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"That would not trouble me,” said her brother; "but I don't like to give up my own beer, because other people take too much."
"I don't think the temperance society is very respectable either," observed Martha.
"I am quite sure the beer does me good," responded her brother, "whatever it may do to others."
And thus the Brother and Sister argued, until they grew stronger and stronger in their inclination to do what they still believed was not right. And so the day passed on without their having come to any decision at all, for neither their father nor their mother wished in the least to persuade them to take the temperance pledge, unless their hearts went along with what they did. At last the evening came, and the family all sat down again, as they had done the night before, and William and Martha felt very uncomfortable, because they had not yet made up their minds, and they were to leave at a very early hour the next morning. It is true they had seen much that day to induce them to think favorably of the change which had been wrought in their parents' circumstances. They had seen their garden cultivated, their table supplied with plenty, their mother smiling, grateful, and happy, their father clothed and in his right mind, and their little brothers and sisters playing about without fear; yet the hardness of their hearts remained, and one thought he could not give up his indulgence, and the other that she could not bear to be despised.
Instead of questioning his children about their intentions, James Pattison took the family bible
almost the only relic of better days which had remained unsold, and opening at the parable of the prodigal son, he read it through in a distinct and feeling manner; after that he turned to that epistle, in which the apostle says, "If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no more while the world stands."
Now, my children;" said he, in a broken, but yet earnest voice, "I wish to begin the habit of family prayer. It is not fit that I, who have so long disgraced myself and my family, should lift up my voice in supplication before you; but there is one who has often prayed in secret for you and me, and for her sake, rather than my own, I believe she has at last been heard.
Mary was not backward to comply with her husband's wishes. It was what she had often desired to do; but modesty had kept her silent. Now, however, she hesitated no longer; but poured out from her full heart such an appeal as her children had never heard; and while they almost wondered whether it was their own meek and quiet mother, to whom they listened, they thought how severe must have been her sufferings, and how deep her gratitude, to call forth such language from one who was so little accustomed to speak, of which she felt.
When this solemn but simple service was ended, a little girl who was next in age to Martha, came forward. She was a delicate and sickly child, and had suffered much from a blow inflicted by her father some years before, when he was not the master either of his own passions, or his own powers. From long acquaintance with privation
and pain, this little girl had acquired a serious and almost sorrowful look; and with this peculiar expression she now looked up into her father's face, and asked him for the book.
"What book ?" said he.
"The book to sign the pledge," replied the little girl. "Mother will guide my hand, and I can write my name quite well."
The father was for sometime unable to speak, but dashing a tear from his eyes, "My poor child,” said he, "thou art the only one of my family, whom my brutal violence has really injured, yet thou art the first to come over and help me in my weakness."
"Where is the book?" said the child, still intent upon her purpose. "Give me the pen. Now mother hold my hand. Father shall never have to say, that none of his children would help him to be a better man. Doctors may say what they will about wine and ale being good for me, but I am sure it can never be right for me to take what has done my father so much harm, and made you my mother so wretched as you were."
It is perhaps scarcely necessary to say, that the name of this little girl was not the only one added to the temperance list that night. William and Martha were unable to resist the force of an example so powerful, and they never afterward regretted that they had taken the temperance pledge.
"MOTHER," said Henry Ashton, a thoughtfullooking boy of fourteen, "I wish you would tell me what is meant by true greatness."
"You have asked me a comprehensive and difficult question," replied his mother, "but it is one so worthy of your utmost attention, that I will endeavor to assist you in investigating the subject for yourself, rather than adopt the method your brother likes so much better, of simply telling you what I think, and then leaving your thoughts to wander at will to any other subject."
"One gets quicker over things in that way," observed his younger brother Frederic, a little ashamed of so direct a reference to himself.
"You may well call it getting over things," observed Mrs. Ashton, " for your way of proceeding is very much like that of the farmer who should walk over his fields of corn, instead of reaping their produce, and storing it up for after use.'
No, mother," said Frederic, " you can not compare it to anything so bad as that, for the farmer injures his corn by treading it down."
"And if you," replied his mother, “do not exactly injure all the subjects you get over so quickly, you injure your own powers of thinking."
"How so?" asked Frederic, in some astonish
"Have you never noticed," continued his mother, "that those persons who will not take the trouble to think to any purpose, grow weary of everything, and finally weary everybody else by their emptiness and discontent."
But," interrupted Frederic, "as soon as they find time to think, or a subject worth thinking about, they can do so at any time."
"No, no," replied his mother, "you are greatly mistaken there; we are all the creatures of habit, and a man who has never taken the trouble to think in the season of youth, can no more do so when arrived at middle life, than he who has kept his bed until the age of forty can rise up and make a pleasant excursion on foot to any place he chooses to visit. Besides which, the power of thinking is not merely given us to serve as pastime for the present moment. It is a power, every effort of which has reference to the future, for by the habit of thinking in youth, we lay up treasures for old age."
"Oh, dear!" said Frederic, heaving a deep sigh, as if the effort were a great deal too hard for him to make, or, as if old age were a very long way off, and a sort of thing he did not feel himself at all called upon to contemplate just then.
"I have one more remark to make," observed his mother," and then we will return, if you please, to the subject with which we began."
"And think about it, I suppose, until dinnertime," interrupted Frederic.
"That will be as you are disposed,” replied his mother, "for, mind me, I can not compel you to think; I can only advise, and entreat you, to cul