CHILDREN'S BOOK COLLECTION LIBRARY OF THE ^f UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA ^S LOS ANGELES No. 38. THE FARMER AND SOLDIER. BY MRS. L. H. 8IGOURNEY. [FOCKDID ox r PUBLISHED BY THE AMERICAN TRACT SOCIETY. No. 150 Nassau-street, New-York. THE FARMER AND SOLDIER. IT was a cold evening in winter. A lamp cast its cheerful ray from the win- dow of a small farm-house in one of the villages of New-England. A fire was burning brightly on the hearth, and two brothers sat near it. Several school- books lay by them on the table, from. which they had been studying their lessons for the ensuing day. Their pa- 4 THE FARMER [84 rents had retired to rest, and the boys were conversing earnestly. The youn- gest, who was about thirteen years of age, said, " John, I mean to be a soldier." "Why so, lames'?" " Because I have been reading the life of Alexander of Macedon, and also a good deal about Napoleon Bonaparte. I think they were the greatest men that ever lived. There is nothing in this world like the glory of the warrior." " I cannot think it is glorious to do so much harm. To destroy great multi- tudes of innocent men. and to make such mourning in families, and so much po- verty and misery in the world, seems to me more cruel than glorious." " O, but then to be so honored, and to have so many soldiers under your com- mand, and the fame of such mighty vic- tories, what glory can there be to com- pare with this T' " James, our good minister told us, in his sermon last Sunday, that the end of life was the test of its greatness. Now, 85] AND SOLDIER. 5 if I recollect right, Alexander, he that you call the Great, got intoxicated, and died like a madman ; and Napoleon was imprisoned in a desolate island, like a chained wild beast, for all the world to gaze and wonder at. :) "John, your ideas are very limited. You certainly are not capable of admir- ing heroes. You are just fit for a farmer. I dare say that to break a pair of steers is the height of your ambition, and to spend your days in ploughing and hoe- ing and reaping is all the glory you would desire." The voice of their father was now heard calling-: " Boys, go to bed." And so ended their conversation for that night. Thirty years passed away, and the same season again returned. From the same window a bright lamp gleamed, and on the same hearth was a cheerful fire. The building wore an unaltered ap- pearance, but its inmates were changed. The parents, who had then retired to their sleeping apartments, had now gone 6 THE FARMER [86 down to the deeper rest of the grave. They were pious, and their virtues were held in sweet remembrance among the peaceful inhabitants of their native vil- lage. In the chairs which they used to occupy sat their eldest son and his wife. A babe lay in the cradle near them, and two other little ones were breathing quietly from their trundle-bed, in the profound slumber of childhood. A blast with snow beat against the casement. <c I always think." said John, " a great deal about poor James at this season of 87] AND SOLDIER. 7 the year, and especially on stormy nights. But it is now so long since we have heard from him, and his way of life has exposed him to so many dangers, that I fear there is strong reason to believe him dead." " What a pity," replied his wife, " that he would be a soldier." A knock was heard at the door. They opened it, and a man leaning upon crutches entered wearily. His garments were thin and tattered, and his counte- nance haggard. They reached him a chair, and he sank into it. He gazed on each of their faces, then on the sleeping children, and then at every article of furniture, as on some recollected friend. At length, stretching out his withered arms, he said, in a voice scarcely audi- ble, " Brother!" That tone opened the remembrances of many years. They welcomed the returning wanderer, and mingled their tears with his. " Brother, sister, I have come home* to you to die." They perceived that he was too much 8 THE FARMER [88 exhausted to converse, and hastened to prepare him fitting nourishment, and to make him comfortable for the night. The next morning he was unable to rise. They sat by his bed-side and soothed his sad heart with kindness, and told him the history of all that had befallen them in their quiet abode. " Among all my troubles," said he, " and I have had many, none have so bowed my spirit down, as my sin in leav- ing home without the knowledge of my parents. I know it was against their will that I should become a soldier, and many were the warnings they gave me not to choose that profession. I have felt the pain of wounds, but nothing like this sting of conscience. I have been a prisoner in the enemy's hands, and have sometimes lain almost perishing with hunger, or parching with the thirst of fever. Then the image of my home and of my ingratitude would be with me, both when I lay down and when I rose up. Sometimes I would fancy that I saw my mother bending tenderly over me, 89] AND SOLDIER. 9 as she used to do when I had only a head-ache, and my father with the Bi- ble in his hand, out of which he used to* read to us before the evening prayer. But when I lifted my hands to say, " Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more wor- th}' to be called thy son," I awoke, and it was all a dream. But the remembrance of my disobedience would be there, gnawing at my bosom ; and how bitterly have I wept to think that the child of so many peaceful precepts and prayers had become a man of blood." His brother assured him of the entire forgiveness of his parents, and that daily before the family- altar, as well as in iheir private recesses of devotion, their supplications were poured out for the loved, the absent, the erring son. " Ah ! those prayers followed me. But for them I should have been a re- probate. They plucked me as a brand from the burning, when I se.emed forsa- ken both of God and man." Gradually, as strength permitted, he 10 THE FARMER [90 told them his painful history. He had been in battles by sea and land. He tad heard the deep ocean echo with the thunders of war, and seen the earth drink in the strange red shower from mangled and palpitating bosoms. He had stood in the martial lists of Europe, and jeoparded his life for a foreign power, and he had pursued in his own land the hunted Indian flying at mid- night from the flames of his own hut. He had gone with the bravest where dangers thickened, and had sought in 91] AND SOLDIER. 