Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Bessie and Her Friends
Author: Mathews, Joanna H. (Joanna Hooe)
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 "Bessie and Her Friends" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



generously made available by Internet Archive (https://archive.org)



      Images of the original pages are available through
      Internet Archive. See
      https://archive.org/details/bessieherfriends00math



BESSIE AND HER FRIENDS


      *      *      *      *      *      *

_BOOKS BY JOANNA H. MATHEWS._


I. THE BESSIE BOOKS.

6 vols. In a box. $7.50.

II. THE FLOWERETS.

A SERIES OF STORIES ON THE COMMANDMENTS.

6 vols. In a box. $3.60.

III. LITTLE SUNBEAMS.

6 vols. In a box. $6.00.

IV. KITTY AND LULU BOOKS.

6 vols. In a box. $6.00.

V. MISS ASHTON'S GIRLS.

6 vols. In a neat box. $7.50.

VI. HAPS AND MISHAPS.

6 vols. $7.50.


_BY JULIA A. MATHEWS._

I. DARE TO DO RIGHT SERIES.

5 vols. In a box. $5.50.

II. DRAYTON HALL STORIES.

Illustrative of the Beatitudes. 6 vols. In a box. $4.50.

III. THE GOLDEN LADDER SERIES.

Stories illustrative of the Lord's Prayer. 6 vols. $3.00.


ROBERT CARTER AND BROTHERS,

_New York_.

      *      *      *      *      *      *


[Illustration: Bessie's Friends. FRONTIS.]

[Illustration: Decoration]


BESSIE AND HER FRIENDS.

by

JOANNA H. MATHEWS,

Author of "Bessie at the Seaside," "Bessie in the City," &c.


   "_Speak not evil one of another._"

   "_Bear ye one another's burdens._"



New York:
Robert Carter & Brothers,
530 Broadway.

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by
Robert Carter and Brothers,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court
of the United States for the
Southern District of New York.



To

_MY SISTER BELLA_,

WHOSE LOVING CONSIDERATION

_Has lightened the "burden" of many an otherwise weary hour_.



_CONTENTS._


      PAGE

      _I. Jennie's Home_                          7

     _II. The Police-Sergeant's Story_           30

    _III. Little Pitchers_                       48

     _IV. Papa's Story_                          64

      _V. Light through the Clouds_              95

     _VI. Uncle Ruthven_                        117

    _VII. An Unexpected Visitor_                143

   _VIII. Franky_                               167

     _IX. Bear ye One Another's Burdens_        181

      _X. Two Surprises_                        200

     _XI. Blind Willie_                         224

    _XII. Maggie's Book_                        241

   _XIII. Disappointment_                       269

    _XIV. Aunt Patty_                           294

    _XV. Willie's Visit_                        314

   _XVI. Willie's Recovery_                     336



[Illustration: Beginning of book]



_BESSIE AND HER FRIENDS_.



I.

_JENNIE'S HOME._


"Morher," said little Jennie Richards, "isn't it 'most time for farher
to be home?"

"Almost time, Jennie," answered Mrs. Richards, looking up from the face
of the baby upon her lap to the clock upon the mantel-piece. A very
pale, tiny face it was; so tiny that Sergeant Richards used to say he
had to look twice to be sure there was any face there; and that of the
mother which bent above it was almost as pale,--sick, anxious, and
worn; but it brightened, as she answered Jennie. "It is five minutes
before six; he will be here very soon now."

Away ran Jennie to the corner, where stood a cane-seated rocking-chair,
and after a good deal of pushing and pulling, succeeded in drawing it
up in front of the stove; then to a closet, from which she brought a
pair of carpet slippers, which were placed before the chair.

"I wish I was big enough to reach farher's coat and put it over his
chair, like you used to, morher."

"That will come by and by, Jennie."

"But long before I am so big, you'll be quite well, morher."

"I hope so, dear, if God pleases. It's a long, long while to sit here
helpless, able to do nothing but tend poor baby, and see my dear little
daughter at the work her mother ought to do."

"Oh, morher, just as if I did not like to work! I don't like 'e reason
why I have to do it, but it's right nice to work for you and farher.
And I wouldn't like to be lazy, so I hope I will always have plenty to
do."

"Dear child," said Mrs. Richards, with a sigh, "you're like enough to
see that wish granted."

"'At's good," said Jennie, cheerfully, taking her mother's words in
quite a different spirit from that in which they were spoken; "it's so
nice to be busy."

And indeed it would appear that this small maiden--small even for her
six years--did think so; for as she talked she was trotting about the
room, busying herself with arranging half a dozen trifles, which her
quick eye spied out, and which, according to her way of thinking,
were not just in proper order. First, the hearth, on which no spot
or speck was to be seen, must be brushed up anew; next, the corner
of the table-cloth was to be twitched into place, and a knife laid
more exactly into straight line; then a ball, belonging to one of the
younger children, was picked up and put in the toy-basket, with the
reminder to little Tommy that father was coming, and the room must be
kept in good order. One would have thought it was already as neat as
hands could make it. Plain enough it was, certainly, but thoroughly
comfortable. The carpet, though somewhat worn, and pieced in more than
one place, was well swept and tidy, and the stove and the kettle which
sang merrily upon its top were polished till they shone. The table in
the centre of the room was ready set for tea, and, though it held no
silver or cut glass, the most dainty lady or gentleman in the land need
not have hesitated to take a meal from its white cloth and spotless
delf ware. The only pieces of furniture which looked as if they had
ever cost much were a large mahogany table with carved feet, which
stood between the windows, and a bookcase of the same wood at the side
of the fireplace; but both of these were old-fashioned, and although
they might be worth much to their owners, would have brought little if
offered for sale. Not a speck of dust, however, was to be seen upon
them or the rest of the furniture, which was of stained pine; while at
the side of Mrs. Richards' arm-chair stood the baby's wicker cradle,
covered with a gay patchwork spread. And that tiny quilt was the pride
and delight of Jennie's heart; for had she not put it all together
with her own small fingers? after which, good Mrs. Granby, who lived
up-stairs, had quilted and lined it for her.

On the other side of the mother, sat, in a low chair, a boy about nine
years old. His hands were folded helplessly together, and his pale face
wore a sad, patient, waiting look, as if something were coming upon
him which he knew he must bear without a struggle. One looking closer
into his eyes might notice a dull film overspreading them, for Willie
Richards was nearly blind, would be quite blind in a few weeks, the
doctors said.

Between Jennie and the baby came three little boys, sturdy, healthy
children, always clamoring for bread and butter, and frequent calls
for bread and butter were becoming a serious matter in the policeman's
household; for provisions were high, and it was not as easy to feed
eight mouths as it had been to feed four. This year, too, there had
been severe sickness in the family, bringing great expenses with
it, and how the wants of the coming winter were to be provided for,
Sergeant Richards could hardly tell.

With the early spring had come scarlet fever. The younger children had
gone through it lightly, Jennie escaping altogether; but poor Willie
had been nigh to death, and the terrible disease had left its mark in
the blindness which was creeping upon him. Then, watching her boy at
night, Mrs. Richards had taken cold which had settled in her limbs, and
all through the summer months she had lain helpless, unable even to
lift her hand. And what a faithful little nurse Jennie had been to her!
Then two months ago the baby sister was born, whose coming Jennie had
hailed with such delight, but whose short life had so far been all pain
and suffering.

The mother was better now, able to sit all day in the cushioned chair,
where the strong arms of her husband would place her in the morning.
But there she remained a prisoner, unable to move a step or even to
stand, though she could so far use her hands as to tend her baby. But
Mrs. Richards had not felt quite discouraged until to-day. Now a fresh
trouble had come, and she felt as if it were the last drop in the cup
already too full.

The children knew nothing of this, however, and if mother's face was
sadder than usual, they thought it was the old racking pain in her
bones. The three little boys were at the window, their chubby faces
pressed against the glass, peering out into the darkness for the first
glimpse of father. His duty had kept him from home all day, and wife
and children were more than usually impatient for his coming.

It was a small, two-story, wooden house, standing back from the street,
with a courtyard in front, in the corner of which grew an old butternut
tree. It bore but few nuts in these latter days, to be sure, but it
gave a fine shade in the summer, and the young occupants of the house
took great pride and comfort in it. The branches were almost bare now,
however, and the wind, which now and then came sighing up the street,
would strip off some of the leaves which still remained, and scatter
them over the porch or fling them against the window.

"You couldn't do wi'out me very well; could you, morher?" said Jennie,
as she straightened the corner of the rug, "even if good Mrs. Granby
does come and do all the washing and hard work."

"Indeed, I could not," answered Mrs. Richards. "My Jennie has been
hands and feet to her mother for the last six months."

"And now she's eyes to Willie," said the blind boy.

"And eyes to Willie," repeated his mother, tenderly laying her hand on
his head.

"And tongue to Tommy," added Willie, with a smile.

Jennie laughed merrily; but as she was about to answer, the click of
the gate was heard, and with shouts of "He's coming!" from Charlie,
"Poppy, poppy!" from the younger boy, and a confused jargon from Tommy,
which no one but Jennie could understand, the whole three tumbled down
from the window and rushed to the door. A moment later it opened, and a
tall, straight figure in a policeman's uniform appeared.

"Halloa, you chaps!" said a cheery voice. "Suppose two or three dozen
of you get out of the way and let me shut the door; it won't do to keep
a draught on mother."

He contrived to close the door, but as for getting farther with three
pair of fat arms clasping his legs, that was quite impossible. The
father laughed, threw his cap upon a chair, and catching up first one
and then another of his captors, tossed them by turns in the air, gave
each a hearty kiss, and set him on his feet again.

"There, gentlemen, now let me get to mother, if you please. Well, Mary,
how has it gone to-day? Poorly, eh?" as he saw that in spite of the
smile which welcomed him, her cheek was paler and her eye sadder than
they had been when he left her in the morning.

"The pain is no worse, dear,--rather better maybe," she answered; but
her lip quivered as she spoke.

"Then that monstrous baby of yours has been worrying you. I am just
going to sell her to the first man who will give sixpence for her."

"No, no, no!" rose from a chorus of young voices, with, "She didn't
worry scarcely any to-day, farher," from Jennie, as she lifted her face
for his kiss.

Willie's turn came next, as rising from his chair with his hand
outstretched, he made a step forward and reached his father's side.
One eye was quite dark, but through the thick mist which was over the
other, he could faintly distinguish the tall, square figure, though,
except for the voice and the sounds of welcome, he could not have told
if it were his father or a stranger standing there.

Then began the grand amusement of the evening. Mr. Richards pulled down
the covering of the cradle, turned over the pillow, looked under the
table, peeped into the sugar-bowl, pepper-pot, and stove, and at last
pretended to be much astonished to discover the baby upon its mother's
lap, after which the hunt was carried on in search of a place big
enough to kiss. This performance was gone through with every night, but
never lost its relish, being always considered a capital joke, and was
received with shouts of laughter and great clapping of hands.

"Father," said Jennie, when Mr. Richards was seated in the
rocking-chair, with a boy on each knee, "we have a great surprise for
your supper to-night."

If Jennie did not resemble her father in size, she certainly did in
feature. In both there were the same clear, honest gray eyes, the same
crisp, short curls, the same ruddy cheeks and full red lips, the same
look of kindly good-nature, with something of a spirit of fun and
mischief sparkling through it.

"You have; have you?" he answered. "Well, I suppose you know it takes
a deal to surprise a member of police. We see too many queer folks and
queer doings to be easy surprised. If you were to tell me you were
going to turn a bad, lazy girl, I might be surprised, but I don't know
as much short of that would do it."

Jennie shook her head with a very knowing look at her mother, and just
then the door opened again and a head was put within.

"Oh, you're home, be you, Sergeant Richards?" said the owner of the
head. "All right; your supper will be ready in a jiffy. Come along,
Jennie."

With this the head disappeared, and Jennie, obeying orders, followed.
In five minutes they both returned, the head this time bringing the
rest of the person with it, carrying a tray. Jennie held in her hands
a covered dish, which she set upon the edge of the table with an air
of great triumph. She was not tall enough to put it in the proper spot
before her father's place; but she would by no means suffer him to help
her, although he offered to do so. No, it must wait till Mrs. Granby
had emptied the tray, and could take it from her hands.

What the policeman's family would have done at this time without Mrs.
Granby would be hard to tell. Although a neighbor, she had been almost
a stranger to them till the time of Willie's illness, when she had come
in to assist in the nursing. From that day she had been a kind and
faithful friend. She was a seamstress, and went out to work by the day;
but night and morning she came in to see Mrs. Richards and do what she
could to help her, until one evening she had asked Mr. Richards if she
might have a talk with him. The policeman said, "Certainly," though he
was rather surprised, for Mrs. Granby generally talked without waiting
for permission.

"I guess things ain't going just right with you; be they, Sergeant
Richards?" she began.

Richards shook his head sadly. "I suppose if it wasn't right, it
wouldn't be, Mrs. Granby; but it's hard to think it with Mary lying
there, bound hand and foot, my boy growing blind, and the poor little
baby more dead than alive; with me away the best part of the day, and
nobody but that green Irish girl to do a hand's turn for them all,
unless yourself or some other kind body looks in. Jennie's a wonderful
smart child, to be sure; but there's another sore cross, to see her
working her young life out, when she ought to be thinking of nothing
but her play. And then, how we're going to make both ends meet this
year, I don't know."

"So I thought," answered Mrs. Granby; "and it's the same with me about
the ends meetin'. Now just supposin' we helped one another along a bit.
You see they've raised my rent on me, and I can't afford it no way;
besides that, my eyes is givin' out,--won't stand sewin' all day like
they used to; so I'm not goin' out by the day no more, but just goin'
to take in a bit of work and do it as I can. That Biddy of yours ain't
no good,--a dirty thing that's as like as not to sweep with the wrong
end of the broom, and to carry the baby with its head down and heels
up. She just worries your wife's life out; and every time she goes
lumberin' over the floor, Mary is ready to screech with the jar. Now
you just send her packin', give me the little room up-stairs rent free
for this winter, and the use of your fire for my bits of meals, and
I'll do all she does and more too,--washin', scrubbin', cookin', and
nussin'. You won't have no wages to pay, and though they mayn't come
to much, every little tells; and Mary and the babies will be a sight
more comfortable, and you, too, maybe, if I oughtn't to say it. You're
just right, too, about Jennie. It goes to my heart to see her begin to
put her hand to everything; she's more willin' than she's able. Pity
everybody wasn't the same; it would make another sort of a world, I
guess. What do you say to it? Will it do?"

Do! The policeman thought so indeed, and was only too thankful. But it
was a one-sided kind of a bargain, he said, all on their side, and Mrs.
Granby must take some pay for her services.

This she refused; she was not going to give them all her time, only
part of it, and the room rent free was pay enough. But at last she
consented to take her meals with them, though somehow she contrived to
add more to the rather slender table than she took from it. Now she
had a chicken or tender steak for Mrs. Richards, "it was so cheap she
couldn't help buying it, and she had a fancy for a bit herself," but it
was always a very small bit that satisfied her; now a few cakes for the
children, now a pound of extra nice tea or coffee. "Sergeant Richards
needed something good and hot when he came in from duty, and he never
took nothin' stronger, so he ought to have it."

From the time that she came to them, Mrs. Richards began to improve;
there was no longer any need to worry over her disorderly house,
neglected children, or the loss of comfort to her husband. The baby
ceased its endless wailing, and with Jennie to keep things trim after
they had once been put in order, the whole household put on its old
air of cosy neatness. Truly she had proved "a friend in need," this
cheerful, bustling, kind-hearted little woman.

"Now you may uncover the dish, farher," said Jennie, as having brought
a little stand and placed it at her mother's side, she led Willie to
the table.

Mr. Richards did so. "Broiled ham and eggs!" he exclaimed. "Why, the
breath is 'most taken out of me! I know where the ham came from well
enough, for I bought it myself, but I'd like to know who has been
buying fresh eggs at eight cents apiece."

"No, Sergeant Richards, you needn't look at me that way," said Mrs.
Granby, holding up the tea-pot in one hand; "I ain't been doin' no
such expenses. I brought them home, to be sure; but they was a present,
not to me neither, but to your wife here. Here's another of 'em for
her, boiled to a turn too. Fried eggs ain't good for sick folks.
'Twasn't my doin' that you got some with your ham neither; I wanted to
keep 'em for her eatin', but she said you was so fond of 'em, and she
coaxed me into it. She does set such a heap by you, she thinks nothin'
ain't too good for you. Not that I blame her. I often says there ain't
a better husband and father to be found than Sergeant Richards, look
the city through; and you do deserve the best, that's a fact, if it
was gold and diamonds; not that you wouldn't have a better use for
them than to eat 'em; diamonds fetches a heap, they tell me, but never
havin' had none of my own, I can't rightly tell of my own showin'.
Come, eat while it's hot. I'll see to your wife. No, thank you, none
for me. I couldn't eat a mouthful if you was to pay me for it. Don't
give the little ones none, 'taint good for 'em goin' to bed. Jennie
might have a bit, she's been stirrin' round so all day, and Willie,
too, dear boy." Mrs. Granby's voice always took a tenderer tone when
she spoke of Willie. "Well, I'll just tell you how I come by them eggs.
This afternoon I took home some work to an old lady, a new customer
Mrs. Howard recommended me to. When I was let in, there she stood in
the hall, talkin' to a woman what had been sellin' fresh eggs to her.
There they was, two or three dozen of 'em, piled up, lookin' so fresh
and white and nice, enough to make your mouth water when you looked
at 'em and thought what a deal of nourishment was in 'em. So when the
lady was through with the woman, says I, 'If you'll excuse the liberty,
ma'am, in your house and your presence, I'd just like to take a couple
of eggs from this woman before she goes.'

"'Certainly,' says the lady, but the woman says, 'I can't spare no
more, there's only a dozen left, and I've promised them to another
lady;' and off she goes. Well, me and the old lady settles about the
work, and she tells me she'll have more in a month's time, and then she
says, 'You was disappointed about the eggs?'

"'Yes, ma'am,' says I.

"So, thinkin', I s'pose, 'twasn't for a poor seamstress like me to be
so extravagant, she says, 'Eggs are high this season,--eight cents
apiece.'

"I didn't want to be settin' myself up, but I wasn't goin' to have her
take no false notions about me, so I says, 'Yes, ma'am, but when a
body's sick, and ain't no appetite to eat only what one forces one's
self to, I don't think it no sin to spend a bit for a nice nourishin'
mouthful.'

"And she says, very gentle, 'Are you sick?'

"'Not I, ma'am,' says I, 'but a friend of mine. Bad with the rheumatics
these six months, and she's a mite of an ailin' baby, and don't fancy
nothin' to eat unless it's somethin' delicate and fancy, so I just
took a notion I'd get a couple of them eggs for her.'

"And she says, 'I see you have a basket there, just let me give you
half a dozen of these for your friend.' I never thought of such a
thing, and I was took all aback, and I said would she please take it
out of the work. I couldn't think of takin' it in the way of charity,
and she says, 'If I were ill, and you had any little dainty you thought
I might like, would you think it charity to offer it to me?'

"'No, ma'am,' says I; 'but then there's a difference.'

"'I see none in that way,' she said; 'we are all God's children. To
one he gives more than to another, but he means that we shall help
each other as we find opportunity, and I wish you to take this little
gift for your friend as readily as you would offer it to me if I were
in like need.' Now wasn't that pretty? A real lady, every inch of her.
And with her own hands she laid half a dozen eggs in the basket. She
was askin' some more questions about my sick friend, when somebody
pulls the door-bell as furious, and when it was opened, there was a
servant-gal lookin' as scared as anything, and she tells the old lady
her little granddaughter was lost, and couldn't be found nowhere, and
was she here, and did they know anything about her? Well, they didn't
know nothin', and the old lady said she'd be round right away, and
she herself looked scared ready to drop, and I see she hadn't no more
thought for me nor my belongin's, nor couldn't be expected to, so I
just takes my leave. And when I come home and shows Mary the eggs,
nothin' would do but you must have a couple cooked with your ham for
supper."

All the time Mrs. Granby had been telling her story, she was pouring
out tea, waiting on Mrs. Richards, spreading bread and butter for the
children, and now having talked herself out of breath, she paused. At
the last part of the story, the police-sergeant laid down his knife and
fork, and looked up at her.

"What is your lady's name?" he asked.

"Mrs. Stanton," answered Mrs. Granby.

"And who is the child that was lost?"

"I don't know, only a granddaughter; I don't know if it's the same
name. Why, have you seen the child?"

"I can't tell if it's the same," answered Richards, "but I've got a
story for you to-night. I have been thinking all the afternoon I had a
treat for Jennie."

"Is it a duty story, farher?" asked his little daughter.

"Yes, it is a duty story."

"Oh, that's good!"

Whenever her father had a story to tell of anything which had happened
to him during his daily duties, Jennie always called it a "duty story,"
and she was very eager for such anecdotes.

[Illustration: decoration, end of chap. 1]



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 2]



II.

_THE POLICE-SERGEANT'S STORY._


Tea was over, the dishes neatly washed and put away by Mrs. Granby and
Jennie, the three little boys snugly tucked in their cribs up-stairs,
the baby lying quiet in its cradle, and Mrs. Granby seated at the
corner of the table with her sewing. Jennie sat upon her father's knee,
and Willie in his usual seat at his mother's side, and the policeman
began his story.

"It might have been about two o'clock when, as I was at my desk, making
out a report, Policeman Neal came in with a lost child in his arms, as
pretty a little thing as ever I saw, for all she did look as if she
had been having rather a hard time of it,--a gentleman's child and a
mother's darling, used to be well cared for, as was easy to be seen
by her nice white frock with blue ribbons, and her dainty shoes and
stockings. But I think her mother's heart would have ached if she had
seen her then. She had lost her hat, and the wind had tossed up her
curls, her cheeks were pale and streaked with tears, and her big brown
eyes had a pitiful look in them that would have softened a tiger, let
alone a man that had half a dozen little ones of his own at home; while
every now and then the great heavy sighs came struggling up, as if she
had almost cried her heart out.

"When Neal brought her in, she looked round as if she expected to see
some one, and so it seems she did; for he put her on thinking she'd
find some of her own folks waiting for her. And when she saw there was
no one there, such a disappointed look as came over her face, and her
lip shook, and she clasped both little hands over her throat, as if to
keep back the sobs from breaking out again. A many lost children I've
seen, but never one who touched me like her.

"Well, Neal told where he'd found her, and a good way she'd wandered
from her home, as we found afterwards, and how she said her name was
Brightfort, which was as near as he'd come to it; for she had a crooked
little tongue, though a sweet one. I looked in the directory, but no
name like that could I find. Then Neal was going to put her down and go
back to his beat, but she clung fast to him and began to cry again. You
see, she'd kind of made friends with him, and she didn't fancy being
left with strange faces again. So I just took her from him, and coaxed
her up a bit, and told her I'd show her the telegraph sending off a
message how she was there. I put her on the desk, close to me, while I
set the wires to work; and as sure as you live, what did I hear that
minute but her saying a bit of a prayer. She didn't mean any one to
hear but Him she was speaking to, but I caught every word; for you see
my head was bent over near to hers. And I'll never forget it, not if I
live to be a hundred, no, nor the way it made me feel. 'Dear Father in
heaven,' she said, 'please let my own home father come and find me very
soon, 'cause I'm so tired, and I want my own mamma; and don't let those
naughty boys hurt my Flossy, but let papa find him too.' I hadn't felt
so chirk as I might all day, and it just went to the soft place in my
heart; and it gave me a lesson, too, that I sha'n't forget in a hurry."

Mr. Richards stopped and cleared his throat, and his wife took up the
corner of her shawl and wiped her eyes.

"Bless her!" said Mrs. Granby, winking hers very hard.

"Ay, bless her, I say, too," continued the policeman. "It was as pretty
a bit of faith and trust as ever I saw; and after it she seemed some
comforted, and sat quiet, watching the working of the wires, as if she
was quite sure the One she'd looked to would bring her help. Well, I
carried her round and showed her all there was to see, which wasn't
much, and then I set her to talking, to see if I could find out where
she belonged. I saw she'd been confused and worried before Neal brought
her in, and I thought like enough she'd forgotten. So, after some
coaxing and letting her tell her story in her own way,--how her dog ran
away and she ran after him, and so got lost, she suddenly remembered
the name and number of the street where she lived. With that she broke
down again, and began to cry and sob out, she did want to go home so
much.

"I was just sending out to see if she was right, when up dashes a
carriage to the door, and out gets a gentleman on crutches. The moment
the little one set eyes on him, she screams out as joyful as you
please, 'Oh, it's my soldier, it's my soldier!'

"Talk of an April day! You never saw anything like the way the sunlight
broke through the clouds on her face. The moment he was inside the
door, she fairly flung herself out of my arms on to his neck; and it
was just the prettiest thing in the world to see her joy and love, and
how she kissed and hugged him. As for him, he dropped one crutch, and
held fast to her, as if for dear life. I knew who he was well enough,
for I had seen him before, and found out about him, being in the way
of duty. He's an English colonel that lives at the ---- Hotel; and they
tell wonderful stories about him,--how brave he is, and what a lot
of battles he's fought, and how, with just a handful of soldiers, he
defended a hospital full of sick men against a great force of them
murdering Sepoys, and brought every man of them safe off. All sorts of
fine things are told about him; and I'm bound they're true; for you can
tell by the look of him he's a hero of the right sort. I didn't think
the less of him, either, that I saw his eyes mighty shiny as he and
the baby held fast to each other. She wasn't his child, though, but
Mr. Bradford's up in ---- Street, whom I know all about; and if that
crooked little tongue of hers could have said 'R,' which it couldn't, I
might have taken her home at once. Well, she was all right then, and
he carried her off; but first she walked round and made her manners
to every man there as polite as you please, looking the daintiest
little lady that ever walked on two feet; and when I put her into the
carriage, didn't she thank me for letting her into the station, and
being kind to her, as if it was a favor I'd been doing, and not my
duty; and as if a man could help it that once looked at her. So she was
driven away, and I was sorry to lose sight of her, for I don't know as
I ever took so to a child that didn't belong to me."

"Is that all?" asked Jennie, as her father paused.

"That's all."

"How old was she, farher?"

"Five years old, she said, but she didn't look it. It seemed to me when
I first saw her as if she was about your size; but you're bigger than
she, though you don't make much show for your six years."

"How funny she can't say 'R' when she's five years old!" said Jennie.

"Yes, almost as funny as that my girl of six can't say 'th,'" laughed
the sergeant.

Jennie smiled, colored, and hung her head.

"And you thought maybe your lost child was Mrs. Stanton's
granddaughter; did you?" asked Mrs. Granby.

"Well, I thought it might be. Two children in that way of life ain't
likely to be lost the same day in the same neighborhood; and we had
no notice of any other but my little friend. You don't know if Mrs.
Stanton has any relations of the name of Bradford?"

"No; she's 'most a stranger to me, and the scared girl didn't mention
no names, only said little Bessie was missin'."

"That's her then. Little Bradford's name was Bessie; so putting two and
two together, I think they're one and the same."

They talked a while longer of little Bessie and her pretty ways and her
friend, the colonel; and then Mrs. Granby carried Willie and Jennie off
to bed.

"Now, Mary," said Richards, going to his wife's side the moment the
children were out of hearing, "I know your poor heart has been aching
all day to know what the eye-doctor said; but the boy sticks so close
to you, and his ears are so quick, that I couldn't do more than whisper
'yes' when I came in, just to let you know it could be done. I was
bringing Willie home when I met Jarvis with a message that I was to
go up to the Chief on special business, so, as I hadn't a minute to
spare, I just had to hand the poor little man over to Jarvis, who
promised to see him safely in your care. Dr. Dawson says, Mary, that
he thinks Willie can be cured; but we must wait a while, and he thinks
it best that he should not be told until the time comes. The operation
cannot be performed till the boy is stronger; and it is best not to
attempt it till the blindness is total,--till both eyes are quite
dark. Meanwhile, he must be fed upon good nourishing food. If we can
do this, he thinks in three months, or perhaps four, the child may
be able to bear the operation. After that he says we must still be
very careful of him, and see that his strength does not run down; and
when the spring opens, we must send him away from town, up among the
mountains. And that's what your doctor says of you, too, Mary; that
you won't get well of this dreadful rheumatism till you have a change
of air; and that next summer I ought to send you where you will have
mountain air. Dr. Dawson's charge," Richards went on more slowly, "will
be a hundred dollars,--he says to rich folks it would be three hundred,
maybe more. But five thousand is easier come at by a good many people
than a hundred is by us. So now we know what the doctor can do, we must
make out what we can do. I'm free to say I think Willie stands a better
chance with Dr. Dawson than he does elsewhere; but I don't see how we
are to raise the money. I'd live on bread and water, or worse, lie on
the bare boards and work like a slave, to bring our boy's sight back;
but I can't see you suffer; and we have the rest of the flock to think
of as well as Willie. And I suppose it must bring a deal of expense on
us, both before and after the operation; at least, if we follow out the
doctor's directions, and he says if we don't, the money and trouble
will be worse than thrown away.

"The first thing I have to do is to see Dr. Schwitz, and find out how
much we owe him for attending you and the children, off and on, these
six months. I've asked him half a dozen times for his bill, but he
always said 'no hurry' and he 'could wait;' and since he was so kind,
and other things were so pressing, I've just let it go by."

When he had spoken of the doctor's hope of curing Willie, his wife's
pale face had brightened; but as he went on to say what it would cost,
her head drooped; and now as he spoke of the other doctor's bill, she
covered her face with her hands, and burst into tears and sobs.

"Why, Mary, what is it, dear?"

[Illustration: Bessie's Friends. p. 40]

"Oh, Tom! Tom!" she broke forth, "Dr. Schwitz sent his bill this
morning. A rough-looking man brought it, and he says the doctor must
have it the first of the year, and--and--" She could get no farther.
The poor woman! it was no wonder; she was sick and weak, and this
unlooked-for trouble had quite broken her down.

"Now, don't, Mary, don't be so cast down," said her husband. "We'll see
our way out of this yet. The Lord hasn't forsaken us."

"I don't know," she answered between her sobs, "it 'most seems like
it;" and taking up a book which lay upon the table, she drew from
between its leaves a folded paper and handed it to him. He was a
strong, sturdy man, this police-sergeant, used to terrible sights, and
not easily startled or surprised, as he had told his little daughter;
but when he opened the paper and looked at it, all the color left his
ruddy cheeks, and he sat gazing at it as if he were stunned. There was
a moment's silence; then the baby set up its pitiful little cry. Mrs.
Richards lifted it from the cradle.

"Oh, Tom," she said, "if it would please the Lord to take baby and me,
it would be far better for you. I've been only a burden to you these
six months past, and I'm likely to be no better for six months to come,
for they say I can't get well till the warm weather comes again. You'd
be better without us dear, and it's me that's brought this on you."

Then the policeman roused himself.

