The lake in front of the Worthington home, though nearly five miles in length, had too small a harbor to permit the entrance of the large Chicago boats. It was therefore necessary, each evening in summer, for small steamboats to gather up the fruit from the farms along the lake and to carry it to the nearest port for large steamers. It was interesting to see the piles of berry crates loaded upon the steamer from the docks extending out into the lake. At such times a crowd of young people frequently arranged to go for a pleasant ride on Lake Michigan, and a few times Bessie had gone.
There was to be such an excursion on the occasion of which I wish to speak, and the young people expected to attend a circus in a city close to the haven to which they were going. Bessie wished very much to go. She soon obtained her father's consent, but went to her mother with many misgivings, for she knew that her mother never went to a circus and that she had always spoken against her going at other times.
Mrs. Worthington was very busy, but she always had time to advise her daughter and to hear her requests. She listened carefully to every word her daughter had to say, and then remained silent for a few minutes. At length she said: |Bessie, there are many things to consider about your going. You know how I love to have you go for a ride on the water when I know you are in good company. I also love to have you attend places of interest to you, when I know there's nothing to defile your mind or lead you from the path of purity. But, Daughter, there are many things in the world that look beautiful to the eye but tend to lead the soul astray. Do you think Jesus would go to a circus? Do you think you could get any good should you go? You have passed your tenth birthday. I think you're old enough to take this matter to God in prayer and let him decide it for you. Go and ask him to direct you to some passage of Scripture that will open your understanding and help you to know what he wants you to do.|
|Oh, mama,| said Bessie, who had felt strange about the matter, |please tell me yes or no, and I'll say no more about it.|
|No, Bessie; it will, in many ways, be better for you to do as I've said,| answered her mother tenderly but decisively.
Very reluctantly Bessie left the room, and, taking her Bible, whispered a prayer that she might open it to something that would help her to decide. As she opened the book, her eyes fell upon these words: |Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.| Hurriedly she turned the pages, thinking that she might perhaps have opened to that passage anyway. Next she read, |I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth; therefore, enjoy pleasure: and behold this also is vanity.| Returning to her mother, she read the words, but ended by saying, |I might have turned to that anyway.|
|Bessie,| said Mrs. Worthington, |those words were written by the wisest man the world has ever known, one who had the privilege of enjoying every known pleasure under the sun. But when he had tried them all, he sat down and wrote the words you have just read, and also said, 'All is vanity and vexation of spirit.' Now you have my view of the subject, and you have Solomon's; but if you are still in doubt, go and pray.|
Bessie was not satisfied. She slipped away the second time and fell upon her knees. She cried, |O Lord, you once answered Gideon with a sign; now please give me a sign and help me to know whether I should stay at home or not. If you don't want me to go, make it rain.| Though simple and short, the prayer came from the heart. She was determined to know God's will concerning her; and to such God never turns a deaf ear.
The next morning she went to the door and looked at the sky. The day was perfect. The sun was shining brightly, and a cool, gentle breeze was blowing. Just one tiny cloud was in the sky, and that seemed to be floating toward the sun. As she watched the cloud, she saw it gradually increase in size, and at last down came the rain in great drops. Nothing further was needed to convince Bessie that God wanted her to remain at home; and now her staying was no longer a cross to her.
She ran to her father and explained that God did not want her to go, telling him about her prayer and its answer. Her childish words and simple faith touched her father's proud heart, but all he said was, |It's all right, Bessie; but you'll go down to the landing and say good-by to your friends, won't you?|
As she told the girls why she could not go with them and watched the gay party leave the shore, she was not sad, but happy. She kept thinking how kind the dear Lord had been to answer her prayer so wonderfully. When bedtime came, she rested sweetly, having no wounded conscience to trouble or accuse her.
But how about the excursion party? They had an ideal trip on Lake Michigan, attended the show, and started to return. The breeze that had been so gently blowing through the day began to increase at sunset, and by the late hour of their return it had become a gale. But not realizing the fierceness of the storm, they started home. When they reached their own harbor, they found that they could not enter with safety; so they anchored the boat and spent the remainder of the night on the wildly tossing waves. In the morning the wind gradually died away, and the weary, seasick crowd made their way home.
When Bessie learned of their serious experience, she appreciated more than ever the Lord's goodness in leading her to stay at home.