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THE CHILDREN'S PORTION.

Entertaining, Instructive, and Elevating Stories.

Selected and Edited by

ROBERT W. SHOPPELL.







Published by
The Christian Herald,
Louis Klopsch, Proprietor,
Bible House, New York.
Copyright 1895,
By Louis Klopsch.




CONTENTS.


The Golden Age. Rev. Alexander McLeod, D. D.
The Merchant of Venice. Mary Seymour
The Afflicted Prince. Agnes Strickland
"His Ludship." Barbara Yechton
Pious Constance. Chaucer
The Doctor's Revenge. ALOE
The Woodcutter's Child. Grimm Brothers
Show Your Colors. C. H. Mead
Her Danger Signal
A Knight's Dilemma. Chaucer
"His Royal Highness." C. H. Mead
Patient Griselda. Chaucer
Let It Alone. Mary C. Bamford
The Man Who Lost His Memory. Savinien Lapointe
The Story of a Wedge. C. H. Mead
Prince Edwin and His Page. Agnes Strickland
Cissy's Amendment
The Winter's Tale. Mary Seymour
A Gracious Deed
"Tom." C. H. Mead
Steven Lawrence, American. Barbara Yechton




THE CHILDREN'S PORTION.


THE GOLDEN AGE.

REV. ALEXANDER MACLEOD, D. D.


I.

THE KING'S CHILDREN.

There was once, in Christendom, a little kingdom where the people were
pious and simple-hearted. In their simplicity they held for true many
things at which people of great kingdoms smile. One of these things
was what is called the "Golden Age."

There was not a peasant in the villages, nor a citizen in the cities,
who did not believe in the Golden Age. If they happened to hear of
anything great that had been done in former times, they would say,
"That was in the Golden Age." If anybody spoke to them of a good thing
he was looking for in years to come, they would say, "Then shall be the
Golden Age." And if they should be speaking of something happy or good
which was going on under their eyes, they always said, "Yes, the Golden
Age is there."

Now, words like these do not come to people in a day. And these words
about the Golden Age did not come to the people of that ancient kingdom
in a day. More than a hundred years before, there was reigning over
the kingdom a very wise king, whose name was Pakronus. And to him one
day came the thought, and grew from little to more in his mind, that
some time or other there must have been, and some time or other there
would be again, for his people and for all people a "Golden Age."

"Other ages," he said, "are silver, or brass, or iron; but one is a
Golden Age." And I suppose he was thinking of that Age when he gave
names to his three sons, for he called them YESTERGOLD, GOLDENDAY, and
GOLDMORROW. Sometimes when he talked about them, he would say, "They
are my three captains of the Golden Age." He had also a little
daughter whom he greatly loved. Her name was FAITH.

These children were very good. And they were clever as well as good.
But like all the children of that old time, they remained children
longer than the children of now-a-days. It was many years before their
school days came to an end, and when they ended they did not altogether
cease to be children. They had simple thoughts and simple ways, just
like the people of the kingdom. Their father used to take them up and
down through the country, to make them acquainted with the lives of the
people. "You shall some day be called to high and difficult tasks in
the kingdom," he said to them, "and you should prepare yourselves all
you can." Almost every day he set their minds a-thinking, how the
lives of the people could be made happier, and hardly a day passed on
which he did not say to them, that people would be happier the nearer
they got to the Golden Age. In this way the children came early to the
thought that, one way or other, happiness would come into the world
along with the Golden Age.

But always there was one thing they could not understand: that was the
time when the Golden Age should be.

About the Age itself they were entirely at one. They could not
remember a year in their lives when they were not at one in this. As
far back as the days when, in the long winter evenings, they sat
listening to the ballads and stories of their old nurse, they had been
lovers and admirers of that Age. "It was the happy Age of the world,"
the nurse used to say. "The fields were greener, the skies bluer, the
rainbows brighter than in other Ages. It was the Age when heaven was
near, and good angels present in every home. Back in that Age, away on
the lonely pastures, the shepherds watching their flocks by night heard
angels' songs in the sky. And the children in the cities, as they were
going to sleep, felt the waving of angel wings in the dark. It was a
time of wonders. The very birds and beasts could speak and understand
what was said. And in the poorest children in the streets might be
found princes and princesses in disguise."