"That's the hardest word you've spoken to me these ten years we've
been married, Mary, woman," he said. "No, I thank the Lord again and
again that that trouble hasn't come to me yet. What would I do without
you, Mary, dear? How could I bear it to come home and not find you
here,--never again to see you smile when I come in; never to hear you
say, 'I'm so glad you've come, Tom;' never to get the kiss that puts
heart into me after a hard day's work? And the babies,--would you wish
them motherless? To be sure, you can't do for them what you once did,
but that will all come right yet; and there's the mother's eye to
overlook and see that things don't go too far wrong; here's the mother
voice and the mother smile for them to turn to. No, no; don't you think
you're laid aside for useless yet, dear. As for this wee dolly,"--and
the father laid his great hand tenderly on the tiny bundle in its
mother's arms,--"why, I think I've come to love her all the more for
that she's so feeble and such a care. And what would our Jennie do
without the little sister that she has such a pride in and lays so many
plans for? Why, it would break her heart to lose her. No, no, Mary, I
can bear all things short of that you've spoken of; and do you just
pray the Lord that he'll not take you at your word, and never hurt me
by saying a thing like that again."

Trying to cheer his wife, the brave-hearted fellow had almost talked
himself into cheerfulness again; and Mrs. Richards looked up through
her tears. "And what are we to do, Tom?" she asked.

"I can't just rightly see my way clear yet," he answered, thoughtfully,
rubbing his forehead with his finger; "but one thing is certain, we've
got to look all our troubles straight in the face, and to see what we
can do. What we _can_ do for ourselves we _must_, then trust the Lord
for the rest. As I told you, that little soul that was brought up to
the station this afternoon gave me a lesson I don't mean to forget in
a hurry. There she was, the innocent thing, in the worst trouble I
suppose that could come to such a baby,--far from her home and friends,
feeling as if she'd lost all she had in the world,--all strange faces
about her, and in what was to her a terrible place, and not knowing how
she was to get out of it. Well, what does she do, the pretty creature,
but just catch herself up in the midst of her grieving and say that bit
of a prayer? and then she rested quiet and waited. It gave me a sharp
prick, I can tell you, and one that I needed. Says I to myself, 'Tom
Richards, you haven't half the faith or the courage of this baby.'
There had I been all day fretting myself and quarrelling with the
Lord's doings, because he had brought me into a place where I could not
see my way out. I had asked for help, too, or thought I had, and yet
there I was, faithless and unbelieving, not willing to wait his time
and way to bring it to me. But she, baby as she was, knew in whom she
had trusted, and could leave herself in his hands after she had once
done all she knew how. It's not the first teaching I've had from a
little child, Mary, and I don't expect it will be the last; but nothing
ever brought me up as straight as that did. Thinks I, the Lord forgive
me, and grant me such a share of trust and patience as is given to this
his little one; and then I took heart, and I don't think I've lost it
again, if I have had a hard blow I did not look for. I own I was a bit
stunned at first; but see you, Mary, I am sure this bill is not fair.
Dr. Schwitz has overcharged us for certain; and I don't believe it
will stand in law."

"But we can't afford to go to law, Tom, any more than to pay this sum.
Four hundred dollars!"

"I would not wonder if Mr. Ray would see me through this," said
Richards. "He's a good friend to me. I'll see him, anyhow. I never
thought Dr. Schwitz would serve me like this; it's just revenge."

"Have you offended him?" asked Mrs. Richards, in surprise.

"Yes," answered the policeman. "Yesterday I had to arrest a nephew of
his for robbing his employer. Schwitz came to me and begged I'd let
him off and pretend he was not to be found, saying he would make it
worthwhile to me. I took offence at his trying to bribe me, which was
but natural, you will allow, Mary, and spoke up pretty sharp. He swore
he'd make me pay for it if I touched the lad; but I never thought he
would go this far. And to think I have had the handling of so many
rogues, and didn't know one when I saw him!"

"And Willie?" said the poor mother.

"Ah! that's the worst," answered Richards. "I'm afraid we sha'n't be
able to have much done for Willie this next year; for even if Dr.
Dawson will wait for his pay, there's all the expense that's to come
before and after the operation; and I don't see how we are going to
manage it."

Long the good policeman and his wife sat and talked over their
troubles; and when kind Mrs. Granby came back, she was told of them,
and her advice asked; but three heads were no better than two in making
one dollar do the needful work of ten.

[Illustration: decoration, end of chap. 2]



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 3]



III.

_LITTLE PITCHERS._


Three young ladies sat talking over their work in the pleasant
bow-window of Mrs. Stanton's sitting-room, while at a short distance
from them two little curly heads bent over the great picture-book which
lay upon the table. The eyes in the curly heads were busy with the
pictures, the tongues in the curly heads were silent, save when now and
then one whispered, "Shall I turn over?" or "Is not that pretty?" but
the ears in the curly heads were wide open to all that was passing in
the bow-window; while the three young ladies, thinking that the curly
heads were heeding nothing but their own affairs, went on chattering as
if those attentive ears were miles away.

"Annie," said Miss Carrie Hall, "I am sorry to hear of the severe
affliction likely to befall your sister, Mrs. Bradford."

"What is that?" asked Annie Stanton, looking up surprised.

"I heard that Mrs. Lawrence, Mr. Bradford's Aunt Patty, was coming to
make her a visit."

"Ah, poor Margaret!" said Annie Stanton, but she laughed as she
spoke. "It is indeed a trial, but my sister receives it with becoming
submission."

"Why does Mrs. Bradford invite her when she always makes herself so
disagreeable?" asked Miss Ellis.

"She comes self-invited," replied Annie. "Margaret did not ask her."

"I should think not, considering the circumstances under which they
last parted," said Carrie Hall.

"Oh, Margaret has long since forgotten and forgiven all that," said
Annie, "and she and Mr. Bradford have several times endeavored to
bring about a reconciliation, inviting Aunt Patty to visit them, or
sending kind messages and other tokens of good-will. The old lady,
however, was not to be appeased, and for the last three or four years
has held no intercourse with my brother's family. Now she suddenly
writes, saying she intends to make them a visit."

"I should decline it if I were in the place of Mr. and Mrs. Bradford,"
said Carrie.

"I fear I should do the same," replied Annie, "but Margaret and Mr.
Bradford are more forgiving. I am quite sure though that they look
upon this visit as a duty to be endured, not a pleasure to be enjoyed,
especially as the children are now older, and she will be the more
likely to make trouble with them."

"I suppose they have quite forgotten her," said Carrie.

"Harry and Fred may remember her," answered Annie, "but the others were
too young to recollect her at this distance of time. Bessie was a
baby, Maggie scarcely three years old."

"Shall you ever forget the day we stopped at your sister's house on our
way home from school, and found Mrs. Lawrence and nurse having a battle
royal over Maggie?" asked the laughing Carrie.

"No, indeed! Nurse, with Maggie on one arm and Bessie on the other,
fairly dancing about the room in her efforts to save the former from
Aunt Patty's clutches, both terrified babies screaming at the top of
their voices, both old women scolding at the top of theirs; while Fred,
the monkey, young as he was, stood by, clapping his hands and setting
them at each other as if they had been two cats."

"And your sister," said Carrie, "coming home to be frightened half out
of her senses at finding such an uproar in her well-ordered nursery,
and poor little Maggie stretching out her arms to her with 'Patty vip
me, Patty vip me!'"

"And Margaret quite unable to quell the storm until Brother Henry came
in and with a few determined words separated the combatants by sending
nurse from the room," continued Annie, with increasing merriment. "Poor
mammy! She knew her master's word was not to be disputed, and dared not
disobey; but I think she has never quite forgiven him for that, and
still looks upon it as hard that when, as she said, she had a chance
'to speak her mind to Mrs. Lawrence,' she was not allowed to do it."

"But what caused the trouble?" asked Laura Ellis.

"Oh, some trifling mischief of Maggie's, for which auntie undertook to
punish her severely. Nurse interfered, and where the battle would have
stopped, had not Henry and Margaret arrived, it is difficult to tell."

"But surely she did not leave your brother's house in anger for such a
little thing as that!" said Laura.

"Indeed, she did; at least, she insisted that Maggie should be punished
and nurse dismissed. Dear old mammy, who nursed every one of us, from
Ruthven down to myself, and whom mother gave to Margaret as a treasure
past all price when Harry was born,--poor mammy, who considers herself
quite as much one of the family as any Stanton, Duncan, or Bradford
among us all,--to talk of dismissing her! But nothing less would
satisfy Aunt Patty; and Margaret gently claiming the right to correct
her own children and govern her own household as she saw fit, and Henry
firmly upholding his wife, Aunt Patty departed that very afternoon in a
tremendous passion, and has never entered the house since."

"Greatly to your sister's relief, I should think," said Laura. "Why,
what a very disagreeable inmate she must be, Annie! I am sure I pity
Mrs. Bradford and all her family, if they are to undergo another visit
from her now."

"Yes," said Annie. "Some sudden freak has taken her, and she has
written to say that she will be here next month. You may well pity
them. Such another exacting, meddling, ill-tempered old woman it would
be difficult to find. She has long since quarrelled with all her
relations; indeed, it was quite wonderful to every one how Margaret and
her husband bore with her as long as they did. I do not know how the
poor children will get on with her. She and Fred will clash before she
has been in the house a day, while the little ones will be frightened
out of their senses by one look of those cold, stern eyes. Do you
remember, Carrie, how, during that last unfortunate visit, Maggie used
to run and hide her head in her mother's dress the moment she heard
Aunt Patty's step?"

"Yes, indeed," said Carrie. "I suppose she will be here at Christmas
time too. Poor little things! She will destroy half their pleasure."

All this and much more to the same purpose fell upon those attentive
ears, filling the hearts of the little listeners with astonishment
and dismay. It was long since Maggie's hand had turned a leaf of the
scrap-book, long since she or Bessie had given a look or thought to the
pictures. There they both sat, motionless, gazing at one another, and
drinking in all the foolish talk of those thoughtless young ladies.

They meant no harm, these gay girls. Not one of them but would have
been shocked at the thought that she was poisoning the minds of the
dear little children whom they all loved towards the aged relative whom
they were bound to reverence and respect. They had not imagined that
Maggie and Bessie were attending to their conversation, and they were
only amusing themselves; it was but idle talk. Ah, idle talk, idle
words, of which each one of us must give account at the last great day!

So they sat and chatted away, not thinking of the mischief they
might be doing, until, at a question from Miss Carrie, Annie Stanton
dropped her voice as she answered. Still now and then a few words
would reach the little ones. "Shocking temper"--"Poor Margaret so
uncomfortable"--"Mr Bradford very much displeased"--"patience quite
worn out" until Bessie said,--

"Aunt Annie, if you don't mean us to know what you say, we do hear a
little."

Aunt Annie started and colored, then said, hastily "Oh, I had almost
forgotten you were there. Would you not like to go down-stairs, pets,
and ask old Dinah to bake a little cake for each of you? Run then, and
if you heard what we were saying, do not think of it. It is nothing for
you to trouble your small heads about. I am afraid we have been rather
imprudent," she continued uneasily when her little nieces had left the
room. "Margaret is so particular that her children shall hear nothing
like gossip or evil speaking, and I think we have been indulging in
both. If Maggie and Bessie have been listening to what we were saying,
they will not have a very pleasant impression of Mrs. Lawrence. Well,
there is no use in fretting about it now. What is said cannot be
unsaid; and they will soon find out for themselves what the old lady
is."

Yes, what is said cannot be unsaid. Each little word, as it is spoken,
goes forth on its errand of good or evil, and can never be recalled.

Perhaps Aunt Annie would have regretted her thoughtlessness still more
if she had seen and heard the little girls as they stood together in
the hall. They had no thought of old Dinah and the cakes with this
important matter to talk over. Not think of what they heard, indeed!
That was a curious thing for Aunt Annie to say. She had been right
in believing that Maggie must have forgotten Mrs. Lawrence. Maggie
had done so, but now this conversation had brought the whole scene of
the quarrel with nurse to her mind. It all came back to her; but in
recollection it appeared far worse than the reality. Aunt Patty's loud,
angry voice seemed sounding in her ears, uttering the most violent
threats, and she thought of the old lady herself almost as if she had
been some terrible monster, ready to tear in pieces her own poor
frightened little self, clinging about nurse's neck.

And was it possible that this dreadful old woman was really coming
again to their house to make a visit? How could papa and mamma think it
best to allow it?

Such mischief had already been done by idle talk!

"Maggie," said Bessie, "do you remember about that Patty woman?"

"Yes," answered Maggie, "I did not remember about her till Aunt Annie
and Miss Carrie said that, but I do now; and oh, Bessie, she's _awful_!
I wish, I wish mamma would not let her come. She's the shockingest
person you ever saw."

"Aunt Annie said mamma did not want her herself; but she let her come
because she thought it was right," said Bessie.

"I wonder why mamma thinks it is right when she is so cross and
tempered," said Maggie, with a long sigh. "Why, she used to scold even
papa and mamma! Oh, I remember her so well now. I wish I didn't; I
don't like to think about it;" and Maggie looked very much distressed.

Bessie was almost as much troubled, but she put her arm about her
sister and said, "Never matter, dear Maggie, papa and mamma won't let
her do anything to us."

"But suppose papa and mamma both had to go out and leave us, as they
did that day she behaved so," said Maggie. "Nursey has so many to take
care of now, and maybe she'd meddle again,--Aunt Annie said she was
very meddling too,--and try to punish me when I did not do any blame."

"Jane would help nurse _pertect_ us," said Bessie, "and if she
couldn't, we'd yun away and hide till papa and mamma came."

"She shouldn't do anything to you, Bessie. I wouldn't let her do that,
anyhow," said Maggie, shaking her head, and looking very determined.

"How could you help it if she wanted to, Maggie?"

"I'd say, 'Beware, woman!'" said Maggie, drawing her eyebrows into
a frown, and extending her hand with the forefinger raised in a
threatening manner.

"Oh!" said Bessie, "what does that mean?"

"I don't quite know," said Maggie, slowly, "but it frightens people
very much."

"It don't frighten me a bit when you say it."

"'Cause you don't have a guilty conscience; but if you had, you'd be,
oh, so afraid!"

"How do you know I would?"

"I'll tell you," said Maggie. "Uncle John had a picture paper the other
day, and in it was a picture of a woman coming in at the door, and she
had her hands up so, and she looked as frightened, as frightened, and
a man was standing behind the curtain doing so, and under the picture
was 'Beware, woman!' I asked Uncle John what it meant, and he said that
was a wicked woman who was going to steal some papers so she could get
some money, and when she came in, she heard somebody say, 'Beware,
woman,' and she was so frightened she ran away and was never seen
again. I asked him to tell me more about it, but he said, 'No, it was a
foolish story, not fit for little people.' Then I asked him if foolish
stories were only fit for big people, but he just laughed and pinched
my cheek. But I coaxed him to tell me why the woman was so frightened
when the man did nothing but say those two words, and he said it was
because she had a guilty conscience, for wicked people feared what good
and innocent people did not mind at all. So if that old Mrs. Patty--I
sha'n't call her aunt--don't behave herself to you, Bessie, I'll just
try it."

"Do you think she has a guilty conscience, Maggie?"

"Course she has; how could she help it?"

"And will she yun away and never be seen again?"

"I guess so," said Maggie; "anyhow, I hope she will."

"I wonder why mamma did not tell us she was coming," said Bessie.

"We'll ask her to-morrow. We can't do it to-night because it will be
so late before she comes home from Riverside and we'll be asleep, but
we'll do it in the morning. And now, don't let's think about that
shocking person any more. We'll go and ask Dinah about the cakes."

But although they resolved to try to forget Aunt Patty for the present,
they could not help thinking of her a good deal and talking of her
also, for their young hearts had been filled with dread of the old lady
and her intended visit.

The reason that Mr. and Mrs. Bradford had not spoken to their children
of Mrs. Lawrence's coming was that it was not yet a settled thing; and
as there was not much that was pleasant to tell, they did not think it
best to speak of her unless it was necessary. It was long since her
name had been mentioned in the family, _so_ long that, as Mrs. Bradford
had hoped and supposed, all recollection of her had passed from
Maggie's mind, until the conversation she had just heard had brought it
back.

[Illustration: decoration, end of chap. 3]



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 4]



IV.

_PAPA'S STORY._


The next morning while they were at breakfast, the postman brought
three letters for papa and mamma.

"Margaret," said Mr. Bradford, looking up from one of his, "this is
from Aunt Patty to say that she will put off her visit until spring."

Maggie and Bessie both looked up.

"Oh!" said Mrs. Bradford, in a tone as if she were rather more glad
than sorry to hear that Aunt Patty was not coming at present. Papa
glanced at her with a smile which did not seem as if he were very much
disappointed either. Probably the children would not have noticed tone
or smile had they not been thinking of what they heard yesterday.

"Holloa!" said Fred, in a voice of dismay, "Aunt Patty is not coming
here again; is she? You'll have to look out and mind your P's and
Q's, Midget and Bess, if that is the case. We'll all have to for that
matter. Whew-ee, can't she scold though! I remember her tongue if it is
four years since I heard it."

"Fred, Fred!" said his father.

"It's true, papa; is it not?"

"If it is," replied his father, "it does not make it proper for you
to speak in that way of one so much older than yourself, my boy. Aunt
Patty is not coming at present; when she does come, I hope we shall all
be ready to receive her kindly and respectfully."

"I see you expect to find it difficult, papa," said the rogue, with a
mischievous twinkle of his eye. Before Mr. Bradford had time to answer,
Mrs. Bradford, who had been reading her letter, exclaimed joyfully,--

"Dear Elizabeth Rush says she will come to us at New Year, and make us
a long visit. I wish she could have come at Christmas, as I begged her
to do, but she says she has promised to remain in Baltimore with her
sister until after the holidays."

"Mamma," said Bessie, "do you mean Aunt Bessie is coming to stay with
us?"

"Yes, darling. Are you not glad?"

"Indeed, I am, mamma; I do love Aunt Bessie, and the colonel will be
glad too."

"That's jolly!" exclaimed Fred; and a chorus of voices about the
table told that Aunt Bessie's coming was looked forward to with very
different feelings from those which Aunt Patty's excited.

"Mamma," said Maggie suddenly, as they were about leaving the table,
"don't you wish you had forty children?"

"Forty!" exclaimed Mrs. Bradford, laughing. "No, that would be rather
too large a family, Maggie."

"But, mamma, if you had forty children, the house would be so full
there would never be room for Aunt Patty."

The boys laughed, but mamma was grave in a moment.

"Do you remember Aunt Patty, my darling?" she asked, looking rather
anxiously at Maggie.

"Oh, yes, mamma, I remember her ever so well," answered poor Maggie,
coloring all over her face and neck, and looking as if the remembrance
of Aunt Patty were a great distress.

"I thought you had quite forgotten her, dear," said her mother.

"I had, mamma, but yesterday Aunt Annie and Miss Carrie were talking
about her, and then I remembered her, oh! so well, and how fierce she
looked and what a loud voice she had, and how she scolded, mamma, and
how angry she used to be, and oh! mamma, she's such a dreadful old
person, and if you only wouldn't let her come to our house."

"And, mamma," said Bessie, "Aunt Annie said nobody had any peace from
the time she came into the house until she went out, and you know we're
used to peace, so we can't do without it."

By this time Maggie was crying, and Bessie very near it. Their mamma
scarcely knew how to comfort them, for whatever they might have heard
from Annie and her friends was probably only too true; and both she and
papa had too much reason to fear with Bessie that the usual "peace" of
their happy household would be sadly disturbed when Aunt Patty should
come there again. For though the old lady was not so terrible as the
little girls imagined her to be, her unhappy temper always made much
trouble wherever she went. All that Mrs. Bradford could do was to tell
them that they must be kind and respectful to Mrs. Lawrence, and so
give her no cause of offence; and that in no case would she be allowed
to punish or harm them. But the thing which gave them the most comfort
was that Aunt Patty's visit was not to take place for some months,
possibly not at all. Then she talked of Miss Rush, and made pleasant
plans for the time when she should be with them, and so tried to take
their thoughts from Aunt Patty.

"And Uncle Ruthven is coming home," said Maggie. "Grandmamma had a
letter from him last night, and she said he promised to come before the
winter was over; and _won't_ we all be happy then?"

Mamma kissed her little daughter's April face, on which the tears were
not dry before smiles were dancing in their place, and in happy talk of
Uncle Ruthven, Aunt Patty was for the time forgotten.

Uncle Ruthven was mamma's only brother, and a famous hero in the eyes
of all the children. None of them save Harry had ever seen him, and he
had been such a very little boy when his uncle went away ten years ago,
that he could not recollect him. But his letters and the stories of his
travels and adventures had always been a great delight to his young
nieces and nephews; and now that he talked of coming home, they looked
forward to seeing him with almost as much pleasure as if they had known
him all their lives. As for the mother and the sisters who had been
parted from him for so long, no words could tell how glad they were. A
sad rover was Uncle Ruthven; it was easier to say where he had not been
than where he had. He had climbed to the tops of high mountains and
gone down into mines which lay far below the surface of the earth; had
peeped into volcanoes and been shut up among icebergs, at one time had
slung his hammock under the trees of a tropical forest, at another had
rolled himself in his blankets in the frozen huts of the Esquimaux; had
hunted whales, bears, lions, and tigers; had passed through all manner
of adventures and dangers by land and by sea; and at last was really
coming home, "tired of his wanderings, to settle down beside his dear
old mother and spend the rest of his days with her." So he had said
in the letter which came last night, and grandmamma had read it over
many times, smiled over it, cried over it, and talked of the writer,
until, if Maggie and Bessie had doubted the fact before, they must then
have been quite convinced that no other children ever possessed such
a wonderful uncle as this Uncle Ruthven of theirs. When he would come
was not quite certain,--perhaps in two months, perhaps not in three or
four, while he might be here by Christmas or even sooner.

And now came faithful old nurse to hear the good news and to have her
share in the general family joy at the return of her first nursling,
her beloved "Master Ruthven."

"And will your Aunt Patty be here when he comes, my dear lady?" she
asked.

"I think not," said Mrs. Bradford, at which mammy looked well pleased,
though she said no more; but Maggie and Bessie understood the look
quite well.

Mrs. Bradford had intended by and by to talk to her children of Mrs.
Lawrence and to tell them that she was rather odd and different from
most of the people to whom they were accustomed, but that they must be
patient and bear with her if she was sometimes a little provoking and
cross. But now she found that they already knew quite too much, and
she was greatly disturbed when she thought that it would be of little
use to try and make them feel kindly towards the old lady. But the
mischief had spread even farther than she had imagined.

That afternoon Maggie and Bessie with little Franky were all in their
mamma's room, seated side by side upon the floor, amusing themselves
with a picture-book. This book belonged to Harry, who had made it
himself by taking the cuts from magazines and papers and putting
them in a large blank book. It was thought by all the children to be
something very fine, and now Maggie sat with it upon her lap while
she turned over the leaves, explaining such pictures as she knew, and
inventing meanings and stories for those which were new to her.

Presently she came to one which quite puzzled her. On the front of the
picture was the figure of a woman with an eagle upon her shoulder,
intended to represent America or Liberty; while farther back stood a
man with a gun in his hand and a lion at his side, who was meant for
John Bull of England. Miss America had her arm raised, and appeared to
be scolding Mr. England in the most terrible manner. Maggie could not
tell the meaning of it, though she knew that the woman was America, but
Franky thought that he understood it very well. Now Master Franky had
a good pair of ears, and knew how to make a good use of them. He had,
also, some funny ideas of his own, and like many other little children,
did not always know when it was best to keep them to himself. He had
heard a good deal that morning of some person named Patty, who was said
to scold very much; he had also heard of his Uncle Ruthven, and he knew
that this famous uncle had hunted lions in far-away Africa. The picture
of the angry woman and the lion brought all this to his mind, and now
he suddenly exclaimed,--

"Oh, my, my! Dere's a Patty wis her chitten, and she stolds Uncle
'Utven wis his lion."

This was too much for Maggie. Pushing the book from her knees, she
threw herself back upon the carpet and rolled over, screaming with
laughter at the joke of America with her eagle being mistaken for Aunt
Patty with a chicken; Bessie joined in, and Franky, thinking he had
said something very fine, clapped his hands and stamped his feet upon
the floor in great glee. Mrs. Bradford herself could not help smiling,
partly at the droll idea, partly at Maggie's amusement; but the next
moment she sighed to think how the young minds of her children had
been filled with fear and dislike of their father's aunt, and how much
trouble all this was likely to make.

"Children," said Mr. Bradford, that evening, "who would like to hear a
true story?"

Papa found he was not likely to want for listeners, as three or four
eager voices answered.

"Wait a moment, dear," he said, as Bessie came to take her usual place
upon his knee, and rising, he unlocked a cabinet secretary which stood
at the side of the fireplace in his library. This secretary was an
object of great interest to all the children, not because it held
papa's private papers,--those were trifles of very little account
in their eyes,--but because it contained many a relic and treasure,
remembrances of bygone days, or which were in themselves odd and
curious. To almost all of these belonged some interesting and true
story,--things which had happened when papa was a boy, or even farther
back than that time,--tales of travel and adventure in other lands, or
perhaps of good and great people. So they were pleased to see their
father go to his secretary when he had promised "a true story," knowing
that they were sure of a treat.

Mr. Bradford came back with a small, rather worn, red morocco case,
and as soon as they were all quietly settled, he opened it. It held
a miniature of a very lovely lady. Her bright eyes were so sparkling
with fun and mischief that they looked as if they would almost dance
out of the picture, and the mouth was so smiling and lifelike that it
seemed as if the rosy lips must part the next moment with a joyous,
ringing laugh. Her hair was knotted loosely back with a ribbon, from
which it fell in just such dark, glossy ringlets as clustered about
Maggie's neck and shoulders. It was a very beautiful likeness of a very
beautiful woman.

"Oh, how sweet, how lovely! What a pretty lady!" exclaimed the
children, as they looked at it.

"Why, she looks like our Maggie!" said Harry.

"Only don't flatter yourself you are such a beauty as that, Midget,"
said Fred, mischievously.

"Oh, Fred," said Bessie, "my Maggie is a great deal prettier, and I
don't believe that lady was so good as Maggie either."

"She may have been very good," said Harry, "but I don't believe she had
half as sweet a temper as our Midge. I'll answer for it that those eyes
could flash with something besides fun; could they not, papa?"

"Was she a relation of yours, papa?" asked Fred.

"Yes," answered Mr. Bradford, "and I am going to tell you a story about
her."

"One summer, a good many years ago, two boys were staying on their
uncle's farm in the country. Their father and mother were travelling
in Europe, and had left them in this uncle's care while they should
be absent. It was a pleasant home, and the boys, accustomed to a city
life, enjoyed it more than I can tell you. One afternoon, their uncle
and aunt went out to visit some friends, giving the boys permission to
amuse themselves out of doors as long as they pleased. All the servants
about the place, except the old cook, had been allowed to go to a fair
which was held in a village two or three miles away, so that the house
and farm seemed to be quite deserted. Only one other member of the
family was at home, and this was an aunt whom the boys did not love at
all, and they were only anxious to keep out of her way."

"Papa," said Fred, eagerly, "what were the names of these boys and
their aunt?"

"Ahem," said Mr. Bradford, with a twinkle in his eye, as he saw Fred's
knowing look. "Well, I will call the oldest boy by my own name, Henry,
and the youngest we will call Aleck."

"Oh," said Fred, "and the aunt's name was, I suppose--"

"Henrietta," said his father, quickly; "and if you have any remarks to
make, Fred, please keep them until my story is done."

"Very well, sir," said Fred, with another roguish look at Harry, and
his father went on.

"Henry was a strong, healthy boy, who had never known a day's sickness;
but Aleck was a weak, delicate, nervous little fellow, who could bear
no excitement nor fatigue. Different as they were, however, the
affection between them was very great. Gentle little Aleck looked up
to his elder and stronger brother with a love and confidence which
were beautiful to see, while the chief purpose of Henry's life at this
time was to fulfil the charge which his mother had given him to care
for Aleck, and keep him as far as he could from all trouble and harm,
looking upon it as a sacred trust.

"There was a large old barn standing at some distance from the house,
used only for the storing of hay; and as they found the sun too warm
for play in the open air, Henry proposed they should go there and make
some boats which later they might sail in the brook. Aleck was ready
enough, and they were soon comfortably settled in the hayloft with
their knives and bits of wood. But while they were happily working
away, and just as Henry was in the midst of some marvellous story, they
heard a voice calling them.

"'Oh, dear,' said little Aleck, 'there's Aunt Henrietta! Now she'll
make us go in the house, and she'll give me my supper early and send
me to bed, though Aunt Mary said I might sit up and have tea with the
rest, even if they came home late. Let us hide, Henry.'

"No sooner said than done. The knives and chips were whisked out of
sight, Aleck hidden beneath the hay. Henry, scrambling into an old
corn-bin, covered himself with the corn-husks with which it was half
filled, while the voice and its owner came nearer and nearer.

"'You'd better take care; she'll hear you,' said Henry, as he heard
Aleck's stifled laughter; and the next moment, through a crack in the
bin, he saw his aunt's head appearing above the stairs. Any stranger
might have wondered why the boys were so much afraid of her. She was a
tall, handsome lady, not old, though the hair beneath her widow's cap
was white as snow. She stood a moment and cast her sharp, bright eyes
around the hayloft; then, satisfied that the boys were not there, went
down again, saying quite loud enough for them to hear,--

"'If I find them, I shall send Henry to bed early, too; he's always
leading dear little Aleck into mischief. Such nonsense in Mary to tell
that sick baby he should sit up until she came home!'

"Now it was a great mistake for auntie to say this of Henry. He did
many wrong things, but I do not think he ever led his little brother
into mischief; on the contrary, his love for Aleck often kept him
from harm. So his aunt's words made him very angry, and as soon as he
and Aleck had come out of their hiding-places, he said many things he
should not have said, setting a bad example to Aleck, who was also
displeased at being called 'a sick baby.'

"'Let's shut ourselves up in Dan's cubby-hole,' said Henry; 'she'll
never think of looking for us there, if she comes back.'

"Dan's cubby-hole was a small room shut off from the rest of the
hayloft, where one of the farm hands kept his tools; and here the boys
went, shutting and bolting the door behind them. They worked away for
more than an hour, when Aleck asked his brother if he did not smell
smoke.

"'Not I,' said Henry; 'that little nose of yours is always smelling
something, Aleck.'

"Aleck laughed, but a few moments after declared again that he really
did smell smoke and felt it too.

"'They are burning stubble in the fields; it is that you notice,' said
Henry. But presently he sprang up, for the smell became stronger, and
he saw a little wreath of smoke curling itself beneath the door. 'There
is something wrong,' he said, and hastily drawing the bolt, he opened
the door. What a sight he saw! Heavy clouds of smoke were pouring up
the stairway from the lower floor of the barn, while forked flames
darted through them, showing that a fierce fire was raging below. Henry
sprang forward to see if the stairs were burning; but the flames,
fanned by the draught that came through the door he had opened, rushed
up with greater fury, and drove him back. How could he save Aleck?
The fire was plainly at the foot of the stairs, even if they were not
already burning, while those stifling clouds of smoke rolled between
them and the doors of the haymow, and were now pouring up through every
chink and cranny of the floor on which he stood. Not a moment was to
be lost. Henry ran back, and closing the door, said to his terrified
brother,--

"'Aleck, you must stay here one moment until I bring the ladder. I can
let myself down from this little window, but cannot carry you. Stand
close to it, dear boy, and do not be frightened.'

