Part 3 out of 3
The next day Edward returned home and related his disappointment to his
parents, who thought his desire for the Roman History a mark of great
learning and taste; but since he had distinguished himself so well,
they did not much care what prize he received.
Edward's father lived in the country, not far from the seaside, in a
most delightful and healthful situation.
At this time his mother's brother, whose health was very poor, came to
enjoy the benefit of the sea breezes, and rest a little from the toil
and bustle of active life in London.
Mr. Lewis was a young man of the most pleasing manners and appearance.
He was gentle and serious, but not at all gloomy or severe.
His bad health only served to increase his patience in enduring it
without a murmuring word or discontented look. Edward, who was really a
kind-hearted and affectionate boy, soon became very much attached to his
uncle, who had not seen him since he was an infant, and who was much
pleased at the attentions his nephew delighted to show him.
Young hearts are soon won; and it was only three days after Edward's
return from school, that he went bounding over the grounds in search of
his uncle, whose society he already preferred to his usual amusements.
Mr. Lewis was seated under a fine old oak, the high and knotted roots of
which served as a seat; while the soft moss, in which grew many delicate
little flowers, was like a carpet beneath his feet.
A rich and extensive tract of country lay spread before his eyes; and,
at a distance the mighty ocean, whose deep green waters were seen in
beautiful contrast with the pale yellow cliff, bounded the prospect.
[Illustration: "_Is that a Bible, uncle_?"]
Thin clouds were floating past the sun every now and then, and threw all
the varieties of light and shade upon the lovely scene below.
Mr. Lewis had a book in his hand, into which he frequently looked, and
then raised his eyes again to gaze upon the beauties of nature that
So intent he seemed that Edward doubted whether he ought to disturb him,
until his uncle, seeing him at some little distance, kindly beckoned him
to come near.
"Is not this a pretty place, uncle?" asked Edward, as he seated himself
beside him; "and do you not find the breeze from the water very
"It is beautiful indeed, my dear boy; and I am refreshed and instructed
as I look around me."
[Illustration: _The Holy Bible_]
"Is that a Bible, uncle?"
"Yes. I always find it the best commentary upon His works;--they explain
"I love the Bible too, uncle," said Edward, "and got much credit for my
answering on Scripture questions last half-year."
"And which did you enjoy most, Edward, the Scriptures, or the credit you
got for studying them?"
Edward looked a little embarrassed and did not immediately reply.
"It is quite right to take pleasure in the well-earned approbation of
your teachers," continued Mr. Lewis, "and I was glad to hear that you
were given a premium at the last examination also."
"Yes, uncle, but not the prize I wanted most. There was a Roman History
that I should have liked better, and it was exactly of equal value with
the Bible that I got."
"Of equal value, Edward?"
"I mean that it was not reckoned a higher prize, and it would have been
a nicer book for me."
"Then you had a Bible already?"
"Why, no, uncle, not of my own, but it is easy to borrow one on the
Sabbath; and I had gone through all my Scripture proofs, and do not want
it on other days."
"Read these four verses for me," said Mr. Lewis, pointing to the sixth
chapter of Deuteronomy "commencing with the sixth verse."
Edward read: "And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in
thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and
shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou
walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be
as frontlets between thine eyes, and thou shalt write them upon the
posts of thy house, and on thy gates."
"To whom did the Lord give this command, Edward?"
"To the Jews, uncle."
"Yes; and the word of God, which cannot pass away, is as much binding on
us as on them, in everything excepting the sacrifices and ceremonies,
which foreshowed the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and which were
done away. For by His death He fulfilled all those types and shadows."
"Then," said Edward, "we are commanded to write the Bible on our hands
and on our doorposts."
"No, my dear boy, not literally, but in a figure of speech; as the Lord,
when declaring he never will forget Zion, says, 'I have graven thee upon
the palms of My hands; thy walls are continually before Me.'
"The meaning of the passage you first read is, that we must have the
word of God as continually present in our minds as anything written on
our hands, and on every object around us, would be to our bodily sight.
And how are we to get our thoughts so occupied by it, Edward?"
"By continually reading it I suppose," replied Edward, rather sullenly.
"By reading it often, and meditating on it much," said his uncle; "and
that we can do without interfering with our other business. Without
prayer, you cannot obtain any spiritual blessing, nor maintain any
communion with God; and without reading the Scriptures you will have but
little desire to pray.
"We are like people wandering in the dark, while the Bible is as a
bright lamp held out to direct us in the only safe path. You cannot be
a child of God if you do not His will; you cannot do it unless you know
it, and it is by the Bible that He is pleased to have that knowledge
known. Do you begin to see, Edward, that the Bible is more suitable as
an every-day book than your profane history?"
"Why, yes, uncle; but the Bible is a serious book, and if I read it so
constantly, I never should be merry."
"There is no merriment among the lost, Edward; and that dreadful lot
will be your portion if you neglect the great salvation which the
Scriptures set forth. Besides, there is no foundation for what you
suppose to be the effect of reading the Bible. I have known people
naturally melancholy and discontented, become cheerful and happy by
studying it; but I never in my life saw an instance of persons becoming
unhappy because they had a hope of going to heaven."
"I remember, uncle, that it is written concerning wisdom, that 'her ways
are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.'"
"Most true, my dear boy, 'quietness and assurance forever' is the
portion of God's people.
"'Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say, rejoice.'
"'The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs,
and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and
gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.'
"Are such expressions as these likely to make us gloomy, Edward?"
"O no, uncle; and I often wonder that you, who suffer so much pain, and
read the Bible constantly, are not melancholy."
"How can I be melancholy, Edward, when the Bible tells me that all these
things are working together for my spiritual good? that He who spared
not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, will with Him also
freely give us all things?
"When I think of what my sins deserve, and see the Lamb of God bearing
the chastisement that should fall upon me, how can I be melancholy!
"When I feel that the Spirit of God is bringing these things to my
remembrance, and enabling me to love the Lord Jesus, who has done so
much for me, must I not rejoice?
"I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; and
since God has promised forgiveness to all who seek that blessing through
His Son; and since I feel assured that I have sought that blessing, and
feel peace and joy in believing, surely the song of praise, not the moan
of lamentation, becomes me.
"Yet I do lament, Edward, daily lament my many offenses against God; but
I am assured that Christ's blood cleanseth from all sin, and that in Him
I have a powerful and all-prevailing Advocate with the Father. I know in
whom I have believed, and that He will never cast off nor forsake me.
"I am sinking into the grave, my dear boy, but I do not shrink from that
prospect, because the bitterness of death is taken away by my Saviour,
who died for my sins, and rose again for my justification; and though
this body returns to dust, I shall live again, and enter into the
presence of my Redeemer, and rejoice there evermore."
