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Our little boy felt sad to think that he must give up the box, and the shawl, and the cloak, and all the joy he had been thinking about. But he did not hesitate.
“Is this the box, sir ?” he asked, drawing it from
Yes, yes, that is it. Give it to me.” So the boy gave up the box, and the man turned back and rode away hastily, while the boy walked slowly after him. It was a sad trial to him, not for his own sake, so much as for his mother's and the baby's.
“But I did right," he said to himself, and felt cheered by the thought.
I told the truth and was honest."
He never knew that the box contained a rare and · costly medicine, which restored hundreds of sick people to health.
* WHAT SHALL I DO?”. w Ou sir, that I could decide and begin my work at once, take up my burden and march. If I had but some strong natural taste imperatively calling me in one direction, it would be easy to decide—then all this doubt and indecision would cease.
I weary of this child's play, I long to be independent, to earn my own bread; it is full time I took the burden of my life off my father's hands; but what can I do? day after day passes and I get no answer to this pressing 'what?' nothing opens before me."
“Nothing but—that much loathed business of your father's, John, you ought to say. You forgot how blindly you close your eyes to the one thing that is open before you, the one path it is your duty to pursue.”
“Sir! Mr. Stanton, my duty to pursue! Will you join with all the rest and tell me that with my education and my tastes it is my duty to spend my days in a butcher's shop? To do work the most ignorant, carelessminded could easily accomplish,—my duty!"
Clearly so—inasmuch as it is the only path now open by which you can earn your living, and support your parents in their old age. Close this, sell the shop, dispose of the business, what is before you? You say yourself you have no great liking for any one occupation, no natural way in one direction, what would you do then? spend your days trying a little of one kind, a little of another? waste your youth of energy, and ere long find poverty and starvation (if nothing darker) standing at your door?_no, no John, stick close and bravely to the shop, however revolting to your taste ; hundreds have been ruined by doing as you would do."
“Then of what good, Mr. Stanton, is all this schooling, this education that has engaged my mind, refined my taste, and given me nobler aims,—of what use but to render this trade (my duty, as you call it!) still more obnoxious and disgusting? What has a butcher to do with science, music, art, and poetry? surely it were far better had these years been spent in the shop !"
" John Wood, thy tone is bitter as thy pace is swift, it is hard for my old limbs to keep up with thee in thy fierce mood. Sit us down on this stump, and calmly talk this matter over, boy, I would feign see thee in a better frame of mind.”
“Oh, sir, I have been sorely perplexed for months past; I feel I am capable of something better, and am bitterly out of patience with that shop being thrust forward continually. It is not occupation for the next few years only, but my work for life I want to decide upon; you must allow it is a serious subject, and one I have a right to be in earnest about.”
"A most serious and gravely important one, John, and for that very reason I urge cool and calm deliberation. First, you start on very false ground in supposing that your education and refinement unfit you for this trade. Education is a bad thing indeed if it unfits a man for honest labour, of whatsoever kind. This is the blind argument used by those who are opposed to the education of the lower classes, and some among them who, like yourself, have fortunately obtained this education, do much injury to their cause by inattention, as though they considered that knowledge and cultivatiop raised them above the work to which they were bred, the trade by which their fathers acquired the means of educating them. How can the working classes ever rise to a higher stand-point, if, as soon as any member of it rises to a superior moral and intellectual position, he abandons his work, looks down upon his fellow-workers, and strives to creep into what he calls a “higher station?”
“Would you then have a man sacrifice himself down to its level, condemn him to live and associate only with those whom he justly feels his inferiors, shutting him out from farther opportunities of intellectual and spiritual growth?”
“If he be truly great, he will not descend to the level of his class, but must perforce raise his class up to
And would not this raise him at once above a common man, and prove him to be both great and good?"
