Now and Today
By Timothy Shay Arthur
Our TODAYS — how inadequately are they appreciated? NOW — in which all the blessings of life are alone included — with what strange indifference do we turn from its rich offerings, to feast our eyes on gardens of delight, that spread away, temptingly, in a future which forever mocks us with the unattained? There are pearls and diamonds scattered all along the paths we are now treading — but we cannot stop to gather them, for looking at the mountains of gold which gleam against the far horizon. All of our unhappiness springs from neglected or misspent NOWS and TODAYS. The present moment is God's loving gift to man. In it we weave the web of our future, and make its threads bright with sunshine — or dark with evil and suffering.
"Come and kiss me, papa!" cried a voice full of music and love.
But papa was in the hall below, with coat, hat and gloves on, all ready to go forth to the day's business, and little pet Louis was up in his mother's chamber, only half-dressed.
"Haven't time now, I'll kiss you when I come home," papa answers back, and then starts from the house in a hurried manner.
A pearl lay at his feet, and Mr. Edwards had failed to pick up the precious thing. He would have been so much the richer for life.
"Dear Lou!" he said to himself, as he moved along the street, "that kiss would have done us both good, and consumed but half a minute of time; and I hardly think that I shall find another half minute so richly freighted with blessing today!"
At the corner of the next square, Mr. Edwards waited four minutes for an omnibus. It was lost time. Four minutes spent with dear, pet Louis — how full of pleasure they would have been — how fragrant their memory through all the day!
When Mr. Edwards arrived at his store, neither his morning newspaper nor his book-keeper was there. So, he could neither get at his books, which were in the safe, nor glean from his Gazette the commercial news, or state of the markets. No customers were in at so early an hour. And so Mr. Edwards passed the next twenty minutes in comparative idleness, his mind burdened just enough to make him feel uncomfortable, with the thought of little Louis, grieving over the coveted parting kiss.
At the end of twenty minutes, the book-keeper arrived. The honey of Louis' parting kiss would have sweetened the temper of Mr. Edwards for the day. Without it, under slight annoyances, his spirit grew sour. He spoke to the bookkeeper with slight impatience, and in words of reproof for being late. A sick child was the excuse; and as he looked into his clerk's face, he saw that it was pale with trouble and watching.
Mr. Edwards sighed. The pressure on his feelings was heavier. Everything, during that day, seemed to possess a strange power of annoyance; and to the failure to pick up a pearl from his feet in the morning, was added many failures of a like character.
"Will you please to buy an almanac?" said a childish voice, near him.
"No, I do not please!" was the gruff reply of Mr. Edwards. He spoke as he looked up, on the moment's impulse. The timid, half frightened face of a tender child, scarcely a year older than his darling at home, glanced upon him for an instant, and then he saw only the retreating form of a little girl. Before his better feelings prompted a recall of his repellant words, she was in the street, and out of sight.
This was a little thing in itself, but it told sharply on the feelings of Mr. Edwards, who was naturally a kind-hearted man. He sat very still for a little while, then, sighing again, went on with the letter he was writing, when the little almanac-seller disturbed him at his work. Another "now" had passed — leaving a shadow, instead of the sunshine it might have bestowed.
"Can you help me out, today? I have a large note falling due."
"I cannot!" replied Mr. Edwards.
The neighbor looked disappointed, and went away.
Now that neighbor had many times obliged Mr. Edwards in a similar way. Mr. Edwards had no balance over in bank. That may be said for him. But he had money out on call, and could, without inconvenience, have helped his neighbor. He remembered this after it was too late. The "now" had passed again, and left upon his memory, another burden of unquiet thought.
And so the hours of that day passed, each one leaving some "now" unimproved — some pearl lying by the wayside — some offered blessing untouched; and when, at a later period than usual, Mr. Edwards turned his steps homeward, he felt as if he had lost, instead of gained a day.
Dear Louis! Away, faster than his feet could carry him, went the heart of Mr. Edwards, towards his darling boy. Somehow, the father's imagination would present no other image of the child, but that which showed him in grief for the kiss denied that morning.
"Where is Louis?" were the first words spoken by Mr. Edwards, as he entered the room where his wife was sitting. It was at least an hour after nightfall.
"In bed, and asleep," was the answer.
At another time, this answer would have produced no unpleasant feelings; now, it was felt almost like a painful shock.
Mr. Edwards went to the chamber where Louis lay, in his little bed. The gas was burning low; he turned it up, so that the light would fall upon his face. How beautiful it was, in its childish innocence! How placid! And yet, the father's eyes saw, looking, as they did, through the medium of a troubled state, a touch of grief upon the lips, and a shadow of rebuking sadness on the brow of his darling.
"Precious one!" he said, as he bent to kiss the pure forehead. "I wronged both your heart and mine."
It seemed to him, after the kiss and confession, that the sleeper's face took on a more peaceful, loving aspect. For many minutes, he stood gazing down upon his unconscious boy; then, murmuring to himself — "It shall not be so again, sweet one!" — lowered the gas to a small flame, and went with noiseless footsteps, from the room.
For the gain of half a minute to business, in the morning — what a loss had there been to love, and peace, and comfort, for the space of hours. Let us take care of our NOWS and our TODAYS; for herein lies the true secret of happiness, and the true philosophy of life.