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."
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.
HERRINGS FOR NOTHING.
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!"
Then I called out loudly also, "Will any one have some herrings for tea?"
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 offer
PARDON 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.
"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.
Did you ever think what this world would be. How weary of all endeavor, 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!
BREAD UPON THE WATERS
"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?"
"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.
"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.
Far too well my Saviour loved me To allow my life to be 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.
THE FATHER IS NEAR.
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.
RICHEST MAN IN THE PARISH.
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.
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."
The child looked kindly, and as she sweetly bade me "good by, sir," I thrust my hand in my pocket and drew from it all the change it contained, which was a bright fifty cent piece, and placed it in her little palm. 'Gusta Taggard gave me her heartfelt thanks, and was soon out of my sight.
An hour before, I had started from my home an invalid. I had long deliberated whether an exposure to a chilly east wind would not injure rather than improve me. I was melancholy, too; my only daughter was about to be married—there was confusion all over the house—the event was to be celebrated in fashionable style. Ellen's dress had cost what would have been a fortune to this poor seamstress, and I moralized. But I had forgotten myself; the cough which had troubled me was no longer oppressive. I breathed quite freely, and yet I had walked more briskly than I had done for months, without so much fatigue as slow motion caused, so that when I returned, my wife rallied me upon looking ten years younger than when I left her in the morning; and when I told her the specific lay in my walk with a little prattler, and the satisfaction of having left her happier than I found her, she took the occasion to press the purchase of a diamond brooch for Ellen, affirming if the gift of half a dollar made me so much happier, and that, too, to a little errand street girl, what would fifty times that amount confer upon one's only daughter, upon the eve before her marriage?
I gave the diamond brooch—I paid the most extravagant bills to upholster's, dry goods establishments, confectioners and musicians, with which to enliven the great occasion, and yet I found more real satisfaction in providing for the real wants of little 'Gusta Taggard and her mother than in all the splendid outlay of the wedding ceremony; and it was not that it cost less which made the satisfaction, but it was that all extravagant outlays, in the very nature of things, are unsatisfactory, while ministering to the necessities of the truly needy and industrious confers its own reward.
I had seen the glittering spangled dress—but it was made ready by some poor, emaciated sufferer, who toiled on in patient trust, and the embroidered vest as finished by the strained vision and aching head of another, who was emphatically one of "God's poor," upon whom blight or disgrace had not fallen, save by his appointment; and the diamond brooch was borne off by admiring throngs but to be envied and coveted, while the simple coin bestowed upon my little street acquaintance had introduced me to a new species of enjoyment that never cloys in the retrospective. I had learned to do good in small ways—my morning walks have now an object and aim. I pass by splendid palaces to hasten to Sullivan court, and thence on to yet other sources of enjoyment, so that my invalidism is fast leaving me by the new direction which is given to my thoughts.
I am free to acknowledge that while I cheerfully pay for flannel robes, and silverware, and servants, and all the requirements which fashion imposes, I derive far less pleasure from surveying them, than in sitting beside some worthy recipient of charity, who tells me that "the little sum you gave me saved me from despair and self-destruction, and enabled me to become helpful, so that no other assistance is now necessary." Such a confession fills a void which administering to a luxury never can; and all the satisfaction originated in first helping a little child over the crossing.
STOP AND LOOK AROUND!
Life is full of passing pleasures That are never seen or heard, Little things that go unheeded— Blooming flower and song of bird; Overhead, a sky of beauty; Underneath, a changing ground; And we'd be the better for it If we'd stop and look around!
Oh, there's much of toil and worry In the duties we must meet; But we've time to see the beauty That lies underneath our feet. We can tune our ears to listen To a joyous burst of sound, And we know that God intended We should stop and look around!
Drop the care a while, and listen When the sparrow sings his best; Turn aside, and watch the building Of some little wayside nest; See the wild flower ope its petals, Gather moss from stump and mound; And you'll be the better for it If you stop and look around!
