Part 5 out of 5
"Now, Annie, we see the good purpose God had in sending you here
to-day. You have done for us the blessed work of a peace-maker."
Annie had always been dear to her uncle and aunt, but from that
golden autumn day, she became, if such a thing could be, dearer than
ever--bound to them by an exceedingly sweet tie.
Years went by. One snowy evening, a merry Christmas party was
gathered together in the wide parlour at Greylston Cottage,--nearly
all the nephews and nieces were there. Mrs. Lennox, the "Sophy" of
earlier days, with her husband; Richard Bermond and his pretty
little wife were amongst the number; and Annie, dear, bright
Annie--her fair face only the fairer and sweeter for time--sat,
talking in a corner with young Walter Selwyn. John Greylston went
slowly to the window, and pushed aside the curtains, and as he stood
there looking out somewhat gravely in the bleak and wintry night, he
felt a soft hand touch him, and he turned and found Annie Bermond by
"You looked so lonely, my dear uncle."
"And that is the reason you deserted Walter?" he said, laughing.
"Well, I will soon send you back to him. But, look out here first,
Annie, and tell me what you see;" and she laid her face close to the
window-pane, and, after a minute's silence, said,
"I see the ground white with snow, the sky gleaming with stars, and
the dear old pines, tall and stately as ever."
"Yes, the pines; that is what I meant, my child. Ah, they have been
my silent monitors ever since that day; you remember it, Annie!
Bless you, child! how much good you did us then."
But Annie was silently crying beside him. John Greylton wiped his
eyes, and then he called his sister Margaret to the window.
"Annie and I have been looking at the old pines, and you can guess
what we were thinking about. As for myself," he added, "I never see
those trees without feeling saddened and rebuked. I never recall
that season of error, without the deepest shame and grief. And still
the old pines stand. Well, Madge, one day they will shade our
graves; and of late I have thought that day would dawn very soon."
Annie Bermond let the curtain fall very slowly forward, and buried
her face in her hands; but the two old pilgrims by her side, John
and Margaret Greylston, looked at each other with a smile of hope
and joy. They had long been "good and faithful servants," and now
they awaited the coming of "the Master," with a calm, sweet
patience, knowing it would be well with them, when He would call
The pines creaked mournfully in the winter wind, and the stars
looked down upon bleak wastes, and snow-shrouded meadows; yet the
red blaze heaped blithely on the hearth, taking in, in its fair
light, the merry circle sitting side by side, and the thoughtful
little group standing so quietly by the window. And even now the
picture fades, and is gone. The curtain falls--the story of John and
Margaret Greylston is ended.
THE WORLD WOULD BE THE BETTER FOR IT.
IF men cared less for wealth and fame,
And less for battle-fields and glory;
If, writ in human hearts, a name
Seemed better than in song and story;
If men, instead of nursing pride,
Would learn to hate and to abhor it--
If more relied
On Love to guide,
The world would be the better for it.
If men dealt less in stocks and lands,
And more in bonds and deeds fraternal;
If Love's work had more willing hands
To link this world to the supernal;
If men stored up Love's oil and wine,
And on bruised human hearts would pour it;
If "yours" and "mine"
Would once combine,
The world would be the better for it.
If more would act the play of Life,
And fewer spoil it in rehearsal;
If Bigotry would sheathe its knife
Till Good became more universal;
If Custom, gray with ages grown,
Had fewer blind men to adore it--
If talent shone
In truth alone,
The world would be the better for it.
If men were wise in little things--
Affecting less in all their dealings--
If hearts had fewer rusted strings
To isolate their kindly feelings;
If men, when Wrong beats down the Right,
Would strike together and restore it--
If Right made Might
In every fight,
The world would be the better for it.
TWO SIDES TO A STORY.
"HAVE you seen much of your new neighbours, yet?" asked Mrs. Morris,
as she stepped in to have an hour's social chat with her old friend,
"Very little," was the reply. "Occasionally I have seen the lady
walking in her garden, and have sometimes watched the sports of the
children on the side-walk, but this is all. It is not like the
country, you know. One may live here for years, and not become
acquainted with the next-door neighbours."
"Some may do so," replied Mrs. Morris, "but, for my part, I always
like to know something of those around me. It is not always
desirable to make the acquaintance of near neighbours, but by a
little observation it is very easy to gain an insight into their
characters and position in society. The family which has moved into
the house next to yours, for instance, lived near to me for nearly
two years, and although I never spoke to one of them, I can tell you
of some strange transactions which took place in their house."
"Indeed!" replied Mrs. Freeman, with little manifestation of
interest or curiosity; but Mrs. Morris was too eager to communicate
her information to notice her friend's manner, and lowering her
voice to a confidential tone, continued:--
"There is an old lady in their family whom they abuse in the most
shocking manner. She is very rich, and they by threats and
ill-treatment extort large sums of money from her."
"A singular way of inducing any one to bestow favours," replied Mrs.
Freeman, dryly. "Why does not the old lady leave there?"
"Bless your heart, my dear friend, she cannot get an opportunity!
They never suffer her to leave the house unattended. Once or twice,
indeed, she succeeded in getting into the street, but they
discovered her in a moment, and actually forced her into the house.
You smile incredulously, but if you had been an eye-witness of their
proceedings, as I have, or had heard the screams of the poor
creature, and the heavy blows which they inflict, you would be
convinced of the truth of what I tell you."
"I do not doubt the truth of your story in the least, my dear Mrs.
Morris. I only think that in this case, as in most others, there
must be two sides to the story. It is almost incredible that such
barbarous treatment could continue for any great length of time
without discovery and exposure."
"Oh, as to that, people are not fond of getting themselves into
trouble by meddling with their neighbours' affairs. I am very
cautious about it myself. I would not have mentioned this matter to
any one but an old friend like yourself. It seemed best to put you
on your guard."
"Thank you," was the smiling reply. "It is hardly probable that I
shall be called upon to make any acquaintance with my new neighbours
but if I am, I certainly shall not forget your caution."
Satisfied that she had succeeded, at least partially, in awakening
the suspicions of her friend, Mrs. Morris took her departure, while
Mrs. Freeman, quite undisturbed by her communications, continued her
usual quiet round of domestic duties, thinking less of the affairs
of her neighbours than of those of her own household.
Occasionally she saw the old lady whom Mrs. Morris had mentioned
walking in the adjoining garden, sometimes alone, and sometimes
accompanied by the lady of the house, or one of the children. There
was nothing striking in her appearance. She looked cheerful and
contented, and showed no signs of confinement or abuse. Once, when
Mrs. Freeman was in her garden, she had looked over the fence, and
praised the beauty of her flowers, and when a bunch was presented to
her, had received them with that almost childish delight which aged
people often manifest.
Weeks passed on, and the remarks of Mrs. Morris were almost
forgotten, when Mrs. Freeman was aroused one night by loud cries,
apparently proceeding from the adjoining house; and on listening
intently could plainly distinguish the sound of heavy blows, and
also the voice of the old lady in question, as if in earnest
expostulation and entreaty.
Mrs. Freeman aroused her husband, and together they listened in
anxiety and alarm. For nearly an hour the sounds continued, but at
length all was again quiet. It was long, however, before they could
compose themselves to rest. It was certainly strange and
unaccountable, and there was something so inhuman in the thought of
abusing an aged woman that their hearts revolted at the idea.
Still Mrs. Freeman maintained, as was her wont, that there must be
two sides to the story; and after vainly endeavouring to imagine
what the other side could be, she fell asleep, and was undisturbed
All seemed quiet the next day, and Mrs. Freeman had somewhat
recovered from the alarm of the previous night, when she was again
visited by her friend, Mrs. Morris. As usual, she had confidential
communications to make, and particularly wished the advice of Mrs.
