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I have often remarked to you, said Mrs. Mason, one morning, to her pupils, that we are all dependent on each other; and this dependence is wisely ordered by our Heavenly Father, to call forth many virtues, to exercise the best affections of the human heart, and fix them into habits. While we impart pleasure we receive it, and feel the grandeur of our immortal soul, as it is constantly struggling to spread itself into futurity.
Perhaps the greatest pleasure I have ever received, has arisen from the habitual exercise of charity, in its various branches: the view of a distressed object has made me now think of conversing about one branch of it, that of giving alms.
You know Peggy, the young girl whom I wish to have most about my person; I mean, I wish it for her own sake, that I may have an opportunity of improving her mind, and cultivating a good capacity. As to attendance, I never give much trouble to any fellow-creature; for I choose to be independent of caprice and artificial wants; unless indeed, when I am sick; then, I thankfully receive the a.s.sistance I would willingly give to others in the same situation. I believe I have not in the world a more faithful friend than Peggy; and her earnest desire to please me gratifies my benevolence, for I always observe with delight the workings of a grateful heart.
I lost a darling child, said Mrs. Mason, smothering a sigh, in the depth of winter-death had before deprived me of her father, and when I lost my child-he died again.
The wintery prospects suiting the temper of my soul, I have sat looking at a wide waste of trackless snow for hours; and the heavy sullen fog, that the feeble rays of the sun could not pierce, gave me back an image of my mind. I was unhappy, and the sight of dead nature accorded with my feelings-for all was dead to me.
As the snow began to melt, I took a walk, and observed the birds hopping about with drooping wings, or mute on the leafless boughs. The mountain, whose sides had lost the snow, looked black; yet still some remained on the summit, and formed a contrast to diversify the dreary prospect.
I walked thoughtfully along, when the appearance of a poor man, who did not beg, struck me very forcibly. His shivering limbs were scarcely sheltered from the cold by the tattered garments that covered him; and he had a sharp, famished look. I stretched out my hand with some relief in it, I would not enquire into the particulars of such obvious distress.
The poor wretch caught my hand, and hastily dropping on his knees, thanked me in an extacy, as if he had almost lost sight of hope, and was overcome by the sudden relief. His att.i.tude, for I cannot bear to see a fellow-creature kneel, and eager thanks, oppressed my weak spirits, so that I could not for a moment ask him any more questions; but as soon as I recollected myself, I learned from him the misfortunes that had reduced him to such extreme distress, and he hinted, that I could not easily guess the good I had done. I imagined from this hint that he was meditating his own destruction when I saw him, to spare himself the misery of seeing his infant perish,-starved to death, in every sense of the word.
I will now hasten to the sequel of the account. His wife had lately had a child, she was very ill at the time, and want of proper food, and a defence against the inclemency of the weather, hurried her out of the world. The poor child, Peggy, had sucked in disease and nourishment together, and now even that wretched source had failed-the breast was cold that had afforded the scanty support; and the little innocent smiled, unconscious of its misery. I sent for her, added Mrs. Mason, and her father dying a few years after, she has ever been a favourite charge of mine, and nursing of her, in some measure, dispelled the gloom in which I had been almost lost.-Ah! my children, you know not how many, ‘houseless heads bide the pitiless storm!’
I received soon after a lesson of resignation from a poor woman, who was a practical philosopher.
She had lost her husband, a sailor, and lost his wages also, as she could not prove his death. She came to me to beg some pieces of silk, to make some pin-cushions for the boarders of a neighbouring school. Her lower weeds were patched with different coloured rags; but they spoke not variety of wretchedness, on the contrary, they shewed a mind so content, that want, and bodily pain, did not prevent her thinking of the opinion of casual observers. This woman lost a husband and a child suddenly, and her daily bread was precarious.-I cheered the widow’s heart, and my own was not quite solitary.
But I am growing melancholy, whilst I am only desirous of pointing out to you how very beneficial charity is-because it enables us to find comfort when all our worldly comforts are blighted: besides, when our bowels yearn to our fellow-creatures, we feel that the love of G.o.d dwelleth in us-and then we cannot always go on our way sorrowing.
Visit to Mrs. Trueman.-The Use of Accomplishments.-Virtue the Soul of all.