"Stretching out from the window, he contrived to reach an old worn-out
leader which would scarcely bear his weight, and to slide thence to the
ground. Raising the cry of 'Fire!' he ran for the ladder, which should
have been in its place on the other side of the barn. It was not there.
Frantic with terror, as he saw what headway the fire was making, he
rushed from place to place in search of the missing ladder; but all in
vain; it could not be found. Meanwhile his cries had brought his aunt
and the old cook from the house. Henry ran back beneath the window of
the little room where he had left Aleck, and called to him to jump down
into his arms, as it was the only chance of safety left. But, alas,
there was no answer; the poor little boy had fainted from fright. Back
to the door at the foot of the stairs, which were now all in a blaze,
through which he was about to rush, when his aunt's hand held him back.

"'Live for your father and mother. _I_ have _none_ to live for.'

"With these words, she threw her dress over her head, and dashing up
the burning stairs, was the next moment lost to sight. Two minutes
later, her voice was heard at the window. In her arms she held the
senseless Aleck, and when Henry and the old cook stood beneath, she
called to them to catch him in their arms. It was done; Aleck was safe.
And then letting herself from the window by her hands, she fell upon
the ground beside him scarcely a moment before the flames burst upward
through the floor. Aleck was quite unhurt, but his aunt was badly
burned on one hand and arm. She insisted, however, upon sitting up
and watching him, as he was feverish and ill from fright. Late in the
night Henry awoke, and, opening his eyes, saw his aunt kneeling by the
side of the bed, and heard her thanking God that he had given her this
child's life, beseeching him, oh, so earnestly, that it might be the
means of turning his young heart towards her, that there might be some
one in the world to love her. Will you wonder if after this Henry felt
as if he could never be patient or forbearing enough with this poor
unhappy lady?"

"But what made her so unhappy, papa, and why were the boys so afraid of
her?" asked Maggie.

"Well, dear, I must say that it was her violent temper, and her wish to
control every one about her, which made her so much feared not only by
the boys, but by all who lived with her. But perhaps when I tell you a
little more, you will think with me that there was much excuse for her.

"She was the only daughter and youngest child in a large family of
boys. Her mother died when she was a very little baby, so that she was
left to grow up without that tenderest and wisest of all care. Her
father and brothers loved her dearly; but I am afraid they indulged and
spoiled her too much. She had a warm, generous, loving heart, but she
was very passionate, and would sometimes give way to the most violent
fits of temper. The poor child had no one to tell her how foolish and
sinful this was, or to warn her that she was laying up trouble for
herself and her friends, for her father would never suffer her to be
contradicted or corrected."

"Papa," said Bessie, as her father paused for a moment, "do you mean
the story of this passionate child for a lesson to me?"

"No, darling," said her father; "for I think my Bessie is learning,
with God's help, to control her quick temper so well that we may hope
it will not give her much trouble when she is older. It is not for
you more than for your brothers and sister. But I have a reason for
wishing you all to see that it was more the misfortune than the fault
of the little Henrietta that she grew up with an ungoverned will and
violent temper. Whatever she wanted was given without any thought for
the rights or wishes of others; so it was not strange if she soon came
to consider that her will was law and that she must have her own way in
all things. Perhaps those who had the care of her did not know the harm
they were doing; but certain it is, that this poor child was suffered
to grow up into a most self-willed woman."

"I am very sorry for her," said Bessie, "'cause she did not have such
wise people as mine to tell her what was yight."

"Yes, she was much to be pitied. But you must not think that this
little girl was always naughty; it was not so by any means. And in
spite of the faults which were never checked, she was generally very
bright, engaging, and sweet. As she grew older, she became more
reasonable, and as every one around her lived only for her pleasure,
and she had all she desired, it was not difficult for her to keep her
temper under control. It is easy to be good when one is happy.

"This picture, which shows you how very lovely she was, was taken
for her father about the time of her marriage, and was said to be
an excellent likeness. Soon after this, she went to Europe with her
husband and father. There she passed several delightful months,
travelling from place to place, with these two whom she loved so dearly.

"But now trouble, such as she had never dreamed of, came to this poor
girl. They were in Switzerland, and one bright, sunny day, when no one
thought of a storm, her husband and father went out in a small boat on
the Lake of Geneva. There sometimes arises over this lake a terrible
north-east wind, which comes up very suddenly and blows with great
violence, causing the waves to rise to a height which would be thought
almost impossible by one who had not seen it. For some reason Henrietta
had not gone with the two gentlemen, but when she knew it was time for
them to be coming in, she went down to the shore to meet them. She soon
saw the boat skimming along, and could almost distinguish the faces
of the two dear ones for whom she was watching, when this terrible
wind came sweeping down over the water. She saw them as they struggled
against it, trying with all their strength to reach the shore; but in
vain. Wave after wave rolled into the little boat, and before many
minutes it sank. Henrietta stood upon the shore, and as she stretched
out her helpless hands toward them, saw her husband and father drown.
Do you wonder that the sight drove her frantic? That those who stood
beside her could scarcely prevent her from throwing herself into those
waters which covered all she loved best? Then came a long and terrible
illness, during which that dark hair changed to snowy white."

"Papa," said Bessie, whose tender little heart could not bear to hear
of trouble or distress which she could not comfort,--"papa, I don't
like this story; it is too mournful."

"I have almost done with this part of it, dear," said her father, "and
I tell it to you that you may know how much need this poor woman had
that others should be kind and patient with her, and how much excuse
there was for her when all this sorrow and trouble made her irritable
and impatient.

"Her brother came for her and took her home, but not one of her friends
could make her happy or contented; for this poor lady did not know
where to turn for the best of all comfort, and she had no strength of
her own to lean upon. So the faults of temper and disposition, which
had been passed over when she was young and happy, now grew worse
and worse, making her so irritable and cross, so self-willed and
determined, that it was almost impossible to live with her. Then for
years she was a great sufferer, and besides all this, other troubles
came upon her,--the loss of a great part of her fortune through one
whom she had trusted, and various other trials. So by degrees she drove
one after another of her friends from her, until she seemed to stand
quite alone in the world, and to be, as she said, 'without any one to
care for her.'"

"Did not Aleck love her after the fire?" asked Bessie.

"I think he was very grateful to her, dear, but I am afraid he never
became very fond of her. He was a gentle, timid little fellow, and
though his aunt was never harsh to him, it used to frighten him to see
her severity with other people."

"I'd have loved her, even if she was cross," said Maggie, looking
again at the picture. "I'd have been so good to her that she couldn't
be unkind to me, and if she had scolded me a little, I wouldn't have
minded, because I'd have been so sorry for her."

"Oh, Midget," said Harry, "you would have been frightened out of your
wits at her first cross word."

"No, I wouldn't, Harry; and I would try to be patient, even if she
scolded me like--like Aunt Patty."

"And what if she was Aunt Patty?" said Fred.

"But then she wasn't, you know."

"But she was," said papa, smiling.

Maggie and Bessie opened their eyes very wide at this astonishing news.

"You said her name was Henrietta, papa," said Maggie.

"Aunt Patty's name is also Henrietta," replied Mr. Bradford, "and when
she was young, she was generally called so."

"And Henry was this Henry, our own papa," said Fred, laying his hand
on his father's shoulder. "And Aleck was Uncle Alexander, who died so
long ago, before any of us were born. I guessed it at the beginning."

"Well, now," said Mr. Bradford, "if Aunt Patty comes to us by and by,
and is not always as gentle as she might be, will my little children
remember how much she has had to try her, and how much there is in her
which is really good and unselfish?"

The boys promised readily enough, and Bessie said doubtfully that
she would try, but when papa turned to Maggie, she looked as shy and
frightened as if Aunt Patty herself had asked the question.

"What is my rosebud afraid of?" said Mr. Bradford.

"Papa," said Maggie, "I'm so sorry for that pretty lady, but I can't
be sorry for Aunt Patty,--and oh, papa, I--I--do wish--Aunt Patty
wasn't"--and poor Maggie broke down in a desperate fit of crying.

Mr. Bradford feared that his story had been almost in vain so far as
his little girls were concerned, and indeed it was so. They could
not make the pretty lady in the picture, the poor young wife whose
husband and father had been drowned before her very eyes, or the brave,
generous woman who had saved little Aleck, one and the same with the
dreaded Aunt Patty. The mischief which words had done words could not
so easily undo.

[Illustration: decoration, end of chap. 4]



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 5]



V.

_LIGHT THROUGH THE CLOUDS._


Christmas with all its pleasures had come and gone, enjoyed perhaps
as much by the policeman's children as it was by the little Bradfords
in their wealthier home. For though the former had not the means of
the latter with which to make merry, they had contented spirits and
grateful hearts, and these go far to make people happy. Their tall
Christmas-tree and beautiful greens were not more splendid in the eyes
of Maggie and Bessie than were the scanty wreath and two foot high
cedar branch, which a good-natured market-woman had given Mrs. Granby,
were in those of little Jennie Richards. To be sure, the apology for a
tree was not dressed with glittering balls, rich bonbons, or rows of
tapers; its branches bore no expensive toys, rare books, or lovely
pictures; but the owner and the little ones for whose delight she
dressed it, were quite satisfied, and only pitied those who had no tree
at all. Had not good Mrs. Granby made the most extraordinary flowers
of red flannel and gilt paper,--flowers whose likeness never grew in
gardens or greenhouses of any known land; had she not baked sugar
cakes which were intended to represent men and women, pigs, horses,
and cows? Were not the branches looped with gay ribbons? Did they not
bear rosy-cheeked apples, an orange for each child, some cheap but much
prized toys, and, better than all, several useful and greatly needed
articles, which had been the gift of Mrs. Bradford? What did it matter
if one could scarcely tell the pigs from the men?

Perhaps you may like to know how Mrs. Bradford became interested in the
policeman's family.

One morning, a day or two before Christmas, Maggie and Bessie were
playing baby-house in their own little room, when they heard a knock
at mamma's door. Maggie ran to open it. There stood a woman who looked
rather poor, but neat and respectable. Maggie was a little startled
by the unexpected sight of a strange face, and stood holding the door
without speaking.

"Your ma sent me up here," said the woman. "She is busy below, and she
told me to come up and wait for her here."

So Maggie allowed the stranger to pass her, and she took a chair which
stood near the door. Maggie saw that she looked very cold, but had not
the courage to ask her to come nearer the fire. After a moment, the
woman smiled pleasantly. Maggie did not return the smile, though she
looked as if she had half a mind to do so; but she did not like to see
the woman looking so uncomfortable, and pushing a chair close to the
fire, she said, "There."

The woman did not move; perhaps she, too, felt a little shy in a
strange place. Maggie was rather vexed that she did not understand her
without more words, but summing up all her courage, she said,--

"I think if you took this seat by the fire, you'd be warmer." The woman
thanked her, and took the chair, looking quite pleased.

"Are you the little lady who was lost a couple of months ago?" she
asked.

"No," said Maggie, at once interested, "that was our Bessie; but we
found her again."

"Oh, yes, I know that. I heard all about her from Policeman Richards,
who looked after her when she was up to the station."

"Bessie, Bessie!" called Maggie, "here's a woman that knows your
station policeman. Come and look at her."

At this, Bessie came running from the inner room.

"Well," said the woman, laughing heartily, "it is nice to be looked at
for the sake of one's friends when one is not much to look at for one's
self."

"I think you're pretty much to look at," said Bessie. "I think you have
a nice, pleasant face. How is my policeman?"

"He's well," said the stranger. "And so you call him your policeman; do
you? Well, I shall just tell him that; I've a notion it will tickle him
a bit."

"He's one of my policemen," said Bessie. "I have three,--one who helps
us over the crossing; the one who found me when I came lost; and the
one who was so good to me in his station-house."

"And that is my friend, Sergeant Richards. Well, he's a mighty nice
fellow."

"Yes, he is," said Bessie, "and I'd like to see him again. Are you his
wife, ma'am?"

"Bless you, no!" said the woman; "I am nothing but Mrs. Granby, who
lives in his house. Your grandmother, Mrs. Stanton, sent me to your
ma, who, she said, had work to give me. His poor wife, she can scarce
creep about the room, let alone walking this far. Not but that she's
better than she was a spell back, and she'd be spryer yet, I think,
but for the trouble that's weighin' on her all the time, and hinders
her getting well."

"Does she have a great deal of trouble?" asked Maggie, who by this time
felt quite sociable.

"Doesn't she though!" answered Mrs. Granby. "Trouble enough; and she's
awful bad herself with the rheumatics, and a sickly baby, and a blind
boy, and debts to pay, and that scandal of a doctor, and no way of
laying up much; for the children must be fed and warmed, bless their
hearts! and a police-sergeant's pay ain't no great; yes, yes, honey,
lots of trouble and no help for it as I see. Not that I tell them so; I
just try to keep up their hearts."

"Why don't they tell Jesus about their troubles, and ask him to help
them?" asked Bessie, gently.

"So they do," answered Mrs. Granby; "but he hasn't seen best to send
them help yet. I suppose he'll just take his own time and his own way
to do it; at least, that's what Sergeant Richards says. He'll trust
the Lord, and wait on him, he says; but it's sore waiting sometimes.
Maybe all this trouble is sent to try his faith, and I can say it don't
fail him, so far as I can see. But, honey, I guess you sometimes pray
yourself; so to-night, when you go to bed, do you say a bit of a prayer
for your friend, Sergeant Richards. I believe a heap in the prayers of
the young and innocent; and you just ask the Lord to help him out of
this trouble. Maybe he'll hear you; anyway, it won't do no harm; prayer
never hurt nobody."

"Oh, mamma!" exclaimed Bessie, as her mother just then entered the
room, "what do you think? This very nice woman lives with my station
policeman, who was so kind to me, and his name is Yichards, and he has
a lame baby and a sick wife and a blind boy, and no doctor to pay, and
the children must be fed, and a great deal of trouble, and she don't
get well because of it, and he does have trust in the Lord, but he
hasn't helped him yet--"

"And my Bessie's tongue has run away with her ideas," said mamma,
laughing. "What is all this about, little one?"

"About Bessie's policeman," said Maggie, almost as eager as her sister.
"Let this woman tell you. She knows him very well."

"I beg pardon, ma'am," said Mrs. Granby. "I don't know but it was
my tongue ran away with me, and I can't say it's not apt to do so;
but when your little daughter was lost, it was my friend, Sergeant
Richards, that saw to her when she was up to the station, and he's
talked a deal about her, for he was mighty taken with her."

"Bessie told me how kind he was to her," said Mrs. Bradford.

"Yes, ma'am; there isn't a living thing that he wouldn't be kind to,
and it does pass me to know what folks like him are so afflicted for.
However, it's the Lord's work, and I've no call to question his doings.
But the little ladies were just asking me about Sergeant Richards,
ma'am, and so I came to tell them what a peck of troubles he was in."

"What are they, if you are at liberty to speak of them?" asked Mrs.
Bradford. "Any one who has been kind to my children has a special claim
on me."

So Mrs. Granby told the story, not at all with the idea of asking aid
for her friends,--that she knew the good policeman and his wife would
not like,--but, as she afterwards told them, because she could not
help it. "The dear lady looked so sweet, and spoke so sweet, now and
then asking a question, not prying like, but as if she took a real
interest, not listening as if it were a duty or because she was ashamed
to interrupt. And she wasn't of the kind to tell you there was others
worse off than you, or that your troubles might be greater than they
were. If there's a thing that aggravates me, it's that," continued Mrs.
Granby. "I know I ought to be thankful, and so I mostly am, that I and
my friends ain't no worse off than we are, and I know it's no good
to be frettin' and worryin' about your trials, and settin' yourself
against the Lord's will; but I do say if I fall down and break my arm,
there ain't a grain of comfort in hearin' that my next-door neighbor
has broken both his. Quite contrary; I think mine pains worse for
thinkin' how his must hurt him. And now that I can't do the fine work
I used to, it don't make it no easier for me to get my livin' to have
it said, as a lady did to me this morning, that it would be far worse
if I was blind. So it would, I don't gainsay that, but it don't help my
seeing, to have it thrown up to me by people that has the full use of
their eyes. Mrs. Bradford aint none of that sort, though, not she; and
the children, bless their hearts, stood listenin' with all their ears,
and I'd scarce done when the little one broke out with,--

"'Oh, do help them! Mamma, couldn't you help them?'

"But I could see the mother was a bit backward about offerin' help,
thinkin', I s'pose, that you and Mary wasn't used to charity, and not
knowin' how you'd take it; so she puts it on the plea of its bein'
Christmas time."

And here Mrs. Granby paused, having at last talked herself out of
breath.

All this was true. Mrs. Bradford had felt rather delicate about
offering assistance to the policeman's family, not knowing but that it
might give offence. But when she had arranged with Mrs. Granby about
the work, she said,--

"Since your friends are so pressed just now, I suppose they have not
been able to make much preparation for Christmas."

"Precious little, ma'am," answered Mrs. Granby; "for Sergeant Richards
don't think it right to spend a penny he can help when he's owin'
others. But we couldn't let the children quite forget it was Christmas,
so I'm just goin' to make them a few cakes, and get up some small
trifles that will please them. I'd have done more, only this last
week, when I hadn't much work, I was fixin' up some of the children's
clothes, for Mrs. Richards, poor soul, can't set a stitch with her
cramped fingers, and there was a good deal of lettin' out and patchin'
to be done."

"And how are the children off for clothes?" asked Mrs. Bradford.

"Pretty tolerable, the boys, ma'am, for I've just made Willie a suit
out of an old uniform of his father's, and the little ones' clothes
get handed down from one to another, though they don't look too fine
neither. But Jennie, poor child, has taken a start to grow these last
few months, and I couldn't fix a thing for her she wore last winter. So
she's wearin' her summer calicoes yet, and even them are very short as
to the skirts, and squeezed as to the waists, which ain't good for a
growin' child."

"No," said Mrs. Bradford, smiling. "I have here a couple of merino
dresses of Maggie's, and a warm sack, which she has outgrown. They are
too good to give to any one who would not take care of them, and I laid
them aside until I should find some one to whom they would be of use.
Do you think Mrs. Richards would be hurt if I offered them to her? They
will at least save some stitches."

"Indeed, ma'am," said Mrs. Granby, her eyes dancing, "you needn't be
afraid; she'll be only too glad and thankful, and it was only this
mornin' she was frettin' about Jennie's dress. She ain't quite as
cheery as her husband, poor soul; 'taint to be expected she should be,
and she always had a pride in Jennie's looks, but there didn't seem no
way to get a new thing for one of the children this winter."

"And here is a cap of Franky's, and some little flannel shirts, which I
will roll up in the bundle," said Mrs. Bradford. "They may, also, be of
use."

Away rushed Maggie when she heard this to her own room, coming back
with a china dog and a small doll, which she thrust into Mrs. Granby's
hands, begging her to take them to Jennie, but to be sure not to give
them to her before Christmas morning.

"What shall we do for the blind boy?" asked Bessie. "We want to make
him happy."

"Perhaps he would like a book," said mamma.

"But he couldn't see to read it, mamma."

"Oh, I dare say some one would read it to him," said Mrs. Bradford.
"Does he not like that?" she asked of Mrs. Granby.

"Yes, ma'am. His mother reads to him mostly all the time when the
baby is quiet. It's about all she can do, and it's his greatest
pleasure, dear boy, to have her read out the books he and Jennie get at
Sunday-school every Sunday."

"Can he go to Sunday-school when he's blind?" asked Maggie.

"Why, yes, honey. Every Sunday mornin' there's a big boy that goes to
the same school stops for Willie and Jennie, and totes them with him;
and if their father or me can't go to church, he just totes them back
after service. And when Willie comes in with his libr'y book and his
'Child's Paper' and Scripture text, he's as rich as a king, and a heap
more contented, I guess."

While Mrs. Granby was talking, Mrs. Bradford was looking over a parcel
which contained some new books, and now she gave her one for blind
Willie's Christmas gift, saying she hoped things would be ordered so
that before another Christmas he would be able to see.

There is no need to tell Mrs. Granby's delight, or the thanks which she
poured out. If Mrs. Bradford had given her a most magnificent present
for herself, it would not have pleased her half so much as did these
trifles for the policeman's children.

That evening, after the little ones were all in bed, Mrs. Granby told
Mr. Richards and his wife of all that had happened at Mrs. Bradford's.

Mrs. Richards was by no means too proud to accept the lady's kindness;
so pleased was she to think that she should see Jennie warm and neat
once more that she had no room in her heart for anything but gratitude.

Mrs. Granby was just putting away the treasures she had been showing,
when there came a rap from the old-fashioned knocker on the front-door.

"Sit you still, Sergeant Richards," she said. "I'm on my feet, and I'll
just open the door." Which she did, and saw a tall gentleman standing
there, who asked if Mr. Richards was in. "He is, sir," she answered,
and then saying to herself, "I hope he's got special business for him
that he'll pay him well for," threw open the door of the sitting-room,
and asked the gentleman in.

But the police-sergeant had already done the "special business," for
which the gentleman came to make return. Mr. Richards knew him by
sight, though he had never spoken to him.

"Mr. Bradford, I believe, sir?" he said, coming forward.

"You know me then?" said the gentleman.

"Yes, sir," answered Richards, placing a chair for his visitor. "You
see I know many as don't know me. Can I be of any service to you, sir?"

"I came to have a talk with you, if you are at leisure," said Mr.
Bradford. "Perhaps you may think I am taking a liberty, but my wife
heard to-day, through your friend, that you were in some trouble
with a doctor who has attended your family, and that you have been
disappointed in obtaining the services of Mr. Ray, who has gone to
Europe. I am a lawyer, you know, and if you do not object to consider
me as a friend in his place, perhaps you will let me know what your
difficulties are, and I may be able to help you."

The policeman looked gratefully into the frank, noble face before him.
"Thank you, sir," he said; "you are very good, and this is not the
first time that I have heard of your kindness to those in trouble. It's
rather a long story, that of our difficulties, but if it won't tire
you, I'll be thankful to tell it."

He began far back, telling how they had done well, and been very
comfortable, having even a little laid by, until about a year since,
when Mrs. Richards' father and mother, who lived with them, had died
within a month of each other.

"And I couldn't bear, sir," he said, "that the old folks shouldn't have
a decent burying. So that used up what we had put by for a rainy day.
Maybe I was foolish, but you see they were Mary's people, and we had
feeling about it. But sure enough, no sooner was the money gone than
the rainy day came, and stormy enough it has been ever since."

He went on, telling how sickness had come, one thing following another;
how Dr. Schwitz had promised that his charges should be small, but
how he never would give in his bill, the policeman and his wife
thinking all the while that it was kindness which kept him from
doing so; how it had taken every cent of his salary to pay the other
expenses of illness, and keep the family barely warmed and fed; of
the disappointment of their hopes for Willie for, at least, some time
to come; and finally of the terrible bill which Dr. Schwitz had sent
through revenge, the police-sergeant thought, and upon the prompt
payment of which he was now insisting.

"He's hard on me, sir, after all his fair promises," said Richards, as
he handed Mr. Bradford the bill; "and you see he has me, for I made no
agreement with him, and I don't know as I can rightly say that the law
would not allow it to him; so, for that reason, I don't dare to dispute
it. But I thought Mr. Ray might be able to make some arrangement with
him, and I _can't_ pay it all at once, nor this long time yet, that's
settled. If he would wait, I might clear it off in a year or two
though how then we are to get bread to put into the children's mouths
I don't see. And there is the rent to pay, you know. We have tucked
the children and Mrs. Granby all into one room, and let out the other
two up-stairs; so that's a little help. And Mary was talking of selling
that mahogany table and bookcase that are as dear to her as if they
were gold, for they were her mother's; but they won't fetch nothing
worth speaking of. The English colonel that came after your little
daughter, when she was up at the station that day, was so good as to
hand me a ten dollar bill, and we laid that by for a beginning; but
think what a drop in the bucket that is, and it's precious little that
we've added to it. I don't see my way out of this; that's just a fact,
sir, and my only hope is that the Lord knows all."

"You say Dr. Schwitz tried to bribe you by saying he would send in no
bill, if you allowed his nephew to escape?" said Mr. Bradford.

"Yes, sir, and I suppose I might use that for a handle against him; but
I don't like to, for I can't say but that the man was real kind to me
and mine before that. If he presses me too hard, I may have to; but I
can't bear to do it."

"Will you put the matter in my hands, and let me see this Dr. Schwitz?"
asked Mr. Bradford.

Richards was only too thankful, and after asking a little more about
blind Willie, the gentleman took his leave.

There is no need to tell what he said to Dr. Schwitz, but a few days
after he saw the police-sergeant again, and gave him a new bill, which
was just half as much as the former one, with the promise that the
doctor would wait and allow Richards to pay it by degrees, on condition
that it was done within the year. This, by great pinching and saving,
the policeman thought he would be able to do. The good gentleman did
not tell that it was only by paying part of the sum himself that he had
been able to make this arrangement.

"I don't know what claim I have upon you for such kindness, sir," said
Richards, "but if you knew what a load you have taken from me, I am
sure you would feel repaid."

"I am repaid, more than repaid," said Mr. Bradford, with a smile; "for
I feel that I am only paying a debt."

The policeman looked surprised.

"You were very kind to my little girl when she was in trouble," said
the gentleman.

"Oh, that, sir? Who could help it? And that was a very tiny seed to
bring forth such a harvest as this."

"It was 'bread cast upon the waters,'" said Mr. Bradford, "and to those
who give in the Lord's name, he gives again 'good measure, pressed
down, shaken together, and running over.'"

But the policeman had not even yet gathered in the whole of his
harvest.



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 6]



VI.

_UNCLE RUTHVEN._


Christmas brought no Uncle Ruthven, but Christmas week brought Miss
Elizabeth Rush, the sweet "Aunt Bessie" whom all the children loved
so dearly. And it was no wonder they were fond of her, for she was
almost as gentle and patient with them as mamma herself; and, like her
brother, the colonel, had a most wonderful gift of story-telling, which
she was always ready to put in use for them. Maggie and Bessie were
more than ever sure that there were never such delightful people as
their own, or two such happy children as themselves.

"I think we're the completest family that ever lived," said Maggie,
looking around the room with great satisfaction, one evening when
Colonel and Mrs. Rush were present.

"Yes," said Bessie; "I wonder somebody don't write a book about us."

"And call it 'The Happy Family,'" said Fred, mischievously, "after
those celebrated bears and dogs and cats and mice who live together in
the most peaceable manner so long as they have no teeth and claws, but
who immediately fall to and eat one another up as soon as these are
allowed to grow."

"If there is a bear among us, it must be yourself, sir," said the
colonel, playfully pinching Fred's ear.

"I don't know," said Fred, rubbing the ear; "judging from your claws, I
should say you were playing that character, colonel; while I shall have
to take that of the unlucky puppy who has fallen into your clutches."

"I am glad you understand yourself so well, any way," returned Colonel
Rush, drily.

Fred and the colonel were very fond of joking and sparring in this
fashion, but Bessie always looked very sober while it was going on;
for she could not bear anything that sounded like disputing, even in
play; and perhaps she was about right.

But all this had put a new idea into that busy little brain of
Maggie's. "Bessie," she said, the next morning, "I have a secret to
tell you, and you must not tell any one else."

"Not mamma?" asked Bessie.

"No, we'll tell mamma we have a secret, and we'll let her know by and
by; but I want her to be very much surprised as well as the rest of the
people. Bessie, I'm going to write a book, and you may help me, if you
like."

"Oh!" said Bessie. "And what will it be about, Maggie?"

"About ourselves. You put it in my head to do it, Bessie. But then I
sha'n't put in our real names, 'cause I don't want people to know it is
us. I made up a name last night. I shall call my people the Happys."

"And shall you call the book 'The Happy Family'?" asked Bessie.

"No; I think we will call it 'The Complete Family,'" said Maggie. "That
sounds nicer and more booky; don't you think so?"

"Yes," said Bessie, looking at her sister with great admiration. "And
when are you going to begin it?"

"To-day," said Maggie. "I'll ask mamma for some paper, and I'll write
some every day till it's done; and then I'll ask papa to take it to the
bookmaker; and when the book is made, we'll sell it, and give the money
to the poor. I'll tell you what, Bessie, if Policeman Richards' blind
boy is not cured by then, we'll give it to him to pay his doctor."

"You dear Maggie!" said Bessie. "Will you yite a piece that I make up
about yourself?"

"I don't know," said Maggie; "I'll see what you say. I wouldn't like
people to know it was me."

The book was begun that very day, but it had gone little farther than
the title and chapter first, before they found they should be obliged
to take mamma into the secret at once. There were so many long words
which they wished to use, but which they did not know how to spell,
that they saw they would have to be running to her all the time. To
their great delight, mamma gave Maggie a new copy-book to write in, and
they began again. As this was a stormy day, they could not go out, so
they were busy a long while over their book. When, at last, Maggie's
fingers were tired, and it was put away, it contained this satisfactory
beginning:--


"THE COMPLETE FAMILY.

"A TALE OF HISTORY.

"CHAPTER I.

"Once upon a time, there lived a family named Happy; only that was not
their real name, and you wish you had known them, and they are alive
yet, because none of them have died. This was the most interesting
and happiest family that ever lived. And God was so very good to them
that they ought to have been the best family; but they were not except
only the father and mother; and sometimes they were naughty, but 'most
always afterwards they repented, so God forgave them.

"This family were very much acquainted with some very great friends of
theirs, and the colonel was very brave, and his leg was cut off; but
now he is going to get a new leg, only it is a make believe."

This was all that was done the first day; and that evening a very
wonderful and delightful thing occurred, which Maggie thought would
make her book more interesting than ever.

There had been quite a family party at dinner, for it was Aunt Bessie's
birthday, and the colonel and Mrs. Rush were always considered as
belonging to the family now. Besides these, there were grandmamma
and Aunt Annie, Grandpapa Duncan, Uncle John, and Aunt Helen, all
assembled to do honor to Aunt Bessie.

Dinner was over, and all, from grandpapa to baby, were gathered in
the parlor, when there came a quick, hard pull at the door-bell. Two
moments later, the parlor door was thrown open, and there stood a tall,
broad figure in a great fur overcoat, which, as well as his long, curly
beard, was thickly powdered with snow. At the first glance, he looked,
except in size, not unlike the figure which a few weeks since had
crowned their Christmas-tree; and in the moment of astonished silence
which followed, Franky, throwing back his head and clapping his hands,
shouted, "Santy Caus, Santy Caus!"

But it was no Santa Claus, and in spite of the muffling furs and the
heavy beard, in spite of all the changes which ten long years of
absence had made, the mother's heart, and the mother's eye knew her
son, and rising from her seat with a low cry of joy, Mrs. Stanton
stretched her hands towards the stranger, exclaiming, "My boy!
Ruthven, my boy!" and the next moment she was sobbing in his arms. Then
his sisters were clinging about him, and afterwards followed such a
kissing and hand-shaking!

It was an evening of great joy and excitement, and although it was long
past the usual time when Maggie and Bessie went to bed, they could not
go to sleep. At another time nurse would have ordered them to shut
their eyes and not speak another word; but to-night she seemed to think
it quite right and natural that they should be so very wide awake, and
not only gave them an extra amount of petting and kissing, but told
them stories of Uncle Ruthven's pranks when he was a boy, and of his
wonderful sayings and doings, till mamma, coming up and finding this
going on, was half inclined to find fault with the old woman herself.
Nurse had quite forgotten that, in those days, she told Uncle Ruthven,
as she now told Fred, that he was "the plague of her life," and that he
"worried her heart out." Perhaps she did not really mean it with the
one more than with the other.

