Daughter And Sister
( Originally Published 1879 )
THERE are few things of which men are more proud than of their daughters. The young father follows the sportive girl with his eye, as he cherishes an emotion of complacency, not so tender, but quite as active as the mother's. The aged father leans on his daughter as the crutch of his declining years. An old proverb says that the son is son till he is married, but thé daughter is daughter forever. This is something like the truth. Though the daughter leaves the parental roof, she is still followed by kindly regards. The gray-haired father drops in every day to greet the beloved face; and when he pats the cheeks of the little grandchildren, it is chiefly because the bond which unites him to them passes through the heart of his darling Mary; she is his daughter still. There are other ministries of love more conspicuous than hers, but none in which a gentler, lovelier spirit dwells, and none to which the heart's warm requitals more joyfully respond. There is no such thing as comparative estimate of a parent's affection for one or another child. There is little which he needs to covet, to whom the treasure of a good child has been given. A good daughter is the steady light of her parent's house. Her idea is indissolubly connected with that of his happy fireside. She is his morning sunlight, and his evening star.
The grace, and vivacity, and tenderness of her sex, have their place in the mighty sway which she holds over his spirit. The lessons of recorded wisdom which he reads with her eyes, come to his mind with a new charm, as they blend with the beloved melody of her voice. He scarcely knows weariness which her song does not make him forget, or gloom which is proof against the young brightness of her smile. She is the pride and ornament of his hospitality, and the gentle nurse of his sickness, and the constant agent in those nameless, numberless acts of kindness which one chiefly cares to have rendered because they are unpretending, but all expressive proofs of love.
But now, turning to the daughters themselves, one of their first duties at home is to make their mother happy—to shun all that would pain or even perplex her. "Always seeking the pleasure of others, always careless of her own," is one of the finest encomniums ever pronounced upon a daughter. True : at that period of life when dreams are realities, and realities seem dreams, this may be forgotten. Mothers may find only labor and sorrow where they had a right to expect repose; but the daughter who would make her home and her mother happy, should learn betimes that, next to duty to God our Savior, comes duty to her who is always the first to rejoice in our joy, and to weep when we weep. Of all the proofs of heartlessness which youth can give, the strongest is indifference to a mother's happiness or sorrow.
How large and cherished a place does a good sister's love always hold in the grateful memory of one who has been blessed with the benefits of this relation as he looks back to the home of his childhood! How many are there who, in the changes of maturer years, have found a sister's love, for themselves, and others dearer than themselves, their ready and adequate resource. With what a sense of security is confidence reposed in a good sister, and with what assurance that it will be uprightly and considerately given,. is her counsel sought ! How intimate is the friendship of such sisters, not widely separated in age from one another! What a reliance for warning, excitement, and sympathy has each secured in each! How many are the brothers to whom, when thrown into circumstances of temptation, the thought of a sister's love has been a constant, holy presence, rebuking every wayward thought!
The intercourse of brothers and sisters forms another important element in the happy influences of home. A boisterous or a selfish boy may try to domineer over the weaker or more dependent girl, but generally the latter exerts a softening, sweetening charm. The brother animates and heartens, the sister mollifies, tames, refines. The vine-tree and its sustaining elm are the emblems of such a relation—and by such agencies our "sons may become like plants grown up in their youth, and our daughters like corner-stones polished after the similitude of a temple." Among Lord Byron's' early miseries, the terms on which he lived with his mother helped 'to sour the majestic moral ruin—he was chafed and distempered thereby. The outbreaks of her passion, and the unbridled impetuosity of his, made their companion-ship uncongenial, and at length drove them far apart. But Byron found a compensating power in the friendship of his sister, and to her he often turned amid his wanderings, or his misanthropy and guilt, as an exile turns to his home. "A world to roam in and a home with thee," were words which embodied the feelings of his void and aching heart, when all else that is lovely appeared to have faded away. He had plunged into the pleasures of sin till he was sated, wretched, and selfconsumed—the very Sardanapalus of vice. But "his sister, his sweet sister," still shone like the morning star of memory upon his dark soul.
Sisters scarcely know the influence they have over their brothers. A young man testifies that the greatest proof of the truth of Christian religion was his sister's life. Often the simple request of a lady will keep •a young man from doing wrong. We have known this to be the case very frequently; and young men have been kept from breaking the Sabbath, from drinking, from chewing, just because a lady whom they respected, and for whom they had an affection, requested it. A tract given, an invitation to go to church, a request that your friend would read the Bible daily, will often be regarded, when a more powerful appeal from other sources would fall unheeded upon his heart. Many of the gentlemen whom you meet in society are away from the influence of parents and sisters, and they will respond to any interest taken in their welfare. We all speak of a young man's danger from evil associates, and the very bad influence which his dissipated gentlemen associates have upon him. We believe it is all true that a gentleman's character is formed to a greater extent by the ladies that he associates with before he becomes a complete man of the world. We think, in other words, that a young man is pretty much what his sisters and young lady friends choose to make him. We knew a family where the sisters encouraged their young brothers to smoke, thinking it was manly, and to mingle with gay, dissipated fellows because they thought it " smart;" and they did mingle with them, body and soul, and abused the same sisters shamefully. The influence began further back than with their gentlemen companions. It began with their sisters, and was carried on through the forming years of their character. On the other hand, if sisters are watchful and affection-ate they may in various ways—by entering into any little plan with interest, by introducing their younger brothers into good ladies' society—lead them along till their character is formed, and then a high respect for ladies, and a manly self respect, will keep them from mingling in low society.