ddie's mamma had promised her, if her Uncle John came out from the city on Christmas she should have a party. Consequently, she felt anxious as the time drew nearer for that holiday, and no letter from her Uncle [John] Wilson came. But a fortnight before the day, Addie was overjoyed to have her mamma receive the long-looked-for letter, announcing his
intended visit. Addie was to have her party.
Christmas morning came, cold and clear; the snow was lying thick upon the ground, while sleighs were flying along to the tune of jingling bells.
Addie was an early riser that morning, dressed and down to breakfast as early as any one in the house. She was so taken up with the coming party that she came very night forgetting Santa Claus or his visit.
He did not forget her, and in fact he must have known about the
party, for he brought her among other things a beautiful fan.
The day sped, especially so with Addie, who was as busy as a bee in receiving her cousins and friends: but still her Uncle John did not arrive. As the sun sunk low in the sky, Addie grew very anxious.
Addie wished to have a nice long evening; so by five o'clock there was a pretty large party gathered. There were many present. Addie's grandmamma, and three aunts, and two uncles, and lots of cousins -- nearly twenty, one size or another; for Addie had first cousins, and
second cousins, and third cousins, not that their degrees of relationship could be told by their age and height.
Tea was ready, and all were ready for it, for there were a great many good things on the table -- but the most important to their happiness, was dear Uncle John.
The young folks were anxious, too, and if it were the case that those who talk most feel the most, it would appear that they loved him best of any present, not excepting grandmamma, who sat very quietly in a corner near the fire, but her
ear was on the listen for a knock at the door. The children crowded round the window, that they might give the first intelligence of the arrival of Uncle John.
It was a clear, frosty night, and they could see some distance up the road, and every dark figure that moved towards the house from the right direction, they declared was he, and the boys raised a shout. When the passenger drew near the lamp at the garden gate, they found out their mistake, and in some cases they were annoyed at having taken old women, dirty
boys or shabbily dressed men, for their uncle.
Six o'clock came, no uncle. -- What could be the reason? At last, however, a coach stopped before the door.
"O, here he is," shouted a dozen voices at once, and off ran the group from the window in anything but a polite and orderly manner, for in their impatience some of the young gentlemen almost knocked the young ladies down the stairs.
"O, uncle, what has made you so late? we have been looking out so for you, for the last hour and
"I'll answer you all in time, but you must let me take off my great coat, and get a little breath," he replied.
"Now, then, I'll tell you the cause of my being so late this evening," said Uncle John, setting down his tea-cup after having emptied it four or five times, "you all of you know William Smith?"
"O, yes, you mean the man who was your gardener some years ago."
"Ay, and he might have been my gardener until this day, if he had not thought to better himself by becoming his own master. He is very steady and industrious, and he had saved a few dollars, so when he left me to get married, he opened a nursery-ground. He got on very well for two or three years, and he seemed as happy as a prince, for he has a saving, good-tempered wife, and two nice children. Well, I had neither seen nor heard of him for nearly twelve months, when this morning as I was leaving town, I was told that he had broken
"Then I know what kept you, uncle," cried a shrewd little fellow who was sitting on a stool by his side. "You went to the hospital to see him; that's where you have been."
"You must be very clever at guessing, master Fred, for I did not say that I went to see the man; I only said that he was lying ill in the hospital."
"Yes, but we can always tell what you will do because you al-
ways do what is kind," whispered a little blue-eyed girl, who was sitting on his knee.
"Then, I must mind what I am about another time, if you little folks know what I am at without seeing me."
"O, there's no fear of your being seen in any mischief," exclaimed a lad of fourteen, who was standing at his elbow. "But tell us, if you please, uncle, whether William is likely to get better. I should so like to see him again, he used to help me to fly my kite when I came to see you. He was always so
obliging, and nothing ever put him out of temper."
"Nothing ever put him out of temper," Mr. Wilson repeated. "Never out of temper! What an excellent character to have. I wonder how many of us have the same said of us," he added, and he looked slyly from one to the other.
"Did you go to see William Smith, uncle?" asked another of the little folks.
"I'll tell you. But you all talk so fast and ask me so many questions, that I shall be obliged to
borrow a tongue for the night to answer you. Well, I did see him, but I went to his home first. It appears that they have a good deal of sickness in the family. His mother, a pleasant old woman, who lives with them, has been confined to her bed for several months, and that has taken up his wife's time, and she used to help in the business. This, and poor Smith's accident together, has thrown them back so with their rent, that they are afraid they shall be obliged to leave and give up the nursery-ground."
"But if they go away from that house, what will they do? Have they any other home to go to?" asked Addie, the little girl on her uncle's knee.