Edward looked at the animated countenance of his uncle, and then cast
down his eyes; they were full of tears. At last he said:--
"Indeed, uncle, I am a very sinful boy, neglecting the Bible, because I
know it would show me my sin, and the consequences of it.
"But I will trifle no more with God's displeasure. I will get that
precious Bible, worth a thousand Roman histories, and I will read it
daily, with prayer, that I may be wise unto salvation."
Mr. Lewis did not live long after this. He died, rejoicing in hope of
life eternal; and as often as Edward was allowed to return home from
school, he was to be seen under the oak tree, with the Bible in his
hand, from which he learned more and more the will of his God and
Saviour, the utter sinfulness of his own nature, and his inability to
help himself. From this holy word he learned to place all his dependence
upon the merits of his Saviour, to follow the example of his Saviour, in
prayer, in resignation, and in doing good to the poor.
He often thought of his dear uncle, and counted that day happy when he
sat to listen to his kind advice, which brought him to a knowledge of
himself and of his heavenly Father.
* * * * *
LESSONS FROM THE 119th PSALM
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
"Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies."
"I have more understanding than all my teachers: for Thy testimonies are
"I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts."
[Illustration: "_I study two hours before breakfast_."]
WHERE THE GOLD IS
Tom Jones was a little fellow, and not so quick to learn as some boys;
but nobody in the class could beat him in his lessons. He rarely missed
in geography, never in spelling, and his arithmetic was always correctly
done; as for his reading, no boy improved like him. The boys were fairly
angry sometimes, he outdid them so.
"Why, Tom, where do you learn your lessons? You don't study in school
more than the other boys."
"I rise early in the morning and study two hours before breakfast,"
Ah, that is it! "The morning hour has gold in its mouth."
* * * * *
There is a little garden near us, which is the prettiest and most
plentiful little spot in all the neighborhood. The earliest radishes,
peas, strawberries, and tomatoes, grow there. It supplies the family
with vegetables, besides some for the market.
If anybody wants flowers, that garden is the place to go for the
sweetest roses, pinks and "all sorts," without number. The soil, we used
to think, was poor and rocky, besides being exposed to the north wind.
The owner is a busy man, yet he never hires.
"How do you make so much out of your little garden?"
"I give my mornings to it," answered the owner, "and I don't know which
is the most benefited by my work, my garden or myself."
Ah, "the morning hour has gold in its month."
* * * * *
William Down was one of our young converts. He united with the church,
and appeared well; but I pitied the poor fellow when I thought of his
going back to the shipyard to work among a gang of godless associates.
Will he maintain his stand? I thought. It is so easy to slip back in
religion--easier to go back two steps than advance one. Ah, well, we
said, we must trust William to his conscience and his Saviour. Two years
passed, and instead of William's losing ground, his piety grew brighter
and stronger. Others fell away, but not he, and no boy perhaps was
placed in more unfavorable circumstances. Talking with William one
evening, I discovered one secret of his steadfastness.
"I never, sir, on any account let a single morning pass without secret
prayer and the reading of God's word. If I have a good deal to do, I
rise an hour earlier. I think over my weak points and try to get God's
grace to fortify me just there."
Mark this. Prayer is armor for the battle of life. If you give up your
morning petitions, you will suffer for it; temptation is before you, and
you are not fit to meet it; there is a guilty feeling in the soul, and
you keep at a distance from Christ.
Be sure the hour of prayer broken in upon by sleepiness can never be
made up. Make it a principle, young Christian, to begin the day by
watching unto prayer. "The morning hour has gold in its mouth;" aye, and
something better than gold--heavenly gain.
[Illustration: _The Early Morning Reading_]
[Illustration: "_Why don't you take that fellow in hand_."]
TAKING HIM IN HAND
Two boys met in the street and the following conversation ensued:--
"Isaac," said George, "why don't you take that fellow in hand? he has
insulted you almost every day for a week."
"I mean to take him in hand," said Isaac.
"I would make him stop, if I had to take his ears off."
"I mean to make him stop."
"Go and flog him now. I should like to see you do it. You can do it
easily enough with one hand."
"I rather think I could; but I'll not try it to-day."
At this point in the conversation the school-boys parted, as they were
on their way home, and their roads led them in different directions.
The boy alluded to was the son of an intemperate man, who was angry with
Isaac's father, in consequence of some effort to prevent his obtaining
The drunkard's son took up the cause of his father, and called Isaac
hard names every time he saw him pass; and as he did not do anything by
way of retaliation, he went farther and threw stones at him.
Isaac was at first provoked at the boy's conduct. He thought he ought to
be thankful that his father was prevented, in some degree, from
procuring rum, the source of so much misery to himself and family.
But when he thought of the way in which he had been brought up, and of
the poor lad's ignorance and wretchedness, he pitied him and ceased to
wonder, or to be offended at his conduct.
But Isaac resolved, indeed, to "take him in hand," and to "stop him,"
but not in the sense in which his schoolfellow understood those terms.
The boy's name was James, but he was never called anything but Jim.
Indeed, if you were to call him by his true name, he would think you
meant somebody else.
The first opportunity Isaac had of "taking him in hand" was on election
day. On that day as Isaac was on his way home, he saw a group of boys a
little off the road, and heard some shouting and laughing.
Curiosity led him to the spot. He found that the boys were gathered
around Jim, and another boy, a good deal larger than he was. This boy
was making fun of Jim's clothes, which were indeed very ragged and
dirty, and telling how he must act to become as distinguished a man as
Jim was very angry, but when he attempted to strike his persecutor, he
would take hold of Jim's hands, and he was so much stronger that he
could easily hold them.
Jim then tried kicking, but as he was barefoot, he could not do much
execution in that line; besides, while he was using one foot in this
way, his tormentor would tread upon the other with his heavy boot.
[Illustration: "_Isaac remonstrated with the boys_."]
When Isaac came up and saw what was going on, he remonstrated with the
boys for countenancing such proceedings; and such was his influence, and
the force of truth, that most of them agreed that it was "too bad;"
though he was such an "ugly boy," they said, "that he was hardly worth
The principal actor, however, did not like Isaac's interference; but he
soon saw that Isaac was not afraid of him, and that he was too popular
with the boys to be made the object of abuse. As he turned to go away,
Isaac said to Jim:--
"I'll keep my eyes upon you, and when you go home, I'll go with you. It
is on my way; they shan't hurt you; so don't cry any more. Come Jim, go
home with me; I'm going now," continued Isaac.
Jim did not look up or make any answer. He did not know what to make of
Isaac's behavior toward him. It could not be because he was afraid of
him, and wished to gain his good will, for Isaac was not afraid of one
much stronger than he. He had never heard of the command, "Love your
enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you," for
he had never been to Sabbath school, and could not read the Bible.