THE FENCE STORY
A man who prided himself on his morality, and expected to be saved by it, was constantly saying, "I am doing pretty well on the whole. I sometimes get mad and swear, but then I am strictly honest. I work on Sabbath when I am particularly busy, but I give a good deal to the poor, and I never was drunk in my life." This man hired a canny Scotchman to build a fence around his lot. He gave him very particular directions. In the evening, when the Scotchman came in from his work, the man said, "Well, Jock, is the fence built, and is it tight and strong?" "I canna say that it is all tight and strong," replied Jock, "but it is a good average fence, anyhow. If some parts are a little weak, others are extra strong. I don't know but I may have left a gap here and there, a yard wide, or so; but then I made up for it by doubling the number of rails on each side of the gap. I dare say that the cattle will find it a very good fence, on the whole, and will like it; though I canna just say that it's perfect in every part." "What!" cried the man, not seeing the point. "Do you tell me that you have built a fence around my lot with weak places in it, and gaps in it? Why, you might as well have built no fence at all. If there is one opening, or a place where an opening can be made, the cattle will be sure to find it, and will go through. Don't you know, man, that a fence must be perfect, or it is worthless?"
"I used to think so," said the dry Scotchman, "but I hear you talk so much about averaging matters with the Lord it seems to me we might try it with the cattle. If an average fence won't do for them, I am afraid an average character won't do for you in the day of judgment. When I was on shipboard, and a storm was driving us on the rocks, the captain cried: 'Let go the anchor!' but the mate shouted back: 'There is a broken link in the cable.' Did the captain say when he heard that: 'No matter, it's only one link. The rest of the chain is good. Ninety-nine of the hundred links are strong. Its average is high. It only lacks one per cent. of being perfect. Surely the anchor ought to respect so excellent a chain, and not break away from it?' No, indeed, he shouted, 'Get another chain!'
"He knew that a chain with one broken link was no chain at all. That he might as well throw the anchor overboard without any cable, as with a defective one. So with the anchor of our souls. If there is the least flaw in the cable, it is not safe to trust it. We had better throw it away and try to get a new one that we know is perfect."
PUT YOURSELF IN MY PLACE.
"I cannot wait any longer. I must have my money, and if you cannot pay it I must foreclose the mortgage and sell the place," said Mr. Merton.
"In that case," said Mr. Bishop, "it will of course be sold at a great sacrifice, and after the struggles I have made, my family will again be homeless. It is hard. I only wish you had to earn your money as I do mine; you might then know something of the hard life of a poor man. If you could only in imagination, put yourself in my place, I think you would have a little mercy on me."
"It is useless talking; I extended this one year, and I can do so no longer," replied Mr. Merton, as he turned to his desk and continued writing.
The poor man rose from his seat, and walked sadly out of Mr. Merton's office. His last hope was gone. He had just recovered from a long illness which had swallowed up the means with which he had intended to make the last payment on his house. True, Mr. Merton had waited one year when he failed to meet the demand owing to illness in his family, and he had felt very much obliged to him for so doing. This year he had been laid up for seven months, during which time he could earn nothing, and all his savings were then needed for the support of his family. Again he failed, and now he would again be homeless, and have to begin the world anew. Had heaven forsaken him, and given him over to the tender mercies of the wicked?
After he had left the office, Mr. Merton could not drive away from his thoughts the remarks to which the poor man gave utterance, "I wish you had to earn your money as I do mine."
In the midst of a row of figures, "Put yourself in my place" intruded.
Once after it had crossed his mind he laid down his pen, saying, "Well, I think I should find it rather hard. I have a mind to drop in there this afternoon and see how it fares with his family; that man has aroused my curiosity."
About five o'clock he put on a gray wig and some old cast-off clothes, and walked to the door. Mrs. Bishop, a pale, weary-looking woman opened it. The poor old man requested permission to enter and rest a while, saying he was very tired with his long journey, for he had walked many miles that day.
Mrs. Bishop cordially invited him in, and gave him the best seat the room afforded; she then began to make preparations for tea.
The old gentleman watched her attentively. He saw there was no elasticity in her steps, no hope in her movements, and pity for her began to steal into his heart. When her husband entered, her features relaxed into a smile, and she forced a cheerfulness into her manner. The traveler noted it all, and he was forced to admire this woman who could assume a cheerfulness she did not feel, for her husband's sake. After the table was prepared (there was nothing on it but bread and butter and tea), they invited the stranger to eat with them, saying, "We have not much to offer you, but a cup of tea will refresh you after your long journey."