[Illustration: Bessie's Friends. p. 124.]

"And to think of him," she said, wiping the tears of joy from her
eyes,--"to think of him asking for his old mammy 'most before he had
done with his greetings to the gentlefolks! And him putting his arm
about me and giving me a kiss as hearty as he used when he was a boy;
and him been all over the world seein' all sorts of sights and doin's.
The Lord bless him! He's got just the same noble, loving heart, if he
has got all that hair about his face."

Uncle Ruthven's tremendous beard was a subject of great astonishment
to all the children. Fred saucily asked him if he had come home to
set up an upholsterer's shop, knowing he could himself furnish plenty
of stuffing for mattresses and sofas. To which his uncle replied that
when he did have his beard cut, it should be to furnish a rope to bind
Fred's hands and feet with.

Maggie was very eager to write down the account of Uncle Ruthven's
home-coming in her history of "The Complete Family," and as mamma's
time was more taken up than usual just now, she could not run to her
so often for help in her spelling. So the next two days a few mistakes
went down, and the story ran after this fashion:--

"The Happys had a very happy thing happen to them witch delited them
very much. They had a travelling uncle who came home to them at last;
but he staid away ten years and did not come home even to see his
mother, and I think he ort to don't you? But now he is come and has
brought so many trunks and boxes with such lots and lots of things and
kurositys in them that he is 'most like a Norz' Ark only better, and
his gret coat and cap are made of the bears' skins he shot and he tells
us about the tigers and lions and I don't like it and Fred and Harry
do and Bessie don't too. And he is so nice and he brought presents for
every boddy and nurse a shawl that she's going to keep in her will
till she dies for Harry's wife, and he has not any and says he won't
because Uncle Ruthven has no wife. That is all to-day my fingers are
krampd."

Strange to say, Maggie was at home with the new uncle much sooner than
Bessie. Little Bessie was not quite sure that she altogether approved
of Uncle Ruthven, or that it was quite proper for this stranger to come
walking into the house and up-stairs at all hours of the day, kissing
mamma, teasing nurse, and playing and joking with the children, just
as if he had been at home there all his life. Neither would she romp
with him as the other children did, looking gravely on from some quiet
corner at their merry frolics, as if she half-disapproved of it all. So
Uncle Ruthven nicknamed her the "Princess," and always called her "your
highness" and "your grace," at which Bessie did not know whether to be
pleased or displeased. She even looked half-doubtfully at the wonderful
stories he told, though she never lost a chance of hearing one. Uncle
Ruthven was very fond of children, though he was not much accustomed
to them, and he greatly enjoyed having them with him, telling Mrs.
Bradford that he did not know which he liked best,--Bessie with her
dainty, quiet, ladylike little ways, or Maggie with her half-shy,
half-roguish manner, and love of fun and mischief. Maggie and all the
boys were half wild about him, and as for baby, if she could have
spoken, she would have said that never was there such an uncle for
jumping and tossing. The moment she heard his voice, her hands and feet
began to dance, and took no rest till he had her in his arms; while
mamma sometimes feared the soft little head and the ceiling might come
to too close an acquaintance.

"Princess," said Mr. Stanton, one evening, when he had been home about
a fortnight, catching up Bessie, as she ran past him, and seating her
upon the table, "what is that name your highness calls me?"

"I don't call you anything but Uncle Yuthven," answered Bessie, gravely.

"That is it," said her uncle. "What becomes of all your r's? Say
Ruthven."

"Er--er--er--Yuthven," said Bessie, trying very hard at the r.

Mr. Stanton shook his head and laughed.

"I can talk plainer than I used to," said Bessie. "I used to call Aunt
Bessie's name very crooked, but I don't now."

"What did you use to call it?"

"I used to say _Libasus_; but now I can say it plain, _Lisabus_."

"A vast improvement, certainly," said Mr. Stanton, "but you can't
manage the R's yet, hey? Well, they will come one of these days, I
suppose."

"They'd better," said Fred, who was hanging over his uncle's shoulder,
"or it will be a nice thing when she is a young lady for her to go
turning all her R's into Y's. People will call her crooked-tongued Miss
Bradford."

"You don't make a very pleasant prospect for me to be in," said
Bessie, looking from brother to uncle with grave displeasure, "and if
a little boy like you, Fred, says that to me when I am a big lady, I
shall say, 'My dear, you are very impertinent.'"

"And quite right, too," said Uncle Ruthven. "If all the little boys do
not treat you with proper respect, Princess, just bring them to me, and
I will teach them good manners."

Bessie made no answer, for she felt rather angry, and, fearing she
might say something naughty, she wisely held her tongue; and slipping
from her uncle's hold, she slid to his knee, and from that to the
floor, running away to Aunt Bessie for refuge.

After the children had gone to bed, Uncle Ruthven went up to Mrs.
Bradford's room, that he might have a quiet talk with this his favorite
sister. Mrs. Bradford was rocking her baby to sleep, which business was
rather a serious one, for not the least talking or moving about could
go on in the room but this very young lady must have a share in it.
The long lashes were just drooping upon the round, dimpled cheek when
Uncle Ruthven's step was heard.

"Ah-oo-oo," said the little wide-awake, starting up with a crow of
welcome to the playfellow she liked so well.

Mamma laid the little head down again, and held up a warning finger
to Uncle Ruthven, who stole softly to a corner, where he was out of
Miss Baby's sight and hearing, to wait till she should be fairly off
to dreamland. This brought him near the door of Maggie's and Bessie's
room, where, without intending it, he heard them talking. Not hearing
his voice, they thought he had gone away again, and presently Maggie
said in a low tone, that she might not rouse baby, "Bessie, have you
objections to Uncle Ruthven?"

"Yes," answered Bessie, slowly,--"yes, Maggie, I think I have. I try
not to, but I'm 'fraid I do have a little objections to him."

"But why?" asked Maggie. "_I_ think he is lovely."

"I don't know," said Bessie. "But, Maggie, don't you think he makes
pretty intimate?"

"Why, yes," said Maggie; "but then he's our uncle, you know. I guess he
has a right if he has a mind to."

"But he makes more intimate than Uncle John, and we've known him ever
so long, and Uncle Yuthven only a little while. Why, Maggie, he kisses
mamma!"

"Well, he is her own brother," said Maggie, "and Uncle John is only her
step-brother,--no, that's not it--her brother-of-law--that's it."

"What does that mean, Maggie?"

"It means when somebody goes and marries your sister. If somebody
married me, he'd be your brother-of-law."

"He sha'n't!" said Bessie, quite excited. "He's a horrid old thing, and
he sha'n't do it!"

"Who sha'n't do what?" asked Maggie, rather puzzled.

"That person, that brother-of-law; he sha'n't marry you; you are my own
Maggie."

"Well, he needn't if you don't want him to," said Maggie, quite as well
contented to settle it one way as the other. "And you needn't feel so
bad, and sit up in bed about it, Bessie, 'cause you'll take cold, and
mamma forbid it."

"So she did," said Bessie, lying down again with a sigh. "Maggie, I'm
'fraid I'm naughty to-night. I forgot what mamma told me, and I was
naughty to Uncle Yuthven."

"What did you say?"

"I didn't _say_ anything, but I felt very passionate, and I thought
naughty things,--how I'd like to give him a good slap when he teased
me, and, Maggie, for a moment I 'most thought I wished he did not come
home. I am going to tell him I'm sorry, the next time he comes."

"I wouldn't," said Maggie, who was never as ready as Bessie to
acknowledge that she had been wrong; "not if I didn't do or say
anything."

"I would," said Bessie. "It is naughty to feel so; and you know there's
no 'scuse for me to be passionate like there was for Aunt Patty, 'cause
my people are so very wise, and teach me better. And it grieves Jesus
when we feel naughty, and he saw my naughty heart to-night."

"Then ask him to forgive you," said Maggie.

"So I did; but I think he'll know I want to be better if I ask Uncle
Yuthven too."

"Well," said Maggie, "maybe he will. But, Bessie, why do you speak
about yourself as if you are like Aunt Patty. You're not a bit like
her."

"But I might be, if I wasn't teached better," said Bessie, "and if
Jesus didn't help me. Poor Aunt Patty! Papa said she was to be pitied."

"I sha'n't pity her, I know," said Maggie.

"But, Maggie, mamma said we ought to try and feel kind to her, and to
be patient and good to her when she came here, 'cause she's getting
very old, and there's nobody to love her, or take care of her. I am
'fraid of her, but I am sorry for her."

"If she has nobody to take care of her, let her go to the Orphan
Asylum," said Maggie. "I just hope papa will send her there, 'cause we
don't want to be bothered with her."

"And don't you feel a bit sorry for her, Maggie?"

"No, not a bit; and I'm not going to, either. She is quite a disgrace
to herself, and so she'd better stay at her house up in the mountains."

Maggie, in her turn, was growing quite excited, as she always did
when she talked or thought of Aunt Patty. It was some time since the
children had done either, for Christmas, Aunt Bessie, and Uncle Ruthven
had given them so much else to think about, that they had almost
forgotten there was such a person.

And now mamma, who had laid baby in her cradle, coming in to stop
the talking, was sorry to hear her little girls speaking on the old,
disagreeable subject. She told them they must be still, and go to
sleep. The first command was obeyed at once, but Maggie did not find
the second quite so easy; and she lay awake for some time imagining
all kinds of possible and impossible quarrels with Aunt Patty, and
inventing a chapter about her for "The Complete Family."

While little Maggie was thinking thus of Aunt Patty, the old lady, in
her far-away home, was wondering how she might best contrive to gain
the hearts of her young nieces and nephews, for she was not the same
woman she had been four years ago. During the last few months a new
knowledge and a new life had come to her, making her wish to live in
peace and love with every one. But she did not know how to set about
this; for the poor lady had grown old in the indulgence of a bad
temper, a proud spirit, and a habit of desiring to rule all about her;
and now it was not easy to change all this. She had humbled herself at
the feet of her Lord and Saviour, but it was hard work to do it before
her fellow-men. She could not quite resolve to say to those whom she
had grieved and offended by her violence and self-will, "I have done
wrong, but now I see my sin, and wish, with God's help, to lead a new
life."

Still, she longed for the love and friendship she had once cast from
her, and her lonely heart craved for some care and affection. She well
knew that Mr. and Mrs. Bradford would be only too ready to forgive and
forget all that was disagreeable in the past, and she also felt that
they would do nothing to prejudice the minds of their children against
her. She thought she would go to them, and try to be gentle and loving,
and so perhaps she should win back their hearts, and gain those of
their little ones. But old habit and the old pride were still strong
within her, and so, when she wrote to Mr. Bradford to say she was
coming to make them a visit, she gave no sign that she was sorry for
the past, and would like to make amends.

But shortly before the time she had fixed for the visit, something
happened which caused her to change her purpose, and she chose to say
nothing of her reasons for this, only sending word that she could not
come before spring, perhaps not then. Now, again she had altered her
plans, and this time she chose to take them all by surprise, and to go
to Mr. Bradford's without warning.

"Margaret," said Mr. Stanton softly, as his sister came from the
bedside of her little girls, and they went to the other side of the
room, "what a sensitive conscience your darling little Bessie has! It
seems I vexed her to-night, though I had no thought of doing so. I saw
she was displeased, but the feeling seemed to pass in a moment. Now
I find that she is so penitent for indulging in even a wrong feeling
that she cannot rest satisfied without asking pardon, not only of her
heavenly Father, but also of me." And he told Mrs. Bradford of all he
had heard the children say, with some amusement, as he repeated the
conversation about himself.

"Yes," said Mrs. Bradford, "my dear little Bessie's quick temper gives
her some trouble. I am often touched to see her silent struggles with
herself when something tries it, how she forces back each angry word
and look, and faithfully asks for the help which she knows will never
fail her. But with that tender conscience, and her simple trust in Him
who has redeemed her, I believe all the strength she needs will be
granted. God only knows how thankful I am that he has thus early led my
precious child to see the sin and evil of a passionate and unchecked
temper, and so spared her and hers the misery which I have seen it
cause to others."

Uncle Ruthven came in the next morning, and, as usual, "making
intimate," ran up to mamma's room. She was not there; but Maggie and
Bessie were, busy over "The Complete Family." But Maggie did not look
at all as if she belonged to the Happys just then. She had composed,
what she thought, a very interesting chapter about Aunt Patty, and
commenced it in this way: "There came to the Happys a very great
aflekshun." But when she had written this last word, she had her doubts
about the spelling, and carried the book to mamma to see if it were
right. Mamma inquired what the affliction was, and finding, as she
supposed, that it was Aunt Patty, she told Maggie she did not wish her
to write about her. Maggie was very much disappointed, and even pouted
a little, and she had not quite recovered when her uncle came in. In
his hand he carried a little basket of flowers, which the children
supposed was for mamma, and which he stood upon the table. Bessie loved
flowers dearly, and in a moment she was hanging over them, and enjoying
their sweetness.

Uncle Ruthven asked what they were about, and to Bessie's surprise,
Maggie took him at once into the secret, telling him all about "The
Complete Family" and her present trouble. Uncle Ruthven quite agreed
with mamma that it was not wisest and best to write anything unkind
of Aunt Patty, and told Maggie of some very pleasant things she might
relate, so that presently she was smiling and good-natured again.

Then Mr. Stanton took Bessie up in his arms. "Bessie," he said, "did I
vex you a little last night?"

Bessie colored all over, but looking her uncle steadily in the eyes,
answered, "Yes, sir; and I am sorry I felt so naughty."

"Nay," said Uncle Ruthven, smiling, "if I teased you, although I did
not intend it, I am the one to beg pardon."

"But I was pretty mad, uncle, and I felt as if I wanted to be naughty.
I think I ought to be sorry."

"As you please then, darling; we will forgive one another. And now
would you like this little peace-offering from Uncle Ruthven?" and he
took up the basket of flowers.

"Is that for me?" asked Bessie, her eyes sparkling.

"Yes. I thought perhaps I had hurt your feelings last night, and so I
brought it to you that you might see _I_ was sorry."

"But I could believe you without that."

Bessie felt reproached that she had told Maggie she had "objections to
Uncle Ruthven," and now she felt as if they had all flown away.

"Perhaps you could," said Uncle Ruthven, smiling as he kissed her; "but
the flowers are your own to do with as you please. And now you must
remember that I am not much accustomed to little girls, and do not
always know what they like and what they do not like; so you must take
pity on the poor traveller, if he makes a mistake now and then, and
believe he always wishes to please you and make you love him as far as
he knows how."



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 7]



VII.

_AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR._


Uncle Ruthven had brought home with him two servants, the elder of
whom was a Swede, and did not interest the children much, being, as
Maggie said, such a "very broken Englishman" that they could scarcely
understand him. But the other was a little Persian boy about twelve
years old, whom a sad, or rather a happy accident, had thrown into
Mr. Stanton's hands. Riding one day through the streets of a Persian
town, as he turned a corner, this boy ran beneath his horse's feet, was
thrown down and badly hurt. Mr. Stanton took him up and had him kindly
cared for, and finding that the boy was an orphan, with no one to love
him, he went often to see him, and soon became much interested in
the grateful, affectionate little fellow; while Hafed learned to love
dearly the only face which looked kindly upon him. When the time came
for Mr. Stanton to go away, Hafed's grief was terrible to see, and he
clung so to this new friend, that the gentleman could not find it in
his heart to leave him. It was not difficult to persuade those who had
the care of him to give him up; they were only too glad to be rid of
the charge. So, at some trouble to himself, Mr. Stanton had brought him
away. But if he needed payment, he found it in Hafed's happy face and
tireless devotion to himself. He was less of a servant than a pet; but
his master did not mean him to grow up in idleness and ignorance, and
as soon as he knew a little English, he was to go to school to learn to
read and write; but at present he was allowed time to become accustomed
to his new home.

The children thought him a great curiosity, partly because of his
foreign dress, and that he had come from such a far-off country;
partly because he could speak only half a dozen English words.

Hafed took a great fancy to the little girls, and was never happier
than when his master took him to Mr. Bradford's house, and left him to
play with them for a while. Maggie and Bessie liked him also, and they
immediately set about teaching him English. As yet, he knew only four
or five words, one of which was "Missy," by which name he called every
one who wore skirts, not excepting Franky, who considered it a great
insult. Maggie was very eager to have him learn new words, and was
constantly showing him something and repeating the name over and over
till he could say it. But though he took great pains, and was an apt
scholar, he did not learn fast enough to satisfy Maggie.

"Hafed," she said to him one day, holding up her doll, "say 'doll.'"

"_Dole_," repeated Hafed, in his soft, musical tones.

"Doll," said Maggie, not at all satisfied with his pronunciation, and
speaking in a louder voice, as if Hafed could understand the better for
that.

"Dole," said Hafed again, with a contented smile.

"D-o-o-ll," shrieked Maggie, in the ear of her patient pupil, with no
better success on his part.

Miss Rush was sitting by, and she called Maggie to her. "Maggie, dear,"
she said, "you must not be impatient with Hafed. I am sure he tries his
best; but you must remember it is hard work for that little foreign
tongue of his to twist itself to our English words. He will learn to
pronounce them in time."

"But, Aunt Bessie," said Maggie, "mamma said it was always best to
learn to do a thing well at first, and then one will not have to break
one's self of bad habits."

"And so it is, dear; but then we cannot always do that at once. When
mamma teaches you French, you cannot always pronounce the words as she
does; can you?"

"No; ma'am; but those are hard French words, and we are trying to teach
Hafed English, and that is so easy."

"Easy to you, dear, who are accustomed to it, but not to him. It is
even harder for him to frame the English words than it is for you to
repeat the French; and you should be gentle and patient with him, as
mamma is with you."

The little Persian felt the cold very much, and delighted to hang about
the fires and registers. He had a way of going down on his knees before
the fire, and holding up both hands with the palms towards the blaze.
The first time nurse saw him do this, she was quite shocked.

"The poor little heathen," she said. "Well, I've often heard of them
fire-worshippers, but I never expected to see one, at least, in this
house. I shall just make so bold as to tell Mr. Ruthven he ought to
teach him better."

But Hafed was no fire-worshipper, for he had been taught better, and
thanks to his kind master, did not bow down to that or any other false
god. It was only his delight in the roaring blaze which had brought him
down in front of it, not, as nurse thought, the wish to pray to it.

"Let's teach him about Jesus," said Bessie to her sister. "First, we'll
teach him to say it, and then he'll want to know who he is."

So kneeling down beside the little stranger, she took his hand in hers,
and pointing upwards said, "Jesus."

The boy's face lighted up immediately, and to Bessie's great delight,
he repeated Jesus in a tone so clear and distinct as to show it was no
new word to him. He had a pretty way when he wished to say he loved a
person, of touching his fingers to his lips, laying them on his own
heart, and then on that of the one for whom he wished to express his
affection. Now, at the sound of the name, which he, as well as Bessie,
had learned to love, he tried, by a change in the pretty sign, to
express his meaning. Touching first Bessie's lips and then her heart
with the tips of his fingers, he softly blew upon them, as if he
wished to waft to heaven the love he could not utter in words, saying,
"Missy--Jesus?"

Bessie understood him. She knew he wished to ask if she loved Jesus,
and with a sunny face, she answered him with a nod, asking, in her
turn, "Do you, Hafed,--do you love Jesus?"

The boy went through the same sign with his own heart and lips, saying,
"Hafed--Jesus," and Bessie turned joyfully to her sister.

"He knows him, Maggie. We won't have to teach him; he knows our Jesus,
and he loves him too. Oh, I'm so glad!"

"Now the Good Shepherd, that has called ye to be his lambs, bless you
both," said old nurse, with the tears starting to her eyes. "That's as
cheering a sight as I want to see; and there was me a misjudging of
my boy. I might have known him better than to think he'd let one as
belonged to him go on in darkness and heathendom."

Nurse always called Mr. Stanton her "boy" when she was particularly
pleased with him.

From this time Hafed was almost as great a favorite with nurse as he
was with the children, and seeing how gentle and thoughtful he was, she
would even sometimes leave them for a few moments in his care.

One morning mamma and Aunt Bessie were out, and Jane, who was sick, had
gone to bed. Hafed was in the nursery playing with the children, when
the chamber-maid came in to ask nurse to go to Jane. Nurse hesitated
at first about leaving her charge, but they all said they would be
good, and Hafed should take care of them. Nurse knew that this was a
safe promise from Maggie and Bessie, but she feared that, with every
intention of being good, mischievous Franky would have himself or the
others in trouble if she stayed away five minutes.

"See here," she said, "I'll put ye all into the crib, and there ye may
play omnibus till I come back. That will keep ye out of harm's way,
Franky, my man, for if there's a chance for you to get into mischief,
ye'll find it."

This was a great treat, for playing in the cribs and beds was not
allowed without special permission, and Franky, being provided with a
pair of reins, and a chair turned upside down for a horse, took his
post as driver, in great glee; while the three little girls were packed
in as passengers, Maggie holding the baby. Hafed was rather too large
for the crib, so he remained outside, though he, too, enjoyed the fun,
even if he did not quite understand all it meant. Then, having with
many pointings and shakings of her head made Hafed understand that he
was not to go near the fire or windows, or to let the children fall out
of the crib, mammy departed.

They were all playing and singing as happy as birds, when the
nursery-door opened, and a stranger stood before them. In a moment
every voice was mute, and all five children looked at her in utter
astonishment. She was an old lady, with hair as white as snow, tall
and handsome; but there was something about her which made every one
of the little ones feel rather shy. They gazed at her in silence while
she looked from one to another of them, and then about the room, as if
those grave, stern eyes were taking notice of the smallest thing there.

"Well!" exclaimed the old lady, after a moment's pause, "this is a
pretty thing!"

By this time Bessie's politeness had gained the better of her
astonishment, and scrambling to her feet, she stood upright in the
crib. As the stranger's eyes were fixed upon Hafed as she spoke, the
little girl supposed the "pretty thing" meant the dress of the young
Persian, which the children thought very elegant; and she answered,
"Yes, ma'am, but he is not to wear it much longer, 'cause the boys
yun after him in the street, so Uncle Yuthven is having some English
clothes made for him."

"Where is your mother?" asked the old lady, without other notice of
Bessie's speech.

"Gone out with Aunt Bessie, ma'am."

"And is there nobody left to take care of you?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am," answered Bessie. "Maggie and I are taking care of the
children, and Hafed is taking care of us."

"Humph!" said the old lady, as if she did not think this at all a
proper arrangement. "I shall give Margaret a piece of my mind about
this."

Bessie now opened her eyes very wide. "Papa don't allow it," she said,
gravely.

"Don't allow what?" asked the stranger, rather sharply.

"Don't allow mamma to be scolded."

"And who said I was going to scold her?"

"You said you were going to give her a piece of your mind, and pieces
of mind mean scoldings, and we never have mamma scolded, 'cause she
never deserves it."

"Oh!" said the old lady, with a half-smile, "then she is better than
most people."

"Yes, ma'am," answered Bessie, innocently, "she is better than anybody,
and so is papa."

"Just as well _you_ should think so," said the lady, now smiling
outright. "And you are Maggie--no--Bessie, I suppose."

"Yes, ma'am. I am Bessie, and this is Maggie, and this is baby, and
this is Franky, and this is Hafed," said the child, pointing in turn to
each of her playmates.

"And is there no one but this little mountebank to look after you?"
asked the old lady. "Where is your nurse?"

"She is coming back in a few minutes," answered Bessie. "And Hafed is
not a--a--that thing you called him, ma'am. He is only a little Persian
whom Uncle Yuthven brought from far away over the sea, and he's a very
good boy. He does not know a great many of our words, but he tries to
learn them, and he knows about our Jesus, and tries to be a good little
boy."

Dear Bessie wished to say all she could in praise of Hafed, whom she
thought the old lady looked at with displeasure. Perhaps Hafed thought
so, also, for he seemed very much as if he would like to hide away from
her gaze. Meanwhile Maggie sat perfectly silent. When the old lady had
first spoken, she started violently, and, clasping her arms tightly
about the baby, looked more and more frightened each instant; while
baby, who was not usually shy, nestled her little head timidly against
her sister's shoulder, and stared at the stranger with eyes of grave
infant wonder.

"And so you are Maggie," said the lady, coming closer to the crib.

Poor Maggie gave a kind of gasp by way of answer.

"Do you not know me, Maggie?" asked the old lady, in a voice which she
intended to be coaxing.

To Bessie's dismay, Maggie burst into one of those sudden and violent
fits of crying, to which she would sometimes give way when much
frightened or distressed.

"Why, why!" said the stranger, as the baby, startled by Maggie's sobs,
and the way in which she clutched her, raised her voice also in a loud
cry. "Why, why! what is all this about? Do you not know your Aunt
Patty?"

Aunt Patty! Was it possible? At this astounding and alarming news,
Bessie plumped down again in the bed beside Maggie, amazed at herself
for having dared to speak so boldly to that terrible person. And yet
she had not seemed so terrible, nor had she felt much afraid of her
till she found out who she was.

But now Mrs. Lawrence was losing patience. Certainly she had not had
a very pleasant reception. Coming cold and tired from a long journey,
she had found her host and hostess out, and no one but the servants to
receive her. This was her own fault, of course, since she had not told
Mr. and Mrs. Bradford to expect her; but that did not make it the less
annoying to her. It is not always the easier to bear a thing because
we ourselves are to blame for it.

However, she had made up her mind not to be vexed about it, and at once
went to the nursery to make acquaintance with the children. But the
greeting she received was not of a kind to please any one, least of all
a person of Aunt Patty's temper. And there was worse still to come.

"What is the meaning of all this?" asked Mrs. Lawrence, in an angry
tone. "Here, Maggie, give me that child, and stop crying at once."

As she spoke, she tried to take the baby, but poor Maggie, now in utter
despair, shrieked aloud for nurse, and held her little sister closer
than before. Aunt Patty was determined, however, and much stronger than
Maggie, and in another minute the baby was screaming in her arms.

"Oh, Maggie, why don't somebody come?" cried Bessie. "Oh, do say those
words to her?"

Maggie had quite forgotten how she had intended to alarm Aunt Patty if
she interfered with them; but when Bessie spoke, it came to her mind,
and the sight of her baby sister in the old lady's arms was too much
for her. Springing upon her feet, she raised her arm after the manner
of the woman in the picture, and gasped out, "Beware, woman!"

For a moment Aunt Patty took no notice of her, being occupied with
trying to soothe the baby.

"Beware, woman!" cried Maggie, in a louder tone, and stamping her foot.

Mrs. Lawrence turned and looked at her.

"Beware, woman!" shrieked Maggie, and Bessie, thinking it time for her
to come to her sister's aid, joined in the cry, "Beware, woman!" while
Franky, always ready to take part in any disturbance, struck at Aunt
Patty with his whip, and shouted, "'Ware, woman!" and Hafed, knowing
nothing but that this old lady had alarmed and distressed his young
charge, and that it was his duty to protect them, raised his voice in
a whoop of defiance, and snatching up the hearth-brush, brandished it
in a threatening manner as he danced wildly about her. Nor was this
all, for Flossy, who had also been taken into the crib as a passenger,
commenced a furious barking, adding greatly to the uproar.

[Illustration: Bessie's Friends. p. 158.]

It would be difficult to say which was the greatest, Aunt Patty's
astonishment or her anger; and there is no knowing what she would have
done or said, for at this moment the door opened, and Uncle Ruthven
appeared.

For a moment he stood perfectly motionless with surprise. It was
indeed a curious scene upon which he looked. In the centre of the room
stood an old lady who was a stranger to him, holding in her arms the
screaming baby; while around her danced his own little servant-boy,
looking as if he might be one of the wild dervishes of his own country;
and in the crib stood his young nieces and Franky, all shouting,
"Beware, woman!" over and over again.

But Aunt Patty had not the least idea of "running away, never to be
seen again," and if her conscience were "guilty," it certainly did not
seem to be at all alarmed by anything Maggie or Bessie could do.

Nevertheless, Mr. Stanton's appearance was a great relief to her. Baby
ceased her loud cries, and stretched out her dimpled arms to her uncle,
with a beseeching whimper; Hafed paused in his antics, and stood like a
statue at sight of his master; and the three other children all turned
to him with exclamations of "Oh, Uncle Ruthven; we're so glad!" and
"Please don't leave us," from Maggie and Bessie; and "Make dat Patty be
off wiz herself," from Franky.

Mr. Stanton recovered himself in a moment, and bowing politely to Mrs.
Lawrence, said, with a smile sparkling in his eye, "I fear you are in
some trouble, madam; can I help you?"

"Help me?" repeated the old lady; "I fear you will want help yourself.
Why, it must need half a dozen keepers to hold these little Bedlamites
in any kind of order."

"They are usually orderly enough," answered Mr. Stanton as he took baby
from Aunt Patty, who was only too glad to give her up; "but I do not
understand this. What is the matter, Maggie, and where is nurse?"

But Maggie only answered by a new burst of sobs, and Bessie spoke for
her. "She's Aunt Patty, Uncle Yuthven; she says she is."

"Well," said Uncle Ruthven, more puzzled than ever, for he knew little
of Mrs. Lawrence, save that she was Mr. Bradford's aunt, "and do you
welcome her with such an uproar as this? Tell me where nurse is,
Bessie."

As he spoke, nurse herself came in, answering his question with, "Here
I am, sir, and--"

Nurse, in her turn, was so astonished by the unexpected sight of Aunt
Patty that she stood quite still, gazing at her old enemy. But, as she
afterwards said, she presently "recollected her manners," and dropping
a stiff courtesy to Mrs. Lawrence, she took the baby from Mr. Stanton,
and in a few words explained the cause of her ten minutes' absence. The
tearful faces of her nurslings, and that of Aunt Patty, flushed and
angry, gave nurse a pretty good guess how things had been going while
she had been away, but she saw fit to ask no questions.

"My lady is out, ma'am," she said, with a grim sort of politeness to
Mrs. Lawrence, "and I think she was not looking for you just now, or
she would have been at home."

Then Mr. Stanton introduced himself, and asking Mrs. Lawrence if she
would let him play the part of host till his sister came home, he
offered the old lady his arm, and led her away.

Poor Aunt Patty! she scarcely knew what to do. The old angry, jealous
temper and the new spirit which had lately come to dwell in her heart
were doing hard battle, each striving for the victory. She thought, and
not without reason, that her nephew's little children must have been
taught to fear and dislike her, when they could receive her in such a
manner; and the evil spirit said, "Go, do not remain in a house where
you have been treated so. Leave it, and never come back to it. You have
been insulted! do not bear it! Tell these people what you think of
their unkindness, and never see them again." But the better angel, the
spirit of the meek and lowly Master, of whom she was striving to learn,
said, "No, stay, and try to overcome evil with good. This is all your
own fault, the consequence of your own ungoverned and violent temper.
Your very name has become a name of fear to these innocent children;
but you must bear it, and let them find they have no longer cause to
dread you. And do not be too proud to let their parents see that you
are sorry for the past, and wish it to be forgotten. If this is hard,
and not what you would have expected, remember how much they have borne
from you in former days; how patient and gentle and forbearing they
were."