In the afternoon they visited Mrs. Trueman unexpectedly, and found her sitting in the garden playing to her children, who danced on the green sod. She approached to receive them, and laid aside her guitar; but, after some conversation, Mrs. Mason desired her to take it up again, and the girls joined in the request. While she was singing Mary whispered Mrs. Mason, that she would give the world to be able to sing as well.
The whisper was not so low but a part of it reached Mrs. Trueman’s ears, who said to her, smiling, my young friend, you value accomplishments much too highly-they may give grace to virtue-but are nothing without solid worth.-Indeed, I may say more, for any thing like perfection in the arts cannot be attained, where a relish; nay, a delight in what is true and n.o.ble is wanting. A superficial observer may be pleased with a picture in which fine colours predominate; and quick movements in music may tickle the ear, though they never reach the heart: but it is the simple strain which affection animates, that we listen to with interest and delight. Mr. Trueman has a taste for the fine arts; and I wish in every thing to be his companion. His conversation has improved my judgment, and the affection an intimate knowledge of his virtues has inspired, increases the love which I feel for the whole human race. He lives retired from the world; to amuse him after the business of the day is over, and my babes asleep, I sing to him. A desire to please, and the pleasure I read in his eyes, give to my music energy and tenderness.
When he is ruffled by worldly cares, I try to smooth his wrinkled brow, and think mine a voice of melody, when it has had that effect.
Very true, replied Mrs. Mason, accomplishments should be cultivated to render us pleasing to our domestic friends; virtue is necessary; it must ever be the foundation of our peace and usefulness; but when we are capable of affection, we wish to have something peculiar to ourselves.
We study the taste of our friends, and endeavour to conform to it; but, in doing so, we ought rather to improve our own abilities than servilely to copy theirs. Observe, my dear girls, Mrs. Trueman’s distinction, her accomplishments are for her friends, her virtues for the world in general.
I should think myself vain, and my soul little, answered Mrs. Trueman, if the applause of the whole world, on the score of abilities, which did not add any real l.u.s.tre to my character, could afford me matter of exultation. The approbation of my own heart, the humble hope of pleasing the Most High, elevates my soul; and I feel, that in a future state, I may enjoy an unspeakable degree of happiness, though I now only experience a faint foretaste. Next to these sublime emotions, which I cannot describe, and the joy resulting from doing good; I am happy when I can amuse those I love; it is not then vanity, but tenderness, that spurs me on, and my songs, my drawings, my every action, has something of my heart in it. When I can add to the innocent enjoyments of my children, and improve them at the same time, are not my accomplishments of use? In the same style, when I vary the pleasures of my fire-side, I make my husband forget that it is a lonely one; and he returns to look for elegance at home, elegance that he himself gave the polish to; and which is only affected, when it does not flow from virtuous affections.
I beg your pardon, I expatiate too long on my favourite topic; my desire to rectify your notions must plead my excuse.
Mr. Trueman now joined them, and brought with him some of his finest fruit. After tea Mrs. Trueman shewed them some of her drawings; and, to comply with their repeated request, played on the harpsichord, and Mr.
Trueman took his violin to accompany her. Then the children were indulged with a dance, each had her favourite tune played in turn.
As they returned home, the girls were eagerly lavishing praises on Mrs.
Trueman; and Mary said, I cannot tell why, but I feel so glad when she takes notice of me. I never saw any one look so good-natured, cried Caroline. Mrs. Mason joined in the conversation. You justly remarked that she is good-natured; you remember her history, she loves truth, and she is ever exercising benevolence and love-from the insect, that she avoids treading on, her affection may be traced to that Being who lives for ever.-And it is from her goodness her agreeable qualities spring.
The Benefit of bodily Pain.-Fort.i.tude the Basis of Virtue.-The Folly of Irresolution.
The children had been playing in the garden for some time, whilst Mrs.
Mason was reading alone. But she was suddenly alarmed by the cries of Caroline, who ran into the room in great distress. Mary quickly followed, and explaining the matter said, that her sister had accidentally disturbed some wasps, who were terrified, and of course stung her. Remedies were applied to a.s.suage the pain; yet all the time she uttered the loudest and most silly complaints, regardless of the uneasiness she gave those who were exerting themselves to relieve her.
In a short time the smart abated, and then her friend thus addressed her, with more than usual gravity. I am sorry to see a girl of your age weep on account of bodily pain; it is a proof of a weak mind-a proof that you cannot employ yourself about things of consequence. How often must I tell you that the Most High is educating us for eternity?
