Stories Worth Re-Reading

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18: Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

Here is a touching story told of the famous Dr. Samuel Johnson which has had an influence on many a boy who has heard it. Samuel's father Michael Johnson, was a poor bookseller in Lichfield, England. On market-days he used to carry a package of books to the village of Ottoxeter, and sell them from a stall in the market-place. One day the bookseller was sick, and asked his son to go and sell the books in his place. Samuel, from a silly pride, refused to obey.

Fifty years afterward Johnson became the celebrated author, the compiler of the English Dictionary, and one of the most distinguished scholars in England; but he never forgot his act of unkindness to his poor, hard-toiling father. So when he visited Ottoxeter, he determined to show his sorrow and repentance. He went into the market-place at the time of business, uncovered his head, and stood there for an hour in the pouring rain, on the very spot where the bookstall used to stand. "This," he says, "was an act of contrition for my disobedience to my kind father."

The spectacle of the great Dr. Johnson standing bareheaded in the storm to atone for the wrong done by him fifty years before, is a grand and touching one. There is a representation of it in marble on the doctor's monument.

Many a man in after-life has felt something harder and heavier than a storm of rain beating upon his heart when he remembered his acts of unkindness to a good father or mother now in the grave.

Dr. John Todd, of Pittsfield, the eminent writer, never forgot how, when his old father was very sick, and sent him away for medicine, he, a little lad, been unwilling to go, and made up a lie, saying that the druggist had no such medicine.

The old man was dying when little Johnny came in, but he said to Johnny, "My boy, your father suffers great pain for want of that medicine."

Johnny started, in great distress, for the medicine, but it was too late. On his return the father was almost gone. He could only say to the weeping boy, "Love God, and always speak the truth; for the eye of God is always upon you. Now kiss me once more, and farewell."

Through all his after-life, Dr. Todd often had a heartache over that act of falsehood and disobedience to his dying father. It takes more than a shower to wash away the memory of such sins.

The words, "Honor thy father and thy mother," mean three things,—always do what they bid you, always treat them lovingly, and take care of them when they are sick and grown old. I never yet knew a boy who trampled on the wishes of his parents who turned out well. God never blesses a willful boy.

When Washington was sixteen years old, he determined to leave home and become a midshipman in the colonial navy. After he had sent off his trunk, he went to bid his mother good-by. She wept so bitterly because he was going away that he said to his Negro servant: "Bring back my trunk. I am not going to wake my mother suffer so, by leaving her."

He remained at home to please his mother. This decision led to his becoming a surveyor, and afterward a soldier. His whole glorious career in life turned on simple act of trying to make his mother happy, happy, too, will be the child who never has occasion to shed bitter tears for any act of unkindness to his parents. Let us not forget that God has said, "Honor thy father and thy mother."—Theodore L. Cuyler, in Pittsburgh Christian Advocate.

19: The Sleigh-Ride

In one of the larger cities of New England, fifty years ago, a party of lads, all members of the same school, got up a grand sleigh-ride. There were about twenty-five or thirty boys engaged in the frolic. The sleigh was a large and splendid conveyance drawn by six gray horses. The afternoon was as beautiful as anybody could desire, and the merry group enjoyed themselves in the highest degree. It was a common custom of the school to which they belonged, and on previous occasions their teacher had accompanied them. Some engagement upon important business, however, occupying him, he was not at this time with them. It is quite likely, had it been otherwise, that the restraining influence of his presence would have prevented the scene which occurred.

On the day following the ride, as he entered the schoolroom, he found his pupils grouped about the stove, in high merriment, as they chatted about the fun and frolic of their excursion. He stopped awhile and listened; and, in answer to some inquiries which he made about the matter, one of the lads, a fine, frank, manly boy, whose heart was in the right place, though his love of sport sometimes led him astray, volunteered to give a narrative of their trip and its various incidents. As he drew near the end of his story, he exclaimed:—

"O, sir, there was one little circumstance which I almost forgot to tell you! Toward the latter part of the afternoon, as we were coming home, we saw, at some distance ahead of us, a queer-looking affair in the road. We could not exactly make out what it was. It seemed to be a sort of half-and-half monstrosity. As we approached it, it proved to be a rusty old sleigh fastened behind a covered wagon, proceeding at a very slow rate, and taking up the whole road. Finding that the owner was disposed not to turn out, we determined upon a volley of snowballs and a good hurrah. These we gave with a relish, and they produced the right effect, and a little more; for the crazy machine turned out into the deep snow by the side of the road, and the skinny old pony started on a full trot. As we passed, some one who had the whip gave the jilt of a horse a good crack, which made him run faster than he ever did before, I'll warrant. And so, with another volley of snowballs pitched into the front of the wagon, and three times three cheers, we rushed by. With that, an old fellow in the wagon, who was buried up under an old hat and beneath a rusty cloak, and who had dropped the reins, bawled out, 'Why do you frighten my horse?'

"'Why don't you turn out, then?' said the driver.

