“The Sailor’s Resolve” on Proverbs 29:22, is written by Charlotte Maria Tucker (A.L.O.E.) is from “Precepts in Practice,” and is about anger.
“An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.”—Proverbs 29:22.
The old sailor Jonas sat before the fire with his pipe in his mouth, looking steadfastly into the glowing coals. Not that, following a favorite practice of his little niece, he was making out red-hot castles and flaming buildings in the grate, or that his thoughts were in any way connected with the embers: he was doing what it would be well if we all sometimes did,—looking into himself, and reflecting on what had happened in relation to his own conduct.
“So,” thought he, “here am I, an honest old fellow,—I may say it, with all my faults; and one who shrinks from falsehood more than from fire; and I find that I, with my bearish temper, am actually driving those about me into it—teaching them to be crafty, tricky, and cowardly! I knew well enough that my gruffness plagued others, but I never saw how it tempted others until now; tempted them to meanness, I would say, for I have found a thousand times that an angry man stirreth up strife, and that a short word may begin a long quarrel. I am afraid that I have not thought enough on this matter. I’ve looked on bad temper as a very little sin, and I begin to suspect that it is a great one, both in God’s eyes and in the consequences that it brings. Let me see if I can reckon up its evils! It makes those miserable whom one would wish to make happy; it often, like an adverse gale, forces them to back instead of steering straight for the port. It dishonors one’s profession, lowers one’s flag, makes the world mock at the religion which can leave a man as rough and rugged as a heathen savage. It’s directly contrary to the word of God,—it’s wide as east from west of the example set before us! Yes, a furious temper is a very evil thing; I’d give my other leg to be rid of mine!” and in the warmth of his self-reproach the sailor struck his wooden one against the hearth with such violence as to make Alie start in terror that some fierce explosion was about to follow.
“Well, I’ve made up my mind as to its being an evil—a great evil,” continued Jonas, in his quiet meditation; “the next question is, how is the evil to be got rid of? There’s the pinch! It clings to one like one’s skin. It’s one’s nature,—how can one fight against nature? And yet, I take it, it’s the very business of faith to conquer our evil nature. As I read somewhere, any dead dog can float with the stream, it’s the living dog that swims against it. I mind the trouble I had about the wicked habit of swearing, when first I took to trying to serve God and leave off my evil courses. Bad words came to my mouth as natural as the very air that I breathed. What did I do to cure myself of that evil? Why, I resolved again and again, and found that my resolutions were always snapping like a rotten cable in a storm; and I was driven from my anchorage so often, that I almost began to despair. Then I prayed hard to be helped; and I said to myself, ‘God helps those who help themselves, and maybe if I determine to do something that I should be sorry to do, every time that an oath comes from my mouth, it would assist me to remember my duty.’ I resolved to break my pipe the first time that I swore; and I’ve never uttered an oath from that day to this, not even in my most towering passions! Now I’ll try the same cure again; not to punish a sin, but to prevent it. If I fly into a fury, I’ll break my pipe! There, Jonas Grimstone, I give you fair warning!” and the old sailor smiled grimly to himself, and stirred the fire with an air of satisfaction.
Not one rough word did Jonas utter that evening; indeed he was remarkably silent; for the simplest way of saying nothing evil, he thought, was to say nothing at all. Jonas looked with much pleasure at his pipe, when he put it on the mantel-piece for the night. “You’ve weathered this day, old friend,” said he; “we’ll be on the look out against squalls tomorrow.”
The next morning Jonas occupied himself in his own room with his phials, and his nephew and niece were engaged in the kitchen in preparing for the Sunday school, which their mother made them regularly attend. The door was open between the two rooms, and, as the place was not large, Jonas heard every word that passed between Johnny and Alie almost as well as if he had been close beside them.
Johnny. I say, Alie—
Alie. Please, Johnny, let me learn this quietly. If I do not know it my teacher will be vexed. My work being behind-hand yesterday has put me quite back with my tasks. You know that I cannot learn as fast as you do.
Johnny. Oh! you’ve plenty of time. I want you to do something for me. Do you know that I have lost my new ball?
Alie. Why I saw you take it out of your pocket yesterday, just after we crossed the stile on our way back from the farm.