Then, as her anger cooled down, she began to think how very unlikely
it was that Mr. or Mrs. Bradford had said or done anything which could
cause their children to act in the way Maggie and Bessie had done
that morning. This was probably the work of others who remembered how
perverse and trying she had been during her last visit. And Aunt Patty
was forced to acknowledge to herself that it was no more than she
deserved, or might have looked for.

And so, trying to reason herself into better humor, as she thought
the matter over, she began to see its droll side (for Aunt Patty had
a quick sense of fun) and to find some amusement mingling with her
vexation at the singular conduct of the children.

Meanwhile, Mr. Stanton, who saw that the poor lady had been greatly
annoyed, and who wondered much at all the commotion he had seen in the
nursery, though, like nurse, he thought it wisest to ask no questions,
was doing his best to make her forget it; and so well did he succeed,
that presently Mrs. Lawrence found herself, she scarcely knew how,
laughing heartily with him as she related the story of Maggie's strange
attack upon her. Mr. Stanton understood it no better than she did,
perhaps not so well; but he was very much amused; and as he thought
these young nieces and nephews of his were very wonderful little
beings, he told Aunt Patty many of their droll sayings and doings,
making himself so agreeable and entertaining, that by the time his
sister came in, the old lady had almost forgotten that she had cause
to be offended, and was not only quite ready to meet Mrs. Bradford in
a pleasant manner, but actually went so far as to apologize for taking
them all by surprise.

This was a great deal to come from Aunt Patty. She would not have
spoken so four years ago; but Mrs. Bradford was not more surprised by
this than she was at the difference in look and manner which now showed
itself in the old lady. Surely, some great change must have come to
her; and her friends, seeing how much more patient and gentle she was
than in former days, could not but think it was the one blessed change
which must come to the hearts of those who seek for love and peace by
the true way.

[Illustration: decoration, end of chap. 7]



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 8]



VIII.

_FRANKY._


But although such a great and delightful alteration had taken place in
Mrs. Lawrence, and although Mrs. Bradford and Miss Rush did all they
could to make the children feel kindly towards her, it was some days
before things went at all smoothly between the old lady and the little
ones, and Annie Stanton, seeing the consequence of her thoughtlessness,
had more than once reason to regret it, and to take to herself a lesson
to refrain from evil speaking.

Maggie and Bessie, it is true, were too old and too well behaved to
speak their fear and their dislike openly, by word or action, but it
was plainly to be seen in their looks and manners. Poor Aunt Patty! She
heard the sweet, childish voices prattling about the house, ringing
out so freely and joyfully in peals of merry laughter, or singing to
simple music the pretty hymns and songs their dear mother and Mrs. Rush
had taught them; but the moment she appeared, sweet song, innocent
talk, and gay laugh were hushed; the little ones were either silent,
or whispered to one another in subdued, timid tones. Little feet would
come pattering, or skipping along the hall, a small, curly head peep
within the door, and then vanish at sight of her, while a whisper of
"She's there; let's run," told the cause of its sudden disappearance.
She saw them clinging around their other friends and relations with
loving confidence, climbing upon their knees, clasping their necks,
pressing sweet kisses on their cheeks and lips, asking freely for
all the interest, sympathy, and affection they needed. Father and
mother, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, Colonel and Mrs. Rush, the
very servants, who had been long in the house, all came in for a share
of childish love and trust. But for her they had nothing but shy,
downcast looks, timid, half-whispered answers; they shrank from the
touch of her hand, ran from her presence. Yes, poor Aunt Patty! the
punishment was a severe one, and, apart from the pain it gave her, it
was hard for a proud spirit such as hers to bear. But she said nothing,
did not even complain to Mrs. Bradford of the reception she had met
with from Maggie and Bessie, and it was only by Uncle Ruthven's account
and the confession of the little girls that their mamma knew what had
occurred.

On the morning after Mrs. Lawrence's arrival, Maggie, as usual, brought
the "Complete Family" to her mother to have the spelling corrected, and
Mrs. Bradford found written, "'Beware, woman!' is not a bit of use. It
don't frighten people a bit; not even gilty conshuns, and Uncle John
just teased me I know. It is real mean."

Mamma asked the meaning of this, and, in a very aggrieved manner,
Maggie told her of Uncle John's explanation of the picture, and how
she thought she would try the experiment on Aunt Patty when she had
insisted on taking the baby.

"But it was all of no purpose, mamma," said Maggie, in a very injured
tone; "she did not care at all, but just stood there, looking madder
and madder."

Mamma could scarcely wonder that Aunt Patty had looked "madder and
madder," and she told Maggie that she thought her aunt wished to be
kind and good since she had not uttered one word of complaint at the
rude reception she had met with. But the little girl did not see it
with her mother's eyes, and could not be persuaded to think less hardly
of Aunt Patty.

But that rogue, Franky, was not afraid to show his feelings. He was a
bold little monkey, full of life and spirits, and always in mischief;
and now he seemed to have set himself purposely to defy and brave Mrs.
Lawrence, acting as if he wished to see how far he could go without
meeting punishment at her hands. This sad behavior of Franky's was
particularly unfortunate, because the old lady had taken a special love
for the little boy, fancying he looked like the dear father who so many
years ago had been drowned beneath the blue waters of the Swiss lake.

A day or two after Aunt Patty came, she, with Mrs. Bradford and Miss
Rush, was in the parlor with three or four morning visitors. Franky
had just learned to open the nursery door for himself, and this piece
of knowledge he made the most of, watching his chance and slipping
out the moment nurse's eye was turned from him. Finding one of these
opportunities for which he was so eager, he ran out and went softly
down-stairs, fearing to hear nurse calling him back. But nurse did not
miss him at first, and he reached the parlor in triumph. Here the door
stood partly open, and putting in his head, he looked around the room.
No one noticed the roguish little face, with its mischievous, dancing
eyes, for all the ladies were listening to Aunt Patty, as she told
them some very interesting anecdote.

Suddenly there came from the door, in clear, childish tones, "Ladies,
ladies, does Patty stold oo? Oo better wun away, she stolds very
dreadful."

After which Master Franky ran away himself as fast as his feet could
carry him, laughing and chuckling as he mounted the stairs, as if he
had done something very fine.

Mrs. Lawrence went straight on with her story, not pausing for an
instant, though that she heard quite as plainly as any one else was to
be seen by the flush of color on her cheek, and the uplifting of the
already upright head.

As for poor Mrs. Bradford, it was very mortifying for her; but what was
to be done? Nothing, just nothing, as far as Aunt Patty was concerned.
It was not a thing for which pardon could well be asked or an apology
made, and Mrs. Bradford thought the best way was to pass it over in
silence. She talked very seriously to Franky, but it seemed impossible
to make the little boy understand that he had done wrong; and, although
nothing quite as bad as this occurred again for several days, he
still seemed determined to make war upon Aunt Patty whenever he could
find a chance of doing so. And yet, strange to say, this unruly young
gentleman was the first one of the children to make friends with his
old auntie; and it came about in this way:--

Aunt Bessie had brought as her Christmas gift to Franky a tiny pair
of embroidered slippers, which were, as her namesake said, "perferly
cunning," and in which the little boy took great pride. Nurse, also,
thought a great deal of these slippers, and was very choice of them,
allowing Franky to wear them only while she was dressing or undressing
him. But one day when she brought him in from his walk, she found
his feet very cold, and taking off his walking-shoes, she put on
the slippers, and planted him in front of the fire, telling him to
"toast his toes." No sooner did the little toes begin to feel at all
comfortable than Franky looked around for some way of putting them
to what he considered their proper use; namely, trotting about. That
tempting nursery-door stood ajar, nurse's eyes were turned another way,
and in half a minute he was off again. Mammy missed him very soon, and
sent Jane to look for him. She met him coming up-stairs, and brought
him back to the nursery with a look in his eye which nurse knew meant
that he had been in mischief. And was it possible? He was in his
stocking feet! The precious slippers were missing. In vain did the old
woman question him; he would give her no answer, only looking at her
with roguishness dancing in every dimple on his chubby face; and in
vain did Jane search the halls and staircase. So at last nurse took him
to his mother, and very unwilling he was to go, knowing right well that
he had been naughty, and that now he would be obliged to confess it.

"Where are your slippers, Franky?" asked Mrs. Bradford, when nurse had
told her story.

Franky hung his head and put his finger into his mouth, then lifted his
face coaxingly to his mother for a kiss.

"Mamma cannot kiss you till you are a good boy," said Mrs. Bradford,
and repeated her question, "Where are your slippers?"

"In Patty's pottet," said Franky, seeing that his mother would have an
answer, and thinking he had best have it out.

"And how came they in Aunt Patty's pocket?"

"She put dem dere hersef," answered the child.

"Did she take them off your feet, Franky?"

"No, mamma," answered Franky, liking these questions still less than he
had done the others.

"How did they come off then?"

"Me trow dem at Patty," said Franky.

At last, after much more questioning and some whimpering from the
child, he was brought to confess that he had gone to the library,
where he found Aunt Patty. Defying her as usual, and trying how far
he could go, without punishment, he had called her "bad old sing,"
and many other naughty names; but finding this did not bring the
expected scolding, he had pulled off first one and then the other of
his slippers and thrown them at the old lady. These Mrs. Lawrence had
picked up and put in her pocket, still without speaking. Little Franky
could not tell how sorrow and anger were both struggling in her heart
beneath that grave silence.

When Mrs. Bradford had found out all Franky could or would tell, she
told him he was a very naughty little boy, and since he had behaved
so badly to Aunt Patty, he must go at once and ask her pardon. This
Franky had no mind to do. He liked very well to brave Aunt Patty from
a safe distance; but he did not care to trust himself within reach
of the punishment he knew he so justly deserved. Besides, he was in
a naughty, obstinate mood, and would not obey his mother as readily
as usual. But mamma was determined, as it was right she should be,
and after rather a hard battle with her little son, she carried him
down-stairs, still sobbing, but subdued and penitent, to beg Aunt
Patty's forgiveness.

"Me sorry, me do so any more," said Franky, meaning he would do so no
more.

To his surprise, and also somewhat to his mother's, the old lady caught
him in her arms, and covered his face with kisses, while a tear or two
shone in her eye.

"Don't ky; me dood now," lisped Franky, forgetting all his fear, and
putting up his hand to wipe away her tears; and from this minute Aunt
Patty and Franky were the best of friends. Indeed, so indulgent did
she become to him, that papa and mamma were quite afraid he would
be spoiled; for the little gentleman, finding out his power, lorded
it over her pretty well. Mrs. Bradford, coming in unexpectedly one
day, actually found the old lady on her hands and knees, in a corner,
playing the part of a horse eating hay from a manger; while Franky,
clothes-brush in hand, was, much to his own satisfaction, pretending to
rub her down, making the hissing noise used by coachmen when they curry
a horse, and positively refusing to allow his patient playfellow to
rise.

But Maggie and Bessie could not be persuaded to be at all friendly
or sociable with Aunt Patty. True, after their first dread of her
wore off, and they found she was by no means so terrible as they had
imagined, they no longer scampered off at the least sound of her voice
or glimpse of her skirts, as they had done at first; and Bessie even
found courage to speak to her now and then, always looking however,
as if she thought she was running a great risk, and could not tell
what would be the consequence of such boldness. For after all they had
heard, our little girls found it impossible to believe that such a
great change had taken place in Aunt Patty, and were always watching
for some outbreak of temper.

Unhappily there was one thing which stood much in Aunt Patty's way, not
only with the children, but perhaps with some grown people also, and
that was her old way of meddling and finding fault with things which
did not concern her. This she did, almost without knowing it; for so
it is, where we have long indulged in a habit, it becomes, as it were,
a part of ourselves, and the older we grow, the harder it is to rid
ourselves of it. And there are few things which sooner rouse the evil
passions and dislike of others than this trick of fault-finding where
we have no right or need to do so, or of meddling with that which does
not concern us. So Mrs. Lawrence, without intending it, was constantly
fretting and aggravating those around her while Maggie and Bessie, who
thought that all their mamma did or said was quite perfect, were amazed
and indignant when they heard her rules and wishes questioned and
found fault with, and sometimes even set aside by Aunt Patty, if she
thought another way better.

[Illustration: decoration, end of chap. 8]



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 9]



IX.

"_BEAR YE ONE ANOTHER'S BURDENS._"


One Sunday when Mrs. Lawrence had been with them about two weeks,
Maggie and Bessie, on going as usual to their class at Mrs. Rush's,
found that they two were to make up her whole class that morning;
for Gracie Howard was sick, and Lily Norris gone on a visit to her
grandfather who lived in the country. Mrs. Rush was not very sorry to
have her favorite scholars by themselves, for she wished to give them a
little lesson which it was not necessary that the others should hear.
And Maggie gave her the opportunity for which she wished by asking
Colonel Rush for the story of Benito.

"For," said the little girl, "if we were away and Lily and Gracie here,
and you told them a new story, we should be very disappointed not to
hear it; so Bessie and I made agreement to ask for an old one, and we
like Benito better than any."

"Very well; it shall be as you say," replied the colonel, who, provided
his pets were satisfied, was so himself, and after the children had
gone, he said to his wife, "Certainly there are few things in which our
sweet little Maggie does not act up to the Golden Rule, of which she
is so fond. She does not repeat it in a parrot-like way, as many do,
but she understands what it means, and practises it too, with her whole
heart."

So when the lessons were over, the colonel told the story of Benito,
which never seemed to lose its freshness with these little listeners.
When he came to the part where Benito helped the old dame with her
burden, Mrs. Rush said, "Children, what do you think that burden was?"

"We don't know," said Bessie. "What?"

"Neither do I _know_," answered Mrs. Rush. "I was only thinking what
it _might_ be. Perhaps it was pain and sickness; perhaps the loss of
friends; perhaps some old, troublesome sin, sorely repented of, long
struggled with, but which still returned again and again, to weary and
almost discourage her as she toiled along in the road which led to
the Father's house. Perhaps it was all of them; but what ever it was,
Benito did not pause to ask; he only thought of his Lord's command,
'Bear ye one another's burdens;' and so put his hand to the load, and
eased the old dame's pain and weariness. Was it not so?" she asked of
her husband.

"I think so," he answered.

"But a little child could not help grown persons to bear their sins, or
to cure them," said Bessie; "they must go to Jesus for that."

"Yes, we must go to Jesus; but the very love and help and pity we have
from him teach us to show all we can to our fellow-creatures, whether
they are young or old. One of the good men whom Jesus left on earth
to do his work and preach his word tells us that Christ was 'touched
with the feeling of our infirmities, because he was in all points
tempted like as we are.' This means that, good and pure and holy as he
was, yet he allowed himself to suffer all the trials and struggles and
temptations which can come to poor, weak man, so that he might know
just what we feel as we pass through them, and just what help we need.
Yet, sorely tempted as he was, he never fell into sin, but returned to
his Father's heaven pure and stainless as he left it. Since then Christ
feels for all the pains and struggles through which we go for his
sake, since he can make allowance for all our weakness and failures;
and as he is so ready to give us help in our temptations, so much the
more ought we who are not only tempted, but too apt, in spite of our
best efforts, to fall into sin, to show to others all the kindness and
sympathy we may at any time need for ourselves. So may we try to copy
our Saviour, 'bearing one another's burdens,' even as he has borne
ours, by giving love and pity and sympathy where we can give nothing
else. Benito was a very young child, scarcely able to walk on the
narrow road without the help of some older and wiser hand, and his weak
shoulders could not carry any part of the old dame's load; but he put
his baby hands beneath it, and gave her loving smiles and gentle words,
and these brought her help and comfort, so that she went on her way,
strengthened for the rest of the journey. And, as we know, Benito met
his reward as he came to the gates of his Father's house. So much may
the youngest do for the oldest; and I think _we_ know of an old dame
whose 'burden' our little pilgrims, Maggie and Bessie, might help to
bear, if they would."

"I just believe you mean Aunt Patty!" exclaimed Bessie, in such a tone
as showed she was not very well pleased with the idea.

"And," said Maggie, with just the least little pout, "I don't believe
she is a dame pilgrim, and I don't believe she is in the narrow path,
not a bit!"

"There I think you are mistaken, Maggie, for, so far as we can judge,
there is reason to think Aunt Patty is walking in the safe and narrow
road which leads to the Father's house; and, since she has not been
brought to it by paths quite so easy and pleasant as some of us have
known, there is all the more reason that we happier travellers should
give her a helping hand. It may be very little that we can give; a
word, a look, a smile, a kind offer to go for some little trifle that
is needed, will often cheer and gladden a heart that is heavy with its
secret burden. And if we now and then get a knock, or even a rather
hard scratch from those corners of our neighbor's load, which are made
up of little faults and odd tempers, we must try not to mind it, but
think only of how tired those poor, weary shoulders must be of the
weight they carry."

"But, Mrs. Rush," said Maggie, "Aunt Patty's corners scratch very
hard, and hurt very much."

"But the corners are not half as sharp as they were once; are they,
dear?" asked Mrs. Rush, smiling.

"Well," said Maggie, slowly, as if she were considering, "maybe her
temper corner is not so sharp as it used to be, but her meddling corner
is very bad,--yes, very bad indeed; and it scratches like everything.
Why, you don't know how she meddles, and what things she says, even
when she is not a bit mad. She is all the time telling mamma how she
had better manage; just as if mamma did not know a great deal better
than she does about her own children and her own house, and about
everything! And she dismanages Franky herself very much; and she said
dear Aunt Bessie deserved to have such a bad sore throat 'cause she
would go out riding with Uncle Ruthven, when she told her it was too
cold; and she said the colonel"--

"There, there, that will do," said Mrs. Rush, gently. "Do not let us
think of what Aunt Patty does to vex us, but see if we do not sometimes
grieve her a little."

"Oh! she don't think you do anything," said Maggie; "she says you are a
very lovely young woman."

"Well," said the colonel, laughing, "neither you nor I shall quarrel
with her for that; shall we? There is one good mark for Aunt Patty; let
us see how many more we can find."

"She was very good to Patrick when he hurt his hand so the other day,"
said Bessie. "She washed it, and put a yag on it, and made it feel a
great deal better."

"And she likes Uncle Ruthven very much," said Maggie.

"That is right," said Mrs. Rush, "think of all the good you can. When
we think kindly of a person, we soon begin to act kindly towards them,
and I am quite sure that a little love and kindness from you would do
much to lighten Aunt Patty's burden. And if the sharp corners fret and
worry you a little, remember that perhaps it is only the weight of the
rest of the burden which presses these into sight, and then you will
not feel them half as much. Will you try if you can be like Benito, and
so receive the blessing of Him who says the cup of cold water given in
his name shall meet its reward?"

"We'll try," said Maggie, "but I don't think we'll succeed."

"And if at first you don't succeed, what then?"

"Then try, try, try again," said Maggie, cheerfully, for she was
already trying to think what she might do to make Aunt Patty's burden
more easy; "but--"

"But what, dear?"

"I hope she won't shed tears of joy upon my bosom," said Maggie,
growing grave again at the thought of such a possibility; "I wouldn't
quite like _that_."

"And what does Bessie say?" asked the colonel.

"I was thinking how precious it is," said the little girl, turning upon
the colonel's face those serious brown eyes which had been gazing so
thoughtfully into the fire.

"How precious what is, my darling?"

"To think Jesus knows how our temptations feel, 'cause he felt them
himself, and so knows just how to help us and be sorry for us."

Colonel Rush had his answer to both questions.

That same Sunday evening, the children were all with their father and
mother in the library. Mrs. Lawrence sat in an arm-chair by the parlor
fire, alone, or nearly so, for Miss Rush and Mr. Stanton in the window
at the farther side of the room were not much company to any one but
themselves.

Certainly the poor old lady felt lonely enough, as, with her clasped
hands lying upon her lap, her chin sunk upon her breast, and her eyes
fixed upon the fire, she thought of the long, long ago, when she, too,
was young, bright, and happy; when those around lived only for her
happiness.

Ah! how different it all was now! They were all gone,--the youth, the
love, the happiness; gone, also, were the wasted years which she might
have spent in the service of the Master whom she had sought so late;
gone all the opportunities which he had given her of gaining the love
and friendship of her fellow-creatures. And now how little she could
do, old and feeble and helpless as she was. And what hard work it was
to struggle with the evil tempers and passions to which she had so long
given way; how difficult, when some trifle vexed her, to keep back the
sharp and angry word, to put down the wish to bend everything to her
own will, to learn of Him who was meek and lowly in heart!

And there was no one to know, no one to sympathize, no one to give her
a helping hand in this weary, up-hill work, to guess how heavily the
burden of past and present sin bore upon the poor, aching shoulders.
In her longing for the human love and sympathy she had once cast from
her, and which she could not now bring herself to ask, the poor old
lady almost forgot that there was one Eye to see the struggles made for
Jesus' sake, one Hand outstretched to save and to help, one Voice to
whisper, "Be of good courage."

True, Mr. and Mrs. Bradford were always kind and thoughtful, and all
treated her with due respect and consideration; but that was not all
she wanted. If the children would but love and trust her. There would
be such comfort in that; but in spite of all her efforts, they were
still shy and shrinking,--all, save that little tyrant, Franky. Even
fearless Fred was quiet and almost dumb in her presence.

So Aunt Patty sat, and sadly thought, unconscious of the wistful pair
of eyes which watched her from the other room, until by and by a gentle
footstep came stealing round her chair, a soft little hand timidly
slipped itself into her own, and she turned to see Bessie's sweet face
looking at her, half in pity, half in wonder.

"Well, dear," she asked, after a moment's surprised silence, "What is
it?"

Truly, Bessie scarcely knew herself what it was. She had been watching
Aunt Patty as she sat looking so sad and lonely, and thinking of Mrs.
Rush's lesson of the morning, till her tender little heart could bear
it no longer, and she had come to the old lady's side, not thinking of
anything particular she would do or say, but just with the wish to put
a loving hand to the burden.

"Do you want anything, Bessie?" asked Mrs. Lawrence again.

"No, ma'am, but"--Bessie did not quite like to speak of Aunt Patty's
troubles, so she said, "_I_ have a little burden, too, Aunt Patty."

Aunt Patty half smiled to herself as she looked into the earnest,
wistful eyes. She, this innocent little one, the darling and pet of
all around her, what burden could she have to bear? She did not know
the meaning of the word. Then came a vexed, suspicious thought.

"Who told you that I had any burden to bear, child?" she asked, sharply.

"Every one has; haven't they?" said Bessie, rather frightened; then,
strong in her loving, holy purpose, she went on. "Everybody has some
burden; don't they, Aunt Patty? If our Father makes them very happy,
still they have their faults, like I do. And if he don't make them very
happy, the faults are a great deal harder to bear; are they not?"

"And what burden have you, dearie?" asked the old lady, quite softened.

"My tempers," said the child, gravely. "I used to be in passions very
often, Aunt Patty, till Jesus helped me so much, and very often now
I have passions in myself when some one makes me offended; but if I
ask Him quite quick to help me, he always does. But it is pretty hard
sometimes, and I think that is my burden. Maybe it's only a little
one, though, and I oughtn't to speak about it."

Aunt Patty was surprised, no less at the child's innocent freedom in
speaking to her than at what she said, for she had never suspected that
gentle little Bessie had a passionate temper. She looked at her for a
moment, and then said, "Then thank God every day of your life, Bessie,
that he has saved you from the misery of growing up with a self-willed,
ungoverned temper. Thank him that his grace has been sufficient to help
you to battle with it while you are young, that age and long habit have
not strengthened it till it seems like a giant you cannot overcome.
You will never know what misery it becomes then, with what force the
tempter comes again and again; _no one_ knows, _no one_ knows!"

Perhaps Mrs. Lawrence was talking more to herself than to Bessie; but
the child understood her, and answered her.

"Jesus knows," she said, softly, and with that tender, lingering tone
with which she always spoke the Saviour's name.

"Jesus knows," repeated the old lady, almost as if the thought came to
her for the first time.

"Yes, Jesus knows," said Bessie, putting up her small fingers with a
little caressing touch to Aunt Patty's cheek; "and is it not sweet and
precious, Aunt Patty, to think he had temptations too, and so can know
just how hard we have to try not to grieve him? Mrs. Rush told us about
it to-day, and I love to think about it all the time. And she told us
how he helped every one to bear their burdens; and now we ought to
help each other too, 'cause that was what he wanted us to do. But if
sometimes we cannot help each other, 'cause we don't know about their
burdens, Jesus can always help us, 'cause he always knows; don't he?"

"Bessie, come and sing," called mamma from the other room, and away ran
the little comforter to join her voice with the others in the Sabbath
evening hymn.

Yes, she had brought comfort to the worn and weary heart; she had put
her hand to Aunt Patty's burden and eased the aching pain.

"Jesus knows." Again and again the words came back to her, bringing
peace and rest and strength for all days to come. She had heard it
often before; she knew it well. "Jesus knows;" but the precious words
had never come home to her before as they did when they were spoken by
the sweet, trustful, childish voice,--"Jesus knows."

There is no need to tell that they were friendly after this, these two
pilgrims on the heavenward way,--the old woman and the little child,
she who had begun to tread in her Master's footsteps so early in
life's bright morning, and she who had not sought to follow him until
the eleventh hour, when her day was almost ended. For they were both
clinging to one faith, both looking to one hope, and the hand of the
younger had drawn the feet of the elder to a firmer and surer foothold
upon the Rock of Ages, on which both were resting.

And how was it with our Maggie?

It was far harder work for her to be sociable with Aunt Patty than it
was for Bessie; for besides her fear of the old lady, there was her
natural shyness to be struggled with. As for speaking to her, unless it
was to give a timid "yes" or "no" when spoken to, that was, at first,
by no means possible; but remembering that Mrs. Rush had said that a
look or a smile might show good-will or kindness, she took to looking
and smiling with all her might. She would plant herself at a short
distance from Aunt Patty, and stare at the old lady till she looked
up and noticed her, when she would put on the broadest of smiles, and
immediately run away, frightened at her own boldness.

Mrs. Lawrence was at first displeased, thinking Maggie meant this for
impertinence or mockery; but Mrs. Bradford, having once or twice caught
Maggie at this extraordinary performance, asked what it meant, and was
told by her little daughter that she was only "trying to bear Aunt
Patty's burden."

Then followed an account of what Mrs. Rush had taught the children on
Sunday.

"But, indeed, indeed, mamma," said poor Maggie, piteously, "I don't
think I can do any better. I do feel so frightened when she looks at
me, and she don't look as if she liked me to smile at her, and this
morning she said, 'What are you about, child?' _so_ crossly!"

Mamma praised and encouraged her, and afterwards explained to Aunt
Patty that Maggie only meant to be friendly, but that her bashfulness
and her friendliness were sadly in each other's way. So Mrs. Lawrence
was no longer displeased, but like the rest of Maggie's friends, rather
amused, when she saw her desperate efforts to be sociable; and after a
time even Maggie's shyness wore away. Before this came about, however,
she and Bessie had made a discovery or two which amazed them very much.

Surely, it might be said of each of these little ones, "She hath done
what she could."



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 10]



X.

_TWO SURPRISES._


Some time after this Aunt Patty bought a magnificent toy menagerie, not
for a present to any of her young nieces and nephews, but to keep as an
attraction to her own room when she wished for their company.

Even Maggie could not hold out against such delightful toys, and after
some coaxing from Bessie, and a good deal of peeping through the crack
of the door at these wonderful animals, she ventured into Aunt Patty's
room.

The two little girls, with Franky, were there one morning while mamma
and Aunt Patty sat at their work. The animals had been put through a
great number of performances, after which it was found necessary to
put the menagerie in thorough order. For this purpose the wild beasts
were all taken from their cages, and tied with chains of mamma's
bright-colored worsteds to the legs of the chairs and tables, while
the cages were rubbed and dusted; after which they were to be escorted
home again. This proved a very troublesome business, for the animals,
as was quite natural, preferred the fields, which were represented by
the green spots in the carpet, to the cages, where they were so closely
shut up, and did not wish to be carried back. At least, so Maggie said
when mamma asked the cause of all the growling and roaring which was
going on.

"You see, mamma," she said, "they want to run away to their own
forests, and they tried to devour their keepers, till some very kind
giants, that's Bessie and Franky and me, came to help the keepers."

But now Flossy, who had been lying quietly on the rug, watching his
chance for a bit of mischief, thought he had better help the giants,
and rushing at an elephant with which Franky was having a great deal
of trouble, tossed it over with his nose, and sent it whirling against
the side of the room, where it lay with a broken leg and trunk. Alas,
for the poor elephant! It was the first one of the toys that had been
broken, and great was the mourning over its sad condition, while Flossy
was sent into the corner in disgrace. Of course, it was not possible
for the elephant to walk home; he must ride.

"Patty," said Franky, "do down-'tairs and det my water-tart; it's in de
lib'ry."

"Franky, Franky!" said mamma, "is that the way to speak to Aunt Patty?"

"Please," Said Franky.

"Aunt Patty has a bone in her foot," said Mrs. Lawrence.

Franky put his head on one side, and looking quizzically at the old
lady, said, "Oo went down-'tairs for oo bastet wis a bone in oo foot,
so oo tan do for my tart wis a bone in oo foot."

Maggie and Bessie knew that this was saucy, and expected that Aunt
Patty would be angry; but, to their surprise, she laughed, and would
even have gone for the cart if mamma had not begged her not to.

"Franky," said mamma, as the little girls, seeing Aunt Patty was not
displeased, began to chuckle over their brother's cute speech, "you
must not ask Aunt Patty to run about for you. It is not pretty for
little boys to do so."

"But me want my tart to wide dis poor efelant," said Franky, coaxingly.

Bessie said she would go for the cart, and ran away down-stairs. She
went through the parlor, and reaching the library-door, which stood
ajar, pushed it open. Aunt Bessie and Uncle Ruthven were there; and
what did she see? Was it possible?

"Oh!" she exclaimed.

At this the two culprits turned, and seeing Bessie's shocked and
astonished face, Uncle Ruthven laughed outright, his own hearty,
ringing laugh. "Come here, princess," he said.

But Bessie was off, the cart quite forgotten. Through the hall and up
the stairs, as fast as the little feet could patter, never pausing till
she reached mamma's room, where she buried her face in one of the sofa
cushions; and there her mother found her some moments later.

"Why, Bessie, my darling, what is it?" asked mamma. "What has happened
to you?"

Bessie raised her flushed and troubled face, but she was not crying, as
her mother had supposed, though she looked quite ready to do so.

"Oh, mamma!" she said, as Mrs. Bradford sat down and lifted her up on
her lap.

"What has troubled you, dearest?"

"Oh, mamma, such a shocking thing! I don't know how to tell you."

"Have you been in any mischief, dear? If you have, do not be afraid to
tell your own mamma."

"Oh! it was not me, mamma, but it was a dreadful, dreadful mischief."

"Well, darling, if any of the others have been in mischief, of which
I should know, I do not think you will speak of it unless it is
necessary!"

"But you ought to know it, mamma, so you can see about it; it was so
very unproper. But it was not any of us children; it was big people--it
was--it was--Uncle Yuthven and Aunt Bessie; and I'm afraid they won't
tell you themselves."