11 every place for the glory of war, but had found only misery. " That glory which so dazzled my boyish fancy, and which I supposed was always the reward of the brave, conti- nually eluded me. It is only the suc- cessful leader of an army that is hailed as a hero, while the poor soldiers by whose sufferings his victories are won, endure the hardship, that they may reap the fame. Yet r how light is all the boast- ed glory that was ever achieved by the greatest commander, compared with the good that he forfeits, and the sorrow that he inflicts in order to obtain it. "Sometimes, when ready for a battle, just before we rushed into it, I have felt an inexpressible reluctance and horror at the thought of butchering my fellow- creatures. But in the heat of contest all such feelings vanished, and the madness and desperation of a demon possessed me. I cared neither for heaven, nor hell. You who dwell in the midst of the influences of mercy, who shrink to give pain even to an animal, can scarcely be- 12 THE FARMER [92 lieve what hardness of heart comes with the life of a soldier. Deeds of cruelty are always before him, and he heeds neither the agony of the starving infant, nor the groans of its dying mother. Of my own varieties of pain it will be of no use to speak. When I have lain on the field among the feet of trampling horses, when my wounds stiffened in the chilly night-wind, and no man cared for my soul, 1 have thought it was no more than just, since my own hand had dealt the same violence to others. But the greatest evil of a soldier's life is not the suffering to which he is exposed, but the sin with which he is made familiar. Oaths, execrations, contempt of all sa- cred things every where surround him. The sweet and holy influences of the Sabbath, the peaceful dispositions pray- ed for at his mother's knee, the blessed precepts of the Gospel graven upon his young heart, are swept away. Yet amid this hardened career, though I exerted myself to appear gay and bold, my heart constantly misgave me. God errant that 93] AND SOLDIER. 13 it may be purified by the Holy Spirit, and have part in the atonement of a Re- deemer, before I am summoned to the dread bar of judgment." His friends continued to hope that by medical skill and careful nursing his health might be restored. But he said : " It can never be. Even now, Death is standing at my right hand. When I entered this valley, and my swollen limbs failed, I prayed to my God, 0, hold thou me up, but a little longer, that I may reach the home where I was born, confess my guilt, and, pardoned through the blood of Jesus, die there, and be buried by the side of my father and my mother, and I will ask no more." He felt that there was much to be changed in his soul ere it could be fit- ted for the holy enjoyments of a realm of purity and peace. He therefore prayed and wept, and "studied the Scriptures, and conversed with Christians, and la- bored to apprehend clearly the magni- tude of his sins and the way of salvation. '' Brother, you bid me to be comfort- 14 THE FARMER [94 ed. You have been a man of peace. In the quiet occupation of husbandry you have served God and loved your neigh- bor. You have been merciful to the poor brute. You have taken the fleece, and saved the sheep alive. But I have de- faced the image of God, and taken away that breath which I never can restore. You have taken the honey, and preserv- ed the laboring bee. But I have de- stroyed man and his habitation, burn- ed the hive and spilled the honey on the ground. You cannot imagine how strong is the warfare in my soul with the " prince of the power of the air, the spirit that ruleth the children of disobe- dience." He declined rapidly. Death came on with hasty strides. Laying his cold hand upon the head of the eldest little boy, he said, " Dear child, do not be a soldier. Sister, brother, you have been as angels of mercy to me ; the blessing of the God of peace abide with you. and upon your house." 95] AND SOLDIER. 15 . The venerable minister, who had in- structed his childhood and laid his pa- rents in their grave, had continually vi- sited him, and administered spiritual in- struction and consolation in his afflic- tion. Now he stood by his side, as he was about to go down into the valley of the shadow of death. " My son, look unto the Lamb of God." "Yes, father! there is a fullness in Him for me, the chief of sinners." There was a short and solemn pause. Then the dying man added, " but let no 16 THE FARMER AND SOLDIER. [96 one sin against light, and against love." The white-haired man of God lifted up his fervent prayer for the departing soul. He commended it to the boundless riches of divine grace, and the infinite compassion of a Redeemer. He ceased, and the eyes of the dying were closed. There was no more gasping, or heaving of the breast. They thought that the breath had forsaken the clay, and spoke of him as having passed where there is no more sin, neither sorrow nor crying. But there was a faint sigh. The pale lips slowly moved, and bowing down over his pillow, they caught the whisper of his last words on earth. "Jesus, thnu whose last gift icas peace, take a sinner unto thee"