They remembered also how often, in the mornings, when they went down to
school, their teacher chose lessons which seemed to tell of a Golden
Age. They recalled the lessons about the city of pure gold that was
one day to come down from heaven for men to dwell in; and other lessons
that told of happy times, when nations should learn the art of war no
more, and there should be nothing to hurt or destroy in all the earth.

"Yes, my dear children," their mother would say, in the afternoon, when
they told her of the teacher's lessons and the nurse's stories. "Yes,
there is indeed a happy age for the children of men, which is all that
your nurse and teacher say. It is a happy time and a time of wonders.
In that time wars cease and there is nothing to hurt or destroy.
Princes and princesses in poor clothing are met in the streets, because
in that Age the poorest child who is good is a child of the King of
Heaven. And heaven and good angels are near because Christ is near.
It is Christ's presence that works the wonders. When He is living on
the earth, and His life is in the lives of men, everything is changed
for the better. There is a new heaven and a new earth. And the Golden
Age has come."


II.

DIFFERENT VIEWS.

It was a great loss to these children that this holy and beautiful
mother died when they were still very young. But her good teaching did
not die. Her words about the Golden Age never passed out of their
minds. Whatever else they thought concerning it in after years, they
always came back to this - in this they were all agreed - that it is the
presence of Christ that makes the Gold of the Golden Age.

But at this point their agreement came to an end. They could never
agree respecting the time of the Golden Age.

Yestergold believed that it lay in the past. In his esteem the former
times were better than the present. People were simpler then, and
truer to each other and happier. There was more honesty in trade, more
love in society, more religion in life. Many an afternoon he went
alone into the old abbey, where the tombs of saintly ladies, of holy
men, and of brave fighters lay, and as he wandered up and down looking
at their marble images, the gates of the Golden Age seemed to open up
before him. There was one figure, especially, before which he often
stood. It was the figure of a Crusader, his sword by his side, his
hands folded across his breast, and his feet resting on a lion. "Ay,"
he would say, "in that Age the souls of brave men really trod the lion
and the dragon under foot." But when the light of the setting sun came
streaming through the great window in the west, and kindling up the
picture of Christ healing the sick, his soul would leap up for joy, a
new light would come into his eyes, and this thought would rise within
him like a song - "The Golden Age itself - the Age into which all other
Ages open and look back - is pictured there."

But on such occasions, as he came out of the abbey and went along the
streets, if he met the people hastening soiled and weary from their
daily toils, the joy would go out of his heart. He would begin to
think of the poor lives they were leading. And he would cry within
himself, "Oh that the lot of these toiling crowds had fallen on that
happy Age! It would have been easy then to be good. Goodness was in
the very air blessed by His presence. The people had but to see Him to
be glad." And sometimes his sorrow would be for himself. Sometimes,
remembering his own struggles to be good, and the difficulties in his
way, and how far he was from being as good as he ought to be, he would
say, "Would that I myself had been living when Jesus was on the earth."
More or less this wish was always in his heart. It had been in his
heart from his earliest years. Indeed, it is just a speech of his,
made when he was a little boy, which has been turned into the hymn we
so often sing: -

"I think when I read that sweet story of old,
When Jesus was here among men,
How He called little children, as lambs, to His fold,
I should like to have been with Him then.

"I wish that His hands had been placed on my head,
That His arms had been thrown around me,
That I might have seen His kind looks when He said,
'Let the little ones come unto Me.'"