"Well," said Mrs. Bradford, trying to keep a grave face, as she
imagined she began to see into the cause of the trouble. She need not
have tried to hide her smiles. Her little daughter buried her face on
her bosom, as she whispered the, to her, shocking secret, and never
once looked up at her mother.

"Mamma,--he--he--_kissed_ her!--he did--and she never scolded him, not
a bit."

Still the disturbed little face was hidden, and mamma waited a moment
till she could compose her own, and steady her voice.

"My darling," she said, "I have a pleasant secret to tell you. You love
dear Aunt Bessie very much; do you not?"

"Yes, mamma, dearly, dearly; and, mamma, she's very much mine,--is she
not?--'cause I'm her namesake; and Uncle Yuthven ought not to do it. He
had no yight. Mamma, don't you think papa had better ask him to go back
to Africa for a little while?"

Bessie's voice was rather angry now. Mamma had once or twice lately
seen signs of a little jealous feeling toward Uncle Ruthven. She,
Bessie the younger, thought it very strange that Bessie the elder
should go out walking or driving so often with Uncle Ruthven, or that
they should have so many long talks together. Uncle Ruthven took up
quite too much of Aunt Bessie's time, according to little Bessie's
thinking. She had borne it pretty well, however, until now; but that
Uncle Ruthven should "make so intimate" as to kiss Aunt Bessie, was
the last drop in the cup, and she was displeased as well as distressed.

"And if papa had the power," said Mrs. Bradford, "would my Bessie wish
Uncle Ruthven sent away again, and so grieve dear grandmamma, who is
so glad to have him at home once more, to say nothing of his other
friends? I hope my dear little daughter is not giving way to that ugly,
hateful feeling, jealousy."

"Oh! I hope not, mamma," said Bessie. "I would not like to be so
naughty. And if you think it's being jealous not to like Uncle Yuthven
to--to do that, I'll try not to mind it so much;" and here a great sob
escaped her, and a tear or two dropped on mamma's hand.

Mrs. Bradford thought it best to make haste and tell her the secret.

"My darling," she said, "you know, though you are so fond of dear Aunt
Bessie, she is not related to you,--not really your aunt."

"Yes'm, but then I love her just as much as if she was my very, very
own. I have to love her for so many yeasons; 'cause she is her own self
and I can't help it, and 'cause I'm her namesake, and 'cause she's my
dear soldier's own sister. Mamma, don't you think that is plenty of
yeasons to be fond of her for?"

"Yes, dear, but you must be willing to have others fond of her too. And
do you not think it would be very pleasant to have her for your own
aunt, and to keep her always with us for our very own?"

"Oh, yes, mamma! but then that could not be; could it?"

"Well, yes," said Mrs. Bradford; "if Uncle Ruthven marries her, she
will really be your aunt, and then she will live at grandmamma's, where
you may see her almost every day, and feel she is quite one of the
family."

"And is he going to, mamma?" asked Bessie, raising her head, and with
the utmost surprise and pleasure breaking over her face; "is Uncle
Yuthven going to marry her, and make her our true aunt?"

"Yes, I believe so," answered her mother; "it was all settled a few
days ago. We did not mean to tell you just yet, but now I thought it
better. But, Bessie, if you send poor Uncle Ruthven away to Africa
again, I fear you will lose Aunt Bessie too, for she will go with him."

"I was naughty to say that, dear mamma," said Bessie, her whole face
in a glow of delight, "and I am so sorry I felt cross to Uncle Yuthven
just when he was doing us such a great, great favor. Oh, he was so very
kind to think of it! He has been trying to give us pleasure ever since
he came home, and now he has done the very best thing of all. He knew
just what we would like; did he not, mamma?"

Mamma laughed. "I rather think he knew we would all be pleased, Bessie."

"I must thank him very much indeed,--must I not, mamma?--and tell him
how very obliging I think he is."

"You may thank him just as much as you please, dear," said mamma,
merrily. "Here comes Maggie to see what has become of us. She must hear
this delightful secret too."

So Maggie was told, and went capering round the room in frantic
delight at the news, inventing, as usual, so many plans and pleasures
that might fit in with this new arrangement, that Bessie was better
satisfied than ever, and even forgave Uncle Ruthven the kiss.

And here was a second joy at hand; for in came a message from Mrs.
Rush, asking that the little girls might come over to the hotel and
spend the rest of the day with her and the colonel. They were always
ready enough for this, and in a short time they were dressed and on
their way with Starr, the colonel's man, who had come for them.

Starr was a soldier, straight, stiff, and very grave and respectful in
his manner; and now, as he walked along, leading a little girl in each
hand, they wondered to see how very smiling he looked.

"Starr," said Bessie, peeping up in his face, "have you some good news?"

"I've no bad news, miss," said Starr, with a broader smile than before.

"You look so very pleased," said Bessie; to which Starr only replied,
"It's likely, miss," and became silent again.

When they reached the long crossing, who should be standing on the
corner but Sergeant Richards. Bessie saw him at once, and went directly
up to him.

"How do you do, Mr. Station Policeman?" she said, politely, and holding
out her morsel of a hand to him. "This is my Maggie."

"Well, now, but I'm glad to see you, and your Maggie too," said the
police-sergeant. "And how have you been this long time?"

"Pretty well," answered Bessie. "How are your blind boy and your lame
wife and your sick baby, and all your troubles?"

"Why, the wife is able to move round a little," said Richards, "and the
baby is mending a bit too."

"And Willie?" asked Bessie.

A shadow came over the policeman's honest face. "Willie is drooping,"
he said, with a sigh. "I think it's the loss of the sight of his
mother's face and of the blessed sunlight that's ailing him. His
eyes are quite blind now,--no more light to them than if he was in a
pitch-dark cell."

"But I thought the doctor could cure him when his eyes were all blind,"
said Bessie.

"Not just now, dear. Next year, maybe, if all goes well. That's the
best we can hope for, I believe. But here I am standing and talking to
you, when I've business on hand that can't be put off." So saying, he
shook hands again with Bessie and walked rapidly away.

"I s'pose he means he can't afford to pay the doctor now," said Bessie,
as she and Maggie went on again with Starr. "Mrs. Granby said they were
pretty poor, and she was 'fraid they couldn't do it this year. It's so
long for Willie to wait. I wonder if papa wouldn't pay the doctor."

"There's the mistress watching for the little ladies," said Starr, and,
looking up, the children saw Mrs. Rush standing at the window of her
room and nodding to them. In two minutes more they were at the door,
which she opened for them with even a brighter face than usual; and,
after kissing them, stood aside to let them see the colonel, who was
coming forward to meet them.

Yes, there he came, and--no wonder Mrs. Rush looked bright and happy,
no wonder Starr was smiling--without his crutches; moving slowly, to be
sure, and leaning on a cane, but walking on two feet!

If Colonel Rush imagined he was about to give his little friends a
pleasant surprise, he found he was not mistaken.

"Oh!" exclaimed Bessie, but it was in a very different tone from that
in which she had uttered it once before that day.

Maggie gave a little shriek of delight which would almost have startled
any one who had not known Maggie's ways, or seen her sparkling face.

"Oh! goody! goody! goody!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands and
hopping about in a kind of ecstasy. "How lovely! how splendid!
how--how--superfluous!" Maggie had been trying to find the longest
"grown-up" word she could think of, and as she had that morning heard
her father say that something was "altogether superfluous," she now
used the word without a proper idea of its meaning.

But the colonel was quite content to take the word as she meant it,
and thanked her for her joyous sympathy. He knew that Bessie felt none
the less because she was more quiet. She walked round and round him,
looking at him as if she could not believe it, and then going up to
him, took his hand in both hers, and laid her smooth, soft cheek upon
it in a pretty, tender way which said more than words.

"Do let's see you walk a little more," said Maggie. "It's so nice; it's
just like a fairy tale, when a good fairy comes and mends all the
people that have been chopped to pieces, and makes them just as good as
ever; only this is true and that is not."

"Who put it on?" asked Bessie, meaning the new leg.

"Starr put it on," answered the colonel.

"And did you make it, too, Starr?" asked Bessie.

"No, indeed, miss;" said Starr, who still stood at the door with his
hat in his hand, and his head on one side, looking at his master much
as a proud nurse might look at her baby who was trying its first
steps,--"no, indeed, miss; that was beyond me."

"Starr would have given me one of his own, if he could have done so, I
believe," said the colonel, smiling.

"So would I," said Maggie, "if mine would have fitted. I think I could
do very well with one foot; I hop a good deal, any way. See, I could do
this way;" and she began hopping round the table again.

"And you run and skip a good deal," said Mrs. Rush, "and how could you
do all that on one foot?"

Maggie considered a moment. "But I am very attached to the colonel,"
she said, "and I think I could give up one foot if it would be of use
to him."

"I believe you would, my generous little girl," said the colonel; and
Mrs. Rush stooped and kissed Maggie very affectionately.

"Will that new foot walk in the street?" asked Maggie.

"Yes, it will walk anywhere when I'm accustomed to it. But I am a
little awkward just yet, and must practise some before I venture on it
in the street."

It seemed almost too good to be true, that the colonel should be
sitting there with two feet, which certainly looked quite as well as
papa's or Uncle Ruthven's, or those of any other gentleman; and it was
long before his affectionate little friends tired of looking at him and
expressing their pleasure.

"We have some very good news for you," said Bessie; "mamma said we
might tell you."

"Let us have it then," said the colonel; and the grand secret about
Uncle Ruthven and Aunt Bessie was told.

"I just believe you knew it before," said Maggie, who thought Colonel
and Mrs. Rush did not seem as much surprised as was to be expected.

"I am afraid we did, Maggie," said the colonel, smiling; "but we are
none the less pleased to hear Bessie tell of it."

"But if Uncle Yuthven did it for a favor to us, why did he not tell us
first?" said Bessie, rather puzzled.

"Well," said the colonel, with a little twinkle in his eye, "it is
just possible that your Uncle Ruthven took some other people into
consideration,--myself and Marion, for instance. Can you not imagine
that he thought it would be very pleasant for us to be related to you?"

"Will you be our yelations when Uncle Yuthven marries Aunt Bessie?"
asked Bessie.

"I think we shall have to put in some claim of that sort," said the
colonel. "Aunt Bessie is my sister, and if she becomes your own aunt,
I think my wife and I must also consider ourselves as belonging to the
family. What should you say to Uncle Horace and Aunt May?"--May was the
colonel's pet name for his wife.

It was not likely that either of our little girls would find fault with
this arrangement; and now it was impossible to say too much in praise
of Uncle Ruthven and his very kind plan.

The children spent a most delightful day. Mrs. Rush had ordered an
early dinner for them; after which the carriage came, and all four--the
colonel and his wife and Maggie and Bessie--went for a drive in the
Central Park. It was a lovely afternoon, the air so soft and sweet with
that strange, delicious scent in it which tells of the coming spring,
and here and there, in some sunny nooks, the children were delighted to
see little patches of green grass. Sparrows and chickadees, and other
birds which make their home with us during the winter, were hopping
merrily over the leafless branches, and twittering ceaselessly to one
another, as if they were telling of the happy time near at hand, when
the warm south winds would blow, and the trees and bushes be covered
with their beautiful green summer dress. Presently Starr, turning round
from his seat on the box beside the coachman, pointed out a robin, the
first robin; and then Maggie's quick eyes discovered a second. Yes,
there were a pair of them, perking up their heads and tails, with a
saucy, jaunty air, which seemed to say, "Look at me; here I am to tell
you spring is coming. Are you not glad to see me?"

And as the carriage drove slowly by, that the children might watch the
birds, one of them threw back his head and broke into the sweetest,
merriest song, which told the same pleasant story.

Yes, spring was in the air, and the birdies knew it, though earth as
yet showed but few signs of it.

"He sings just as if he was so glad he couldn't help it," said Maggie,
"and I feel just like him."

When they drove back to the city, the children were rather surprised
to find they were taken again to the hotel instead of going home at
once; but Mrs. Rush said, that as the weather was so mild and pleasant,
mamma had promised they might stay till after dark. This was a suitable
ending to such a very happy day, especially as it was arranged for
them to take their supper while their friends dined. Mrs. Rush thought
nothing too much trouble which could give pleasure to these two dear
little girls.

They were listening to one of the colonel's delightful stories when
Mr. Stanton and Miss Rush came in, with the double purpose of paying a
short visit to the colonel and his wife and of taking home their young
visitors.

Scarcely were they seated when Bessie walked up to Mr. Stanton with
"Uncle Er-er-er-Yuthven,"--Bessie was trying very hard for the R's in
these days, especially when she spoke to her uncle,--"we do thank you
so very much. We think you are the most obliging gentleman we ever saw."

"Really," said Uncle Ruthven, gravely, "this is very pleasant to hear.
May I ask who are the 'we' who have such a very high opinion of me?"

"Why, mamma and the colonel and Mrs. Yush and Maggie and I; and I
s'pose all the fam'ly who know what a very great favor you are going to
do for us."

"And what is this wonderful favor?" asked Mr. Stanton.

"To marry Aunt Bessie, so she will be quite our very own," answered the
little girl. "And then you see that makes my soldier and Mrs. Yush our
own too. They are Uncle Horace and Aunt May now, for the colonel said
we might as well begin at once. We are all very, very pleased, Uncle
Yuthven, and Maggie and I think you are the kindest uncle that ever
lived."

"I am glad you have found that out at last," said Uncle Ruthven. "Here
I have been living for your happiness ever since I came home, and if
I had made this last sacrifice without your finding out that I am the
best and most generous uncle in the world, it would have been terrible
indeed."

"I don't believe you think it is a sacrifice," said Maggie. "I guess
you like it 'most as well as Bessie and I do."

"_Does_ he, Aunt Bessie?" asked little Bessie, in a tone as if this
could not be; at which Uncle Ruthven's gravity gave way, and the older
people all laughed heartily, though the children could not see why.

If Bessie had known how to express her feelings, she would have said
that it was Uncle Ruthven's manner when he was joking which caused her
to "have objections" to him. When Uncle John was joking, he had such
a merry face that it was quite easy to see what he meant; but Uncle
Ruthven always kept such a sober face and tone that it was hard to tell
whether he were in earnest or no. And now, when he caught her up in his
arms, and stood her upon the mantel-piece, she felt as if she still
only half approved of him; but it was not in her heart to find fault
with him just now, and she readily put up her lips for the kiss which
she knew he would claim before he let her go.

[Illustration: decoration, end of chap. 10]



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 11]



XI.

_BLIND WILLIE._


"Maggie and Bessie," said Mrs. Bradford, one day soon after this, "I am
going to send Jane over with some work to Mrs. Granby. Would you like
to go with her and see the policeman's children?"

Bessie answered "Yes," readily enough, but though Maggie would have
liked the long walk on this lovely day, she was rather doubtful of
the pleasure of calling on those who were entire strangers to her.
But after some little coaxing from Bessie, who said she would not go
without her, she was at last persuaded, and they set out with Jane,
taking Flossy with them.

The children had their hooples, which they trundled merrily before them
and Flossy went capering joyously along, sometimes running ahead,
for a short distance, and then rushing back to his little mistresses,
and if any rough boys made their appearance, keeping very close at
their side till all danger was past. For since Flossy was stolen, he
had been very careful as to the company he kept, and looked with a
very suspicious eye upon any one who wore a ragged coat, which was not
very just of Flossy, since a ragged coat may cover as true and honest
a heart as ever beat; but as the poor puppy knew no better, and had
received some hard treatment at the hands of those whose miserable
garments covered hard and cruel hearts, he must be excused for thinking
that the one was a sign of the other.

Flossy had turned out quite as pretty a little dog as he had promised
to be. His coat was long, soft, and silky, and beautifully marked in
brown and white; his drooping ears hung gracefully on each side of his
head, while his great black eyes were so knowing and affectionate that
it was hard to believe no soul looked out of them. It was no wonder
that almost every child they passed turned to take a second look, and
to wish that they, too, had such a pretty merry pet. Flossy was in
great favor that day on account of a droll trick which he had played,
much to the amusement of the children. Harry and Fred were very anxious
to teach him all manner of things, such as standing on his head,
pretending to be dead, and so forth; but Maggie and Bessie declared he
was too young to be taught anything except "to be good and polite," and
would not have him teased. Beside, he had funny tricks and ways of his
own which they thought much better than those, and was as full of play
and mischief as a petted doggie could be.

Harry had a weak ankle, which in his boyish frolics he was constantly
hurting, and now, having given it a slight sprain, he was laid up on
the sofa. On the day before this, his dinner had been sent to him,
but as it did not exactly suit him, he called Flossy, and writing
on a piece of paper what he desired, gave it to the dog, and told
him to take it to mamma. He was half doubtful if the creature would
understand; but Flossy ran directly to the dining-room with the paper
in his mouth, and gave it to Mrs. Bradford. As a reward for doing his
errand so well, she gave him a piece of cake, although it was against
her rules that he should be fed from the table.

On this day, Harry had been able to come down-stairs; and while the
children were at their dinner, Flossy was heard whining at the door.
Patrick opened it, and in he ran with a crumpled piece of paper, on
which Franky had been scribbling, in his mouth, and going to Mrs.
Bradford held it up to her, wagging his tail with an air which said
quite plainly, "Here is your paper, now give me my cake."

"Poor little doggie! He did not know why one piece of paper was not
as good as another, and Mrs. Bradford could not refuse him, while all
the children were quite delighted with his wisdom, and could not make
enough of him for the remainder of the day."

Maggie and Bessie were rather surprised at the appearance of the
policeman's house. It was so different from those which stood around
it, or from any which they were accustomed to see in the city; but it
looked very pleasant to them with its green shutters, old-fashioned
porch, and the little courtyard and great butternut tree in front.
The small plot of grass behind the white palings was quite green now,
and some of the buds on the hardier bushes were beginning to unfold
their young leaves. Altogether it looked very nice and homelike, none
the less so that Jennie Richards and her three younger brothers were
playing around, and digging up the fresh moist earth, with the fancy
that they were making a garden. But their digging was forgotten when
they saw Jane with her little charge.

"Does Mrs. Granby live here?" asked Jane, unlatching the gate.

"Yes, ma'am," answered Jennie. "Will you please to walk in?" and
opening the doors, Jennie showed the visitors into the sitting-room.

Mrs. Richards sat sewing, with Willie, as usual, beside her, rocking
ceaselessly back and forth in his little chair; while good Mrs. Granby,
who had been seated close by the window, and had seen Jane and the
children come in, was bustling about, placing chairs for them.

On Willie's knee was a Maltese kitten purring away contentedly; but the
moment she caught sight of Flossy, she sprang from her resting-place,
and, scampering into a corner, put up her back, and began spitting and
hissing in a very impolite manner. If Miss Pussy had been civil, Flossy
would probably have taken no notice of her; but when she drew attention
upon herself by this very rude behavior, he began to bark and jump
about her, more with a love of teasing than with any idea of hurting
her. It was quite a moment or two before these enemies could be
quieted, and then it was only done by Maggie catching up Flossy in her
arms, and Mrs. Granby thrusting the kitten into a bureau drawer with a
cuff on its ear.

The commotion being over, with the exception of an occasional spit from
the drawer, as if kitty were still conscious of the presence of her
foe, Bessie walked up to Mrs. Richards, and politely holding out her
hand, said, "We came to see you and your fam'ly, ma'am, and we're sorry
to make such a 'sturbance."

"Well," said Mrs. Richards, smiling at what she afterwards called
Bessie's old-fashioned ways,--"well, I think it was the kitten was to
blame for the disturbance, not you, nor your pretty dog there; and I'm
sure we're all glad to see you, dear. Are you the little girl that was
lost and taken up to the station?"

"Yes, I am," said Bessie; "but I was not taken up 'cause I was naughty,
but 'cause I could not find my way home. Is my policeman pretty well?"

"He's very well, thank you, dear; but he'll be mighty sorry to hear
you've been here, and he not home to see you."

"Mother," said Willie, "what a sweet voice that little girl has! Will
she let me touch her?"

"Would you, dear?" asked Mrs. Richards; "you see it's the only way he
has now of finding what anybody is like."

"Oh! he may touch me as much as he likes," said Bessie, and coming
close to the blind boy, she put her hand in his, and waited patiently
while he passed his fingers up her arm and shoulder, then over her
curls, cheek, and chin; for Willie Richards was already gaining that
quick sense of touch which God gives to the blind.

The mother's heart was full as she watched the two children, and saw
the tender, pitying gaze Bessie bent upon her boy.

"Poor Willie!" said the little girl, putting her arm about his neck, "I
am so sorry for you. But perhaps our Father will let you see again some
day."

"I don't know," said Willie, sadly; "they used to say I would be better
when the spring came, but the spring is here now, and it is no lighter.
Oh, it is so very, very dark!"

Bessie's lip quivered, and the tears gathered in her eyes as she raised
them to Mrs. Richards. But Mrs. Richards turned away her head. She
sometimes thought that Willie had guessed that the doctor had had hopes
of curing them in the spring, but she had not the courage to ask him.
Nor could she and his father bear to excite hopes which might again be
disappointed, by telling him to wait with patience till next year.

But Bessie did not know what made Mrs. Richards silent, and wondering
that she did not speak, she felt as if she must herself say something
to comfort him.

"But maybe next spring you will see, Willie," she said.

"Maybe so," said Willie, piteously, "but it is so long to wait."

Bessie was silent for a moment, not quite knowing what to say; then
she spoke again. "Wouldn't you like to come out and feel the spring,
Willie? It is nice out to-day and the wind is so pleasant and warm."

"No," answered Willie, almost impatiently, "I only want to stay here
with mother. I know it feels nice out; but the children come and say,
'_See_ the sky, how blue it is!' and '_Look_ at this flower,' when
I can't see them, and it makes me feel so bad, so bad. I know the
grass is green and the sky is blue, and the crocuses and violets are
coming out just as they used to when I could see, but I don't want
them to tell me of it all the time; and they forget, and it makes me
feel worse. But I wouldn't mind the rest so much if I could only see
mother's face just a little while every day, then I would be good and
patient all the time. Oh! if I only could see her, just a moment!"

"Don't, don't, sonny," said his mother, laying her hand lovingly on his
head.

It was the ceaseless burden of his plaintive song,--"If I only could
see mother's face! If I only could see mother's face!"

"And maybe you will some day, Willie," said Bessie; "so try to think
about that, and how she loves you just the same even if you don't see
her. And don't you like to know the blue sky is there, and that Jesus
is behind it, looking at you and feeling sorry for you? None of us can
see Jesus, but we know he sees us and loves us all the same; don't we?
Couldn't you feel a little that way about your mother, Willie?"

"I'll try," said Willie, with the old patient smile coming back again.

Poor Willie! It was not usual for him to be impatient or fretful. But
he had been sadly tried that day in the way he had spoken of, and the
longing for his lost sight was almost too great to be borne. But now
Mrs. Granby, suspecting something of what was going on on that side of
the room, came bustling up to Willie and Bessie, bringing Maggie with
her. Maggie had been making acquaintance with Jennie while Bessie was
talking with the blind boy.

"Willie," said Mrs. Granby, "here's just the prettiest little dog that
ever lived, and he is as tame and gentle as can be. If Miss Maggie
don't object, maybe he'd lie a bit on your knee, and let you feel his
nice long ears and silken hair."

"Yes, take him," said Maggie, putting her dog into Willie's arms.

Flossy was not usually very willing to go to strangers; but now,
perhaps, his doggish instinct told him that this poor boy had need of
pity and kindness. However that was, he lay quietly in Willie's clasp,
and looking wistfully into his sightless eyes, licked his hands and
face.

Maggie and Bessie were delighted, and began to tell Willie of Flossy's
cunning ways. The other children gathered about to listen and admire
too, and presently Willie laughed outright as they told of his cute
trick with the crumpled paper.

And now, whether Miss Kitty saw through the crack of the drawer that
her young master was fondling a new pet, or whether she only guessed at
it, or whether she thought it hard that fun should be going on in which
she had no share, cannot be told; but just then there came from her
prison-place such a hissing and sputtering and scratching that every
one of the children set up a shout of laughter. Not since his blindness
came upon him had his mother heard Willie's voice sound so gleeful, and
now in her heart she blessed the dear little girl who she felt had done
him good. Then as the children begged for her, kitty was released; but
as she still showed much ill-temper, Mrs. Granby was obliged to put her
in the other room.

Soon after this our little girls, with their nurse, took leave, having
presented Willie with a new book, and his mother with some useful
things mamma had sent, and giving Willie and Jennie an invitation to
come and see them.

They did not go back as joyfully as they had come. Somehow, in spite of
the good laugh they had had, the thought of blind Willie made them feel
sad, and giving Jane their hooples to carry, they walked quietly by her
side, hand in hand.

Bessie was half heart-broken as she told her mamma of the blind boy's
longing to see his mother's face, and neither she nor Maggie quite
recovered their usual spirits for the remainder of the day. Mamma was
almost sorry she had allowed them to go.

"And what makes my princess so sad this evening?" asked Uncle Ruthven,
lifting Bessie upon his knee.

"Don't you think you'd be very sad, sir, if you were blind?"

"Doubtless I should, dear. I think, of all my senses, my sight is the
one I prize most, and for which I am most thankful. But you are not
going to lose your sight; are you, Bessie?"

"No," said Bessie; "but Willie Richards has lost his. He is quite,
quite blind, uncle, and can't see his mother's face; and they can't
let the doctor cure him, 'cause they are too poor. Maggie and I wished
to help them very much, and we wanted to ask them to take all the
glove-money we have,--that is what mamma lets us have to do charity
with,--but mamma says it would not be much help, and she thinks we had
better keep it to buy some little thing Willie may need. And we are
very grieved for him."

"Poor little princess!" said Mr. Stanton. "And why did you not come to
me for help? What is the good of having an old uncle with plenty of
money in his pockets, if you do not make him 'do charity' for you? Let
me see. How comes on the history of the 'Complete Family,' Maggie?"

"Oh! it's 'most finished," said Maggie. "At least, that book is; but we
are going to have another volume. Mamma likes us to write it. She says
it is good practice, and will make it easy for us to write compositions
by and by."

"Very sensible of mamma," said Mr. Stanton. "But I think you said you
wished to sell it when it was finished, so that you might help the
poor."

"Yes, sir."

"Well, you know I am going away to-morrow morning,--going to take Aunt
Bessie to Baltimore to see her sister. We shall be gone about a week.
If your book is finished when we come home, I shall see if I cannot
find a purchaser for it. And you might use the money for the blind boy
if you like."

Just at this moment nurse put her head in at the door with "Come along,
my honeys. Your mamma is waiting up-stairs for you, and it's your
bed-time."

"In one instant, mammy," said Mr. Stanton. "Is it a bargain, little
ones? If I find a man to buy your book, will you have it ready, and
trust it to me, when I come back?"

The children were willing enough to agree to this; and Maggie only
wished that it was not bed-time, so that she might finish the book
that very night. Uncle Ruthven said they would talk more about it when
he returned, and bade them "Good-night."

"My darlings," said mamma, when they went up-stairs, "I do not want you
to distress yourselves about blind Willie. When the time comes for the
doctor to perform the operation on his eyes, I think the means will be
found to pay him. But you are not to say anything about it at present.
I only tell you because I do not like to see you unhappy."

"Are you or papa going to do it, mamma?" asked Bessie.

"We shall see," said Mrs. Bradford, with a smile.

"Perhaps we can help you a little," said Maggie, joyfully; and she told
her mother of her uncle's proposal about the book.



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 12]



XII.

_MAGGIE'S BOOK._


Uncle Ruthven and Aunt Bessie went away the next morning, and were gone
nearly a week, and very much did the children miss them, especially as
the week proved one of storm and rain, and they were shut up in the
house.

During all this stormy weather Aunt Patty seemed very anxious to go
out, watching for the first glimpse of sunshine. But none came, and
at last, one morning when there was a fine, drizzling rain, she came
down dressed for a walk. Mrs. Bradford was much astonished, for Mrs.
Lawrence was subject to rheumatism, and it was very imprudent for
her to go out in the damp. In vain did Mrs. Bradford offer to send a
servant on any errand she might wish to have done. Aunt Patty would
not listen to it for a moment, nor would she allow a carriage to be
sent for, nor tell where she was going.

She stayed a long time, and when the boys ran home from school in the
midst of a hard shower, they were surprised to meet her just getting
out of a carriage which had drawn up around the corner. Aunt Patty did
not seem at all pleased to see them, and in answer to their astonished
inquiries, "Why, Aunt Patty! where have you been?" and "Why don't you
let the carriage leave you at the house?" answered, sharply, "When I
was young, old people could mind their own affairs without help from
school-boys."

"Not without help from school-_girls_, when _she_ was around, I guess,"
whispered Fred to his brother, as they fell behind, and let the old
lady march on.

Nor was she more satisfactory when she reached home, and seemed only
desirous to avoid Mrs. Bradford's kind inquiries and anxiety lest she
should have taken cold. This was rather strange, for it was not Aunt
Patty's way to be mysterious, and she was generally quite ready to let
her actions be seen by the whole world. But certainly no one would
have guessed from her manner that she had that morning been about her
Master's work.

Uncle Ruthven and Aunt Bessie came home that afternoon, and found no
reason to doubt their welcome.

"We're very glad to see you, Uncle Er-er _R_uthven," said Bessie,
bringing out the _R_ quite clearly.

"Hallo!" said her uncle, "so you have come to it at last; have you? You
have been learning to talk English while I was away. Pretty well for my
princess! What reward shall I give you for that _R_uthven?"

"I don't want a reward," said the little princess, gayly. "I tried to
learn it 'cause I thought you wanted me to; and you are so kind to us
I wanted to please you. Besides, I am growing pretty old, and I ought
to learn to talk plain. Why, Uncle Ruthven, I'll be six years old when
I have a birthday in May, and the other day we saw a little girl,--she
was blind Willie's sister,--and she couldn't say _th_, though she
is 'most seven; and I thought it sounded pretty foolish; and then I
thought maybe it sounded just as foolish for me not to say _r_, so I
tried and tried, and Maggie helped me."

"Uncle Ruthven," said Maggie, coming to his side, and putting her arm
about his neck, she whispered in his ear, "did you ever find a man to
buy my book?"

"To be sure," said Mr. Stanton, "a first-rate fellow, who promised to
take it at once. He would like to know how much you want for it?"

"I don't know," said Maggie; "how much can he afford?"

"Ah! you answer my question by another. Well, he is pretty well off,
that fellow, and I think he will give you sufficient to help along that
blind friend of yours a little. We will not talk of that just now,
however, but when you go up-stairs, I will come up and see you, and we
will settle it all then."

"Here is a prize," said Mr. Stanton, coming into the parlor some hours
later, when the children had all gone; and he held up Maggie's history
of the "Complete Family."

"What is that?" asked Colonel Rush, who with his wife had come to
welcome his sister.

Mr. Stanton told the story of the book.

"But how came it into your hands?" asked Mr. Bradford.

"Oh, Maggie and I struck a bargain to-night," said Mr. Stanton,
laughing, "and the book is mine to do as I please with."