"No, my love; and if they don't pay the rent, their beds, and chairs, and tables, and clothes, and all the things in the house, will be sold to find money to pay it."
"O, how sad!" returned the child: "and if William has not any flowers to sell, what will they do to live on? Do you think he will get well, uncle?" she asked with earnestness.
"Yes, I hope so," was his reply, "for he is already much better; though it will most likely be a good while before he is quite strong again. It is the want of money to pay his rent, that troubles him most just now, however. He does not know how to raise it."
"Poor fellow!" said one of the party.
"What a sad case!" cried another.
"I am sorry for him," sighed a third. Indeed, every one in the room expressed pity for him in one way or another.
"We all appear to be interested in this poor man's trouble," said Uncle John, taking his snuff-box out of his pocket and tapping it several times in a manner which plainly showed that his thoughts were on something else. "We all appear interested," he repeated; "but the landlord won't take our kind words as payment for a quarter's rent, that is certain, especially as he is rather a hard man; so we are throwing away all our sympathy.
"Now, I was thinking of an old proverb which says, that 'a grain
of help is worth a bushel of pity;' and I was thinking, too, that if each one of us were to afford him a grain of help, his bushel of trouble might soon be lifted from his poor weak shoulders."
A loud, merry laugh ran round the room at this last remark, and a murmur of approval followed.
"That's a capital thought, uncle!" cried the young gentleman of fourteen.
"I am glad you think so, Henry," Mr. Wilson returned with a smile. "Now, show us how much you think your pity is worth?" he added,
holding out a small china plate, which was lying on a side table near him.
Poor Harry looked down, and as if he did not know what to say. "You will surely give something to a worthy man, who you know is in need?" pleaded our host, still holding the plate towards him.
"O, uncle, you will think my pity is not worth much, he replied, "but -- but -- I have spent all my money. I have not one cent left."
"O, O, if that's the case, you are to be pitied too. Well, never
mind, I'll put some money in for you," he added, laughing, "or we shall make but a poor beginning. Another time," he whispered, "don't spend all your money as soon as you get it; but keep a little for any call on your generosity which may occur."
"Now, Addie, my love," Mr. Wilson continued, turning to the little girl, "is your pity of any value? We will go round to the young first, that their gifts may not appear so small," he said.
"It is not the actual worth of the offering which decides its true
value, he added, "but the spirit in which it is given. If we are only able to give a small sum, and we give it cheerfully, there is as much generosity in it as in giving a larger some from larger means. Do you understand what I mean, my dear?"
"Yes, uncle, I think I do; you mean that if I give a quarter of a dollar out of my pocket money, it will be as kind as if a rich gentleman were to give a dollar."
"Yes, Mary; but can you give a quarter?"
The little girl laughed and began
to feel in the pocket of her dress; after a while she drew out a small purse. "There it is, uncle," she cried, putting the money into the plate.
"O, that is a new one, Mary; where did you get that?" asked Mr. Wilson, with a look which seemed to say, but your kind face is the prettiest of the two.
"O, papa gave it to me the other day," replied the child; "and I meant to keep it; but I would rather give it to poor William Smith, now he is so ill."
"That's right, Addie, my love,"
"It is not worth much, uncle, for I have only ten cents; but here it is. Mamma gave it to me this morning."
"There's a good boy," Mr. Wil-
son returned, passing his hand several times over his head and face. "Your offering is valuable in two ways; first, you know what our Saviour said of the widow's two mites. Well, as this is your all, you have been kind to the extent of your ability; we cannot any of us do more. God looks to the motive, not to the amount of the gift; then, in the next place, it is valuable on account of its being the reward of your perseverance.
"But I must not stay to draw a moral from every ten-cent piece I get, or we shall not have any time
for forfeits." So saying, up he jumped from his elbow-chair with the plate in his hand, and round he went, first to the young people, and then to the middle-aged people, and then to the old people; and I cannot repeat all the jokes which passed, for he pretended to be able to tell the kindness of each person's heart by the value of the gifts they made.
What with the feeling that it was relieving a worthy family from trouble, and the laughter it gave rise to, it gave quite a pleasant turn to the evening's amusement;
and by the time Uncle John got round to his seat again, he had collected within one dollar of enough to pay the poor man's rent. This last he somehow contrived to pass from his own purse to the plate. They all knew very well where it came from, though none of them saw him put it in.
But that was just his quiet way of doing an act of kindness, and it is the way the Bible teaches. Jesus Christ says, "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them;" that is, for the purpose of being seen of them;
"otherwise," he adds, "ye have no reward of your Father which is in Heaven." -- Matt. vi. 1.
