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Perhaps there are many reasons for it. One to me is. not fanciful, but real. Advancing civilization, mistaken economy, have abolished the hearthstone. Our homes have no fireplaces, and no one domestic centre. If we have gained economically and physically, we have lost morally. There is no centre of sympathy and of converse nów. You cannot make a room with a stove or a furnace like a room with an open fire, nor is the drawing around a hole in the floor or the gazing at a black iron cylinder like the fondly remembered circle around the blazing fire. When the fire went out upon the hearth, there went with it one of the strongest and healthiest influences of home. May a better civilization, and a truer economy, and a juster sense of comfort combine to restore it, and with it may there come again a troup of wholesome influences, banished from our homes, but not forgotten in our memories, influences unconsciously forming the habits and lives of even the youngest sitter there, influences which, subtracted from our lives, would leave a painful void, influences we seek in vain in other ways, by other means, to supply to our children.
ACRED TO the home before all other portions of the day is the evening. The morning comes with its demand for labor. Before us lie our varied tasks. Over our first waking moments there is a shade of anxiety, as involuntarily the day's probable demands or accurately-determined duties rise before us. The morning, too, is the signal for separation. Life is awake again, and we must be at work. Business, domestic detail, the school, call us at once from the home, and till the sun goes down we are scattered — children of the dispersion—in our separate spheres, busy in that thing which is our first and prominent duty. There is no home again until
“The world's comforter, with weary gait,
That is the glad signal for reunion; and, converging toward the one common centre, with weary bodies
or jaded brains, tired of work, tired of play, but with fresh hearts, come parents and children, brothers and sisters, to forget toil and study and care in the calm and happy life of home. The evening lamp shines out far into the gathering darkness, the welcome beacon to the father's step. The world has treated him hard to-day. He has met repulse from friendship, disappointment or reverse in business, his well-laid schemes have failed. Baffled, thwarted, that clear and steady light, detected and kept separate among all others, dissolves the gloom, lifts off the burden, and the world's chill power vanishes before the magic thought of home. No longer laggard, with rapid tread he hastens on. And now against the windowpane, peering into the gathering gloom, he sees a wellknown face, and then the sudden vanishing tells him that quick-eared love has caught a welcome sound. With hand upon the latch, one moment he pauses ere he will make the vision real, one moment, as the patter of little feet and the joyous crowing of the baby-voice send their love-tones vibrating through his soul, and then, – the world shut out, care and struggle, coldness and failure, forgotten till the morrow, — circled and embraced by those who love him best and love him always, he gives himself over to pleasures and duties that await him there. Nor less the wife rejoices. All day long, amid perplexities he little knows and for which he allows too little, she has toiled and moiled to make that home which to the husband looks so bright. What contriving, what experiment, what puzzle, what economy, what patience with her children, what drilling of domestics, what tact, what courage, what virtue, − only woman's, — to make of these chaotic and contending materials the harmony he finds. To her, evening comes as a solace and relief. She feels its calm, the luxury of its repose. With her, too, care sleeps till the morrow, and the evening meal and the evening converse shall have no shade. Ye who selfishly carry your day-burden with you over the threshold of home, dragging remorselessly into its presence that which has no place there, —ye in whom the quick glance of the husband detects the tokens of inward disturbance, — let me beg you to remember that what is best for each to share with the other of the day's care may well be adjourned a little, while you may not adjourn the expressions of gladness and love which mean most at the first moment of meeting, and, like all first impressions, are apt to have permanent influence. The cloud that lowers over the meeting may spread into darkness and storm ere night be come. Drop your day-burdens at the moment of your meeting; let, at least, a brief self-forgetfulness overtake those who really love each other, in presence of God's best earthly gift, and the heart's truest earthly treasure, JHome!
Not only the first meeting after the day is over should be a matter of thought and of care, but the whole subject of evening should receive serious attention from those who are as heads to the home. Situated as most of us are, the evening affords us all of home-life we have. It is the only time when the circle can be complete, the only opportunity for that interchange of thought and influence so invaluable to the character. It must not be suffered to waste under our indolence or indulgence. It must not be left to chance for its improvement, or squandered in a cigar, a newspaper, or the mending of old clothes. It must not be a fret and a worry till the children are in bed, and then a fret and a worry till you are there too. To the evening, and specially the winter's evening, belong mainly the influences of domestic life. Its few short hours are all the uninterrupted time we have at our disposal to know our own or be known of them. The impression that home leaves upon the child comes mainly from its evenings. The visions which memory delights in conjuring are the old scenes about the evening fire or the evening lamp. Mother and father as they were then are the mother and father we know, and the lessons we then received are the best and most permanent in life.
If it were not for the evening, what would homelife be to-day ? Is it not the little all that there is