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passers-by were too much engaged about their own concerns to take any notice of him; and the majority of those who did cast an eye upon the pile of shells, failed to respond to the appeal to encourage the builder. Some few there were who slipped a small coin into the boy's outstretched hand, and brought from him a smiling " Thank you.”
The boy who built the grotto was quite young, not more than nine or ten years of age, but he appeared sharp and intelligent; any one who saw his bright smile and beaming face when a copper was given to him could hardly have imagined that he'had been pronounced by his schoolmaster vicious and unruly to such extent that nothing could be done with him. This, however, was the case, and the kindhearted gentleman, Mr. Whitley, who visited the school, and took an interest in the welfare of each of the pupils, had often been grieved by the reports the master had given of nim.
Mr. Whitley was a man of large mind and kindly disposition, and he sometimes thought that too much sternness, and even harshness, was employed in the school in which he so deeply interested himself. He had said, more than once, that if greater kindness and sympathy were shown to the pupils he thought those in authority would gain more power and influence over them.
This view did not suit the schoolmaster, and he continued to treat the children as though they were mere machines from which a certain amount of work must be obtained, no matter how. Nor was he alone in this. The pedagogues of that day, or at any rate many of them, had themselves much to learn, especially as regarded the training of those placed under their charge.
Had it been otherwise, it is probable that the grotto would never have been erected, and that the builder would have been at his place in school; as it was, he was a truant that morning. He had built the grotto near the school, in bold defiance of his master, for whom he had little regard.
After a time the street, which was a narrow thoroughfare, affording a short cut to the city, became less thronged; it was eleven o'clock, and the business men who made use of it were by this time hard at work in their offices or warehouses. Now only a few persons, principally inhabitants of the neighbourhood, passed along. None of them noticed the grotto or the grotto builder; they had need enough of the few pence they possessed, and could afford to give none away.
Up and down the street looked the grotto boy, and for a time saw no one worthy his attention ; but, after waiting a little, he spied a gentleman turn the corner.
Here was a chance, and away ran the little fellow to make the most of it.
“ Please to remember the grotto, sir !” he cried, holding out his hand for a donation. The next moment he sadly repented his haste. Had he known who it was he was about to acccst, the words would never have been spoken ; but it was too late now; Mr. Whitley stood before him.
“Why, James, how is this?" he exclaimed. “ How is it you are not at school ?”
Poor James blushed deeply, and seemed inclined to run away ; but he managed to stammer out : “ Please, sir, I wasn't well this morning.”
“Not well! and yet you were well enough to come out grotto-building," said Mr. Whitley, with a smile. “Come, come, James, speak the truth, my boy, and never fear the consequences."
The boy hung his head in silence, and Mr. Whitley continued: “I suppose you played truant for the sake of making a grotto and getting money by it. Is it not so ?”
“ Yes, sir," answered the boy, looking straight into Mr. Whitley's face.
56 Then why did you not say so at once? It would have been better than telling a story. You know it was wrong of you to stay away from school without leave, don't
“Yes, sir,” the boy again assented.
“But it was far worse to try to hide your fault with a fib. You have grieved me deeply, James; very deeply indeed.” While Mr. Whitley spoke he looked kindly upon the child, and, though sorrowful, his voice had nothing of anger in it.
The boy hung his head again, and tears started to his eyes—tears that all the severity of his master could never have caused to fall, however he might have tried.
What was it that so touched the little grotto builder ? It was the gentle tone and manner of the speaker.
“Well, well,” continued Mr. Whitley, noticing the child's emotion, “since you are here, I suppose I shall do no harm by giving you something for a sight of your grotto;" and drawing his purse from his pocket he put a sixpence in the boy's hand. “ But you must promise not to do it again, James, and never to tell a lie; will you promise me that?”
“Yes, sir, I will,” was the quick answer.
That evening Mr. Whitley called to see the young truant at his home, and there spoke to him of the sin of lying and the value of truthfulness in even the smallest matters; but all that he said was kindly spoken, and every word went home to the listener's heart.
James is now fifty years old, or thereabouts. He has, in common with others, seen ups and downs in life; he has met with difficulties, and has been enabled to overcome them; and now the once little grotto builder is a prosperous man of business, respected by his fellow townsmen, and trusted as a man of probity and truthfulness; and he acknowledges that the wise advice of Mr. Whitley has held possession of his mind, and has in no slight measure helped him to become what he is.
Whenever he speaks of Mr. Whitley, and repeats the story of the grotto and the sixpence so kindly given, he adds something to this effect : "It was the loving way in which he spoke that broke me down, and that made me mind what he said. If he had been angry and severe, I should have rebelled and been obstinate, and probably have left the school altogether."
This is no fancy sketch. It is true to the letter, and it ought to teach us a lesson, if we have not already learned it; that love and kindness go a great deal farther than mere teaching. James's schoolmaster might have tried to impress upon his scholars the value of truth and honesty, but it is doubtful whether he would have made any impression on their minds. Why? Because they had no love for him. To them he was their master while they were in school, but nothing more. Once out of his power, they thought no more of what he had said than if they had never heard it.
We have no wish to be hard upon those who think it their duty to bring up their children, or the children of others who may be under their charge, in a stern and dogmatical manner; but we may be permitted to say that we think a better way is to win the love of the little ones, and make them understand that by doing wrong they grieve us. This is the
that God deals with His children. is Love," and all that He does is done in love. The psalmist felt this when he wrote :
“If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand ? But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope.”
God never drives His children ; He always leads them. If He knows they have done wrong, He may punish them for it; but the very punishment is tempered with mercy ; He is more willing to forgive than to condemn.
Is it not this love that draws us to Him? " There is forgiveness with Thee;" yes, it is the knowledge that there is forgiveness that makes the child of God unwilling to offend. If we knew that God were only waiting to mark our iniquities, to notice every slip, and to punish us for every shortcoming, we should grow either stubborn and rebellious, or callous and indifferent; but it is the knowledge of His love for us that makes us unwilling to offend.
“God We can imagine with what anger and indignation the schoolmaster would have been filled, had he come across the grotto and its builder ; but we cannot imagine that all his anger would have done any good to the little truant : whereas the loving tone and the judicious sympathy of a better man have been remembered by him, and have influenced his life for more than forty years; nor will their influence cease until life itself has ended.
So, it is the “love of God” that “constraineth us;" and the more we dwell upon His love, the more we consider His great kindness and goodness to us, the less shall we be liable to fall into sin and displease Him.
Let us, then, take our Bibles and search for the messages of love and tenderness that it contains. Let us think of our shortcomings, and look upon God's mercies, and we shall be constrained to love and serve Him more and more, until at last we shall be able to serve Him without ceasing in the world above.
G. H. S.
I will arise, and go to my Father.”
HEN burdened is my breast,
When friendless seems
And refuge I have not,
When conscience thunders loud,
And fill me with dismay,
When I have wandered far
My turning back to God,