Sisterly affection is as graceful in its developments to the eye of the beholder, as it is cheering to the heart where it resides. There are some who, though not deficient in its more important duties, are but too regardless of those lesser demonstrations of attachment, which are so soothing to the susceptible heart. Every delicate attention which tenderness prompts; every mark of politeness which refined society requires, ought to pervade the intercourse of brothers and sisters. It is a mistake that good manners are to be reserved for visitors, and that, in the family circle, negligence and coarseness may be indulged with impunity. Even nature’s affections may be undermined or shaken by perseverance in an improper deportment, more than by lapses into error and folly. For the latter, repentance may atone, while the former check the flow of the heart’s warm fountains, until they stagnate or become congealed.
I knew a father, himself a model of polished manners, who required of his large family to treat each other, at all times, with the same politeness that they felt was due to their most distinguished guest. Rudeness, neglect, or indifference were never tolerated in their circle. Respect to each other’s opinion; a disposition to please and be pleased; care in dress, and courtesy of manner, were not considered thrown away, if bestowed on a brother or a sister. Every one of the group was instructed to bring amiable feelings and powers of entertainment to their own fire side. The result was happy. The brothers felt it an honor to wait upon their sisters, and the sisters a pleasure to do all in their power for the comfort and improvement of their brothers. This daily practice of every decorum, imparted to their manners an enduring grace, while the affections, which Heaven implanted, seemed to gather strength from the beauty of their interchange. I would not assert that fraternal or sisterly affection may not be deep and pervading without such an exterior, yet it is surely rendered more lovely by it; as the planets might pursue in darkness the order of their course, but it is their brilliance which reveals and embellishes it.
Every well-regulated family might be as a perpetual school. The younger members, witnessing the example of those whose excellence is more confirmed, will be led, by the principle of imitation, more effectually, than by the whole force of foreign precept. The custom of the older daughters, to assist in the education of their less advanced sisters, I rejoice to see, is becoming more common. It cannot be too highly applauded. What should prevent their assuming the systematic office of instructors, when circumstances are favorable to such an arrangement.
By what method can a daughter more fully evince her gratitude to her parents, than by aiding their children in the search of knowledge and of goodness. How amiable, how praiseworthy, is that disposition which prompts a young and beautiful creature to come forth as the ally of a mother, in that most overwhelming of all anxieties, so to train her little ones as to form at last an unbroken family in heaven. No better apprenticeship could be devised, and no firmer hostage given to God or man for its faithful performance.