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COMMANDMENT WITH PROMISE.
CHAPTER I. A PARTY of young people having been permitted to spend the day with me as a sort of holiday, I thought it best to leave them to amuse themselves, whilst, taking a book, I sat in the same room, to be ready either to promote their happiness, should they require any help, or to check any purposes which might be mischievous.
I took a chair near the window, and drawing a little table before me on which to rest my book, endeavored to abstract my mind from their conversation. They passed rapidly from one subject to another, each contributing their share by relating the things they had either learnt or seen, and being soon absorbed in the study of my own book, I had become insensible to their engagements. A sudden pause in the sound of voices had the effect of recalling my attention to them, when I observed the eldest girl exhibiting to the admiring eyes of her companions a miniature picture, whieh was in a red morocco case.
See, cousin Mary, she said, I brought it on purpose to show you, that you might be convinced what I told you was true. Now, is not my papa a handsome man ?
If he is like that picture, Anna, he must be handsome.
If he is like, Mary! do you think what I say is untrue ?
No, Anna, I did not mean to say I thought so; but I have heard my mamma say, that pictures in general flatter very much.
Well then, Mary, I must say this picture does not flatter, for beautiful as these eyes and mouth are, they are not half so beautiful as his; and when papa gave it me, he said he would have it set in pearls and put a gold chain to it, that so I might wear it whenever I liked round my neck; and I am sure he looked so beautiful just then, you would say as I do, that this picture is not half so beautiful.
I believe it, Anna; for a living face is much more beautiful than a painted one; and I dare say when I see my uncle I shall think as you do.
This seemed to satisfy Anna's ambition for the admiration of her father ; some minutes were occupied in passing the picture round the little circle for their inspection, and as it was returned by one of the gravest of the party, Anna inquired of her,
Have you a picture of your papa, Isabella ?
Mary started when the question was proposed, and hastily placing herself between Anna and Isabella, prevented a reply by saying, in a particularly sweet and soothing tone of voice,
Come with me, and I will show you my mamma's picture which hangs in the next room.
Isabella gave her hand in the instant to Mary ; but I saw her bosom heave as if she had suffered a momentary agitation, which Mary's prompt interference had calmed whilst it had arrested a tear in her eye.
On this proposal of Mary's, they generally moved, as if to acco
company her, but one more observing than the others checked them by a significant glance, and when they were withdrawn, she said,
Did you not remark that Isabella is in deep mourning; and I believe her papa died not long ago.
This cast a shade upon the party for a little while, but Anna, conscious of having a superior possession to the rest, resumed the subject by putting the question
Who, besides me, has a picture of their papa ?
I have no picture, Maria said ; but I have a lock of my papa's hair. See, here it is, tied with a piece of blue ribbon ; and I love it so, I always wear it within my frock upon my heart; saying which, she took it from her bosom, opened it with care, displayed it a moment, kissed it, and then quickly returned it to its place.
At this moment a poor girl from the village came up to the house with some fruit I had ordered for the entertainment of the young people, and Mary with Isabella returned into the room, bringing the girl with the basket in her hand.
I have brought the fruit just as it is, said Mary, for Jane has packed it so nicely, I think it looks better in her basket than in any way we could dress it up. She then took the basket and placed it on the table. The picture was laid down, whilst they all surveyed the basket, and Jane's attention was arrested by the sight of the picture.
Anna, delighted to observe her favorite possession had so unexpectedly attracted notice, addressed herself to the girl,
Don't you think that is a beautiful picture ?
Miss ? Yes; would you not like to have such a pretty picture of your father?
I don't know.
Don't know ! to be sure you would ; look here, I shall wear it just so, round my neck; at the same time holding it to her breast, as if already suspended to the promised chain.
The girl's interest seemed to have abated after the first gaze of curiosity, which a sight so new to her had occasioned, and she was busy in helping to put away the spare leaves with which she had covered the fruit.
A look of disappointment passed over the countenance of Anna; but she made one more effort, saying,
You know if you had a picture of your father you could never forget him.
The girl was quick in replying, O Miss, I can't forget my father .
Why, child, do you know what colored eyes he has, what sort of a nose he has, what kind of a mouth he has ?
I can't say,
Miss. Then, you foolish girl, would not a picture help you to know and to remember him ?
Very likely, Miss; but he is so good to me, and I love him so dearly, that I can't forget that.
Anna looked at her a little, as did all the others, but making no more observations, the little girl, asking if she should call the next day for her basket, curtseyed and withdrew.
This little incident naturally awakened in my mind some reflections on the nature of filial love, and the various reasons which operate on the mind to draw it into real or apparent expressions of devoted attachment. Nor was it the first moment this subject had been presented to my mind; for it is obvious to common observation, that the gracious disposition of love and duty to parents is seldom demonstrated in the true principle; and yet the Lord has in mercy given a most solemn and persuasive call to this duty by the obligation of the fifth commandment, which stands next in order to those duties we owe to God himself. He has corroborated this His will by most express revelations in the no less constraining terms of the Gospel. I have looked round the whole circle of my acquaintance, poor and rich, for the real-demonstration of filial love and duty; and often has my heart sickened at the too obvious evidences that it is scarcely an existing principle in the society of mankind; and as its importance is second only to that of duty to the Lord, I have longed for the opportunity of