A company of Southern ladies, assembled in a parlor, were one day talking about their different troubles. Each had something to say about her own trials. But there was one in the company, pale and sad-looking, who for a while remained silent. Suddenly rousing herself, she said:—
“My friends, you do not any of you know what trouble is.”
“Will you please, Mrs. Gray,” said the kind voice of one who knew her story, “tell the ladies what you call trouble?”
“I will, if you desire it; for, in the words of the prophet, ‘I am the one who hath seen affliction.’
“My parents were very well off; and my girlhood was surrounded by all the comforts of life. Every wish of my heart was gratified, and I was cheerful and happy.
“At the age of nineteen I married one whom I loved more than all the world besides. Our home was retired; but the sun never shone upon a lovelier spot or a happier household. Years rolled on peacefully. Five lovely children sat around our table, and a little curly head still nestled in my bosom.
“One night about sundown one of those fierce, black storms came up, which are so common to our Southern climate. For many hours the rain poured down incessantly. Morning dawned, but still the elements raged. The country around us was overflowed. The little stream near our dwelling became a foaming torrent. Before we were aware of it, our house was surrounded by water. I managed, with my babe, to reach a little elevated spot, where the thick foliage of a few wide-spread trees afforded some protection, while my husband and sons strove to save what they could of our property. At last a fearful surge swept away my husband, and he never rose again. Ladies, no one ever loved a husband more. But that was not trouble.
“Presently my sons saw their danger, and the struggle for life became the only consideration. They were as brave, loving boys as ever blessed a mother’s heart; and I watched their efforts to escape, with such an agony as only mothers can feel. They were so far off that I could not speak to them; but I could see them closing nearer and nearer to each other, as their little island grew smaller and smaller.
“The swollen river raged fearfully around the huge trees. Dead branches, upturned trunks, wrecks of houses, drowning cattle, and masses of rubbish, all went floating past us. My boys waved their hands to me, and then pointed upward. I knew it was their farewell signal; and you, mothers, can imagine my anguish. I saw them perish—all perish. Yet that was not trouble.
“I hugged my baby close to my heart; and when the water rose at my feet, I climbed into the low branches of the tree, and so kept retiring before it, till the hand of God stayed the waters, that they should rise no farther. I was saved. All my worldly possessions were swept away; all my earthly hopes were blighted. Yet that was not trouble.
“My baby was all I had left on earth. I labored day and night to support him and myself, and sought to train him in the right way. But, as he grew older, evil companions won him away from me. He ceased to care for his mother’s counsels; he sneered at her entreaties and agonizing prayers. He became fond of drink. He left my humble roof, that he might be unrestrained in his evil ways. And at last one night, when heated by wine, he took the life of a fellow creature. He ended his days upon the gallows. God had filled my cup of sorrow before; now it ran over. That was trouble, my friends, such as I hope the Lord of mercy will spare you from ever knowing.”
Boys and girls, can you bear to think that you might bring such sorrow on your dear father or mother? If you would not, be on your guard against intemperance. Let wine and liquors alone. Never touch them.
* * * * *
“Ah, none but a mother can tell you, sir, how a mother’s heart will ache
With the sorrow that comes of a sinning child,
with grief for a lost one’s sake,
When she knows the feet she trained to walk have gone so far astray,
And the lips grown bold with curses that she taught to sing and pray!
A child may fear, a wife may weep, but of all sad things none other
Seems half so sorrowful to me as being a drunkard’s mother.”