“The Two Sons” on Proverbs 15:20, is written by Charlotte Maria Tucker (A.L.O.E.) is from “Precepts in Practice,” and is about honoring parents.
“A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.”—Proverbs 15:20.
It was a clear, cold morning in December. Not a cloud was in the sky, and the sun shone brightly, gilding the long icicles that hung from the eaves, and gleaming on the frozen surface of the lake, as though he would have melted them by his kindly smile. But the cold was too intense for that; there was no softening of the ice; no drop hung like a tear from the glittering icicles. Alas! that we should ever find in life hearts colder and harder still, that even kindness fails to melt!
Many persons were skating over the lake,— sometimes darting forward with the swiftness of the wind, then making graceful curves to the right or the left, and forming strange figures on the ice. And there were many boys also enjoying themselves as much, although in a different way,—sliding along the slippery surface, and making the air ring with their merry laughter.
One of the gayest of these last was a rosy-cheeked boy, who looked as though care or sorrow had never traced a line on his face. He had just made a very long slide, and stood flushed with the exercise to watch his companions follow him on the glistening line, when Dr. Merton, a medical man, who was taking his morning walk and had come to the lake to see the skating, lightly touched the boy on the shoulder.
“Paul Fane, is your mother better today?”
“Oh! she’s well enough,—that’s to say, she’s always ailing,” replied the boy carelessly, still keeping his eye upon the sliders.
“Did she sleep better last night?”
“Oh! really, why I don’t exactly know. I’ve not seen her yet this morning.”
“Not seen her!” repeated Dr. Merton in surprise.
“Oh! sir, I knew that she’d be worrying me about my coming here upon the ice. She’s so fidgetty and frightened,—she treats one like a child, and is always fancying that there is danger when there is none;” and the boy turned down his lip with a contemptuous expression.
“I should say that you are in danger now,” said Dr. Merton very gravely.
“How so? the ice is thick enough to roast an ox upon,” replied Paul, striking it with his heel.
“In danger of the anger of that great Being who hath said, Honor thy father and thy mother,—in danger of much future pain and regret when the time for obeying that command shall be lost to you for ever.”
Paul’s cheek grew redder at these words. He felt half inclined to make an insolent reply; but there was something in the doctor’s manner which awed even his proud and unruly spirit.
“Where is your brother Harry?” inquired Dr. Merton.
“Oh! I suppose at home,” replied Paul bluffly, glad of any change in the conversation; and still more glad was he when the gentleman turned away, and left him to pursue his amusement.
And where was Harry on that bright, cheerful morning, while his brother was enjoying himself upon the ice? In a little, dull, close room, with a peevish invalid, the sunshine mostly shut out by the dark blinds, while the sound of merry voices from without contrasted with the gloomy stillness within. Harry glided about with a quiet step, trimmed the fire, set on the kettle, prepared the gruel for his mother, and carried it gently to the side of her bed. He arranged the pillows comfortably for the sufferer, and tended her even as she had tended him in the days of his helpless infancy. The fretfulness of the sick woman never moved his patience. He remembered how often, when he was a babe, his cry had broken her rest and disturbed her comfort. How could he do enough for her who had given him life, and watched over him and loved him long long before he had been able even to make the small return of a grateful look. Oh! what a holy thing is filial obedience! God commands it, God has blessed it, and he will bless it for ever! He that disobeys or neglects a parent is planting thorns for his own pillow, and they are thorns that shall one day pierce him even to the soul.
“Where is Paul?” said Mrs. Fane with uneasiness. “I am always anxious about that dear boy. I do trust that he has not ventured upon the ice.”
“I believe, mother, that the ice has been considered safe, quite safe, for the last three days.”
“You know nothing about the matter,” cried the fretful invalid. “I had a cousin drowned once in that lake when every one said that there was no danger. I have forbidden you both a thousand times to go near the ice;” and she gave her son a look of displeasure, as though he had been the one to break her command.
“Will you not take your gruel now?” said Harry, again drawing her attention to it, and placing yet closer to her that which he had so carefully made.
“I do not like it,—it’s cold,—it’s full of lumps; you never do anything well!”
“I must try and improve,” said her son, struggling to look cheerful, but feeling the task rather hard: “if you will not take this, shall I get you a little tea?”
Mrs. Fane assented with a discontented air, and Harry instantly proceeded to make some; while all the time that he was thus engaged his poor mother continued in a tone of anxiety and sorrow to express her fears for her elder son.