"Oh, Ruthven, Ruthven!" said his sister, coming in as he spoke, and
passing her hand affectionately through his thick, curly locks, "you
have made two happy hearts to-night. Nor will the stream of joy you
have set flowing stop with my little ones. That poor blind child and
his parents--"

"There, there, that will do," said Mr. Stanton, playfully putting his
hand on Mrs. Bradford's lips. "Sit down here, Margaret. I shall give
you all some passages from Maggie's book. If I am not mistaken, it will
be a rich treat."

Poor little Maggie! She did not dream, as she lay happy and contented
on her pillow, how merry they were all making over her "Complete
Family," as Uncle Ruthven read aloud from it such passages as these.

"The Happy father and mother brought up their children in the way they
should go, but sometimes the children went out of it, which was not the
blame of their kind parents, for they knew better, and they ought to be
ashamed of themselves, and it is a great blessing for children to have
parents.

"The colonel had a new leg, not a skin one, but a man made it, but
you would not know it, it looks so real, and he can walk with it and
need not take his crutches, and the souls of M. and B. Happy were very
glad because this was a great rejoicing, and it is not a blessing to
be lame, but to have two legs is, and when people have a great many
blessings, they ought to 'praise God from whom all blessings flow;' but
they don't always, which is very wicked.

"This very Complete Family grew completer and completer, for the
travelling uncle married Aunt Bessie, I mean he is going to marry her,
so she will be our own aunt and not just a make b'lieve, and all the
family are very glad and are very much obliged to him for being so
kind, but I don't think he is a great sacrifice.

"M. and B. Happy went to see the policeman's children. Blind Willie
was sorrowful and can't see his mother, or anything, which is no
consequence, if he could see his mother's face, for if M. Happy and
B. Happy could not see dear mamma's face they would cry all the time.
I mean M. would, but Bessie is better than me so maybe she would not,
and Willie is very patient, and the cat was very abominable, and if
Flossy did so, Bessie and I would be disgraced of him. She humped
up her back and was cross, so Mrs. Granby put her in the drawer, but
she put a paw out of the crack and spit and scratched and did 'most
everything. Oh! such a bad cat!!!!!! Jennie she cannot say th, and
afterwards I laughed about it, but Bessie said I ought not, because she
cannot say r and that was 'most the same. And she is going to try and
say Uncle Ruthven's name quite plain and hard, he is so very good to
us, and he promised to find a man to buy this book, and we hope the man
will give five dollars to be a great help for blind Willie's doctor. I
suppose he will ask everybody in the cars if they want to buy a book to
print, that somebody of his wrote, but he is not going to tell our name
because I asked him not to."

The book ended in this way:--

"These are not all the acts of the Complete Family, but there will be
another book with some more. Adieu. And if you don't know French, that
means good-by. The end of the book!"

"Pretty well for seven years old, I think," said Mr. Bradford. "Mamma,
did you lend a helping hand?"

"Only to correct the spelling," said Mrs. Bradford; "the composition
and ideas are entirely Maggie's own, with a little help from Bessie. I
have not interfered save once or twice when she has chosen some subject
I did not think it best she should write on. Both she and Bessie have
taken so much pleasure in it that I think it would have been a real
trial to part with the book except for some such object as they have
gained."

"And what is that?" asked Colonel Rush.

"The sum Dr. Dawson asks for the cure of Willie Richards," answered
Mrs. Bradford, "which sum this dear brother of mine is allowing to pass
through the hands of these babies of mine, as their gift to the blind
child."

"Aunt Patty," said Bessie at the breakfast-table the next
morning,--"Aunt Patty, did you hear what Uncle Ruthven did for us?"

"Yes, I heard," said the old lady, shortly.

"And don't you feel very happy with us?" asked the little darling, who
was anxious that every one should rejoice with herself and Maggie; but
she spoke more timidly than she had done at first, and something of her
old fear of Aunt Patty seemed to come over her.

"I do not think it at all proper that children should be allowed to
have such large sums of money," said Mrs. Lawrence, speaking not to
Bessie, but to Mrs. Bradford. "I thought your brother a more sensible
man, Margaret. Such an ill-judged thing!"

Mrs. Bradford was vexed, as she saw the bright face of her little
daughter become overcast, still she tried to speak pleasantly.
Something had evidently gone wrong with Aunt Patty.

"I do not think you will find Ruthven wanting in sense or judgment,
Aunt Patty," she said, gently. "And the sum you speak of is for a
settled purpose. It only passes through my children's hands, and is
not theirs to waste or spend as they may please."

"And if it was, we would rather give it to blind Willie, mamma," said
Bessie, in a grieved and half-angry voice.

"I am sure of it, my darling," said mamma, with a nod and smile which
brought comfort to the disappointed little heart. Ah, the dear mamma!
they were all sure of sympathy from her whether in joy or sorrow. Aunt
Patty's want of it had been particularly hard on Bessie, for the dear
child saw the old lady did not look half pleased that morning, and she
had spoken as much from a wish to cheer her as for her own sake and
Maggie's.

"It is all wrong, decidedly wrong!" continued Mrs. Lawrence. "In my
young days things were very different. Children were not then allowed
to take the lead in every way, and to think they could do it as well or
better than their elders. The proper thing for you to do, Margaret, is
to put by that money till your children are older and better able to
judge what they are doing."

"I think they understand that now, Aunt Patty," said Mrs. Bradford,
quietly, but firmly; "and if they should not, I suppose you will allow
that their parents are able to judge for them. Henry and I understand
all the merits of the present case."

Aunt Patty was not to be convinced, and she talked for some time,
growing more and more vexed as she saw her words had no effect. Mr. and
Mrs. Bradford were silent, for they knew it was of no use to argue with
the old lady when she was in one of these moods; but they wished that
the meal was at an end, and the children were out of hearing.

And there sat Miss Rush, too, wondering and indignant, and only kept
from replying to Aunt Patty by Mrs. Bradford's beseeching look. But
at last Mr. Bradford's patience was at an end, and in a firm, decided
manner, he requested the old lady to say nothing more on the subject,
but to leave it to be settled by his wife and himself.

If there was any person in the world of whom Mrs. Lawrence stood in
awe, it was her nephew; and she knew when he spoke in that tone, he
meant to be obeyed. Therefore, she was silent, but sat through the
remainder of breakfast with a dark and angry face.

"Papa," said Maggie, as her father rose from the table, "do you think
there is the least, least hope that it will clear to-day?"

"Well, I see some signs of it, dear; but these April days are very
uncertain. Of one thing be sure, if the weather be at all fit, I will
come home and take you where you want to go."

"Are you tired of being shut up in the house so long, dear Midget?"
asked Aunt Bessie, putting her arm about Maggie, and drawing her to her
side.

"Yes, pretty tired, Aunt Bessie; but that is not the reason why Bessie
and I wish so very much to have it clear. Papa told us, if the weather
was pleasant, he would take us to the policeman's, and let us give the
money ourselves. But he says, if it keeps on raining, he thinks it
would be better to send it, because it is not kind to keep them waiting
when they feel so badly about Willie, and this will make them so glad.
I suppose it is not very kind, but we want very much to take it, and
see Mrs. Richards how pleased she will be."

"We will hope for the best," said Mr. Bradford, cheerfully; "and I
think it may turn out a pleasant day. But my little daughters must not
be too much disappointed if the rain keeps on. And now that I may be
ready for clear skies and dry pavements, I must go down town at once."

No sooner had the door closed after Mr. Bradford than Aunt Patty broke
forth again. "Margaret," she said, severely, "it is not possible that
you mean to add to your folly by letting your children go to that low
place, after such weather as we have had! You don't know what you may
expose them to, especially that delicate child, whom you can never
expect to be strong while you are so shamefully careless of her;" and
she looked at Bessie, who felt very angry.

"That will be as their father thinks best," answered Mrs. Bradford,
quietly. "He will not take them unless the weather is suitable;
and the policeman's house is neat and comfortable, and in a decent
neighborhood. The children will come to no harm there."

"And it is certainly going to clear," said Harry. "See there, mamma,
how it is brightening overhead."

"It will not clear for some hours at least," persisted the old lady;
"and then the ground will be extremely damp after this week of rain,
especially among those narrow streets. Do be persuaded, Margaret, and
say, at least, that the children must wait till to-morrow."

"Bessie shall not go unless it is quite safe for her," answered Mrs.
Bradford, "and she will not ask it unless mamma thinks it best; will
you, my darling?"

Bessie only replied with a smile, and a very feeble smile at that; and
her mother saw by the crimson spot in each cheek, and the little hand
pressed tightly upon her lips, how hard the dear child was struggling
with herself. It was so. Bessie was hurt at what she thought Aunt
Patty's unkindness in trying to deprive her of the pleasure on which
she counted, and she had hard work to keep down the rising passion.

Aunt Patty argued, persisted, and persuaded; but she could gain from
Mrs. Bradford nothing more than she had said before, and at last she
left the room in high displeasure.

"Mamma," said Harry, indignantly, "what do you stand it for? How dare
she talk so to you? Your folly, indeed! I wish papa had been here!"

"I wish you'd let me hush her up," said Fred. "It's rather hard for a
fellow to stand by and have his mother spoken to that way. Now is she
not a meddling, aggravating old coon, Aunt Bessie? No, you need not
shake your head in that grave, reproving way. I know you think so;
and you, too, you dear, patient little mamma;" and here Fred gave his
mother such a squeeze and kiss as would have made any one else cry out
for mercy.

"I sha'n't try to bear Aunt Patty's burden this day, I know," said
Maggie. "She is _too_ mean not to want blind Willie cured, and it is
not any of hers to talk about, either. Her corners are awful to-day!
Just trying to make mamma say Bessie couldn't go to the policeman's
house!"

Bessie said nothing, but her mamma saw she was trying to keep down her
angry feelings.

"I suppose she is tired of the 'new leaf' she pretended to have turned
over, and don't mean to play good girl any more," said Fred.

"She has been worrying papa too," said Harry. "There is never any
knowing what she'll be at. There was a grove which used to belong to
her father, and which had been sold by one of her brothers after he
died. It was a favorite place with our great-grandfather, and Aunt
Patty wanted it back very much, but she never could persuade the man
who had bought it to give it up. A few years ago he died, and his son
offered to sell it to her. She could not afford it then, for she had
lost a great deal of property, and the mean chap asked a very large sum
for it because he knew she wanted it so much. But she was determined
to have it, and for several years she has been putting by little by
little till she should have enough. She told Fred and me all about it,
one evening when papa and mamma were out, and we felt so sorry for her
when she told how her father had loved the place, and how she could die
contented if she only had it back once more after all these years, that
we asked papa if he could not help her. Papa said he would willingly
do so, but she would not be pleased if he offered, though she had so
set her heart on it that she was denying herself everything she could
possibly do without; for she is not well off now, and is too proud to
let her friends help her Well, it seems she had enough laid by at
last,--a thousand dollars,--and she asked papa to settle it all for
her. He wrote to the man, and had a lot of fuss and bother with him;
but it was all fixed at last, and the papers drawn up, when what does
she do a week ago, but tell papa she had changed her mind, and should
not buy the grove at present."

"Harry, my boy," said Mrs. Bradford, "this is all so, but how do you
happen to know so much about it?"

"Why, she talked to me several times about it, mamma. She was quite
chipper with Fred and me now and then, when no grown people were
around, and used to tell us stories of things which happened at the old
homestead by the hour. The other day when you were out, and Mag and
Bess had gone to the policeman's, she told me it was all settled that
she was to have the grove; and she seemed so happy over it. But only
two days after, when I said something about it, she took me up quite
short, and told me that affair was all over, and no more to be said. I
didn't dare to ask any more questions of her, but I thought it no harm
to ask papa, and he told me he knew no more than I did, for Aunt Patty
would give him no reason. He was dreadfully annoyed by it, I could
see, although he did not say much; he never does, you know, when he is
vexed."

"Quite true," said his mother; "and let him be an example to the rest
of us. We have all forgotten ourselves a little in the vexations of the
morning. You have been saying that which was better left unsaid, and
your mother has done wrong in listening to you."

"No, indeed, you have not," said Fred, again clutching his mother
violently about the neck; "you never do wrong, you dear, precious
mamma, and I'll stand up for you against all the cross old Aunt Pattys
in creation."

"My dear boy," gasped his mother, "if you could leave my head on, it
would be a greater convenience than fighting on my account with Aunt
Patty. And your mother must be very much on her guard, Fred, if a
thing is to be judged right by you because she does it. But, dearest
children, did we not all determine not to allow ourselves to be
irritated and vexed by such things as have taken place this morning?
This is almost the first trial of the kind we have had. Let us be
patient and forgiving, and try to think no more of it."

But it was in vain that Mrs. Bradford coaxed and persuaded, and even
reproved. Her children obeyed, and were silent when she forbade any
more to be said on the subject; but she could not do away with the
impression which Aunt Patty's ill-temper and interference had made.

Poor Aunt Patty! She had practised a great piece of self-denial, had
given up a long-cherished hope, that she might have the means of doing
a very kind action; but she did not choose to have it known by her
friends. And having made up her mind to this, and given up so much
to bring it about, it did seem hard that her arrangements should be
interfered with, as they seemed likely to be by this new plan which had
come to her ears the night before.

But now as she stood alone in her own room, taking herself to task for
the ill-temper she had just shown, she felt that it would be still
harder for the children; she could not allow them to be disappointed
if it were still possible to prevent it; that would be too cruel now
that she saw so plainly how much they had set their hearts upon this
thing. At first it had seemed to her, as she said, much better that
they should put by the money until they were older, but now she saw it
was the desire to carry out her own will which had led her to think
this. But Aunt Patty was learning to give up her own will, slowly and
with difficulty it might be, with many a struggle, many a failure,
as had been shown this morning; but still, thanks to the whispers of
the better spirit by whose teachings she had lately been led, she was
taking to heart the lesson so hard to learn because so late begun.

And now how was she to undo what she had done, so that Maggie and
Bessie might still keep this matter in their own hands? For Aunt Patty,
hearing the little ones talk so much of the blind boy and his parents,
had become quite interested in the policeman's family. She did not
know them, it was true, had never seen one of them, but the children's
sympathy had awakened hers, and she felt a wish to do something to
help them; but to do this to much purpose was not very easy for Mrs.
Lawrence. She was not rich, and what she gave to others she must take
from her own comforts and pleasures. What a good thing it would be to
pay Dr. Dawson and free the policeman from debt! What happiness this
would bring to those poor people! What pleasure it would give little
Maggie and Bessie! But how could she do it? She had not the means at
present, unless, indeed, she put off the purchase of the grove for a
year or two, and took part of the sum she had so carefully laid by for
that purpose, and if she did so, she might never have back the grove.
She was very old, had not probably many years to live, and she might
pass away before the wished-for prize was her own. And these people
were nothing to her; why should she make such a sacrifice for them?

So thought Aunt Patty, and then said to herself, if she had but a short
time upon earth, was there not more reason that she should spend it in
doing all she could for her Master's service, in helping those of his
children on whom he had laid pain and sorrows? She had been wishing
that she might be able to prove her love and gratitude for the great
mercy that had been shown to her, that she might yet redeem the wasted
years, the misspent life which lay behind her, and now when the Lord
had given her the opportunity for which she had been longing, should
she turn her back upon it, should she shut her ear to the cry of the
needy, because to answer it would cost a sacrifice of her own wishes?
Should she bear the burdens of others only when they did not weigh
heavily on herself?

And so the old lady had gone to Dr. Dawson and paid him the sum he
asked for curing Willie's eyes. What more she had done will be shown
hereafter. If the children had known this, perhaps they could have
guessed why she would not buy the grove after all papa's trouble. There
were several reasons why Mrs. Lawrence had chosen to keep all this a
secret; partly from a really honest desire not to parade her generosity
in the eyes of men, partly because she thought that Mr. Bradford might
oppose it, and fearing the strength of her own resolution, she did not
care to have it shaken by any persuasions to the contrary, and partly
because she had always rather prided herself on carrying out her own
plans without help or advice from others. This fear that she might be
tempted to change her purpose had also made Aunt Patty so anxious to
bring it to an end at once, and had taken her out in the rain on the
day before this. And now it seemed that her trouble so far as regarded
Dr. Dawson was all thrown away. But the question was, how should she
get the money back from the doctor without betraying herself to him or
some of the family? for this Aunt Patty was quite determined not to do.
It was not a pleasant task to ask him to return the money she had once
given, and that without offering any reason save that she had changed
her mind. Every limb was aching with the cold taken from her exposure
of yesterday, and now if she was to be in time, she must go out again
in the damp. True, it was not raining now, but there was another heavy
cloud coming up in the south; she should surely be caught in a fresh
shower. If she could have persuaded Mrs. Bradford to keep the children
at home until the next day, she could go to Dr. Dawson that afternoon
if the weather were clear, and so escape another wetting. For the
doctor had told her he did not think he could see the policeman before
the evening of that day.

But Margaret was "obstinate," said the old lady, forgetting that she
herself was a little obstinate in keeping all this a secret. So there
was nothing for it but to go at once.

Poor old lady! Perhaps it was not to be wondered at that, as she moved
about the room, making ready to go out, she should again feel irritable
and out of humor. She was in much pain. The plans which had cost her
so much, and which she had thought would give such satisfaction, were
all disarranged. She was vexed at being misjudged by those from whom
she had so carefully concealed what she had done, for she saw plainly
enough that they all thought her opposition of the morning was owing to
the spirit of contradiction she had so often shown. She was vexed at
herself, vexed with Mrs. Bradford, vexed even with the little ones whom
she could not allow to be disappointed, and just for the moment she
could not make up her mind to be reasonable and look at things in their
right light.

Nor were her troubles yet at an end. As she left the room, she met
Mrs. Bradford, who, seeing that she was going out again, once more
tried to dissuade her from such imprudence, but all to no purpose.
Aunt Patty was very determined and rather short, and went on her way
down-stairs.

As Mrs. Bradford entered her nursery, mammy, who had heard all that had
passed, said, with the freedom of an old and privileged servant,--

"Eh, my dear, but she's contrary. She's just hunting up a fit of
rheumatics, that you may have the trouble of nursing her through it."

Mrs. Lawrence heard the old woman's improper speech, but did not hear
Mrs. Bradford's gently spoken reproof, and we may be sure the first did
not help to restore her good-humor.

[Illustration: decoration, end of chap. 12]



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 13]



XIII.

_DISAPPOINTMENT._


Bessie's high spirits had all flown away. The scene with Aunt Patty,
and the fear that the weather would not allow Maggie and herself to
carry Uncle Ruthven's gift to blind Willie, on which pleasure, in
spite of her father's warning, she had quite set her mind, were enough
to sadden that sensitive little heart. More than this, she was very
much hurt at what Aunt Patty had said of her mother. _She_, that
dear, precious mamma, always so tender and devoted, so careful of her
by night and day, to be so spoken of! No one else had ever dared to
speak so to mamma in her hearing, and she did not feel as if she could
forgive it. Poor little soul! she was very indignant, but she kept
down her anger, and all she had allowed herself to say had been, "She
would not like to be blind herself a whole year; but she has not a bit
of _symphethy_." At which long word mamma could not help smiling; but
as she looked at the grieved face, she felt as if she could scarcely
keep her own patience.

"Come here, Bessie," said Miss Rush, who was sitting by the window,
"I have something to show you; see there," as Bessie climbed upon her
lap. "A few moments since I saw a break in the clouds, and a bit of
blue sky peeping out. I did not call you right away, lest you should
be disappointed again; but the blue is spreading and spreading, so I
think we may hope for a fine day, after all. And see, there is the sun
struggling through. Ah, I think you will have your walk with papa."

Yes, there came the sun shining quite brightly now, and the pools of
water on the sidewalk began to dance in his beams as if they were
saying, "How do you do, Mr. Sun? We are glad to see you after a week's
absence, even though you do mean to make us disappear beneath your
warm rays."

Bessie watched for a few moments, and then ran to find Maggie, who had
gone up-stairs with mamma for a new story-book which Aunt Bessie had
promised to read for them.

"Maggie, Maggie!" she called from the foot of the stairs, "come and
see how the blue sky is coming out and how the sun is shining;" and
as she spoke, Maggie ran along the upper hall, and came down, saying,
dolefully,--

"Oh, Bessie! I saw it up-stairs, and I went to the window to look, and
there's a great cloud coming over the sun. There, see! he's all gone
now. I just believe it is going to rain again."

It was too true, and as the little girls ran to the front-door, and
Maggie drew aside the lace which covered the large panes of glass in
the upper part, so that they might peep out, they saw that the blue sky
had disappeared, and a moment later, down splashed the heavy drops of
rain.

Bessie felt a great choking in her throat, and Maggie said,
impatiently, "It is _never_ going to clear up; I know it. It just rains
this way to provoke poor children who want to go out."

"Maggie, darling, who sends the rain?" came in Aunt Bessie's gentle
tone through the open parlor-door, and at the same moment a stern voice
behind the children said,--

"You are very naughty, child. Do you remember that God hears you when
you say such wicked words?"

Both children turned with a start to see Mrs. Lawrence in hat and
cloak, and with an enormous umbrella in her hand.

"No," she said, severely, as poor frightened Maggie shrank before the
glance of her eye, "you will not go out to-day, nor do you deserve it."

Then Bessie's anger broke forth. "You are bad, you're cruel!" she said,
stamping her foot, and with her face crimson with passion. "You want
poor Willie to be blind all his life. You don't want him to be well,
even when our Father--"

What more she would have said will never be known, save by Him who
reads all hearts; for as these last two words passed her lips, she
checked herself, and rushing to Aunt Bessie, who had gone to the
parlor-door at the sound of Mrs. Lawrence's voice, buried her face in
the folds of her dress.

"Our Father!" Was she his little child now when in her fury and passion
she had forgotten that his holy eye rested upon her, when she was
grieving and offending him? Such was the thought that had stopped
her, even as she poured forth those angry words. For one moment she
stood with her face hidden, sending up a silent, hurried prayer to the
Great Helper, then turning to Aunt Patty, she said, with a touching
meekness,--

"Please forgive me, Aunt Patty. I didn't try hard enough that time; but
I'll try not to do so again. The wicked passion came so quick;" and
then she hid her face once more against Miss Rush.

Yes, the passion had come quickly, but it had been quickly conquered,
and as Aunt Patty looked at her, these words came to her mind: "Greater
is he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city;" and she stood
humbled before this little child. Turning away without a word, she
opened the front-door and passed out, while Miss Rush led the children
back to the parlor.

Aunt Bessie's own eyes glistened as she lifted the sobbing child upon
her lap, while Maggie stood beside her, holding Bessie's hand in one
of her own, and with her pocket-handkerchief wiping the tears that
streamed from her little sister's eyes.

"Oh, it has been such a bad day, and we thought it was going to be such
a nice one, didn't we?" said Bessie. "We were so very glad when we woke
up this morning, and we have had such very _misable_ times all day, and
now I was so naughty. And I did ask for help to be good, too, this
morning. Aunt Bessie, why didn't it come?"

"I think it did come, darling," said Aunt Bessie. "If it had not, you
could not have conquered yourself as you did the moment you remembered
you were displeasing your heavenly Father. If you forgot for a moment,
and your temper overcame you, I think he knew how you had struggled
with it this morning, and so pitied and forgave, sending the grace and
strength you needed as soon as you saw your own want of it."

"It's all Aunt Patty's fault, anyhow," said Maggie. "She provoked us,
hateful old thing! I know I ought not to say that about the rain, Aunt
Bessie, 'cause it's God's rain, and he can send it if he chooses; but
it was not her business to meddle about, and I am a great deal more
sorry for your speaking so kind than for all the scolding. I just
wish--I wish--"

"I would not wish any bad wishes for Aunt Patty, dear," said Miss Rush.
"That will not help any of us to feel better."

"I don't know about that," said Maggie, gravely shaking her head. "I
think I'd feel more comfortable in my mind if I wished something about
her. I think I'll have to do it, Aunt Bessie."

"Then wish only that she were a little more amiable, or did not speak
quite so sharply," said Miss Rush, smiling at Maggie's earnestness.

"Oh, pooh! that's no good," said Maggie. "She never will learn to
behave herself. I'll tell you, I just wish she was a Lot's wife."

"Lot's wife?" said Miss Rush.

"I mean Lot's wife after she 'came a pillar of salt, and then maybe
she'd be all soaked away in this pouring rain, and no more left of her
to come back again and bother us."

There was never any telling where Maggie's ideas would carry her, and
at the thought of the droll fate she had imagined for Aunt Patty, Miss
Rush fairly laughed outright, and even Bessie smiled, after which she
said she would go up-stairs and talk a little to her mother, which
always did her good when she was in trouble.

This shower proved the last of the rain for that day, and by twelve
o'clock the clouds had all rolled away and the pavements were drying
rapidly, giving fresh hope to Maggie and Bessie that they would be able
to go over to the policeman's house; but before that Aunt Patty had
returned. She was very silent, almost sad, and the many troubled looks
she cast towards the little girls made Mrs. Bradford think that she was
sorry for her unkindness of the morning.

This was so, but there was more than that to trouble the old lady,
for her errand to Dr. Dawson had been fruitless. When she reached his
house, he was out, but she sat down to wait for him. He soon came in
and without waiting for her to speak, told her that, having an hour to
spare, he had just been up to the police-station to give Richards the
good news.

So it was too late after all, for now that the policeman knew of her
gift, Mrs. Lawrence could not make up her mind to ask it back. Then
the doctor asked her if she had any further business with him, to which
she answered "No," and walked away, leaving him to think what a very
odd old lady she was, and to say indignantly that he believed "she had
not trusted him, and had come to see that he kept faith with her."

"Bradford," said Mr. Stanton, as he stood in his brother-in-law's
office that morning, "those dear little girls of yours have put me to
shame with their lively, earnest desire to do good to others. Here
have I been leading this lazy, useless life ever since I came home,
looking only to my own comfort and happiness; and in my want of thought
for others scarcely deserving the overflowing share of both which has
fallen to me. Your little ones have given me a lesson in their innocent
wish to extend to others the benefits which God has heaped upon them;
now cannot you help me to put it into practice? I am still so much of
a stranger in my own city that I should scarcely know where to begin
the task of carrying help to those who need it; but you were always a
hand to know the claims and deserts of the poor. I have, thank God, the
means and the time; can you show me where I can best spend them?"

"Doubtless, my dear fellow," answered Mr. Bradford. "I think you are
rather hard upon yourself; but I can show you where both time and money
can be laid out with a certainty of doing good and bringing happiness
to those who deserve them. Just now--But how far do your benevolent
intentions go?"

"Tell me the necessities of your _protegée_ or _protegées_," said Mr.
Stanton, smiling, "and I will tell you how far I am inclined to satisfy
them. I had not thought much about it, having just been roused to a
sense that it was time I was doing somewhat for the welfare of those
who are not as well off as myself."

"I was about to say," continued Mr. Bradford, "that at present I know
of no more worthy case than that of the father of the blind boy in whom
my children are so much interested. If an honest, God-fearing heart,
a trusting, cheerful, yet submissive spirit, can give him a claim
upon our help and sympathy, he certainly possesses it. I have watched
him and talked to him during the last few months with considerable
interest, and I honestly believe his troubles have not arisen through
any fault of his own, but through the dealings of Providence. He has
been sorely tried, poor fellow, and I should like to see him set right
once more with the world, free from the pressure of debt, and able to
save his earnings for the comfort of his family. I had intended to
undertake the payment of Dr. Dawson for the treatment of Willie's eyes,
but since you have done this, I shall hand to Richards the sum I had
intended for that purpose. Whatever you may choose to add to this, will
be so much towards relieving him from his debt to this Schwitz."

"And how much is that?" asked Mr. Stanton.

Mr. Bradford named the sum, and after hearing all the circumstances,
Mr. Stanton drew a check for the amount needed to pay the rest of the
debt to Dr. Schwitz, and gave it to his brother-in-law, asking him to
hand it to the policeman with his own gift.

"You had better come with us this afternoon, and see for yourself,"
said Mr. Bradford. "It is going to be fine, and I have promised those
dear little things that they shall carry their prize to the blind
boy's home. I believe we are likely to find Richards there about three
o'clock, and I should like you to know him."

So Mr. Stanton was persuaded; and as Maggie and Bessie were watching
eagerly from the window for the first glimpse of papa, they saw him
coming up the street with Uncle Ruthven.

When they were ready to go, those three precious notes, the price
of Willie's sight, were brought by Maggie to her father, with many
prayers that he would take the best of care of them. She was not
satisfied till she had seen them in his pocket-book, where she herself
squeezed them into the smallest possible corner, next thrusting the
pocket-book into the very depths of his pockets, and ramming in his
handkerchief on top of that, "to be sure to keep it all safe."

But there was a sore disappointment in store for these poor children.
As they were leaving the house, and before Mr. Bradford had closed
the door behind them, who should appear at the foot of the steps but
Sergeant Richards himself, with his broad, honest face in a glow of
happiness and content.

"Ah! Richards, how are you?" said Mr. Bradford.

"At your service, sir," answered the policeman, politely touching his
cap. "I just came round to say a word to you, but I see you are going
out. I sha'n't detain you two moments, though, if you could spare me
that."

"Willingly," said Mr. Bradford. "We were on our way to your house, but
our errand will keep;" and he led the way back to the parlor, followed
by the whole party.

Mrs. Bradford and Miss Rush were there also, just ready to go out;
while Aunt Patty sat in the library, where every word that passed in
the front room must reach her ears.

"No, I'll not sit down, thank you, sir," said the policeman, "and
I'll not keep you long. You have been so kind to me, and taken such
an interest in all my difficulties, that I felt as if I must come
right up and tell you of the good fortune, or, I should say, the
kind Providence, which has fallen to me. I have been furnished with
the means to pay my debt to Dr. Schwitz; and more, thank God! more
than this, Dr. Dawson has received the amount of his charge for the
operation on Willie's eyes. I shall be able to hold up my head once
more, and that with the chance of my boy having his sight again."

"And how has this come about?" asked Mr. Bradford.

"I cannot say, sir. Some unknown friend has done it all; but who, I
know no more than yourself, perhaps not so much;" and the policeman
looked searchingly into Mr. Bradford's face.

"And I know absolutely nothing," said the gentleman, smiling. "I see,
Richards, you thought I had some hand in it, and expected to find me
out; but I assure you, it is not my doing. These little girls of mine
had, through the kindness of their uncle, hoped to place in your hands
the sum needed for Dr. Dawson, and it was for this purpose that we were
on our way to your house; but you say some one has been beforehand with
us."

"That's so, sir," said Richards; "but none the less am I most grateful
to you and the little ladies and this kind gentleman for your generous
intentions. I am sure I don't know what I have done that the Lord
should raise me up such friends. But it is most strange as to who could
have done this, sir, and about that old lady."

"What old lady?" asked Mr. Bradford.

"Why, sir, she who either has done this or has been sent by some one
else. If I don't keep you too long, I should just like to tell you what
I know."

"Not at all," said Mr. Bradford. "Let us have the story."