As soon as this really important matter was settled, Uncle John entered with spirit into the fun of the evening. It was such a pleasant party! All had felt as if they had a personal share in Willian Smith's trouble; and now that amongst them they had found the means to greatly remove it, they all seemed to share in the thankfulness and joy he would feel. O, it is a luxury to do good! No selfish pleasure can be compared with it.
Addie and Freddie, and a few other young ladies and gentlemen present, who were rather older than they were, enjoyed the games of blind-man's-bluff and hunt-the-slipper. They made Uncle John blind man, but his arms were so long, there was no escaping him. Then, at forfeits, he was so sharp, that they could seldom catch him, saying "Yes," or "No," when he ought not.
Time passed so pleasantly, that ten o'clock and supper were by no means welcome sounds to many. However, it was only the name of
supper which was disagreeable -- at least one might judge so from the reception it met with.
After supper some of the party returned home; but it had been agreed that most of the young people should remain till the morrow, on account of the lateness of the hour.
"Dear Uncle John," cried little Addie, throwing her arms around his neck after she had bid him "Good night," -- "this is the happiest time I ever had in my life."
"Yes, that it is," chimed in nearly a dozen voices at once.
"I am very glad you have all enjoyed yourselves, my dears," he replied, smiling and looking from one merry face to another. "But shall I tell you what I think is the reason why you have all been so very happy? It is owing to your having helped poor William Smith. The secret of true enjoyment, my dear children," he added, "is to feel that by some sacrifice of our own pleasures we have made others happy. But now I must wish you all good-night."
PRUDENCE WITHOUT MEANNESS, AND PARADE WITHOUT CHARITY
Peter and Mary were the only children of a man named Adams; and as they had no mother, this fond parent thought they needed double care; and was therefore over watchful of them, and worked hard to provide for them, in case it should please God to take him from them also.
This was doing his duty, and his children loved him very much; but the good man was apt to indulge them too much, and let them have
their own way in matters which they did not understand.
With Mary, this kindness did no harm; for she was a gentle and prudent child; but Peter was rash and sudden in all he thought, and in all he did; so that he often did wrong, and brought himself into difficulties that might have been prevented, had his father checked him in proper time.
Neither brother nor sister were selfish; but they did not share with their friends, or dispense their bounty in the same way.
Peter, indeed, thought his sister
stingy, and sometimes greedy or unkind; Mary did not always give the whole of what she possessed, nor did she give her penny to every beggar; yet she could often assist the poor, when her brother had only pity to bestow.
Once, when they had been walking a long way, and come home very hungry, Peter went into the kitchen to see what was cooking for dinner. "Boiled beef, carrots, and suet dumplings," cried Peter; "all three, just what I like, and so does Mary; I hope we shall not have long to wait."
To his great joy, dinner was soon ready; both sat down to table quite ready for the meal; but just as the meat was laid on their plates, an old gray-headed beggar held his hat before the open window, and craved a morsel of bread.
"Poor creature, " said Peter; "how hard it must be to see a good dinner and not have a morsel of his own. I am sure he shall have mine;" and so saying, he stuck his fork into a large dumpling, to add to the plateful before him.
"Stop, brother," cried Mary;
"you need not put the dumpling with the meat; one will be enough; you may be glad of the dumpling for yourself; for you know we must not eat all the meat, when so many are to eat after us."
"What! cannot the servants go without a dinner for once?"
"You forget," said his father, "that my people have been at work in the fields, while you were walking for pleasure; they have, therefore, much need of a dinner, and as much as we can give them."
"Well then, let them eat as much as they like, but Mary can give hers."
"No, thank you, brother; as you mean to give both meat and dumpling, it would be overdoing the matter to give mine too; and I am really very hungry myself."
"How greedy," said Peter; "and cruel into the bargain:" then, jumping up, he gave the whole dinner to the poor old man, who, on going away, gave him many thanks.
When Peter sat down again, Mary offered to share her dinner with him; but he would only take a very little bit of beef, saying he could finish the meal with bread.
His father smiled, and Peter thought he looked pleased: so he felt quite proud of his conduct, and thought his sister should be ashamed of her meanness; but Mary did not appear to feel she had done wrong.
When the dumpling was served up, she declined eating any, saying she had had dinner enough; and Peter did not doubt she meant her share for him. But he was soon convinced that this was not the case, by Mary's telling Betty, the dairy-maid, to put by the dumpling for her. Peter looked at his
father, then at his sister, and hoped the former would notice such greediness; but he did not; and dinner being over in the usual time, Mary sat down to work, and Peter went with his father to look after the haymakers.