Freeman in a matter which she declared weighed heavily upon her
mind; and being assured that they should be undisturbed, began at
once to impart the weighty secret.
"You remember Mrs. Dawson, who went with her husband to Europe, a
year or two ago?"
"Certainly I do," was the reply. "I was well acquainted with her."
"Do you recollect a girl who had lived with her for several years? I
think her name was Mary Berkly."
"Quite well. Mrs. Dawson placed great confidence in her, and wished
to take her abroad, but Mary was engaged to an honest carpenter, in
good business, and wisely preferred a comfortable house in her own
"She had other reasons, I suspect," replied Mrs. Morris,
mysteriously, "but you will hear. This Mary Berkly, or as she is now
called, Mary White, lives not far from my present residence. Her
husband is comfortably off, and his wife is not obliged to work,
excepting in her own family, but still she will occasionally, as a
favour, do up a few muslins for particular persons. You know she was
famous for her skill in those things. The other day, having a few
pieces which I was particularly anxious to have look nice, I called
upon her to see if she would wash them for me. She was not at home,
but her little niece, who lives with her, a child of four years old,
said that Aunt Mary would be in directly, and asked me to walk into
the parlour. I did so, and the little thing stood by my side
chattering away like a magpie. In reply to my questions as to
whether she liked to live with her aunt, what she amused herself
with, &c., &c., she entered into a long account of her various
playthings, and ended by saying that she would show me a beautiful
new doll which her good uncle had given her, if I would please to
unlock the door of a closet near where I was sitting, as she could
not turn the key.
"To please the child I unlocked the door. She threw it wide open,
and to my astonishment I saw that it was filled with valuable silver
plate, china, and other articles of similar kind, some of which I
particularly remembered having seen at Mrs. Dawson's."
"Perhaps she gave them to Mary," suggested Mrs. Freeman. "She was
quite attached to her."
"Impossible!" exclaimed Mrs. Morris. "Valuable silver plate is not
often given to servants. But I have not yet finished. Just as the
child had found the doll Mrs. White entered, and on seeing the
closet-door open, said sternly to the child,
"'Rosy, you did very wrong to open that door without my leave. I
shall not let you take your doll again for a week;' and looking very
red and confused, she hastily closed it, and turned the key. Now, to
my mind, these are suspicious circumstances, particularly as I
recollect that Mr. and Mrs. Dawson were robbed of silver plate
shortly before they went to Europe, and no trace could be found of
"True," replied Mrs. Freeman, thoughtfully; "I recollect the robbery
very well. Still I cannot believe that Mary had anything to do with
it. I was always pleased with her modest manner, and thought her an
honest, capable girl."
"She is very smooth-faced, I know," answered Mrs. Morris, "but
appearances are certainly against her. I am confident that the
articles I saw belonged to Mrs. Dawson."
"There may be another side to the story, however," remarked her
friend; "but why not mention your suspicions to Mrs. Dawson? You
know she has returned, and is boarding in the upper part of the
city. I have her address, somewhere."
"I know where she lives; but would you really advise me to meddle
with the affair? I shall make enemies of Mr. and Mrs. White, if they
hear of it, and I like to have the good-will of all, both, rich and
"I do not believe that Mary would take anything wrongfully," replied
Mrs. Freeman; "but if my suspicions were as fully aroused as yours
seem to be, I presume I should mention what I saw to Mrs. Dawson, if
it were only for the sake of hearing the other side of the story,
and thus removing such unpleasant doubts from my mind. And, indeed,
if you really think that the articles which you saw were stolen, it
becomes your duty to inform the owners thereof, or you become, in a
measure, a partaker of the theft."
"That is true," said Mrs. Morris, rising, "and in that way I might
ultimately gain the ill-will of Mrs. Dawson; therefore I think I
will go at once and tell her my suspicions."
"Which, I am convinced, you will find erroneous," replied Mrs.
"We shall see," was the answer of her friend, accompanied by an
ominous shake of the head; and promising to call upon Mrs. Freeman
on her return, she took leave.
During her absence, the alarming cries from the next house were
again heard; and presently the old lady appeared on the side-walk,
apparently in great agitation and alarm, and gazing wildly about
her, as if seeking a place of refuge; but she was instantly seized
in the forcible manner Mrs. Morris had described, and carried into
"This is dreadful!" exclaimed Mrs. Freeman. "What excuse can there
be for such treatment?" and for a moment her heart was filled with
indignation toward her supposed barbarous neighbours; but a little
reflection caused her still to suspend her judgment, and endeavour
to learn both sides of the story.
As she sat ruminating on this singular occurrence, and considering
what was her duty in regard to it, she was aroused by the entrance
of Mrs. Morris, who, with an air of vexation and disappointment,
threw herself upon the nearest chair, exclaiming,
"A pretty piece of work I have been about! It is all owing to your
advice, Mrs. Freeman. If it had not been for you I should not have
made such a fool of myself."
"Why, what has happened to you?" asked Mrs. Freeman, anxiously.
"What advice have I given you which has caused trouble?"
"You recommended my calling upon Mrs. Dawson, did you not?"
"Certainly: I thought it the easiest way to relieve your mind from
painful suspicions. What did she say?"
"Say! I wish you could have seen the look she gave me when I told
her what I saw at Mrs. White's. You know her haughty manner? She
thanked me for the trouble I had taken on her account, and begged
leave to assure me that she had perfect confidence in the honesty of
Mrs. White. The articles which had caused me so much unnecessary
anxiety were intrusted to her care when they went to Europe, and it
had not yet been convenient to reclaim them. I cannot tell you how
contemptuously she spoke. I never felt so mortified in my life."
"There is no occasion for feeling so, if your intentions were good,"
answered Mrs. Freeman; "and certainly it must be a relief to you to
hear the other side of the story. Nothing less would have convinced
you of Mrs. White's honesty."
Mrs. Morris was prevented from replying by the sudden and violent
ringing of the bell, and an instant after the door was thrown open,
and the old lady, whose supposed unhappy condition had called forth
their sympathies, rushed into the room.
"Oh, save me! save me!" she exclaimed, frantically. "I am
pursued,--protect me, for the love of Heaven!"
"Poor creature!" said Mrs. Morris. "You see that I was not mistaken
in this story, at least. There can be no two sides to this."
"Depend upon it there is," replied Mrs. Freeman; but she courteously
invited her visiter to be seated, and begged to know what had
occasioned her so much alarm.
The poor lady told a plausible and piteous tale of ill-treatment,
and, indeed, actual abuse. Mrs. Morris listened with a ready ear,
and loudly expressed her horror and indignation. Mrs. Freeman was
more guarded. There was something in the old lady's appearance and
manners that excited an undefinable feeling of fear and aversion.
Mrs. Freeman felt much perplexed as to the course she ought to
pursue, and looked anxiously at the clock to see if the time for her
husband's return was near.
It still wanted nearly two hours, and after a little more
consideration she decided to go herself into the next door, ask for
an interview with the lady of the house, frankly state what had
taken place, and demand an explanation. This resolution she
communicated in a low voice to Mrs. Morris, who opposed it as
imprudent and ill-judged.
"Of course they will deny the charge," she argued, "and by letting
them know where the poor creature has taken shelter, you will again
expose her to their cruelty. Besides, you will get yourself into
trouble. My advice to you is to keep quiet until your husband
returns, and then to assist the poor lady secretly to go to her
friends in the country, who she says will gladly receive her."
