A few weeks since, in coming down the North River, I was seated in the cabin of the magnificent steamer Isaac Newton, in conversation with some friends. It was becoming late in the evening, and one after another, seeking repose, made preparations to retire to their berths; some, pulling off their boots and coats, and lying down to rest, while others, in the attempt to make it seem as much like home as possible, threw off more of their clothing—each one as his comfort or apprehension of danger dictated.
I had noticed on deck a fine looking boy, of about six years of age, following round a man evidently his father, whose appearance indicated him to be a foreigner, probably a German—a man of medium height and respectable dress. The child was unusually fair and fine looking, with handsome features and an intelligent and affectionate expression of countenance, and from under his German cap fell chestnut hair, and thick, clustering curls.
After walking about the cabin for a time the father and son stopped within a few feet of where we were seated, and commenced to prepare for going to bed. I watched them. While the little fellow was undressing himself, the father adjusted and arranged the bed the child was to occupy, which was an upper berth. Having finished this, his father tied a handkerchief around the boy’s head to protect his curls. This done I looked for him to seek his resting-place; but instead of this he quietly kneeled down upon the floor, put his little hands together in a beautifully child-like and simple manner, and resting his arms upon the lower berth, against which he knelt, began his vesper prayer.
I listened and I could hear the murmuring of his sweet voice, but could not distinguish the words he spoke. There were men around him—Christian men—retiring to rest without prayer; or, if praying at all, a kind of mental desire for protection, without sufficient courage or piety to kneel down in the steamboat’s cabin, and before strangers acknowledge the goodness of God, and ask His protection and love.
This was the result of some pious mother’s training. Where was she now? How many times had her kind hands been laid on the sunny locks as she taught him to lisp his prayer.
A beautiful sight it was, that child at prayer, in the midst of the busy, thoughtless throng. He alone, of this worldly multitude, drew nigh to heaven. I thanked the parental love that had taught him to lisp his evening prayer, and could scarcely refrain from weeping then, nor can I now, as I see again that sweet child, in the crowded tumult of the steamboat’s cabin, bending in devotion before his Maker.
When the little boy had finished his evening prayer, he arose and kissed his father most affectionately, who then put him in his berth for the night. I felt a strong desire to speak to them, but deferred it till morning. When morning came the confusion of landing prevented me from seeing them again. But if ever I meet that boy in his happy youth, in his anxious manhood, in his declining years, I will thank him for the influence and example of that night’s devotion, and bless the name of the mother who taught him.
Sabbath Readings for the Home Circle, vol. 2, 158–160.