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Title: Blumenkörbchen. English - The Basket of Flowers
Author: Schmid, Christoph von, 1768-1854
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Blumenkörbchen. English - The Basket of Flowers" ***

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THE BASKET OF FLOWERS

[Illustration: "An officer came to Mary's cell."
_See page 36._]



THE BASKET OF FLOWERS


By

CHRISTOPH VON SCHMID



With Illustrations By

WATSON CHARLTON and W. E. EVANS.



Published by
JOHN F. SHAW & CO., LTD.,
3, Pilgrim Street, London.



PUBLISHER'S NOTE


In putting forward a new edition of _The Basket of Flowers_ no apology
is needed. This charming story is now something of a children's
classic, and the only merits that the publisher can claim for the
present edition are variety in the manner of the illustration and the
outward design of the book. To these may be added, perhaps, the further
claim that in the present English version, which is copyright, some of
the more glaring faults that mar the original translation are avoided.
For the rest, it is hoped that the charm of the original has been
maintained.



CONTENTS


CHAP.                                                      Page

    I. THE GARDENER'S DAUGHTER                                1
   II. THE BASKET OF FLOWERS                                 12
  III. THE MISSING RING                                      21
   IV. MARY IN PRISON                                        30
    V. THE TRIAL                                             36
   VI. A PAINFUL MEETING                                     42
  VII. SENTENCED                                             49
 VIII. FINDING NEW FRIENDS                                   58
   IX. A NEW HOME                                            65
    X. A FATHER'S LAST WORDS                                 72
   XI. MARY'S GREAT LOSS                                     82
  XII. CHANGES AT PINE FARM                                  90
 XIII. AGAIN A WANDERER                                      97
  XIV. A STRANGE MEETING                                    104
   XV. THE YOUNG COUNTESS'S STORY                           108
  XVI. HOW THE RING WAS FOUND                               115
 XVII. REPARATION                                           123
XVIII. PINE FARM REVISITED                                  127
  XIX. RETRIBUTION                                          134
   XX. FORGIVING AN ENEMY                                   140
  XXI. CONCLUSION                                           145



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


AN OFFICER CAME TO MARY'S CELL                    _Frontispiece_

                                                     _Facing p._

MARY SHYLY OFFERED HER PRESENT                               16

"OH, MY FATHER, BE SURE THAT I HAVE NOT THE RING"            32

SHE RAISED HERSELF HASTILY, FORGETTING HER CHAINS            48

SHE THREW THE BASKET AT MARY'S FEET                          64

LOOKING UP SHE SAW THE BEAUTIFUL FACE AND
FIGURE OF A WOMAN                                            96

MARY WAS AFFECTED TO THE HEART WHEN SHE
HEARD JULIETTE'S STORY                                      144



THE BASKET OF FLOWERS



CHAPTER I.

THE GARDENER'S DAUGHTER.


The simple story which is told in this little book treats of things
which happened a long time ago in a foreign country, where the manners
and customs are widely different from our own. It is necessary to
explain this at the beginning, because the reader will meet with
incidents in the narrative which would otherwise seem strange and
inconsistent. Two lessons which the story teaches, however, may be
learned in all countries. The first is that the human heart has from
the beginning been full of sin, producing, for the most part, evil
fruit, which results in misery; and in the second place, that there is
only one remedy for this state of the soul, the remedy of God's Holy
Spirit, which, wherever it enters, produces the fruits of righteousness
and perfect peace. It is because we believe that the study of these
opposing principles as exhibited in the experience of others may be
profitable to young readers, that the story of the Basket of Flowers is
now presented.

James Rode, who, with his daughter Mary, forms the subject of our tale,
lived over one hundred years ago in the village of Eichbourg, in
Germany. When he was very young his parents sent him to be trained as a
gardener in the beautiful grounds of the Count of Eichbourg. James was
a bright, intelligent lad, fond of work, and of an amiable disposition,
and he soon made himself a favourite with the people among whom he
associated. His happy genial disposition and his readiness to oblige
endeared him to all with whom he came in contact. The secret of James'
character lay deeper than mere disposition. He had early given his
heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the amiable qualities which he now
displayed were the fruits of the Holy Spirit which had been implanted
in him. But it was not only among his companions that James was well
liked. He was a favourite with the Count's children, and so modest and
unassuming was his behaviour that he was sometimes allowed to be in the
Castle with them, and to share in the lessons which they got.

Being of an intelligent turn of mind, James profited by all the
advantages which his position gave him, and, after his engagement was
completed, the Count offered him a well-paid position in his large
household at Vienna. It was a temptation for James, who had the
ambition common to young men, and, but for one thing, he would have
gladly accepted his master's offer. The Count was a kind man, but he
was not a Christian, and God was not honoured in his household. James
knew that if he took the place in his house, he might be asked to do
things which as a Christian he believed to be wrong; and so he decided
to refuse the offer, tempting as it was, and to remain in the humble
position in which he had been born. The Count was not offended with
James for his decision; and to show his respect for him he gave him an
easy lease of a little property, consisting of a cottage, a
well-stocked orchard, and a kitchen garden.

By and by James married a young woman, whose principles, like his own,
were deeply religious, and together they lived in comfort and harmony
many years. Then children came to brighten their life, but one after
another was taken away, and at last only Mary remained, whose history
this story is mainly occupied in telling.

When James Rode was a little over sixty years of age his wife died.
Mary was now five years old, and a fine, beautiful girl. The neighbours
were foolish enough sometimes to call her pretty to her face, and,
although this was a dangerous thing to do, it had not the effect of
spoiling her. Besides being beautiful in face, Mary had a beautiful
character, and was modest and obedient, and possessed unbounded love
for her father. When she came to be fifteen years of age, she became
her father's housekeeper, and so thorough and constant were her habits
of cleanliness that the kitchen utensils shone brightly enough to be
easily mistaken for new.

We have already informed our readers that her father, James Rode,
earned his living as a gardener. Twice a week he carried the vegetables
and fruit which he cultivated to the nearest market-town. But, while
the growing of fruits and vegetables had to be looked after in order to
secure his subsistence, his greatest delight was in the cultivation of
flowers; and in this pleasant task Mary assisted him every hour which
she could spare from the work of the house. She counted the hours
devoted to this task among the happiest of her life, for her father had
the art of turning labour into pleasure by his interesting and
entertaining conversation. To Mary, who had grown up, as it were, in
the midst of plants, there had come a natural taste for flowers, and
the garden was to her a little world. She was never at a loss for a
delightful occupation, for every hour which she had at her disposal was
spent in cultivating the young plants with the utmost care.

Specially did she find pleasure in studying the buds of every strange
species. Her young imagination delighted in picturing what kind of
flowers they would become; and so impatient was she to see her
expectations fulfilled, that she was hardly able to wait until the
flowers had unfolded. When the flower for which she had waited long
appeared in all its beauty, the sight filled her with a strange joy. In
truth, there was not a day which did not bring some new pleasure to
Mary's heart. Sometimes it was by a stranger passing the garden and
stopping to admire the beauty of the flowers. The children of the
neighbourhood, as they passed on their way to school, never failed to
peep through the hedge, and were generally rewarded by Mary with some
little present of flowers as a token of her goodwill.

James, as a wise father, knew how to direct the taste of his daughter
towards the most noble ends. Often he used to say, "Let others spend
their money for jewels and silks and other adornments; I will spend
mine for flower-seeds. Silks and satins and jewels cannot procure for
our children so pure a pleasure as these beautiful exhibitions of the
wisdom and benevolence of God."

In the beauty of the various flowers which adorned their garden, in the
charming variety of their shapes, in the perfection of their
proportions, in the glory of their colours, and in the sweetness of
their perfumes, he taught Mary to see and admire the power and wisdom
and goodness of God. It was his custom to begin each day with God by
spending the first hours of the morning in prayer; and, in order to
accomplish this without neglecting his work, it was his habit to rise
early. In the beautiful days of spring and summer, James would lead
Mary to an arbour in the garden, and, while the birds sang their joyous
songs, and the dew sparkled on the grass and flowers, he delighted to
talk with his daughter of God, whose bounty sent the sun and the dew,
and brought forth the beauty and life of the world. It was here that he
first instilled into Mary's mind the idea of God as the tender Father
of mankind, whose love was manifested not only in all the beautiful
works of nature, which were round them, but above all in the gift of
Jesus Christ. It was in this arbour that James had the happiness of
seeing Mary's heart gradually unfold to the reception of the truth.

Once in the early part of March, when with shining eyes and bounding
feet she brought him the first violet, he said, "Let this beautiful
flower serve to you as an emblem of humility and sweetness, by its
modest colour, its disposition to flourish in hidden places, and the
delicate perfume which it sends forth. May you, my dear child, be like
the violet, modest in your demeanour, careless of gaudy clothing, and
seeking to do good without making any fuss about it."

At the time when the lilies and roses were in full bloom and when the
garden was resplendent with beautiful flowers, the old man, seeing his
daughter filled with joy, pointed to a lily unfolding in the rays of
the morning sun. "See, in this lily, my daughter, the symbol of
innocence. Its leaves are finer than richest satin, and its whiteness
equals that of the driven snow. Happy is the daughter whose heart also
is pure, for remember the words, 'The pure in heart shall see God.' The
more pure the colour, the more difficult to preserve its purity. The
slightest spot can spoil the flower of the lily, and so one word can
rob the mind of its purity. Let the rose," said he, pointing to that
flower, "be the image of modesty. The blush of a modest girl is more
beautiful than that of the rose."

Mary's father then made a bouquet of lilies and roses, and, giving it
to Mary, he said, "These are brothers and sisters, whose beauty no
other flowers can equal. Innocence and modesty are twin sisters, which
cannot be separated. Yes, my dear child, God in His goodness has given
to modesty, innocence for a sister and companion, in order that she
might be warned of the approach of danger. Be always modest, and you
will be always virtuous. Oh, if the will of God be so, I pray that you
may be enabled to preserve in your heart the purity of the lily!"

One ornament of their garden, which James and his daughter most dearly
prized, was a dwarf apple-tree little higher than a rose-bush, which
grew in a small round bed in the middle of the garden. The old man had
planted it on his daughter's birthday, and every year it gave them a
harvest of beautiful golden yellow apples spotted with red. One season
it seemed specially promising, and its blossom was more luxurious than
ever. Every morning Mary examined it with new delight. One morning she
came as usual, but what a change had taken place! The frost had
withered all the flowers, which were now brown and yellow and fast
being shrivelled up by the sun. Poor Mary's sensitive feelings were so
affected that she burst into tears, but her father turned the incident
to good account.

"Look, my child," said he, "as the frost spoils the apple-blossoms, so
wicked pleasures spoil the beauty of youth. Oh, my dear Mary, tremble
at the thought of going aside from the path of right. If the time
should ever come when the delightful hopes which I have had for your
future should vanish, I should shed tears more bitter than you do now.
I should not enjoy another hour of pleasure, and my grey hairs would be
brought with sorrow to the grave." At the mere thought of such a
calamity the old man could not keep back his tears, and his words of
tender solicitude made a deep impression on Mary's heart.

Brought up under the care of a father so wise and loving, Mary grew up
like the flowers of her garden, fresh as the rose, pure like the lily,
modest as the violet, and full of promise for the future, as a
beautiful shrub in the time of flourishing.

When James viewed his beautiful garden, with its luxuriant flowers and
its prolific fruits, which so well repaid his constant care, it was
with a feeling of satisfaction and gratitude. But this feeling was
nothing compared with the joy he felt when he saw his daughter, as the
reward of his pious efforts to train her in the love of God, bringing
forth the most precious fruits of the Holy Spirit.



CHAPTER II.

THE BASKET OF FLOWERS.


One day, early in the charming month of May, Mary went into a wood near
her home to get some branches and twigs of the willow and hazel. When
her father was not busily engaged in the garden, he occupied his time
in making baskets of all sorts, and particularly lady's work-baskets.
While he busied himself in this way, Mary read to him from the Bible or
some good book, or, as her father worked, he talked to her about the
highest matters.

While Mary was gathering the materials for her father's basket-work,
she found some beautiful specimens of lily-of-the-valley; and,
gathering sufficient of the flowers, she made two bunches, one for her
father and the other for herself. After she had finished her work, and
when she was returning home through a meadow, she met the Countess of
Eichbourg and her daughter Amelia who were taking an afternoon walk.
The ladies spent the greater part of their time in the city, but
occasionally they lived for a few days at the Castle.

Some of the most important circumstances of life spring from apparently
trifling events. In the case of Mary, this accidental meeting with the
Countess and her daughter proved the beginning of the painful
circumstances of this story. But God overrules all events, and this
tale gives abundant proof that all things work together for good to
them that love God.

As the ladies came near Mary, she stood a little on one side to let
them pass; but when they saw the beautiful bunches of lilies in her
hand they stopped to admire them, and wanted to buy one. Mary
respectfully declined to sell her flowers, but she begged that the
ladies would each accept a bunch. They were so struck with the girl's
unaffected grace and modesty, that they gladly took her little
offering, and Amelia requested her to gather more and bring them to the
Castle every day for the rest of the season.

Mary faithfully performed this duty, and every morning while the
flowers were in bloom she carried a bunch of lilies to the young lady.
By and by an intimacy, which was something more than ordinary between
two girls of such widely different positions, sprang up between Mary
and Amelia. They were nearly of the same age, their tastes were
similar, and it is not surprising that the acquaintance begun in a
chance manner developed into a sincere friendship.

The anniversary of Amelia's birthday drew near, and Mary determined to
make her some little present. She had given her so many bunches of
flowers, that she puzzled her brain to think of some new gift. During
the winter her father had been making a beautiful basket, which he
intended to give to Mary herself. It was the most finished piece of
work he had ever done, and he had worked on it a design of the village
in which they lived. Mary's idea now was to fill this basket with
flowers, and to offer it to the young Countess as her birthday present.
Her father readily fell in with the plan, and added a finishing touch
to it by weaving Amelia's name in on one side of the basket and the
Count's coat-of-arms on the other.

The long-expected day arrived, and early in the morning Mary gathered
the freshest and most beautiful roses, the richest pinks, and other
flowers of beautiful colours. She picked out some green branches full
of leaves, and arranged them in the basket, so that all the colours,
though perfectly distinct, were sweetly and delicately blended. A light
garland composed of rosebuds and moss was passed around the basket, and
Amelia's name could be distinctly read enclosed in a coronet of
forget-me-nots. The basket when completed was a thing of uncommon
beauty.

When Mary went to the Castle with her basket-present, the young
Countess Amelia was sitting at her toilet. Her maid was with her busily
engaged on making her young mistress's head-dress for the birthday
feast. Mary shyly offered her present, adding the best wishes of her
heart for the young Countess's happiness. Amelia received the present
with unaffected pleasure, and in an impulsive manner she warmly
expressed her delight, as she viewed first of all the charming flowers
with which the basket was filled, and examined more carefully the
beautiful design of the basket itself.