"But I am anxious to hear both sides of the story before I decide to
assist her," replied Mrs. Freeman.
"Nonsense!" exclaimed her friend. "Even you must see that there
cannot be two sides to this story. There is no possible excuse for
cruelty, and to an inoffensive, aged woman."
While they were thus consulting together, their visiter regarded
them with a troubled look, and a fierce gleaming eye, which did not,
escape Mrs. Freeman's observation; and just as Mrs. Morris finished
speaking, the maniac sprang upon her, like a tiger on his prey, and,
seizing her by the throat, demanded what new mischief was plotting
The screams of the terrified women drew the attention of the son of
the old lady, who had just discovered her absence, and was hastening
in search of her. At once suspecting the truth, he rushed without
ceremony into his neighbour's house, and speedily rescued Mrs,
Morris from her unpleasant and somewhat dangerous situation. After
conveying his mother to her own room, and consigning her to strict
custody, he returned, and respectfully apologized to Mrs. Freeman
for what had taken place.
"His poor mother," he said, "had for several years been subject to
occasional fits of insanity. Generally she had appeared harmless,
excepting as regarded herself. Unless prevented by force, she would
sometimes beat her own flesh in a shocking manner, uttering at the
same time loud cries and complaints of the abuse of those whom she
supposed to be tormenting her.
"In her lucid intervals she had so earnestly besought them not to
place her in the asylum for the insane, but to continue to bear with
her under their own roof, that they had found it impossible to
refuse their solemn promise to comply with her wishes.
"For themselves, their love for her rendered them willing to bear
with her infirmities, but it should be their earnest care that their
neighbours should not again be disturbed."
Mrs. Freeman kindly expressed her sympathy and forgiveness for the
alarm which she had experienced, and the gentleman took leave.
Poor Mrs. Morris had remained perfectly silent since her release;
but as the door closed on their visiter, and her friend kindly
turned to inquire how she found herself, she recovered her speech,
and exclaimed, energetically,
"I will never, never say again that there are not two sides to a
story. If I am ever tempted to believe one side without waiting to
hear the other, I shall surely feel again the hands of that old
witch upon my throat."
"Old witch!" repeated Mrs. Freeman. "Surely she demands our sympathy
as much as when we thought her suffering under ill-treatment. It is
indeed a sad thing to be bereft of reason. But this will be a useful
lesson to both of us: for I will readily acknowledge that in this
instance I was sometimes tempted to forget that there are always
'two sides to a story.'"
NOT long since, it was announced that a large fortune had been left
to a citizen of the United States by a foreigner, who, some years
before, had "become ill" while travelling in this country, and whose
sick-bed was watched with the utmost care and kindness by the
citizen referred to. The stranger recovered, continued his journey,
and finally returned to his own country. The conduct of the American
at a moment so critical, and when, without relatives or friends, the
invalid was languishing in a strange land, was not forgotten. He
remembered it in his thoughtful and meditative moments, and when
about to prepare for another world, his gratitude was manifested in
a truly signal manner. A year or two ago, an individual in this city
was labouring under great pecuniary difficulty. He was unexpectedly
called upon for a considerable sum of money; and, although his means
were abundant, they were not at that time immediately available.
Puzzled and perplexed, he hesitated as to his best course, when, by
the merest chance, he met an old acquaintance, and incidentally
mentioned the facts of the case. The other referred to an act of
kindness that he had experienced years before, said that he bad
never forgotten it, and that nothing would afford him more pleasure
than to extend the relief that was required, and thus show, his
grateful appreciation of the courtesy of former years! The kindness
alluded to was a mere trifle, comparatively speaking, and its
recollection had passed entirely from the memory of the individual
who had performed it. Not so, however, with the obliged. He had
never forgotten it, and the result proved, in the most conclusive
manner, that he was deeply grateful.
We have mentioned the two incidents with the object of inculcating
the general policy of courtesy and kindness, of sympathy and
assistance, in our daily intercourse with our fellow-creatures. It
is the true course under all circumstances. "Little kindnesses"
sometimes make an impression that "lingers and lasts" for years.
This is especially the case with the sensitive, the generous, and
the high-minded. And how much may be accomplished by this duty of
courtesy and humanity! How the paths of life may be smoothed and
softened! How the present may be cheered, and the future rendered
bright and beautiful!
There are, it is true, some selfish spirits, who can neither
appreciate nor reciprocate a courteous or a generous act. They are
for themselves--"now and for ever"--if we may employ such a
phrase--and appear never to be satisfied. You can never do enough
for them. Nay, the deeper the obligation, the colder the heart. They
grow jealous, distrustful, and finally begin to hate their
benefactors. But these, we trust, are "the exceptions," not "the
rule." Many a heart has been won, many a friendship has been
secured, many a position has been acquired, through the exercise of
such little kindnesses and courtesies as are natural to the generous
in spirit and the noble of soul--to all, indeed, who delight, not
only in promoting their own prosperity, but in contributing to the
welfare of every member of the human family. Who cannot remember
some incident of his own life, in which an individual, then and
perhaps now a stranger--one who has not been seen for years, and
never may be seen again on this side the grave, manifested the true,
the genuine, the gentle spirit of a gentleman and a Christian, in
some mere trifle--some little but impulsive and spontaneous act,
which nevertheless developed the whole heart, and displayed the real
character! Distance and time may separate, and our pursuits and
vocations may be in paths distinct, dissimilar, and far apart. Yet,
there are moments--quiet, calm, and contemplative, when memory will
wander back to the incidents referred to, and we will feel a secret
bond of affinity, friendship, and brotherhood. The name will be
mentioned with respect if not affection, and a desire will be
experienced to repay, in some way or on some occasion, the generous
courtesy of the by-gone time. It is so easy to be civil and
obliging, to be kindly and humane! We not only thus assist the
comfort of others, but we promote our own mental enjoyment. Life,
moreover, is full of chance's and changes. A few years, sometimes,
produce extraordinary revolutions in the fortunes of men. The
haughty of to-day may be the humble of to-morrow; the feeble may be
the powerful; the rich may be the poor, But, if elevated by
affluence or by position, the greater the necessity, the stronger
the duty to be kindly, courteous, and conciliatory to those less
fortunate. We can afford to be so; and a proper appreciation of our
position, a due sympathy for the misfortunes of others, and a
grateful acknowledge to Divine Providence, require that we should be
so. Life is short at best. We are here a few years--we sink into the
grave--and even our memory is phantom-like and evanescent. How
plain, then, is our duty! It is to be true to our position, to our
conscience, and to the obligations imposed upon us by society, by
circumstances, and by our responsibility to the Author of all that
is beneficent and good.
LEAVING OFF CONTENTION BEFORE IT BE MEDDLED WITH.
WE are advised to leave off contention before it be meddled with, by
one usually accounted a very wise man. Had he never given the world
any other evidence of superior wisdom, this admonition alone would
have been sufficient to have established his claims thereto. It
shows that he had power to penetrate to the very root of a large
share of human misery. For what is the great evil in our condition
here? Is it not misunderstanding, disagreement, alienation,
contention, and the passions and results flowing from these? Are not
contempt, and hatred, and strife, and alteration, and slander, and
evil-speaking, the things hardest to bear, and most prolific of
suffering, in the lot of human life? The worst woes of life are such
as spring from, these sources.
Is there any cure for these maladies? Is there anything to prevent
or abate these exquisite sufferings? The wise man directs our
attention to a remedial preventive in the advice above referred to.
