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Full text of "The farmer and soldier"

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"