He was not an idle boy; he liked to be employed; and on this day, took his part in the active scene better than most boys of his age; for he was only ten years old.
When the day's labor was over, few returned home more weary and hungry than little Peter; and he made his way to the little par-
"Have you had supper, Mary?" asked he.
"No, brother; I would not take it until you and father returned from the fields."
"But you are not going to eat your dumpling, Mary?"
"O, my dumpling has been eaten long since."
"What, before supper? Well,
now, I do think you would have done better to have given it to the poor old man, as I did mine, than to eat it, when you could not want it."
"Indeed, brother, I never eat when I do not feel I want it; but set your mind at ease; my dumpling made a nice supper for John, the shepherd-boy; I saw him eating cold potatoes for his dinner, and knowing that I had both meat and dumpling for mine, I thought it was but fair, that he should have a bit of the one, when I had enough of the other; so I sent it to him with a five-cent piece, at
five o'clock; and I dare say he was not long in making an end of it. Your beggar, to-day, was not so hungry: he put the food into a bag, and walked off to get more from our neighbors. Betty saw him get a quantity at Mr. Pratt's; and all went into the bag."
"Perhaps he waited till he went home, that he might give some to his children," said Peter.
"I am afraid he was not good for much," observed their father; "but never mind, boy; your kind act was still the same."
Peter thought so too; yet Mary had done more good, and eaten her dinner too.
One day, little Ellen, who lived a short way off, came to borrow a bird-cage for a few days. Mary was most ready to lend the only empty one they possessed; but on learning that the bird to be put into it was a blackbird, she knew the cage was too small.
"How will you manage Ellen?" said Peter.
"I am sure I don't know," replied she; "I only wish your cage had been larger."
"Well," said Peter, "I'll tell you what I think of the matter: your brother is very clever and I doubt not he could enlarge our cage with reeds, in the same way as I have seen him make little baskets."
"But that would spoil the cage," said Mary; "and you know grandmother is to send us a linnet next week; and we shall want it."
"Yes, I do know that; still it would be a pity the blackbird should want a cage, when ours could be made to suit; and William can but put it into its old
trim again, when Ellen has done with it."
Mary did not think so; for she knew, and so did her brother, that Ellen and William only valued things for their present use; and when they got a better cage, were likely to bring back theirs spoiled and broken.
Peter wondered she should be so disobliging as to refuse such a trifle; and in short, said so much on the subject, that Mary let him have his own way; and the cage was given to Ellen.
The next week brought the lin-
net; and there was great distress for its dwelling; the cage not being returned. Peter was sure that Ellen could spare it, and had forgotten to bring it back; so he called to ask for it; but he found, to his dismay, that as Mary had foreseen, it was too small for the blackbird, and, as it was only lent to them, William would not take the trouble to alter it; and there it lay, broken and dirty, in an outhouse, with other things, which those careless children had spoiled.
Peter returned to Mary with a sad tale; but the truth did not
surprise her; she knew the characters of her neighbors too well; and she said so too.
"You are right, this time, Mary," said her brother; "but then, you are a year older than I, and ought to have more prudence; and I like to be good-natured and generous."
"So do I, brother; but I don't call it generous to do a thing which you know is wrong, just because you wish to appear good-natured; and now, what are we to do with our pretty linnet? the canary is in the only cage we have."
"I have been thinking about it," answered Peter; "and think I can manage until to-morrow, when I will ask father to assist me in mending the broken one."
Mary was at a loss to guess how he would manage; but he laughed, and told her it was a secret.
Before going to bed, Mary went to look at the canary; and to her surprise, found the linnet in the same cage. The stranger was a quiet, tame bird; but the canary was a bold and pert thing, who would not suffer the presence of a fellow-lodger, but kept scolding and peck-
ing at the frightened linnet, which, in a flutter, retired to the corner of the cage.
Mary went in haste to fetch her brother, that the linnet might be taken from its foe; but though he was at first alarmed for the safety of the bird, he thought the quarrel would not last long; and was certain his canary was too generous to hurt its new friend.
In a short time the birds became quiet, and the canary prepared for roosting; very probably with the intention of commencing the quarrel the next morning.
"There!" cried Peter, "I told you how it would be; they are quite snug and happy, you see."
"I am certain the canary will kill the linnet," said Mary; "and do beg you will rise early to-morrow, and mend the cage, that we may keep them apart."