“Are you more comfortable now, dear mother?” said Harry, after she had partaken of her nice cup of tea. Her only reply was a moan. “Can I do anything else for you?—yes, I see; the top of that blind hangs loose, and the light comes in on your eyes; I will set it right in a minute!” and he jumped lightly on a chair to reach it.
His mother followed him with her eyes,—her deep, sunken eyes. Gradually the moisture gathered in them, as she looked at her dutiful son; for, fretful and unreasonable towards him as illness might sometimes make her, she yet dearly loved him, and felt his value. When he returned to her side these eyes were still fixed upon him: she feebly pressed his hand, and murmured, “You are my comfort, Harry!”
And there was another Eye beholding with love that obedient and dutiful child! He who was once subject to an earthly parent, who cared for her even amid the agonies of the cross,—He looked approvingly down upon the true-hearted boy, who was filling the post assigned him by his Lord,—who was letting his light shine in his home!
The red sun was setting before Paul returned; for, heedless of the fears to which his absence might give rise, he had taken his noonday meal with a neighbor. It was not that he did not really love his fond mother, but he loved himself a great deal more. He had never chosen to consider obedience as a sacred duty, and irreverence towards a parent as a sin. He never dreamed of sacrificing his will to hers; and a smile or a kiss to his mother, when he had been more than usually selfish or rude, had hitherto been sufficient to quiet the boy’s conscience, and, as he said, “make all right between them.” But wounds are not so easily healed, a parent’s claims are not so easily set aside, and the hour had now come when Paul was to feel the thorns which he had planted for himself.
“I shall have a precious scold from mother,” muttered the boy half aloud, as he approached the door, “for going on the ice, and staying out all day. I should like to know what is the use of a holiday if I am not to spend it as I like! I would rather be in school than moping away my time at home, like Harry! I wish that I were old enough to go and enlist, and be out of hearing of mother’s endless chiding!”
“You will never hear it again!” said the solemn voice of one just quitting the door as Paul came up to it. He started to see Dr. Merton.
“What is the matter?” cried Paul, if strange feeling of fear and awe coming over his heart.
“Your poor mother about two hours ago was taken with an alarming fit,—I dare hardly give hopes that she will see the morning!”
Paul stayed to hear no more, but rushed into the house. One of the neighbors was there, who had kindly offered to stay that night to help Harry to nurse his dying parent. The young boy was now praying beside her bed,—praying for his mother on earth to his Father in heaven!
Paul went up to the bed, cold, trembling with his emotions. He gazed in anguish on the altered features of one whose love he had so ill repaid. Mrs. Fane lay unconscious of all that passed, unconscious of the bitter tears shed by her sons,—she no longer could rejoice in the affection of the one, or be stung by the neglect of the other! Oh! what would not Paul have given, as he hung over her now, for one forgiving look from those closed eyes! what would he not have given to have heard those pale lips speak, even though it had been but to chide! But his grief and his tears now came too late,—his mother never spoke again!
In a few days both the boys stood by the open grave, and no one who had seen the sorrow of both, without being aware of the former circumstances of their lives, would have known what different recollections filled their hearts—like poison in the bleeding wound of one, soothing balm in that of his brother! “My last act towards my mother was that of disobedience!—her last feeling towards me was of displeasure and pain! I clouded,—perhaps I shortened her life; and the anger of my God is upon me!” such were the thoughts of Paul, his agonizing thoughts, as he heard the earth fall on the coffin of her who had loved him best upon earth. But not for untold wealth would Harry have exchanged the remembrance of his parent’s last fond look, her last sweet words to him. “Harry, you are my comfort!” sounded in his ears as though an angel had repeated it to the mourner.
And not then alone, but when time had softened his sorrow,—yes, even through the long course of his honored, useful life, if care weighed on his heart, he thought of those words, and they lightened his burden of care; when joy elated his spirit, they yet brightened that joy;—his mother’s blessing seemed for ever resting upon him! Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee! A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother!
He makes his mother sad,
The proud, unruly child,
Who will not brook
Her warning look,
Nor hear her counsels mild.
He makes his mother sad,
Who in his thoughtless mirth
Can e’er forget
His mighty debt
To her who gave him birth.
He makes his mother sad,
Who turns from Wisdom’s way,
Whose stubborn will
Refuses to obey.
He makes his mother sad,—
And sad his lot must prove:
A mother’s fears,
A mother’s tears
Are mark’d by God above!
Oh! who so sad as he
Who o’er a parent’s grave
Too late repents,
Too late laments
The bitter pain he gave!
May we ne’er know such grief,
Nor cause one feeling sad,—
Let our delight
Be to requite,
And make our parents glad!