His counsel to those whose lot unites them in the same local
habitations and name to those who are leagued in friendship or
business, in the changes of sympathy and the chances of collision,
is, to suppress anger or dissatisfaction, to be candid and
charitable in judging, and, by all means, to leave off contention
before it be meddled with. His counsel to all is to endure injury
meekly, not to give expression to the sense of wrong, even when we
might seem justified in resistance or complaint. His counsel is to
yield something we might fairly claim, to pardon when we might
punish, to sacrifice somewhat of our rights for the sake of peace
and friendly affection. His counsel is not to fire at every
provocation, not to return evil for evil, not to cherish any fires
of revenge, burning to be even with the injurious person. His
counsel is to curb our imperiousness, to repress our impatience, to
pause in the burst of another's feeling, to pour water upon the
kindling flames, or, at the very least, to abstain from adding any
fresh fuel thereto.
One proof of the superior wisdom of this counsel is, that few seem
to appreciate or perceive it. To many it seems no great virtue or
wisdom, no great and splendid thing, in some small issue of feeling
or opinion, in the family or among friends, to withhold a little, to
tighten the rein upon some headlong propensity, and await a calm for
fair adjustment. Such a course is not usually held to be a proof of
wisdom or virtue; and men are much more ready to praise and think
well of smartness, and spirit, and readiness for an encounter. To
leave off contention before it is meddled with does not command any
very general admiration; it is too quiet a virtue, with no striking
attitudes, and with lips which answer nothing. This is too often
mistaken for dullness, and want of proper spirit. It requires
discernment and superior wisdom to see a beauty in such repose and
self-control, beyond the explosions of anger and retaliation. With
the multitude, self-restraining meekness under provocation is a
virtue which stands quite low in the catalogue. It is very
frequently set down as pusillanimity and cravenness of spirit. But
it is not so; for there is a self-restraint under provocation which
is far from being cowardice, or want of feeling, or shrinking from
consequences; there is a victory over passionate impulses which is
more difficult and more meritorious than a victory on the bloody
battle-field. It requires more power, more self-command, often, to
leave off contention, when provocation and passion are causing the
blood to boil, than to rush into it.
Were this virtue more duly appreciated, and the admonition of the
Wise Man more extensively heeded, what a change would be effected in
human life! How many of its keenest sufferings would be annihilated!
The spark which kindles many great fires would be withheld; and,
great as are the evils and sufferings caused by war, they are not as
great, probably, as those originating in impatience and want of
temper. The fretfulness of human life, it seems not hard to believe,
is a greater evil, and destroys more happiness, than all the bloody
scenes of the, battle-field. The evils of war have generally
something to lighten the burden of them in a sense of necessity, or
of rights or honour invaded; but there is nothing of like importance
to alleviate the sufferings caused by fretfulness, impatience, want
of temper. The excitable peevishness which kindles at trifles, that
roughens the daily experience of a million families, that scatters
its little stings at the table and by the hearth-stone, what does
this but unmixed harm? What ingredient does it furnish but of gall?
Its fine wounding may be of petty consequence in any given case, and
its tiny darts easily extracted; but, when habitually carried into
the whole texture of life, it destroys more peace than plague and
famine and the sword. It is a deeper anguish than grief; it is a
sharper pang than the afflicted moan with; it is a heavier pressure
from human hands than when affliction lays her hand upon you. All
this deduction from human comfort, all this addition to human
suffering, may be saved, by heeding the admonition of wisdom given
by one of her sons. When provoked by the follies or the passions,
the offences or neglects, the angry words or evil-speaking of
others, restrain your propensity to complain or contend; leave off
contention before you take the first step towards it. You will then
be greater than he that taketh a city. You will be a genial
companion in your family and among your neighbours. You will be
loved at home and blessed abroad. You will be a source of comfort to
others, and carry a consciousness of praiseworthiness in your own
bosom. On the contrary, an acrid disposition, a readiness to enter
into contention, is like vinegar to the teeth, like caustic to an
open sore. It eats out all the beauty, tenderness, and affection of
domestic and social life. For all this the remedy is simple. Put a
restraint upon your feelings; give up a little; take less than
belongs to you; endure more than should be put upon you; make
allowance for another's judgment or educational defects; consider
circumstances and constitution; leave off contention before it be
meddled with. If you do otherwise, quick resentment and stiff
maintenance of your position will breed endless disputes and
bitterness. But happy will be the results of the opposite course,
accomplished every day and every hour in the family, with friends,
with companions, with all with whom you have any dealings or any
commerce in life.
Let any one set himself to the cultivation of this virtue of
meekness and self-restraint, and he will find that it cannot be
secured by one or a few efforts, however resolute; by a few
struggles, however severe. It requires industrious culture; it
requires that he improve every little occasion to quench strife and
fan concord, till a constant sweetness smooths the face of domestic
life, and kindness and tenderness become the very expression of the
countenance. This virtue of self-control must grow by degrees. It
must grow by a succession of abstinences from returning evil for
evil, by a succession of leaving off contention before the first
angry word escapes.
It may help to cultivate this virtue, to practise some forethought.
When tempted to irritable, censorious speech, one might with
advantage call to recollection the times, perhaps frequent, when
words uttered in haste have caused sorrow or repentance. Then,
again, the fact might be called to mind, that when we lose a friend,
every harsh word we may have spoken rises to condemn us. There is a
resurrection, not for the dead only, but for the injuries we have
fixed in their hearts--in hearts, it may be, bound to our own, and
to which we owed gentleness instead of harshness. The shafts of
reproach, which come from the graves of those who have been wounded
by our fretfulness and irritability, are often hard to bear. Let
meek forbearance and self-control prevent such suffering, and guard
us against the condemnations of the tribunal within.
There is another tribunal, also, which it were wise to think of. The
rule of that tribunal is, that if we forgive not those who trespass
against us, we ourselves shall not be forgiven. "He shall have
judgment without mercy that hath showed no mercy." Only, then, if we
do not need, and expect never to beg the mercy of the Lord to
ourselves, may we withhold our mercy from our fellow-men.
"ALL THE DAY IDLE."
WHEREFORE idle?--when the harvest beckoning,
Nods its ripe tassels to the brightening sky?
Arise and labour ere the time of reckoning,
Ere the long shadows and the night draw night.
Wherefore idle?--Swing the sickle stoutly!
Bind thy rich sheaves exultingly and fast!
Nothing dismayed, do thy great task devoutly--
Patient and strong, and hopeful to the last!
Wherefore idle?--Labour, not inaction,
Is the soul's birthright, and its truest rest;
Up to thy work!--It is Nature's fit exaction--
He who toils humblest, bravest, toils the best.
Wherefore idle?--God himself is working;
His great thought wearieth not, nor standeth still,
In every throb of his vast heart is lurking
Some mighty purpose of his mightier will.
Wherefore idle?--Not a leaf's slight rustle
But chides thee in thy vain, inglorious rest;
Be a strong actor in the great world,--bustle,--
Not a, weak minion or a pampered guest!
Wherefore idle?--Oh I _my_ faint soul, wherefore?
Shake first from thine own powers dull sloth's control;
Then lift thy voice with an exulting "Therefore
Thou, too, shalt conquer, oh, thou striving soul!"
THE BUSHEL OF CORN.
FARMER GRAY had a neighbour who was not the best-tempered man in the
world though mainly kind and obliging. He was shoemaker. His name
was Barton. One day, in harvest-time, when every man on the farm was
as busy as a bee, this man came over to Farmer Gray's, and said, in
rather a petulant tone of voice,
"Mr. Gray, I wish you would send over, and drive your geese home."
"Why so, Mr. Barton; what have my geese been doing?" said the
farmer, in a mild, quiet-tone.
"They pick my pigs' ears when they are eating, and go into my
garden, and I will not have it!" the neighbour replied, in a still
more petulant voice.
