“I have chosen the way of truth.” (Psalm 119:30)
A girl who can be trusted! What a treasure she is! What a strength of character she has for her young life’s beginning if she has learned to keep her word exactly, to be trustworthy!
But not every girl is naturally trustworthy. Many have to learn through bitter experience that it is better to be true to one’s word, to stand by a promise, to be obedient when out of sight and hearing of those over her, than to choose a different path and take it secretly.
It was a scene not to be forgotten by any of the three. The mother sat directly in front of the fire, its faint flickers showing the troubled lines on her face. The father sat at her left hand, his face set sternly; for he was a man to resent the actions of anyone who brought anxiety to that dear face beside him. At her right, in a little huddled heap, was the young daughter. She had just passed her fourteenth birthday, and she was as troubled and in as great a turmoil as many another girl of that age has found herself. She had been taking things into her own hands and having “good times” that had come about through deception, but the owl-like eyes of her mother, who, like many other mothers, seemed to see what was done entirely in the dark, had found out all the winding paths she had taken, and now the escapades were to be laid bare before her father. She dreaded the ordeal, and already was beginning to see that deception in all its results was a very unhappy road to follow. Mother began to speak, while she glanced sadly at the girl beside her; for she pitied Laura very much.
“Laura, I have asked Father to talk with us this evening, because I feel that we must have his advice and help in our present perplexities. I am going to tell him what our difficulties are, tell him exactly what has happened, beginning back a few weeks, so that he can understand what has led up to our present trouble. I will tell it just as I think it is, and I want you to listen closely, and if I am not telling it as you know it to be, speak up; for we want Father to understand clearly, so that he can judge rightly. I want to be absolutely fair with you, child. I would not lay one ounce of blame on you that does not belong there, so be free to speak if I make any mistake.”
Laura sank her fair head a little lower on her breast as her mother was speaking, and both the parents felt deep pity for her. It was not going to be easy to lay everything bare before even as kind a judge as her father.
Slowly then the mother began telling the whole thing, Laura’s willfulness, her small and greater deceptions, her sauciness and anger when faced with evidences of these deceptions, her promises to do better all broken, and at last the escapade that had brought about the present crisis. The girl had thus far interrupted but once or twice, and then only to clear up some minor point.
“I gave her permission to spend the afternoon away from home a couple of days ago, and she returned just when I expected her, and reported the good time she had had, even giving some of the details of their games. But to my surprise I have learned that she was not where I thought she was at all, but had spent the time with a crowd of young people like herself gadding about. I have investigated as far as I can and I find no evidence that she has done anything disgraceful or unladylike during the afternoon; but the fact that she was not where I thought she was, that she tried to deceive me when she came home by falsehoods of what had happened during the afternoon, and that when I began to face her with evidences of her deception she actually told more untruths to cover her fault, proves that she has not been trustworthy. I feel that all my props are gone and that I must hold her in the right path by my own force of will. I do not feel that she is really trying to help me.
“Father, this is the way is looks to me, and I want Laura to understand it: While a girl is young she is liable to do many things that are not wise, because of her lack of judgment. But if she will be obedient to her parents in a few points, that she will go exactly where they say she may, and not off somewhere else, and will tell the truth just as it is when asked about occurrences while she is out, then they can be a guard for her. They will know at all times just where she is and what she is doing or has done. Then if any question comes up as to her conduct, they can give an answer to all who would censure her. But if the girl will not go where she promises to go, and is away somewhere else, out of their knowledge, or if she will not tell the truth when asked about what has happened, then she places herself where her parents can be no protection to her. Now, while I can easily believe that Laura went nowhere and acted in no way that might be a reproach in the eyes of the world, the fact yet remains that if any evil tale should be started about her behavior, no matter how vile the tale might be, my testimony would add to her shame; for even in court I should have to say that I did not know where she was, that she deceived me and told me untruths. Can we afford, can she afford, to have things thus? I confess that this is the most serious matter that I have ever faced in Laura’s training. I must have help in someway to get this to her.”
“Laura, has Mother told this just as it is?” asked her father.
“Yes, sir, I think she has, so far as I could see,” answered she.
Then followed question after question until the father was satisfied in his own heart that his wife had searched the thing to the bottom. “Have you asked God to help you, Laura, in doing right?” he asked.
“No, I have thought I could behave myself if I tried hard enough,” she said.
“You have not been trying very hard, I fear. Now, Laura, we will have no more of this sort of thing. If you can behave by yourself, very well. I think you ought to ask God’s help. But be that as it may, I give you one more chance to prove yourself. If you cannot master yourself, I will take a greater hand in it; for we will have the victory over this deceptive way. You must be true, and you can be.”
“I will, Father; I promise you that nothing like this will ever happen again, and you may depend upon me.” There was a note in Laura’s voice, now so free from sauciness and anger, so full of humility and purposes, that gave her parents hope.
“Come here, Laura,” said her father, tears in his eyes as he saw her meekness.
She rose and went to his side. He drew her into his arms, and sitting there on his knee with her head on his shoulder she listened while he told her of all that she meant to his life and to her mother’s, of the hopes and prayers that were wrapped about her, and how grieved they were at her fault; but that now they believed she meant to do better, to be a girl who could be trusted.
“I will, Father, I will, and I will prove to you that I can be true,” she sobbed earnestly, with her arms about his neck.
“Then let us pray, and ask our God to bless and help us all,” the father said.
After prayer she kissed her parents and went to her room, with a purpose born of a new insight into trustworthiness. Her lesson was not forgotten, and she became what she purposed in her heart to be, a girl who could be trusted.
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