"Oh, how nice!" exclaimed Bessie, who was still in her eighth year. "Shall we live with Aunt Emma again?"
"Yes, or rather she will live with us," said her mother, smiling. "Your auntie's health is very poor, and she is tired of the responsibility of farming; so we'll relieve her."
The following weeks were happy ones for Bessie. The Lord had been good to her in many ways. He had given her a little baby brother to love and care for, and now she was about to have a pleasant home in the country. She had not forgotten the good times she had enjoyed on the farm with her little sister, and she was very eager for the month of August to come, the time when the family was to move. At last the time came to start. With beating heart Bessie counted the hours that must pass before she could run in the orchard and eat the luscious fruit.
It was late in the afternoon when the Worthington family arrived at their new home. The greetings over, Bessie was contemplating a ramble where she had noticed some large red apples hanging; but just then her aunt said, "Bessie, you must not pick any of the fruit on the place this summer, as the farm is rented and the fruit does not belong to us." This was such a disappointment to the little girl that she could not restrain her tears.
As the days passed by, she often looked longingly toward the tree where hung the beautiful apples, but she never once thought of pulling one, for her mother had carefully taught her the great evil of stealing. "But oh!" thought Bessie, "if only one of the apples would fall upon the ground, I could pick it up, and I wouldn't be stealing it." With this wish in her heart, she daily watched the trees in hopes that just one would fall.
At last her hope was realized. Walking through the orchard one day after a hard wind-storm, she spied several large red apples lying in the soft sand. With a fast-beating heart, she hastened to pick them all up; and, placing them carefully in her apron, she hurried to the house, oft repeating to herself, "I didn't steal them, for the wind blew them off."
As she entered the house, she began to tell how she came by the apples, but stopped in dismay, for she saw her mother's look of disapproval. Very tenderly Mrs. Worthington took her little daughter aside and, sitting down by her, said: "My dear, you don't understand what you've done: those apples are as truly stolen as if you had picked them from the tree. You must take them to Mrs. S. and explain that you didn't know you were stealing them. Taking little things and trying to ease the conscience by saying, 'It doesn't amount to anything,' causes the conscience to fall asleep and to cease its activity. Thus the evil habit of taking what doesn't belong to us becomes a part of our nature, and step by step we fall into greater sin.
"I once heard of a young man who was about to be hanged upon the gallows. Just before the fatal moment he received permission to speak to any of his friends, if he desired. Calling for his aunt, who had reared him, he moved forward as if to speak to her, but instead he bit off her ear. Amid the exclamations of horror that followed, the young man said: 'You think what I have done is cruel. Let me tell you that, had my aunt done her duty by me, I should not be here today. Had she taken the pains to inquire where I obtained the lead pencils, knives, handkerchiefs, and other small articles which I brought home from time to time; had she not accepted the flimsy excuse that I had found them; had she warned me of my danger, and not praised me for "finding" the things I had stolen, -- I might have escaped this awful end.'
"So, Bessie, you can see the danger of allowing anything like this -- though it does appear a trifle -- to pass by unnoticed. You may go and return the apples to Mrs. S., who is now in the orchard."
The lesson was severe and lasting; and as Bessie returned the apples to their rightful owner, it settled deep into her heart.
Parents, beware. Through neglect, the habit of lying begins. An untruth is passed over carelessly and the child allowed to cover up its sins without realizing their sinfulness. Likewise, many other evil habits that have wrecked lives and brought sorrow and disgrace into homes may be traced to the same carelessness on the part of parents and friends.