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´╗┐Title: Daybreak - A Story for Girls
Author: Sitwell, Florence Alice, 1858-1930
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 "Daybreak - A Story for Girls" ***

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DAYBREAK

A Story for Girls

by

FLORENCE A. SITWELL



[Frontispiece: "Little night-dresses rustled."]



London
S. W. Partridge & Co.
9 Paternoster Row.
1888



Contents.


CHAPTER

   I. LIFE IN THE ORPHANAGE
  II. THE FLIGHT
 III. IN THE HOSPITAL
  IV. IN A THIRD-CLASS CARRIAGE
   V. BY THE SEA
  VI. CHRISTMAS DAY



Illustrations.


"Little night-dresses rustled." . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

The Westminster clock tower.

St. Thomas' Hospital.

Kate and Frances.



DAYBREAK.


CHAPTER I.

LIFE IN THE ORPHANAGE.

Long before it was light, little feet were passing up and down those
great stone stairs, little voices whispered in the corridors, little
night-dresses rustled by the superintendent's door.  She did not think
of sleeping, for though the moon still hung in the sky, it was
Christmas morning--five o'clock on Christmas morning at the Orphanage;
and the little ones had everything their own way on Christmas Day.  So
she sat up in bed, with the candle lighted beside her, bending her head
over a book she held in her hand, and often smiling to herself as she
listened to the sounds that revealed the children's joy.  She was a
grey-headed woman, with a face that might have been stern if the lines
about the mouth had not been so gentle; a face, too, that was
care-worn, yet full of peace.  A tall night-cap surmounting her silvery
grey hair gave her a quaint, even laughable appearance; but the orphan
children reverenced the nightcap because they loved the head that,
night after night, bent over them as a mother's might have done.

She was reading Milton's "Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity," and
only laid the book aside as the little feet gathered outside her door,
and clear, passionless voices blended in a Christmas hymn.

Then the sounds died away again in the distance, and she was left to
follow in her thoughts.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Upstairs to the great dormitory the children crept; trying to be as
noiseless as the fairies who filled their Christmas stockings.  Maggie,
being the gentlest, led the way, and was trusted to open creaking
doors; the younger ones formed the centre of the little army, and
behind them all marched Jane, the trusted Jane, who, though she had
been one year only at the Orphanage, had won the confidence of all.
She was the daughter of honest, industrious, working people, and had
not the sad tendencies to slippery conduct which many of the little
ones possessed.  She was true in word and in deed; and no one could
measure the good of such an example amongst the children.

The full moonlight was shining in the dormitory on many a little empty
bed.  Who could resist a pillow-fight? The sub-matron was up already
trimming an extra beautiful bonnet to wear on this festive day.  Jane
remonstrated, but was met with a wrathful reminder that on Christmas
Day Mother Agnes let them do just what they liked, a great pillow was
hurled at poor Jane's head, and the fight began in real earnest.

Just when the excitement was at its highest pitch, a fierce cry rang
from the end of the room.  The game ceased suddenly, and the children
turned to see what had happened.  There was that odd little new-comer,
Kate Daniels, standing with hands clenched and dark eyes flashing, in
front of the last small bed.

"You wicked, rough girls," she said, "you have hurt my little sister.
I shall make you feel it!  I shall do something dreadful to you, Mary
Kitson.  I hate you!"

In their excitement the children had quite forgotten that the little
bed at the end of the dormitory had an occupant, a soft curly-headed
child of six, who slept soundly regardless of the noise, till that
awkward Mary tumbled over the bed and made her cry.  They understood it
all now, and Jane and Maggie moved up to the bed-side, hoping to soothe
the sisters with kind words.  But Kate stood in front of the bed
glaring at them.

"You treat us so because we are strangers," she said, "and I hate you
all.  I never wanted to come here--they made me come--and I shan't stay
if I can help it.  I shall run away, and take Frances."

Little Frances, meanwhile, clung crying to her sister, who went on
talking so wildly and passionately that Jane thought it better to make
a move to the lavatory with the younger children, and leave the new
girls for a time to themselves.

A great change passed over poor Kate's face when she and her sister
were once more alone together.  The passion left it, and was replaced
by a melancholy smile.  She sat down on the bed, took her little
sister's hand, and looked long into her face.

"Are you much hurt, darling?" she said, at length.

"Not so badly, but I made a great noise, didn't I!"

Kate did not answer, but wrapping a petticoat round the child, lifted
her out of bed.

"Now, Frances, darling, come with me to the window, and I will show you
the prettiest sight you ever saw, and we will forget all our troubles.
Look at the roofs with the snow on them, and the moon making such
strange, pale lights on the snow.  Look at the icicles--did you ever
see such lovely ones!  Look at the trees--every tiniest little branch
covered with frost!  Look at the pictures the frost has made upon the
window,--see, there are forests,--and oh, more wonderful things than I
could tell.