"I am really sorry it, Neighbour Barton, but what can I do?"
"Why, yoke them, and thus keep them on your own premises. It's no
kind of a way to let your geese run all over every farm and garden
in the neighborhood."
"But I cannot see to it, now. It is harvest-time, Friend Barton, and
every man, woman, and child on the farm has as much as he or she can
do. Try and bear it for a week or so, and then I will see if I can
possibly remedy the evil."
"I can't bear it, and I won't bear it any longer!" said the
shoemaker. "So if you do not take care of them, Friend Gray, I shall
have to take care of them for you."
"Well, Neighbour Barton, you can do as you please," Farmer Gray
replied, in his usual quiet tone. "I am sorry that they trouble you,
but I cannot attend to them now."
"I'll attend to them for you, see if I don't," said the shoemaker,
still more angrily than when he first called upon Farmer Gray; and
then turned upon his heel, and strode off hastily towards his own
house, which was quite near to the old farmer's.
"What upon earth can be the matter with them geese?" said Mrs. Gray,
about fifteen minutes afterwards.
"I really cannot tell, unless Neighbour Barton is taking care of
them. He threatened to do so, if I didn't yoke them right off."
"Taking care of them! How taking care of them?"
"As to that, I am quite in the dark. Killing them, perhaps. He said
they picked at his pigs' ears, and drove them away when they were
eating, and that he wouldn't have it. He wanted me to yoke them
right off, but that I could not do, now, as all the hands are busy.
So, I suppose, he is engaged in the neighbourly business of taking
care of our geese."
"John! William! run over and see what Mr. Barton is doing with my
geese," said Mrs. Gray, in a quick and anxious tone, to two little
boys who were playing near.
The urchins scampered off, well pleased to perform any errand.
"Oh, if he has dared to do anything to my geese, I will never
forgive him!" the good wife said, angrily.
"H-u-s-h, Sally! make no rash speeches. It is more than probable
that he has killed some two or three of them. But never mind, if he
has. He will get over this pet, and be sorry for it."
"Yes; but what good will his being sorry do me? Will it bring my
geese to life?"
"Ah, well, Sally, never mind. Let us wait until we learn what all
this disturbance is about."
In about ten minutes the children came home, bearing the bodies of
three geese, each without a head.
"Oh, is not that too much for human endurance?" cried Mrs. Gray.
"Where did you find them?"
"We found them lying out in the road," said the oldest of the two
children, "and when we picked them up, Mr. Barton said, 'Tell your
father that I have yoked his geese for him, to save him the trouble,
as his hands are all too busy to do it.'"
"I'd sue him for it!" said Mrs. Gray, in an indignant tone.
"And what good would that do, Sally?"
"Why, it would do a great deal of good. It would teach him better
manners. It would punish him; and he deserves punishment."
"And punish us into the bargain. We have lost three geese, now, but
we still have their good fat bodies to eat. A lawsuit would cost us
many geese, and not leave us even so much as the feathers, besides
giving us a world of trouble and vexation. No, no, Sally; just let
it rest, and he will be sorry for it, I know."
"Sorry for it, indeed! And what good will his being sorry for it do
us, I should like to know? Next he will kill a cow, and then we must
be satisfied with his being sorry for it! Now, I can tell you, that
I don't believe in that doctrine. Nor do I believe anything about
his being sorry--the crabbed, ill-natured wretch!"
"Don't call hard names, Sally," said Farmer Gray, in a mild,
soothing tone. "Neighbour Barton was not himself when he killed the
geese. Like every other angry person, he was a little insane, and
did what he would not have done had he been perfectly in his right
mind. When you are a little excited, you know, Sally, that even you
do and say unreasonable things."
"Me do and say unreasonable things!" exclaimed Mrs. Gray, with a
look and tone of indignant astonishment; "me do and say unreasonable
things, when I am angry! I don't understand you, Mr. Gray."
"May-be I can help you a little. Don't you remember how angry you
were when Mr. Mellon's old brindle got into our garden, and trampled
over your lettuce-bed, and how you struck her with the oven-pole,
and knocked off one of her horns?"
"But I didn't mean to do that, though."
"No; but then you were angry, and struck old Brindle with a right
good will. And if Mr. Mellon had felt disposed, he might have
prosecuted for damages."
"But she had no business there."
"Of course not. Neither had our geese any business in Neighbour
Barton's yard. But, perhaps, I can help you to another instance,
that will be more conclusive, in regard to your doing and saying
unreasonable things, when you are angry. You remember the patent
"Yes; but never mind about that."
"So you have not forgotten how unreasonable you was about the churn.
It wasn't good for anything--you knew it wasn't; and you'd never put
a jar of cream into it as long as you lived--that you wouldn't. And
yet, on trial, you found that churn the best you had ever used, and
you wouldn't part with it on any consideration. So you see, Sally,
thai even you can say and do unreasonable things, when you are
angry, just as well as Mr. Barton can. Let us then consider him a
little, and give him time to get over his angry fit. It will be much
better to do so."
Mrs. Gray saw that her husband was right, but still she felt
indignant at the outrage committed on her geese. She did not,
however, say anything about suing the shoemaker--for old Brindle's
head, from which the horn had been knocked off, was not yet entirely
well, and one prosecution very naturally suggested the idea of
another. So she took her three fat geese, and after stripping off
their feathers, had them prepared for the table.
On the next morning, as Farmer Gray was going along the road, he met
the shoemaker, and as they had to pass very near to each other, the
farmer smiled, and bowed, and spoke kindly. Mr. Barton looked and
felt very uneasy, but Farmer Gray did not seem to remember the
unpleasant incident of the day before.
It was about eleven o'clock of the same day that one of Farmer
Gray's little boys came running to him, and crying,
"Oh, father! father! Mr. Barton's hogs are in our cornfield."
"Then I must go and drive them out," said Mr. Gray, in a quiet tone.
"Drive them out!" ejaculated Mrs. Gray; "drive 'em out, indeed! I'd
shoot them, that's what I'd do! I'd serve them as he served my geese
"But that wouldn't bring the geese to life again, Sally."
"I don't care if it wouldn't. It would be paying him in his own
coin, and that's all he deserves."
"You know what the Bible says, Sally, about grievous words, and they
apply with stronger force to grievous actions. No, no, I will return
Neighbour Barton good for evil. That is the best way. He has done
wrong, and I am sure is sorry for it. And as I wish him still to
remain sorry for so unkind and unneighbourly an action, I intend
making use of the best means for keeping him sorry."
"Then you will be revenged on him, anyhow."
"No, Sally--not revenged. I hope I have no such feeling. For I am
not angry with Neighbour Barton, who has done himself a much greater
wrong than he has done me. But I wish him to see clearly how wrong
he acted, that he may do so no more. And then we shall not have any
cause to complain of him, nor he any to be grieved, as I am sure he
is, at his own hasty conduct. But while I am talking here, his hogs
are destroying my corn."
And so saying, Farmer Gray hurried off, towards his cornfield. When
he arrived there, he found four large hogs tearing down the stalks,
and pulling off and eating the ripe ears of corn. They had already
destroyed a good deal. But he drove them out very calmly, and put up
the bars through which they had entered, and then commenced
gathering up the half-eaten ears of corn, and throwing them out into
the lane for the hogs, that had been so suddenly disturbed in the
process of obtaining a liberal meal. As he was thus engaged, Mr.
Barton, who had from his own house seen the farmer turn the hogs out
of his cornfield, came hurriedly up, and said,
"I am very sorry, Mr. Gray, indeed I am, that my hogs have done
this! I will most cheerfully pay you for what they have destroyed."