[Illustration: "Mary shyly offered her present."
_See page 15._]

"Dear Mary," she said, "why, you have robbed your garden to make me
this present. As for the basket, I have never seen anything so
beautiful in all my life. Come, we will go and show it to my mother."
Taking Mary affectionately by the hand, the girls went together to the
apartments of the Countess. "See, mother," cried Amelia, "of all my
birthday presents, surely nothing can equal the one I have received
from Mary. Never have I seen so beautiful a basket, and nowhere can you
find such beautiful flowers." The Countess was equally pleased with
Mary's present, although she expressed herself more moderately. "What a
charming basket!" she said, "and its flowers, how beautiful! They are
yet wet with dew. The basket of flowers does credit to the taste of
Mary but more to the kindness of her heart." Asking Mary to remain in
the room, she made a sign to Amelia to follow her into another
apartment.

"Amelia," said the Countess, "Mary must not be permitted to go away
without some suitable return. What have you to give her?"

Amelia paused for a moment's reflection. "I think," she replied, "one
of my dresses would be a most acceptable gift. For instance, if you
will permit me, my dear mother, that one with the red and white flowers
on the deep green ground. It is almost new; I have worn it but once. It
is a little too short for me, but it will almost fit Mary, and she can
arrange it herself. She is so handy with her needle. If, therefore, you
do not think the present too valuable----"

The Countess interrupted her. "Too valuable! certainly not. When you
wish to give anything it ought to be something good and serviceable.
The green robe with the flowers will be very appropriate for Mary."

"Go now, my dear children," said the Countess, when they returned to
the room where Mary was, "take good care of the flowers, that they may
not fade before dinner. I want the guests to admire the basket also,
which will be the most beautiful ornament on our table."

Amelia ran to her room with Mary, and told Juliette, her maid, to bring
the dress with the white and red flowers.

"Do you wish to wear that dress to-day, miss?" said her maid.

"No," said Amelia, "I intend to make a present of it to Mary."

"Give that dress away!" replied Juliette hastily. "Does the Countess
know?"

"You forget yourself, I think, Juliette," said Amelia with dignity.
"Bring me the dress, and give yourself no trouble about the rest."

Juliette turned away hastily, her face burning with anger, and her
heart full of spite. Pulling the door of the wardrobe open, she took
from it the young Countess's dress. "Oh, I could tear it to pieces,"
she said passionately. "This sly Mary has already wormed her way into
the affections of my young mistress, and now she steals from me this
dress which ought to have been mine when the Countess had done with it.
I could tear the eyes out of this little flower-girl; but some day I
will be revenged." For the time being, however, she had to suppress her
anger, and, taking the dress on her arm, she returned to her mistress
and gave her the dress with a pleasant air.

"Dear Mary," said Amelia, "many of the presents which I have had to-day
have cost more money than your basket, but none of them have given me
so much pleasure. Will you take this dress from me as a token of my
affection, and carry my best wishes to your good old father?"

Mary was not a vain girl, but her eyes sparkled at the sight of the
beautiful dress, which surpassed anything she had ever dreamed of
possessing. After warm thanks, she kissed the hand of the young
Countess and left the Castle.

Amelia's maid continued her work in silence, but with jealous fury
burning at her heart. The many tugs which she gave to the head-dress
she was preparing made Amelia at length inquire--

"Are you angry, Juliette?"

"I should be silly indeed, miss," answered Juliette; "to be angry
because you choose to be generous."

"That is a very sensible answer, Juliette," replied Amelia, "I hope you
may feel just as sensible."

Meantime Mary ran home to her father to show her new dress. The good
old man, while pleased at his daughter's pleasure, could not help
feeling a little anxiety when he saw the present. "I would much rather,
my child," he said, "that you had not taken the basket to the young
Countess, but it cannot be helped now. I fear that this valuable
present will but rouse the jealousy of some of our neighbours, and,
what would be still worse, that it may make you vain. Take care, my
dear Mary, that you fall not into this great evil. No costly and
beautiful garments so much adorn a young girl as modesty and good
manners. It is the Bible that says the ornament of a meek and quiet
spirit is in the sight of God of great price."



CHAPTER III.

THE MISSING RING.


Shortly after Mary had left the Castle the Countess missed a valuable
diamond ring. No one had been in the room where she had left it but
Mary, and it is not surprising that suspicion fell upon the humble
flower-girl. Calling Amelia to her, the Countess told her of her loss
and of her suspicions, and bade her go to the cottage in order that she
might induce Mary to restore the ring before the theft became known.

When Amelia arrived at Mary's home, the young girl was busily engaged
trying on her beautiful dress. She was frightened to see the young
Countess enter her little room, pale and trembling, and out of breath
with her haste.

"Dear Mary," said Amelia, "what have you been doing? My mother's
diamond ring, which she left lying in the room where you were, is lost.
No one has been in the chamber but you. Do give it up at once, and no
harm will be done."

The unexpected charge of theft stunned and frightened Mary. Earnestly
she declared her innocence. She had never seen the ring, nor had she
moved from the place where she stood when she entered the room. But
Amelia found it impossible to believe her, and continued to urge her to
give up the ring, which she said was worth a large sum of money. To be
suspected of theft was bad enough, but to have her friend Amelia
unwilling to believe her, made Mary burst into tears.

"Truly," she cried, "I have no ring. Never in all my life have I
ventured to touch anything which did not belong to me, much less to
steal. My dear father has always taught me better."

Her father, who had been at work in his garden, now came in to learn
the young Countess's errand, and to him Amelia told the story. Shocked
beyond measure at the charge, the old man was so overcome that he was
obliged to sink into a chair.

"My dear child," he said to Mary solemnly, "to steal a ring of this
price is a crime which in this country is punished with death. But
this is not all. Your action is not only one for which you must
account to men, but to that God who reads the heart and with whom all
false denials amount to nothing. Have you forgotten His holy
commandment, 'Thou shalt not steal?' Have you forgotten all the advice
that I have given you? Were you tempted with the gold and the precious
stones? Alas, do not deny the fact, but give back the ring to the
Countess. It is the only return you can make for your crime."

"My father, oh, my father," cried Mary, weeping bitterly, "be sure, be
very sure that I have not the ring. If I had even found such a ring on
the road I could not have rested till I had restored it to its owner.
Indeed, believe me, I have it not."

"Look at this dear young lady," said the old man, without replying to
Mary's protestations, "her affection for you is so great that she
wishes to save you from the hands of justice. Mary, be frank, and do
not add falsehood to the crime of theft."

"My father," cried Mary, "well do you know that never in my life have I
stolen even the smallest coin, and how should I take anything so
valuable as the Countess's ring? I pray you, believe me; I have never
in my life told you a lie."

"Mary," again said her father, "see my grey hairs. Do not bring them
down with sorrow to the grave. Spare me so great an affliction. Before
that God who made you, into whose presence there can come no thief,
tell me if you have the ring?"

Thus adjured, Mary raised her eyes, and once more assured her father in
the most solemn manner that she was innocent of the charge. The old man
had put his daughter to a severe test, and now he was satisfied of her
innocence.

"My child," he cried, "I do believe you. You would not dare to tell a
lie in the presence of God and before this young Countess and your
father. You are innocent, and therefore you may take comfort and fear
nothing. There is nothing to fear on earth but sin. Prison and death
are not to be compared to it. Whatever happens, we will put our trust
in God. All will yet come right, for He says, 'I will make thy
righteousness as the light and thy just dealings as the noonday.'"

Touched to the heart by the old man's faith, Amelia's suspicions also
vanished. "Truly," she said, "when I hear you speak in this way, I
believe that you have not the ring; but when I examine all the
circumstances how can I help believing? My mother says she knows
exactly the place where she laid it down. Not a living soul has been in
the room but Mary, and as soon as she left the Castle my mother missed
the ring. Who else, then, can have taken it?"

"It is impossible for me to say," replied Mary's father. "May God
prepare us for a severe trial, but whatever happens," said he, turning
his eyes to heaven, "I am ready. Give me but Thy grace, O Lord; it is
all I ask."

"Truly," said Amelia, "I came here with a heavy heart. It will be for
me the saddest birthday I have ever had. My mother has not yet spoken
to any one of her loss but myself, but it will not be possible to keep
the secret much longer. My father returns to the Castle at noon, and he
will certainly ask her where the ring is. It was a gift to her on the
day when I was born, and on every succeeding birthday she has worn it.
Farewell," said Amelia, turning to Mary, "I will tell my mother that I
consider you are innocent, but who will believe me?" Her eyes filled
with tears, and she left the cottage with a sad heart.

After the young Countess had gone, Mary's father sat for a long time
resting his head on his hand and with his eyes fixed on the ground. The
tears fell down his wrinkled cheeks, and Mary, touched by his grief,
threw herself at his knees and besought him to believe in her
innocence.

The old man raised himself and looked for a long time in her eyes, and
then said--

"Yes, Mary, you are innocent. That look, where integrity and truth are
painted, cannot be the look of guilt."

"But, my father," asked Mary, "what will be the end of it? What will
they do to us? I do not fear what they may do to me, but the idea that
you may have to suffer on my account is intolerable."

"Have faith in God," answered her father. "Take courage. Not one hair
of our heads can fall to the ground without His permission. All that
happens to us is the will of God, and what more can we wish? Do not be
frightened into saying anything but what is strictly true. If they
threaten you, or if they hold out promises, do not depart a
hair's-breadth from the truth. Keep your conscience free from offence,
for a clear conscience is a soft pillow. Perhaps they will separate us,
and I shall no longer be with you to console; but if this should happen
cling more closely to your heavenly Father. He is a powerful protector
to innocence, and no earthly power can deprive you of His strength."

Suddenly the door opened with a noise, and an officer entered, followed
by two constables. Mary uttered a piercing shriek, and fell into her
father's arms.

"Separate them," cried the officer angrily; "let her father also be put
in custody. Set a watch on the house and garden. Make a strict search
everywhere, and allow no one to enter until the sheriff has made an
inventory."

Mary clung to her father with all her force, but the officers tore her
from the old man's arms. In a fainting state she was carried off to
prison.

The story of the lost ring had spread through the whole village of
Eichbourg, and when Mary and her father were taken through the streets,
the crowd pressed round them filled with curiosity. It was curious to
notice how diverse were the opinions which were pronounced on the old
man and his daughter. They had been kind to all, but there were some
who repaid their kindness by rejoicing in their present affliction.
Although they had accepted the old man's gifts, their jealousy and envy
had been excited by the thought of his superior position.

"Now," they exclaimed maliciously, "we know how it is that James had
always so many good things to give away. If this is what the old man
and his daughter have been doing, it was easy to live in abundance and
be better clothed than their honest neighbours."

It is true that most of the inhabitants of Eichbourg were sincerely
sorry for James and his daughter, although many of them felt compelled
to believe in Mary's guilt. Fathers and mothers were heard to say, "Who
would have believed this thing of these good people? Truly it proves
that the best of us are liable to fall." But there were others who were
persuaded of Mary's innocence, and said, "Perhaps it is not so bad as
it appears. May their innocence be brought out when the trial comes,
and may God help them to escape the terrible fate which now hangs over
them."

Groups of children, to whom Mary had given fruit and flowers, stood
weeping as they saw their kind friend being carried off to prison.



CHAPTER IV.

MARY IN PRISON.


We have already said that Mary was in a faint when she was carried off
to prison. When she recovered to realise her condition, she burst into
passionate sobbing, but at length, clasping her hands together, she
fell down on her knees in prayer. Overcome with terror at her
surroundings, filled with sadness at the thought of being separated
from her old father, and wearied with the excitement of the day, she
threw herself upon her hard straw couch and fell into a heavy sleep.

When she awoke it was so dark that she could hardly distinguish a
single object. At first she could not remember where she was. The story
of the lost ring came back to her as a dream, and her first idea was
that she was sleeping in her own little bed. Suddenly she felt that her
hands were chained. Instantly all the sad reality of the past day
flashed upon her mind, and, jumping from her bed, she cried out, "What
can I do but raise my heart to God?"

Falling upon her knees, Mary then engaged in prayer. She prayed for
herself, that she might be delivered, but especially she prayed for her
dear father, that in the trouble which had now come upon him the Lord
might support him. The thought of her father brought a torrent of tears
from her eyes and stopped her prayer.

Suddenly the moon, which had been covered with thick clouds, now shone
in a clear sky, and, its rays coming through the iron grating in the
prison wall, threw a silvery light on the floor of Mary's cell. By the
light thus afforded, Mary could make out the large bricks of which the
walls of her prison were built, the white mortar which united them, the
place in the wall serving as a table on which her meals were placed.
Although her surroundings were so miserable, Mary felt that the
moonlight had soothed her heart.

To her astonishment, she became conscious of a sweet perfume filling
her cell. Suddenly she remembered that in the morning she had placed in
her bosom a bouquet of roses and other sweet flowers which remained
from the basket. Taking it in her hand she untied it, and looked at the
flowers in the moonlight. "Alas," said she mournfully, "when I gathered
these rosebuds and forget-me-nots from my garden this morning, who
would have thought that I should be confined in this gloomy prison in
the evening? When I wore garlands of flowers, who would have imagined
that on the same day I should be doomed to wear iron chains?" Then she
thought of her father, and tears fell from her eyes and moistened the
flowers which she held in her hand.

[Illustration: "Oh, my father, be sure that I have not the ring."
_See page 23._]

"Oh, my dear father," she said, "how this bouquet reminds me of the
advice which you have given me. From the midst of thorns, I plucked
these rosebuds; and thus I know that joy will come to me from the very
troubles which now cause me pain. If I had attempted with my own hands
to unfold the leaves of these rosebuds, they would have perished; but
God with a delicate finger had gradually unfolded their purple cups and
shed over them the sweet perfume of His breath. He can disperse the
evils which surround me, and make them turn to my good which seemed all
evil. Let me then patiently wait His time. These flowers remind me of
Him who created them. I will remember Him as He remembers me.

"These tender forget-me-nots, as blue as the heavens, may even be my
silent consolation in all the sufferings of earth. Here are some
sweet-peas with small delicate leaves, half white, half red. The plant
grows and winds itself around a support, that it may not grope in the
dust. And while it balances itself above the earth it displays its
flowers, which might be taken for butterflies' wings. In this way I
will cling to God and by His help raise myself above the miseries of
this earth. This mignonette is the chief source of the perfume which
fills my cell. Sweet plant, you cheer by your perfume the one who
plucked you from your home in the earth. I will try to imitate you and
to do good even to those who without cause have torn me from my garden
and thrown me into this prison. Here is a little sprig of peppermint,
the emblem of hope. I also will preserve hope now that the time of
suffering is come. Here again are two leaves of laurel. They remind me
of that crown incorruptible, which is reserved in heaven for all who
love the Lord and have submitted to His will upon the earth. Already I
think I see it, surrounded with golden rays. Flowers of the earth, you
are shortlived, as are its joys. You fade and wither in an instant, but
in heaven, after our short suffering on the earth, an unchangeable joy
awaits us and an eternal glory in Christ Jesus."