He accepted their hospitality, and, as they discussed the frugal meal, led them without seeming to do so, to talk of their affairs.
"I bought this piece of land," said Mr. Bishop, "at a low price, and instead of waiting, as I ought to have done, until I saved the money to build, I thought I would borrow a few hundred dollars. The interest on the money would not be near so much as the rent I was paying, and I would save something by it. I did not think there would be any difficulty in paying back the money; but the first year my wife and one of the children were ill, and the expense left me without means to pay the debt. Mr. Merton agreed to wait another year if I would pay the interest, which I did. This year I was for seven months unable to work at my trade and earn anything, and, of course, when pay-day comes around—and that will be very soon—I shall be unable to meet the demand."
"But," said the stranger, "will not Mr. Merton wait another year, if you make all the circumstances known to him?"
"No, sir," replied Mr. Bishop; "I saw him this morning, and he said he must have the money and should be obliged to foreclose."
"He must be very hard-hearted," remarked the traveler.
"Not necessarily so," replied Mr. Bishop. "The fact is, these rich men know nothing of the struggles of the poor. They are men, just like the rest of mankind, and I am sure if they had but the faintest idea of what the poor have to pass through, their hearts and purses would open. You know it has passed into a proverb, 'When a poor man needs help he should apply to the poor.' The reason is obvious. Only the poor know the curse of poverty. They know how heavily it falls, crushing the heart of man, and (to use my favorite expression) they can at once put themselves in the unfortunate one's place and appreciate difficulties, and are therefore ready to render assistance as far as they are able. If Mr. Merton had the least idea what I and my family had to pass through, I think he would be willing to wait several years for his money rather than distress us."
With what emotion the stranger listened may be imagined. A new world was being opened to him. He was passing through an experience that had never been his before. Shortly after the conclusion of the meal he arose to take his leave, thanking Mr. and Mrs. Bishop for their kind hospitality. They invited him to stay all night, telling him he was welcome to what they had.
He thanked them, and said, "I will trespass on your kindness no longer. I think I can reach the next village before dark, and be so much further on my journey."
Mr. Merton did not sleep much that night; he lay awake thinking. He had received a new revelation. The poor had always been associated in his mind with stupidity and ignorance, and the first poor family he had visited he had found far in advance, in intelligent sympathy and real politeness, of the exquisite and fashionable butterflies of the day.
The next day a boy called at the cottage, and left a package in a large blue envelope, addressed to Mr. Bishop.
Mrs. Bishop was very much alarmed when she took it, for large blue envelopes were associated in her mind with law and lawyers, and she thought that it boded no good. She put it away until her husband came home from his work, when she handed it to him.
He opened it in silence, read its contents, and said, fervently, "Thank Heaven!"
"What is it, John?" inquired his anxious wife.
"Good news, wife," replied John; "such news as I never hoped for or even dreamed of."
"What is it? What is it? Tell me quickly! I want to hear, if it is anything good."
"Mr. Merton has canceled the mortgage; released me from the debt, both interest and principal; and says any time I need further assistance, if I will let him know, I shall have it."
"I am so glad! It puts new life into me," said the now happy wife. "But what can have come over Mr. Merton?"
"I do not know. It seems strange after the way he talked to me yesterday morning. I will go right over to Mr. Merton's, and tell him how happy he has made us."
He found Mr. Merton in, and expressed his gratitude in glowing terms.
"What could have induced you," he asked, "to show us so much kindness?"
"I followed your suggestion," replied Mr. Merton, "and put myself in your place. I expect that it will surprise you very much to learn that the strange traveler to whom you showed so much kindness yesterday was I."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Mr. Bishop, "can that be true? How did you disguise yourself so well?"
"I was not so much disguised, after all; but you could not very readily associate Mr. Merton, the lawyer, with a poor wayfaring man."
"Well, it is a good joke," said Mr. Bishop; "good in more senses than one. It has terminated very pleasantly for me."
