Paul Berman's father had given his son a spot of ground which was to be "all his very own," as the little boy expressed it.
Paul had planted his farm to water-melons, and, as the soil was rich and the showers many, an abundant crop of the finest fruit was ripening. Little Robbie, the six year old brother, had helped to pull the weeds, and, though he could do but little of the work, was always ready to help or to stand by for company while his older brother tilled the ground, and for this he was to have every third melon that ripened for his share.
The boys found it took a great deal of hard labor to keep even their small spot of ground free from weeds; but by patience and perseverance, with mother to oversee and lend a helping hand occasionally, the work was well done, and at last one big beautiful melon was ready for picking. Now Robbie had been watching this same melon for many a day and though he knew it belonged to Paul, he expected for himself several generous slices when it should be eaten; therefore he was greatly surprised when his brother said, as he took the beauty from the vines, "This melon 'I am going to give to the Lord."
"Why, Paul Berman, what makes you talk so, you know the Lord don't want it, He can't eat water-melons, and if he could, how could you get it up in the sky to him," said Robbie, as his eyes opened wide with wonder. "Oh that is not the way I am going to give it," said Paul, "you know the Bible says, `Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these ye have done it unto me;' and my Sunday-school teacher said, last Sunday, that meant if we give anything to any one that is needy it is just the same as giving it to Jesus, and mother says we should give the Lord the first and the best fruit, so I am going to give this melon to that little pop-corn boy, who, you know, is laid up with a sprained ankle. Mother said I might and that it would make him so happy, she says his folks are very poor and not able to buy him anything nice to eat, and he has to lie on his little bed some whole days all alone while his mother goes out to work to earn food for the family to eat.
Though Robbie at first seemed quite disappointed, and thought it was too much to let all of the biggest and best melon go to a stranger, yet he presently became interested in the story of the little cripple and was soon ready with his express wagon to help draw it to him.
Mrs. Berman filled a little basket with cake, cookies and other goodies, which, with a bundle of papers, she packed in beside the melon; Robbie, the driver, cracked his whip, and Paul as pony pranced off in gay style.
When the boys halted in front of Mrs. Dean's lonely cottage they saw a thin pale face pressed against the window pane which lighted up with joy and animation when they turned to enter the house, and the little sick boy saw that Paul was really bringing that lovely melon for him. The boys found little Johnnie alone, his mother having gone to help a neighbor for a few hours, and, as he thanked them, again and again, and they saw how happy their gift had made him, the boys went home feeling that it surely is "more blessed to give than to receive."
When Mrs. Dean returned to her little boy, she thought he seemed unusually cheerful and happy, but she hurried to the kitchen to make a fire and set the table for tea; when all was ready Johnnie surprised her by rolling out the big melon from behind his chair, and telling her who brought it and how he had saved it for supper, so she and father could have a share, and that he had hoped she would not discover it' as she came in, for he thought she would enjoy it more when tea was ready.
That evening as Mr. Dean was taking down his hat to go up town, as he usually did, Johnnie looked up into his face and said, " Papa I wish you wanted to stay at home this evening and read to me from these papers that came with my water-melon."
Mr. Dean put his hat back saying, " I was just thinking if I had something interesting to read I would not go out this evening, it seems so cozy and nice at home."
Mr. Dean was a good workman, a kind husband and father, but did not seem to prosper in business. He was often out of employment and it seemed hard for him to get even the necessaries of life for his family. He often wondered why he could not support his family as comfortably as other men did who received the same wages. But his wife and the neighbors knew it was because he spent so much of his wages for drink and tobacco.
It so happened that the first article that Mr. Dean read that evening was one showing the waste of strong drink and tobacco, how what seemed like a paltry sum spent each day would in a few years pay for a good home and fill it with the comforts of life. He had never seen his bad habits in this light before, and had not realized that what he spent each year for these worse than useless things was what was keeping him poor, sending his wife out to labor, and bringing sorrow and destruction to their home; and, calling his wife from the kitchen, he confessed to her his faults and resolved that no more of his money should go for whiskey and tobacco. Mr. Dean kept this good resolution and prosperity and happiness attended him; and all this came of one little boy's remembering the text " Inasmuch."
( Originally Published 1887 )
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