Talking thus to herself, Mary found her heart gradually grow consoled.
Suddenly a dark cloud covered the moon; darkness filled the prison. Her
flowers were blotted out from her sight, and grief again took
possession of her heart. But the cloud was merely temporary, and in a
little while the moon reappeared more beautiful than ever. "Thus,"
reflected Mary, "clouds can be cast over us, but it is only for a
little, and at the end we shine clearly again. If a dark suspicion
hangs over my character, God will make me triumphant over every false
accusation." The thought brought comfort to her; and Mary, stretching
herself upon her bed of straw, slept as tranquilly as a little child.

In her sleep she dreamed a beautiful dream. It seemed to her that she
was walking by moonlight in a garden which was quite new to her,
situated in a wilderness surrounded by a dark forest of oak trees. By
the light of the moon, which had never appeared to her so brilliant or
so beautiful before, she saw hundreds of flowers in this garden,
displaying their charms and filling the air with sweet perfume. Best of
all, she dreamed that her father was with her in this beautiful place.
The moon shining on his face showed his venerable countenance lighted
by a gracious smile. Running to him, she fell on his bosom and shed
tears of joy, with which her cheeks were wet when suddenly she awoke.
It had only been a dream, but it comforted her heart, and she slept
again.



CHAPTER V.

THE TRIAL.


Early in the morning, and almost before she was awake, an officer came
to Mary's cell to bring her forth for trial. At the sight of the room
in which the court was held she trembled, and her fears returned.
Sitting in a large scarlet chair was the judge. Before him a clerk
stood at an enormous table covered with papers.

A number of questions were put to Mary, to all of which she answered
truthfully. She found it impossible to keep back her tears, but
persisted in declaring her innocence of the crime.

"It is useless to try to make me believe this," said the judge. "You
were the only one to enter the room where the ring was. No one but you
could have taken it. You had better acknowledge the truth."

"It is the truth I speak now," replied Mary. "I cannot speak anything
else. I have not seen the ring, indeed I have not."

"The ring was seen in your hands," continued the judge; "have you
anything to say now?"

Mary declared that this was impossible. Turning to his side, the judge
rang a little bell, and Amelia's maid, Juliette, was brought in. In the
fit of jealousy which she had felt because of the dress given to Mary,
and in her anxiety to deprive Mary of her mistress's favour, Juliette
had said to one or two people that she had seen Mary take the ring. In
consequence of this statement Juliette was now summoned as a witness,
and, fearful to be caught in a lie, she determined to maintain it even
in a court of justice. When the judge warned her to declare the truth
before God, she felt her heart beat quickly and her knees tremble; but
this wicked girl obeyed neither the voice of the judge nor the voice of
her own conscience. "If," said she to herself, "I acknowledge now that
I told a lie, then I shall be driven away. Perhaps I may even be
imprisoned." Determined to carry out her part, she turned to Mary and
said insultingly--

"You have the ring; I saw you with it."

Mary heard this false charge with horror, but she did not allow passion
to get the upper hand. Her only reply was, and her tears almost choked
her while she said it--

"It is not true. You did not see me with the ring. How can you tell so
terrible a falsehood for the sake of ruining me, when I never have
injured you?"

At the sight of Mary, Juliette's feelings of hatred and jealousy
revived. She repeated the falsehood, with new circumstances and
details, after which she was dismissed by the judge.

"Mary, you are convicted," said he. "All the circumstances are against
you. The chamber-maid of the young Countess saw the ring in your hand.
Tell me now, what you have done with it?"

In vain Mary protested her innocence. According to the cruel custom of
those days, the judge now sent her to be whipped until the blood came,
in the effort to make her confess her guilt. The punishment made poor
Mary scream with pain, but she continued to declare her innocence.
Suffering great agony, she was finally thrown into her prison again.
Her bed of straw was hard, her wounds gave her great pain, and half the
night she spent without sleeping, groaning and praying to God.

The next day she was brought again before the court. The severity of
the law had failed to wring any confession from her. The judge now
tried to make her confess by adopting a mild tone, and by holding out
promises.

"You have incurred the penalty of death," said he, "but if you confess
where the ring is, nothing will be done to you. Think well before you
answer, for your choice is between life and death."

Still Mary protested that she had nothing more to confess. The judge
now tried to move her by her love for her father.

"If you persist in concealing the truth," he said, "if you are careless
of your own life, you will at least spare that of your old father.
Would you see his head, whitened by age, cut off by the sword of
justice? Who but he could have induced you to tell a falsehood so
obstinately? Are you ignorant that his life as well as yours is at
stake?"

This was a new thought to Mary, and, terrified at the threat, she
nearly fainted.

"Confess," said the judge, "that you have taken the ring. A single
word--say yes, and your life and that of your father are saved."

It was a great temptation and a terrible trial to Mary. Satan suggested
that she should say, "I took the ring, but I lost it on the road."
"No," she thought again, "no, I must stick to the truth. Let it cost
what it will, not even to save my own or my father's life will I depart
from the truth. I will obey God rather than man, and trust Him for the
rest."

In a clear but tremulous voice she then answered--

"If I say I had the ring, it would be a lie; and, though this falsehood
would save my life, I cannot utter it. But," she entreated, "if life is
demanded, spare at least the white hairs of my loved father. I should
be glad to shed my blood for him."

Her words touched the hearts of all the people in the court. Even the
judge, for all his severity, was deeply moved; but he remained silent,
and, giving the signal, Mary was taken back to prison.



CHAPTER VI.

A PAINFUL MEETING.


Not for a long time had the judge been so perplexed as he was over
Mary's case.

"For three days," he said, "it has been before us, and we have not made
the least advance towards the solution of the mystery. If I could see
any possibility of the ring having been taken by any one else, I should
certainly believe this girl innocent, but the evidence is so clear
against her, that it is impossible to believe anything else."

The Countess was again examined and questioned thoroughly; the minutest
circumstances being inquired into. Juliette was also examined again.

A whole day was spent by the judge in going over their testimony, and
weighing against it the words that Mary had uttered in her examination.
It was late at night when the judge sent to the prison for Mary's
father to be brought to his house.

"James," said he kindly, "I am known perhaps as a strict man, but I do
not think that you can reproach me with ever having intentionally
injured any one. I do not need to tell you that I do not desire the
death of your daughter. All the details of the case, however, prove
that she must have committed the theft, and, under these circumstances,
you are aware that the penalty which the law requires is death. But
your daughter is young, and, notwithstanding the serious nature of the
crime, if she were to return the ring even now, a pardon might be
granted to her. To persist so obstinately in denying her guilt will
most certainly end in her death. Go to her, James; insist upon her
returning the ring, and I give you my word that the penalty of death
will not be visited upon her, but a mere trifling punishment
substituted. As her father you have great power over her. If you cannot
obtain a confession, most people will think that you have been an
accomplice with your daughter in the crime. Once more, I repeat, if the
ring is not found, I pity your case."

"My daughter has not stolen the ring," replied James sadly; "of that I
am sure. That she will not therefore acknowledge her guilt, I know
beforehand. But I will speak to her as you desire. I will employ every
means to find it out, and if it be that she is to perish,
notwithstanding her innocence, it is a comfort to know that I can see
her once again before the terrible event."

Accompanied by an officer, the old man went to the prison where Mary
was confined. The officer set a lamp upon a projection of the wall in a
corner of the cell, on which also stood an earthen pitcher of water.
Mary was lying on her straw bed, with her face turned towards the wall,
partially asleep. The light of the lamp woke her from her troubled
slumber, and, turning over and seeing her father, she uttered a cry of
joy and raised herself hastily, forgetting her chains. Almost fainting,
she threw herself upon her father's neck, and the old man sat down with
her upon her bed and pressed her in his arms. For some time they both
remained silent and mingled their tears together. At length James broke
the silence and began to speak as the judge had instructed him.

[Illustration: "She raised herself hastily, forgetting her chains."
_See page 44._]

"Oh, my father," said Mary, in a reproachful voice, interrupting him,
"surely you at least do not doubt my innocence. Alas," she continued,
weeping bitterly, "is there no one who believes me innocent, no one,
not even my father! Oh, my dear father, believe me that I am innocent."

"Calm yourself, my dear child; I believe you entirely. I am only doing
now what I have been instructed to do by the judge."

There was a silence for a little while in the cell. The old man looked
at his daughter and saw her cheeks pale and hollow with grief, her eyes
red and swollen with weeping, and her hair hanging dishevelled about
her.

"My dear child," he said, "God has suffered you to be tried very
severely; but I fear lest there should be a worse trial to come, more
painful sufferings than any you have yet undergone. Alas, perhaps even
my dear child's head may fall by the hands of the executioner!"

"My father," said Mary soothingly, "I care but little for myself. But
for you----"

"Fear nothing for me, my dear Mary," said her father, "I run no
risk----"

"Oh," cried Mary, "thank God! If that is the case, a great load is
taken off my heart. For myself, all is well. Be sure, my dear father, I
fear not to die. I shall go to God; I shall find my Saviour. I shall
also see my mother in heaven. That will be a great happiness."

Deeply moved at his daughter's words, the old man wept like a child.

"Well, God be praised," said he, clasping his aged hands together, "God
be praised for your submissive spirit. It is very hard for a man
stricken in years, for a tender father to lose his only child, the
child of his love, his only consolation, the joy of his old age, and
his last support, but," he continued, "may the will of the Lord be
done."

"One word," said he, a moment afterwards; "Juliette has sworn falsely
against you. On her oath she has declared that she saw the ring in your
hands. If you perish, you will perish by her testimony. But you will
pardon her, my Mary--is it not so? You do not take with you any feeling
of hatred towards her. Alas, even upon this bed of straw, and loaded
with chains, you are still more happy than she is, living in the
Countess's palace and dressed in fine clothes, and with everything that
her heart can desire. It is better to die innocent than to live
dishonoured. Pardon her, my child, as thy Saviour pardoned His enemies
on the cross. Do you pardon her?" the old man asked anxiously.

Mary assured her father that she did. And now the officer was heard
coming to separate them.

"Well," said her father, "I commend you to God and His grace. If I
should not see you again, if this is the last time that I am permitted
to talk with you, my daughter, at least be sure that I will not be long
in following you to heaven. You may depend upon it that I shall not
long survive this parting."

The time was now up, and, warned by the officer, the old man prepared
to take his departure. Mary clung to him with all her strength, but her
father was obliged to disengage himself as gently as he could, and Mary
fell insensible upon her bed.

As soon as James was brought before the judge, he raised his hands to
heaven, and cried out, almost beside himself--

"My daughter is innocent!"

The judge was deeply moved.

"I am disposed," he said, "for my own part to believe it.
Unfortunately, I must judge the case from the nature of the testimony,
with impartiality and even to the utmost rigour of the law."



CHAPTER VII.

SENTENCED.


In the village of Eichbourg the case of Mary and the missing ring were
the only subjects of conversation, and many were the speculations as to
what the result of the case would be. At the period when Mary lived,
the crime of theft was always visited with severe punishment, and in
many cases the sentence of death was carried out when the theft was of
a much less valuable article than the Countess's ring.

The Count himself wished for nothing so much as to find Mary innocent.
In his anxiety to give her the advantage of any doubt there might be,
he himself read all the testimony and conversed with the judge for
hours at a time, but, after all had been done, he was unable to
persuade himself of Mary's innocence. Amelia and her mother were, as
may be imagined, in deep distress, and begged with tears that Mary's
life might be spared. As for the old man, Mary's father, he spent his
days and nights in unceasing prayer that God would be pleased to prove
to the world the innocence of his daughter.

All this time the preparations for the execution were being rapidly
pushed forward, and whenever Mary heard an officer enter her cell, she
thought it was to announce to her that her hour had come to die.

But if Mary was thus distressed at the preparations for the execution,
there was another person for whom the thought had infinite terror.
Amelia's maid, Juliette, for the first time realised the crime of which
she had been guilty, and when she saw the executioner at his work,
horror seemed to deprive her of her reason. When she sat down to eat
she could not swallow a bite, and her spirits became so low that she
was an object of general remark. When she retired to rest, her sleep
was disturbed by ghastly dreams, in which she saw Mary's head severed
from her body. But in spite of the remorse which gnawed her day and
night, the heart of the unhappy woman was hardened against the idea of
confessing her falsehood, and so Mary remained guilty in the eyes of
the law.

After much anxious deliberation the judge pronounced sentence upon
Mary. In consideration of her extreme youth and the unblemished
character which, up till now, she had enjoyed, the sentence of death
was not to be carried out; but instead, Mary and her father were to be
banished from the country, and all their furniture and possessions were
to be sold to make up, as far as possible, for the value of the ring,
and to pay the expenses of the trial.

Next morning at break of day the sentence was carried into execution,
and Mary and her father were conducted from the prison. Their road lay
past the Castle gate, and just then Juliette came out. Since the
publication of the news that the sentence of death was not to be
carried out, this wicked girl had recovered her spirits, and once more
allowed all her evil feelings against Mary to revive. So far from being
sorry for the banishment that was now inflicted upon Mary, she rejoiced
in the thought that Mary could no longer be feared as a rival in her
mistress's favour. After the trial was over, the Countess, seeing
Mary's basket of flowers on the sideboard, had said to Juliette, "Take
away that basket, that I may never have it before my eyes. The
recollections which it arouses in me are so painful that I cannot
endure the sight of it."

Now, as Mary and her father were passing the Castle gate, Juliette
called out to them, "Stop a minute. Here is your fine present; my
mistress would keep nothing from such people as you. Your glory has
passed away with the flowers for which you were paid so well." So
saying, she threw the basket at Mary's feet, re-entered the Castle, and
banged the door with great violence after her. Mary took the basket in
silence, and, with tears in her eyes, continued her way, while her
father dragged his aged limbs alongside of her.

[Illustration: "She threw the basket at Mary's feet."
_See page 52._]

Many a time on the journey Mary turned back to look, with tear-dimmed
eyes, towards the cottage where they had spent so many happy years,
until the roof of the Castle and even the church steeple disappeared
from her sight. At last they came to the limits of the country beyond
which their exile was to be; and, having conducted them thus far, the
officer left them. They were now in the heart of a forest, and the old
man, though overwhelmed with grief and anxiety for the future, seated
himself upon the grass under the shade of an oak tree and comforted his
daughter.

"Come, my child," said he, taking Mary's hands in his own and raising
them to heaven, "before we go on let us thank God who has taken us out
of the gloomy prison, and allowed us to enjoy once more the sight of
heaven and the freshness of the air; who has saved our lives, and who
has returned you, my dear daughter, to your father's arms." The old man
then fell upon his knees, and out of a thankful heart commended himself
and his daughter to the protection of their heavenly Father.

With the prayer of faith, which was thus offered up, feelings of joy
and courage began to fill their hearts. And now it was seen that God's
providence had not left them. An old huntsman--Anthony by name--with
whom James had been in service when he accompanied the Count on his
travels, had set out before daybreak to hunt a stag, and now came upon
James and his daughter seated under the oak.

