by Charlotte Maria Tucker
"It's no use trying, I'll give it all up!" exclaimed Neddy with a burst of sorrow, as he looked down on the torn kite which he had trampled on when in a passion, because he could not release himself from the long tail which had become entangled round his leg. "Here I've been trying every day, all this week long, from Monday to Saturday, to keep my temper for one whole day to gain the book which papa offered to me as a prize, and every day I've broken all my good resolutions and gone into anger about one thing or other! I'll give up trying altogether!"
"And would that be a wise thing for my little boy to do?" said his mother, Mrs. Stace, gently drawing her child towards her.
"Just look at my kite!" sobbed Neddy.
"Perhaps matters may be mended here," said Mrs. Stace, gently disengaging the tangled string from the leg of the boy, "and as for the poor torn kite, we'll see what a little paste and paper will do to mend that big hole."
"They can't mend my horrible temper!" cried Neddy, who was sadly disheartened at his failure.
Now, perhaps, my readers will wonder at the mother dealing so gently with such a passionate child, instead of punishing or reproving. But Mrs. Stace knew that poor Neddy had an excuse for his temper that most little children have not, for it was a sad and painful illness that had helped to make him so fretful. Besides, she knew that Neddy grieved over his temper and was anxious indeed to become more patient and good. So instead of being angry with him, she sought to give him encouragement and help in his struggle with the sin which beset him.
"I'll give up trying to be patient," signed Neddy. "I'm sure that I'll never be a good-tempered boy."
"Did you ever hear the story of the brave King Robert Bruce and the spider?" asked Mrs. Stace, opening a book which contained a beautiful print of a warrior stretched on the ground in a cave, watching a spider making its web.
Neddy was very fond of pictures and still more fond of stories, so that the change in the conversation made him forget his trouble for a while, and he asked his mother to tell him what that man had to do with the spider.
"Robert Bruce," said Mrs. Stace, "was, perhaps, the most famous king that ever reigned in Scotlandóbut he had a hard struggle at first with difficulties and misfortunes. He had false friends and powerful foes. Enemies wasted his land and he found himself a fugitive in a dreary cave in the Isle of Arran. Bruce felt, like you, my Neddy, inclined to give up a hopeless struggle. Why should he fight any more for his country? Six times he had made an effort to free her from England's hated power, and six times had found such effort vain."
"I think that he might well give up trying, mamma."
"While Bruce," continued the lady, "was turning over these sad thoughts in his mind, it is said that his eye chanced to rest on a spider attempting to fix her thread on some part of the rocky wall. The insect had a difficult task to perform. She tried again and again without success, but would not give up in despair. Bruce counted that the little spider had six times attempted to fix her threadójust as many times as he had vainly tried to give freedom to his dear land."
"And just as many times as I have been days trying to fix my good resolutions and conquer my naughty temper," said Neddy.
"Bruce, as the story goes, thought to himself, 'I will watch whether the spider will try a seventh time and if she does try and succeed, I'll once more draw this sword for Scotland and try if success may not be mine at last.'"
"Oh, mamma, did the patient little spider make another attempt?"
"She did, it is said, and succeeded. And Robert Bruce felt his own hope and resolution return. He went back to the scene of conflict. He vanquished his foes. He won his crown and had reason to the end of his days to be thankful that he, a warrior and king, had not scorned to take a lesson from a spider!"
"I think," said little Neddy, looking up with a smile on his sickly face, "that you want me to take a lesson both from a spider and a king."
"You have your difficulties to overcome, my boy, as they both had theirs, though of such a very different kind. You need the patience they needed. You must make repeated efforts as they made and never give up in despair. But oh, my son," continued the lady, drawing her boy closer to her heart, "you must never forget that both patience and success are gifts of God and must be asked for in prayer. Hitherto you have made resolutions in your own strength and alas! they have broken like threads. Now and henceforth, seek strength from the Lord. It is He and He alone who can make us more than conquerors in the life-long battle with sin."
Neddy did not forget when kneeling that night by his little cot to confess his folly and passion and to ask for help to fight in future against them. The following day was Sunday and Neddy awoke with good resolutions, which again he strengthened by prayer. All through that Sunday, the little boy kept a constant watch over his lips and a guard against his temper. And when his cousin spoke rude and teasing words, he walked away to the window and would not trust himself to reply.
A happy boy was Neddy when on that Sunday evening, his father called him to him, and placed the prize in his hand and his mother whispered to him the holy words which had been the text of the clergyman's sermon, "Let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not." (Gal 6:9).
Edited by Pam Takahashi
Proofed by Deborah Gardner
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