errors,' and dishonestly kept the money. Again the same thing happened, and I kept the money that did not of right belong to me. This was the beginning of evil, and here I am. If he had shown any mercy, I might have kept silent and made no defense."
The young man covered his face with his hands, and sat down overpowered with his feelings. His mother who was near him sobbed aloud, and bending over, laid her hands on his head, saying:-- "My poor boy! my poor boy!"There were few eyes in the court-room undimmed. In the silence that followed Mr. Carman spoke out:-- "Is my character to be thus blasted on the word of a criminal, your honors? Is this right?"
"Your solemn oath that this charge is untrue," said the judge, "will place you in the right." It was the unhappy boy's only opportunity, and the court felt bound in humanity to hear him.James Lewis stood up again instantly, and turned his white face and dark, piercing eyes upon Mr. Carman. "Let him take his oath if he dare!" he exclaimed. Mr. Carman consulted with his counsel, and withdrew. After a brief conference with his associates, the presiding judge said, addressing the criminal:--
"In consideration of your youth, and the temptation to which in tender years you were unhappily subject, the court gives you the slightest sentence, one year's imprisonment. But let me solemnly warn you against any further steps in the way you have taken. Crime can have no valid excuse. It is evil in the sight of God and man, and leads only to suffering. When you come forth again after your brief
incarceration, may it be with the resolution to die rather than commit crime!"
And the curtain fell on that sad scene in the boy's life. When it was lifted again, and he came forth from prison a year afterwards, his mother was dead. From the day her pale face faded from his vision as he passed from the court-room, he never looked upon her again.
Ten years afterward a man was reading a newspaper in a far western town. He had a calm, serious face, and looked like one who had known suffering and trial.
"Brought to justice at last!" he said to himself, as the blood came to his face; "convicted on the charge of open insolvency, and sent to State prison. So much for the man who gave me in tender years the first lessons in ill-doing. But, thank God! the other lessons have been remembered. 'When you come forth again,' said the judge, 'may it be with the resolution to die rather than commit a crime!' and I have kept this injunction in my heart when there seemed no way of escape except through crime; and God helping me, I will keep it to the end."YOUR CALL.
The world is dark, but you are called to brighten Some little corner, some secluded glen;
Somewhere a burden rests that you may lighten, And thus reflect the Master's love for men.
Is there a brother drifting on life's ocean, Who might be saved if you but speak a word?
Speak it to-day. The testing of devotion Is our response when duty's call is heard.
The darkness was coming on rapidly, as a man with a basket on his head turned the corner of a street in London. He cried loudly as he went, "Herrings! three a penny, red herrings, good and cheap, at three a penny!"Soon he came close to me and commenced conversation. "Governor, why can't I sell these herrings? I have walked two miles along this dismal place, offering them; and nobody will buy."
"The people have no work at all to do, and they are starving; there are plenty of houses round here that have not had a penny in them for many a day," was my reply.
"Ah! then, governor," he rejoined, "if they haven't the half-pence, they can't spend 'em, sure enough; so there's nothing for me but to carry 'em elsewhere.""How much will you take for the lot?" I inquired. "I'll be glad to get four shillin'." I put my hand in my pocket, produced that amount and transferred it to him. "Right! governor, thank'ee! what'll I do with 'em?" he said, as he quickly transferred the coins to his own pocket. "Go round this corner into the middle of the street, shout with all your might,-- 'HERRINGS FOR NOTHING!' and give three to every man, woman, and child, that comes to you, till the basket is emptied." So he proceeded into the middle of the street, and went along shouting, "Herrings for nothing! good red herrings for nothing!"
I stood at the corner to watch his progress; and soon he neared the house where a tall woman stood at the first floor window looking out upon him."Here you are missus," he cried, "herrings for nothing! come an' take 'em." The woman shook her head unbelievingly, and left the window.
"Vot a fool!" said he; "but they won't all be so. Herrings for nothing!" A little child came out to look at him, and he called to her, "Here, my dear, take these in to your mother, and tell her how cheap they are--herrings for nothing." But the child was afraid of him and them, and ran in-doors. So, down the street, in the snow, slush, and mud, went the cheap fish, the vender crying loudly as he went, "Herrings for nothing!" and then adding savagely, "Oh, you fools." Thus he reached the end of the street; and then turning to retrace his steps, he continued his double cry as he came."Well," I said to him calmly, as he reached me at the corner.
"Well!" he repeated, "if yer think so! When yer gave me the money for herrings as yer didn't want, I thought you was training for a lunatic 'sylum! Now I thinks all the people round here are fit company for yer. But what'll I do with the herrings if yer don't want 'em, and they won't have 'em?"
"We'll try again together," I replied; "I will go with you and we'll both shout."
Into the road we both went, and he shouted once more, "Herrings for nothing!"
They heard my voice, and they knew it well; and they came out at once, in twos and threes and sixes, men and women and children, all striving to reach the welcome food. As fast as I could take them from the basket, I handed three to each eager applicant, until all were speedily disposed of. When the basket was empty, the hungry crowd that had none was far greater than that which had been supplied; but they were too late, there were no more "herrings for nothing!"