"Oh, never mind, Friend Barton--never mind. Such things will happen,
occasionally. My geese, you know, annoy you very much, sometimes."
"Don't speak of it, Mr. Gray. They didn't annoy me half as much as I
imagined they did. But how much corn do you think my hogs have
destroyed? One bushel, or two bushels? or how much? Let it be
estimated, and I will pay for it most cheerfully."
"Oh, no. Not for the world, Friend Barton. Such things will happen
sometimes. And, besides, some of my men must have left the bars
down, or your hogs could never have got in. So don't think any more
about it. It would be dreadful if one neighbour could not bear a
little with another."
All this cut poor Mr. Barton to the heart. His own ill-natured
language and conduct, at a much smaller trespass on his rights,
presented itself to his mind, and deeply mortified him. After a few
moments' silence, he said,
"The fact is, Mr. Gray, I shall feel better if you will let me pay
for this corn. My hogs should not be fattened at your expense, and I
will not consent to its being done. So I shall insist on paying you
for at least one bushel of corn, for I am sure they have destroyed
that much, if not more."
But Mr. Gray shook his head and smiled pleasantly, as he replied,
"Don't think anything more about it, Neighbour Barton. It is a
matter deserving no consideration. No doubt my cattle have often
trespassed on you and will trespass on you again. Let us then bear
All this cut the shoemaker still deeper, and he felt still less at
ease in mind after he parted from the farmer than he did before. But
on one thing he resolved, and that was, to pay Mr. Gray for the corn
which his hogs had eaten.
"You told him your mind pretty plainly, I hope," said Mrs. Gray, as
her husband came in.
"I certainly did," was the quiet reply.
"And I am glad you had spirit enough to do it! I reckon he will
think twice before he kills any more of my geese!"
"I expect you are right, Sally. I don't think we shall be troubled
"And what did you say to him? And what did he say for himself?"
"Why he wanted very much to pay me for the corn his pigs had eaten,
but I wouldn't hear to it. I told him that it made no difference in
the world; that such accidents would happen sometimes."
"Certainly, I did."
"And that's the way you spoke your mind to him?"
"Precisely. And it had the desired effect. It made him feel ten
times worse than if I had spoken angrily to him. He is exceedingly
pained at what he has done, and says he will never rest until he has
paid for that corn. But I am resolved never to take a cent for it.
It will be the best possible guarantee I can have for his kind and
neighbourly conduct hereafter."
"Well, perhaps you are right," said Mrs. Gray, after a few moments
of thoughtful silence. "I like Mrs. Barton very much--and now I come
to think of it, I should not wish to have any difference between our
"And so do I like Mr. Barton. He has read a good deal, and I find it
very pleasant to sit with him, occasionally, during the long winter
evenings. His only fault is his quick temper--but I am sure it is
much better for us to bear with and soothe that, than to oppose rand
excite it and thus keep both his family and our own in hot water."
"You are certainly right," replied Mrs. Gray; "and I only wish that
I could always think and feel as you do. But I am little quick, as
"And so is Mr. Barton. Now just the same consideration that you
would desire others to have for you, should you exercise towards Mr.
Barton, or any one else whose hasty temper leads him into words or
actions that, in calmer and more thoughtful moments, are subjects of
On the next day, while Mr. Gray stood in his own door, from which he
could see over the two or three acres of ground that the shoemaker
cultivated, he observed two of his cows in his neighbour's
cornfield, browsing away in quite a contented manner. As he was
going to call one of the farm hands to go over and drive them out,
he perceived that Mr. Barton had become aware of the mischief that
was going on, and had already started for the field of corn.
"Now we will see the effect of yesterday's lesson," said the farmer
to himself; and then paused to observe the manner of the shoemaker
towards his cattle in driving them out of the field. In a few
minutes Mr. Barton came up to the cows, but, instead of throwing
stones at them, or striking them with a stick, he merely drove them
out in a quiet way, and put up the bars through which they had
"Admirable!" ejaculated Farmer Gray.
"What is admirable?" asked his wife, who came within hearing
distance at the moment.
"Why the lesson I gave our friend Barton yesterday. It works
"Two of our cows were in his cornfield a few minutes ago, destroying
the corn at a rapid rate."
"Well! what did he do to them?" in a quick, anxious tone.
"He drove them out."
"Did he stone them, or beat them?"
"Oh no. He was gentle as a child towards them."
"You are certainly jesting."
"Not I. Friend Barton has not forgotten that his pigs were in my
cornfield yesterday, and that I turned them out without hurting a
hair of one of them. Now, suppose I had got angry and beaten his
pigs, what do you think the result would have been? Why, it is much
more than probable that one or both of our fine cows would have been
at this moment in the condition of Mr. Mellon's old Brindle."
"I wish you wouldn't say anything more about old Brindle," said Mrs.
Gray, trying to laugh, while her face grew red in spite of her
efforts to keep down her feelings.
"Well, I won't, Sally, if it worries you. But it is such a good
illustration that I can't help using it sometimes."
"I am glad he didn't hurt the cows," said Mrs. Gray, after a pause.
"And so am I, Sally. Glad on more than one account. It shows that he
has made an effort to keep down his hasty, irritable temper--and if
he can do that, it will be a favour conferred on the whole
neighbourhood, for almost every one complains, at times, of this
fault in his character."
"It is certainly the best policy, to keep fair weather with him,"
Mrs. Gray remarked, "for a man of his temper could annoy us a good
"That word policy, Sally, is not a good word," replied her husband.
"It conveys a thoroughly selfish idea. Now, we ought to look for
some higher motives of action than mere policy--motives grounded in
correct and unselfish principles."
"But what other motive but policy could we possibly have for putting
up with Mr. Barton's outrageous conduct?"
"Other, and far higher motives, it seems to me. We should reflect
that Mr. Barton has naturally a hasty temper, and that when excited
he does things for which he is sorry afterwards--and that, in nine
cases out of ten, he is a greater sufferer from those outbreaks than
any one else. In our actions towards him, then, it is a much higher
and better motive for us to be governed by a desire to aid him in
the correction of this evil, than to look merely to the protection
of ourselves from its effects. Do you not think so?"
"Yes. It does seem so."
"When thus moved to action, we are, in a degree, regarding the whole
neighbourhood, for the evil of which we speak affects all. And in
thus suffering ourselves to be governed by such elevated and
unselfish motives, we gain all that we possibly could have gained
under the mere instigation of policy--and a great deal more. But to
bring the matter into a still narrower compass. In all our actions
towards him and every one else, we should be governed by the simple
consideration--is it right? If a spirit of retaliation be not right,
then it cannot be indulged without a mutual injury. Of course, then,
it should never prompt us to action. If cows or hogs get into my
field or garden, and destroy my property, who is to blame most? Of
course, myself. I should have kept my fences in better repair, or my
gate closed. The animals, certainly, are not to blame, for they
follow only the promptings of nature; and their owners should not be
censured, for they know nothing about it. It would then be very
wrong for me to injure both the animals and their owners for my own
neglect, would it not?"
"Yes,--I suppose it would."
"So, at least, it seems to me. Then, of course, I ought not to
injure Neighbour Barton's cows or hogs, even if they do break into
my cornfield or garden, simply because it would be wrong to do so.
This is the principle upon which we should act, and not from any
After this there was no trouble about Farmer Gray's geese or cattle.
Sometimes the geese would get among Mr. Barton's hogs, and annoy
them while eating, but it did not worry him as it did formerly. If
they became too troublesome he would drive them away, but not by
throwing sticks and stones at them as he once did.