Goldmorrow's thoughts were different. They went forward into the
future. He had hardly any of Yestergold's difficulties about being
good. He did not think much about his own state. What took up all his
thoughts was the state of the world in which his brothers and he were
living. How was that to be made better? As he went up and down in his
father's kingdom, he beheld hovels in which poor people had to live,
and drink-shops, and gambling-houses, and prisons. He was always
asking himself, how are evils like these to be put away? Whatever good
any Age of the past had had, these things had never been cast out. He
did not think poorly of the Age when Christ was on the earth. He was
as pious as his brother. He loved the Lord as much as his brother.
But his love went more into the future than into the past. It was the
Lord who was coming, rather than the Lord who had come, in whom he had
joy. "The Golden Age would come when Christ returned to the earth," he
said. The verses in the Bible where this coming was foretold shone
like light for Goldmorrow. And often, as he read them aloud to his
brothers and his sister, his eyes would kindle and he would burst out
with speeches like this: "I see that happy time approaching. I hear
its footsteps. My ears catch its songs. It is coming. It is on the
way. My Lord will burst those heavens and come in clouds of glory,
with thousands and tens of thousands in His train. And things evil
shall be cast out of the kingdom. And things that are wrong shall be
put right. There shall be neither squalor, nor wretched poverty, nor
crime, nor intemperance, nor ignorance, nor hatred, nor war. All men
shall be brothers. Each shall be not for himself but for the kingdom.
And Christ shall be Lord of all."

In these discussions Goldenday was always the last to speak. And
always he had least to say. I have been told that he was no great
speaker. But my impression is that he got so little attention from his
brothers when he spoke, that he got into the way of keeping his
thoughts to himself. But everybody knew that he did not agree with
either of his brothers. His belief was that the present Age, with all
its faults, was the Golden Age for the people living in it. And there
is no doubt that that was the view of his sister Faith. For when at
any time he happened to let out even the tiniest word with that view in
it, she would come closer to him, lean up against his side, and give
him a hidden pressure of the hand.


III.

SEARCH FOR THE GOLDEN AGE.

When these views of the young Princes came to be known, the people took
sides, some with one Prince, some with another. The greatest number
sided with Yestergold, a number not so great with Goldmorrow, and a
few, and these for the most part of humble rank, with Goldenday. In a
short time nothing else was talked about, from one end of the kingdom
to the other, but the time of the Golden Age. And this became a
trouble to the King.

Now there happened to be living at that time in the palace a wise man,
a high Councillor of State, whom the King greatly esteemed, and whose
counsel he had often sought. To him in his trouble the King turned for
advice.

"Let not this trouble thee, O King," the Councillor said. "Both for
the Princes and the people it is good that thoughts on this subject
should come out into talk. But let the thoughts be put to the test.
Let the Princes, with suitable companions, be sent forth to search for
this Age of Gold. Although the Age itself, in its very substance, is
hid with God, there is a country in which shadows of all the Ages are
to be seen. In that country, the very clouds in the sky, the air which
men breathe, and the hills and woods and streams shape themselves into
images of the life that has been, or is to be among men. And whosoever
reaches that country and looks with honest, earnest eyes, shall see the
Age he looks for, just as it was or is to be, and shall know concerning
it whether it be his Age of Gold. At the end of a year, let the
travelers return, and tell before your Majesty and an assembly of the
people the story of their search." To this counsel the King gave his
assent. And he directed his sons to make the choice of their
companions and prepare for their journey.

Yestergold, for his companions, chose a painter and a poet. Goldmorrow
preferred two brothers of the Order of Watchers of the Sky. But
Goldenday said, "I shall be glad if my sister Faith will be companion
to me." And so it was arranged.

Just at that time the King was living in a palace among the hills. And
it was from thence the travelers were to leave. It was like a morning
in Wonderland. The great valley on which the palace looked down, and
along which the Princes were to travel, was that morning filled with
vapor. And the vapor lay, as far as the eye could reach, without a
break on its surface, or a ruffled edge, in the light of the rising
sun, like a sea of liquid silver. The hills that surrounded the palace
looked like so many giants sitting on the shores of a mighty sea. It
was into this sea the travelers had to descend. One by one, with their
companions, they bade the old King farewell. And then, stepping forth
from the palace gates and descending toward the valley, they
disappeared from view.

