An aged man who had built for himself a house upon a high elevation of land, and had labored many years, yea, the most of his lifetime, in conveying trees, plants, and flowers with which to decorate his grounds, came one day in his descent upon a youth who sat by the roadside looking greatly dispirited.
“Hast thou no parents nor home?” inquired the kind man.
The youth shook his head, and looked so lonely and sad that the heart of the questioner was touched, and he said, “Come with me.”
The boy looked pleased at the invitation, and, springing to his feet, stood by the stranger.
Together they commenced the long and toilsome ascent; but the feet of the youth were tender, and ere long the aged man was obliged to carry him on his back to the very summit.
He set his burden down at the door of his pleasant home, expecting to see an expression of wonder or pleasure on the boy’s face; but only a sensuous look of satisfaction at the comforts which the laborer had gathered about him was visible on his dull features.
“I’ll let him rest to-night,” said the kind man. “To-morrow he shall have his first lesson in weeding the beds and watering the flowers.”
At dawn the old man arose, dressed himself, and went forth to view the sun as it rose over the hills; while the youth slumbered on till nearly noon, and when he arose manifested no life nor interest till the evening meal was over. He partook largely of the bounties, and seemed so full of animation that the old man took courage, and smiles of satisfaction settled on his features; for he thought he had found a helper for himself and wife.
The next day they called him at sunrise, and after many efforts succeeded in arousing him from his sleep. The aged couple went to their garden after the morning meal, and awaited the appearance of the youth.
“I sent him to gather ferns to plant beside these rocks: he surely cannot be all this time gathering them,” remarked the woman.
The husband went to the edge of the wood whither she had sent him, and found him lying upon the ground, looking dreamingly at the skies.
The good couple did not succeed in arousing him to a sense of any duty. He was dead to labor, and had no life to contribute to the scene around him.
“I fear you have made a mistake,” said the wife of the good man when the shadows of evening came and they were alone. “I see the boy can never appreciate the toil of our years. He must return and climb the mount for himself. He has no appreciation of all this accumulation which we have been years in gaining, nor can he have. It is not in the order of life: each must climb the summit himself. A mistake lies in our taking any one in our arms and raising him to the mount.”
“I see it now,” said her husband, who had, like many people, been more kind than wise, and like many foolish parents who injure their offspring by giving them the result of their years of toil.
On the morrow, the youth was sent back. A few years after, the aged man saw him toiling up a steep hill, seeking to make a home of his own. It was a beautiful eminence, and overlooked the fields and woods for miles around.
“He will know the worth and comfort of it,” said the old man to his companion.
“Toil and sacrifice will make it a sweet spot,” she answered; “and after the morning of labor will come the evening of rest.”