"God bless you, James," said Anthony. "It does me good to hear your
voice. Is it then true that they have banished you? Truly it is hard to
see a man obliged, in his old age, to quit his country."

"As far as the reach of heaven extends," answered James, "the earth is
the Lord's, and His kindness is extended to all. Our country--our real
country--is in heaven."

"Tell me," said the huntsman, with sympathy in his face, "if they have
banished you just as you are, without food or clothing necessary for
the journey."

"He who clothes the flowers of the field will know how to provide for
us also!"

"That is so; but you are provided at least with money?" insisted
Anthony, whose kind heart was filled with sympathy and indignation.

"We have a good conscience," replied the old man, "and with that we are
richer than if the stone upon which I sit was gold. My father was a
basket-maker. He taught me his trade besides that of gardening, in
order that, during the dark winter months, I might have a useful
occupation. This has done more for me, and has been better for my
prosperity, than if he had left me a fortune. A good conscience, health
of body, and an honourable trade, are the best and surest fortunes we
can have on earth."

"God be praised," answered the huntsman, "that you bear your
misfortunes so well. I am forced to confess that you are right, and
that you have still a good resource in gardening. But I cannot see
where you expect to get employment."

"Far from here," answered James; "in places where we are not known.
Wherever, in short, God will conduct us."

"James," said the huntsman, "take this stout stick in your hand. I have
used it to assist me in climbing up the mountains, but I can easily get
another. And here," he added, drawing from his pocket a little leather
purse, "is some money that I received in payment for some wood in the
village where I passed the night."

"I gladly accept the cane," replied James, "and I will cherish it in
remembrance of a generous man; but it is impossible for me to accept
the money, as it is payment for wood that belongs to the Count."

"Good old James," the huntsman replied, "if that is your fear, you may
take the money with an easy mind. Some years ago a poor old man, who
had lost his cow, could not pay for the wood which he had bought from
the Count. I advanced him the sum, which he paid to the Count, and
thought no more about it. Now he has got out of his difficulties, and
yesterday, when I had forgotten all about it, he returned it to me with
hearty thanks. So you see it is truly a present which God sends you."

"I accept it," said James, "with thanks, and may God return it to you.
See, Mary," he said, turning to his daughter, "with what goodness God
provides for us at the very commencement of our banishment, here almost
before we have passed the limits of the country, and sends us our good
old friend who has given us money. Courage, my daughter; our heavenly
Father will watch over us." The huntsman then took leave of them with
tears in his eyes.

"Farewell, honest James," said he, "farewell, my good Mary," extending
his hands to both. "I always thought you innocent, and I still think
so. Do not despair. Do not surrender your honesty because you are
suspected. Yes, yes; whosoever does well and has confidence in God, may
be assured of His protection. May God be with you."

Hand in hand Mary and her father now continued their way through the
forest, not knowing at what spot they would rest, and without a friend
in the world but God.



CHAPTER VIII.

FINDING NEW FRIENDS.


Although their hearts were thus sustained by faith in God, the journey
on which Mary and her father now started was a long and painful one.
For days they were unable to find a lodging, and the little money with
which they had started was at last exhausted, and they had no prospect
of earning more. Although it was sorely against their will, they were
at last compelled to ask for bread at the hands of charity. Here again
they were made to feel the humiliation of their position; for in going
from door to door, seeking for help which they so sorely needed, they
met with scarcely anything but rebuffs, and sometimes indeed with
abuse. Often their meal consisted only of a small piece of dry bread,
washed down by water from the nearest fountain. A luxury would
occasionally come their way in the shape of a little soup or some
vegetables, and here and there, some scraps of meat or pastry, given to
them by some kind-hearted housekeeper. After days spent in this way,
they were thankful at night to be allowed to sleep in a barn.

Up till now Mary's father had borne up with wonderful courage. One day,
however, the distance which they had travelled was longer than usual,
and the road which stretched before them seemed endless, unbroken by
the sight of any village or human habitation. Suddenly the old man
began to feel very weak. His limbs tottered under him, and he fell,
pale and speechless, on a heap of dry leaves at the foot of a hill
covered with pine trees.

In great alarm for her father's safety, and overwhelmed with grief,
Mary ran hither and thither trying to find water, but in vain. Thinking
that her voice might be heard by some one in the neighbourhood she
cried for help, but the echo alone answered her. As far as she could
see, in every direction the country was without human habitation.
Almost worn out with fatigue, she at last climbed to the top of the
hill in order that she might more readily discover any dwelling-place
where help might be obtained. It was then that she saw just behind the
hill a small farmhouse surrounded by green meadows, and shut in on
every side by forest. Hastily running down the hill, she arrived at the
cottage out of breath, and with tears in her eyes asked assistance for
her old father. The farmer and his wife were kind-hearted people, and
were deeply touched at the sight of Mary's agony.

"Put the horse in the little waggon," said the farmer's wife to her
husband, "and we will bring this sick old man here."

When the horse was harnessed the farmer's wife put two mattresses, an
earthen pitcher of water, and a bottle of vinegar into the waggon. But
when Mary heard that the waggon would require to go round the hill, and
could not reach her father within half an hour, she took the water and
vinegar in her hand, and went by the short road across the hill in
order that she might the sooner minister to her father's needs. Greatly
to her joy, she found that her father had recovered a little and was
now sitting at the foot of a pine tree. The old man was greatly
relieved to see his daughter, whose absence had caused him deep
anxiety.

In a short time the waggon arrived with the farmer and his wife.
Placing James in the waggon they carried him to their home, where they
gave him a clean little room, and a closet and a kitchen which were
then unoccupied.

The old man's illness had been caused solely by insufficient food, want
of rest, and the fatigue of the journey. With great kindness, the good
farmer and his wife, who were poor people, sacrificed some of their
usual luxuries in order that they might have more money to spend on the
things which James required to restore him to his usual health. For
instance, they had been in the habit of taking a trip every year to a
fair in a neighbouring village; but when the time came round they
agreed to remain at home that they might save the cost of the journey,
and spend the money thus saved in procuring some delicacies to tempt
the old man's appetite. At this fresh proof of their kindness, Mary
thanked them with tears of gratitude in her eyes.

"Oh," said she, "truly there are kind people everywhere, and in the
most unlikely places we find compassionate hearts."

During the days when the old man was gradually recovering, Mary watched
constantly at his bedside. But with the habit of industry which she had
practised, she filled up these hours with working for the farmer's wife
by knitting or sewing, and as may be imagined, this anxiety to help her
benefactors, added to her modest and winning manner, gave great
pleasure to the kind-hearted peasants.

By and by the care which had been bestowed upon James, and the
nourishing food which he had got, began to tell upon him, and soon he
was so far restored as to be able to get up out of bed. As soon as he
felt returning strength, he was desirous of doing something. Resuming
their old habits, Mary gathered for him branches of willow and hazel,
and with these her father made a pretty little basket, which he offered
to the farmer's wife as a small token of gratitude.

When he felt himself quite recovered, he said to his hosts--

"We have been long enough a burden to you. It is time we should go and
seek our fortunes elsewhere."

"Why should you leave us, my good James?" said the farmer, taking the
old man by the hand. "I hope we have not offended you in any way? The
year is now far advanced; the winter is at the door. If you have any
hardship again you will certainly be sick."

James warmly assured them that the only motive he had for desiring to
leave them was the fear that he and his daughter were burdensome.

"If that is all," said the farmer heartily, "pray do not distress
yourself further. The spare room which you occupy prevents you from
being burdensome to us in the smallest degree, and you gain enough to
supply your wants."

"Yes, that is true," added the farmer's wife. "Mary alone earns enough
with her needle to support you; and as for you, James, if you wish to
exercise your trade of basket-maker, you will have your hands full. Not
long since I took your pretty basket with me to the market, and all the
countrywomen who saw it wished to have one like it. If you like I will
procure customers, and I promise that you will not soon be in want of
work."

The old man and his daughter were only too glad to remain with their
kind-hearted friends, who expressed themselves as thoroughly pleased
with the new arrangement.



CHAPTER IX.

A NEW HOME.


James and his daughter were now settled down in a place which they
could call home; they furnished their rooms in a simple style, with
nothing more than they needed for everyday wants. It gave Mary great
pleasure in again being able to prepare her father's meals, and to look
after his comforts in every way; and together they led a life of quiet
happiness. The good friends with whom they lived had a large garden
attached to the house, but as the farmer and his wife had their time
too much taken up in the field to give much care to the garden, it was
of little or no use to them. James saw that it could be made a
profitable source of income by devoting it to the growing of flowers
and fruit, and when he proposed to put this plan into execution the
farmer's consent was willingly granted.

During the autumn time, James had made his preparations, and when the
warmth of spring had melted the winter snows, he began his work,
assisted by Mary; and together they laboured from morning to night. The
garden was divided into beds planted with all sorts of vegetables and
flowers, and bordered with gravel walks. The old man was anxious to see
the completion of his idea, and allowed neither himself nor his
daughter rest until he had stocked the garden with their favourite
flowers, rose trees, tulip and lily roots, and various kinds of
shrubbery.

Mary made a special study of cultivating some rare flowers, among which
were some which had never before been seen in this part of the country.
When the summer came, the garden showed such a burst of verdure and
blossom, that the valley, which was overshadowed by dark trees, now
assumed quite a smiling appearance. An orchard belonging to the farmer,
which had also been taken in hand by James, soon bore evidence to his
gardening skill in the shape of an abundant harvest of fruit. Indeed,
it seemed as if the blessing of God was upon everything that James
undertook.

Settled in a comfortable home, and occupied in his favourite calling,
the old gardener began to forget the troubles of the past, and to
regain the cheerful humour which had made his conversation such a
delight in the past. Once more he began to reflect upon the lessons
which the flowers taught, and day by day he taught to Mary some new
lesson which he had learned from them.

One day a woman from the neighbouring village came to buy some flax
from the farmer, and brought her little boy with her. While she was
occupied in bargaining for the flax, her little child, finding the
garden-gate open, had gone in and begun to plunder a full-blown rose
bush, with the result that he scratched himself terribly with the sharp
thorns. His mother and the farmer's wife, as well as James and his
daughter, hearing his screams of pain, ran to him. The child, with his
little hands all covered with blood, cried out against the naughty rose
bush for having attracted him by its pretty flowers and then cruelly
torn his hands.

The occasion was seized by James for drawing a lesson. "It is sometimes
thus with us older children also," he said to Mary. "Like this rose
tree, every pleasure in life has its thorns. We run towards them, and
would fain seize them with both hands. Some are led away by a taste for
the dance and theatre, others by a taste for strong drink, or still
more shameful vices. But the thorns make themselves felt by and by, and
then there comes lament for wasted youth, and a distaste for the
pleasures once so eagerly sought. Do not let us be foolishly dazzled by
the beauty of the world. The chief end which man has to care for is the
saving of his soul, and it is folly to give ourselves up to the
enjoyment of passion. Our unceasing effort should be to use all
diligence to gain eternal life."

One day James was employed in placing young plants in a part of the
garden, while Mary was weeding at a little distance from him. "This
double labour, my child," said her father, "represents what should be
the occupation of our life. Our heart is a garden which the good God
has given to us to cultivate. It is necessary that we should constantly
apply ourselves to cultivate the good and to extract the evil, which is
too apt to take root. That we may fulfil faithfully these two duties,
let us implore God's assistance and blessing, which makes the sun to
shine out and the rain to fall, the plants to grow, and the fruit to
ripen. Then will our hearts be delightful gardens. We shall then have
heaven within ourselves." In this way the old man and his daughter
passed through life, active and industrious in their calling, and
mingling innocent pleasures and instructive conversation with their
daily pursuits.

Three years passed swiftly away, and the happy days they had spent at
Pine Cottage had almost blotted out the memory of their past
misfortunes. It was now autumn time, and the chrysanthemums, the last
ornaments of the garden, were glorious in red and yellow flowers. The
leaves of the trees had become of varied tints, and everything showed
that the garden was preparing for the winter's repose. James had lately
begun to feel his strength failing, and the thought of his daughter's
future gave him considerable uneasiness. He concealed his feelings from
her for fear of distressing her, but Mary observed that her father's
remarks upon the flowers were now mostly of a melancholy kind. One day
she observed a rose-bud which had never blossomed. In attempting to
gather it the leaves of the flower fell off in her hand. "It is the
same with men," said her father, who had been watching her. "In youth
we resemble the rose newly opened, but our life fades like the rose.
Almost before it is matured, it passes away. Do not pride yourself, my
dear child, upon the beauty of the body. It is vain and fragile. Aim
rather at beauty of soul and true piety, which will never wither."

One day towards evening time the old man climbed a ladder to pluck some
apples, while Mary stood below with a basket to hold them.

"How cold," said James, "this autumn wind is as it whistles over the
stubble fields and plays with the yellow leaves and my white hairs. I
am in my autumn, my dear child, as you will also be some day. Try to
grow like this excellent apple tree, which produces beautiful fruit and
in great abundance. Try to please the Master of the great garden which
is called the world."

On another day Mary was sowing seed for the following spring. "The day
will come," said her father, "when we shall be put in the ground, as
you are putting these seeds. But let us console ourselves, my dear
Mary. As soon as the corn is enfolded in the earth, it is animated. It
springs from the earth in the form of a beautiful flower, and rises
thus triumphantly from the place where it was buried. So also shall we
rise one day from our tombs with splendour and magnificence. When you
follow me to the tomb, my dear child, do not mourn for me, but think of
the future. In the flowers which you will plant on my grave, try to see
the image of the resurrection and immortal life."



CHAPTER X.

A FATHER'S LAST WORDS.


The winter had now set in with threatenings of severity. Already the
mountain and valley round about the farm were covered with deep snow.
The weakness which old James had been feeling for some time now
culminated in a severe illness. Obtaining her father's consent, Mary
asked a physician from a neighbouring village to visit him. The doctor
came to see James and prescribed for him. Full of foreboding, Mary
followed him to the door to ask him if he had any hope of her father's
recovery. To this the physician replied that the old man was in no
immediate danger, but that he suffered from a disease which would make
his recovery as an old man very improbable. It was with difficulty that
Mary bore up under the news, and, after the physician had gone, she had
a fit of passionate sobbing. For the sake of her father, however, she
wiped away her tears, and endeavoured to appear calm before she went to
him.

During the succeeding days Mary attended her father with the utmost
devotion and loving care. Rarely had he to make his requests known, for
his daughter could read in his eyes all that he wanted. Mary spent
whole nights by his bedside. If at any time she consented to be
relieved for a little rest, it was but rarely that she could close her
eyes. If her father coughed, she trembled with apprehension; if he made
the least stir, she immediately approached him softly and on tiptoe to
know how he was. She prepared and brought to him in the most delicate
forms the food which best suited his condition. She arranged his
pillows from time to time, read to him, and prayed for him continually.
Even when he dozed for a little she would stand by his bed with her
hands clasped and her tearful eyes raised to heaven.

