Acting on a sudden impulse, an elderly woman, the widow of a soldier who
had been killed in the Civil War, went into a photographer's to have her picture
taken. She was seated before the camera wearing the same stern, hard, forbidding
look that had made her an object of fear to the children living in the
neighbourhood, when the photographer, thrusting his head out from the black
cloth, said suddenly, "Brighten the eyes a little."
She tried, but the dull and heavy look still lingered.
"Look a little pleasanter," said the photographer, in an unimpassioned
but confident and commanding voice.
"See here," the woman retorted sharply, "if you think that an old woman
who is dull can look bright, that one who feels cross can become pleasant every
time she is told to, you don't know anything about human nature. It takes
something from the outside to brighten the eye and illuminate the face."
"Oh, no, it doesn't! It's something to be worked from the inside. Try it
again, said the photographer good-naturedly,
Something in his manner inspired faith, and she tried again, this time
with better success.
"That's good! That's fine! You look twenty years younger," exclaimed the
artist, as he caught the transient glow that illuminated the faded face.
She went home with a queer feeling in her heart. It was the first
compliment she had received since her husband had passed away, and it left a
pleasant memory behind. When she reached her little cottage, she looked long in
the glass and said, "There may be something in it. But I'll wait and see the
When the picture came, it was like a resurrection. The face seemed alive
with the lost fires of youth. She gazed long and earnestly, then said in a
clear, firm voice, "If I could do it once, I can do it again."
Approaching the little mirror above her bureau, she said, "Brighten up,
Catherine," and the old light flashed up once more.
"Look a little pleasanter!" she commanded; and a calm and radiant smile
diffused itself over the face.
Her neighbours, as the writer of this story has said, soon remarked the
change that had come over her face; "Why, Mrs. A., you are getting young. How do
you manage it?"
"It is almost all done from the inside. You just brighten up inside and
Every emotion tends to sculpture the body into beauty or to ugliness.
Worrying, fretting, unbridled passions, petulance, discontent, every dishonest
act, every falsehood, every feeling of envy, jealousy, fear, - each has its
effect on the system, and acts deteriously like a poison or a deformer of the
body. Professor James of Harvard, an expert in the mental sciences, says, "Every
small stroke of virtue or vice leaves its ever so little scar. Nothing we ever
do is, in strict literalness, wiped out." The way to be beautiful without is to
It is related that Dwight L. Moody once offered to his Northfield pupils
a prize of five hundred dollars for the best thought. This took the prize: "Men
grumble because God put thorns with roses; wouldn't it be better to thank God
that he put roses with thorns?"
We win half the battle when we make up our minds to take the world as we
find it, including the thorns. "It is," says Fontenelle, "a great obstacle to
happiness to expect too much." This is what happens in real life. Watch Edison.
He makes the most expensive experiments throughout a long period of time, and he
expects to make them, and he never worries because he does not succeed the first
"I cannot but think," says Sir John Lubbock, "that the world would be
better and brighter if our teachers would dwell on the duty off happiness as
well as on the happiness of duty."
Oliver Wendell Holmes, in advanced years, acknowledged his debt of
gratitude to the nurse of his childhood, who studiously taught him to ignore
unpleasant incidents. If he stubbed his toe, or skinned his knee, or bumped his
nose, his nurse would never permit his mind to dwell upon the temporary pain,
but claimed his attention for some pretty object, or charming story, or happy
reminiscence. To her, he said, he was largely indebted for the sunshine of a
long life. It is a lesson, which is easily mastered in childhood, but seldom to
be learned in middle life, and never in old age.
"When I was a boy," says another author, "I was consoled for cutting my
finger by having my attention called to the fact that I had not broken my arm;
and when I got a cinder in my eye, I was expected to feel more comfortable
because my cousin had lost his eye by an accident."
"We should brave trouble," says Beecher, "as the New England boy braves
winter. The school is a mile away over the hill, yet he lingers not by the fire;
but, with his books slung over his shoulder, he sets out to face the storm. When
he reaches the topmost ridge, where the snow lies in drifts, and the north wind
comes keen and biting, does he shrink and cower down by the fences, or run into
the nearest house to warm himself? No; he buttons up his coat, and rejoices to
defy the blast, and tosses the snow-wreaths with his foot; and so, erect and
fearless, with strong heart and ruddy cheek, he goes on to his place at school."
Children should be taught the habit of finding pleasure everywhere; and
to see the bright side of everything. "Serenity of mind comes easy to some, and
hard to others. It can be taught and learned. We ought to have teachers who are
able to educate us in this department of our natures quite as much as in music
or art. Think of a school or classes for training men and women to carry
themselves serenely amid all the trials that beset them!"