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Very peaceful were the next few weeks. All nature seemed to rejoice in the fine weather. The corn-blades shot up strong and tall. They burst into flowers and gradually ripened into ears of grain. But alas! the Master of the Harvest had still some fault to find. He looked at the ears and saw that they were small. He grumbled and said:--
``The yield will be less than it ought to be. The harvest will be bad.''
And the voice of his discontent was breathed over the cornfield where the plants were growing and growing. They shuddered and murmured: ``How thankless to complain! Are we not growing as fast as we can? If we were idle would we bear wheat-ears at all? How thankless to complain!''
Meanwhile a few weeks went by and a drought settled on the land. Rain was needed, so that the corn-ears might fill. And behold, while the wish for rain was yet on the Master's lips, the sky became full of heavy clouds, darkness spread over the land, a wild wind arose, and the roaring of thunder announced a storm. And such a storm! Along the ridges of corn-plants drove the rain- laden wind, and the plants bent down before it and rose again like the waves of the sea. They bowed down and they rose up. Only where the whirlwind was the strongest they fell to the ground and could not rise again.
And when the storm was over, the Master of the Harvest saw here and there patches of over- weighted corn, yet dripping from the thunder- shower, and he grew angry with them, and forgot to think of the long ridges where the corn-plants were still standing tall and strong, and where the corn-ears were swelling and rejoicing.
His face grew darker than ever. He railed against the rain. He railed against the sun because it did not shine. He blamed the wheat because it might perish before the harvest.
``But why does he always complain?'' moaned the corn-plants. ``Have we not done our best from the first? Has not God's blessing been with us? Are we not growing daily more beautiful in strength and hope? Why does not the Master trust, as we do, in the future richness of the harvest?''
Of all this the Master of the Harvest heard nothing. But his wife wrote on the flyleaf of her Book: ``He watereth the hills from his chambers, the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle and herb for the service of man, that he may bring forth food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.''
And day by day the hours of sunshine were more in number. And by degrees the green corn- ears ripened into yellow, and the yellow turned into gold, and the abundant harvest was ready, and the laborers were not wanting.
Then the bursting corn broke out into songs of rejoicing. ``At least we have not labored and watched in vain! Surely the earth hath yielded her increase! Blessed be the Lord who daily loadeth us with benefits! Where now is the Master of the Harvest? Come, let him rejoice with us!''
And the Master's wife brought out her Book and her husband read the texts she had written even from the day when the corn-seeds were held back by the first drought, and as he read a new heart seemed to grow within him, a heart that was thankful to the Lord of the Great Harvest. And he read aloud from the Book:--
``Thou visitest the earth and waterest it; thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God which is full of water; thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly; thou settlest the furrows thereof; thou makest it soft with showers; thou blessest the springing thereof. Thou crownest the year with thy goodness, and thy paths drop fatness. They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness, and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks. The valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.--O that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!''
III. Saint Cuthbert's Eagle
By The Venerable Bede (Adaped)
Once upon a time, the good Saint Cuthbert of Lindesfarne, went forth from his monastery to preach to the poor. He took with him a young lad as his only attendant. Together they walked along the dusty way. The heat of the noonday sun beat upon their heads, and fatigue overcame them.
``Son,'' said Saint Cuthbert, ``do you know any one on the road, whom we may ask for food and a place in which to rest?''
``I was just thinking the same thing,'' answered the lad, ``but I know nobody on the road who will entertain us. Alas! why did we not bring along provisions? How can we proceed on our long journey without them?''
``My son,'' answered the saint, ``learn to have trust in God, who never will suffer those to perish of hunger who believe in Him.''
Then looking up and seeing an eagle flying in the air, he added, ``Do you see the eagle yonder? It is possible for God to feed us by means of this bird.''
While they were talking thus, they came to a river, and, lo! the eagle stood on the bank.
``Son,'' said Saint Cuthbert, ``run and see what provision God has made for us by his handmaid the bird.''
The lad ran, and found a good-sized fish that the eagle had just caught. This he brought to the saint.
``What have you done?'' exclaimed the good man, ``why have you not given a part to God's handmaid? Cut the fish in two pieces, and give her one, as her service well deserves.''
The lad did as he was bidden, and the eagle, taking the half fish in her beak, flew away.
Then entering a neighboring village, Saint Cuthbert gave the other half to a peasant to cook, and while the lad and the villagers feasted, the good saint preached to them the Word of God
IV. The Ears Of Wheat
By The Brothers Grimm (Translated)
Ages upon ages ago, says the German grandmother, when angels used to wander on earth, the ground was more fruitful than it is now. Then the stalks of wheat bore not fifty or sixty fold, but four times five hundred fold. Then the wheat- ears grew from the bottom to the top of the stalk. But the men of the earth forgot that this blessing came from God, and they became idle and selfish.
One day a woman went through a wheat-field, and her little child, who accompanied her, fell into a puddle and soiled her frock. The mother tore off a handful of the wheat-ears and cleaned the child's dress with them.
Just then an angel passed by and saw her. Wrathfully he spoke:--
``Wasteful woman, no longer shall the wheat- stalks produce ears. You mortals are not worthy of the gifts of Heaven!''
Some peasants who were gathering wheat in the fields heard this, and falling on their knees, prayed and entreated the angel to leave the wheat alone, not only on their account, but for the sake of the little birds who otherwise must perish of hunger.
The angel pitied their distress, and granted a part of the prayer. And from that day to this the ears of wheat have grown as they do now.
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Good Stories For Great Holidays -by- Various