"I was surprised," said Mr. Merton, "at the broad and liberal views you expressed of men and their actions generally. I supposed I had greatly the advantage over you in means and education; yet how cramped and narrow-minded have been my views beside yours! That wife of yours is an estimable woman, and that boy of yours will be an honor to any man. I tell you, Bishop," said the lawyer, becoming animated, "you are rich—rich beyond what money could make; you have treasures that gold will not buy. I tell you, you owe me no thanks. Somehow I seem to have lived years since yesterday morning. What I have learned at your house is worth more than you owe me, and I am your debtor yet. Hereafter I shall take as my motto, 'Put yourself in his place,' and try to regulate my actions by it."
We cannot measure the need Of even the tiniest flower, Nor check the flow of the golden sands That run through a single hour. But the morning dews must fall, And the sun and summer rain Must do their part and perform it all, Over and over again.
The path that has once been trod Is never so rough to the feet; And the lesson we once have learned Is never so hard to repeat. Though sorrowful tears may fall, And the heart to its depths be driven With storm and tempest; we need them all To render us meet for heaven.
FORGIVE AND FORGET.
Forgive and forget, it is better To fling all ill feeling aside Than allow the deep, cankering fetter Of revenge in your breast to abide; For your step o'er life's path will be lighter, When the load from your bosom is cast, And the glorious sky will seem brighter, When the cloud of displeasure has passed.
Though your spirit swell high with emotion To give back injustice again, Sink the thought in oblivion's ocean, For remembrance increases the pain. O, why should we linger in sorrow, When its shadow is passing away,— Or seek to encounter to-morrow, The blast that o'erswept us to-day?
Our life's stream is a varying river, And though it may placidly glide When the sunbeams of joy o'er it quiver, It must foam when the storm meets its tide. Then stir not its current to madness, For its wrath thou wilt ever regret; Though the morning beams break on thy sadness, Ere the sunset, forgive and forget.
THE INFIDEL CAPTAIN
The ship St. Thomas, Captain, Robert Williams, was bound from New York to Liverpool, in the month of June. Favored by a fresh westerly wind, she soon cleared the land, and on the first Sunday out was going along finely with all drawing sail set. The chief mate, Mr. Wm. Briggs, after the crew had breakfasted, and the watch had been set, asked the captain if he had any objections to calling the men aft to prayers.
"No objection whatever, Mr. Briggs, provided you do the preaching and praying yourself; for you know well enough that I have but little faith in such exercises."
Captain Williams was between forty and fifty years of age, a plain, blunt seaman, who was more ambitious of being considered an enterprising shipmaster than a Christian. His mate was not quite thirty, and was indebted to him for his promotion from before the mast to second mate, and then to that of chief mate; they had sailed together many years, and each had boundless confidence in the other. Appreciating the motives of his mate, he always permitted him to have prayers on board when the state of the weather was favorable, although he took no interest in religious matters himself.
Mr. Briggs ordered the watch to arrange some seats on the quarter-deck, while he went forward himself and invited the watch below to come aft, and listen to the reading of the Scriptures, and such other religious exercises as the occasion might suggest, remarking at the same time, that it was not his desire to force any man against his will. Without a murmur the watch below, as well as that on deck, repaired to the quarter-deck, and were soon seated around the capstan. The captain took charge of the deck himself, that is, looked out for the proper steerage of the ship, and relieved the second mate, whose watch it was, to join the men at prayers. These arrangements completed, the chief mate placed a Bible on the capstan, read a chapter from the New Testament, made some remarks upon it, and then prayed; after which he read a sermon, and closed with prayer. The whole exercise occupied about an hour, and seemed to produce a good effect upon the men, who, during the rest of the day in their intercourse with one another, talked about religion.
That afternoon, when it was the mate's watch on deck, Captain Williams entered into conversation with him as follows:—
"I say, Briggs, what does all your preaching and praying amount to in the long run? I have managed to get along very well thus far without either, and if I were to die to-day, I could safely say that I never injured any man knowingly, and have always endeavored to do my duty to my family and to all. What more can a man do, even if he has all the religion in the world?"
