Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 5/The spring of clear water

3069407Once a Week, Series 1, Volume V — The spring of clear water
1861William King Westly


It was at noon on a sultry summer’s day, that three travellers quitted the high road to seek refreshment at a spring, which they perceived at a short distance. The spring was overhung by a luxuriant growth of shrubs which flourished from its moisture, and in gratitude returned their shade to preserve its refreshing coolness. The waters, collecting first in a basin hollowed in the rock, overflowed in transparent streams, trickling in their course over the following inscription, carved on the rock:

“Be thou like unto this spring.”

The separate streamlets kept joining each other on the coarse sand beneath the basin, and then flowed away, farther and farther, till united into a small rivulet they rippled through the neighbouring flowery meadows. The travellers, having quenched their thirst, while sitting to rest themselves for awhile, read the inscription, of which each gave his own interpretation.

“It is excellent advice,” said one of them, who appeared to be a trader; he carried a knapsack on his back, his broad leathern belt seemed to contain something heavy wrapped or sewed within it, and his strong boots were covered with a layer of dust, seemingly from a long journey. “The spring,” he continued, “runs without ceasing, wanders extensively, receives into itself the waters of other springs, and increases till it becomes a river, and by its example incites man to ceaseless activity and unwearied industry, for the accomplishment of all his desires.”

Hearing this, another of the travellers, an old man, carrying a book in his hand, shook his head, and said:

“The lesson here given is a much higher one than that. This spring is common to all. It quenches the thirst of every passer by, and yet demands the gratitude of no one. It clearly bids us do good, purely for the love of good, and to require no other reward.”

The third traveller had remained silent during this time. He was a beautiful, fair-haired youth, who for the first time, and but recently, had parted from his mother. His comrades asked him his explanation of the inscription.

He reflected for a moment; then, slightly blushing, said:

“To me the spring tells a different tale. To what purpose would be its unceasing activity, and its readiness to assuage the thirst of all passengers, were it muddy and defiled by the earth? Its chief excellence is its brightness and transparent clearness. Its inscription exhorts us neither to industry nor to magnanimity; but to be like this spring ourselves, to preserve the soul in such unsullied purity, that it may, like it in its course, fitly reflect the flowers of the earth and the splendours of the heavens.”

W. K. W.