"Nobody loves you and me, Frances.  We've only got each other,--and I
hate everybody but you (you needn't do that though).  But I am glad
things are so pretty.  One might almost think that somebody had loved
you and me, and cared to make everything so pretty to please us!"
Kate's eyes softened as she said this,--she had beautiful eyes, large
and dark.  The rest of her face was plain: it showed much strength of
purpose, but little feeling.  Poor Kate! the furrows on her forehead,
the old, sad smile, so unlike a child's, and the bony hands, told of
much hard work, much care, and deep and painful anxieties in the past.
She was sitting on the window ledge, half supporting little Frances in
her arms.  It was no new attitude to Kate.  Her figure was stunted and
slightly bent from the efforts she had made years ago to carry her
little sister about; but the weight of little Frances had rested upon
her in another way also, and it was perhaps owing to her brave efforts
to shield the child from evil and from grief that the contrast in
appearance was so marked between the two sisters.  Frances with her
soft little pink and white face, her solemn eyes, and smiling mouth,
and without a hard line anywhere, looked as if life had smiled upon her.

All through the day the little strangers kept close together, and took
very little notice of what went on around them.  They ate their
Christmas dinner in solemn silence, and declined to join in the games.
Mother Agnes was disappointed, for her whole heart was bound up in her
children's happiness; and least of all she could bear to see sad faces
on Christmas Day.  She watched Kate with much interest, but could not
wholly understand her.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Before many months had passed, a curious transformation came over Kate.
She became the recognised leader of the children.  Mother Agnes saw
with despair Jane's influence waning before that of this strange new
girl.  Jane was so safe, so true, so dependable; and Kate, well, who
could trust Kate, with her odd ways of going on?  Sometimes she would
keep the younger ones awake half the night telling them the wildest of
tales.  She had laws of her own for the play-hours, and a secret system
of rewards and punishments.  But, worst of all, she was not
straightforward.  Mother Agnes, with her true, honest nature, was cut
to the heart to find that Kate could act a part, and did not scruple to
do so, to shield herself and her little sister from punishment.

Kate was popular now, and yet no one loved her, and she loved no one
except little Frances.  She never thought any trouble too great to be
taken for her little sister.  If any one said a rough word to Frances,
Kate contrived to punish the offender in a way that was not easily
forgotten.  She helped Frances with her lessons; shielded her from
blame; dressed dolls for her through whole long summer afternoons; told
her stories that aimed vaguely at having a good moral; answered her
childish questions with infinite patience.

The summer and autumn passed, and Christmas came and went; and after
Christmas an event happened, the memory of which no lapse of years
could ever efface from poor Kate's mind.  A certain morning dawned,
just like other mornings, bright and cold; lessons, house-work and play
went on as usual, only, as the day was drawing to its close, some men
came to the door, carrying a little prostrate figure; and Kate was
standing in the doorway, and saw it all--saw her poor Frances lying
unconscious in the men's arms, her head terribly bruised, and her
pretty, fair curls all tossed over a deathly white face.

She was fond of clambering about by herself, and had slipped from the
roof of a little outhouse, and fallen on her head.

She was put to bed in the sick ward, and the doctor sent for.  For
three days and three nights Mother Agnes and Kate watched beside her;
on the fourth day the doctor told them that he could do no more.
Frances wandered much through those last days, talking confusedly of
green fields, and birds singing, and of flowers.  Sometimes she would
sing little snatches of the hymns they learnt in school; and she often
spoke--as little dying children do speak of Christ.  Mother Agnes'
tenderness to poor Kate almost exceeded her tenderness to the dying
child, but Kate made no response to it.  She answered in monosyllables,
and hung down her head with its mass of bushy hair, and dark eyes
gleaming strangely under her overhanging brow.

All was over very soon, and Kate was left with a memory, and with a
tiny little grave to tend.

Mother Agnes felt for her out of the depths of a womanly heart, but
Kate either could not, or would not speak of her sorrow to any living
being.

She gave up all her odd ways, and became quiet, and very gentle; and as
months passed on Mother Agnes began to think that Kate had really
improved in character.  She showed signs of talent in so many
directions that the Mother thought of training her for a
schoolmistress, and took real delight in planning for the child's
future, except when now and then some curious little trait of character
would raise an uncomfortable feeling which could not be dispelled.



CHAPTER II.

THE FLIGHT.

A confirmation was to be held during the spring in the neighbouring
village; and the clergyman who prepared the Orphanage children looked
upon Kate as a most promising candidate; she was gentle, and attentive,
and wrote her papers with so much care.

The Confirmation day dawned as sweetly and as brightly as a
Confirmation day should do.  The birds were singing their hearts out in
the Orphanage garden; primroses and wallflowers were blooming in every
corner; the apple-trees were in festive array, and little pink and
white petals floated on the breeze, and came in at the open windows.

Then a troop of little girls in grey dresses with white caps assembled,
prayer-book in hand, at the door, waiting for Mother Agnes.

