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Justice and Generosity
Written 1867

by Charlotte Maria Tucker

"I am going to give Matilda a present, such a splendid present!" cried Vincent, who was gayly chatting to his mother, while, with pencil in hand, she was trying to take his likeness. "I have just been given two half-crowns and I will buy her a little orange tree, with flowers and fruit upon it. She has long been wishing to have one. Won't that be generous, mamma?"

"I thought, my boy," said the lady, as she glanced up from her drawing, "that you owed old Martin a china jug, as you broke that which you borrowed last week."

"Oh, I don't care for spending my money in that way," cried Vincent, "I like to do what is handsome and generous. There's nothing so stupid as paying old debts."

"Is not justice as much a virtue as generosity, Vincent?"

"It is not so much to my mind. If a boy has a generous spirit and gives away his cast freely, he need not be so very particular about remembering every trifle."

"A character is very faulty, Vincent, where one quality—even a good one—is indulged at the expense of the rest. In a well-ordered mind, each virtue has its place and performs its part. We can make no excuse for the absence of one because we think that we possess another."

"Oh, mamma, you've drawn that right eye splendidly!" he cried, "It looks just like a real one! Now you must put in the other. What a capital likeness you will make!" and Vincent looked with some pleasure and pride at the beautiful outline of his face, with the long ringlets hanging around it, which his mother had traced on the paper.

"Now I will draw the left eye," said the lady.

"Stop, stop!" cried the astonished Vincent. "Dear mamma, that never will do! You have made one eye as large as my own and the other no bigger than a pea!"

"The right eye looks well enough," observed the lady, "and the shape of the head is correct."

"But the face will be frightful, quite frightful, mamma, if the eyes do not match each other at all! No one who looks at it will think of anything but that wretched little dot of an eye! Please—please don't go on with that drawing, or make my two eyes alike!"

Mrs. Vane smiled as she laid down her pencil, took up her india-rubber and effaced the ill-shapen eye. "What offends you in my sketch," she observed, "is just what offends me in your character, Vincent. Justice and generosity are as its two eyes. However fine the one may be, it gives no real beauty if counterbalanced by a great defect in the other. There should be an even balance of opposite virtues—firmness and gentleness, courage and meekness, generosity and justice, helping while controlling each other, each keeping its own proper place. A character in which one set of good qualities is fostered to the neglect of others as precious, is like a face crooked and deformed, however fine some features may be."

Edited by Pam Takahashi
Proofed by Deborah Gardner


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