In a large and elegant mansion dwelt a wealthy man who had three lovely daughters. The house was built on an eminence upon the banks of a river which wound like a thread of silver through the valleys for many miles. Afar from the mansion were a large number of cottages, in which dwelt carpenters, shipbuilders, gardeners, and some of every trade. Most of them were good and honest people, though tinged with the love of earthly gains, and many of them, too, often crushed many of the soul’s finer and better emotions in the greedy love of material things. The owner of the mansion sorrowed over this failing of theirs, and, to rid them of it, devised a plan by which to give those who wished an opportunity to be led by their better nature, and forget, for the time, self and gain.
Accordingly, he told his daughters to deck themselves in their richest apparel and ornaments, which were rare and choice, and then to throw over the whole large and unsightly cloaks, so that the disguise might be perfect, and conceal all the splendor beneath. To each he gave a purse filled with gold to bestow upon the one who should welcome and give them shelter.
At evening he went forth with them to the narrow street, and bade them knock at the doors of the cottages, while he waited outside, and see who would admit and give food and shelter to travelers in need. They obeyed him, and first approached a dimly-lighted cottage. Making known their presence by a gentle rap, the door was opened by a woman of large and coarse features, whose eyes had no welcome in their rude stare. She scarcely waited for the words of the travelers to be spoken, ere she gruffly answered, “No: we have neither room nor food for beggars,” and closed the door abruptly.
They applied next upon the opposite side, saying to the man who opened the door, “Can you feed and give shelter to three weary travelers?”
“We have no food to waste, and our home is scarcely large enough for ourselves,” he replied, and quickly shut the door upon them.
The same answer came from all, and they turned to their parent, saying, “Shall we try any more?”
“There are but two more: try all; see if one at least can be found not wholly selfish; and, as you are not truly in need of their bounties, you can well afford to importune and be denied.” He then guided his children to the end of the street.
“This one looks quite gay compared with the others,” said the eldest of the daughters, as they all looked on the well-lit rooms, and beheld forms flitting to and fro within.
“We shall certainly be admitted here,” said the others.
But the parent kept his council, and was invisible while they rapped at the door, which was opened by a bright and rather stylish-looking girl, who gazed wonderingly on the group.
“Can you give us shelter for a night, and a little food?” asked the eldest.
“Not we, indeed: we have just spent all our money for a merry-making for our brother Jack, who has just come home from sea. Not we: we have not one bit of room to spare; for all our friends are here.”
“But we are weary, and ask rest and food,” pleaded one of the three; and her eyes wandered to the well-filled tables.
“Yes: but what we have is for our company and ourselves–not for beggars,” said the girl, and she closed the door upon them.
“Shall we try again, father?” they said to their parent.
“Just this one, which is the last,” he answered, leading them to the door of a cot where dwelt a poor and lonely widow.
They paused at the threshold, for a voice was heard within, low and sweet; yet they heard the words of the kneeling form, in deep petition, saying, “Give me, O Father, my daily bread; forgive me my trespasses, and lead me not into temptation. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and forever. Amen.”