Good Deeds Delayed Too Long
( Originally Published 1902 )
NAPOLEON, as was his custom, passed over the field after the battle of Wagram. For a distance of almost nine miles there lay men dead and dying in every direction, as twenty-four thousand Austrians and eighteen thousand Frenchmen had fallen in the fight. The Emperor would often dismount, and with his own hand would wipe the blood and dust from the face of his brave boys. Among the dead he discovered the mangled body of a colonel who had occasioned his displeasure, and, looking seriously at him, he said : " I regret not having been able to speak to him before the battle, in order to tell him that I had long forgotten everything."
There was a broken-hearted man on the streets of a town in Kentucky, a short time ago. He came from the mining regions of Idaho, where he had been working for thirteen years. He is known there as one of the most successful miners in that section. He was among the poorest when he reached Idaho, but now he owns a mine and has several well-paying interests. His return to Kentucky was for the purpose of finding his niece and her mother, who, at the time of his becoming a miner, were as poor as himself. In fact, they were scarcely able by their utmost exertions in sewing for the tailors of the town, to provide the necessaries of life. Before going to Idaho, the man had promised them that if he was successful he would provide for them, and, being a bachelor with no near relatives, he resolved to make them his heiresses. But for all the thirteen years of his absence he had not communicated with them. When he returned to Kentucky he took with him ten thousand dollars wrapped up in a package for them. He pleased himself on his journey by imagining their surprise and delight when he would place it in their hands. But he could not find them at the house where they formerly lived, and when he made inquiries about them in the town he learned that both were dead. They had become so discouraged by their hardships that they had committed suicide. The man's grief was intense, and it was increased by the thought that if he had only written to them when he began to prosper, telling them what he intended to do, they would not have committed the wicked act.
The time to manifest right tempers and to do good deeds to our fellow-men is now. The uncertainty of life makes present benevolence wise; we or our neighbor may be gone to-morrow, and with us our opportunity for the intended loving service. How many harsh words would be unsaid, and good resolves carried into execution, if men had only known that death were coming to make the separation forever! What a joy it would have brought to the colonel's heart to have received the forgiveness of the Emperor. Poverty was no excuse for the suicide of the women, but it was a good reason why the miner ought to have sent his relief at an earlier date. It is a mistake to wait too long to render the physical and spiritual relief to our fellows which we intend. That ministry of love ought to be performed to-dayŚnow. A single flower for the living breast is worth a wreath of them for the coffin. One single word or act of love performed is worth a thousand intended and delayed.