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Children's Story Garden  >  The Quiet Voice

Girl standing in wild undergrowth, casting milkwood seeds to the breeze.

The Children's Story Garden

The Quiet Voice


Two hundred years ago a baby boy was born who was called John — John "Woolman. He came into a happy Quaker home, and although there were several other children, the father and mother had plenty of love for the new baby.

After a while little John began to go into the fields, and to watch the cows and sheep on the farm. Sometimes he played with his brothers and sisters, but often, as he grew to be a larger boy, he went off to the woods and thought about the stories his mother had read to him.

He could repeat the story of Abraham, and wondered how a father would feel who was told to go up to the mountain top and sacrifice his little boy. But Abraham heard God calling him just in time to keep him from putting Isaac on the fire. How obedient Abraham was! John wondered if his father and his neighbors were as obedient as Abraham and David and Noah were. He wondered if God would speak some day to him and whether he would understand his voice. He wanted very much to be called as Samuel was.

One pleasant spring day John's mother sent him on an errand to the neighbor's. He was to take a basket with jelly and fruit in it, for the neighbor's wife was sick, and John's mother was kind to sick people.

Suddenly, as he was passing under a big tree, he noticed a robin sitting on her nest, and as he drew nearer, she flew off with cries of fear. Around and around she went. He watched how she stayed near her little birds. Then, as she flew low and her wings nearly touched his head, John thought, "I wonder whether I could hit her."

He picked up a stone and tried. No, he missed her; he

found another and threw it, but failed again. Then he took a third stone, aimed well, and in a moment the mother bird fell to the ground, fluttered once, and lay dead.

"There," thought John, "I knew I could hit her." "But," said a voice within his heart, "Why, why hast thou killed an innocent creature?"

Poor little John! A feeling of horror came over him! He felt ill and faint and did not know what to do.

He looked up at the nest where the little birds opened their bills for food. Then he looked down at the mother bird lying so still on the ground. The birdlings would die without their mother's care; he slowly climbed the tree, took them out of the nest, and sorrowfully killed them.

Then he picked up his basket and moved quietly away to do his errand, but for several hours he was very unhappy over the suffering he had caused.

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In The Children's Story Garden. Stories collected by a committee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting — Anna Pettit Broomell, Emily Cooper Johnson, Elizabeth W. Collins, Alice Hall Paxson, Annie Hillborn, and Anna D. White. Illustrated by Katharine Richardson Wireman and Eugénie M. Wireman. Published in 1920 by J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.

Notes and links

The Quiet Voice
Retold from John Woolman's Journal, Chapter I. (Historical Notes.)
John Woolman's Journal
Available in this site. See: Chapter I.