Foremost among the disappointed was a tall woman of a bitter tongue, who began vehemently, "Why haven't I got any? aint I as good as they? aint my children as hungry as theirs?"
Before I had time to reply, the vender stretched out his arm toward her, saying, "Why, governor, that's the very woman as I offered 'em to first, and she turned up her nose at 'em.""I didn't," she rejoined passionately, "I didn't believe you meant it!" "Yer goes without for yer unbelief!" he replied. "Good-night, and thank'ee, governor!"
I told this story upon the sea-beach, to a great crowd gathered there on a summer Sabbath day. They looked at each other; first smiled, then laughed outright, and at length shouted with laughter.
It was my time then; and I said, "You cannot help laughing at the quaint story, which is strictly true. But are you sure you would not have done as they did, and been as unbelieving as they? Their unbelief cost them only a hungry stomach a little longer; but what may your unbelief cost you? God has sent his messengers to you for many years to offerPARDON FOR NOTHING!
peace for nothing! salvation for nothing! He has sent to you the most loving and tender offers that even an almighty God could frame; and what have you replied? Have you taken the trouble to reply at all? Have you not turned away in utter scornful unbelief, like the woman? or ran away in fear, like the child? You are still without a hope on earth, or a hope in heaven, because you will not believe God's messengers when they offer you all that you need for time and eternity--FOR NOTHING.
"Take warning by that disappointed crowd of hungry applicants. When they were convinced that the offer was in good faith, and would gladly have shared with their fellows, they were too late!
"Let it not be so with you! Do not be in that awfully large crowd of disappointed ones, who will be obliged to believe when belief will not help them; whose knowledge, when it comes, will only increase the sorrow that they put off believing until it was _too late_."
As I looked earnestly upon that vast crowd, the laughter was entirely gone, and an air of uneasy conviction was plainly traceable upon many faces.[Illustration: Come Unto Me.]
"Will you not come to Jesus now?" I entreated. "He is waiting, pleading with you! Here is salvation, full, free, and eternal; help, guidance, and blessing,--all for nothing! without money and without price."DID YOU EVER THINK?
Did you ever think what this world would be If Christ hadn't come to save it?
His hands and feet were nailed to the tree, And his precious life--he gave it.
But countless hearts would break with grief, At the hopeless life they were given,
If God had not sent the world relief, If Jesus had stayed in heaven.
Did you ever think what this world would be With never a life hereafter?
Despair in the faces of all we'd see,
And sobbing instead of laughter.
In vain is beauty, and flowers' bloom, To remove the heart's dejection,
Since all would drift to a yawning tomb, With never a resurrection.
If the dead unnumbered, in land and sea, Would just sleep on forever?
Only a pall over hill and plain!
And the brightest hours are dreary,
Where the heart is sad, and hopes are vain, And life is sad and weary.
Did you ever think what this world would be If Christ had stayed in heaven,--
No home in bliss, no soul set free,
No life, or sins forgiven?
But he came with a heart of tenderest love, And now from on high he sees us,
And mercy comes from the throne on high; Thank God for the gift of Jesus!
"Ah! Jacob, now you see how all your hopes are gone. Here we are worn out with age--all our children removed from us by the hand of death, and ere long we must be the inmates of the poorhouse. Where now is all the bread you have cast upon the waters?"
The old, white-haired man looked up at his wife. He was, indeed, bent down with years, and age sat tremblingly upon him. Jacob Manfred had been a comparatively wealthy man, and while fortune had smiled upon him he had ever been among the first to lend a listening ear and a helping hand to the call of distress. But now misfortune was his. Of his four boys not one was left. Sickness and failing strength found him with but little, and had left him penniless. An oppressive embargo upon the shipping business had been the first weight upon his head, and other misfortunes came in painful succession. Jacob and his wife were all alone, and gaunt poverty looked them coldly in the face."Don't repine, Susan," said the old man. "True we are poor, but we are not yet forsaken." "Not forsaken, Jacob? Who is there to help us now?"
Jacob Manfred raised his trembling finger toward heaven. "Ah! Jacob, I know God is our friend, but we should have friends here. Look back and see how many you have befriended in days long past. You cast your bread upon the waters with a free hand, but it has not returned to you."
"Hush, Susan, you forget what you say. To be sure I may have hoped that some kind hand of earth would lift me from the cold depths of utter want; but I do not expect it as a reward for anything I may have done. If I have helped the unfortunate in days gone by, I have had my full reward in knowing that I have done my duty to my fellows. Oh! of all the kind deeds I have done to my suffering fellows, I would not for gold have one of them blotted from my memory. Ah! my fond wife, 'tis the memory of the good done in life that makes old age happy. Even now, I can hear again the warm thanks of those whom I have befriended, and again I can see their smiles."