“Certainly it does,—but if every man determines to devote his life to the public good, strives to improve and elevate his generation rather than to develope his own peculiar and special talents, keeps these in the background or sets them aside altogether—what would become of genius? where would be our artists and our
“You are standing on false ground again, John. Living for the good of others does not imply the neglect of individual talent, much more truly it necessitates its fullest developement. The love of true genius will not be silenced, it must be obeyed, and the unwearying invincible patience, the deep inward sense of power that comes with it, make its possessor sure that his highest duty is to obey it; and he who developes and exercises this power to its utmost, and labours with his soul and his whole soul and strength,—becomes an inestimable blessing to the world at large, by his very forgetfulness of self; in his devotion to his art he lives for the good of others. But we are going rather astray. I want to make you see that it is not honest work however humble, can debase a man; one trade will not hinder him more than another; 'to the pure all things are pure.' A rightly cultivated and refined man ennobles whatsoever he comes in contact with, the work by his doing of it.”
“I suppose that is true, Mr. Stanton; but yet it seems to me, some occupations are in themselves so purifying and ennobling that one engaged in them seems, as it were, forced into intellectual and spiritual growth; while others are so mean and degrading as to shut out all light, remove every possibility of this growth; the one is surrounded by a pure invigorating atmosphere in which no ugly thing has life,--the other dwells in the close and noisome air of a town, and is encompassed by wickedness and darkness; I think it must be as impossible to live a pure and good life in the one, as an unholy one in the other.”
“Unquestionably it is so, John, though you give the extreme of each side."
“Then will you not allow, Sir, that, when apparently at liberty to choose, it is far better to choose the purer life than to challenge the temptations and difficulties of the other? Is it not well, if possible, to take for your work here one that is worthy of being carried out hereafter, to commence a life that will indeed be continued throughout eternity? What a glorious thought to feel as some must, that each day's, each hour's labour, was intended to develope those qualities that bring us nearer to the perfect life, that not one moment was lost!"
“You think you are getting the better of me I see. But John, whom think ye will have the higher place in heaven, and the finer sense of its intense blessedness,he who has encountered storm and cloud, has fought bis way through darkness, despair and sin, has struggled?-or he who has known none of these, who has lived a good and tranquil life, has glided smoothly down its stream ?”
“Indeed, Sir, I believe it is only they who have fought can know the real blessing of Peace. But if such be God's decree, will not the trouble and darkness fall round us without our going forth to seek it ? Were it not foolhardy and impotent to choose the rough and rugged way, when the smooth and sunny is open before you?”
“You forget, John, you are condemning yourself; are you not longing to turn from the smoo open to you, and enter one of doubt and uncertainty?":
“But I do not call mine “smooth and sunny',-far from it ; to me it is full of irksome and disagreeable duties, compared with which nearly any other looks inviting; I do not seek a more difficult one, but one better suited to my taste and powers."
path that is “In fact you would obey inclination and be deaf to duty; but remember it is as cowardly to desire a smooth and easy life, as it is foolhardy to seek temptation and difficulty. Fortunately, however, no man can really choose what life he will lead. This course is marked out from the first; did he but patiently seek it, examine his position, search deep and earnestly in his soul, he would find it; he would feel his choice lay but between obedience to duty or inclination, the great danger is lest inclination prove the stronger and deafen him to the voice of duty. Let them to whom a life of great though arduous duties is assigned, be earnest and brave, and them to whom the tediousness of little duties and a quiet life is allowed, be patient and trustful. While life remains what man has made it, some one must do the dirty work,—who dare think himself too good for it? too pure to soil his hands with it? Doth not God suffer “His sun to shine alike on the evil as on the good,” likewise on the unholy as on the holy corners of this earth! His little ones, are they not born in the midst of the darkness, coming like a light, a direct message from him? Shall we forsake them because they are surrounded by darkness and poverty? Dare we deem ourselves too high to stoop to save them, to strive to bring them out of their darkness and lighten their misery?”
“But, sir, is it not far oftener a sense of weakness and incapacity that makes a man shrink from such work, than a feeling that he would sympathise with their griefs and learn how to lighten them ?"
* No such feeling of humanity was in your mind, when we began this talk; and though the circumstances differ, the spirit is the same. You said "you felt you were made for better things, for higher work," because you are better educated you fancy yourself superior to your class, you think it no longer meet that you should labour with your fellow-workers; you, having received light, will forsake those who are still in darkness; you would give up your trade, that you may push in among those who now look down upon you.”
“You are too severe, Mr. Stanton, and give me credit for motives I had not entertained. I certainly have