What could keep Mother Agnes so long?  The bells have been ringing for
nearly half-an-hour, and they would certainly be late!  No, here she
comes, but with a very grave face--much too grave--and oh, where is
Kate?

"Children, we must start," said the Mother sternly, "Kate is not
coming."  Naturally the children wondered, and questioned amongst
themselves what had happened, but they little suspected the real facts.
Mother Agnes had gone to look for Kate in the dormitory, feeling that
she should like to take the child's hand in hers, and say something to
comfort and to strengthen her.  But Kate was not in the dormitory.  Her
grey Sunday dress lay, neatly folded on the bed, the Confirmation cap
arranged on the top of it, and by its side a note, addressed in a bold,
round hand to Mother Agnes.

What on earth could this mean?  Mother Agnes stared at the dress,
fingered the note, and then unfastened it with a hand that trembled a
little.  The contents were these--


"DEAR MOTHER AGNES,--You have been good to me, so I will tell you that
I am leaving, and not going to come back any more.  And it is not
because I do not like you, for I do, though I have never loved any one
but Frances; but I cannot stay in this place any more.  Oh! you do not
know what the pain is that I bear.  When the birds sing, I seem to hear
Frances' voice singing with them as she did last spring, and I see her
running amongst the flower-beds, and I cannot look at the apple-tree
without seeing her little fair face peeping at me from between the
blossoms.  Perhaps you will not care whether I go or stay, but I hope
you will not mind about me, for I shall go to London to find a place.
There's many younger than me in places already.  But if I do not find a
place, perhaps I will drown myself in the river, for I am sick of life,
and I hope you will not think about me, or mind.----KATE DANIELS."


Mother Agnes' face grew very white as she read this letter--but no time
was to be lost--she sat down and wrote a little note giving information
to the police, and sent it by a servant; and then she went downstairs
to join the waiting children.  She tried to comfort herself by thinking
that Kate could not have got very far in so short a time.  At the most
she could only have been gone an hour, and surely she would be quickly
found?  And yet, strange misgivings took possession of Mother Agnes'
mind.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Ten days later, a tall woman dressed in black was hastening at early
dawn along the Thames embankment, near Westminster.  Mother Agnes
scarcely knew herself, her heart seemed bursting.

It was the old story of the one lost sheep becoming all in all to the
shepherd.  The days had seemed months since poor Kate was missed, and
this first news of a girl who might possibly turn out to be Kate, had
made Mother Agnes hurry up to town by the night train, quite forgetting
that she could not disturb St. Thomas' Hospital with inquiries at such
an early hour.  So she paced feverishly up and down by the river-side,
thinking.  It did seem just what she could imagine Kate doing, rushing
across the road to save a little child about the age of Frances from
being run over, and both children, whoever they might be, were knocked
down by the passing omnibus.  They were much injured, and were
accordingly carried to St. Thomas' Hospital.  The younger child was
soon identified through her own statements, but the elder one remained
long unconscious.  Her dress was very ragged, but her underclothing
bore the stamp of some institution.

Mother Agnes went over in her mind every word of the short report she
had received, again and again.

How strange London looked at this early hour!  She scarcely knew it in
the dim grey light, with hardly a sound in the streets, and there
floated into her mind lines of Wordsworth's, written from this very
spot at this very hour, three-quarters of a century ago--

  "Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
    The river glideth at his own sweet will:
  Dear God! the very houses seem asleep,
    And all that mighty heart is lying still!"


But was it all so still?  What of the sick in the hospitals,
constrained to watch and bear the world's burdens through the long
hours of darkness.  Oh, if she could only pierce those great walls and
stand by the bed-side of the poor girl of whom her thoughts were now so
full!

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Even the children's ward in St. Thomas' Hospital looked strange and
un-home-like in that dim grey light.  It was nearly silent too, except
for occasional little moans, coming from little beds.  But from one bed
there came something besides a moan: a childish voice half whispered
the word "Kate."

"Yes, dear," came from the next bed, in a low voice, "what is it?"

"Do you feel better, dear Kate? and would my doll help you to bear the
pain?"

Kate smiled gently.  "I do feel a little better; and I am getting
rather big for a doll.  But tell me, what is your name, dear?  What am
I to call you?"

"My name is Frances," said the little girl.

Kate shuddered, and tried to turn her head away.

"Is anything the matter?" asked the little voice, as Kate did not speak.

"No, nothing," said poor Kate, not very truthfully--and then to change
the subject--"Where are your people?  Where do you live?"

"I have five, up in heaven, waiting for me," said Frances slowly, "and
I live with my aunt.  She keeps a baker's shop, and when I am not at
school, I clean the floors, and mind the little ones, and I go to bed
when the baby does, to keep her quiet.  And when the stars come out, I
lie there, thinking of my father and our own little ones, and thinking
of Jesus Christ, thinking,--thinking,--longing to see His face."