Peter promised to do so, and his sister went to bed; after which he began to think of a plan to divide the angry birds during the night. For this purpose, he procured a piece of wood, which he meant to fix across the cage; but how to do this without letting the little war-
blers out was a puzzle. At length he slid his hand gently into the sleeping apaprtment of the two songsters; but the motion awoke the spiteful canary, who pecked his hand smartly, and forced him to withdraw it hastily, leaving the door open, and the next minute both birds escaped out of the cage.
Peter pursued them from corner to corner of the room, till, seeing the canary approach the doorway, he slapped the door to in a hurry, and at the same moment found the linnet was caught by the wing. Tears rushed to his eyes, as he
released the poor trembler; and forgetting the canary, he ran with the maimed bird to Betty, to ask her advice.
When the linnet was safe in her hands, he first thought of the canary; which, on his return, he found perched on the top of its cage; and having secured the saucy creature, he went back to visit the ill-used creature. But, alas! the poor thing was released from its troubles, and lay dead in Betty's lap. Shocked as Peter was to behold this sight, he took comfort in hearing from Betty that the hurt
in its wing had not caused its death: marks of the canary's beak were plain upon its head and breast, plainly showing how it was killed.
Peter would not disturb Mary with the bad news that might; and before she awoke the next morning, he had, in a pet, given the canary to a school-fellow.
Mary was truly concerned to learn the fate of the pretty linnet; but she said the canary was not to blame; the fault was their own, in putting the birds into one cage. "But," added she, "I will
punish the wrangler, by not giving him a lump of sugar this whole day."
For the first time, Peter felt he had acted rashly in giving away the bird; and hardly knew how to excuse himself to his sister, who was both surprised and vexed as she listened to him; but seeing that her brother was angry with himself, she was too fond of him to add to his regret, and therefore dropped the subject.
It was only a few days after this, that Peter meeting the boy to whom he had given the canary,
was shocked to hear the careless fellow had left the door of its cage open, and that it had flown away. Truly sorry was Mary for the poor bird; who, thus adrift in a world with which it was not acquainted, might be subject to a hundred misfortunes; ill-treatment, and perhaps, a cruel death.
"Now, Peter," said the thinking girl, "you find there was nothing generous in lending the cage to Ellen, after we found it would not suit her purpose. She destroyed the cage, and we have lost our pretty birds; how much better
would it have been, had you agreed with me at first."
Peter allowed this; but finished by saying he did not like to refuse favors when he could grant them; it looked so ill-natured.
Peter's false ideas of kindness and generous feelings, caused many of these sorts of regrets: still he always excused himself in the old way. But there was one bright day to come, on which all troubles were to be thrown aside; and this was the day of the town fair, a mile distant from their home. So many fine sights were to be seen,
and pretty things to be sold, that it was quite a treat to pass through the gay scene; but Mr. Adams was too fond a parent to let his children view pleasure and not share in it; they partook largely of all that could attract their wishes, and their little red purses were well stocked to buy what they liked.
Peter did not keep his money long; he bought toys and cakes, gave alms to every one who asked, and treated many of his young friends to see the show-giant and the dwarf; until, having spent all, and tired of looking aobut him,
and sick of sweet things, he was not sorry to turn his back upon the splendid affair, and return to his quiet and comfortable home.
Mary also enjoyed the sights, and only bought a book. Peter thought she was quite stingy with her money in not spending it. But Mary had also been generous. She gave some money to three little girls who were looking at the fine things, but had no money to purchase any of them. She gave some to a blind man; and she also bought some ribbons for Betty and Sally.
Mary's father said she was not
any too generous, but prudent. For Peter, he thought she was the best girl in the world; said he, "She has found out the right way to be generous, which I never have; for I see all my rash plans and good-natured actions were nothing in comparison with hers. I am quite ashamed to think how often I have called Mary stingy and mean; yet how kindly she took it."
"Because, my dear Peter, I knew you would find out the truth some time or another."
"I have indeed found it out," said Peter; "and take this kiss as
amends for the past: be assured, Mary, I shall be proud to imitate you in every thing; and I shall never again mistake prudence for meanness, nor vain parade for real charity."
A poor man came, one day, to our gate. He was old, and thin, and pale; his hair was gray; his head hung down; and both his hat and coat were torn.
My aunt said to me, "Go to that poor old man, and give him some food."
I went down the lawn, and gave him some bread and meat. He took it out of my hand, and made me a bow. He did not say a word; but I saw a big tear in each of his eyes.
A few days after, I was walking alone at the edge of the lawn, when a great dog ran up and barked at me . I was very frightened, but the old man came up with his stick, and drove away the dog.
"One good action, my dear child," said he to me, "deserves another. You were kind to me when I was hungry, and gratitude is a great virtue."
Copyright 2011 by Deidre Johnson . Please do not reproduce without permission.