Johnny. That’s it! I took it out of my pocket, and I never put it in again. I want you to go directly and look for the ball. That stile is only three fields off, you know. You must look carefully along the path all the way; and lose no time, or some one else may pick it up.
Alie. Pray, Johnny, don’t ask me to go into the fields.
Johnny. I tell you, you have plenty of time for your lessons.
Alie. It is not that, but—
Johnny. Speak out, will you?
Alie. You know—there are—cows!
Johnny burst into a loud, coarse laugh of derision. “You miserable little coward!” he cried, “I’d like to see one chasing you round the meadow! How you’d scamper! how you’d scream! rare fun it would be,—ha! ha! ha!”
“Rare fun would it be, sir!” exclaimed an indignant voice, as Jonas stumped from the next room, and, seizing his nephew by the collar of his jacket, gave him a hearty shake; “rare fun would it be,—and what do you call this? You dare twit your sister with cowardice!—you who sneaked off yesterday like a fox because you had not the spirit to look an old man in the face!—you who bully the weak and cringe to the strong!—you who have the manners of a bear with the heart of a pigeon!” Every sentence was accompanied by a violent shake, which almost took the breath from the boy; and Jonas, red with passion, concluded his speech by flinging Johnny from him with such force that, but for the wall against which he staggered, he must have fallen to the ground.
The next minute Jonas walked up to the mantel-piece, and exclaiming, in a tone of vexation, “Run aground again!” took his pipe, snapped it in two, and flung the pieces into the fire! He then stumped back to his room, slamming the door behind him.
“The old fury!” muttered the panting Johnny between his clenched teeth, looking fiercely towards his uncle’s room.
“To break his own pipe!” exclaimed Alie. “I never knew him do anything like that before, however angry he might be!”
Johnny took down his cap from its peg, and, in as ill humor as can well be imagined, went out to search for his ball. He took what revenge he could on his formidable uncle, while amusing himself that afternoon by looking over his “Robinson Crusoe.” Johnny was fond of his pencil, though he had never learned to draw; and the margins of his books were often adorned with grim heads or odd figures, by his hand. There was a picture in “Robinson Crusoe” representing a party of cannibals, as hideous as fancy could represent them, dancing around their fire. Johnny diverted his mind, and gratified his malice, by doing his best so to alter the foremost figure as to make him appear with a wooden leg, while he drew on his head a straw hat, unmistakably like that of the old sailor, and touched up the features so as to give a dim resemblance to his face. To prevent a doubt as to the meaning of the sketch, Johnny scribbled on the side of the picture,—
“In search of fierce savages no one need roam;
The fiercest and ugliest, you’ll find him at home!”
He secretly showed the picture to Alie.
“Oh, Johnny! how naughty! What would uncle say if he saw it?”
“We might look out for squalls indeed! but uncle never by any chance looks at a book of that sort.”
“I think that you had better rub out the pencilling as fast as you can,” said Alie.
“Catch me rubbing it out!” cried Johnny; “it’s the best sketch that ever I drew, and as like the old savage as it can stare!”
Late in the evening Mrs. Morris returned, a nurse from London having been sent for the lady. Right glad were Johnny and Alie to see her sooner than they had ventured to expect. She brought them a few oranges, to show her remembrance of them. Nor was the old sailor forgotten; carefully she drew from her bag, and presented to him, a new pipe.
The children glanced at each other. Jonas took the pipe with a curious expression on his face, which his sister was at a loss to understand.
“Thank’ee kindly,” he said; “I see it’ll be a case of—
“‘If ye try and don’t succeed,
Try, try, try again.’”
What he meant was a riddle to every one else present, although not to the reader.
The “try” was very successful on that evening and the following day. Never had Johnny and Alie found their uncle so agreeable. His manner almost approached to gentleness,—it was a calm after a storm.
“Uncle is so very good and kind,” said Alie to her brother, as they walked home from afternoon service, “that I wonder how you can bear to have that naughty picture still in your book. He is not in the least like a cannibal, and it seems quite wrong to laugh at him so.”
