A STORY FOR CHILDREN.
This is a story about some children who were living together in a Western State, in a little house on the prairie, nearly two miles from any other. There were three boys and three girls; the oldest girl was seventeen, and her oldest brother a year younger. Their mother had died two or three years before, and now their father grew sick,–more sick and more, and died also. The children were taking the best care they could of him, wondering and watching. But no care could do much, and so he told them. He told them all that he should not live long; but that when he died he should not be far from them, and should be with their dear mother. “Remember,” he said, “to love each other. Be kind to each other. Stick together, if you can. Or, if you separate, love one another as if you were together.” He did not say any more then. He lay still awhile, with his eyes closed; but every now and then a sweet smile swept over his face, so that they knew he was awake. Then he roused up once more, and said, “Love is the whole, George; love is the whole,”–and so he died.
I have no idea that the children, in the midst of their grief and loneliness, took in his meaning. But afterwards they remembered it again and again, and found out why he said it to them.
Any of you would have thought it a queer little house. It was not a log cabin. They had not many logs there. But it was no larger than the log cabin which General Grant is building in the picture. There was a little entry-way at one end, and two rooms opening on the right as you went. A flight of steps went up into the loft, and in the loft the boys slept in two beds. This was all. But if they had no rooms for servants, on the other hand they had no servants for rooms. If they had no hot-water pipes, on the other hand a large kettle hung on the crane above the kitchen fire, and there was but a very short period of any day that one could not dip out hot water. They had no gas-pipes laid through the house. But they went to bed the earlier, and were the more sure to enjoy the luxury of the great morning illumination by the sun. They lost but few steps in going from room to room. They were never troubled for want of fresh air. They had no door-bell, so no guest was ever left waiting in the cold. And though they had no speaking-tubes in the house, still they found no difficulty in calling each other if Ethan were up stairs and Alice wanted him to come down.
Their father was buried, and the children were left alone. The first night after the funeral they stole to their beds as soon as they could, after the mock supper was over. The next morning George and Fanny found themselves the first to meet at the kitchen hearth. Each had tried to anticipate the other in making the morning fire. Each confessed to the other that there had been but little sleep, and that the night had seemed hopelessly long.
“But I have thought it all over,” said the brave, stout boy. “Father told us to stick together as long as we can. And I know I can manage it. The children will all do their best when they understand it. And I know, though father could not believe it, I know that I can manage with the team. We will never get in debt. I shall never drink. Drink and debt, as he used to say, are the only two devils. Never you cry, darling Fanny, I know we can get along.”