The country to which they were going lay many days' distance between
the Purple Mountains and the Green Sea. The road to it lay through
woods and stretches of corn and pasture land. It was Autumn. In every
field were reapers cutting or binding the corn. At every turn of the
road were wagons laden with sheaves. Then the scene changed. The land
became poor. The fields were covered with crops that were thin and
unripe. The people who passed on the road had a look of want on their
faces. The travelers passed on. Every eye was searching the horizon
for the first glimpse of the mountain peaks. In every heart was the
joyful hope of finding the Golden Age. Can you think what the joy of a
young student going for the first time to a university is? It was a
joy like his. While this joy was in their hearts, the road passed into
a mighty forest. And suddenly among the shadows of the trees a
miserable spectacle crossed their path. It was a crowd of peasants of
the very poorest class. A plague had fallen on their homes, and they
were fleeing from their village, which lay among the trees a mile or
two to the right.

Yestergold was the first to meet them. He was filled with anguish.
His sensitive nature could not bear to see suffering in others. He
shrank from the very sight of misery. Turning to his companions, he
said, "If the Lord of Life had been traveling on this road as He was on
that other, long ago, when the widow of Nain met Him with her dead son,
He would have destroyed the plague by a word." "Oh, holy and beautiful
Age!" exclaimed the poet, "why dost thou lie in thy soft swathings of
light, and power to do mighty deeds, so far behind us in the past?"
"But let us use it as a golden background," said the painter. "That is
the beautiful Age on which Art is called to portray the Divine form of
the Great Physician!" Saying these fine words, the party rode swiftly
past.

The terrified villagers were still streaming across the road when
Goldmorrow came up. Nothing could exceed the pity which the spectacle
stirred in his breast. Tears streamed from his eyes. The bareness,
the poverty, the misery of the present time seemed to come into view
and gather into a point in what he saw. "Oh!" he cried to his
companions, "if Christ were only come! Only He could deal with evils
so great as these!" Then, withdrawing his thoughts into himself, and
still moved with his humane pity, he breathed this prayer to Christ:
"Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly, and lay thy healing hand on the wounds
and sorrows of the world." His companions were also touched with what
they saw. And in earnest and reverent words one of them exclaimed:
"Blessed hope! Light of the pilgrim! Star of the weary! The earth
has waited long thy absent light to see." But, by the time the words
were spoken, the villagers were behind them, and, spurring their
horses, the travelers hastened forward on their way.


IV.

A PLAGUE-STRICKEN VILLAGE.

The dust raised by their horses' hoofs was still floating over the
highway when Goldenday, with his sister and their attendants, rode up
to the spot. Two or three groups of the fugitives had made a temporary
home for the night under the shelter of the trees on the left. Others
were still arriving. The pale faces, the terrified looks of the
villagers, filled the Prince with concern. "It is the pestilence,"
they said, in answer to his inquiries. "The pestilence, good sir, and
it is striking us dead in the very streets of our village." The Prince
turned to his sister. She was already dismounted. A light was in her
eye which at once went to his heart. The two understood each other.
They knew that it was Christ and not merely a crowd of terrified
peasants who had met them. They were His eyes that looked out at them
through the tear-filled eyes of the peasantry. It was His voice that
appealed to them in their cries and anguish. He seemed to be saying to
them: "Inasmuch as ye do it to one of the least of these, ye do it unto
Me." In a few moments the Prince had halted his party and unpacked his
stores, and was supplying the wants of the groups on the left. Before
an hour was past he had brought light into their faces by his words of
cheer, and, with his sister and his servants, was on his way to the
plague-stricken village.

Most pitiable was the scene which awaited him there. People were
really dying in the streets, as he had been told. Some were already
dead. A mother had died in front of her cottage, and her little
children sat crying beside her body. Another, with a look of despair
in her eyes, sat rocking the dead body of the child. The men seemed to
have fled.

The Prince's plans were soon formed. He had stores enough to last his
party and himself for a year. He would share these with the villagers
as far as they would go. He had tents also for the journey. He would
use these for a home to his own party and for hospitals for the sick.
Before the sun had set, the tents for his own party were erected on a
breezy height outside the village. And, ere the sun had arisen the
next morning, the largest tent of all had been set in a place by
itself, ready to receive the sick.