He followed silently and sullenly, pretty near to Isaac, till he had
reached home, if that sacred name can with propriety be applied to such
a wretched abode of sin and misery.
He parted from Isaac without thanking him for his good offices in his
behalf. This Isaac did not wonder at, considering the influences under
which the poor lad had grown up. That he parted with him without abusing
him, Isaac considered as something gained.
The next morning George and Isaac met on their way to school. As they
passed the drunkard's dwelling, Jim was at the door, but he did not look
up or say anything as they passed. He looked very much as though he had
been whipped. George did not know what had taken place the day before.
"What keeps Jim so still?" said he.
"Oh, I've had him in hand."
[Illustration: "_Jim was at the door, but he did not look up or say
"Have you! I'm glad of it. When was it?"
"Anybody see you do it?"
"Yes; some of the boys."
"Found it easy enough, didn't you?"
"Did you give him enough to stop him?"
"I guess so; he is pretty still this morning, you see."
Upon the strength of this conversation, George circulated a report that
Isaac had flogged Jim. This created a good deal of surprise, as it was
not in keeping with Isaac's character. The report at length reached the
ears of the teacher.
He inquired about the matter, of Isaac, and learned that George had been
deceived, or rather had deceived himself. He warmly commended Isaac for
his new mode of taking his enemies "in hand," and advised him to
continue to practice it. A few days afterward, as Isaac was on his way
to school, he met Jim driving some cattle to a distant field. The cattle
were very unruly, and Jim made little headway with them. First one would
run back, and then another, till he began to despair of being able to
drive them to pasture.
[Illustration: "_The cattle were very unruly_."]
He burst out crying, and said, "Oh dear, I can't make them go, and
father will kill me if I don't."
Isaac pitied his distress, and volunteered to assist him. It cost him a
good deal of running, and kept him from school nearly all the morning.
But when the cattle were safe in the pasture, Jim said, "I shan't stone
you any more."
When Isaac reached the schoolhouse he showed signs of the violent
exercise he had been taking.
"What has Isaac been about?" was the whispered question which went
round. When put to him he replied, "I have been chasing cattle to
pasture." He was understood to mean his father's cattle.
After school, he waited till all the pupils had left the schoolroom,
before he went up to the teacher to give his excuse for being late at
"What made you so late?" asked the teacher.
"I was taking Jim in hand again, sir;" and he gave him an account of his
proceeding, adding at the close, "I thought you would excuse me, sir."
"Very well, you are excused."
Reader, if you have enemies who annoy you, _take them in hand_ in the
same way that Isaac did, and you will be certain, if you persevere to
[Illustration: _Learning the Printer's Trade_]
The boys of our time are too much afraid of work. They act as if the
honest sweat of the brow was something to be ashamed of. Would that they
were all equally afraid of a staggering gait and bloated face! This
spirit of laziness builds the gambling houses, fills the jails, supplies
the saloons and gaming places with loiterers, and keeps the alms houses
and charitable institutions doing a brisk business.
It doesn't build mammoth stores and factories, nor buildings like the
Astor Library and Cooper Institute. The men who built such monuments of
their industry and benevolence were not afraid of work.
All the boys have heard of the great publishing house of the Harpers.
They know of their finely illustrated papers and books of all kinds, and
perhaps have seen their great publishing house in New York City. But if
I should ask the boys how the eldest of the brothers came to found such
an illustrious house, I should perhaps be told that he was a
"wonderfully lucky man."
He was lucky, and an old friend and fellow-workman, a leading editor,
has revealed the secret of his luck. He and the elder Harper learned
their trade together, many years ago, in John Street, New York. They
began life with no fortune but willing hands and active brains;--fortune
enough for any young man in this free country.
[Illustration: "_Let's break the back of another token_."]
"Sometimes after we had done a good day's work, James Harper would say,
'Thurlow, let's break the back of another _token_ (a quarter of a ream
of paper),--just break its back.' I would generally reluctantly consent
just to _break the back_ of the _token_; but James would beguile me, or
laugh at my complaints, and never let me off until the _token_ was
_completed_, fair and square!
"It was our custom in summer to do a fair half-day's work before the
other boys and men got their breakfast. We would meet by appointment in
the gray of the morning, and go down to John Street. We got the key of
the office by tapping on the window, and Mr. Seymour would take it from
under his pillow, and hand it to one of us through the blind.
"It kept us out of mischief, and put money into our pockets."
The key handed through the window tells the secret of the _luck_ that
enabled these two men to rise to eminence, while so many boys that lay
soundly sleeping in those busy morning hours are unknown.
No wonder that James Harper became mayor of the city, and head of one of
the largest publishing houses in the world. When his great printing
house burned down, the giant perseverance which he had learned in those
hours of _overwork_, made him able to raise, from the ashes, a larger
and finer one.
Instead of watching till his employer's back was turned, and saying,
"Come, boys, let's go home; we've done enough for one day," and
sauntering off with a cigar in his mouth, his cry was, "Let's do a
That _overwork_ which frightens boys nowadays out of good places, and
sends them out West, on shipboard, anywhere, eating husks, in search of
a spot where money can be had without work, laid the foundation of the
apprentice boy's future greatness.
Such busy boys were only too glad to go to bed and sleep soundly. They
had no time nor spare strength for dissipation, and idle thoughts, and
Almost the last words that James Harper uttered were appropriate to the
end of such a life, and ought to be engraven upon the mind of every boy
who expects to make anything of himself: "_It is not best to be studying
how little we can work, but how much_."
[Illustration: It is not best to study how little we can work, but how
Boys, make up your minds to one thing,--the future great men of this
country are doing just what those boys did. If you are dodging work,
angry at your employer or teacher for trying to make you faithful; if
you are getting up late, cross, and sleepy, after a night of
pleasure-seeking, longing for the time when you can exchange honest work
for speculation, you will be a victim to your own folly.
The plainly-dressed boys whom you meet carrying packages, going of
errands, working at trades, following the plow, are laying up stores of
what you call _good luck_. Overwork has no terrors for them. They are
preparing to take the places of the great leaders of our country's
affairs. They have learned James Harper's _secret_. The key handed out
to him in the "gray of the morning"--_that_ tells the story!
"The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night."
[Illustration: _Bring Your Wood Saws and Axes_]
THE BEST FUN
"Now, boys, I'll tell you how we can have some fun," said Fred Blake to
his companions, who had assembled on a beautiful, moonlight evening for
sliding, snowballing, and fun generally.
"How?" "Where?" "What is it?" asked several eager voices together.
"I heard Widow More tell a man a little while ago," replied Fred, "that
she would go to sit up with a sick child to-night. She said she would be
there about eight o'clock. Now, as soon as she is gone, let's make a big
snow man on her doorstep so that when she comes home, she cannot get in
without first knocking him down."