"Yes, Jacob," returned the wife, in a lower tone, "I know you have been good, and in your memory you can be happy; but, alas! there is a present upon which we must look--there is a reality upon which we must dwell. We must beg for food or starve!"The old man started, and a deep mark of pain was drawn across his features. "_Beg!_" he replied, with a quick shudder. "No, Susan, we are--" He hesitated, and a big tear rolled down his furrowed cheek. "We are what, Jacob?" "We are going to the poorhouse!"
"O God! I thought so!" fell from the poor wife's lips, as she covered her face with her hands. "I have thought so, and I have tried to school myself to the thought; but my poor heart will not bear it!"
"Do not give up," softly urged the old man, laying his hand upon her arm. "It makes but little difference to us now. We have not long to remain on earth, and let us not wear out our last days in useless repinings. Come, come.""But when--when--shall we go?" "Now--to-day." "Then God have mercy on us!" "He will," murmured Jacob.
That old couple sat for a while in silence. When they were aroused from their painful thoughts it was by the stopping of a wagon in front of the door. A man entered the room where they sat. He was the keeper of the poorhouse.
"Come, Mr. Manfred," he said, "the selectmen have managed to crowd you into the poorhouse. The wagon is at the door, and you can get ready as soon as possible."
Jacob Manfred had not calculated the strength he should need for this ordeal. There was a coldness in the very tone and manner of the man who had come for him that went like an ice-bolt to his heart, and with a deep groan he sank back in his seat."Come, be in a hurry," impatiently urged the keeper. At that moment a heavy covered carriage drove up to the door. "Is this the house of Jacob Manfred?" This question was asked by a man who entered from the carriage. He was a kind-looking man, about forty years of age. "That is my name," said Jacob. "Then they told me truly," uttered the new-comer. "Are you from the almshouse?" he continued, turning toward the keeper. "Yes." "Then you may return. Jacob Manfred goes to no poorhouse while I live." The keeper gazed inquisitively into the face of the stranger, and left the house. "Don't you remember me?" exclaimed the new-comer, grasping the old man by the hand. "I can not call you to my memory now."
"Do you remember Lucius Williams?" "Williams?" repeated Jacob, starting up and gazing earnestly into the stranger's face. "Yes, Jacob Manfred--Lucius Williams, that little boy whom, thirty years ago, you saved from the house of correction; that poor boy whom you kindly took from the bonds of the law, and placed on board your own vessels.""And are you--"
"Yes--yes, I am the man you made. You found me a rough stone from the hand of poverty and bad example. It was you who brushed off the evil, and who first led me to the sweet waters of moral life and happiness. I have profited by the lesson you gave me in early youth, and the warm spark which your kindness lighted up in my bosom has grown brighter and brighter ever since. With an affluence for life I have settled down to enjoy the remainder of my days in peace and quietness. I heard of your losses and bereavements. Come, I have a home and a heart, and your presence will make them both warmer, brighter, and happier. Come, my more than father--and you my mother, come. You made my youth all bright, and I will not see your old age doomed to darkness."
Jacob Manfred tottered forward and sank upon the bosom of his preserver. He could not speak his thanks, for they were too heavy for words. When he looked up again he sought his wife."Susan," he said, in a choking, trembling tone, "my bread has come back to me!" "Forgive me, Jacob." "No, no, Susan. It is not I who must forgive--God holds us in his hand." "Ah!" murmured the wife, as she raised her streaming eyes to heaven, "I will never doubt him again."
All my griefs by Him are ordered Needful is each one for me,
Every tear by Him is counted, One too much there cannot be;
And if when they fall so thickly, I can own His way is right,
Then each bitter tear of anguish Precious is in Jesus' sight.
One long, calm, unbroken summer, One unruffled, stormless sea;
He would have me fondly nestling Closer to His loving breast,
He would have that world seem brighter Where alone is perfect rest.
Though His wise and loving purpose, Once I could not clearly see,
I believe with faith unshaken,
All will work for good to me;
Therefore when my way is gloomy, And my eyes with tears are dim,
I will go to God, my Father,
And will tell my griefs to Him.
A wee little child in its dreaming one night Was startled by some awful ogre of fright,
And called for its father, who quickly arose And hastened to quiet the little one's woes.
"Dear child, what's the matter?" he lovingly said, And smoothed back the curls from the fair little head; "Don't cry any more, there is nothing to fear, Don't cry any more, for your papa is here."
Ah, well! and how often we cry in the dark, Though God in His love is so near to us! Hark! How His loving words, solacing, float to the ear, Saying, "Lo! I am with you: 'tis I, do not fear." God is here in the world as thy Father and mine, Ever watching and ready with love-words divine. And while erring oft, through the darkness I hear In my soul the sweet message: "Thy Father is near."A RIFT IN THE CLOUD. Andrew Lee came home at evening from the shop where he had worked all day, tired and out of spirits; came home to his wife, who was also tired, and dispirited.