"Captain Williams," replied the mate, "this world, sir, is not our home; we are here only for a few short years, and then we go to the place for which we have prepared ourselves."
"Place!" interrupted the captain, "place—what do you or I or any one else know about any other place than this world? Place, indeed! you do not suppose that I am silly enough to believe the Bible, with its strange fish-stories, and unaccountable yarns about miracles, etc.?"
"Yet," replied the mate, "you believe Bowditch's Navigator, and rely upon its statements."
"Of course I do, because I have tested their correctness by actual experience."
"And for the same reason I believe the Bible, and so will you, sir, when you come to Christ and learn of him the truth."
"I have heard that statement before, Briggs. But how would you propose for me to come to Christ?"
"By retiring to your stateroom alone, sir, and throwing yourself upon your knees, and imploring him with your whole soul to enlighten you. Continue this process every moment you can spare from the ship's duty, and I will be answerable that you will not pray long in vain, if you pray sincerely."
"But you must first convince me, Briggs, that the Bible is true before I make a fool of myself in my stateroom."
"My dear captain," replied the mate, "I cannot convince you, that is the work of the Holy Spirit; but I can, and often do pray for you. Yet let us recur to Bowditch's Navigator again, and see if we cannot make out a case from it in favor of the Bible. Both of us believe the Navigator, yet neither of us knows thoroughly the principles by which all its numerous tables have been calculated, many of which we use every day without question. If we make a bad landfall, or, at the end of a day discover that we have made a different course from that which we projected, we do not attribute the errors to Bowditch, but to our own miscalculation. It is just so with the humble inquirer after truth; the Bible is his Navigator; he believes it the fountain of living truth, endeavors to shape the course of his life by it; and when he errs, he looks for the error in himself, not in the Bible."
"Still, Briggs," said the captain, "I don't believe the Bible. The fact is, I have never looked into it since I was a boy."
"The greater your loss, captain; but I have no doubt your mother believed it, and has often spoken to you about God, and Christ, and taught you to pray when you were a child. If you will take the trouble to visit Jim Wood's gin-palace, in Playhouse Square, when we reach Liverpool, and enter into conversation with the people there about the Bible, they will laugh at you, and sneeringly tell you it is a humbug; in short, repeat your own arguments; but if you will leave there and obtain admission into the best society, you will find that every person present will speak with reverence of the Bible. Now I know you love good company here, and that you dislike the low, vulgar conversation of the profane; therefore, I should like to see you make some effort to prepare yourself for the society of the redeemed in heaven."
"What you have said about my mother, Briggs, is true as the needle to the pole, God bless her; I can't help saying so, for she was good to me; and if there is a heaven she is sure of it."
"And, of course, captain, you would like to join her there, when you have run down your reckoning here. You have either to join her, or such fellows as those who frequent places like Jim Wood's. Which like you the best—gamblers, drunkards, and thieves, or your mother? This is the simple question which you must decide for yourself."
Here the ship's duty interrupted the conversation, but that night Captain Williams thought much of the teachings of his mother, her earnest prayers to God in his behalf, and the flimsy arguments with which he had so long deluded himself about the Bible; and the more he thought the more uneasy he became. He felt that he was a sinner in the sight of God, unworthy of the many favors he enjoyed, and during the whole of that passage, whenever an opportunity offered he engaged in earnest conversation with his mate. He was alarmed at the prospect of being forever separated from his mother, for he loved her dearly; and this feeling soon gave birth to others of a more spiritual nature, and finally he was led to exclaim, "What shall I do to be saved?"
EVERY HEART HAS ITS OWN SORROW
"Every heart has its own sorrow." There was a sad smile upon the lips that said it, and the eyes of the speaker were full of unshed tears, as if the heart rebelled a little, while a sigh stole up and was breathed out wearily. She sat in the full glow of the firelight, a patient, gentle woman, and on a low cushion at her feet was a young girl with her face hidden in her hands and sobbing passionately.
"Don't think so much about it, Maggie; it is all for the best. It seems strange and dark now, but the time will come when you will see that it was all right." All the time she smoothed softly the golden curls that fell over the flushed forehead—the head was lifted at length, and a fair face looked up, stained and swollen with weeping.