"Capital!" shouted several of the boys.
"See here," said Charlie Neal, "I'll tell you the best fun."
"What is it?" again inquired several at once.
"Wait awhile," said Charlie. "Who has a wood-saw?"
"I have," "So have I," answered three of the boys. "But what in the
world do you want a wood saw for?"
[Illustration: "_We can saw and split this pile of wood_."]
"You shall see," replied Charlie. "It is almost eight o'clock now, so go
and get your saws. You, Fred and Nathan, get each an axe, and I will get
a shovel. Let us all be back here in fifteen minutes, and then I'll show
you the fun."
The boys separated to go on their several errands, each wondering what
the fun could be, and what possible use could be made of wood saws and
axes, in their play. But Charlie was not only a great favorite with them
all, but also an acknowledged leader, and they fully believed in him and
Anxious to know what the "fun" was which Charlie had for them, they made
haste, and were soon on hand, with their saws, axes, and shovels.
"Now," said Charlie, "Mrs. More is gone, for I met her when I was coming
back; so let's be off at once."
"But what are you going to do?" inquired several impatient members of
"You shall see directly," replied the leader, as they approached the
humble home of Mrs. More.
"Now, boys," said Charlie, "you see that pile of wood; a man hauled it
here this afternoon, and I heard Mrs. More tell him that unless she got
some one to saw it to-night, she would have nothing to make a fire with
in the morning. Now, we can saw and split that pile of wood just about
as easy as we could build a great snow man, and when Mrs. More comes
home from her watching, she will be fully as much surprised to find her
wood sawed, as she would to find a snow man at her doorstep, and a great
deal more pleasantly, too. What say you--will you do it?"
One or two of the boys demurred at first, but the majority were in favor
of Charley's project; so all finally joined in, and went to work with a
"I'll go round to the back of the shed," said Charley, "and crawl
through the window and unfasten the door. Then we'll take turns in
sawing, splitting, and carrying in the wood; and I want to pile it up
nicely, and to shovel all the snow away from the door; and make a good
wide path, too, from the door to the street: What fun it will be when
she comes home and sees it?"
[Illustration: _Carrying in the Wood_]
The boys began to appreciate the fun, for they felt that they were doing
a good deed, and experienced the satisfaction which always results from
It was not a long, wearisome job, for seven robust and healthy boys to
saw, split, and pile up the poor widow's half-cord of wood, and to
shovel a good path.
When it was done, so great was their pleasure, that one of the boys, who
objected to the work at first, proposed that they should go to a
neighboring carpenter's shop, where plenty of shavings could be had for
the carrying away, and each bring an armful of kindling wood. This they
did, and afterward hurried home, all of them more than satisfied with
the "fun" of the winter evening.
The next morning, when Mrs. More came home, weary from watching by the
sick bed, and saw what was done, she was very much surprised. When she
was told who had done it, by a neighbor, who had witnessed the kindly
deed, her fervent prayer, "God bless the boys!" was, of itself, an
abundant reward for their labors.
Boys and girls, the best fun is always found in doing something that is
kind and useful. If you doubt it in the least, just try it for
yourselves, and you will be convinced.
[Illustration: "_I'll help you across, if you wish to go_."]
The woman was old, and ragged and gray,
And bent with the chill of a winter's day;
The street was wet with recent snow,
And the woman's feet were aged and slow,
She stood at the crossing, and waited long,
Alone, uncared for amid the throng
Of human beings who passed her by,
Nor heeded the glance of her anxious eye.
Down the street with laugh and shout,
Glad in the freedom of "school is out,"
Came the boys like a flock of sheep,
Hailing the snow piled white and deep.
Past the woman so old and gray
Hastened the children on their way,
Nor offered a helping hand to her,
So meek, so timid, afraid to stir
Lest the carriage wheels or the horses' feet
Should crowd her down in the slippery street.
At last came out of the merry troop
The gayest laddie of all the group;
He paused beside her, and whispered low,
"I'll help you across, if you wish to go."
Her aged hand on his strong young arm
She placed, and so, without hurt or harm,
He guided the trembling feet along,
Proud that his own were firm and strong.
Then back again to his friends he went,
His young heart happy and well content.
"She's somebody's mother, boys, you know,
For all that she's aged and poor and slow;
"And I hope some fellow will lend a hand
To help _my_ mother, you understand,
"If ever she's poor and old and gray,
When her own dear boy is far away."
And "somebody's mother" bowed low her head
In her home that night, and the prayer she said
Was, "God be kind to the noble boy,
Who is somebody's son and pride and joy!"
[Illustration: _The Grist Mill_]
WAITING FOR THE GRIST
It is impossible to measure the influence which may be exerted by a
single act, a word, or even a look. It was the simple act of an entire
stranger that changed the course of my whole life.
When I was a boy, my father moved to the Far West--Ohio. It was before
the days of steam, and no great mills thundered on her river banks, but
occasionally there was a little gristmill by the side of some small
To these little mills, the surrounding neighborhood flocked with their
sacks of corn. Sometimes we had to wait two or three days for our turn.
I was generally the one sent from our house, for, while I was too small
to be of much account on the farm, I was as good as a man to carry a
grist to mill. So I was not at all surprised one morning when my father
said, "Henry, you must take the horse and go to mill to-day."
But I found so many of the neighboring farmers there ahead of me, that I
knew there was no hope of getting home that day; but I was not at all
sorry, for my basket was well filled with provisions, and Mr. Saunders
always opened his big barn for us to sleep in.
That day there was an addition to the number who had been in the habit
of gathering, from time to time, in the old Saunders barn,--a young
fellow about my own age. His name was Charley Allen, and his father had
bought a farm over on the Brush Creek road. He was sociable and
friendly, but somehow I felt that he had "more manners" than the rest of
The evening was spent, as usual, in relating coarse jokes and playing
cards. Although I was not accustomed to such things at home, I had
become so used to it at the mill, that it had long since ceased to shock
me, and, indeed, I was getting to enjoy watching the games of the
When bedtime came, we were all so busy with our own affairs that we did
not notice Charley Allen, until a rude, profane fellow exclaimed:--
"Heyday! we've got a parson here!" sure enough. Charley was kneeling by
the oatbin praying. But the jest met with no response. The silence was
broken only by the drowsy cattle below, and the twittering swallows
overhead. More than one rough man wiped a tear from his eyes as he went
silently to his bed on the hay.
I had always been in the habit of praying at home, but I never thought
of such a thing at Saunder's Mill.
As I laid awake that night in the old barn, thinking of Charley Allen's
courage, and what an effect it had upon the men, I firmly resolved that
in the future I would _do right_. I little thought how soon my courage
would be tested.