"A smiling wife, and a cheerful home--what a paradise it would be!" said Andrew to himself as he turned his eyes from the clouded face of Mrs. Lee, and sat down with knitted brow, and a moody aspect.Not a word was spoken by either. Mrs. Lee was getting supper, and she moved about with a weary step. "Come," she said at last, with a side glance at her husband. There was invitation in the word only, none in the voice of Mrs. Lee.
Andrew arose and went to the table. He was tempted to speak an angry word, but controlled himself, and kept silence. He could find no fault with the chop, nor the sweet home-made bread, and fresh butter. They would have cheered the inward man if there had only been a gleam of sunshine on the face of his wife. He noticed that she did not eat. "Are you not well Mary?" The words were on his lips, but he did not utter them, for the face of his wife looked so repellent, that he feared an irritating reply. And so in moody silence, the twain sat together until Andrew had finished his supper. As he pushed his chair back, his wife arose, and commenced clearing off the table.
"This is purgatory!" said Lee to himself, as he commenced walking the floor of their little breakfast-room, with his hands clasped behind him, and his chin almost touching his breast.
After removing all the dishes and taking them into the kitchen, Mrs. Lee spread a green cover on the table, and placing a fresh trimmed lamp thereon, went out and shut the door, leaving her husband alone with his unpleasant feelings. He took a long, deep breath as she did so, paused in his walk, stood still for some moments, and then drawing a paper from his pocket, sat down by the table, opened the sheet and commenced reading. Singularly enough the words upon which his eyes rested were, "Praise your wife." They rather tended to increase the disturbance of mind from which he was suffering.
"I should like to find some occasion for praising mine." How quickly his thoughts expressed the ill-natured sentiment. But his eyes were on the page before him, and he read on."Praise your wife, man, for pity's sake, give her a little encouragement; it wont hurt her."
Andrew Lee raised his eyes from the paper and muttered, "Oh, yes. That's all very well. Praise is cheap enough. But praise her for what? For being sullen, and making your home the most disagreeable place in the world?" His eyes fell again to the paper.
"She has made your home comfortable, your hearth bright and shining, your food agreeable; for pity's sake, tell her you thank her, if nothing more. She don't expect it; it will make her eyes open wider than they have for ten years; but it will do her good for all that, and you, too."
It seemed to Andrew as if these sentences were written just for him, and just for the occasion. It was the complete answer to his question, "Praise her for what?" and he felt it also as a rebuke. He read no farther, for thought came too busy, and in a new direction. Memory was convicting him of injustice toward his wife. She had always made his home as comfortable as hands could make it, and had he offered the light return of praise or commendation? Had he ever told her of the satisfaction he had known, or the comfort experienced? He was not able to recall the time or the occasion. As he thought thus, Mrs. Lee came in from the kitchen, and taking her work-basket from the closet, placed it on the table, and sitting down without speaking, began to sew. Mr. Lee glanced almost stealthily at the work in her hands, and saw it was the bosom of a shirt, which she was stitching neatly. He knew it was for him that she was at work.
"Praise your wife." The words were before the eyes of his mind, and he could not look away from them. But he was not ready for this yet. He still felt moody and unforgiving. The expression on his wife's face he interpreted to mean ill-nature, and with ill-nature he had no patience. His eyes fell on the newspaper that spread out before him, and he read the sentence:--"A kind cheerful word, spoken in a gloomy home, is like the rift in the cloud that lets the sunshine through."
Lee struggled with himself a while longer. His own ill-nature had to be conquered first; his moody, accusing spirit had to be subdued. But he was coming right, and at last got right, as to will. Next came the question as to how he should begin. He thought of many things to say, yet feared to say them, lest his wife should meet his advances with a cold rebuff. At last, leaning towards her, and taking hold of the linen bosom upon which she was at work, he said, in a voice carefully modulated with kindness:--
"You are doing the work very beautifully, Mary." Mrs. Lee made no reply. But her husband did not fail to observe that she lost, almost instantly, that rigid erectness with which she had been sitting, nor that the motion of her needle had ceased. "My shirts are better made, and whiter than those of any other man in our shop," said Lee, encouraged to go on.
"Are they?" Mrs. Lee's voice was low, and had in it a slight huskiness. She did not turn her face, but her husband saw that she leaned a little toward him. He had broken through the ice of reserve, and all was easy now. His hand was among the clouds, and a few feeble rays were already struggling through the rift it had made."Yes, Mary," he answered softly, "and I've heard it said more than once, what a good wife Andrew Lee must have."
Mrs. Lee turned her face towards her husband. There was light it it, and light in her eye. But there was something in the expression of the countenance that puzzled him a little."Do you think so?" she asked quite soberly.
"What a question!" ejaculated Andrew Lee, starting up and going around to the side of the table where his wife was sitting.--"What a question, Mary!" he repeated, as he stood before her."Do you?" It was all she said. "Yes, darling," was the warmly-spoken answer, and he stooped down and kissed her.--"How strange that you should ask me such a question!"