"So we gave him three rousing cheers more. His horse was frightened again, and ran up against a loaded team, and, I believe, almost capsized the old man; and so we left him."

"Well, boys," replied the instructor, "that is quite an incident. But take your seats; and after our morning service is ended, I will take my turn and tell you a story, and all about a sleigh-ride, too."

Having finished the reading of a chapter in the Bible, and all having joined in the Lord's Prayer, he began as follows:—

"Yesterday afternoon a very venerable and respectable old man, a clergyman by profession, was on his way from Boston to Salem to pass the residue of the winter at the house of his son. That he might be prepared for journeying, as he proposed to do in the spring, he took with him his light wagon, and for the winter his sleigh, which he fastened behind the wagon. He was, as I have just told you, very old and infirm. His temples were covered with thinned locks which the frosts of eighty years had whitened. His sight, and hearing, too, were somewhat blunted by age, as yours will be should you live to be as old.

"He was proceeding very slowly and quietly, for his horse was old and feeble, like his owner. His thoughts reverted to the scenes of his youth, when he had periled his life in fighting for the liberties of his country; to the scenes of his manhood, when he had preached the gospel of his divine Master to the heathen of the remote wilderness; and to the scenes of riper years, when the hard hand of penury had lain heavily upon him. While thus occupied, almost forgetting himself in the multitude of his thoughts, he was suddenly disturbed, and even terrified, by loud hurrahs from behind, and by a furious pelting and clattering of balls of snow and ice upon the top of his wagon. In his trepidation he dropped his reins; and as his aged and feeble hands were quite benumbed with cold, he found it impossible to gather them up, and his horse began to run away.

"In the midst of the old man's troubles, there rushed by him, with loud shouts, a large party of boys in a sleigh drawn by six horses.

"'Turn out, turn out, old fellow!' 'Give us the road, old boy!' 'What'll you take for your pony, old daddy?' 'Go it, frozen nose!' 'What's the price of oats?' were the various cries that met his ear.

"'Pray, do not frighten my horse,' exclaimed the infirm driver.

"'Turn out, then! Turn out!' was the answer, which was followed by repeated cracks and blows from the long whip of the grand sleigh, with showers of snowballs, and tremendous hurrahs from the boys.

"The terror of the old man and his horse was increased; and the latter ran away, to the imminent danger of the man's life. He contrived, however, after some exertion, to secure the reins, which had been out of his hands during the whole of the affray, and to stop his horse just in season to prevent his being dashed against a loaded team.

"As he approached Salem, he overtook a young man who was walking toward the same place, whom he invited to ride. The young man alluded to the grand sleigh which had just passed, which induced the old gentleman to inquire if he knew who the boys were. He replied that he did; that they all belonged to one school, and were a set of wild fellows.

"'Aha!' exclaimed the former, with a hearty laugh, for his constant good nature had not been disturbed, 'do they, indeed? Why, their master is very well known to me. I am now going to his house, and I think I shall give him the benefit of the affair.'

"A short distance brought him to his journey's end, the home of his son.
His old horse was comfortably housed and fed, and he himself provided for.

"That son, boys, is your instructor; and that aged and infirm old man, that 'old fellow,' that 'old boy,' who did not turn out for you, but who would gladly have given you the whole road had he heard your approach, that 'old boy,' that 'old daddy,' and 'frozen nose,' is Rev. Daniel Oliver, your master's father, now at my home, where he and I will gladly welcome any and all of you."

As the master, with an undisturbed and serene countenance, gave this version of the ride, it was very manifest from the expression of the boys' faces, and the glances they exchanged, that they recognized the history of their doings of the previous day; and it is not easy to describe nor to imagine the effect produced by this new translation of their own narrative. Some buried their heads behind their desks; some cried; some looked askance at one another; and many hastened down to the desk of the teacher, with apologies, regrets, and acknowledgments without end.

"We did not know it was your father," they said.

"Ah, my lads," replied the teacher, "what odds does it make whose father it was? It was probably somebody's father,—an inoffensive traveler, an aged and venerable man, entitled to kind treatment from you and everybody else. But never mind; he forgives it all, and so do I."

Freely pardoned, they were cautioned that they should be more civil for the future to inoffensive travelers, and more respectful to the aged and infirm.

Years have passed by. The lads are men, though some have found an early grave. The boy who related the incident to his master is "in the deep bosom of the ocean buried." They who survive, should this story meet their eye, will easily recall its scenes and throw their memories back to the schoolhouse in Federal Street, Salem, and to their friend and teacher. —Henry K. Oliver.

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The Tongue Can No Man Tame

  Lord, tame my tongue, and make it pure,
    And teach it only to repeat
  Thy promises, all safe, all sure;
    To tell thy love, so strong and sweet.

  Lord, tame my tongue, and make it kind
    The faults of others to conceal
  And all their virtues call to mind;
    Teach it to soothe, to bless, to heal.
Elizabeth Rosser

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