[Illustration: "_Did you go through this gate yesterday_?"]
Just after dinner I got my grist, and started for home. When I arrived
at Squire Albright's gate, where I turned off to go home, I found the
old squire waiting for me. I saw in a moment that something had gone
wrong. I had always stood in the greatest awe of the old gentlemen,
because he was the rich man of the neighborhood, and, now I felt my
heart beginning to beat very fast. As soon as I came near he said:--
"Did you go through this gate yesterday?"
I could easily have denied it, as it was before daylight when I went
through, and I quite as often went the other way. But the picture of
Charley Allen kneeling in the barn, came to my mind like a flash, and
before I had time to listen to the tempter I replied:--
"Yes, sir; I did."
"Are you sure you shut and pinned the gate?" he asked.
This question staggered me. I remembered distinctly that I did not. I
could pull the pin out without getting off my horse, but I could not put
it in again; so I carelessly rode away, and left it open.
"Out with it; tell just what you did!"
"I left it open," I said abruptly.
"Well, you let the cattle in and they have destroyed all my early
potatoes,--a terrible piece of business!"
"I'm very sorry, I'd--"
"Talking won't help matters now; but remember, boy, remember that sorrow
doesn't make potatoes,--sorrow doesn't make potatoes."
I felt very bad about the matter, for I was really sorry that the old
gentleman had lost his potatoes, and then I expected to be severely
reproved at home. But I soon found that they knew nothing of the matter,
and after several days had passed, I began to rest quite easy.
Alas for human hopes! one rainy afternoon I saw the squire riding down
the lane. I ran off to the barn, ashamed to face him, and afraid to meet
my father. They sat on the porch and talked for a long time.
At last my curiosity overcame my fear, and I stole back to the house,
and went into mother's room to see if I could hear what they were
"Why, the boy could be spared well enough, but he doesn't know anything
about the business," said my father.
"There is one thing he does know," said the squire, "he knows how to
tell the truth." He then related the circumstance which I so much
dreaded to have my father hear.
After he had gone, my father called me to him, and told me that the
squire was going to start a store in the village, and wanted a boy to
help, and that I could go if I wished. I went, and remained in the
village store until it became a city store. People say that I got my
start in life when I entered Albright's store, but I will always declare
that I got it while I was waiting for the grist.
[Illustration: "_Twenty dollars against themselves_."]
A BOY'S LESSONS IN DISHONESTY
"Have you examined that bill, James?"
"I find two errors."
"Ah, let me see."
The lad handed his employer a long bill that had been placed on his desk
"Here is an error of ten dollars in the calculation which they have made
against themselves; and another of ten dollars in the footing."
"Also against themselves?"
The merchant smiled in a way that struck the lad as peculiar.
"Twenty dollars against themselves," he remarked in a kind of pleased
surprise; "trusty clerks they must have!"
"Shall I correct the figures?" asked the lad.
"No; let them correct their own mistakes. We don't examine bill's for
other people's benefit," replied the merchant. "It will be time to
correct those errors when they find them out. All so much gain as it now
The boy's delicate moral sense was shocked at so unexpected a remark. He
was the son of a poor widow, who had taught him that to be just is the
duty of man, and that "honesty is the best policy" always.
Mr. Carman, the merchant, in whose employment the lad James had been for
only a few months, was an old friend of James's father, and a man in
whom he had the highest confidence. In fact, James had always looked
upon him as a kind of model man. When Mr. Carman agreed to take him into
his store, the lad felt that great good fortune was in his way.
"Let them correct their own mistakes." These words made a strong
impression on the mind of James Lewis. When first spoken by Mr. Carman,
with the meaning which he gave them, as we have said, he felt shocked.
But as he turned them over again in his thoughts, and remembered that
this man stood very high in his mother's estimation, he began to think
that perhaps the thing was fair enough in business. Mr. Carman was
hardly the man to do wrong.
A few days after James had examined the bill, a clerk from the house
which had sent it, called for settlement. The lad, who was present,
waited with interest to see whether Mr. Carman would speak of the error.
But he made no remark. A check for the amount of the bill as rendered,
was filled up, and a receipt taken.
"Is that right?" James asked himself this question. His conscience said
no. The fact that Mr. Carman had so acted, bewildered his mind.
"It may be the way in business"--he thought to himself--"but it doesn't
look honest. I wouldn't have believed it of him."
Mr. Carman had a way with him that won the boy's heart, and naturally
tended to make him judge of whatever he might do in a most favorable
"I wish he had corrected that error," he said to himself a great many
times when congratulating himself upon his own good fortune in having
been received into Mr. Carman's employment. "It doesn't look right, but
it _may_ be in the way of business."
One day he went to the bank and drew the money for a check. In counting
it over, he found that the teller had paid him fifty dollars too much.
So he went back to the counter and told him of his mistake. The teller
thanked him, and he returned to the store with the consciousness in his
mind of having done right.
"The teller overpaid me fifty dollars," he said to Mr. Carman, as he
handed him the money.
"Indeed," replied the latter, a light breaking over his countenance; and
he hastily counted the bank bills.
The light faded as the last bill left his fingers. "There's no mistake,
James." A tone of disappointment was in his voice.
"Oh, I gave them back the fifty dollars. Wasn't that right?"
"You simpleton!" exclaimed Mr. Carman.
[Illustration: "_The teller over-paid me fifty dollars_."]
"Don't you know that bank mistakes are never corrected? If the teller
had paid you fifty dollars short he would not have made it right."
[Illustration: "_You simpleton_."]
The warm blood mantled the cheek of James under this reproof. It is
often the case that more shame is felt for a blunder than for a crime.
In this instance the lad felt a sort of mortification at having done
what Mr. Carman was pleased to call a silly thing, and he made up his
mind that if they should ever over-pay him a thousand dollars at the
bank, he should bring the amount to his employer, and let him do as he
pleased with the money.
"Let people look out for their own mistakes," said Mr. Carman.
James Lewis pondered these things in his heart. The impression they made
was too strong ever to be forgotten. "It may be right," he said, but he
did not feel altogether satisfied.
[Illustration: "_He had been paid a half dollar too much_."]
A month or two after this last occurrence, as James counted over his
weekly wages, just received from Mr. Carman, he saw that he had been
paid a half dollar too much.
His first impulse was to return the half dollar to his employer, and it
was on his lips to say, "You have given me a half dollar too much, sir,"
when the unforgotten words, "Let people look after their own mistakes,"
flashing into his mind, made him hesitate. To parley with evil is to be
"I must think about this," said James, as he put the money into his
pocket. "If it is right in one case, it is right in another. Mr. Carman
doesn't correct mistakes that people make in his favor, and he can't
complain when the rule works against himself."
