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Lowly and Wise, 1867

by Charlotte Maria Tucker

"But I will have it!"

"But you shan't!"

The loud, angry words were followed by the sound of a struggle, which brought Mrs. Clare out of her room in haste to see what was the cause of the strife between her little son Maitland and his cousin Frederick Gray.

The two boys had both hold of the staff of a flag and were pulling and tugging at it, each trying hard to wrench it out of the hand of the other. Both their faces were red with passion and they hardly stopped their struggling even when the lady entered the room.

"Boys, what are you quarrelling about!" cried Mrs. Clare, with displeased surprise.

"Mamma, we're going to play at soldiers and I want to carry the flag," answered Maitland, scarcely able to speak from passion.

"I must have it—I shall have it!" cried Fred, still trying to wrench it from his cousin.

"Give it to me," said the lady in a decided tone, taking it from the grasp of both of the boys. "See, you have torn the pretty flag in your struggle! To which of you does it belong?"

"Uncle gave it to us both," replied Fred, "but I choose to carry it, because I am the elder."

"I must have it, because my father is a soldier and I am going to be a soldier myself!" cried Maitland, still looking very fierce.

"I am sorry, boys, to see that you have less sense than four-footed beasts."

"What do you mean, Mamma?" said Maitland.

"Your quarrel reminds me of a story of two goats which I have heard," replied the lady, seating herself on a chair, still holding the flag in her hand. "On a wild mountain in the Tyrol, two goats met on a ledge just over a precipice, a ledge which was so narrow that there was neither room for them to pass each other, nor to turn round and go back. A steep rock rose straight above them, a deep dark chasm lay below! What do you think that the two goats did?"

"I suppose," said Maitland, "that if they had horns, like my two little goats, they pushed and butted and fought till one or both of them were tossed over the precipice and killed!"

"You suppose that they were as proud and silly and quarrelsome as two little boys whom I need not name," said Mrs. Clare, shaking her head. "No, the goats were more lowly and more wise. One of them quietly and carefully laid himself down on the narrow ledge. Then bent first one leg under his body, then the other, pressing as close to the rock as he could. Then the second goat, gently and softly stepped over his companion till safe on the further side, he could lightly bound away. The goat that had lain down then drew himself up from his lowly position, safe and uninjured, free to spring again from rock to rock and crop the sweet herbage, instead of lying, as he might otherwise have done, at the bottom of the precipice with all his bones broken by a fall!"

"What a wise goat he was!" exclaimed Fred.

"I did not know that goats had such sense," cried Maitland. "I wonder if my two little Billys that I drive in my go-cart would have done just the same as those creatures."

"If so," observed Mrs. Clare with a smile, "they would have shown much more sense than their master."

"I don't see that one is bound always to give up one's rights!" cried Maitland, glancing at the flag, for he saw that his mother was thinking of his conduct in fighting for that.

"The right of way belonged to one goat just as much as to the other," remarked the lady, "but the wisest was the lowliest, with him to stoop was to conquer, by letting another be first, he saved the lives of both. Oh, my child, if instinct taught this to a poor four-footed beast, shall beings with reason fight and quarrel and above all"—the mother gently laid her hand on the head of her child as she added, "shall Christians dispute about trifles when they know where it is written, Blessed are the meek, and with the lowly is wisdom?"

Maitland looked doubtfully at his mother, pride was having a little struggle within, but Fred cried out frankly at once, "Let him have the flag! I'm sorry that I quarreled about it."

"No, no, you shall have it!" exclaimed Maitland, more moved by his cousin's kindness than by even the lesson of his mother.

"You shall both carry it by turns, my boys," said the lady, "when I have mended the rent which you tore. Let this little incident impress on you the truth that we often gain most by yielding and that he is the wisest and noblest who can stoop, for the sake of conscience, to take the lowliest place."

Edited by Pam Takahashi


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