Then follows a discussion of some minutes, in which Egbert, in a fretful and teasing tone, persists in urging his desire to go a-fishing. He can make the garden, he says, some other day. His mother finally yields, though with great unwillingness, doing all she can to extract all graciousness and sweetness from her consent, and to spoil the pleasure of the excursion to the boy, by saying as he goes away, that she is sure he ought not to go, and that she shall be uneasy about him all the time that he is gone.
Now it is plain that such management as this, though it takes ostensibly the form of a plea on the part of the mother in favor of a sentiment of gratitude in the heart of the boy, can have no effect in cherishing and bringing forward into life any such sentiment, even if it should be already existent there in a nascent state; but can only tend to make the object of it more selfish and heartless than ever.
Thus the art of cultivating the sentiment of gratitude, as is the case in all other departments of moral training, can not be taught by definite lessons or learned by rote. It demands tact and skill, and, above all, an honest and guileless sincerity. The mother must really look to, and aim for the actual moral effect in the heart of the child, and not merely make formal efforts ostensibly for this end, but really to accomplish some temporary object of her own. Children easily see through all covert intentions of any kind. They sometimes play the hypocrite themselves, but they are always great detectors of hypocrisy in others.
But gentle and cautious efforts of the right kind—such as require no high attainments on the part of the mother, but only the right spirit—will in time work wonderful effects; and the mother who perseveres in them, and who does not expect the fruits too soon, will watch with great interest for the time to arrive when her boy will spontaneously, from the promptings of his own heart, take some real trouble, or submit to some real privation or self-denial, to give pleasure to her. She will then enjoy the double gratification, first, of receiving the pleasure, whatever it may be, that her boy has procured for her, and also the joy of finding that the tender plant which she has watched and watered so long, and which for a time seemed so frail that she almost despaired of its ever coming to any good, is really advanced to the stage of beginning to bear fruit, and giving her an earnest of the abundant fruits which she may confidently expect from it in future years.
It has been my aim in this volume to avoid, as far as possible, all topics involving controversy, and only to present such truths, and to elucidate such principles, as can be easily made to commend themselves to the good sense and the favorable appreciation of all the classes of minds likely to be found among the readers of the work. There are certain very important aspects of the religious question which may be presented, I think, without any serious deviation from this policy.