But the boy was very far from being comfortable. He felt that to keep a
half dollar would be a dishonest act. Still he could not make up his
mind to return it, at least not then.
James did not return the half-dollar, but spent it for his
gratification. After he had done this, it came suddenly into his head
that Mr. Carman had only been trying him, and he was filled with anxiety
Not long after this Mr. Carman repeated the same mistake. Again James
kept the half-dollar, and with less hesitation.
"Let him correct his own mistakes," said he resolutely; "that's the
doctrine he acts upon with other people, and he can't complain if he
gets paid in the same coin he puts in circulation. I just wanted a half
From this time, the fine moral sense of James Lewis was blunted and his
conscience troubled him but little. He began to cherish a spirit of
covetousness, which is in the heart of all, until subdued by the grace
of Christ. He soon began to desire the possession of things for which he
was not able to pay.
James had good business qualifications. This pleased Mr. Carman. He saw
that the young man was intelligent, industrious, and tactful with
customers. For this reason, he advanced him rapidly, and, before he was
eighteen years of age, he held the most responsible position in the
But James had learned something more from his employer than the secret
of doing business well. He had learned to be dishonest. He had never
forgotten the first lesson he had received in the downward course. And
this wicked instruction he had acted upon, not only in two instances,
but in a hundred, and almost always to the injury of Mr. Carman.
The young man had long since given up waiting for mistakes to be made in
his favor. He originated them in the varied and complicated transactions
of a large business in which he was trusted implicity.
Of course, he grew to be sharp and cunning; always on the alert; always
bright, and ready skillfully to meet any approaches towards a discovery
of his wrong-doing by his employer, who held him in high regard.
In this way it went on until James Lewis was in his twentieth year. Then
the merchant received a letter which aroused his suspicions. This letter
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 and his mother had removed into a pleasant house,
for which he paid a rent of four hundred dollars yearly. His salary was
only eight hundred dollars, but he deceived his mother by telling her
that it was fifteen hundred. Every comfort that she needed was fully
supplied, and she was beginning to feel that, after a long 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. The
letter was read twice, and James saw that the contents appeared to
disturb his employer. Mr. Carman glanced toward the desk and their eyes
met. It was only for a moment, but the look that James received made his
heart stop beating.
[Illustration: "_The look that James received made his heart stop
There was something about the movements of the merchant 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! How
he dreaded discovery and punishment! Exposure would disgrace and ruin
him, and bow the head of his widowed mother even to the grave.
That evening at supper, Mrs. Lewis noticed that her son did not eat; and
that his face was troubled.
"You are not well," she said "perhaps a rest will make you feel
"It's nothing but a headache; I'll lie down on the sofa in the parlor a
Mrs. Lewis followed him into the parlor shortly, 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
which he was suffering. The touch of that pure hand increased the pain
"Do you feel better?" asked Mrs. Lewis. She had remained some time with
her hand on his forehead.
"Not much," he replied; "I think a walk in the open air will do me
good," he added, rising.
"Don't go out, James," said Mrs. Lewis, a troubled feeling coming into
"I'll only walk a few squares," he replied, as he hurried down the
"There is something more than headache the matter with him," thought
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 in passing, he was surprised at seeing a
"What can this mean?" he asked himself, a new fear creeping into his
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! O my poor mother!"
The wretched young man hastened on, walking 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. He then passed
hastily to his own room.
In the morning the strangely altered face of her son as he met his
mother at the breakfast table, struck alarm to her heart. He was silent,
and evaded all her questions. While they still sat at the table, the
door bell rang loudly. The sound startled James, and he turned his head
nervously to listen.
"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 home leaving. Mr. Carman had spent half the night in
examining the accounts that had been kept by James. He discovered
frauds of over six thousand dollars. Blindly indignant, he had sent an
officer to arrest him early in the morning. It was with this officer
that he went away from his mother, _never to return_.
[Illustration: _The Arrest of James_]
"The young villain shall lie in the bed he has made for himself!"
exclaimed Mr. Carman, in his bitter indignation. And he made a complete
exposure. 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 sobbed as she heard the evidences of
the guilt of her son. The presiding judge addressed the culprit, and
asked if he had anything to say why sentence should not be pronounced
against him. The prisoner arose, and said:
[Illustration: "_I went into that man's store an innocent boy_."]
"Will it please your honor to ask my prosecutor to come a little
nearer, so that I can look at him and your honor at the same time?"
Mr. Carman was directed to come forward. James looked at him a few
moments, and turned to the judge.
"What I have to say to your honor is this" (he spoke calmly and
distinctly), "and it may, in a degree, excuse, though it cannot justify,
my crime. I went into that man's store an innocent boy. If he had been
an honest man, I would not stand before you to-day as a criminal!"
Mr. Carman appealed to the court for protection against that which he
called an outrageous attack upon his character; but he was ordered to be
silent. James went on in a firm voice:--
"Only a few weeks after I began work in this man's store, I examined a
bill, by his direction, and discovered an error of twenty dollars."
The face of Mr. Carman was crimson.
"You remember it, I see," said James, "and I shall have cause to
remember it as long as I live. I asked if I should correct the figures,
and you 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 took twenty dollars that was not his own. I felt shocked at
first. It seemed such a wrong thing. But soon after this, 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 the story of the lad true?" asked the judge.
Mr. Carman looked confused. All felt certain that he was guilty of
leading the unhappy young man astray.
"Not long afterward," resumed the young man, "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 I said to myself, 'let him discover and
correct his own errors.' Then I dishonestly kept the money.
"Again the same thing happened, and again I kept the money that did not
belong to me. This was the beginning of evil, and here I am. If he had
shown any mercy to me, 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. "My poor boy! my poor boy!"
There were few undimmed eyes in the court-room. In the silence that
followed, Mr. Carman exclaimed:--
"Is my character to be thus blasted on the word of a criminal, your
honor? Is this right?"
"Your solemn oath that this charge is untrue," said the judge, "will
clear your reputation in the eyes of the people."
[Illustration: "_Let him take his oath if he dare!_"]
At these words, James Lewis stood up again instantly. It was the unhappy
boy's only opportunity, and the court felt bound in humanity to hear
him. Turning his eyes upon Mr. Carman, he exclaimed:--
"Let him take his oath if he dare!"
Mr. Carman consulted with his counsel, and withdrew.
The judge then arose to pass sentence.
"In consideration of your youth, and the temptation to which in tender
years you were subjected, the court gives you the lightest
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 imprisonment, may it be
with the resolution to die rather than commit crime!"
A year afterward, when James Lewis came from prison, his mother was
dead. From the day her pale face faded from his vision as he passed from
the court-room, he never saw her again.
Ten years thereafter 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, with deep emotion.