Late in the fall the shoemaker brought in his bill for work. It was
a pretty large bill, with sundry credits.
"Pay-day has come at last," said Farmer Gray, good-humouredly, as
the shoemaker presented his account.
"Well, let us see!" and he took the bill to examine it item after
"What is this?" he asked, reading aloud.
"'Cr. By one bushel of corn, fifty cents.'"
"It's some corn I had from you."
"I reckon you must be mistaken. You never got any corn from me."
"Oh, yes I did. I remember it perfectly. It is all right."
"But when did you get it, Friend Barton? I am sure that I haven't
the most distant recollection of it."
"My hogs got it," the shoemaker said, in rather a low and hesitating
"Yes. Don't you remember when my hogs broke into your field, and
destroyed your corn?"
"Oh, dear! is that it? Oh, no, no, Friend Barton! Ii cannot allow
that item in the bill."
"Yes, but you must. It is perfectly just, and I shall never rest
until it is paid."
"I can't, indeed. You couldn't help the hogs getting into my field;
and then you know, Friend Barton (lowering his tone), my geese were
The shoemaker blushed and looked confused; but Farmer Gray slapped
him familiarly on the shoulder, and said, in a lively, cheerful way,
"Don't think any more about it, Friend Barton! And hereafter let us
endeavour to 'do as we would be done by,' and then everything will
go on as smooth as clock-work."
"But you will allow that item in the bill?" the shoemaker urged
"Oh, no, I couldn't do that. I should think it wrong to make you pay
for my own or some of my men's negligence in leaving the bars down."
"But then (hesitatingly), those geese--I killed three. Let it go for
"If you did kill them, we ate them. So that is even. No, no, let the
past be forgotten, and if it makes better neighbours and friends of
us, we never need regret what has happened."
Farmer Gray remained firm, and the bill was settled, omitting the
item of "corn." From that time forth he never had a better neighbour
than the shoemaker. The cows, hogs, and geese of both would
occasionally trespass, but the trespassers were always kindly
removed. The lesson was not lost on either of them--for even Farmer
Gray used to feel, sometimes, a little annoyed when his neighbour's
cattle broke into his field. But in teaching the shoemaker a lesson,
he had taken a little of it himself.
THE clock from the city hall struck one;
The merchant's task was not yet done;
He knew the old year was passing away,
And his accounts must all be settled that day;
He must know for a truth how much he should win,
So fast the money was rolling in.
He took the last cash-book, from the pile,
And he summed it up with a happy smile;
For a just and upright man was he,
Dealing with all most righteously,
And now he was sure how much he should win,
How fast the money was rolling in.
He heard not the soft touch on the door--
He heard not the tread on the carpeted floor--
So still was her coming, he thought him alone,
Till she spake in a sweet and silvery tone:
"Thou knowest not yet how much thou shalt win--
How fast the money is rolling in."
Then from 'neath her white, fair arm, she took
A golden-clasped, and, beautiful book--
"'Tis my account thou hast to pay,
In the coming of the New Year's day--
Read--ere thou knowest how much thou shalt win,
How fast the money is rolling in."
He open'd the clasps with a trembling hand--
Therein was Charity's firm demand:
"To the widow, the orphan, the needy, the poor,
Much owest thou of thy yearly store;
Give, ere thou knowest how much thou shalt win--
While fast the money is rolling in."
The merchant took from his box of gold
A goodly sum for the lady bold;
His heart was richer than e'er before,
As she bore the prize from the chamber door.
Ye who would know how much ye can win,
Give, when the money is rolling in.
CONTENTMENT BETTER THAN WEALTH.
"IT is vain, to urge, Brother Robert. Out into the world I must go.
The impulse is on me. I should die of inaction here."
"You need not be inactive. There is work to do. I shall never be
"And such work! Delving in, and grovelling close to the ground. And
for what? Oh no Robert. My ambition soars beyond your 'quiet cottage
in a sheltered vale.' My appetite craves something more than simple
herbs, and water from the brook. I have set my heart on attaining
wealth; and where there is a will there is always a way."
"Contentment is better than wealth."
"A proverb for drones."
"No, William, it is a proverb for the wise."
"Be it for the wise or simple, as commonly, understood, it is no
proverb for me. As poor plodder along the way of life, it were
impossible for me to know content. So urge no farther, Robert. I am
going out into the world a wealth-seeker, and not until wealth is
gained do I purpose to return."
"What of Ellen, Robert?"
The young man turned quickly towards his brother, visibly disturbed,
and fixed his eyes upon him with an earnest expression.
"I love her as my life," he said, with a strong emphasis on his
"Do you love wealth more than life, William?"
"If you love Ellen as your life, and leave her for the sake of
getting riches, then you must love money more than life."
"Don't talk to me after this fashion. I love her tenderly and truly.
I am going forth as well for her sake as my own. In all the good
fortune that comes as a meed of effort, she will be the sharer."
"You will see her before you leave us?"
"No; I will neither pain her nor myself by a parting interview. Send
her this letter and this ring."
A few hours later, and there brothers stood with tightly-grasped
hands, gazing into each other's faces.
"Farewell, William. Think of the old homestead as still your home.
Though it is mine, in the division of our patrimony, let your heart
come back to it as yours. Think of it as home; and, should Fortune
cheat you with the apples of Sodom, return to it again. Its doors
will ever be open, and its hearth-fire bright for you as of old.
And they turned from each other, one going out into the restless
world, an eager seeker for its wealth and honours; the other to
linger among the pleasant places dear to him by every association of
childhood, there to fill up the measure of his days--not idly, for
he was no drone in the social hive.
On the evening of that day two maidens sat alone, each in the
sanctuary of her own chamber. There was a warm glow on the cheeks of
one, and a glad light in her eyes. Pale was the other's face, and
wet her drooping lashes. And she that sorrowed held an open letter
in her hand. It was full of tender words; but the writer loved
wealth more than the maiden, and had gone forth to seek the mistress
of his soul. He would "come back," but when? Ah, what a veil of
uncertainty was upon the future! Poor, stricken heart! The other
maiden--she of the glowing cheeks and dancing eyes--held also a
letter in her hand. It was from the brother of the wealth-seeker;
and it was also full of loving words; and it said that, on the
morrow, he would come to bear her as his bride to his pleasant home.
Ten years have passed. And what of the wealth-seeker? Has he won the
glittering prize? What of the pale-faced maiden he left in tears?
Has he returned to her? Does she share now his wealth and honour?
Not since the day he went forth from the home of his childhood has a
word of intelligence from the wanderer been received; and to those
he left behind him he is as one who has passed the final bourne. Yet
he still dwells among the living.
In a far-away, sunny clime stands a stately mansion. We will not
linger to describe the elegant interior, to hold up before the
reader's imagination a picture of rural beauty, exquisitely
heightened by art, but enter its spacious hall, and pass up to one
of its most luxurious chambers. How hushed and solemn the pervading
atmosphere! The inmates, few in number, are grouped around one on
whose white forehead Time's trembling finger has written the word
"Death!" Over her bends a manly form. There--his face is towards
you. Ah! you recognise the wanderer--the wealth-seeker. What does he
here? What to him is the dying one? His wife! And has he, then,
forgotten the maiden whose dark lashes lay wet on her pale cheeks
for many hours after she read his parting words? He has not
forgotten, but been false to her. Eagerly sought he the prize, to
contend for which he went forth. Years came and departed; yet still
hope mocked him with ever-attractive and ever-fading illusions.