"If you would only tell me so now and then, Andrew, it would do me good." And Mrs. Lee arose, and leaning against the manly breast of her husband, stood and wept.
What a strong light broke in upon the mind of Andrew Lee. He had never given to his faithful wife even the small reward of praise for all the loving interest she had manifested daily, until doubt of his love had entered her soul, and made the light thick darkness. No wonder that her face grew clouded, nor that what he considered moodiness and ill-nature took possession of her spirit.
"You are good and true, Mary. My own dear wife. I am proud of you--I love you--and my first desire is for your happiness. Oh, if I could always see your face in sunshine, my home would be the dearest place on earth."
"How precious to me are your words of love and praise, Andrew," said Mrs. Lee, smiling up through her tears into his face. "With them in my ears, my heart can never lie in shadow."
How easy had been the work for Andrew Lee. He had swept his hand across the cloudy horizon of his home, and now the bright sunshine was streaming down, and flooding that home with joy and beauty.SUCCESS IS THE REWARD OF PERSEVERANCE
If a person has ambition to engage in any enterprise, he desires to succeed in his undertaking. It is generally right that he should prosper in all that is truly good or great; and the fact that success is attainable by continued effort, we have all verified so many times in our pursuit of different objects, that we feel sure we can accomplish almost any purpose if we with patient perseverance bend all our energies in the right direction. If there is much to be gained, we may make apparently slow progress; but if we apply ourselves closely, and do not let little things discourage us we shall eventually succeed. There are always plenty of little things in the way of the accomplishment of any good or great thing. These must be gotten out of the way; and if, in our first attempt, we fail to win the prize, we must make another effort, varying the manner of our labor as circumstances shall suggest.
It takes only a little at a time to accomplish a great deal if we work long enough. Perhaps most of you have read of the little girl whose mother was presented with a ton of coal by a charitable neighbor. She took her little fire-shovel, and began to take up the coal, a shovelful at a time, and carry it into the cellar. A friend, who was passing by, said to the child, "Do you expect to get all that coal in with that little shovel?" "Yes, sir," said the little girl, dipping her shovel again into the heap, "I'll do it if I work long enough." She possessed the right spirit.
The true spirit of success is not to look at obstacles, but to keep the eye on the many ways in which to surmount them. This may be illustrated by the incident of the little factory girl who had one of her fingers so badly mangled in the machinery that she was obliged to have it cut off. Looking at the wounded hand, she said, "That is my thimble finger; but I must learn to sew with my left hand." She did not think of her loss, but of what she still possessed with which to work.
We may prosper in the several schemes in which it is lawful for Christians to take part, but, if we fail to win the strife for eternal life, we shall have lived in vain. To make life a success, the glory of God must be the ruling motive to actuate us in all the walks of life. If we do really glorify him in our lives, success will surely crown our efforts--everlasting life will be our reward.
Another instance of perseverance, against apparently insurmountable difficulties, is given in an anecdote, not generally known out of Russia, connected with a church spire of St. Petersburg, which place is remarkable for its spires. The loftiest is the church of St. Peter and St. Paul.
The spire, which is properly represented in an engraving as fading away almost into a point in the sky, is in reality terminated by a globe of considerable dimensions, on which an angel stands supporting a large cross. This angel fell into disrepair; and some suspicions were entertained that he designed visiting, uninvoked, the surface of the earth. The affair caused some uneasiness, and the government at length became greatly perplexed. To raise a scaffolding to such a height would cost more money than all the angels of this description were worth; and in meditating fruitlessly on these circumstances, without being able to resolve how to act, a considerable time was suffered to elapse.
Among the crowd of gazers below, who daily turned their eyes and their thoughts toward the angel, was a mujik called Telouchkine. This man was a roofer of houses (a slater, as he would be called in countries where slates are used), and his speculations by degrees assumed a more practical character than the idle wonders and conjectures of the rest of the crowd. The spire was entirely covered with sheets of gilded copper, and presented to the eye a surface as smooth as if it had been one mass of burnished gold. But Telouchkine knew that the sheets of copper were not even uniformly closed upon each other; and, above all, that there were large nails used to fasten them, which projected from the side of the spire.
Having meditated upon these circumstances till his mind was made up, the mujik went to the government and offered to repair the angel without scaffolding, and without assistance, on condition of being reasonably paid for the time expended in the labor. The offer was accepted; for it was made in Russia, and by a Russian.
On the day fixed for the adventure, Telouchkine, provided with nothing more than a coil of ropes, ascended the spire in the interior to the last window. Here he looked down at the concourse of people below, and up at the glittering "needle," as it is called, tapering far above his head. But his heart did not fail him, and stepping gravely out upon the window, he set about his task.
He cut a portion of the cord in the form of two large stirrups, with a loop at each end. The upper loops he fastened upon two of the projecting nails above his head, and placed his feet in the other. Then digging the fingers of one hand into the interstices of the sheets of copper, he raised up one of the stirrups with the other hand, so as to make it catch a nail higher up. The same operation he performed on behalf of the other leg, and so on alternately. And thus he climbed, nail by nail, step by step, and stirrup by stirrup, till his starting-point was undistinguished from the golden surface, and the spire had dwindled in his embrace till he could clasp it all around.