"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
wrong-doing. But thank God! another lesson,--the words of the judge,
spoken to me so many years ago,--have been remembered. 'When you come
forth again, may it be with the resolution to die rather than commit
crime!' and I have kept these words in my heart when there seemed no way
of escaping except through crime. And God helping me, I will remember
them as long as I live."
[Illustration: "_Is your boy sick? He was not in school to-day."_]
"A PICTURE OF GOD."
It is fairly pathetic what a stranger God is in His own world. He comes
to His own, and they who are His own kinsfolk keep Him standing outside
the door while they peer suspiciously at Him through the crack at the
To know God really, truly, is the beginning of a normal life. One of the
best pictures of God that I ever saw came to me in a simple story. It
was of a man, a minister, who lived in a New England town, who had a
son, about fourteen years of age, going to school. One afternoon the
boy's teacher called at the home, and asked for the father, and said:--
"Is your boy sick?"
"He was not at school to-day."
"Is that so?"
"You don't mean it!"
"Nor the day before."
"And I supposed he was sick."
"No, he's not sick."
"Well, I thought I should tell you."
And the father said, "Thank you," and the teacher left.
And the father sat thinking. By and by he heard a click at the gate, and
he knew the boy was coming, so he went to open the door. And the boy
knew as he looked up that his father knew about those three days. And
the father said:--
"Come into the library, Phil." And Phil went, and the door was shut. And
the father said: "Phil, your teacher was here this afternoon. He tells
me you were not at school to-day, nor yesterday nor the day before. And
we supposed you were. You let us think you were. And you do not know how
badly I feel. I have always trusted you. I have always said, 'I can
trust my boy Phil.' And here you've been a living lie for three whole
days. And I can't tell you how badly I feel about it."
Well, that was hard on Phil to be talked to quietly like that. If his
father had spoken to him roughly, or--had asked him out to the woodshed
for a confidential interview, it would not have been nearly so hard.
Then, after a moment's pause, the father said, "Phil, we'll get down and
pray." And the thing was getting harder for Phil all the time.
He didn't want to pray just then. And they got down. And the father
poured out his heart in prayer. And the boy knew as he listened how
badly his father felt over his conduct. Somehow he saw himself in the
mirror on his knees as he had not before. It's queer about that mirror
of the knee-joints. It does show so many things. Many folks don't like
And they got up. And the father's eyes were wet. And Phil's eyes were
not dry. Then the father said:--
"My boy, there's a law of life that where there is sin, there is
suffering. You can't detach those two things. Where there is suffering
there has been sin somewhere. And where there is sin there will be
suffering. You can't get these two things apart. Now," he went on, "you
have done wrong. And I am in this home like God is in the world. So we
will do this. You go up to the attic. I'll make a pallet for you there.
We'll take your meals up to you at the regular times, and you stay up
there as long as you've been a living lie--three days and three nights."
And Phil didn't say a word. They went up stairs, the pallet was made,
and the father kissed his boy and left him alone with his thoughts.
Supper time came, and the father and mother sat down to eat. But they
couldn't eat for thinking about the boy. The longer they chewed upon the
food, the bigger and dryer it got in their mouths. And swallowing it was
clear out of the question. Then they went into the sitting room for the
evening. He picked up the evening paper to read, and she sat down to
sew. Well, his eyes weren't very good. He wore glasses. And this evening
he couldn't seem to see distinctly--the glasses seemed blurred. It must
have been the glasses, of course. So he took them off and cleaned them
very deliberately and then found that he had been holding the paper
upside down. And she tried to sew. But the thread broke, and she
couldn't seem to get the needle threaded again. You could see they were
both bothered. How we do reveal ourselves in the details!
By and by the clock struck nine, and then ten, their usual hour for
retiring. But they made no move toward retiring. She said, "Aren't you
going to bed?" And he said, "I think I'll not go yet a bit; you go."
"No, I guess I'll wait a while, too." And the clock struck eleven, and
the hands worked around toward twelve. Then they arose, and locked up,
and went to bed, but--not to sleep. Each one made pretence to be asleep,
and each one knew the other was not asleep. By and by she said (women
are always the keener), "Why don't you sleep?" And he said gently, "How
did you know I wasn't sleeping? Why don't you sleep?"
"Well, I just can't for thinking of the boy up in the attic."
"That's the bother with me," he replied. And the clock in the hall
struck twelve, and one, and two. Still no sleep came.
[Illustration: "_I'm going up stairs with Phil_."]
At last he said, "Mother, I can't stand this any longer; I'm going up
stairs with Phil." And he took his pillow and went softly out of the
room, and up the attic stairs, and pressed the latch-key softly, so as
not to wake the boy if he were asleep, and tiptoed across the attic
floor to the corner by the window, and looked--there Phil lay, wide
awake, with something glistening in his eyes, and what looked like
stains on his cheeks. And the father got down in between the sheets with
his boy, and they got their arms around each other's necks, for they had
always been the best of friends, father and boy, and their tears got
mixed up on each other's cheeks. Then they slept. And the next night
when the time came for sleep, the father said, "Good-night, mother, I'm
going up stairs with Phil." And the second night he slept in the attic
with his boy. And the third night, again he said, "Mother, good-night,
I'm going up with the boy again." And the third night he slept in the
place of punishment with his son.
You are not surprised to know that to-day that boy, a man grown, is
telling the story of Jesus with tongue and life of flame in the heart of
Do you know, I think that father is the best picture of God I ever saw.
God could not take away sin. It's here. He could not take away suffering
out of kindness to man. For suffering is sin's index finger, saying,
"There's something wrong here." So He came down in the person of His
Son, and lay down alongside of man for three days and three nights.
That's God--our God. And beyond that He comes and puts His life
alongside of yours and mine, and makes us hate the bad, and long to be
pure. To be on intimate terms with Him, to live in the atmosphere of His
presence, to spend the day with Him--that is the true normal life.
[Illustration: Jack and David Jamison going to Mill]
IF YOU ARE ONLY HONEST
It is not best to try to still the voice of conscience by repeating the
popular maxim, "If you are only honest, that is all."
The mill was doing a great business that day, when Jack and David
Jamison rode up with their bag of corn to be ground. They lived on a
small farm five miles off the main road, and were not sorry at the
prospect of waiting several hours for their grist.
This would give them a chance of seeing something of the liveliness and
bustle of "The Corner," as that part of the village was called, where
stood the tavern, the store, and the mill.
Jack and David had plenty of time, and they ran about a great deal, here
and there, and saw and heard many things.
At last, a heavy shower coming on, they went back to the mill to eat
their lunch, and to inquire when their turn would come.
There they found the miller's son and the son of the squire engaged in
earnest conversation, which soon took Jack's attention. The miller's son
was urging upon the squire's son the importance of a correct
understanding of the Bible. But the squire's son only insisted that "_It
doesn't matter what a man believes, if he is only sincere_."