The great voice of the great Westminster clock at this moment told the
hour.  How solemn it sounded in the stillness; even more solemn than
when it speaks out above the roar of London life in the day-time.

[Illustration: The Westminster clock tower.]

"I am going to sleep again now," said the little child.  "Good-night,
dear Kate; God bless you, and mind you wake me if the pain is bad."



CHAPTER III.

IN THE HOSPITAL.

At last Mother Agnes stood by Kate's bed side.  How pale the poor girl
looked and her dark eyes seemed to have grown larger and more pathetic
than they used to be.  A real gleam of pleasure passed over her face as
her eyes rested on Mother Agnes.

"You are good to come to me," said Kate.  "I did not think you would
have cared.  How did you know I was here?"

"Because, dear child, I took every possible pains to find out what had
become of you; and heard of you at last."

"I was afraid you would send the police after me," said Kate, "and that
is why I did not take the straight road to London, but went a long way
round."

"Then what did you do for food and shelter all that time?"

"I had a shilling of my own," said Kate in a weary voice, "and that
lasted me in bread for some days.  And at nights I slept in barns and
outhouses, and once under the open sky.  But when I got near London, I
was so weak for want of food that I thought I should have died; and I
lay down by the roadside, and could not get any farther.  And then some
poor men who were tramping the country for work passed that way, and
they took pity on me, and gave me some broken meat they had with them,
and something out of a bottle,--it may have been brandy for aught I
know,--but it set me on my feet again, and so I got to London.

"And I tried to think of any one I knew there.  I did not dare to go
near our district lady who sent me to the Orphanage, for fear she
should send me back.  And I thought of old Sally Blackburn, who used to
live next door to us in Westminster, and made a living with buying and
selling cast-off clothing and she was good to us,--and when father came
in very drunk, she would take us children into her little place to be
out of the way.  So I hunted her up; and then, Mother Agnes, I did a
very wrong thing.  She is old and stupid, and very poor, and I could
not take food and lodging with her for nothing,--so I gave her my
Orphanage dress.  She was pleased with it, and said it was worth quite
ten shillings, and gave me a ragged old dress in exchange,--and
something to buy a bit of print with to run up a dress for going out in
the mornings to look for a place.  And oh, ma'am, it was such a
wretched, dismal, dark place she lived in; I didn't know how to abide
it after the Orphanage; and yet I wouldn't have gone back for worlds."

She sighed deeply as she said this.  Mother Agnes tried to turn her
thoughts away by talking cheerfully on other subjects for a time, and
made Kate tell all she knew of the little girl in the next bed.

"I shall come up again to town in a day or two, to see you," Mother
Agnes said.

"Will you?" said Kate.  "Thank you.  I did not think you would have
cared."

"I do care for you," said Mother Agnes, with her eyes full of tears;
"but Kate, there is someone who cares more."

"I don't believe He cares," said Kate sadly.  "I don't see why He
should care for me.  I know it's all in the Bible; but that was written
many hundred years ago.  Please forgive me, ma'am, for speaking so.  I
don't wish to be rude, but I really can't believe it."

Just at that moment the patients' tea was carried in, so that no
further talk was possible.  Mother Agnes, with an aching heart, said
good-bye to Kate, and hurried off to catch her train.

Next day there was a consultation, for Kate was not doing well; and the
doctors broke to her the news that she would have to lose her leg.  It
did not seem to distress her in the least.  She took it quite quietly;
but a passion of sobs broke from the next little bed.

"O doctor! doctor!" said a child's voice; "don't go and hurt dear Kate
so."

"Don't be frightened about it," said Kate.  "I shall be moved into
another room, and you will know nothing about it till it is all over."

"I am not frightened," said the child; "but oh, sirs, if somebody's leg
must be cut off, please, please let it be my leg instead of Kate's."
Frances in her eagerness had forgotten her own pain; and had raised
herself in bed, and stretched out her arm towards the doctors.

The elder of the two men came toward her, and bent over her.  "My dear
child," he said, "you are doing very well; there is no need to cut off
your leg.  And try not to distress yourself about your friend, for only
what is wisest and best is being done for her."

"I will try and be good, and not mind so much, please sir," said
Frances; and then she hid her face in the pillow, and tried to choke
down her sobs.

The doctors moved away at last, and Kate turned a pair of wondering
eyes upon Frances as she said:

"What made you wish to lose your leg instead?"

"Only Kate, because I love you more than I could tell any one.  And if
you must lose your leg, please God, I will comfort you for it as much
as ever I can."

"Thank you, dear," said Kate, very much touched,--and after that she
relapsed into silence.

Easter fell very late that year.  Good Friday was kept in the hospital
after Kate had lost her leg.  There was a service in the ward, and
moreover, the nurse came and sat by Kate's side, and read to her the
fifty-third chapter of Isaiah.