"I can't see how you can say this, Miss Levick. The time will never come when I shall see that it was all right."
The young face was hidden again, and tears dropped like rain through the small, white fingers. By and by they ceased flowing and the head was laid with a long, tired sob upon the lap where it had rested before. The hours went by in silence, while the firelight shone clear and steady in the room, sometimes bathing the watchers in its radiance, then flickering and going out like the hopes that they had cherished.
Maggie Harlan had cause to weep. Six years before her mother died, just as the sensitive, high-spirited child was learning to feel her need of a tender counselor, whose love was even greater than the many faults that tried it sorely. Her eldest brother graduated, and with impaired health went to Cuba for the winter. He never returned, so Maggie had only her father to cling to. Mr. Harlan almost idolized her, but he was an invalid, and felt that his child needed some influence besides his own in molding aright a character that already showed strong points, that might be shaped for good or evil.
Bidding farewell to the old home they removed to a quiet country village, where there was a long-established female seminary, and here Maggie had been to school, advised, aided, and benefited by Mrs. Champlan, the head of the school, and also the mother of daughters, causing her to take a warmer interest perhaps in the motherless girl, who not only proved an amiable pupil, but a brilliant scholar.
Mrs. Champlan employed numerous teachers, and it is with one we find Maggie. Miss Levick had been there only six months. She was not one of those brilliant characters that dazzle at first acquaintance; but she possessed a quiet, unobtrusive loveliness that won surely upon the affections of those who knew her. She had learned many lessons in the school of life; adversity and sorrow had been her teachers, and if they had made darkness in her heart, it was in this she had learned patience, and lip and eye told by their chastened beauty of a peace, storms could not disturb.
Maggie Harlan knew nothing of her history; she had come a stranger to Dalton. Well educated, a skilful musician, and speaking the languages with fluency, Mrs. Champlan was glad to employ her; and to Maggie especially had she proved a most devoted friend.
Mr. Harlan's health had been slowly but surely failing since the death of his wife, but his friends were so accustomed to his pale face and wasted figure that they little realized how near his feet were to the dark river. Hopeful and cheerful, he seldom spoke of bodily infirmities.
Three months ago he left home partly to attend to business in a distant city, and partly from the hope that travel might be of service to him. He only reached the place of his destination, was seized with severe hemorrhage, and died in a few hours. Only strangers were with him, strangers ministered to his last wants, and strangers sent back to his home the news of the desolation that had come to it.
It was a terrible blow to Maggie; all the more terrible for falling so suddenly. She moved about in a kind of stupor for several days, till the funeral was over, and she was left alone with no other friend than Miss Levick.
It was uncertain with regard to Mr. Harlan's property. He had always passed for a man of wealth, lived handsomely, and enjoyed all that money could bring. But Maggie remembered that he had often spoken anxiously with regard to the future, and it was with some misgivings that she awaited the investigation of his affairs. It proved as she feared. There was very little property beyond what would pay outstanding debts, and a very heavy mortgage was held upon the place where they lived. It was arranged that Maggie should go to Mrs. Champlan, graduate with the close of the present term, and then become a teacher.
This is the last night in the dear old home; all day has Maggie borne up bravely—now utterly overcome.
"It is a hard lesson to learn, darling, but some hearts have learned it, and when the agony was passed have blessed God for so teaching them. Sorrow sooner or later comes to all, and it works in the heart of each patience or despair. It all depends upon the way and manner in which they receive it."
"Perhaps you have the power to choose," said Maggie, "but I have not. It is not so much for you to be patient; it is your nature, and then you can't have so great cause for grief."
How Miss Levick's heart went backward at the words of this weeping child, while she repeated to herself many a precious promise.
Hour after hour they sat there; the sun had gone down, and the purple twilight shrouded the outer world; while Maggie's thoughts were busy with memories of the beautiful past, that was gone from her forever—shrinking from the future that looked so blank and cheerless, and keen agony as the present sorrow rose up in all its intensity—a radiant cup of joy dashed from her lips just as she was beginning to taste its sweetness, and her heart was full of murmuring and despair.