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- Two Festivals - 3/7 -
gathering pond lilies, and waking up all the echoes in the surrounding woods with loud shouts, merry laughs, and happy songs. The children were in the middle of the lake, and were thinking of returning, when, by some accident, one of the boys fell overboard. A boy of fourteen years of age had the management of the boat; he was the principal oarsman. He was strong and active, and could swim, but he feared for his own life, and he immediately began to row for the shore to get help. In the mean time, the poor boy, who could not swim to the shore, and whose strength would be unequal to keep above water till they returned with help, would have been drowned. There were other boys in the boat, but it was a little girl, of ten years of age, who, immediately forgetting her weakness, became their leader and guide. She insisted that the boat should be turned back again, that the poor boy should not be left. I know not if she seized the oar, but if she did not, she prevailed with others to turn the boat round and come back again to the poor boy, who, seeing himself left by his companions, was giving himself up for lost. As soon as they came up to him again, the brave little girl asked the boy of fourteen years to keep the boat as steady as he could. Then she reached over the side of the boat, and told her companions to hold her fast by the legs. Soon she was able to reach the drowning boy. He was much bigger than she. She told him to put his arms round her neck. She then put her arms under his, and pulled him safely into the boat.
This girl was a small, delicate child. Now, dear Frank, who was the strong and brave one, the girl or the boy? Which would you rather be?"
"Of course, the girl, Mother. What a brave little soul she was!"
"So you see, Frank, that what is most truly desirable in your wish is within your reach, even now."
"She was a first rate girl," said Harry, "and the boy was a real coward for going away and leaving the poor fellow in the lake;" and he breathed a long breath, as if he had himself just come out of the water.
"Now, boys, to match that story of the little girl, I will tell you one of a sailor boy who was even braver and nobler than she. As a schooner was sailing near Montauk Point, Long Island, she was suddenly struck by a heavy gust of wind, upset, and instantly sunk. A vessel near by, which had seen the calamity, sent its boat to save from sinking any that had not gone to the bottom. On coming near where the schooner went down, they saw a little boy, twelve years old, floating on some wood, and went to take him off. As they approached him, he cried out, 'Never mind me; save the captain; he has a wife and six children. Both, however, were saved. Can we make any better resolution, my dear boys," said Mrs. Chilton, "to begin the New Year with, than that we will try to be as brave and self- forgetting as the little girl and boy I have been telling you about? And now, good night."
"Good night, old year, for the last time," said Harry; and they were soon asleep.
On New Year's morning, Harry found a large bag hanging to his bed post, containing a magic lantern; and Frank saw on his bureau a complete set of Miss Edgeworth's Works.
Again it is New Year's eve. Another year has passed happily over the home of Mrs. Chilton and her boys.
"To-morrow, dear Mother, is New Year's day," said Frank; "may we not, as we are one year older, sit up till the clock strikes twelve, and wish you a happy new year before we go to bed?"
"Yes, boys, if you can keep awake, you may sit up. Tell me, Frank, do you think you have gained as much this year as you ought to have gained? Ere long you will be a man."
"I think I have gained something," replied Frank. "I am at the head of my class in school. I am three inches taller, I am stronger, and I know a great deal more than I did last year."
"Is that all you have gained? Have you cured any of your faults? Can you command your temper any better? Are you any more disinterested? Are you more careful about the truth--in short, are you a better boy?"
"I cannot say, Mother; you know about that better than I."
"You expect a New Year's gift to-morrow, I presume, Frank."
"Yes, Mother, you always give us a New Year's gift, you know. Will you let us sit up till the clock strikes twelve to-night?"
Their mother promised that they should, and added, "I have been thinking of a New Year's gift for you, Frank, that I am not quite sure you will like. I will tell you what it is, and if you do not like it, you will say so honestly, I trust."
"What is it, Mother?"
"You know the little room I call my closet. It has a window in it, and contains some shelves with books on them. I propose to give you that closet, with all the books I shall leave in it, for your own. In it are a desk and a chair. From the window, you look directly, you know, upon the pine grove. In this little room, you may study and write and read and think also, as much as you please."
Frank could scarcely hear his mother finish, for delight at the thought. "All my own? the books, the desk, the nice old-fashioned chair and the closet itself? Why, Mother, I never should have believed you would have given it to me for my own. There is nothing I should like so well in the world. Shall I have the Shakespeare, and the Johnson, and the Classical Dictionary, and the Sir Charles Grandison, and all the old poets, and those French books in it, and the Homer and the Virgil too?"
