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"Father, I don't like to go to school," said Harry Williams, one morning. "I wish you would let me always stay at home. Charles Parker's father don't make him go to school."
Mr Williams took his little boy by the hand, and said kindly to him, "Come, my son, I want to show you something in the garden."
Harry walked into the garden with his father, who led him along until they came to a bed in which peas were growing, the vines supported by thin branches that had been placed in the ground. Not a weed was to be seen about their roots, nor even disfiguring the walk around the bed in which they had been planted.
"See how beautifully these peas are growing, my son," said Mr Williams. "How clean and healthy the vines look. We shall have an abundant crop. Now let me show you the vines in Mr Parker's garden. We can look at them through a great hole in his fence."
Mr Williams then led Harry through the garden gate and across the road, to look at Mr Parker's pea vines through the hole in the fence. The bed in which they were growing was near to the road; so they had no difficulty in seeing it. After looking into the garden for a few moments, Mr Williams said--
"Well, my son, what do you think of Mr Parker's pea vines?"
"Oh, father!" replied the little boy; "I never saw such poor looking peas in my life! There are no sticks for them to run upon, and the weeds are nearly as high as the peas themselves. There won't be half a crop!"
"Why are they so much worse than ours, Harry?"
"Because they have been left to grow as they pleased. I suppose Mr Parker just planted them, and never took any care of them afterward. He has neither taken out the weeds, nor helped them to grow right."
"Yes, that is just the truth, my son. A garden will soon be overrun with weeds and briars, if it is not cultivated with the greatest care. And just so it is with the human garden. This precious garden must be trained and watered, and kept free from weeds, or it will run to waste. Children's minds are like garden beds; and they must be as carefully tended, and even more carefully, than the choicest plants. If you, my son, were never to go to school, nor have good seeds of knowledge planted in your mind, it would, when you become a man, resemble the weed-covered, neglected bed we have just been looking at, instead of the beautiful one in my garden. Would you think me right to neglect my garden as Mr Parker neglects his?"
"Oh, no, father; your garden is a good garden, but Mr Parker's is all overrun with weeds and briars. It won't yield half as much as yours will."
"Or, my son, do you think I would be right if I neglected my son as Mr Parker neglects his son, allowing him to run wild, and his mind, uncultivated, to become overgrown with weeds?"
Little Harry made no reply; but he understood pretty clearly what his father meant.
"I send you to school," Mr Williams continued, "in order that the garden of your mind may have good seeds sown in it, and that these seeds may spring up and grow, and produce plentifully. Now which would you prefer, to stay at home from school, and so let the garden of your mind be overrun with weeds, or go to school, and have this garden cultivated?"
"I would rather go to school," said Harry. "But, father, is Charles Parker's mind overrun with weeds?"
"I am afraid that it is. If not, it certainly will be, if his father does not send him to school. For a little boy not to be sent to school, is a great misfortune, and I hope you will think the privilege of going to school a very great one indeed."
Harry Williams listened to all his father said, and, what was better, thought about it, too. He never again asked to stay home from school.
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