"She doesn't seem to take much notice of reading," the nurse said later
to Mother Agnes, who had come up again to see Kate.  They little knew
that it was the first "notice" that Kate had ever taken of anything in
the Bible.

Kate would not talk to-day to Mother Agnes.  She answered gently, but
shortly, and could not be drawn into conversation.  One of her old fits
of reserve seemed to have taken hold of her.

Mother Agnes was going away, deeply disappointed, when the nurse told
her the story of little Frances wishing to lose her leg for Kate's
sake.  And also, how the children had grown to love each other; and
what a dear child Frances was, and how she talked to Kate of everything
that is good.

And then Mother Agnes was comforted, for she saw that all she had to do
was to stand aside, and let a little child do the work.  And as she
walked along the Thames Embankment in the glory of the setting sun, it
came into her mind how Christ had taken all that was sweetest on earth,
the love and trust of little children, the love of the father for the
child, of the shepherd for the sheep, and made earthly love the
stepping-stone to raise us into the thought of the possibility of that
greater Love outside ourselves.

[Illustration: St. Thomas' Hospital.]

The next time she came to the hospital, Kate had much to ask her about
the Orphanage.  They talked pleasantly for a short time; and then,
after a pause Kate said: "Mother Agnes, something is frightening me."

"What is it, Kate?"

Another pause--so long that it seemed as if Kate did not mean to speak
again--and then she said: "The love of God frightens me."

"But, Kate, _that_ was meant to be the greatest joy and comfort of our
lives."

"It is always there," said Kate, earnestly, "burning into me so that I
cannot forget it.  It is much worse to bear than the pain.  Indeed, I
cannot bear it, it is almost intolerable.  Night and day, I can never,
never forget it.  And oh, Mother Agnes, if I had killed my own little
Frances, it would not have given me the trouble it does to think of the
things I have done against Jesus Christ."

Kate's words, her face, and her whole manner awed Mother Agnes so much
that she could not speak for some moments.  And then she talked to Kate
for long--gently and tenderly and more plainly than she had ever done
before.  Kate said good-bye to her with eyes that were full of tears.

That night, before she went to sleep, Frances said:

"Kate, does what you spoke of still burn into you?"

Kate was startled, for she did not think that Frances had heard the
half-whispered conversation.

"Yes," she said, "it is there just the same.  I can scarcely bear it!
What can I do?"

"I don't know what you can do," said Frances, "except that you are
bound to speak to Him about it."

Kate turned on her pillow with a half sob, and said no more.



CHAPTER IV.

IN A THIRD-CLASS CARRIAGE.

"Kate--I can't sing any more--I'm just tired out with happiness."

"Cuddle up against me, darling, and try and go to sleep then."

"Then, dear Kate," said Frances, earnestly, "will you _promise_ to tell
me all about the next stations, and the green fields, and the sheep,
and the cows, and the people hay-making, and the dear little white
houses.  And I will dream about the sea.  Oh, I am so glad that you and
I are going to the sea."

So the little head with its mass of golden brown hair found a
resting-place on Kate's shoulder, and silence reigned for a time.  And
Kate, her arm round the sleeping child, watched those green fields
flooded with summer sunlight with thoughts so new and strange that
often the tears would come into her eyes.  She could not quite
understand this new life yet, but somehow, since the day when the
fast-closed door was unlocked, and the Friend admitted, she had found
all her old restlessness and her hard thoughts of life vanish, and deep
peace and love had come in their place.

"Is it a station?" said a little dreamy voice at length, and the brown
head moved uneasily.  "Please tell me when there's something to be seen
besides 'Colman's Mustard.'"

"There _is_ something!" cried Kate, breathlessly, "there is, Oh,
Frances, such a beautiful face!"

Little Frances was on her feet in a moment, and rushed to the farther
window.  Before the train had quite stopped, her head was such a long
way out that an old German from the next window shouted to her, "If you
do not take care, Miss, some fine morning you vill get up vidout your
head."

"I see her," said Frances, turning round to Kate, "all in grey, with a
very, very large bunch of roses in her hands.  Now she is talking to
three big brothers.  Now the big brothers are carrying all her things;
books, and a bag, and a basket, and a cloak, and a parasol, and a funny
stick with wires in it."

"Lawn-tennis racket," suggested Kate, who knew country ways.

"There is a funny old woman with a hook nose walking with them, and now
the big brothers are laughing and talking to her."

"Maybe she's the old nurse," remarked Kate.

"They are coming our way; oh, do you think she will get into our
carriage?"

"No, she'll travel first-class," said Kate, with a little sigh.

"No, no, I can hear them speak of travelling third.  Kate, put your old
hat straight on your head.  Tie my blue tie--quick, please!"

The arrangements were scarcely completed when a young man's face
appeared at the window, and soon after they heard a voice: "I say,
Violet, if you really mean to travel third, you and Nanny had better
get in there.  There's only a poor girl with crutches and one other
child."