"Yes, my son, I think I need not ask you to promise to lend them to me when I wish to borrow them. I have a great affection for this closet, Frank, and therefore I give it to you. If the walls could speak, they could tell you a great deal of your mother's history."
"I wish they could; I shall sit there a great deal, and I should like to hear all they have to say."
"As I have promised you to let you sit up till the new year comes in, I will tell you something now of what they would say. You know that this is the house in which I was born, so that this closet knew me from a child. Many a time, when I was a little girl, has my mother shut me up in it for refusing to obey her. It was gentle treatment shutting me up in this closet; had it not been called a punishment, I never should have thought it one. In summer time, the whispering of the wind through the pine trees rebuked my bad temper, and seemed to say, 'Hush, Alice! Peace! Be still.' I always came out better than I went into it. When I was nine years old, my father gave me this closet for my own use altogether. Many of the books that are in it now were in it then, and the same desk and chair stand there to this day. My father had just built on to his house the addition which gave him the library which I now use; his law books and papers, &c., required better accommodation; and, from that time, the closet became mine. He gave it to me, as I do to you, for a New Year's gift; and this is one reason why I love to give it to you for the same purpose. It is a very dear and sacred spot to me, Frank, this closet, and I think you will like to hear something of its history."
"Yes, indeed I shall, Mother," said Frank.
"When I first took possession of it," continued his mother, "I felt more grand, I fancy, than Queen Victoria did when she took possession of the throne of England, for she had anticipated her elevation, whereas I had never dreamed of mine. When I was a girl, children did not fare as they do now, and my father's liberality to me was an unusual thing. My father and mother both went up stairs with me on New Year's day, and led me into my little sanctum, which they had dressed with evergreens, and seated me in the three- cornered leather-bottomed chair, and told me that every thing in the closet was mine. Although it was winter, still the pine trees that you know come so near the window, and that now are old trees, looked beautiful, and to me it seemed a little paradise. 'Here,' said my mother, 'you were many a time shut up by me in order to make you a good girl. Now you are old enough to know yourself when it is the right time for you to be shut up here, in order that you may grow good. I advise you, at such times, to come here and stay till you have conquered the bad spirit, and can come out with a firm resolution to do better. I shall never put you in the closet again, but I shall trust, Alice, that you will put yourself in, at all proper times.' I well remember putting my arms around my mother's neck and kissing her for joy, but I said not a word. My heart was too full of love, and gratitude, and pleasure to speak. After my parents left me in the closet, in my own chair, now all my own, I sat still some minutes thinking what I should do with my great possession, how I should improve my great blessing. The thought of my mother's loving trust in me affected me very much. I resolved I would not disappoint her. I resolved that, whenever I found myself doing wrong, I would come to my closet, shut myself in, and pray there for strength to cure my faults. I then counted them all over as far as I knew them, and resolved to get rid of them all. I was too happy to think of the difficulty in the way of doing this, but my self-confidence was soon rebuked. After looking over all the books, and putting my fingers upon every thing in my little kingdom, and dancing up and down with delight, I followed my father and mother down stairs to see the presents for the other children. Such was my state of exaltation that when my little sister came, full of joy, to me, with her new doll, I turned contemptuously away from her, and sneered at it, and said, 'Who wants to look at a doll? My New Year's gift is the best; it is worth yours and the boys' all put together.' Never shall I forget the grieved, disappointed look of my little sister as she said, 'Why, Alice, I thought you would be so glad to see my doll,'--and never shall I forget the silent rebuke of my mother's gentle eye, as she looked at me sadly. I felt it all. I could not stand it. I ran up to my closet; I turned the key as I closed the door. I fell on my knees and poured forth to my Father in heaven the first TRUE prayer I ever remember to have uttered. I prayed for forgiveness of my unkindness, I prayed for strength to conquer my many faults.
That day I did not sin again. I played with Fanny's doll. I did all that I could to make every one happy. I took the children up to my closet, and tried to make them share in all my pleasures while I tried to enjoy theirs. I made amends for my fault. From that time, I began a religious self-scrutiny and censorship. I watched myself very carefully, and for every fault I did penance in my closet. When I shut myself up on account of wrong doing, I would not allow myself to read or do any thing but think of my fault. The words of my mother which had been uttered without much serious thought, were as
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