Mary had a little money which she had saved from her hard-won earnings.
To scrape together this small sum she had often spent half the night in
sewing and knitting articles for sale. Now, in her father's illness,
she made use of this little store to procure for him everything which
she thought would be of any service. Good old James, although
occasionally he felt himself a little stronger, was never deceived
about his condition, but felt only too sure that he was on his
deathbed. The thought had no power to disturb him, and he spoke to his
daughter of his approaching death with the greatest serenity.

"Oh," said Mary, crying bitterly, "do not speak thus, my dear father. I
cannot bear the thought. What will become of me? Alas, your poor Mary
will no longer have any one upon the earth!"

"Do not cry, my dear child," said her father affectionately, holding
out his hand to her. "You have a kind Father in heaven who will never
forsake you, although your earthly father be taken away from you. I do
not feel anxious about the manner in which you will gain a livelihood
when I am dead, for the birds easily find their food, and you will find
enough to nourish you. God provides for the smallest sparrow; will He
not also provide for you? The thought that distresses me," he
continued, "is that you will be left alone. Alas, my dear child, you
have little idea of the wickedness that is in the world! There will be
moments perhaps when you will feel inclined to do evil; moments when
you will perhaps yourself be persuaded that sin is not so very wrong.
Listen to the advice which I now give you, and let the last words of
your dying father be for ever deeply impressed on your heart. Forbid
every action, every speech, every thought for which you would have to
blush if your father knew. Soon my eyes will be for ever closed, I
shall not longer be here to watch over you, but remember you have in
heaven a Father whose eye sees everything and reads the secrets of your
heart."

After a little while, when he had recovered breath, he continued: "You
would not wish by an act of disobedience to hurt the father whom you
have on earth; how much more then should you fear to offend your Father
which is in heaven? Look at me once more, Mary. Oh, if you ever feel
the least inclination to do wrong, think of my pale face and of the
tears which wet these sunken cheeks. Come to me, put your hand into
mine which will soon fall into dust. Promise me never to forget my
words. In the hour of temptation, imagine that you feel this cold hand
which you now hold on the border of the grave. My poor child, you
cannot see without weeping, my pale and hollow cheeks. But know that
everything passes away in this world. There was a time when I had the
bloom of health and the fresh colour which you now have. The time will
come when you too will be stretched on the bed of death, pale and
emaciated, as you now see me, if God does not sooner take you to
Himself. The friends of my youth have disappeared like the flowers
which have passed away with the spring, and for whose places you seek
in vain, like the dew which sparkles for a moment on the flowers and is
gone."

The next day James, feeling that his end was near, felt it his duty and
delight, though weak in body, to continue his advice to his daughter.

"I have seen the world," said he, "as well as other people, in the day
when I accompanied the young Count on his travels. If there was
anything in the large cities superb or magnificent, I went there. I
spent whole weeks in pleasure. If there was a brilliant assembly or a
lively conversation, I saw and heard as well as my young master. I
shared in the most exquisite meals, and of the scarcest wines, and
always had more than I wished for. But all these worldly pleasures left
me with an empty heart. I assure you solemnly, my dear Mary, that a few
moments of peaceful thought and fervent prayer in our arbour in
Eichbourg, or under this roof that covers us now, gave me more real joy
than all the vain pleasures of the world. Seek then your happiness in a
life of service of our blessed Saviour. You will find Him and He will
bless you.

"Too well you know, my child, that I have not been without misfortune
in this life. When I lost your dear mother my heart was for a long time
like a dry and barren garden, whose soil, burned by the sun, cracks
open, and seems to sigh for rain. In this way I languished, thirsting
for consolation, and at last I found it in the Lord. Oh, my dear
daughter, there will be days in your life when your heart also will be
like dry and barren ground; but let it not dishearten you. As the
thirsty ground calls not for rain in vain, but God sends the refreshing
showers, so if you seek your consolation from God, He will refresh your
heart as the sweet rain refreshes the thirsty parched earth. Let your
confidence in your heavenly Father be unshaken. Firmly believe that
there is nothing He will not do for those He loves. Sometimes He may
lead us by paths of grief, but be sure that these paths lead to
unmingled happiness. Do you recollect, my good Mary, all the grief you
felt when, after our painful walk, I fell down with fatigue in the
middle of the road? Now you can see that this accident was the means
which God made use of to procure for us the comforts which we have
enjoyed for three years with the good people of this house. Had I not
taken ill that day then we should not have come before their door, or
their hearts would not have been touched with compassion for us. All
the pleasures which we have enjoyed here, all the good which we may
have been enabled to do, are so many benefits which sprang from the
sickness which at first so sorely distressed you.

"But you will always find, my dear Mary, that in the troubles of life
there are proofs of the Divine goodness, to those who will look for
them. If the liberal hand of the Lord has scattered with flowers the
mountains and valleys, forests and river-banks, and even the muddy
marshes, to give us everywhere the opportunity of admiring the
tenderness and beauty of nature, He has also imprinted on all the
events of our life the evident traces of His great wisdom, and all His
passionate love to man in order that the attentive man may learn by
them to love and adore Him.

"In all our life, we have never had to suffer more than when you were
accused of a theft, when you were chained and likely to be doomed to
death. We were weeping together in prison and lamenting our affliction.
Well, even this trial has been a source of great good to us. Looking
back upon it we can see that, when the young Countess favoured you
above other young girls, honoured you by admitting you to her company,
made you a present of a beautiful gown, and expressed a wish that you
should always be near her, there was a danger that these great
advantages of life would render you vain and trifling, fond of the
things of this world, and apt to forget God. Doubtless the Lord
consulted our highest interests when He changed our condition, and
banished us from happiness into despair. In the misery of our state, in
prison and in poverty of circumstances, we have been enabled to live
nearer to Him. He has brought us far from the corrupt influences of
large towns into this lonely country where He has prepared for us a
better home. Here you are like a flower flourishing in solitude, where,
if it has not the admiration of man, it has nothing to fear from his
hand.

"The good and faithful God who has done all these things for us will
give a still more happy turn to your life. For I firmly believe that He
has answered my prayer, that He will one day show to the world your
innocence. When that time shall come I shall be no more, but I can die
in peace without seeing it, for I am convinced of your innocence. Yes,
my daughter, the pain which you have suffered will yet be the means of
leading you to much happiness on earth, though this kind of happiness
is the least, and you will see that God's great design in afflicting us
was to sanctify our hearts, and to prepare us for that home to which we
can arrive only through tribulation and suffering.

"Believing this, let not your heart be troubled that you are in
misfortune. Believe firmly that God's tenderness watches over you, that
His care will be sufficient for you in whatever place He chooses to
take you. In whatever painful situation you may be placed, say, 'It is
the best place for me. Notwithstanding all that, I am safe, for He has
brought me here.'"



CHAPTER XI.

MARY'S GREAT LOSS.


When at last Mary could no longer hide from herself the seriousness of
her father's illness, she went to the minister of the parish in which
Pine Cottage was situated and asked him to come and visit him. The
minister, who was a kind-hearted and godly man, gladly availed himself
of the opportunity. Besides conversing with James on spiritual matters,
he was of great comfort to Mary by the kindly affection with which he
treated her. One afternoon when the old man's weakness was sensibly
increased, James requested Mary to leave the room for a moment that he
might have private conversation with the minister. After a little
while, he called her in again, and said--

"My dear child, I have settled all my worldly affairs, and am now ready
to depart and be with Christ."

Mary was deeply distressed, and had great difficulty in keeping back
her tears, for she saw that the end was rapidly approaching. But out of
consideration for her father, and after a great effort, she recovered
herself, and remained calm.

The rest of the day was spent by James in silent prayer, and next day
he received the Lord's Supper at the hands of the minister, by
partaking of the bread and wine which are the symbols of the body and
blood of Christ. Faith in the power of God, love to Christ who had
redeemed him, and hope of eternal life, had made his venerable
countenance radiant with happiness.

Mary remained on her knees beside his bed, weeping and praying. The
farmer and his wife and their household looked on in wonder at the
rapture of the aged saint, and tears of sympathy were in every eye
because of Mary's grief.

It gave the old man pleasure to have Mary read to him in her sweet and
clear voice. During the latter part of his illness he desired to hear
nothing else than the last words and prayer of Jesus. One night, after
all the household had gone to bed, Mary was sitting beside her father.
The moon was shining so brightly into the room that the light of the
candle was scarcely seen.

"Mary," said the dying man, "read me once again that beautiful prayer
of our Saviour."

Mary began to read. "Now," said the old man, "give me the book." Mary
gave him the book, and carried the light nearer to him. "This will be
the last prayer," said her father, "that I shall make for you," as he
marked the passage with his finger, then in a trembling voice he
uttered the following prayer: "O Father, I have not long to remain in
this world. I am going--I dare hope it--I am going to Thee, my heavenly
Father. Oh, preserve this my child from sin, for Thy Name's sake. While
I have lived on the earth, I have endeavoured in Thy name to preserve
her from it. But, O Lord, I am now going to Thee. I do not ask Thee to
take her to Thyself, but only to preserve her from harm. Let Thy holy
truth preserve her. Thy word is truth. Grant, O heavenly Father, that
the child whom Thou hast given me may at last be admitted to the place
where I hope to go. Through Jesus Christ my Saviour. Amen."

Mary repeated, as well as her sobs would allow her, her father's
_Amen_. "Yes," continued the old man, "yes, my daughter, in the
kingdom which Jesus had from the beginning of the world, we shall see
Him, and we shall see each other." He again lay down on his pillow to
rest a little. His hands continued to hold the New Testament, which he
had bought with his first money saved from the purchase of food after
he left Eichbourg.

"Dear daughter," he said, some minutes afterwards, "I am grateful for
all the affection and tenderness which you have shown me since my
illness commenced. Trust in your heavenly Father, Mary, and you will
receive of Him your reward. Poor and forsaken as I am, I can give you
nothing, when I leave you, but my blessing and this book. Live in the
ways of righteousness, and this blessing will not be without effect.
The blessing of a father with the confidence of the Lord is better for
a virtuous child than the richest inheritance. This book, which I wish
you to take in remembrance of your father, cost me, it is true, but a
few shillings, but if it be faithfully read and its precepts put in
practice, I shall have left you the richest treasure. If I had left you
as many pieces of gold as the spring produces leaves and flowers, with
all that money you could not buy anything so valuable as this book. It
is the Word of God. Read it every day, no matter how much work presses
upon you; read at least one passage. Preserve it and meditate upon it
in your heart during the day."

About three o'clock the next morning James said, in a faint voice, "I
feel very ill. Open the window a little." Mary opened it. The moon had
disappeared, but the sky was brilliant with stars, and presented a
magnificent sight.

"See how beautiful the sky is!" said the dying man. "What are the
flowers of earth whose beauty I have so often admired compared with
these stars, whose glory suffers no fading? It is there I am going.
What joy! Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly."

With these words James fell back upon his pillow, and passed peacefully
away. Mary had never seen any one die before, and she thought her
father had only fainted. In her fright she awoke all the family. They
ran to her father's bed, and there she heard them say to each other
that he was dead. Abandoning herself to her grief, she threw herself
upon her father's body, embraced it, and wept passionately.

"Oh, my father, my good father," said she, "how shall I discharge all
my obligations to you? Alas, I cannot now. I can only thank you for all
the words, for all good advice I received from your dear lips, now
sealed in death. Your hand, which is now cold and stiff, I kiss with
gratitude, and remember that that hand has bestowed upon me many
benefits, and has all my life laboured for my good. Oh, if I could at
this moment follow you into the heavenly kingdom, how gladly would I do
so. Oh, let me die the death of the righteous. My only consolation now
is that I shall one day enter upon the happiness and everlasting life
of heaven."

During this heart-rending scene the farmer's family had been much
affected. At last they prevailed upon Mary to lie down and rest, hoping
that sleep would ease her grief. During the following day nothing would
induce her to leave her father's body. Before the coffin lid was nailed
down, Mary took one more look at her father. "Alas," said she, "it is
the last time that I shall ever look upon your dear face! How beautiful
it was when you smiled, and it shone with the glory into which you were
so shortly to enter. Farewell, farewell, my father," said she, sobbing
aloud, "may your body rest peacefully in the earth now, while angels of
God are, as I hope, bearing your soul to eternal rest."

When the funeral took place, Mary, dressed in mourning which one of the
girls of the village had kindly given her, followed close to the body
of her father. She was as pale as death, and every one pitied the poor
girl who now was without a relative in the world. As Mary's father was
a stranger at Erlenbrunn, they dug a grave for him in a corner of the
cemetery beside the wall. Two large pine trees shaded the humble grave.
The minister who had attended James during his illness spoke of James's
patience and of the resignation with which he had borne all his
misfortunes, and the good example he had set for those who knew him.
With tender words he consoled Mary, who was overwhelmed with grief. In
the name of her father, the minister thanked the farmer and his wife
for all their kindness to Mary and her father. He begged of them to be
father and mother to her who had no longer any parents.



CHAPTER XII.

CHANGES AT PINE FARM.


After her father's death, Mary was no longer the bright happy girl she
had been before. Even her favourite flowers seemed to have lost all
their beauty, and the pine trees near the farm looked as though they
were clothed in mourning. From time to time she attended the church at
Erlenbrunn; and when here she never failed to visit her father's grave.
On every opportunity she went to this sacred spot to weep for her
departed parent, and she never left the grave without having made fresh
resolutions to ignore the pleasures of the world, and to live only to
God. As time went on her grief gradually moderated, but she soon had
new trials to undergo.

Great changes took place in Pine Farm. The good farmer had given the
farm to his only son, an amiable, good-tempered young man, but unhappy
in his choice of a wife, whom he had married a short time before. She
was a handsome woman, and possessed of considerable means; but she was
vain to a degree, and cared for nothing but money. Pride and greed had
gradually imprinted on her features an expression of harshness so
striking that, with all her beauty, her looks were repellent. She was
violently opposed to religion, and was thus without any restraint on
her conduct. By every means in her power she sought to make the lives
of her husband's parents miserable. If she knew that anything would
give them pleasure, she delighted in doing the contrary, and when she
gave them the food which was their due, according to the contract they
had made with their son, it was always with a bad grace, and in a
grudging spirit.

The good old man and his wife lived the greater part of their time in a
little back room, seldom appearing outside. As for their son, he led a
miserable life; for his wife overwhelmed him with constant abuse, and
was constantly reminding him of the money she had brought him. Being of
a peaceable disposition, and averse to quarrelling and disputing, he
bore his sufferings in silence. His wife would never quietly allow him
to visit his parents, for fear, as she said, he would give them
something secretly. In the evening, after he had finished his work, he
used to try to find an opportunity to visit them, when he would
complain to them of his hard lot.