"All right, Dick; help Nanny up first, and give her a corner seat with
my cloak behind her.  Now Nanny, darling, lean on his arm."

"Put Nanny facing the engine, or she'll think she's going the wrong
way," shouted another voice, and a peal of laughter followed..  The old
woman after some difficulty was safely landed inside the carriage.  The
brothers, carrying the things, followed.  Violet with her great bunch
of roses came last.

It was quite new to poor Kate to hear brothers and sisters laughing and
joking together.  She could not half understand the little jokes that
passed, but she liked to listen.  The musical voices and the ringing
laughter seemed to do her good.

And Violet all the time was conscious of a great pair of wistful eyes
fixed on hers.  As soon as the final good-bye to the brothers had been
said, and the train was really off, she whispered something to Nanny,
and began unfastening her bunch of roses.  Nanny, meanwhile, bent
forward towards Kate: "You've been ill, my dears," she said.

"We've both been run over," said Kate.

"Eh, dearie me, now! to think of that!" said the old woman,
sympathisingly.  "And you were hurt a great deal, I daresay."

"I lost my leg," said Kate.

"Well, now, I can feel for you there,--not as I ever lost one of mine,
as is as good as ever,--but I as good as lost one in Mr. Fred.  You
remember, Miss Violet, my dear, that summer when he fell from the apple
tree, and the doctor said as he'd never seen such a leg.  Dearie me,
what a sight of trouble we had with him to be sure!"

Violet had risen from her seat, and came towards the two poor girls.

"I want you to let me pin some of these roses in your dresses," she
said, brightly.  "They are so sweet.  Do you care for flowers?"

"I do.  Thank you, Miss, very much."  Kate lifted her head, and for a
moment the two girls looked each other full in the face.  Such a
contrast they were!  Violet all glowing with life and happiness and
beauty; and Kate with her old, sad face, and pathetic, dark eyes.

"Nanny, dear," said Violet, turning to the old nurse; "don't you think
my other cloak would make quite a nice soft cushion?  Do reach it
over," and in one moment more poor Kate, who, truth to say, was getting
very weary with her journey, found something that she could lean her
tired back against with comfort.

Violet went back to her seat, and for some little time sat still, with
a book in her hand but her eyes kept wandering off to the two poor
girls in the farther corner.  After old Nanny had fallen asleep, Violet
at length came and sat next the girls.

"Do you mind my asking,--are you sisters?" she asked, in her soft voice.

"No, Miss," said Kate.  "It pleased God to take my little sister.  And
this is a little girl He sent me instead, when my heart was pretty nigh
broken."

"You've had great trouble," said Violet.

"It's not so long ago that I was near drowning myself," said Kate.

A look of great compassion came into Violet's face as these words were
said.  She only answered quietly: "Shall I tell you a true story?  A
lady one evening who was walking over a bridge in London, saw a poor
man leaning over a parapet, and he had such a sad look in his face that
she felt sure he meant to drown himself.  She didn't like to speak to
him; but, as she passed by, she said these words out loud, 'There is a
river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God.'  And long
after they met, and he recognised her and said, 'You saved my life,'
and told her that that night he had had the fullest intention of
drowning himself.  I think her words had made him suddenly remember
another city besides London, and another river besides the dark, gloomy
Thames rolling away beneath his feet."

She waited a moment to see if Kate had taken in the little story, and
what effect it was having upon her.  Kate's head was bent down, and she
had fast hold of little Frances' hand.

"Like enough the city and the river made him think of Christ," she
said.  "I couldn't drown myself now, Miss,--not if it was ever so,--for
His sake I couldn't.  And if I had to be miserable all the rest of my
life, it seems to me it would be worth while to have lived to have
known the love of Christ even for five minutes."

"And it isn't only for five minutes," said Violet, in a low voice, her
eyes glowing, "but for ever and for ever.  This is only the beginning."

They were silent for some moments, and then Violet's gentle questions
called out much of the history of Kate's sad life.  They were learning
from each other, those two girls.  Kate learned what sympathy may do,
and a deep desire to minister to others sprang up within her.  Violet
learned how dull and sad and surrounded with dangers the lives of many
girls in our great cities are, and the knowledge gave rise to new
prayers and plans and work in her future life.

A cathedral town came in sight.  Violet, starting up, woke old Nanny,
and then began quickly putting together books and cloaks.  Only a few
minutes more, and she was standing with outstretched hand at the door
of the railway carriage.

"Good-bye, good-bye," she said.  "Do write and tell me how you and
little Frances like the sea-side.  I hope it will do you good," and she
was gone.  Kate and Frances watched with eager eyes till the tall
graceful figure of the girl and the bent figure of the old woman were
lost to sight in the crowded station.

"Do you think we shall ever see her again?" said little Frances.

"Perhaps," said Kate, "we shall have to wait till we reach the Golden
City."



CHAPTER V.