Jack was a vain, foolish fellow, and felt very much pleased with the
rattling off-hand speech of the squire's son, and he only wished that
_he_ could talk as well; then he would put his old grandfather to
confusion--indeed he would.
"_It is no matter what a man believes, provided he is sincere_,"
muttered Jack, bracing his conscience against the godly conversation of
his relatives; "I'll fix 'em now," he said to himself, with a decided
nod of the head.
Late in the afternoon the boys' grist was ready; then the old horse was
brought out of the shed, the bag of meal placed across her back, and
Jack and David both mounted; boys, horse, and bag, all homeward bound.
"You have a longer ride ahead than I wish you had, boys," said the
miller, casting his eyes toward a dark cloud which was rising and
darkening the western sky; "there's plenty of water up there for my
But they set off briskly, and were soon lost to sight among the windings
of the forest road. But the gloom gathered faster than the horse
trotted, so that it was quite dark when they reached a fork in the road
where it might make considerable difference which road they took. One
was the main road; this way there was a good bridge over Bounding Brook,
a mountain stream which was often dangerously swollen by the spring
rains. It was the safest, though the longest way home.
The other was a wood path through the pines, which was the one often
taken by farmers living east of the town, to shorten the distance to The
Corner. In this road, Bounding Brook was crossed by fording.
"Father told us to be sure to take the traveled road if it was late,"
"Going to," asserted Jack, as he drew rein for a moment, at the division
of the roads.
But really, Jack was confused; the windings of the road, with nothing
but woods on each side, and, of course, no distinct landmarks to direct
them, together with the gloom of the night and their small acquaintance
with the roads, puzzled the boys not a little. But Jack, being the
older, wished to impress his brother with a sense of his superior
wisdom, and would not admit his confusion.
Quickly deciding which road he would take, he whipped up, exclaiming
conclusively, "it's all right!"
"Are you sure?" asked David.
"Certainly; I cannot be mistaken."
"I don't know," said David. "Let me jump off and run to that light
yonder; there must be a cabin there."
"Oh, we can't stop for all that," said Jack. "I honestly believe this
is the traveled road, David; can't you trust me?"
"But your honestly believing it, doesn't make it __," protested David.
"I haven't a doubt of it, Dave, you be still," cried Jack angrily.
"I think we ought to ask, so as to be sure," persisted David.
But Jack whipped up and poor David's words went to the winds, as gust
after gust of the coming shower roared through the forest, and Jack
urged the horse to all the speed which her heavy load would allow.
The self-willed lad was well pleased with his hasty decision, and the
farther he went, the more and more convinced was he that it was the
Presently the roaring of Bounding Brook arose above the noise of the
"We shall be over the bridge in a jiffy," cried Jack, "and then, old
fellow, what will you say?"
"I'd like to feel myself safely over," muttered David, when, before the
other could reply, Jack, David, horse, and meal went floundering into
the raging waters of the swollen stream. It was pitch dark; the storm
was on them, and they were miles from human help.
The first few moments of horrible suspense can scarcely be expressed.
Jack at last found himself anchored on a log of drift-wood, the icy
waters breaking over him, and the bridle still fast in his hand.
"David!" he shouted at the top of his voice, "David!"
"The Lord have mercy!" cried David, "I'm somewhere."
[Illustration: "_In the raging waters of the swollen stream._"]
The meal? ah, that was making a pudding in some wild eddy of the
Bounding Brook far below.
"No matter what a man believes, provided he's sincere," cried poor Jack,
thoroughly drenched and humbled. "It's the biggest lie the devil ever
"It _does_ matter. _Being right_ is the main thing. Sincerity doesn't
save a fellow from the tremendous consequences of being wrong. It can't
get him out of trouble. He's obliged to endure it, no matter how
sincere he had been.
"Didn't I honestly believe I was on the right road, when I was like
going to perdition all the time?"
The experience of that night completely and forever cured poor Jack of a
common error which has brought many a poor soul into the wild surges of
unbelief and irreligion.
SIX THINGS BEHIND
"Rufus," said his mother, "did you mail the letter I gave you last
"Oh, mother, I forgot it! I meant to, but just then I had to go and get
some new shoe strings, so it went out of my mind."
"Didn't I speak of those strings yesterday?"
"Yes; but just then father called me to ask if I had weeded the pansy
bed the night before."
"And had you?"
"No, mother, I was just writing the letter you said must go to
"I thought you were to write that on Saturday."
"I meant to, but I had to do some examples that I didn't do on Friday,
so I hadn't time."
"Rufus," called his brother, "didn't you nail the broken slat on the
rabbit pen yesterday?"
"Oh!" Rufus sprang up in dismay. "I was just going to, but I hadn't
watered the house plants, and I went to do that, and then--"
"The rabbits are all out."
Rufus hastened to join in the hunt for the pets. In the course of his
search he came upon two tennis rackets which he had "meant to" bring in
the night before, and they were in bad condition.
"There now! It will cost ever so much to get these strung up. Why didn't
I take them in, anyway? I remember I hadn't locked the stable door when
father called me, and then I hurried to do it before he asked me again."
Later in the day, Rufus, with a penitent face, brought to his mother the
letter which should have been mailed. During the rabbit hunt it had
slipped out of his pocket, and one of his brothers had found it in the
damp clover. It was now a sorry-looking missive.
THE OLD BROWN HAND
The hand that pressed my fevered brow
Was withered, wasted, brown, and old;
Its work was almost over now,
As swollen veins and wrinkles told.
No longer brushing back my hair,
It gently rested on my wrist;
Its touch seemed sacred as a prayer
By the sweet breath of angels kissed.
I knew 'twas thin, and brown, and old,
With many a deep and honored seam,
Wearing one little band of gold,--
The only trace of youth's bright dream:
And yet o'er every mark of care,
In every wrinkle's mystic line,
I fancied jewels gleaming there
That wore a beauty all divine!
Another hand my fingers pressed--
'Twas like the lily dipped in snow;
Yet still it gave a wild unrest--
A weariness that none should know.
There pearls with costly diamonds gleamed,
And opals showed their changing glow,
As moonlight on the ice has beamed,
Or trembled on the stainless snow.
I caught again the old, brown hand,
And smoothed it fondly in my own,--
A woman's, though so old and tanned--
A woman's--brave and fearless grown.
Aye! it had labored long and well
To dry the tear, to soothe the pain;
Its own strong nerve to all would tell
That life has work which brings no shame.
We love the pretty hand that rests
In gentle fondness on our own,
With nails like rosy calyx pressed
Upon a pearly, stainless cone;
But sacred is the healthful palm
Which smooths the ills that round us band;
The many feel its sacred balm,
And holy seems the old brown hand!