But Telouchkine was not dismayed. He was prepared for the difficulty, and the means by which he essayed to surmount it exhibited the same astonishing simplicity as the rest of the feat.
Suspending himself in his stirrups, he girded the needle with a cord, the ends of which he fastened around his waist; and, so supported, he leaned gradually back, till the soles of his feet were planted against the spire. In this position, he threw, by a strong effort, a coil of cord over the ball; and so coolly and accurately was the aim taken, that at the first trial it fell in the required direction, and he saw the end hang down on the opposite side.
To draw himself into his original position, to fasten the cord firmly around the globe, and with the assistance of his auxiliary to climb to the summit, were now easy portions of his task; and in a few moments more Telouchkine stood by the side of the angel, and listened to the shout that burst like sudden thunder from the concourse below, yet came to his ear only like a faint and hollow murmur.
The cord, which he had an opportunity of fastening properly, enabled him to descend with comparative facility; and the next day he carried up with him a ladder of ropes, by means of which he found it easy to effect the necessary repairs.
This person must have put forth all the energies of his being to accomplish what he did. If we will strive as hard for the society of good angels as he did to reach the artificial one, we shall be sure of their society and a place in the new earth.
The golden sun shone brightly down the world,
Soft shadows gathered on the twilight track; The day is gone; with all our sighs and tears
We can not call one little moment back.
Ah, soul, what loss is thine! awaken now! Let not the moments slip unheeded by;
For just such moments make the golden hours That bring us nearer to eternity.
The richest man in our parish was the squire. He dwelt in a great house on the hill that overlooked, with its broad white face, the whole of the village below, with its clustering cottages and neat farmers' houses, and seemed to say proudly, as it looked down, "I have my eyes on you all, and intend to keep you in order." And in truth, a great many eyes it had, with its rows of high windows brightly reflecting the summer sun, from early morning till evening, when not unfrequently the last flush in the west left them glowing as with red fire. When strangers looked up at the great house, and inquired about it, the people of our parish used to tell them with some awe what treasures of grand furniture, and pictures, and choice specimens of art, the squire had collected in its many handsome rooms; what was the worth of one picture alone, that he had refused thousands of pounds for, and the number of others that were beautiful enough, and valuable enough, to have adorned a palace.
They were very proud to be able to say that so rich a man belonged to them, and lived among them, and to point out his crimson-lined and curtained pew at church, and the great tombstone that stood behind the pathway in the churchyard, recording the virtues of his ancestors, and testifying, as well as it could, to his own riches.
I suppose the squire knew the homage that was paid to him, and liked it, and was proud in his turn, not of his neighbors, but of himself, and of the wealth he possessed. Whenever he rode abroad, he met with bows and smiles from rich and poor, everybody made way for him, everybody courted him. A man with so much money, and so much land, and such fine furniture, and pictures, and statues, and gardens, was not to be pushed in a corner and thought little of, and he knew it, as he went along the lanes and roads on his thorough-breds, and nodded to this man, and "good-morninged" that, with some degree of condescension. He knew that he was courted, and admired, and deferred to, because of his riches, and was quite satisfied that it should be so. He did not wish to be thought ill-natured, so he gave, every year, a treat to his workpeople, and sent money, and coal, and blankets to the poor at Christmas, but he thought little more about them. They were poor, and he was rich; those two words, "poor" and "rich," indicated a great difference, and he was quite well pleased there should be such a difference.
One summer morning, he was taking a ride through the woods that skirted one side of his estate. It was very hot, and in the lanes the sun and the flies teased both him and his horse, so when they turned in beneath the shadows of the oaks and beeches, it was a great relief to both. The squire gave Dandy the rein, and went along softly. He was soon thinking of other things than oaks and beeches. Perhaps the glitter of the sunshine here and there, as it lay upon a cluster of trembling leaves, or turned to richer red the tall heads of the willow herb beside his path, suggested the crimson draperies and gilded ornaments of his home, for he was thinking of a sight he had seen there only the day before; when there had been at the birthday of his eldest son a grand gathering of friends, and a feast such as a rich man makes to the rich, with dainties, and spices, and wines, served in gold, and silver, and rarest china, in the utmost profusion, and with the greatest display. He remembered the hilarity of the guests, the healths drank, the speeches made, the compliments so freely given and taken; and with some pride he remembered, too, it had been said, that within the memory of man, no one had given so grand a feast in the parish as he had done that day.
Dandy's feet fell softly, and made little noise on the soft carpet of grass and last year's leaves, that covered and hid the stout roots of the oaks. It was no wonder, then, that presently the squire heard a gentle sound not far away. He became aware that some other human being than himself was in the wood, and checking his horse, he listened a moment, as words, half prayer, half praise, met his ears. "Who can be praying here?" he asked himself, and as the voice was near, he pushed aside a bough or two, and stretched his head, till he could see into a little shady hollow not far from the roadside, and discovered the strange wood-guest.