BY THE SEA.

Two little girls were lying out, in two long chairs, by the sea-shore.
The younger one was knitting, and, as she knitted, talking and
laughing, and often looking up to rest her eyes lovingly on the sea.
Her lap was covered with shells and sea-weed, brought to her by some
pale-faced fellow-patients who were wandering about the shore.

Mother Agnes had sent both Kate and Frances to a Convalescent Home by
the sea, and their delight over this their first sea-side visit was
untold.  From early morning, when they woke to find themselves in a
pink room, in beds with white dimity curtains printed with pink
rose-buds, and the smell of the sea coming in at the open window, till
the last light had faded away in the long summer evenings, their days
were one continued dream of delight.

Kate's face was growing sunburnt and warm in colouring.  Her eyes had a
soft, surprised look in them, as if she were suddenly waking up to a
whole world of unsuspected wonders in heaven and on earth.  There was a
gladness about her, like the gladness of a little child who has been
turned out of a dull, close room into a field of cowslips.  She and
Frances never tired of each other's company; and Kate, for the first
time in her life, was guilty of laughing and talking nonsense from
sheer lightheartedness.

And so the days sped by, till Kate began to have a sort of wish to see
the Orphanage again, and a feeling that after all the pain might be
conquered, and life there be brightest and best.

And, oddly enough, as she and Frances were talking about it one
morning, who should make her appearance but Mother Agnes herself, who
spoke about Kate's return as if it had been all settled long ago; and
then told Frances to her great surprise that she too was to become an
inmate of the Orphanage.  The poor aunt had had losses, the little shop
was given up, and she could no longer provide for Frances, and had
entreated Mother Agnes to get the child admitted.  And Frances' great
love for Kate helped her over the trouble of changing her old home for
a new one.

When the two invalids arrived at the Orphanage, they found a great
"Welcome" arranged in daisies over the door.  Kate was feasted like the
prodigal son on his return, and no one thought of reproaching her for
having run away.  And Kate returned the love and kindness she met with
fully and joyously, for now she had entered into that mysterious rest
and sweetness existing somewhere at the heart of things, of which so
much is written, but which so few set themselves with earnest purpose
to find.

It was a surprise to every one, except perhaps to Mother Agnes, who
understood the girl's mind, when Kate began to write little poems, and
to receive sundry little sums of money from different magazines for
them.  Kate's first wish, of course, was to give back the value of the
Orphanage dress in which she had run away; and then Mother Agnes
started a money-box, into which all the earnings were put in the hope
that some day enough would be found in it to buy Kate a cork leg.
"That day, Kate," said she, "may yet be a long way off.  But,
meanwhile, dear child, you will remain here, and complete your
education, and by-and-by I hope we shall see you mistress of a village
school."

The money-box was placed in the Orphanage schoolroom, and the children
dropped their pennies in, and sometimes strangers who came to visit the
Orphanage were told how Kate had lost her leg, and added something to
the fund.  And, in course of time, the box got so full that Mother
Agnes, for prudence sake, would carry it to her own room to lock it up
at night.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Another frosty Christmas, but it was night now, and all the glories of
a starlit sky could be seen from the corridor window, on the broad
ledge of which Kate and Frances sat.  The years that had passed had
changed them much.  Kate had a quiet power about her that could be more
felt than expressed in words.  Her face, quaint and clever, was lighted
up by a singularly sweet smile; and nothing reminded one of the old
Kate except the large, pathetic eyes.  She was Mother Agnes's right
hand with the little ones.  Her way of managing them was so winning
that she seldom or never caused vexation; and she brought sympathy,
imagination, and judgment to bear in her work amongst them.

Frances had grown very pretty; she had golden brown hair, and blue eyes
that were always laughing; and her face was not only beautiful in form
and colour, but sensitive and refined.  She had quite recovered her
accident; was fleet of foot as a little hare, and full of health and
spirits.  Frances was always laughing, and it was a laugh so utterly
joyous and free from care, that it seemed to have no place in this
weary, hard-working, grasping, eager, restless nineteenth century, but
to belong to some early age, before the world had lost its freshness,
or better still, to be an earnest, with all that is good and true, of
the "Restoration of all things."

[Illustration: Kate and Frances.]

She was leaning her head against Kate's shoulder, and talking eagerly.

"And then, dear Kate, as you have made up your mind to be a
schoolmistress in Westminster, and to teach those poor little sickly
children whom no one seems to care for, I have made up my mind to be an
hospital nurse, and Mother Agnes has given her consent; and oh Kate,
every spare minute they give me shall be spent with you.  And you will
have some dear little sitting-room looking on the river, I know.  And
there we shall sit together, and watch the rush of life on the river;
and talk of a hundred things--of your school children and my patients,
and the beautiful things that happen to us, and the comic ones.  And,
as we are talking, Mother Agnes will perhaps come in for a cup of tea
(having come up to town on some errand), and you will give her the
nicest tea possible, and then we three will sit there still when it is
dark, and talk of everything in heaven and on earth.  And when the
girls from here are put out to places in London, they will come and see
you, and have tea with you in your little sitting-room."

