Readers of Youth’s Companion probably got the message in “Vanity Punished”: it’s repeated approximately six times—and that doesn’t include the title.


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[Morality] “Vanity Punished” (from Youth’s Companion, September 9, 1847; p. 75)

It was in the early part of the spring; the snow was all gone, but the heavy night frosts, and the biting cold winds made the weather out of doors, quite uncomfortable, and rendered overcoats almost as necessary as in winter.

Mary Jane’s mother had purchased for her little girl a very pretty satin spencer with short sleeves; intending that she should put it on when the weather became sufficiently warm. Mary was delighted with it, and she longed for her time to come when she might let her companions see how prettily she looked in her new dress.

Sabbath morning the sun shone out very bright, but the earth was damp from the frosts, and the wind whistled around the north corner of the house.

Mary’s Mother came out of her room with a thick shawl upon her shoulders, and her fur tippet about her neck; but the little girl came tripping down stairs in her new short sleeved spencer, without a shawl or cloak to cover her open neck and bare arms.

“You are not properly clothed,” said her mother; “Go, get your cloak and furs, and lay aside your spencer until a warmer day.”

“O yes, mamma,” answered Mary, too vain to listen to her mother’s wise advice, “I shall be warm enough. Do see how brightly the sun shines.”

“You are deceived, my dear, by the glare of the sunshine; the wind is very high and sharp, and you will be nearly frozen with the cold.”

“I don’t fear it,” said the conceited little girl. “I have just been out in the garden, and it is very warm. My old cloak is so rusty and out of fashion, that I am ashamed to be seen in it.” Her mother still continued to reason with her, but as she obstinately persisted in having her own way, she at length yielded, thinking she might learn a good lesson, by a painful experience.

The church was more than a mile distant. They had not walked far before the sun went behind a dark cloud, and the blasts of the chilling north-east wind swept by them, blowing full in their faces. Poor Mary tried to conceal her feelings, but she fairly shivered with the cold. “How the day is altered, mamma,” said she, “it is really colder than I expected.”

“I am glad,” said her mother, “that you are convinced that my judgment is the best; if you do not get a cold and become seriously ill, I shall not be sorry that you suffered a little to-day. You will learn into how much suffering, too much confidence in our own opinion will often lead us. I have had more experience than you; I knew that the wind would chill us, and that our winter garments would be needed; but you were deceived by the bright sunshine. Learn, my child, never to despise the counsels of an older and wider person, or to indulge in a wicked vanity at the expense of your comfort and health.”

Before they reached the church, Mary was thoroughly chilled, and would gladly have exchanged her shining and fashionable spencer for her old, but warm lined cloak.

As they were walking home with some of their neighbors, in order to impress the lesson still more deeply upon her mind, her mother called the attention of the friends to the dress of Mary. “Do you not think it extremely pretty?” said she.

“Very beautiful indeed,” they answered, “but how could you think of letting her wear it on such a cold day? the poor child looks as if she were nearly frozen.” O, how mortified did Mary feel upon hearing this! If she could but have had the warm old cloak, how gladly would she have covered up her gay, but unfortunate spencer. “O,” said her mother, “Mary is a heroine; she cares but little about the cold, if she can but look smart.” Mortified enough was Mary, before she reached home, and she really wished the spencer was in the milliner’s shop again—it had cost her so much shame and suffering. But this was not the end of her punishment; she caught a severe cold, which confined her to the house for some time, and made it necessary for her to have a painful blister on her breast, and to take very unpleasant medicines. Mary had time to think of her conduct while she was sick, and she resolved, with the blessing of God, never to sacrifice her health and comfort for appearances, and to pay attention to the advice of older and more experienced persons.

Children, ask your mothers if you have ever been guilty of the same wrong conduct that caused Mary so much unhappiness.—Messenger.

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