"Well," said his father, "so it is. You suffered yourself to be dazzled
by the thought of her gold, and to be fascinated by her good looks. I
yielded too easily to your wishes, and thus we are punished. We should
have taken the advice of old James, who was an experienced man and
never approved of this match when it was talked of. I well remember
every word he said on the subject, and I have thought of it many a
time. Do you remember," said he to his wife, "our having said that ten
thousand florins make a handsome sum. 'A handsome sum!' said James,
'no; for the flowers you see in your garden are a thousand times more
beautiful. Perhaps you mean to say it is a large and heavy sum. I will
acknowledge that. He must have good shoulders to bear it without being
bowed down to the earth, and without becoming a poor wretch, unable to
lift his head to heaven. Why then do you wish for so much money? You
have never wanted anything; you have always had more than sufficient.
Believe me, too much money produces pride. Rain is a useful and
necessary thing, but when too much falls there is danger of it
destroying the most healthy plants of the garden.'

"These were exactly the old friend's words we have lost," said the
farmer, "and I think I still hear him. And you, my son, once said to
him of your wife, 'She has a charming person, and is beautiful and
fresh as a rose.' 'Flowers,' answered James, 'have not beauty only;
they are good and pretty at the same time. They make so many rich
presents. The bee sucks in pure wax and delicious honey. Without piety,
a beautiful face is merely a rose upon paper, a miserable trifle
without life or perfume. It produces neither wax nor honey.' Such were
the reflections that James frankly made before us. We would not listen
to him--now we know how to appreciate his advice. That which appeared
then to us so great a happiness is now to us the height of misfortune.
May God give us grace to bear our misfortunes with patience!" Thus the
old couple and their son used to talk together.

Poor Mary had much to suffer also. The back room which she and her
father had occupied was given up to the old couple, and, although there
were two empty rooms in the farmhouse, the young farmer's wife, who
disliked Mary, gave her the most miserable apartment in the house;
beside which, she ill-treated her in every possible way, and loaded her
with abuse and fault-finding from morning to night. According to her,
Mary did not work enough and did not know how to do anything as it
ought to be done. In short, she made it very plain to the poor orphan
that she was despised and considered troublesome.

The old man and his wife were keenly conscious of the miserable life
that Mary led, but they were not in a position to interfere. They had
enough to do with their own griefs.

Mary thought often of going away from Pine Farm, but where to go was
the question. After some consideration she asked the minister's advice.
"My dear Mary," said the old minister, "it is impossible for you to
think of remaining longer at Pine Farm. They expect you to do more than
a strong man could accomplish. Still, I do not advise you to leave
immediately. Although your father gave you an excellent education, and
taught you all that it was necessary for a village housekeeper to know,
my advice would be to remain where you are for the present; to work as
faithfully as you can, and to wait patiently until the Lord delivers
you from your present hard circumstances. I will endeavour to get you a
place in an honest Christian family. Have confidence in God; pray
constantly, bear with this trial, and God will arrange all." Mary
thanked the good old minister and promised to follow his advice.

Mary's favourite place of meditation was her father's tomb, where she
had planted a rose tree. "Alas," said she, "if I could remain here
always, I would water you with my tears!" The rose tree was already
green, and the buds began to open their purple cups. "My father was
right," said Mary, "when he compared human life to the rose tree. It
offers nothing but thorns; but wait a little and the season will come
when it shall be decked anew in foliage and robed in the most beautiful
flowers. For me, this is now the time of thorns; but God help me not to
be cast down! I believe your word, best of fathers. Perhaps I may see
in my life the truth of your favourite maxim--'Patience produces roses.'"
Thus poor Mary consoled herself in her distress.

    "Thou art, O Lord, my only trust,
    When friends are mingled with the dust,
      And all my loves are gone.
    When earth has nothing to bestow,
    And every flower is dead below,
      I look to Thee alone."



CHAPTER XIII.

AGAIN A WANDERER.


The months sped on, and now the anniversary of her father's birthday
arrived. Until then it had always been to Mary a day of great joy, but
this time, when the day dawned, she was bathed in tears. Previously she
had had the pleasure and excitement of preparing something which she
knew would please her father, but now, alas, this delightful occupation
was rendered useless!

The country people round about their home used to beg flowers from her
for the purpose of decorating the graves of their friends. It had
always been a pleasure to Mary to give her flowers for this purpose,
and she now determined to decorate her father's tomb in the same
manner. Taking from a cupboard the beautiful basket which had been the
first cause of all her unhappiness, she filled it with choice flowers
of all colours, artistically interspersed with fresh green leaves, and
carried it to Erlenbrunn before the hour of divine service, and laid it
on her father's tomb, watering it at the same time with tears that
could not be repressed.

"Oh, best and dearest of fathers," said she, "you have strewed with
flowers the path of life for me. Let me at least ornament your grave
with them."

Mary left the basket on the grave, and went back to the misery of Pine
Farm. She had no fear that any one would dare to steal either the
basket or the flowers. Many of the country people who saw her offering
were moved to tears, and, blessing the old gardener's pious daughter,
they prayed for her prosperity.

The next day the labourers at the farm were busy taking in the hay from
a large meadow just beyond the forest. The farmer's wife had a large
piece of fine linen spread out on the grass a few steps from the house,
and in the evening this was found to have disappeared. Unfortunately
the young farmer's wife had heard the story of Mary and the ring from
her husband, to whom it had been told by his father and mother.
Instantly then she connected Mary with the disappearance of the linen,
and saw in the circumstance a means of venting her spite upon the girl
whom she had always disliked.

When Mary was returning from her work in the evening with a rake on her
shoulder and a pitcher in her hand, along with the other servants, this
passionate woman came out of the kitchen and met her with a torrent of
abuse, and ordered her to give up the linen immediately. At first Mary
was too stunned to reply, but when she understood the charge, she
answered meekly that it was impossible she could have taken the linen,
as she had passed the whole day in the hay-field with the other
servants; that a stranger might easily have taken advantage of a moment
when there was no one in the kitchen to commit the theft. This
conjecture turned out to be the true one, but the farmer's wife was not
to be turned from her conviction.

"Thief," she cried coarsely, "do you think I am ignorant of the theft
of the ring, and what difficulty you had to escape the executioner's
sword? Begone as soon as possible. There is no room in my house for
creatures like you."

"It is too late," said her husband, "to send Mary away now. Let her sup
with us, as she has worked all day in the great heat. Let her but
remain this one night."

"Not even one hour," cried his wife passionately; and her husband,
seeing that advice would only irritate her more, remained silent.

Mary made no further attempt to defend herself against the unjust
accusation. She immediately made her simple preparations for her
departure, wrapping up all that she had in a clean napkin. When she had
put the little bundle under her arm, thanked the servants of Pine Farm
for their kindness to her and protested once more her innocence, she
asked permission to take leave of her friends, the old farmer and his
wife.

"You may do that," said the young farmer's wife, with a scornful smile;
"indeed, if you wish to take with you these two old people, it will
give me great pleasure. It is evident death does not mean to rid me of
them for some time."

The good old people, who had heard the altercation, wept when Mary came
to bid them good-bye. However, they consoled her as well as they could,
and gave her a little money to assist her on her journey. "Go, good
girl," said they to her, "and may God take care of you."

It was towards the close of the day when Mary set out with her little
bundle under her arm, and began to climb up the mountain, following the
narrow road to the woods. She wished before leaving the neighbourhood
to visit her father's grave once more. When she came out of the forest
the village clock struck seven, and before she arrived at the graveyard
it was nearly dark; but she was not afraid, and went up to her father's
grave, where she sat down and gave way to a burst of grief. The full
moon was shining through the trees, illumining with a silver light the
roses on the grave and the basket of flowers. The soft evening breeze
murmured among the branches, making the rose trees planted on her
father's grave tremble.

"Oh, my father," cried Mary, "would that you were still here, that I
might pour my trouble into your ears! But yet I know that it is better
that you are gone, and I thank the Lord that you did not live to
witness this last affliction. You are now happy, and beyond the reach
of grief. Oh, that I were with you! Alas, never have I been so much to
be pitied as now. When the moon shone into the prison which confined me
you were then alive; when I was driven from the home which I loved so
much you were left me. I had in you a good father and protector and
faithful friend. Now I have no one. Poor, forsaken, suspected of crime,
I am alone in the world, a stranger, not knowing where to lay my head.
The only little corner that remained to me on the earth I am driven
from, and now I shall no longer have the consolation of coming here to
weep by your grave!" At these words the tears rushed forth afresh.

"Alas," said she, "I dare not at this hour beg a lodging for the night.
Indeed, if I tell why I was turned out of doors, no one perhaps will
consent to receive me."

She looked around. Against the wall, near her father's tomb, was a
gravestone, very old and covered with moss. As the inscription had been
effaced by time, it was left there to be used as a seat. "I will sit
down on this stone," said she, "and pass the night by my father's
grave. It is perhaps the last time I shall ever be here. To-morrow at
daybreak, if it be God's will, I shall continue my journey, going
wherever His hand may direct me."



CHAPTER XIV.

A STRANGE MEETING.


Mary sat down on the stone near the wall shaded by the thick foliage of
a tree which covered her with its dark branches. Here she poured out
her soul in fervent prayer to God. Suddenly she heard a sweet voice
calling her familiarly by her name, "Mary, Mary!"

The late hour of night and the solitude of the graveyard and her
loneliness made Mary start with fear. Looking up she saw the beautiful
face and figure of a woman, dressed in a long flowing robe. Frightened
and trembling, Mary was about to fly.

[Illustration: "Looking up she saw the beautiful face and figure of a
woman."
_See page 104._]

"Dear Mary," said the lady, with tenderness in her voice, "do not be
alarmed; I am not a spirit, but a human being like yourself. God has
heard your fervent prayers, and I have come to help you. Look at me; is
it possible you do not know me?"

The moon was shining brightly upon her face, and with an exclamation of
surprise, Mary cried out, "Is it you, the Countess Amelia? Oh, how did
you get here--here in so lonely a place at this hour of the night, so
far from your home?"

The Countess raised Mary gently from the ground, pressed her to her
heart, and kissed her tenderly.

"Dear Mary," said she, "we have done you great injustice. You have been
ill rewarded for the pleasure which you gave me with the basket of
flowers, but at last your innocence has been made known. Can you ever
forgive my parents and me? We are ready to make amends as far as it
lies in our power. Forgive us, dear Mary."

Mary was distressed at these words, and begged the Countess not to talk
of forgiveness. "Considering the circumstances," she said, "you showed
great indulgence towards me, and it never entered my mind to nourish
the least resentment towards you. I had grateful thoughts of all your
kindness, and my only sorrow was that you and your dear parents should
regard me as ungrateful enough to be guilty of stealing your ring. My
great desire was that you might one day be convinced of my innocence,
and God has granted this desire. May His name be praised!"

The Countess pressed Mary to her heart, and bathed her face in tears.
Afterwards she looked at James's grave and, clasping her hands, she
cried out passionately, "Oh, noble man, whose body lies here, whom I
learned to love in my tender youth, whose affectionate counsels I have
often received, and whose fervent prayers I have so often listened to,
why cannot I see your face to ask pardon for all the injustice done
you? Oh, if we had only taken more precaution, if we had placed more
confidence in an old servant who had always shown unimpeachable honesty
and faithfulness, perhaps thou hadst still been living with us!"

"Believe me, good Countess," said Mary, "my father was far from feeling
the least resentment towards you. He prayed for you daily, as he was
accustomed to do when he lived at Eichbourg, and at the hour of his
death he blessed you all.

"'Mary,' said he to me, a little before he died, 'I feel confident that
those whom we once served will one day recognise your innocence, and
recall you from exile. When that day comes, assure the Countess and
Count and Amelia that my heart was full of respect and love and
gratitude towards them till my last breath.' These, my dear Countess,
were his last words."

The tears of the good Amelia flowed copiously. "Come, Mary," said she,
"and sit down here with me on the stone. We are safe here in the
sanctuary of the Lord. Let me tell you of all the strange events that
have happened."



CHAPTER XV.

THE YOUNG COUNTESS'S STORY.


Having made Mary sit down beside her, the young Countess began her
story.

"God is surely with you, dear Mary," said she, "and has taken you under
His protection. I see now that He has guided my steps here in order
that I might find you for whom we have sought so long. Simple as are
the events which I am about to relate to you, we can see in them a
chain of truly providential circumstances.

"From the time that your innocence was discovered I had no more rest.
You and your father were always pressing on my mind, wandering without
home and friends. Believe me, my dear Mary, I have shed many bitter
tears on your account. My parents were also deeply distressed at the
injustice they had unwittingly done you, and sought for you everywhere;
but, as you know, without being able to obtain any trace of you.

"Two days ago we came to a hunting-lodge of the Prince in the forest,
not far from this village. For twenty years at least this castle has
not been visited, the only occupant being a gamekeeper. My father had
gone on business, and had spent the whole day in the forest in company
with two noblemen whose wives were staying at the castle. It had been a
very warm day, and the evening was very fresh. The setting sun, the
mountain covered with pines interspersed with picturesque rocks offered
such a beautiful spectacle that I begged permission to take a walk.
Accompanied by the gamekeeper's daughter I set out, and as we passed
along we found the graveyard gate open, and the tombstones gilded by
the light of the setting sun.

"Since my childhood I have always had a pleasure in reading
inscriptions and epitaphs on tombstones. I am moved when one tells of a
young man or woman carried off in the bloom of youth, and I feel a sort
of melancholy pleasure if it concerns a person who had reached advanced
age. The verses themselves, poor as they may be from a poetical point
of view, stir serious feelings within me, and I never fail to carry
away with me from a graveyard good thoughts and pious resolutions.

"Entering the graveyard with the gamekeeper's daughter, I began as
usual to read the inscriptions. After a little while the girl said to
me, 'Come, I will show you something very beautiful. It is the grave of
an old man, who has neither tombstone nor epitaph, but it has been
ornamented with taste and beauty by the tender piety of his daughter.
See, you can just distinguish it through the thick leaves of these
pines--the beautiful rose tree and the basket of flowers.'

"You can imagine, dear Mary, the shock I received, when at the first
glance I recognised the basket of flowers which had never been out of
my mind since that sad day when you left Eichbourg. If there had been
any doubts in my mind as to it being the same basket, the initials of
my name and the coat-of-arms of my family would have dispelled them.
Turning to my companion, I asked if she knew anything of you and your
father. She told me all about your life at Pine Farm, your father's
sickness and death, and your great grief. After hearing all that the
gamekeeper's daughter could tell me, I went to the minister, only to
hear the same story with very much praise of yourself added. I would
have gone off to Pine Farm immediately, but while the story was being
told me, time had passed rapidly, and it was now already quite dark.
'What shall I do,' said I; 'it is now too late to go to the farm, but
to-morrow at daybreak we will set out.' Your good friend the minister
sent for the schoolmaster to charge him to go and bring you without
delay to the castle.

"'My dear young friend,' said the schoolmaster, 'you need not go far to
look for her. She has gone to her father's grave to weep there. Alas,
poor child!' he continued, 'I saw her sitting there from an opening in
the steeple when I went this afternoon to wind up the clock.'