Ah! it was only an old man, a pauper, or next door to one, whom he had frequently seen before, breaking stones by the highway.
But what was the deaf old man about? "_Praying!_" With his eyes shut, and his head uplifted, and his hat just taken off, held in his toil-swollen fingers, while before him was spread out his dinner--a piece of dry bread, part of a small loaf, and a can of water by his side--bread and water, nothing else; but the old man was thanking God for it, and was content. _More than content._ An expression of happy praise was on his uplifted face. Such an expression the squire had not seen on any face at his own loaded table for many years. And he was thanking God for bread and water, and was happy! The old man was a sincere Christian.
The richest man in the parish did not understand how, when the soul loves God, the least mercies from his hands are felt to be priceless blessings; how bread and water, with a thankful heart, are sweeter to the taste than any food without it; and he felt humiliated. What right had that old man to thank God for bread and water, when _he_ never thanked him for all his great possessions?
The woods closed in on him again, he left the stone-breaker behind, and his face soon assumed its usual self-satisfied expression. But during that morning's ride, again and again returned to him the picture he had seen in the green hollow, of the man who had thanked God for bread and water, and the thought of his own great riches did not give him quite its usual satisfaction. Had those riches ever made him as happy as that old man looked to be over his poor meal? He was obliged to confess to himself that they had not, and it was to him a sad confession. His pride was sorely touched, and his heart disquieted, and the farther he rode, the more he felt a sense of discomfort and discontent, that was strangely new to him.
Presently the bright sun became overcast, great clouds gathered, and the woods looked dark and gloomy. Dandy walked along untroubled by nervous fears and fancies, but an influence came over the squire for which he could not account. A strange sinking was at his heart, and an impression of coming calamity. Then a voice struck his inward ear, a voice not of this world, one of those voices God sends sometimes to be heard for our good and guidance, and the words it uttered were terrible to him. That voice spoke to him clearly and distinctly, "This night the richest man in the parish will die." Strange and fearful were these words. He did not look round to know whence they proceeded; he knew it was an inward and spiritual voice that spoke, and he believed what it said. With a shudder he remembered the parable of the rich man in the Gospel, to whom had come the same terrible warning--"This night thy soul shall be required of thee."
"What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? and what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" were words that haunted him now, and a cold perspiration covered him from head to foot. He felt that he had been an unwise merchant, who had exchanged his soul for very little. Unable at length to bear his own reflections, he galloped home.[Illustration: Christ in the Home of Mary and Martha]
There he arrived in a state of great agitation, and alarmed his wife and family by sending at once for a physician. To all inquiries he gave the answer that he was about to die, and must prepare for it. In vain they tried to persuade him that his health was as good as ever, that he was only the subject of a nervous fancy. The physician arrived, and laughed at his fears, but he heeded neither ridicule nor entreaties. Death was not a thing to be laughed or entreated away, and to death he was doomed. What did it signify what the world said about it? He must make ready for it. His solicitor was called in, and his worldly affairs settled. Wife and children were all provided for, houses and lands were portioned out to his beloved ones, then he had nothing to do but prepare himself for the great change; that, however, he found impossible. In great perturbation of mind he awaited the coming of his great enemy, Death. When night drew on, his fears increased; every time the great hall clock sounded the hour he shuddered, not knowing if he might ever hear it again. The physician and lawyer remained with him at his request, but they could not bring calm to his agitated mind. They could only listen to what he said, as to the ravings of a madman, for mad they judged him to be.
Hour after hour went by, and the richest man in the parish, lying in his splendid bed, expecting Death every moment, found how poor he had become, and of how little real use all his vast possessions were to him now. Midnight passed away, early morning came, light dawned upon the hills. A faint color came into the sky, and with it color once more stole back into the cheeks of the squire, and hope returned to his heart. Death had not arrived as he had feared; he was still living. The night was passed, the morning was come, and the prophecy of the mysterious voice was not accomplished. His family gathered about him, and with smiles congratulated him, advising him to take his rest, now the danger was past. But how could he rest after such a night, such an upturning of all the cherished thoughts and aims of his life, such a revelation of the poverty of riches? He chose rather to walk abroad, and with thoughtful face and slow steps proceeded towards the village. There he heard that Death had indeed been a visitor in one house during the night, but instead of appearing in his own grand mansion, he had entered the poorest cottage in the place--the old stone-breaker had died during the night. With a still more thoughtful face he returned home, for his heart smote him. He remembered the old man's simple dinner; he saw again the uplifted face, on which God's sunshine rested in a double sense; he heard again the words of his thankful prayer, and his own laugh of derision, and he was again humiliated, but this time to better purpose.
