Short Stories » Silent Influences
UPON a few occasions during my goings back and forth in Utah, I have observed some little things that I have often since reflected upon.
It is an idea that a mother's influence is most appreciated when years of mature reflection come, and that that influence is apparent more to the family than to anyone else, but I know that there have been mothers who, being dead, have yet spoken to strangers by tokens beyond praise of tongue or pen.
Upon one occasion while traveling southward to visit my parents, the person whom I had hired to take me on my journey, to my surprise, stopped at a poor log house and asked for accommodations, which the man consented to in a hesitating way I did not under- stand. I went into the house with my three little ones, and, being surrounded by little strangers, I knew them must be a mother. At last I inquired for her.
The largest girl, about eleven years of age, and who was holding the baby of one year, answered, " Ma has been dead three weeks."
"And who takes care of the children ? " I asked.
" Me and pa."
"But the house-work, my poor little girl?"
" We do it; my ma never hired help."
I thought that the best thing for me to do was to help get the supper instead of letting that little girl wait on me, and by her assistance, and showing where things were, we had as cozy a time as I could have with the sad thoughts that would keep coming up be- hind all our talk. Such little interruptions and breaks in our talks as, "Oh, yes, that's how ma used to do it! I don't always remember just how she used to tell me to do things, and now sometimes I'm troubled so, not remembering, and the children have to be watched, too."
When supper-time came, the father looked surprised and pleased. " Well, daughter, I'm right proud you've done so well for this lady."
But the daughter could not keep quiet with the honors.
That night when I helped her put four sleepy little ones to bed, I noticed the pretty, hand-made lace on the little night-gowns and the pillow-slips ; the patch-work quilts made of such tiny pieces, some of them home-dyed; the flannel underwear all her own spinning and weaving, and some of the little stockings not yet worn through where she had last darned them. I saw patches that I knew a practiced hand had sewed, so even and neat were they ; and the bleached muslin window curtains and shelf tidies all trimmed with hand-made lace. ..
" I know what you're looking at. Ma made that lace; I can see her do it yet, just as plain; that was when she was resting."
The milk was brought in and attended to. "We milk fourteen cows. Pa milks them now. Ma was just as well as ever; she was always tired, though; and she got cold and had pneumonia and died in four days. I wish you could have seen my ma, you don't know what she was like, but she told us children to always be Saints, no matter what."
I could not help answering : " Yes, dear little girl, all this pretty lace-work, these many quilts and good clothes that her hands made, have told me one by one that she was industrious and looked after the comfort of her family ; I see by all your little quiet ways to one another that she was sweet and patient ; I know by your words that she was a faithful Saint, and I believe that if she had worked less hard and lived in a comfortable house she would have lived longer."
Tears came in her eyes. " I wish you could stay with us. Father was most ready to put up a good house, and now he says he must."
After breakfast he said to me, " You've taken quite an interest in my little ones, and your medicine did the baby a deal of good during the night; I'd like to show you around, if you'd like it? "
I thanked him and we went out to see the corral full of fat stock, the good orchard, and then the building material and foundation for a good-sized house, all ready to begin. " If I'd only a had this done I don't think she'd have died. The wind always came in through those chinks so, there was no getting out of the draught."
I thought the same, but he seemed so good-hearted about it, I felt as though he was not really to blame, after all. Secretly, and without saying so, I felt all those pretty laces and everything her hands had made enticing me to stay with the children ; but my own family and home duties called me along.
An acquaintance had died; and although we had not known each other long, I thought it proper to attend the funeral, which was held at her late home. The children had been given some things to divert their attention, and it was time to gather up these and put them away. As I helped to do so I noticed the character of these every-day playthings, little colored picture-books, and all of them were pretty Bible stories ; and on the mantel and bracket shelves were delicate little statuettes of kneeling children, prayerful mothers, and others of like nature. Of the funeral sermon I was particularly impressed by this sentence from one who had known her from girlhood : " It can be said of this sister that she has fulfilled every principle of the gospel as it was made known to her, without murmuring"
" Here," thought I, " has lived one whose example has been as near perfection as is almost possible." And I did not wonder that she was called to a better world.
Upon another occasion a lady said to her guests, " Come, we'll go to the table ; all is ready." As we passed from the room, a little child two or three years old ran along with us, and as all were about to seat themselves, they turned with one accord to where the little one had knelt beside a chair. It needed no one to say that the child had been accustomed to daily family prayer.