"I at once determined to find you, and the minister wanted to accompany
me, but I begged to be allowed to come to you alone, that my first
meeting with you might be as affectionate as I desired. While I came
here the old minister went to tell my parents where I was, and to
prepare them for your arrival. This accounts, my dear Mary, for my
sudden appearance before you. You can now see, through God's
providence, this basket of flowers which separated us has reunited us
by your father's grave--that father who is now inhabiting the home
above."

"Yes," said Mary, clasping her hands and raising her grateful eyes to
heaven, "God has done it all. He has had pity on my tears and on my
needs. How can I thank Him for His goodness and His boundless
tenderness?"

"I have still one thing to tell you yet," answered the Countess Amelia,
interrupting her, "and it is one which seems to me singularly touching,
and inspires me with an awe for the justice of God who directs our lot
even when we are unconscious of it. My maid, Juliette, had but one
thought, one desire. It was to banish you from my heart and to take
your place in my affections. It was with that design that she made up
her terrible falsehood, and her wicked plan succeeded too well. But
that very falsehood was the means of her afterwards losing her place
and our confidence, and that made you dearer than ever to our hearts.
Juliette endeavoured to estrange you from me for ever, and your
banishment was a constant subject of triumph to her.

"You know how that, in her wickedness, she threw this basket at your
feet with an insulting laugh. Well, it was exactly this event which was
afterwards, although she little thought it then, to reunite us for
ever. For was it not indeed through this basket on your father's grave
that I discovered you to-day? Truly, those who have the love of God
have nothing to fear from any enemies. God knows how to turn to our
advantage all the ill that wicked people do to us; and our most cruel
enemies, although for a while they may bring us to unhappiness, can do
nothing but contribute to our real and lasting happiness. We may say in
this case that our safety comes from our enemies.

"But now, dear Mary," said the Countess, "tell me what brought you so
late to your father's grave, and why, when I found you, you were
weeping so bitterly."

When Mary had told her story, of how they had driven her from the Pine
Farm on a false charge, the Countess was astonished still more at the
providence which had brought her and Mary together.

"Yes, indeed," said the Countess to Mary, "it is by God's will that I
have found you to-day, just when you were again plunged into the
deepest distress. You were imploring His assistance with burning tears
running down your cheeks. This is another proof of what we have been
speaking, that God knows how to turn to our advantage the ill which our
enemies design to do us. The farmer's wicked wife, who drove you from
her house, thought she would make you unhappy. Without knowing it she
has brought you to my arms and those of my parents, who, as well as
myself, are desirous of making your life happy.

"But it is now time to set out," said Amelia. "My parents will be
anxious at my long absence. Come, dear Mary, I will never leave you any
more. Let us go to my parents."



CHAPTER XVI.

HOW THE RING WAS FOUND.


The road to the castle towards which the Countess now led Mary, lay
through a long and dark walk of tall old linden trees. For a while they
walked in silence together, each wrapped in her own thoughts, but at
last the Countess said to Mary--

"Oh, I must now tell you how the ring was found. My father's affairs
requiring his presence at Eichbourg, we left Court earlier than usual
this year--in the beginning of March. When we arrived at the Castle,
the weather was very boisterous, and one night in particular we had a
tremendous storm. You remember the great pear tree we had in our garden
at Eichbourg? It was very old, and bore scarcely any fruit. That night
the wind, which blew with great violence, had shaken it so much that it
threatened every moment to fall, and my father ordered it to be cut
down.

"My father, and mother, the children, and servants, and indeed all of
the people in the Castle, came into the garden to see it fall. As soon
as it was cut down, my two little brothers ran immediately towards a
magpie's nest in the tree, which had for a long time been a coveted
object, but had hitherto been out of their reach. Now they seized upon
the nest and busied themselves examining its contents.

"'Look, Albert!' said Augustus, 'what is that shining among the twigs?
How bright it is!'

"'It sparkles like gold,' said Albert.

"My maid, Juliette, ran forward to look at it, and immediately uttered
a scream.

"'Oh,' she cried, 'it is the ring!' and became as pale as death.

"The children extricated the ring from among the twigs, and carried it
in great glee to my mother.

"'Yes, indeed it is my ring,' said my mother, with deep emotion. 'Oh,
good and honest James! oh, poor Mary, what injustice we have done you!
I am glad enough to find my ring again, but if I could find James and
Mary, I would gladly sacrifice the ring to repair the wrong which we
have done them.'

"I was curious to know by what chance the ring was carried into the
magpie's nest at the top of the tree, and the old huntsman, Anthony,
gave a ready explanation.

"'Neither the gardener James nor his daughter could have hidden the
ring in this place, that is very clear,' said he. 'The tree was too
high, and it would have been impossible to climb up so far. Besides
which, they had not time to do so. Mary had scarcely returned to the
house when she and her father were both arrested. Magpies are greatly
attracted by anything that shines, and if they can find anything
sparkling, they carry it off immediately to their nests. One of these
birds must have stolen the ring, and carried it to the tree. That is
all the mystery. The only thing that astonishes me is that an old
hunter, as I am, should not have thought sooner of this explanation.'

"The old man spoke with deep feeling and with tears in his eyes, but
they were tears of joy at seeing your innocence proved.

"'Anthony,' said my mother, 'I believe you are perfectly right, and now
I remember quite distinctly that very often these birds came from the
top of this tree to my window, that the sash was open when the ring
disappeared, that the table on which I put the ring was close to the
window, and that, after having shut the door and bolted it, I went into
the next room, where I stayed for some time. No doubt one of these
mischievous birds saw the ring from his nest, and, while I was in the
other room, he must have darted in and carried it off.'

"My father was deeply troubled at the conviction, which he could not
resist, that you and your father had been unjustly condemned.

"'My heart is almost broken,' said he, 'for having done these good
people so much injury. My only consolation is that it was not done from
ill-will, but in ignorance and error.'

"My father now turned to Juliette, who in the universal rejoicing at
the discovery of the ring remained silent and pale.

"'False woman,' said he, 'deceitful servant! How could you have the
hardihood to lie to me and to the judge, and to compel us to commit an
action unwillingly, the iniquity of which now calls for vengeance? What
tempted you to plunge into suffering an old and honest man, and his
poor and virtuous daughter?'

"'Officers, do your duty,' he said to two constables, who had assisted
in cutting down the tree, and who now approached the unhappy Juliette
to carry out my father's orders. 'Let her be put in chains,' he added,
in a grave tone,--'the same chains that Mary wore,--and let her be
thrown into the same prison in which she caused Mary to languish. She
must suffer all that Mary suffered, only that, unlike Mary, she has
deserved it. What she has been able to hoard of money or clothes shall
be taken from her, to compensate, if it be possible, the unhappy old
man and his daughter who have had to suffer an unjust sentence. The
officer who conducted Mary out of my dominions shall also conduct
Juliette, just as she is, to the same place.'

"No one had ever seen my father so exasperated, never had any one heard
him speak in such passionate tones. For a while every one was silent,
but at last the officers and servants gave voice to their sentiments
and thoughts.

"'It is well done,' said one of the officers, seizing Juliette by the
arm; 'when one digs another's grave he must fill it himself.'

"'That is what is gained by telling falsehoods,' said the other
officer. 'It is true that no thread is so fine that it cannot be seen
in the sunshine.'

"'It was a pretty dress which the young Countess gave to Mary,' said
the cook in her turn, 'that made Juliette angry. In her rage, and not
knowing well what she was about, she began to tell lies, and then it
was impossible to retract without acknowledging her guilt. The proverb
is true which says that, once the devil has us by the hair, he will
hold fast to us afterwards.'

"'It is well, it is well,' said the coachman, who had just finished
cutting the tree, and who still had the axe over his shoulder. 'Let us
hope she will mend her ways, if she does not wish to be worse off in
the next world. The tree that bears not good fruit,' said he, shaking
his axe, 'shall be cut down, and cast into the fire.'

"The news of the finding of the ring spread through Eichbourg in a very
short time, and every one ran to the place, so that in a little while a
great crowd had gathered. The judge who condemned you came also, and
every witness of the discovery was as eager as possible to tell him all
about it.

"You cannot imagine, my dear Mary," the Countess proceeded, "the effect
that the story produced on the good man. Notwithstanding his severity
respecting you, he is a man of great probity, and one who has all his
life tried to administer justice with strict fidelity.

"'I would give half of my goods,' said he, in a tone that went to the
heart of every one who heard him--'yes, I would willingly have given
everything I possess if this misfortune had not happened. To have
condemned innocence is a frightful thought.' Then, looking round him at
the people, he said, in a solemn voice, 'God is the only infallible
judge, the only one that cannot be deceived. He knows everything. He
alone knew the hiding-place in which the ring had remained until now.
The judges of the earth are near-sighted and prone to be deceived. It
is rare here below that innocence suffers and vice triumphs. The
invisible Judge, who will recompense one day all good actions and
punish all bad ones, has decreed that even here innocence shall not
always suffer from suspicion, nor hidden crime remain always
concealed.'"

While Amelia had been relating this interesting narrative, Mary had
been lifting up her heart in silent thanksgiving to God for clearing
her character from every stain of suspicion and establishing her
innocence in the minds of her friends. By the time Amelia had finished
her story, they had arrived at the door of the castle.



CHAPTER XVII.

REPARATION.


The Count, the Countess, and the guests who were at the castle, were
assembled in the drawing-room when Amelia and Mary entered. The worthy
minister had arrived before them, and had been reciting to a
deeply-interested audience, the story of James and Mary and their life
at Pine Cottage. He had painted in a touching manner the conduct of the
good old man during his residence at Pine Farm, emphasising the love
and respect which he bore to the Count and his family. He told of
Mary's activity, of her filial piety, and her patience and modesty,
until tears streamed from the eyes of his hearers.

At this moment the Countess Amelia, holding Mary by one hand and in the
other the basket of flowers, entered the brilliantly-lighted room. Mary
was welcomed by all, and loaded with congratulations. The Count himself
took her kindly by the hand, and said, "Poor child, how pale and thin
you look. It was our hasty judgment that brought your misery upon you,
and we must now spare nothing, that happiness may once more be restored
to you, and that the faded flowers may once more bloom on your young
cheeks. You were driven from your father's house, but in future you
shall have it for your own property."

The Countess kissed Mary, pressed her to her heart, called her her
daughter, and, taking from her finger the ring which had caused so many
misfortunes, she said, "Here, my dear child, although your piety is a
great deal more precious than the large diamond which sparkles in this
ring, you must accept this present as a feeble compensation for the
wrong you have suffered, and as a token of the sincere attachment and
maternal tenderness I feel towards you."

With these words she held out the ring to Mary, who was almost overcome
with so much kindness and ready to sink under the weight of the
benefits she had received. Her tears flowed freely, but they were tears
of joy.

"Poor child," said one of the guests, "take what the Countess offers
you. God has given the Count and his wife fortune, but He has given
them something more precious--hearts which know how to make the best
use of riches."

"Why do you flatter us?" said the Countess. "This is not a _generous_
action, it is an act of _justice_."

Still Mary hesitated about accepting the valuable gift, and turned with
streaming eyes towards the minister, as if to ask his advice.

"Yes, Mary," said the venerable man, "you must keep the ring. You see,
my good child, how God is blessing your filial piety; for whosoever
sincerely honours his parents shall be better for it. Take the valuable
present with gratitude, and as adversity found you resigned to the
Divine will, so in prosperity show yourself grateful to your heavenly
Father--grateful to His dear name, benevolent and kind."

Mary put the ring on her finger and attempted to express her thanks,
but tears checked her utterance, and were thus the best expression of
her gratitude. Amelia, who sat by her with the basket of flowers in her
hand, was delighted with the generous proceedings of her parents. Her
eyes shone with affection for Mary; and the minister, who had often
observed how envious children generally are when their parents exercise
their benevolence towards other people, was deeply touched by this
disinterested love of Amelia. "May God," said he, "reward the
generosity of the Count and Countess. May all that they have done for
the poor orphan be rendered to them a hundredfold in the person of
their own dear daughter!"



CHAPTER XVIII.

PINE FARM REVISITED.


The Count and his family were just on the eve of leaving for Eichbourg,
and next morning at break of day all was bustle in the castle,
preparing for their departure. In the midst of all the preparations,
however, Mary was not forgotten, and each one vied with the other in
the attentions they paid to her.

Mary's clothes, which she had bought during her residence at Pine Farm,
were made of the coarsest material and of the plainest cut. But one of
Amelia's friends, a young lady of the same age and size as Mary, at
Amelia's request presented Mary with a complete outfit, which, without
being extravagant, was more in keeping with her new situation. In
answer to Mary's modest protest against donning what seemed to her,
extravagantly grand garments, Amelia said, "You are my friend; you are
henceforth to be my companion; you are also to live with me. You ought
therefore to dress yourself differently from a farm servant."

After breakfast they started on their journey homeward, and Mary sat
beside Amelia in the carriage, with the Count and Countess opposite.
First of all, however, the Count gave orders for the coachman to drive
them to Pine Farm, that he might become acquainted with the people who
had entertained Mary and her father so kindly. It was not long before
they gathered from Mary's answers that the old people at Pine Farm were
far from being comfortable, and that their declining years were not so
peaceful as they had a right to expect.

The arrival of a nobleman's carriage at Pine Farm caused no little
excitement. No sooner had the young farmer's wife seen the carriage
stop at the door than she hastened towards it.

"Sir," said she to the Count, "allow me to assist you and also the
ladies, your daughters, I presume."

So saying, she presented her hand to one of the young ladies, when,
recognising her to be Mary herself, she uttered an exclamation of
surprise, let go her hand as if she had touched a serpent, and drew
back in great confusion.

The old farmer was working in his garden when the Count with his family
and Mary alighted; and when they went to the good old man, took him by
the hand, and thanked him for his kindness towards Mary and her father,
the worthy farmer was deeply moved.

"Oh," said he, "I owe that good man more than ever he owed me. The
blessing of heaven came with him into our home, and if I had followed
his advice in everything, I should have been much better for it at this
moment. Since his death I have no pleasure in anything but this garden,
which I began to cultivate at his suggestion. Since I have not had
strength to follow the plough, I have occupied myself here, and I seek
among the herbs and flowers the peace which I can no longer find in my
own house."

In the meantime Mary had gone to look for the old farmer's wife in her
little room, and she now came forward leading her by the hand. The
worthy woman was quite overcome by the strange circumstances in which
she found Mary, and the excitement of the moment; and when she came
forward to meet the Count and Countess, it was with a timid air, and in
evident distress at finding herself the object of so much attention. By
and by, however, she and her husband heard the story of the finding of
the ring, and so great was their affection for Mary that they cried for
joy like children.

"Did I not tell you," said the farmer, addressing Mary, "that your
filial piety would receive its reward? You see, my prophecy is already
fulfilled," and his wife, who had recovered her self-possession, said,
"Yes, yes; your father was right when he said, 'He who clothes the
flowers, well knows how to take care of you.'"

While this conversation had been going on, the young farmer's wife
stood at some distance, consumed with jealousy and anger.