Voices and rushings of feet were heard on the stairs.

"Kate! where is Kate?"

"Kate, you are wanted in the schoolroom!"

"O Kate, here you are!  Now, guess what has come for you from London!"

Little hands seized hold of Kate, and the children's eagerness was so
great that she was obliged to remind them that she had only a wooden
leg, and couldn't get downstairs quickly.

"Kate, we can't keep it back, we must tell you!  It is your cork leg
arrived.  Mother Agnes has given the last five pounds herself, and
ordered the leg to be here by Christmas."

But when Kate was introduced to her new member, with injunctions to
treat it with due respect, she was quite overcome.  She leaned against
the wall and sobbed.  She had never cried when she lost her leg; and it
was only the love and kindness shown her that made her cry now.  But
the tears were only for a moment,--and they were followed by a great
rush of gladness.

The little ones would not be satisfied without helping Kate upstairs
and to bed that night, and placing the cork leg in a prominent position
in the room, "so that you will be quite sure to see it, Kate, as soon
as you wake up on Christmas morning."



CHAPTER VI.

CHRISTMAS DAY.

"Why, my dear old Kate, you're only half awake yet, and the little ones
have been up for hours already, and Christmas Day has broken upon the
world once more.  There; give me a kiss, and wish me a merry Christmas
in a proper manner."

"Another Christmas," said Kate, half dreamily, raising herself in bed.
"Frances, what are you doing?"

"Finishing a frock for poor Aunt's youngest; but oh, Kate, I have been
watching the dawn too, such a lovely dawn; I shall never forget it.
There, lean your head against me while I tell you about it.  The light
came creeping, creeping up, so slowly, and so shyly.  Then suddenly the
clouds parted, and a burst of glory came, making the dull snow, and
even the icicles look warm in the red light.  And was it stupid, do you
think?  I couldn't help thinking of you and the little children in
Westminster, and how you would watch the sunshine coming into so many
little desolate lives."

Frances stopped suddenly, and neither spoke for some moments.  Her big
blue eyes were resting on the snow scene outside.  A vision crossed
Kate's mind of two little girls watching that same scene many years
ago, in the cold moonlight with sorrowful hearts.  She thought she knew
well what Frances meant about sunshine coming into a desolate life.

"Dear old Kate, how tired you will get sometimes with teaching those
poor little things, who are sure to be tiresome and naughty.  But then,
you know, it will be all work for Him, and so of course you will be
quite glad to be tired.  And then He will not let you bear one tired
feeling alone.  It will be like those verses in your favourite poem:--

  "But this it was that made me move,
    As light as carrier-birds in air;
    I loved the weight I had to bear,
  Because it needed help of Love.

  Nor could I weary, heart or limb,
    When mighty Love would cleave in twain,
    The lading of a single pain,
  And part it, giving half to Him."


"O Kate, what a life!  And then to think that all these little dawnings
we see in people's lives are only pictures of the great dawn coming,
when all things will be made new.  Kate, doesn't it make you
unutterably glad?"

"Indeed, it does, Frances.  And, please God, you and I will take our
places side by side in the great army of watchers and workers."

      *      *      *      *      *      *

One glimpse more into the lives of two happy women.  Only a few years
later, and Frances had a love-story and a wedding.  The story began in
a summer holiday in the country, where she, not being very strong at
the time, had gone for rest and change.  He was the village doctor, and
he first met her sitting by the bed-side of one of his poor patients,
and her bright face haunted him.  They met again in the Sunday school;
and again at a great open-air parish tea, where Frances sat next him.
She pitied him for being shy, and tried gently to draw him into talking
about himself and his work; and her quick sympathy soon discovered a
large intellect and large heart behind an uncouth manner.  And then
each found that the other was working out of love to an unseen Lord,
and watching for the Daybreak, and the interest in each other deepened.

They met again often during those bright summer days; and when the time
came for Frances to go back to her work in London, the doctor found
that he could not let her go without first asking her to become his
wife; and she found that she could not refuse.  And now the doctor's
little wife trots with him over the snow, wherever he goes, carrying
sunshine into poor cottages, and often things more substantial than
sunshine, and more likely to be understood by hungry people.  All his
patients are her patients; and, with her nurse's experience, she is
able to show them how to carry out his orders.

She rejoices in showing kindnesses to the poor Aunt who once gave her a
home.  To Kate she writes that the country is looking lovely, and Kate
must make haste to come and spend Christmas in the happiest home in
England.

And Kate herself?  In some corner of the great world she still works,
with patience and tenderest sympathy, amongst uncared-for children.
She has seen the first rays of light come into many a sad little life.
And together she and the children watch "until the Day break and the
shadows flee away."





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