To-day he stood with his hand just ready to seize the object of his
wishes, to-morrow a shadow mocked him. At last, in an evil hour, he
bowed down his manhood prostrate even to the dust in woman worship,
and took to himself a bride, rich in golden, attractions, but poorer
as a woman than ever the beggar at her father's gate. What a thorn
in his side she proved! A thorn ever sharp and ever piercing. The
closer he attempted to draw her to his bosom, the deeper went the
points into his own, until, in the anguish of his soul, again and
again he flung her passionately from him.
Five years of such a life! Oh, what is there of earthly good to
compensate therefor? But in this last desperate throw did the
worldling gain the wealth, station, and honour he coveted? He had
wedded the only child of a man whose treasure might be counted by
hundreds of thousands; but, in doing so, he had failed to secure the
father's approval or confidence. The stern old man regarded him as a
mercenary interloper, and ever treated him as such. For five years,
therefore, he fretted and chafed in the narrow prison whose gilded
bars his own hands had forged. How often, during that time, had his
heart wandered back to the dear old home, and the beloved ones with
whom he had passed his early years! And, ah! how many, many times
came between him and the almost hated countenance of his wife the
gentle, the loving face of that one to whom he had been false! How
often her soft blue eyes rested on his own How often he started and
looked up suddenly, as if her sweet voice came floating on the air!
And so the years moved on, the chain galling more deeply, and a
bitter sense of humiliation as well as bondage robbing him of all
pleasure in his life.
Thus it is with him when, after ten years, we find him waiting, in
the chamber of death, for the stroke that is to break the fetters
that so long have bound him. It has fallen. He is free again. In
dying, the sufferer made no sign. Suddenly she plunged into the dark
profound, so impenetrable to mortal eyes, and as the turbid waves
closed, sighing over her, he who had called her wife turned from the
couch on which her frail body remained, with an inward "Thank God! I
am a man again!"
One more bitter dreg yet remained for his cup. Not a week had gone
by ere the father of his dead wife spoke to him these cutting
"You were nothing to me while my daughter lived--you are less than
nothing to me now. It was my wealth, not my child you loved. She has
passed away. What affection would have given to her, dislike will
never bestow on you. Henceforth we are strangers."
When the next sun went down on that stately mansion, which the
wealth-seeker had coveted, he was a wanderer again--poor,
humiliated, broken in spirit.
How bitter had been the mockery of all his early hopes! How terrible
the punishment he had suffered!
One more eager, almost fierce struggle with alluring fortune, with
which the worldling came near steeping his soul in crime, and then
fruitless ambition died in his bosom.
"My brother said well," he murmured, as a ray of light fell suddenly
on the darkness of his spirit; "'contentment is better than wealth.'
Dear brother! Dear old home! Sweet Ellen! Ah, why did I leave you?
Too late! too late! A cup, full of the wine of life, was at my lips;
but, I turned my head away, asking for a more fiery and exciting
draught. How vividly comes before me now that parting scene! I am
looking into my brother's face. I feel the tight grasp of his hand.
His voice is in my ears. Dear brother! And his parting words, I hear
them now, even more earnestly than when they were first spoken.
'Should fortune cheat you with the apples of Sodom, return to your
home again. Its doors will ever be open, and its hearth-fires bright
for you as of old.' Ah, do the fires still burn? How many years have
passed since I went forth! And Ellen? Even if she be living and
unchanged in her affections, I can never lay this false heart at her
feet. Her look of love would smite me as with a whip of scorpions."
The step of time has fallen so lightly on the flowery path of those
to whom contentment was a higher boon than wealth, but few footmarks
were visible. Yet there had been changes in the old homestead. As
the smiling years went by, each, as it looked in at the cottage
window, saw the home circle widening, or new beauty crowning the
angel brows of happy children. No thorn to his side had Robert's
gentle wife proved. As time passed on, closer and closer was she
drawn to his bosom; yet never a point had pierced him. Their home
was a type of Paradise.
It is near the close of a summer day. The evening meal is spread,
and they are about gathering round the table, when a stranger
enters. His words are vague and brief, his manner singular, his air
slightly mysterious. Furtive, yet eager glances go from face to
"Are these all your children?" he asks, surprise and admiration
mingling in his tones.
"All ours, and, thank God, the little flock is yet unbroken."
The stranger averts his face. He is disturbed by emotions that it is
impossible to conceal.
"Contentment is better than wealth," he murmurs. "Oh that I had
comprehended the truth."
The words were not meant for others; but the utterance had been too
distinct. They have reached the ears of Robert, who instantly
recognises in the stranger his long-wandering, long-mourned brother.
The stranger is on his feet. A moment or two the brothers stand
gazing at each other, then tenderly embrace.
How the stranger starts and trembles! He had not seen, in the quiet
maiden, moving among and ministering to the children so
unobtrusively, the one he had parted from years before--the one to
whom he had been so false. But her voice has startled his ears with
the familiar tones of yesterday.
"Ellen!" Here is an instant oblivion of all the intervening years.
He has leaped back over the gulf, and stands now as he stood ere
ambition and lust for gold lured him away from the side of his first
and only love. It is well both for him and the faithful maiden that
he cannot so forget the past as to take her in his arms and clasp
her almost wildly to his heart. But for this, conscious shame would
have betrayed his deeply-repented perfidy.
And here we leave them, reader. "Contentment is better than wealth."
So the worldling proved, after a bitter experience, which may you be
spared! It is far better to realize a truth perceptibly, and thence
make it a rule of action, than to prove its verity in a life of
sharp agony. But how few are able to rise into such a realization!
BENDING over a steamer's side, a face looked down into the clear,
green depths of Lake Erie, where the early moonbeams were showering
rainbows through the dancing spray, and chasing the white-crusted
waves with serpents of gold. The face was clouded with thought, a
shade too sombre, yet there glowed over it something like a
reflection from the iris-hues beneath. A voice of using was borne
away into the purple and vermilion haze that twilight began to fold
over the bosom of the lake.
"Rainbows! Ye follow me everywhere! Gloriously your arches arose
from the horizon of the prairies, when the storm-king and the god of
day met within them to proclaim a treaty and an alliance. You
spanned the Father of Waters with a bridge that put to the laugh
man's clumsy structures of chain, and timber, and wire. You floated
in a softening veil before the awful grandeur of Niagara; and here
you gleam out from the light foam in the steamboat's wake.
"Grateful am I for you, oh rainbows! for the clouds, the drops, and
the sunshine of which you are wrought, and for the gift of vision
through which my spirit quaffs the wine of your beauty.
"Grateful also for faith, which hangs an ethereal halo over the
fountains of earthly joy, and wraps grief in robes so resplendent
that, like Iris of the olden time, she is at once recognised as a
messenger from Heaven.
"Blessings on sorrow, whether past or to come! for in the clear
shining of heavenly love, every tear-drop becomes a pearl. The storm
of affliction crushes weak human nature to the dust; the glory of
the eternal light overpowers it; but, in the softened union of both,
the stricken spirit beholds the bow of promise, and knows that it
shall not utterly be destroyed. When we say that for us there is
nothing but darkness and tears, it is because we are weakly brooding
over the shadows within us. If we dared look up, and face our
sorrow, we should see upon it the seal of God's love, and be calm.
"Grant me, Father of Light, whenever my eyes droop heavily with the
rain of grief, at least to see the reflection of thy signet-bow upon
the waves over which I am sailing unto thee. And through the steady
toiling of the voyage, through the smiles and tears of every day's
progress, let the iris-flash appear, even as now it brightens the
spray that rebounds from the labouring wheels."
The voice died away into darkness which returned no answer to its
murmurings. The face vanished from the boat's side, but a flood of
light was pouring into the serene depths of a trusting soul.