Gateway to the Classics: Good Stories for Great Holidays by Frances Jenkins Olcott
Good Stories for Great Holidays by  Frances Jenkins Olcott

The Master of the Harvest


The Master of the Harvest walked by the side of his cornfields in the springtime. A frown was on his face, for there had been no rain for several weeks, and the earth was hard from the parching of the east winds. The young wheat had not been able to spring up.

So as he looked over the long ridges that stretched in rows before him, he was vexed and began to grumble and say:—

"The harvest will be backward, and all things will go wrong."

Then he frowned more and more, and uttered complaints against Heaven because there was no rain; against the earth because it was so dry; against the corn because it had not sprung up.

And the Master's discontent was whispered all over the field, and along the ridges where the corn-seed lay. And the poor little seeds murmured:—

"How cruel to complain! Are we not doing our best? Have we let one drop of moisture pass by unused? Are we not striving every day to be ready for the hour of breaking forth? Are we idle? How cruel to complain!"

But of all this the Master of the Harvest heard nothing, so the gloom did not pass from his face. Going to his comfortable home he repeated to his wife the dark words, that the drought would ruin the harvest, for the corn was not yet sprung up.

Then his wife spoke cheering words, and taking her Bible she wrote some texts upon the flyleaf, and after them the date of the day.

And the words she wrote were these: "The eyes of all wait upon Thee; and Thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest Thine hand and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased."

And so a few days passed as before, and the house was gloomy with the discontent of the Master. But at last one evening there was rain all over the land, and when the Master of the Harvest went out the next morning for his early walk by the cornfields, the corn had sprung up at last.

The young shoots burst out at once, and very soon all along the ridges were to be seen rows of tender blades, tinting the whole field with a delicate green. And day by day the Master of the Harvest saw them, and was satisfied, but he spoke of other things and forgot to rejoice.

Then a murmur rose among the corn-blades. "The Master was angry because we did not come up; now that we have come forth why is he not glad? Are we not doing our best? From morning and evening dews, from the glow of the sun, from the juices of the earth, from the freshening breezes, even from clouds and rain, are we not taking food and strength, warmth and life? Why does he not rejoice?"

And when the Master's wife asked him if the wheat was doing well he answered, "Fairly well," and nothing more.

But the wife opened her Book, and wrote again on the flyleaf: "Who hath divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder, to cause it to rain on the earth where no man is, on the wilderness wherein there is no man, to satisfy the desolate and waste ground, and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth? For He maketh small the drops of water; they pour down rain according to the vapor thereof, which the clouds do drop and distil upon man abundantly. Also can any understand the spreadings of the clouds, or the noise of his tabernacle?"

Very peaceful were the next few weeks. All nature seemed to rejoice in the fine weather. The corn-blades shot up strong and tall. They burst into flowers and gradually ripened into ears of grain. But alas! the Master of the Harvest had still some fault to find. He looked at the ears and saw that they were small. He grumbled and said:—

"The yield will be less than it ought to be. The harvest will be bad."

And the voice of his discontent was breathed over the cornfield where the plants were growing and growing. They shuddered and murmured: "How thankless to complain! Are we not growing as fast as we can? If we were idle would we bear wheat-ears at all? How thankless to complain!"

Meanwhile a few weeks went by and a drought settled on the land. Rain was needed, so that the corn-ears might fill. And behold, while the wish for rain was yet on the Master's lips, the sky became full of heavy clouds, darkness spread over the land, a wild wind arose, and the roaring of thunder announced a storm. And such a storm! Along the ridges of corn-plants drove the rain-laden wind, and the plants bent down before it and rose again like the waves of the sea. They bowed down and they rose up. Only where the whirlwind was the strongest they fell to the ground and could not rise again.

And when the storm was over, the Master of the Harvest saw here and there patches of over-weighted corn, yet dripping from the thunder-shower, and he grew angry with them, and forgot to think of the long ridges where the corn-plants were still standing tall and strong, and where the corn-ears were swelling and rejoicing.

His face grew darker than ever. He railed against the rain. He railed against the sun because it did not shine. He blamed the wheat because it might perish before the harvest.

"But why does he always complain?" moaned the corn-plants. "Have we not done our best from the first? Has not God's blessing been with us? Are we not growing daily more beautiful in strength and hope? Why does not the Master trust, as we do, in the future richness of the harvest?"

Of all this the Master of the Harvest heard nothing. But his wife wrote on the flyleaf of her Book: "He watereth the hills from his chambers, the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle and herb for the service of man, that he may bring forth food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart."

And day by day the hours of sunshine were more in number. And by degrees the green corn-ears ripened into yellow, and the yellow turned into gold, and the abundant harvest was ready, and the laborers were not wanting.

Then the bursting corn broke out into songs of rejoicing. "At least we have not labored and watched in vain! Surely the earth hath yielded her increase! Blessed be the Lord who daily loadeth us with benefits! Where now is the Master of the Harvest? Come, let him rejoice with us!"

And the Master's wife brought out her Book and her husband read the texts she had written even from the day when the corn-seeds were held back by the first drought, and as he read a new heart seemed to grow within him, a heart that was thankful to the Lord of the Great Harvest. And he read aloud from the Book:—

"Thou visitest the earth and waterest it; thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God which is full of water; thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly; thou settlest the furrows thereof; thou makest it soft with showers; thou blessest the springing thereof. Thou crownest the year with thy goodness, and thy paths drop fatness. They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness, and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks. The valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.—O that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"

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