Long after, when the father grew old and helpless, the sons returned laden with rich experiences and abundantly able to care for him.
They had learned the great and valuable lesson that all must learn ere they truly live,—that we must give to receive, sow if we would reap, and lose our life to find it.
There was once a husbandman who had laborers in a valley, clearing it of stones and brush, that it might become fit for culture. He resided near, on a fine hill, where he raised rare fruits and flowers of every variety. The view from the hill-top was extensive and grand beyond description, and it was the kind owner’s desire that each day the laborers should ascend and be refreshed by whatever he had to offer them, beside catching the inspiration of the lovely and extensive landscape. Some days he had not much to offer them; at other times, the repast would be sumptuous and most tempting: so those who went each day were sure of receiving in their season the delicious fruits which ripened at different periods.
There had been a succession of days in which there was nothing but dry food on the hill, with none of the luscious fruits which invigorate and refresh; for they had been slow in ripening, and the kind husbandman would not gather them before they were mellow and fit to spread before his laborers.
“I am not going to climb the hill to-day for a few crumbs,” said one dissatisfied toiler, as he sat by the roadside at noon-day, looking very unhappy.
“Nor I!” “Nor I!” added a second and a third, until there was quite a chorus of the dissatisfied.
The remainder went up as usual. A most tempting repast was before them, of fruits and cake and refreshing wines, while the table was decked with rare and fragrant flowers.
How glad was the good man to spread the bounties before them! for well he knew of the murmurs which had gone out of their hearts for a few days past. “Are they not all here?” he asked of those who had ascended the hill, while a look of disappointment came over his face.
“Oh! let us go down and tell them what a nice feast is waiting,” said one of the group, as he gazed on the well-filled table.
“Nay, not so,” answered the husbandman, in a gentle but commanding tone. “My people should have faith in me, and know that I spread for them all I can each day. My power, even like that of the Infinite, is limited by conditions. It is not my pleasure ever to have them go unrefreshed; but how much better for them, could they be content with whatever comes each day, though sometimes meager. How it cheers me to see those who have come in good courage and faith, not knowing that the feast was here. Eat and give thanks,” he said; while a band played some lively airs.
* * * * *
Shall we refuse to ascend each day the mount whereon dwells our Father? Shall we, because some days no feast awaits us, linger in the valley of doubt, and lose the bounties which his hand at other times has ready for us? No: the faithful and believing will go up to the mount each day, and take without murmur the morsel, or the fruits with thanksgiving.