Thorns by Unknown

Uncle John takes Nellie and Rose to see the well

THE WELL.

 

DEEPDALE is a delightful place to visit.” So thought little Nellie Harris when she went there to see Cousin Rose. All day long they wandered over the farm with Uncle John, first to feed the chickens, then to the well so dark and deep Nellie shuddered when she looked far, far down into it, and held tight to Rose for fear of falling. Uncle John turned the windlass to let Rose and Nellie see the bucket rise all dripping from its watery bed.

One morning after Nellie’s return to the city, Rose was walking alone in the garden.

The flowers were charming, for the dew was not yet off their delicate petals; and they were so fragrant that little Rose’s nose was put close up to a great many, to find which it was that smelled so very sweetly. First she was sure it was a great cabbage-rose that nodded at her from its stalk, but soon after she was surer that it was a little bed of pansies, or “Johnny-jump-ups,” which turned all their bright little faces to the sun, like a family of newly-washed and clean-aproned children just starting for school. Soon, however, she was surest that it was a patch of mignonette under the pear tree, which, though it looked so plain and humble with its little bits of blossoms, was pouring out the richest perfume.

“Oh, it is you, is it?” said little Rose. “Mamma read to us yesterday that perfume was the soul of flowers. I guess you have got the biggest soul of them all, if you are so little.”

Pretty soon Rose began to think of something more substantial than bird-songs, sunbeams and flowers. There were very nice raspberries, red and ripe, over beyond the currant-bushes, and her mamma allowed her to pick them in that part of the garden, for she knew how delightful it is for little folks to eat their fruit just where they pick it from the bushes.

Little Rose went around into the lower walk, where she could see the raspberries. A good many had ripened over-night, and hung on the long, waving stems, waiting to be picked.

There was a short way to them, right across between two great branching currant-bushes. She saw it was guarded by long briar-stalks with sharp thorns all along their sides, but it was so much nearer than to go around the long row of currants. “Mamma says we must not be afraid of trials and discouragements in our way,” Rose said. She was very fond of quoting things she heard said or read, and applying them to her own experience.

“I guess I can get through. Little girls must be brave!” And she pushed boldly into the middle of the space between the bushes. But there she caught fast, and could not go a step farther. One great, strong branch of thorns was stretched across her foot, the sharp points sticking fast in her stocking, and hurting her flesh cruelly if she tried to move it. Another one caught hold of her little garden-shawl and pulled it away back off her shoulders. She pulled and twitched with all her might, but could not get it loose. On  the other side her little bare elbow was torn and bleeding from a scratch, while her dress was held as fast as if a hundred invisible hands were pulling at it. There she was. She could not get on nor back. There was nothing to be done but to call for her mother. This she did so loudly that everybody in the house came rushing to see what was the matter. Dolly and Hannah, leaving their dish-washing in the kitchen, got there first, and setting to work soon had Rose out, but with scratched hands, arms and feet and two great rents in her dress.

“How in the world did you come in there among the briars?” asked mamma, after they were in the house again and Rose became comforted a little.

“It was the nearest way to the raspberries,” she answered.

“The nearest? Yes; but not the best. It would have been far better to go around by the path.”

“I heard you tell Cousin Lucy the other day that folks must never mind if there were thorns in their way,” said little Rose, almost sobbing again, for she had thought that at least her mother would praise her courage and philosophy.

Her mother smiled, but presently looked grave.

“My darling,” she said, “it is true we must not mind thorns if they are in the path of duty. But when they grow in any other path, we have a right—indeed, we ought—to avoid them if we can.”

“But wasn’t I in the path of duty when I tried to get the raspberries, mamma? You said that I might pick all that grew down there.”

“You were not doing wrong in trying to get them.”

“Isn’t that the same as duty?”

“Not exactly. Would it have been wrong for you to do without them? Or would you have been to blame for going by the path?”

“Oh no,” said Rose; “it would not have been wrong, for nobody said I must get them, or that I must go through the currant-bushes.”

“Then you see it was not duty.”

“Please tell me exactly what is meant by duty, mamma.”

“Duty is not only something which we may do, it is something which we ought to do, and which it would be wrong to neglect. It is not simply permission, but obligation. Is that plain?”

“Yes, mamma. I understand now. I was permitted to pick the berries, but I was not obliged to do it or else do wrong. But if you had sent me to pick them for you, it would have been duty.”

“And do you think that in that case it would be right to go through the thorns?”

“No, mamma; I see now. It is right to take the plainest, easiest way when we can.”

“Yes, my dear. We must not be afraid of thorns if our path leads over them. But if we leave the true path and foolishly try to push ourselves through unnecessary obstacles, it is not bravery or fortitude, but vanity and silly rashness.”