‘The term virtue, comes from a word signifying strength. Fort.i.tude of mind is, therefore, the basis of every virtue, and virtue belongs to a being, that is weak in its nature, and strong only in will and resolution.’
Children early feel bodily pain, to habituate them to bear the conflicts of the soul, when they become reasonable creatures. This, I say, is the first trial, and I like to see that proper pride which strives to conceal its sufferings. Those who, when young, weep if the least trifle annoys them, will never, I fear, have sufficient strength of mind, to encounter all the miseries that can afflict the body, rather than act meanly to avoid them. Indeed, this seems to be the essential difference between a great and a little mind: the former knows how to endure-whilst the latter suffers an immortal soul to be depressed, lost in its abode; suffers the inconveniences which attack the one to overwhelm the other. The soul would always support the body, if its superiority was felt, and invigorated by exercise. The Almighty, who never afflicts but to produce some good end, first sends diseases to children to teach them patience and fort.i.tude; and when by degrees they have learned to bear them, they have acquired some virtue.
In the same manner, cold or hunger, when accidentally encountered, are not evils; they make _us feel what wretches feel_, and teach us to be tender-hearted. Many of your fellow-creatures daily bear what you cannot for a moment endure without complaint. Besides, another advantage arises from it, after you have felt hunger, you will not be very anxious to choose the particular kind of food that is to satisfy it. You will then be freed from a frivolous care.
When it is necessary to take a nauseous draught, swallow it at once, and do not make others sick whilst you are hesitating, though you know that you ought to take it. If a tooth is to be drawn, or any other disagreeable operation to be performed, determine resolutely that it shall be done immediately; and debate not, when you clearly see the step that you ought to take. If I see a child act in this way, I am ready to embrace it, my soul yearns for it-I perceive the dawning of a character that will be useful to society, as it prepares its soul for a n.o.bler field of action.
Believe me, it is the patient endurance of pain, that will enable you to resist your pa.s.sions; after you have borne bodily pain, you will have firmness enough to sustain the still more excruciating agonies of the mind. You will not, to banish momentary cares, plunge into dissipation, nor to escape a present inconvenience, forget that you should hold fast virtue as the only substantial good.
I should not value the affection of a person who would not bear pain and hunger to serve me; nor is that benevolence warm, which shrinks from encountering difficulties, when it is necessary, in order to be useful to any fellow-creature.
There is a just pride, a n.o.ble ambition in some minds, that I greatly admire. I have seen a little of it in Mary! for whilst she pities others, she imagines that she could bear their inconveniences herself; and she seems to feel more uneasiness, when she observes the sufferings of others, than I could ever trace on her countenance under the immediate pressure of pain.
Remember you are to bear patiently the infirmities of the weakest of your fellow-creatures; but to yourselves you are not to be equally indulgent.
Journey to London.
The girls were visibly improved; an air of intelligence began to animate Caroline’s fine features; and benevolence gave her eyes the humid sparkle which is so beautiful and engaging. The interest that we take in the fate of others, attaches them to ourselves;-thus Caroline’s goodness inspired more affection than her beauty.
Mary’s judgment grew every day clearer; or, more properly speaking, she acquired experience; and her lively feelings fixed the conclusions of reason in her mind. Whilst Mrs. Mason was rejoicing in their apparent improvement, she received a letter from their father, requesting her to allow his daughters to spend the winter in town, as he wished to procure them the best masters, an advantage that the country did not afford.
With reluctance she consented, determining to remain with them a short time; and preparations were quickly made for the journey.
The wished for morning arrived, and they set off in a tumult of spirits; sorry to leave the country, yet delighted with the prospect of visiting the metropolis. This hope soon dried the tears which had bedewed their cheeks; for the parting with Mrs. Mason was not antic.i.p.ated. The autumnal views were new to them; they saw the hedges exhibit various colours, and the trees stripped of their leaves; but they were not disposed to moralize.
For some time after their arrival, every thing they saw excited wonder and admiration; and not till they were a little familiarized with the new objects, did they ask reasonable questions.
Several presents recruited their purses; and they requested Mrs. Mason to allow them to buy some trifles they were in want of. The request was modest, and she complied.
Charity.-Shopping.-The distressed Stationer.-Mischievous Consequences of delaying Payment.