Goldenday and his sister never reached the country where the images of
all the Ages are to be found. A chance of doing good met them on their
journey, and they said to each other, "It has been sent to us by God."
They turned aside that they might make it their own. They spent the
year in the deeds of mercy to which it called them among the
plague-stricken villagers.

It would take too long to tell all that this good Prince and his sister
achieved in that year. The village lay in a hollow among dense woods
and on the edge of a stagnant marsh. The Prince had the marsh drained
and the woods thinned. Every house in the village was thoroughly
repaired and cleaned. The sick people were taken up to the
tent-hospital and cared for until they got well. The men who had fled
returned. The terrified mothers ventured back. The sickness began to
slacken. In a few months it disappeared. Then the Prince caused wells
to be dug to supply water for drinking. Then he built airy schools for
the children. Last of all he repaired the church, which had fallen
into ruin, and trained a choir of boys to sing thanks to God. But when
all these things had been accomplished, the year during which he was to
have searched for the Golden Age was within a few weeks of its close.
And, what was worse, it was too plain to his sister that the Prince's
health had suffered by his toils. Night and day he had labored in his
service of love. Night and day he had carried the burden of the
sickness and infirmities of the village in his heart. It had proved a
burden greater than he could bear. He had toiled on till he saw health
restored to every home. He toiled until he saw the village itself
protected from a second visitation of the plague. But his own strength
was meanwhile ebbing away. The grateful villagers observed with grief
how heavily their deliverer had to lean on his sister's arm in walking.
And tears, which they strove in vain to conceal, would gather in their
eyes as they watched the voice that had so often cheered them sinking
into a whisper, and the pale face becoming paler every day.


V.

RETURN OF THE SEARCHERS.

The year granted to the Princes by the King had now come to a close.
And he and his nobles and the chief men of his people assembled on the
appointed day to welcome the Princes on their return and to hear their
reports concerning the time of the Golden Age.

The first to arrive was Prince Yestergold. He was accompanied to the
platform on which the throne was set by the painter and poet, who had
been his companions during the year. Having embraced his father, he
stepped to the front and said: -

"Most high King and father beloved, and you, the honorable nobles and
people of his realm, on some future occasion my two companions will,
the one recite the songs in which the Age which we went to search for
is celebrated, and the other exhibit the pictures in which its life is
portrayed. On this occasion it belongs to me to tell the story of our
search, and of what we found and of what we failed to find. We went
forth to discover the time of the Golden Age. We went in the belief
that it was the time when our Lord was on the earth. How often have I
exclaimed in your hearing, 'Oh that I had been born in that age! How
much easier to have been a Christian then!' I have this day, with
humbleness of heart, to declare that I have found myself entirely in
the wrong. I have been in the country where images of the Ages are
stored. I have seen the very copy of the Age of our Lord. I was in it
as if I had been born in it. I saw the scenes which those who then
lived saw. I saw the crowds who moved in those scenes. I beheld the
very person of the Divine Lord. And oh! my father, and oh! neighbors
and friends, shall I shrink from saying to you, 'Be thankful it is in
this Age and not in that you have been born, and that you know the Lord
as this Age knows Him, and not as He was seen and known in His own.'

"We arrived at Bethany on the day when Lazarus was raised. I mingled
with the crowd around the grave. I saw the sisters. I was amazed to
find that nothing looked to me as I had expected it to do. Even the
Lord had not the appearance of One who could raise the dead. And when
the dead man came forth, I could not but mark that some who had seen
the mighty miracle turned away from the spot, jeering and scoffing at
the Lord, its worker.

"When I next saw the Lord He was in the hands of the scoffers who had
turned away from the grave of Lazarus. He was being led along the
streets of Jerusalem to Calvary. The streets on both sides were
crowded with stalls, and with people buying and selling as at a fair.
Nobody except a few women seemed to care that so great a sufferer was
passing by. He was bending under the weight of the Cross. His face
was pale and all streaked with blood. I said to myself: 'Can this be
He who is more beautiful than ten thousand?' My eyes filled with


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