"Well, well," she said to herself, "there is no saying what will happen
in this life. That miserable beggar whom I turned out of my house--look
at her now, dressed like a young lady of high rank. Who would have
thought of such a thing! Every one, however, knows who she is, so she
cannot impose on any one in this town. They know that yesterday she was
sent from here with a little package under her arm, to go into the
country."

The Count had not heard this abusive language, but a glance at the
woman's face was enough to show him that she was nursing angry
passions. "She is a wicked creature," he said to himself, as he walked
round the garden in a very thoughtful mood.

At last he stopped before the old farmer. "Listen, my good old friend,"
said he, "while I make a proposition to you. I have given Mary a piece
of ground on my estate, which was rented and cultivated by her father.
But Mary is not ready to take up housekeeping. What should prevent you
from retiring there? It will suit you, I am certain, and the owner will
not exact any rent from you. You can cultivate the herbs and flowers in
which you find your pleasure, and you will find, in the pretty cottage
which is attached to the ground, rest and peace in your old age."

The Count's wife, Amelia and Mary joined in urging the old man to
accept this generous offer. But there was no need for persuasion. The
old people were happy to be taken from their uncomfortable
surroundings, and gladly agreed to the proposal.

At this moment the young farmer came home from the fields. His surprise
was as great as his wife's when he saw the carriage at his door drawn
by four white horses; for never in the history of the farm had a
carriage stopped there before. When he heard of the proposal which the
Count had made to his father and mother, he gladly consented to it,
although he was deeply grieved to part from his old parents. His
consolation was found, however, in thinking that they were going to be
happier than they could possibly be with his wife.

As for his wife herself, the only remark she made was to say in a
spiteful way to the Count--

"It is a great favour you are doing us in ridding us of two old people
who are nothing but a burden!"

Promising to send for the old farmer and his wife as soon as everything
was ready, the Count and his family, accompanied by Mary, now stepped
into the carriage and drove off. Here for a time we will leave Mary and
follow the fortunes of the occupants of Pine Farm.



CHAPTER XIX.

RETRIBUTION.


In course of time, when arrangements had been made for their reception,
a carriage was sent from Eichbourg to bring away the old farmer and his
wife. Their son was grieved to the heart when the time came for them to
go, but their daughter-in-law had counted the days and hours until the
time of their departure, and felt nothing but vindictive pleasure at
being rid of them. Her joy, however, received a severe check from a
note which the coachman presented to her, in which the Count informed
her that she and her husband should pay all that had been stipulated
for the support of her father and mother-in-law; and that the price of
their living valued in money, according to the current market price,
should be paid to them every quarter. Realising her helplessness, she
became violently angry and turned round to her husband, saying, "We are
over-reached. If they had stayed here, it would not have cost us half
as much." Her husband was secretly pleased to think that he was still
permitted to help his parents in their old age, but he took good care
not to show his joy before his wife.

The old people set off in the carriage the next morning, followed by
the blessings of their son and the secret ill-wishes of their
daughter-in-law.

But the unnatural conduct of this wicked woman was visited with the
trouble which is always the lot of avarice and inhumanity. Her
secretly-cherished god was gold, and she had lent the bulk of her money
to a merchant to use in his business, on his promise to pay her a large
interest for the loan. Her greatest pleasure was in making
calculations, as to how much her money would amount to after a certain
number of years, with all the interest and compound interest added.
Suddenly, however, these golden dreams received a rude awakening. The
manufacturer's speculations proved unfortunate, and he shortly
afterwards failed in business, and his goods were sold by order of the
sheriff.

The news came as a thunder-stroke for the farmer's wife, and from the
moment that she heard of the catastrophe she had no repose. Every day
she kept running to the lawyers, or to her neighbours to complain of
her hard lot, and the nights she spent in weeping and scolding her
husband. From the wreck of her fortune of ten thousand florins she
received only a paltry hundred or two, and so deeply did she feel the
loss of her money that she openly declared her wish to die. The result
of the continual worrying induced a fever which never left her. When
her husband wished to send for a physician she would not consent to it,
and when, in spite of her objections, he at last sent for one, his wife
in a passion threw the medicine he prescribed out of the window.

At last her husband saw that she was seriously ill, and he requested
the minister of Erlenbrunn to come and see her. The good old man
visited her frequently and talked to her affectionately, in order to
induce her to repent of her sins, and to detach her heart from the
things of this earth, that she might turn to God.

But this advice made her very angry. She looked at the good man with
utter astonishment. "I do not know," she said, "for what purpose the
minister comes to preach repentance to me. He should have delivered
such a sermon to the merchant who stole our money. Yes, there would
have been some sense in that. As for me, I do not see that I have any
reason for repentance. As long as I was able to go out I always went to
church, and I have never failed to say my prayers. I have not ceased
all my life to do my duty and to behave myself like a virtuous
housewife. I defy any living soul to slander me. And of all the poor
people who have come to my door, not one can complain that I sent them
away without giving them something. Now, I should like to know how any
one can behave better!"

The venerable pastor saw that she was justifying herself before God,
and he tried by adopting a more direct tone to lead her to contrition.
He showed to her that she loved money more than anything else in the
world, and that the love of money was idolatry. He showed her that the
bursts of anger in which she had indulged were heinous sins before God,
that she had totally failed in the most beautiful of all Christian
virtues--filial affection; that by her greed of money she had made her
husband unhappy, cruelly driven away the poor orphan Mary, and even
turned away her husband's parents, those whom she ought to have
cherished as if they were her own.

He showed her also that, with a fortune like hers, a little piece of
bread given to a poor man to get rid of him did not fulfil the duties
which God expected of her, that in spite of all her boasting of going
to church she was none the better of it, for her prayers had come from
a heart unwarmed by love, and could not ascend to the throne of God. In
this faithful way did he talk to her, but only with the result of
making her burst into a fit of passionate sobbing.

The illness from which she suffered was a long and trying one. She
spent whole nights in coughing, and yet the ruling passion of avarice
was so strong that she would scarcely take sufficient nourishment to
sustain her. No consoling thought came to her to mitigate her
suffering. She was utterly unwilling to resign herself to God and to
submit to His will.

The good minister tried in every imaginable way to bring her to a
better frame of mind. During the last days of her life she was
occasionally a little softened in her manners, but she never evinced
any true repentance. In the flower of her age she died, a sad instance
of the effects of avarice, passion, and love of the world.



CHAPTER XX.

FORGIVING AN ENEMY.


And now we must return to Mary whom we left in her new surroundings.

Immediately after leaving Pine Farm, Mary went with the Count's family
to the city, in which they spent part of every year. While they were
there, a clergyman came one morning to their residence and asked to see
Mary. He told her that he was charged with a message for her from a
person who was very ill and probably near death, and who desired
anxiously to speak to her. The clergyman said that the person was not
willing to give her message to any one but to Mary herself.

Mary could not imagine what the woman could want with her, and she
consulted the Countess as to what she ought to do. The Countess,
knowing the clergyman to be a pious and prudent man, advised Mary to go
with him, and at the minister's request old Anthony the huntsman
accompanied them. After a long walk to the outskirts of the town, they
arrived at last at a house situated in a side street, which presented a
most gloomy aspect. "Here is the house," said the clergyman, knocking
at the door, "but wait a little."

After a few moments he returned for Mary, who then entered with him
into a most miserable room. The window was narrow and dark, and some
broken panes were patched with paper. The only furniture which the room
contained was a miserable truckle-bed, covered with a more miserable
mattress, and a broken chair, on which stood a stone pitcher, with
neither handle nor cover.

On the miserable bed lay stretched a figure which to Mary's eyes seemed
more like a skeleton, but which she gradually made out was the form of
a woman, in the last stages of illness.

In a voice which resembled the rattle of death, this miserable creature
sought to speak with Mary, who trembled in every limb. It was with the
utmost difficulty that she could make out what the poor woman said, but
at last she learned, to her horror, that the frightful phantom was
Juliette, who at the Castle of Eichbourg had been the beginning and
cause of all her distress. After being turned away from the Castle, she
had gone from bad to worse, until she had sunk into her present state.

Lying upon her miserable bed, death staring her in the face, remorse
had overtaken her, and her one wish was to have Mary's forgiveness.
Learning in some way, that the Count and his family were in the city,
she begged of the clergyman who was visiting her to ask Mary to come to
see her. The poor woman, judging Mary by herself, had entreated the
clergyman not to mention her name in case Mary would not come.

Mary was affected to the heart when she heard Juliette's story, and she
shed tears of sympathy with her old enemy. She assured her that she had
forgiven her long ago, and that the only feeling she experienced was
that of the deepest pity for her.

[Illustration: "Mary was affected to the heart when she heard
Juliette's story."
_See page 142._]

"Alas," said Juliette, "I am a great sinner; I have deserved my fate.
Forgetfulness of God, contempt of good advice, love of dress, flattery,
and pleasure were the first causes of misery, and these have brought me
to my present state. Oh," cried she, raising her voice to a shriek, and
weeping bitterly, "that is nothing to the fate which I fear awaits me
in the world to come. You have pardoned me, it is true, but I feel the
weight of God's anger now settling on my soul."

Mary conversed long and earnestly with her, endeavouring to point her
to the Saviour of the world, who would receive her if she truly
repented. At last she was obliged to leave her without being satisfied
as to her state of mind, but the idea of the unhappy Juliette dying
without hope continually pressed on her mind and weighed down her
spirits. She recollected her little apple tree in blossom, withered by
the frost, and what her father had said on that occasion. The most
consoling words he had said on his deathbed presented themselves to her
mind, and she renewed the promise she had made to God to live entirely
to His glory.

To the Countess she related her discovery, and that generous lady sent
the unhappy Juliette medicine, food, and linen, and everything which
might tend to relieve her illness. But it was too late, and at the age
of twenty-three the once beautiful Juliette, reduced to a mere skeleton
and disfigured by disease, died without having given evidence of a
changed heart towards God.



CHAPTER XXI.

CONCLUSION.


The next spring, when the country was covered with verdure and flowers,
the Count, accompanied by his wife, and daughter, and Mary, went to his
home at Eichbourg. Towards evening they approached the village, and
when Mary saw in the light of the setting sun the familiar church
steeple, the Castle, and the cottage where she had spent so many happy
years with her father, she was so deeply touched that tears started to
her eyes.

But in the midst of the sorrowful memories which the scene called up in
her mind, there came to her a devout feeling of thankfulness for the
wonderful way in which God had led her back.

"When I left Eichbourg," she said, "it was in disgrace, and without
ever expecting to come back again. The ways of Providence are
mysterious, but God is good."

When the carriage stopped at the Castle, the servants and officers
belonging to the Count's household were waiting to receive them. Mary
had a warm welcome from them all. Every one showed the greatest joy at
seeing her again, and their congratulations on her innocence having
been proved were manifestly sincere. The old judge who had sent her
into banishment was among those who welcomed her most cordially. Taking
her hand in the presence of all the servants, he asked her pardon for
the mistake he had made. He expressed his gratitude to the Count and
Countess for having so nobly repaired the injustice, assured them that
he reproached himself for the misfortune, and that he was willing to do
everything in his power to discharge his debt.

The exciting day came to an end, and Mary was glad to escape to her
chamber. Next morning, the sun shining brightly into her room woke her
early. As soon as she was dressed she ran to visit her father's
cottage, and to walk once more round the old familiar garden. On her
way she met numbers of the villagers, and all of them showed great
happiness at seeing her.

The old farmer and his wife, who had now been settled some time in the
cottage, were delighted to meet her again. They kissed her
affectionately and assured her of the happiness of their new life.

"When you were without a home," said the farmer, with tears in his
eyes, "we received you and your father into our own, and now that we
are old and had no place that we could call our own, you give us this
charming cottage in which we might spend our declining years."

"Yes," said his wife, "it is always well to be generous and hospitable.
We never know how soon we shall receive it again."

"Well, well," said her husband, "I am glad we did not think of that
then. We took Mary and her father in without hope of reward. However,
the maxim is not the less true, 'Do good to others and you will always
find some one to do good to you.'"

When Mary entered the cottage, the sight of the place where her father
used to sit raised a host of sad but sweet recollections in her mind.
She walked round the garden and kissed every tree planted by his hand,
seeing in each an old acquaintance. The little apple tree which had
been their favourite, was just now covered with blossom, and before it
she stopped to meditate for a little on man's brief life, which fades
away before the tree which he has planted. In the arbour where she had
passed so many happy hours with her father, she rested a little, and
gave herself up to reflection. Looking around on the garden, which he
had cultivated so diligently by the sweat of his brow, she fancied that
she could still see him, and tears streamed from her eyes, when she
remembered that he had gone from her for ever. But one thought soothed
her heart and made her calm, the thought that he had gone to a better
world, and was now reaping the reward of his beautiful life.

As long as Mary lived she spent some weeks every spring at the Castle,
cherished and honoured by every one there, and endearing herself to the
people of the village, and particularly to the children, among whom she
was a great favourite. Her delight was to take them apart and to talk
to them of the Saviour, and she had the happiness of believing that
many of them under her instructions gave their hearts to God.

A monument had been erected to her father in fulfilment of a promise
which Amelia had made to Mary that evening when she found her sitting
on her father's grave. It was an elegant monument of white marble,
ornamented with an epitaph in gold letters. Besides the name of the
deceased, his age and occupation, nothing in the way of epitaph was
added but these words of Jesus--

        "I am the Resurrection and the Life:
    He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."

Underneath these words a beautiful basket of flowers had been cut from
a design drawn by Amelia herself. Underneath the basket was written--

    "_All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof as the
    flowers of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but
    the word of the Lord endureth for ever._"

The erection of this monument gave great satisfaction to the good old
minister of Erlenbrunn. The dark background of the fir trees threw the
monument into relief, and gave it a very beautiful appearance; and when
the rose tree planted by his grave was in bloom, and its branches
covered with roses bent over the marble, which was of dazzling
whiteness, the sight was a striking one. The humble old man's monument
was the most beautiful ornament of the rural churchyard, and the good
minister never allowed strangers to leave the church without taking
them to see it.

When some people observed that it was a good idea to have put a basket
of flowers on the tomb of a man who was at the same time a gardener and
a basket-maker, the old minister would say--

"But it is something better than a good idea. The basket of flowers tells
more than you know, and it is not without reason that our villagers look
upon it as the symbol of a touching story. The ground on which we tread
has been bathed with a daughter's tears."

Then he would pour into the attentive ears of strangers the familiar
story of the basket of flowers, concluding his recital with the
assurance which this whole story is intended to illustrate: That piety
towards God and truth towards men will never fail to triumph over the
malice of the worst of foes.

Let our readers who have followed this touching story be assured that
under all circumstances it is best to do as Mary did--walk in the fear
of God, love and obey their earthly parents, stand fast by the truth,
and under all circumstances trust fully in God. Thus they will live
happy and die with a sure prospect of eternal glory.


THE END



_Printed by_
MORRISON & GIBB LIMITED
_Edinburgh_





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