His wife met him at the threshold of his house, with a smiling face, glad to see him once more, "clothed and in his right mind," for she, too, had feared for his reason. She accompanied him in, and then, when seated at his side, gently chided him for his last night's fears, and what she called "superstitious fancies." "I hope now," she added, "you are quite satisfied that there was no truth in what that mysterious voice told you. The night is past, and you are alive, and as well as ever."
"True, my dear," he replied, "the night is past, and I am alive and well. But nevertheless the richest man in the parish _has_ died. If you will take the trouble to inquire in the village, you will find it is so."
"How is that?" she asked, and as she spoke she looked round somewhat proudly, as though a rival to her grandeur had appeared. "Who can be richer here than you?"
"The man who can say to God, 'Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.' I cannot say that, for I have desired many things and persons besides God, and almost all things more than God. But there was a poor stone-breaker alive yesterday, who in possessing God possessed all things. I call him poor after the manner of the world, but he was really rich--an heir of the kingdom of heaven. Last night I was shown his riches and my poverty. People will tell you he is dead, and I dare say that he did not leave a shilling to pay for his burial; but _he_ was '_the richest man in the parish_.'"WALKING WITH GOD.
Walking with God in sorrow's dark hour, Calm and serene in his infinite power; Walking with him, I am free from all dread, Filled with his Spirit, O! softly I tread.
Walking with God, O! fellowship sweet, Thus to know God, and in him be complete; Walking with him whom the world can not know, O! it is sweet through life thus to go.
Walking with God in sorrow's dark hour, Soothed and sustained by his infinite power; O! it is sweet to my soul thus to live,
Filled with a peace which the world can not give.
Walking with God, O! may my life be Such that my Lord can walk always with me; Walking with him, I shall know, day by day, That he is my Father, and leads all the way.OVER THE CROSSING "O please sir, take me over the crossing," said a little faint voice, as I was leisurely taking my morning walk.
The strange request roused me from my reverie; and looking imploringly in my face stood a thinly-clad, shivering little girl, who carried a small bundle, which she held in her hand with a singular tenacity. I gave a searching look into the child's face, while she imploringly repeated:--"Will you take me over the crossing quick, I'm in such a hurry."
Tossing her in my arms I bounded over the muddy pathway; and just as I set down my little charge, the bundle slipped from her grasp, or rather its contents, leaving the empty paper in her hands, and an embroidered vest on the sidewalk. I picked up the vest, and in doing so unrolled the same, when lining, sewing-silk and padding were all disengaged, so that the nimble fingers of the poor child picked up, and brushed, and packed them together again with scrupulous care; and tying them firmly, she gave me a sweet smile and bounded along. She would soon have passed from my sight had I not again called after her, and interrogated her why she made such haste.
"O sir," she replied, "because my mother must have expected me an hour ago. I have been waiting for the young gentleman at the tailor's to decide which color he preferred, and then the tailor told me to stop while he cut it, and then he gave me such a beautiful pattern for my mother to embroider it by--but it is a sight of work to do it, sir, and I'm afraid she will set up all the long nights to sew, while I am sleeping, for the man said he must have it completed by next Thursday; the young gentleman is to be married then, and will want it--and if it isn't done, maybe he would never give mother another stitch of work, and then what would become of us?"
And as the child hurried on I caught the same hurried footsteps, and followed on until we came to another crossing, when again came the beseeching tone:--"Will you take me over this crossing too, sir?" It was done in a trice, and my interest in the child increased as her prattle continued:--
"Mamma is to have a dollar for this work, and she means to buy me a new frock with part of the money, and then we shall have a great loaf of bread and a cup of milk, and mother will find time to eat with me--if there is any money left, I shall have a little open-work straw bonnet, and go to Sabbath-school with Susy Niles."And her little feet scarcely touched the walk, so light and fairy-like was her tread. "And does your mother work for one man all the time, little girl?" I inquired.
"Oh, no, sir; it is only now and then she gets such a nice job. Most of the time she has to sew for shops where she earns about twenty-five cents a day, and then she has hardly enough to pay her rent, and it isn't all the time we get enough to eat--but then mother always gives me the big slice when there is one big and one little one; sometimes she cries and don't eat her's at all."A coach was passing--the child looked toward it and remarked:--
"I know the lady in that pretty carriage; she is the very one that is going to marry the young gentleman who is to wear this embroidered vest. She came to my home yesterday to get my mother to spangle the wreath round her white satin dress; and it's just the same pattern that is to be put on this vest; but she could not do it, 'cause her eyesight is so poor, and the spangles shined so."
My tongue was silent. Could it be that these were to be the very articles that were to be worn at my Ellen's wedding? For did I not pay for spangles yesterday, and what was it that vexed Ellen but because she could not find anybody to sew them on when she returned? She said Mrs. Taggard was almost blind."My little girl," said I, "Is your name Taggard?" "Yes, sir--'Gusta Taggard, and we live down in Sullivan court. Are you going home with me?" It was a sensible conjecture; for why else should I follow on? "I am going to see you safely at the door, and to help you over all the crossings." "There's only one more, sir, and here it is; we live down there at No. 3, on the third floor back."