“I’ll rub it all out one of these days,” replied Johnny; “but I must show it first to Peter Crane. He says that I never hit on a likeness: if he sees that, he’ll never say so again!”
The next morning Jonas occupied himself with gathering wild flowers and herbs in the fields. He carried them into his little room, where Johnny heard him whistling “Old Tom Bowling,” like one at peace with himself and all the world.
Presently Jonas called to the boy to bring him a knife from the kitchen; a request made in an unusually courteous tone of voice, and with which, of course, Johnny immediately complied.
He found Jonas busy drying his plants, by laying them neatly between the pages of a book, preparatory to pressing them down. What was the terror of Johnny when he perceived that the book whose pages Jonas was turning over for this purpose was no other than his “Robinson Crusoe!”
“Oh! if I could only get it out of his hands before he comes to that horrid picture I do! what shall I do! what shall I do!” thought the bewildered Johnny. “Uncle, I was reading that book,” at last he mustered courage to say aloud.
“You may read it again tomorrow,” was the quiet reply of Jonas.
“Perhaps he will not look at that picture,” reflected Johnny. “I wish that I could see exactly which part of the book he is at! He looks too quiet a great deal for any mischief to have been done yet! Dear! dear! I would give anything to have that ‘Robinson Crusoe’ at the bottom of the sea! I do think that my uncle’s face is growing very red!—yes! the veins on his forehead are swelling! Depend on’t he’s turned over to those unlucky cannibals, and will be ready to eat me like one of them! I’d better make off before the thunder-clap comes!”
“Going to sheer off again, Master Johnny?” said the old sailor, in a very peculiar tone of voice, looking up from the open book on which his finger now rested.
“I’ve a little business,” stammered out Johnny.
“Yes, a little business with me, which you’d better square before you hoist sail. Why, when you made such a good figure of this savage, did you not clap jacket and boots on this little cannibal beside him, and make a pair of ’em ‘at home?’ I suspect you and I are both in the same boat as far as regards our tempers, my lad!”
Johnny felt it utterly impossible to utter a word in reply.
“I’m afraid,” pursued the seaman, closing the book, “that we’ve both had a bit too much of the savage about us,—too much of the dancing round the fire. But mark me, Jack,—we learn even in that book that a savage, a cannibal may be tamed; and we learn from something far better, that principle,—the noblest principle which can govern either the young or the old,—may, ay, and must, put out the fire of fierce anger in our hearts, and change us from wild beasts to men! So I’ve said my say,” added Jonas with a smile, “and in token of my first victory over my old foe, come here, my boy, and give us your hand!”
“Oh! uncle, I am so sorry!” exclaimed Johnny, with moistened eyes, as he felt the kindly grasp of the old man.
“Sorry are you? and what were you on Saturday when I shook you as a cat shakes a rat?”
“Why, uncle, I own that I was angry.”
“Sorry now, and angry then? So it’s clear that the mild way has the best effect, to say nothing of the example.” And Jonas fell into a fit of musing.
All was fair weather and sunshine in the home on that day, and on many days after. Jonas had, indeed, a hard struggle to subdue his temper, and often felt fierce anger rising in his heart, and ready to boil over in words of passion, or acts of violence; but Jonas, as he had endeavoured faithfully to serve his Queen, while he fought under her flag, brought the same earnest and brave sense of duty to bear on the trials of daily life. He never again forgot his resolution, and every day that passed made the restraint which he laid upon himself less painful and irksome to him.
If the conscience of any of my readers should tell him that, by his unruly temper, he is marring the peace of his family, oh! let him not neglect the evil as a small one, but, like the poor old sailor in my story, resolutely struggle against it. For an angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression.
There is sin in commencing strife;
Sin in the thoughtless jest
Or angry burst,
Which awakens first
The ire in a brother’s breast!
There is sin in stirring up strife,
In fanning the smoldering flame,
By scornful eye,
Or proud reply,
Or anger-stirring name.
There is sin in keeping up strife,
Dark, soul-destroying sin.
Who cherishes hate
May seek heaven’s gate,
But never can enter in.
For peace is the Christian’s joy,
And love is the Christian’s life;
He’s bound for a home
Where hate cannot come,
Nor the shadow of sin or strife!