"Yesterday morning," said the policeman, "Mrs. Granby was sitting by
the window, when she saw an old lady going to 'most all the houses,
and seeming to be asking her way or inquiring for some one. So Mrs.
Granby puts out her head and asks if she was looking for any one. 'I
want Mrs. Richards, the policeman's wife,' says the old lady. Mrs.
Granby told her that was the place and opens the door for her. Well,
she walked in, but a stranger she was, to be sure; neither my wife nor
Mrs. Granby ever set eyes on her before, and they did not know what to
make of her. All sorts of questions she asked, and in a way Mary did
not like at all, never telling who she was or what she came for. Well,
after a while she went away, but never letting on what she had come
for, and Mrs. Granby and Mary set it down that it was only for spying
and meddling. But last night when I took up the Bible to read a chapter
before we went to bed, out drops a sealed packet with my name printed
on it. I opened it, and there, will you believe it, sir, were two one
hundred dollar bills, and around them a slip of paper with the words,
printed, too, 'Pay your debts.' No more, no less. You may know if we
were astonished, and as for my wife, she was even a bit frightened.
After talking it over, we were sure it could have been no one but the
old lady that had put it there. But who was she, and how did she know
so much of my affairs? Mrs. Granby said she remembered to have seen her
fussing with the leaves of the Bible, sort of careless like, as it lay
upon the table, and she must have slipped it in then. But whether it
was her own gift, or whether she was sent by some one else, who does
not care to be seen in the matter, I don't know. The women will have
it that it was the last, and that she did not like her errand, and so
eased her mind by a bit of fault-finding and meddling, and I must say
it looks like it."

"And you have no possible clew to who this person was, Richards?" asked
Mr. Bradford.

"None, sir. I might track her easy, I suppose, but since she didn't
seem to wish it to be known who she was or where she came from, I
wouldn't feel it was showing my gratitude for the obligations she's
laid me under, and you see by the printing she don't wish to be tracked
even by her handwriting. Nor was this all. Early this morning, round
comes Dr. Dawson to the station, asking for me; and he told me that an
old lady had been to his house yesterday, and after asking a lot of
questions, had paid him a hundred and fifty dollars for undertaking
the operation on Willie's eyes, and took a receipted bill from him.
By all accounts, she must be the same person who was at my place
yesterday, and if ever a man was as mad as a hornet, he's the one.
When he asked if he might take the liberty of inquiring what interest
she had in my family, she asked if it was necessary to Willie's cure
that he should know that; and when he said, 'No, of course not,' she
said it _was_ a great liberty, and as good as told him to mind his own
affairs. He quite agrees with my wife and Mrs. Granby that she was only
a messenger from some unknown friend, and that she was not pleased
with the business she had in hand. The doctor is very much occupied
just now, and told her he could not well see me before this evening;
but he found he could make time to run over and tell me this morning,
and kindly did so. So, you see, sir, I do not rightly know what to do,
joyful and grateful as I feel; and I thought I would just run over and
tell you the story at once, and ask if you thought I might safely use
this money without fear of getting into any difficulty. You see it's
such a strange and mysterious way of doing things that I won't say but
I would think it odd myself if I heard another person had come by such
a sum in such a way."

"I see no possible objection to your using the money," said Mr.
Bradford. "It certainly has been intended for you, however singular
the way in which it has been conveyed to you, or however disagreeable
the manner of the messenger. It has probably been the work of some
eccentric, but kind-hearted person who does not choose to have his good
deeds known."

"I can't say but I would feel better to know whom it came from, Mr.
Bradford, grateful from my very soul as I am. I shouldn't have been too
proud to take such a favor from one who I knew was a friend to me, with
the hope, maybe, of one day making it up, but it's not so comfortable
to have it done in this secret sort of way, and as if it were something
to be ashamed of."

"Do not look at it in that way, Richards, but believe that your friend
has only acted thus from a wish that his left hand should not know
what his right hand has done. Look at it as a gift from the Lord, and
use it with an easy heart and a clear conscience, as I am sure your
benefactor intended."

"Well, may God bless and prosper him, whoever he is," said the
policeman. "I only wish he knew what a load is lifted from my heart.
And thank you too, sir, for your advice and for all your interest in
me."

While the policeman had been telling his story, Maggie and Bessie had
stood listening eagerly to him. At first they looked pleased as well
as interested, but when it was made plain to them that some stranger
had done the very thing on which they had set their hearts, a look of
blank dismay and disappointment overspread their faces. By the time
he had finished, Bessie, with her head pressed against her mother's
shoulder, was choking back the tears, and Maggie, with crimson cheeks
and wide-open eyes, was standing, the very picture of indignation.

"Papa," she exclaimed, as Mr. Richards said the last words, "does he
really mean that woman went and paid that money for blind Willie to be
cured?"

"Yes, my darling," said her father, with a feeling of real pity for the
disappointment of his two little daughters, "but I think--"

"It's too bad," said Maggie, without waiting for her father to finish
his sentence; "it's as mean, as mean as--Oh! I never heard of anything
so mean; the horrid old thing! something ought to be done to her. I
know she just did it to make a disappointment to Bessie and me. Oh,
dear! It's too bad!" She finished with a burst of tears.

"My dear little girl," said her father, "I know this is a great
disappointment to you; but you must not let it make you unreasonable.
This person is probably an entire stranger to you; and any way, she
could know nothing of your purpose."

"You will find plenty of uses for the money," said Uncle Ruthven,
catching Bessie up in his arms. "Put it away till you find another
blind boy, or lame girl, or some old sick body, who would be glad of a
little help. Papa will find you ways enough to spend it."

"But," said Bessie, mournfully, as she wiped her eyes, "we wanted to
use it for Willie, and we thought so much about it, and we were so
glad when we thought how pleased he would be! Oh! we are very much
_trialed_; are we not, Maggie?"

"Now the Lord love you for your thought of my boy," said the policeman,
"and I'm sure I wish, for your sake, that the old lady had stopped
short of Dr. Dawson's door, keeping her money for some other folks that
had need of it, and leaving it to you two dear little ones to do this
kind turn for my child. But Willie will think just as much, as I do, of
your meaning to do it, as if you'd done it out and out; and if you'll
allow it, madam,"--here he turned to Mrs. Bradford, "I'd like to bring
him over, that he may say so."

Mrs. Bradford said she would be very glad to see Willie, and asked Mr.
Richards to bring him and Jennie over the next day, and let them spend
an hour or two with the children. This she did, thinking it would be a
pleasure to her little girls to see the blind boy and his sister, and
wishing to do all she could to console them for their disappointment.

The policeman promised to do this, and then, once more thanking Mr.
Bradford and his family for all their kindness, he went away.

[Illustration: decoration, end of chap. 13]



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 14]



XIV.

_AUNT PATTY._


But Maggie and Bessie, especially the former, were quite determined not
to be consoled. They thought such a terrible disappointment deserved to
be sorrowed over for some time to come, and sat with tearful faces and
a very mournful manner, quite unable to do anything but grieve.

"I hope I shall have strength to bear it, but I don't know," said
Maggie, with her pocket-handkerchief to her eyes.

Mamma told her that the way to bear a trial was not to sit fretting
over it and thinking how bad it was, but to look at its bright side,
and see what good we or others might gain from it.

"But _this_ has no bright side; has it, mamma?" asked Bessie.

"I think so," replied her mother. "This unknown friend has done much
more for the policeman and his family than you could have done, and she
has not only given the money for Dr. Dawson, but has, also, paid the
debt to Dr. Schwitz; while your uncle is kind enough to allow you to
keep your money for some one else who may need it."

"But, mamma," said Maggie, with her eyes still covered, "Uncle Ruthven
was going to pay the debt himself; papa told us so. So it would have
been just as good for the policeman."

"I declare," said Mr. Stanton, "I had quite forgotten that I was
disappointed too! Well, well;" and he leaned his head on his hand,
and put on a very doleful air. "Bradford," he continued, in the most
mournful tones, "since we are not to go over to the policeman's this
afternoon, I had thought we might have some other little frolic; but of
course, none of us are in spirits for the visit to the menagerie I had
intended to propose."

At this, Maggie's handkerchief came down, and Bessie raised her head
from her mother's shoulder.

"I do not know but I might go, if I could make up a pleasant, happy
party to take with me," said Mr. Stanton. "_You_ could not think of it,
I suppose, Maggie?"

"I don't know," said Maggie, half unwilling to be so soon comforted,
and yet too much pleased at the thought of this unexpected treat to be
able to refuse it. "Perhaps I might. I think maybe it would do me good
to see the animals." But she still sat with the air of a little martyr,
hoping that Uncle Ruthven would press her very much, so that she might
not seem to yield too easily.

"I thought perhaps it might bring _me_ a little comfort to see the
monkeys eat peanuts, and then make faces at me, while they pelted me
with the shells," said Mr. Stanton, in the same despairing tone.

At this Bessie broke into a little low laugh, and the dimples showed
themselves at the corners of Maggie's mouth, though she pursed up her
lips, and drew down her eyebrows in her determination not to smile. But
it was all useless, and in two moments more Uncle Ruthven had them both
as merry as crickets over this new pleasure. Mamma and Aunt Bessie were
coaxed to give up their shopping and go with them, and the three boys,
Harry, Fred, and Franky, being added to the party, they all set off in
good spirits.

The blind boy and the terrible disappointment were not forgotten, but
the children had made up their minds to take mamma's advice,--bear it
bravely, and look on the bright side.

Aunt Patty saw them go, and was glad to be left to herself, although
her own thoughts were not very pleasant company. She had done a kind
and generous action in an ungracious way, causing those whom she had
benefited to feel that they would rather have received the favor from
another hand, bringing a real trial upon these dear children, and
vexation and regret to herself. She could not look upon her work or
its consequences with any satisfaction. What though she had done a good
deed, she had not done it quite in the right spirit, and so it seemed
it had not brought a blessing. Self-will and temper had been suffered
to overcome her once more. Bessie had shamed her by the self-control
which she, an old woman, had not shown, and she had been outdone by
both these little ones in patience and submission. The policeman's
family would have been quite as well off as they were now, and she
might still have had the long-desired grove, the object of so many
thoughts and wishes, had she never taken up the matter, or had she even
allowed her intentions to be known. She had really had an honest desire
to keep her generous self-sacrifice a secret, that it should not be
published abroad to all the world; but there was, also, an obstinate
little corner in her heart which made her determine to keep it from her
nephew, lest he should oppose it. "For I want none of his advice or
interference," she said, to herself; it being generally the case that
those who deal most largely in those articles themselves are the most
unwilling to receive them from others.

So the poor old lady sadly thought, taking shame and repentance to
herself for all the peevishness and ill-temper of the last two days,
seeing where she had acted wrongly and unwisely, and making new
resolutions for the future. Ah, the old besetting sin, strengthened
by long habit and indulgence, what a tyrant it had become, and how
hard she had to struggle with it, how often was she overcome! Yes,
well might little Bessie be thankful that wise and tender teachers had
taught her to control that passionate temper, which later might have
proved such a misery to herself and her friends. Then came back to her
the dear child's trusting words, "Jesus knows," bringing with them a
comforting sense of his near love and presence, and a feeling that
his help and forgiveness were still open to her, though she had again
so sadly given way. Oh, that she had little Bessie's simple faith!
that this feeling of the Saviour's nearness, this constant looking to
him for help and guidance, which were shown by this little one, were
hers also! She bethought herself of a hymn, which she had heard Mrs.
Bradford teaching to her children during the last week, and which they
had all sung together on Sunday evening. She could not recollect the
exact words, but it seemed to her that it was the very thing she needed
now. She searched for it through all the hymn-books and tune-books on
which she could lay her hands, but in vain; and, as was Aunt Patty's
way, the more she could not find it, the more she seemed to want it.
Should she ask the children for it when they came home? To do so, would
be the same as confessing that she had done wrong, and that was the
hardest thing in the world for the proud old lady to do. But yes, she
would do it! Nay, more, she would no longer be outdone by a little
child in generosity and humility. She would tell the children that she
was sorry for her unkindness of the morning.

It did Aunt Patty no harm, but a great deal of good, that long
afternoon's musing in the silent house, where no patter of children's
feet, nor any sound of young voices was heard; for baby had gone to her
grandmamma, so that even her soft coo and joyous crow were missing for
some hours.

Meanwhile the children were enjoying themselves amazingly; for a visit
to the menagerie with Uncle Ruthven, who knew so much of the wild
beasts and their habits, and who told of them in such an interesting
way, was no common treat. The day had been as April-like within as
without, clouds and sunshine by turns, ending at last in settled
brightness; and no one who had seen the happy faces of our Maggie and
Bessie would have thought that they could have worn such woeful looks
but a few hours since.

After reaching home, they were passing through the upper hall on their
way down to the parlor, where they had left papa and Uncle Ruthven,
when Aunt Patty's door opened, and she called them. They stood still
and hesitated.

"Come in," said Mrs. Lawrence again, in a gentle tone; "Aunt Patty
wants to speak to you."

Maggie and Bessie obeyed, but slowly and unwillingly, as the old lady
grieved to see, the former with drooping head and downcast eyes, while
Bessie peeped shyly up at her aunt from under her eyelashes.

"Aunt Patty was cross, and vexed you this morning," said Mrs. Lawrence;
"but she is sorry now. Come, kiss her and be friends."

In a moment Bessie's rosebud of a mouth was put up for the desired
kiss, but Maggie still held back. It was not that she was unforgiving,
but this meekness from Aunt Patty was something so new, and so contrary
to all the ideas she had formed of her, that she did not know how to
believe in it, or to understand it.

"Kiss her," whispered Bessie; "it is not 'bearing her burden' if you
don't."

So Maggie's face was lifted also, and as her aunt bent down and kissed
her, she was astonished to see how gentle and kind, although sad, she
looked. The "corners" were all out of sight just now, and Maggie even
began to feel sorry that she had wished Aunt Patty to be "a pillar of
salt which might be soaked away in the rain."

Mrs. Lawrence asked them if they had enjoyed themselves, and put a
question or two about the menagerie in a pleasant, gentle tone, which
showed that her ill-temper was all gone. Then there was a moment's
silence, the children wishing, yet not exactly knowing how, to run
away; at the end of which, Mrs. Lawrence said, in rather an embarrassed
voice, as if she were half ashamed of what she was doing, "Bessie,
where did you find that little hymn, 'Listen, oh, listen, our Father
all holy'?"

"Oh, it is in our dear little 'Chapel Gems,'" said the child. "Is it
not pretty, Aunt Patty? Mamma found it, and I asked her to teach it to
us, 'cause it was so sweet to say when any of us had been naughty. When
we sing it, I think it's just like a little prayer in music."

"Can you find the book for me?" asked the old lady.

"Mamma lent it to Mrs. Rush. She wanted to have the music, so we might
have it for one of our Sunday-school hymns. I'll ask mamma to let you
have it as soon as Aunt May sends it back."

"It is of no consequence," said Mrs. Lawrence, in a tone in which
Bessie fancied there was some disappointment. "Do not let me keep you
if you want to go."

Both children turned toward the door, but before they reached it,
Bessie lingered, also detaining Maggie, who held her hand.

"Aunt Patty," she said, sweetly, "I think it is of consequence if you
want it. And--and--I know 'Our Father all holy.' If you would like, I
can say it to you."

"Come, then, darling," answered the old lady, and standing at her knee
with Aunt Patty's hand resting on her curls, Bessie repeated, slowly
and correctly, this beautiful hymn:--

    "Listen, oh, listen, our Father all holy!
      Humble and sorrowful, owning my sin,
    Hear me confess, in my penitence lowly,
      How in my weakness temptation came in.

    "Pity me now, for, my Father, no sorrow
      Ever can be like the pain that I know;
    When I remember that all through to-morrow,
      Missing the light of thy love, I may go.

    "For thy forgiveness, the gift I am seeking,
      Nothing, oh, nothing, I offer to thee!
    Thou to my sinful and sad spirit speaking,
      Giving forgiveness, giv'st all things to me.

    "Keep me, my Father, oh, keep me from falling!
      I had not sinned, had I felt thou wert nigh;
    Speak, when the voice of the tempter is calling
      So that temptation before thee may fly.

    "Thoughts of my sin much more humble shall make me,
      For thy forgiveness I'll love thee the more;
    So keep me humble until thou shall take me
      Where sin and sorrow forever are o'er."[A]

"'I had not sinned, had I felt thou wert nigh,'" she said again, after
she was through with the last line. "I wish we could always remember
our Father is nigh; don't you, Aunt Patty? We know it, but sometimes we
forget it a little, and then the naughtiness comes, and so we grieve
him. But is not that a sweet hymn to say when we are sorry for our sin,
and want him to help and forgive us again? I felt it was yesterday when
I had been angry and spoken so naughty to you."

"Oh, child, child!" was all the answer Mrs. Lawrence gave. Her heart
had been softened before, now it was quite melted, and putting her arm
about Bessie, she drew her to her and kissed her on both cheeks; while
Maggie stood by wondering as she heard the tremor of Aunt Patty's voice
and saw something very like a tear in her eye.

"Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, Thou hast perfected praise,"
murmured the old lady to herself, when the door had closed behind the
children. "Lord, make me even like unto this little child, granting me
such faith, such grace, such patience, such an earnest desire to do thy
will, to live only to thy glory."

Yes, such were the lessons learned even by an old woman like Aunt Patty
from this little lamb of Jesus, this little follower of her blessed
Lord and Master. "Even a child is known by his doings."

"Who is for a summer among the mountains?" asked Mr. Bradford as the
family sat around the table after dinner.

"I am, and I, and I!" came from a chorus of young voices, for from
papa's look it was plainly to be seen that the question was addressed
to the children, and that the grown people had had their say before.
Even baby, who was learning to imitate everything, made a sound which
might be interpreted into an "I;" but one little voice was silent.

"And has my Bessie nothing to say?" asked papa.

"Is the sea at the mountains, papa?" said Bessie, answering his
question by another.

"No, dear," said her father, smiling, "but among the mountains to which
we think of going, there is a very beautiful lake, on the border of
which stands the house in which we shall stay."

"I am very fond of the sea, papa," answered Bessie, "and I think I
would prefer to go to Quam Beach again,--I mean if the others liked it
too."

"I do not doubt we should all enjoy ourselves at Quam," said Mr.
Bradford, "for we spent a very pleasant summer there last year. But
grandmamma does not think the sea-side good for Aunt Annie's throat,
and wishes to take her up among the mountains. The colonel's doctor has
also advised him to go there, so we shall not have the same delightful
party we had last summer if we go to Quam. About four miles from the
old homestead, and higher up in the Chalecoo Mountains, is this very
lovely lake set deep among the rocks and woods. Here lives a man named
Porter,--you remember him, Aunt Patty?"

"Certainly," answered Mrs. Lawrence, "he has been adding to and
refitting his house, with the intention of taking boarders, I believe.
Do you think of going there?"

"Yes. I remember even in former days it was an airy, comfortable old
place, and with the improvements which I hear Porter has made, I think
it will just suit our party. What do you say, Bessie? Would you not
like to go there with all the dear friends, rather than to Quam without
them?"

"Oh, yes," said Bessie; "I like my people better than I do the sea; but
then I do wish there was just a little bit of sea there, papa."

Papa smiled at Bessie's regret for the grand old ocean, which she loved
so dearly; but as he told her of the many new pleasures she might find
among the mountains, she began to think they might prove almost as
delightful as those of the last summer at Quam Beach.

So the plan was talked over with pleasure by all. Papa and Uncle
Ruthven were to start the next morning to go up to the lake, see the
house, and, if it suited, to make all the necessary arrangements. The
party was a large one to be accommodated,--grandmamma and Aunt Annie,
Uncle Ruthven and Aunt Bessie, Colonel and Mrs. Rush, and Mr. and Mrs.
Bradford with all their family; and as soon as it was found to be
doubtful if this could be done, all the children, even Bessie, were in
a flutter of anxiety lest they should be disappointed. This was of no
use, however, for the matter could not be decided till papa and Uncle
Ruthven returned.

"I have a little private business with Maggie and Bessie," said papa,
as they rose from the table. "Young ladies, may I request the honor of
your company in my room for a few moments?"

Wondering what could be coming now, but sure from papa's face that it
was something very pleasant, the little girls went skipping and dancing
before him to the library, where, sitting down, papa lifted Bessie to
his knee, and Maggie upon the arm of the chair, holding her there with
his arm about her waist.

When they were all settled, Mr. Bradford said, "Uncle Ruthven and I
have a plan which we thought might please you, but if you do not like
it, you are to say so."

"Papa," said Maggie, "if it's any plan about that money, I think we'll
have to consider it a little first. You see it seems to us as if it was
very much Willie's money, and we will have to be a little accustomed to
think it must do good to some one else."

This was said with a very grave, businesslike air, which sat rather
drolly upon our merry, careless Maggie, and her father smiled.

"I shall tell you," he said, "and then you may have the next two days,
till Uncle Ruthven and I come back, to consider it. Dr. Dawson thinks
it necessary for Willie Richards to have change of air as soon as he
is able to travel. Of course his mother must go with him, to take care
of him; and, indeed, it is needful for the poor woman herself to have
mountain air. I have thought that we might find some quiet farmhouse
at or near Chalecoo, where Willie and his mother could go for two or
three months at a small cost; but I do not believe it is possible for
the policeman to afford even this, without very great discomfort and
even suffering to himself and his family. Now, how would you like to
use the money Uncle Ruthven gave you to pay the board of Willie and his
mother, and so still spend it for his good and comfort? As I said, you
may take two days to think over this plan, and if it does not suit you,
you can say so."

Ah! this was quite unnecessary, as papa probably knew. _This_ needed no
consideration. Why, it was almost as good as paying Dr. Dawson,--rather
better, Maggie thought.

But Bessie could not quite agree to this last. "I am very satisfied,
papa," she said, "but then it would have been so nice to think our
money helped to make blind Willie see his mother's face."

"Maggie, have you forgiven that old woman yet?" asked Fred, when his
father and little sisters had joined the rest of the family in the
other room.

"Oh, yes!" said Maggie. "I think she is lovely! She has made things a
great deal better for us, though she did not know it, and blind Willie
is to go to the country. But you are not to talk about it, Fred, for he
is not to be told till it is all fixed, and papa has found the place;
and we are to pay the board, and I'm so sorry I said bad things about
her, even if she was only the messenger, and some one sent her."

"Hallo!" said Fred, "anything more?"

"I am so full of gladness, I don't know what to do with it," said
Maggie, who very often found herself in this state; "but I am so very
tired I can't hop much to-night."

[Illustration: decoration, end of chap. 14]



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 15]



XV.

_WILLIE'S VISIT._


"There," said Mrs. Granby, holding Willie Richards at arm's length from
her, and gazing at him with pride and admiration,--"there, I'd like to
see the fellow, be he man, woman, or child, that will dare to say my
boy is not fit to stand beside any gentleman's son in the land."

Certainly Mrs. Granby had no need to be ashamed of the object of her
affectionate care. His shoes, though well worn and patched, had been
blacked and polished till they looked quite respectable; the suit made
from his father's old uniform was still neat and whole, for Willie's
present quiet life was a great saving to his clothes, if that were
any comfort; his white collar was turned back and neatly tied with a
black ribbon, and Mrs. Granby had just combed back the straight locks
from his pale, fair forehead in a jaunty fashion which she thought
highly becoming to him. There was a look of hope and peace on his
delicate face which and not been there for many a long day, for last
night his father had told him that the doctor had an almost sure hope
of restoring his sight, if he were good and patient, and that the
operation was to take place the next week. The news had put fresh heart
and life into the poor boy, and now, as Mrs. Granby said this, he
laughed aloud, and throwing both arms about her neck, and pressing his
cheek to hers, said,--

"Thank you, dear Auntie Granby. I know I am nice when you fix me up.
Pretty soon I shall _see_ how nice you make me look."

"Come now, Jennie, bring along that mop of yours," said Mrs. Granby,
brandishing a comb at Jennie, and, half laughing, half shrinking, the
little girl submitted to put her head into Mrs. Granby's hands. But,
as had been the case very often before, it was soon given up as a
hopeless task. Jennie's short, crisp curls defied both comb and brush,
and would twist themselves into close, round rings, lying one over
another after their own will and fashion.

"I don't care," said Jennie, when Mrs. Granby pretended to be very
angry at the rebellious hair,--"I don't care if it won't be smoothed;
it is just like father's, mother says so; and anything like him is good
enough for me."

"Well, I won't say no to that," said Mrs. Granby, putting down the
brush and throwing Jennie's dress over her head. "The more you're like
him in all ways, the better you'll be, Jennie Richards, you mind that."

"I do mind it," said Jennie. "I know he's the best father ever lived.
Isn't he, Willie?"

"S'pose that's what all young ones says of their fathers and mothers,"
answered Mrs. Granby, "even s'posin' the fathers and mothers ain't
much to boast of. But you're nearer the truth, Jennie, than some of
them, and it's all right and nat'ral that every child should think its
own folks the best. There's little Miss Bradfords, what you're goin' up
to see, they'd be ready to say the same about their pa."

"And good reason, too," chimed in Mrs. Richards. "He's as true and
noble a gentleman as ever walked, and a good friend to us."

"That's so," answered Mrs. Granby, "I'll not gainsay you there neither.
And that's come all along of your man just speaking a kind word or two
to that stray lamb of his. And if I'd a mind to contradick you, which I
haint, there's Sergeant Richards himself to back your words. The bairns
is 'most ready, sergeant; and me and Mary was just sayin' how strange
it seemed that such a friend as Mr. Bradford was raised up for you
just along of a bit of pettin' you give that lost child. It's as the
gentleman says,--'bread cast upon the waters;' but who'd ha' thought
to see it come back the way it does? It beats all how things do come
around."

"Under God's guidance," said the policeman, softly. "The Lord's ways
are past finding out."

"I'll agree to that too," answered Mrs. Granby, "bein' in an
accommodatin' humor this afternoon. There, now, Jennie, you're ready.
Mind your manners now, and behave pretty, and don't let Willie go
to falling down them long stairs at Mrs. Bradford's. There, kiss
your mother, both of you, and go away with your father. I s'pose he
ain't got no time to spare. I'll go over after them in an hour or so,
Sergeant Richards."

Here Tommy began very eagerly with his confused jargon which no one
pretended to understand but Jennie.

"What does he say, Jennie?" asked the father.

"He says, 'Nice little girl, come some more. Bring her doggie,'" said
Jennie; then turning to her mother, she asked, "Mother, do you b'lieve
you can understand Tommy till I come back?"

"I'll try," said her mother, smiling; "if I cannot, Tommy and I must be
patient. Run now, father is waiting."

Mrs. Granby followed them to the door, and even to the gate, where she
stood and watched them till they were out of sight, for, as she told
Mrs. Richards, "it did her a heap of good to see the poor things goin'
off for a bit of a holiday."

The policeman and his children kept steadily on till they reached the
park near which Mr. Bradford lived, where they turned in.

"How nice it is!" said Willie as the fresh, sweet air blew across his
face, bringing the scent of the new grass and budding trees. "It seems
a little like the country here. Don't you wish we lived in the country,
father?"

"I would like it, Willie, more for your sake than for anything else,
and I wish from my heart I could send you and mother off to the country
this summer, my boy. But you see it can't be managed. But I guess
somehow father will contrive to send you now and then up to Central
Park, or for a sail down the bay or up the river. And you and Jennie
can come over here every day and play about awhile, and that will put a
bit of strength in you, if you can't get out into the country."

"And then I shall see; sha'n't I, father? I hear the birds. Are they
hopping about like they used to, over the trees, so tame and nice?"

"Yes," answered his father, "and here we are by the water, where's a
whole heap of 'em come down for a drink." In his new hope, Willie took
a fresh interest in all about him.

"Oh, I hear 'em!" said Willie, eagerly, "and soon I'll see 'em. Will it
be next week, father?" and he clasped tightly the hand he held.

"I don't know about next week, sonny. I believe your eyes have to be
bandaged for a while, lest the light would be too bright for them,
while they're still weak, but you will have patience for that; won't
you, Willie?"

Willie promised, for it seemed to him that he could have patience and
courage for anything now.

"Oh!" said Jennie, as they reached Mr. Bradford's house, and went up
the steps, "don't I wish I lived in a house like this!"

"Don't be wishing that," said her father. "You'll see a good many
things here such as you never saw before, but you mustn't go to wishing
for them or fretting after the same. We've too much to be thankful for,
my lassie, to be hankering for things which are not likely ever to be
ours."

"'Tis no harm to wish for them; is it, father?" asked Jennie, as they
waited for the door to be opened.

"It's not best even to wish for what's beyond our reach," said her
father, "lest we should get to covet our neighbors' goods, or to be
discontented with our own lot; and certainly we have no call to do
that."

Richards asked for Mrs. Bradford, and she presently came down,
bringing Maggie and Bessie with her. Jennie felt a little strange and
frightened at first when her father left her. Making acquaintance with
Maggie and Bessie in her own home was a different thing from coming to
visit them in their large, handsome house, and they scarcely seemed to
her like the same little girls. But when Maggie took her up-stairs, and
showed her the baby-house and dolls, she forgot everything else, and
looked at them, quite lost in admiration.

Willie was not asked to look at anything. The little sisters had
thought of what he had said the day they went to see him, and agreed
that Bessie was to take care of him while Maggie entertained Jennie.
He asked after Flossy, and the dog was called, and behaved quite as
well as he had done when he saw Willie before, lying quiet in his arms
as long as the blind boy chose to hold him, and putting his cold nose
against his face in an affectionate way which delighted Willie highly.

There was no difficulty in amusing Jennie, who had eyes for all that
was to be seen, and who thought she could never be tired of handling
and looking at such beautiful toys and books. But perhaps the children
would hardly have known how to entertain Willie for any length of time,
if a new pleasure had not accidentally been furnished for him.

Maggie and Bessie had just taken him and his sister into the nursery to
visit the baby, the canary bird, and other wonders there, when there
came sweet sounds from below. Willie instantly turned to the door and
stood listening.

"Who's making that music?" he asked presently in a whisper, as if he
were afraid to lose a note.

"Mamma and Aunt Bessie," said Maggie.

"Would you and Jennie like to go down to the parlor and hear it?" asked
Bessie.

Willie said "Yes," very eagerly, but Jennie did not care to go where
the grown ladies were, and said she would rather stay up-stairs if
Maggie did not mind.

Maggie consented, and Bessie went off, leading the blind boy by the
hand. It was both amusing and touching to see the watch she kept
over this child who was twice her own size, guiding his steps with
a motherly sort of care, looking up at him with wistful pity and
tenderness, and speaking to him in a soft, coaxing voice such as one
would use to an infant.

They were going down-stairs when they met Aunt Patty coming up. She
passed them at the landing, then suddenly turning, said, in the short,
quick way to which Bessie was by this time somewhat accustomed,
"Children! Bessie! This is very dangerous! You should not be leading
that poor boy down-stairs. Where are your nurses, that they do not
see after you? Take care, take care! Look where you are going now!
Carefully, carefully!"

Now if Aunt Patty had considered the matter, she would have known she
was taking the very way to bring about the thing she dreaded. Willie
had been going on fearlessly, listening to his gentle little guide; but
at the sound of the lady's voice he started, and as she kept repeating
her cautions, he grew nervous and uneasy; while Bessie, instead of
watching his steps and taking heed to her own, kept glancing up at her
aunt with an uncomfortable sense of being watched by those sharp eyes.

However, they both reached the lower hall in safety, where Bessie led
her charge to the parlor-door. "Mamma," she said, "Willie likes music
very much. I suppose you would just as lief he would listen to you and
Aunt Bessie."

"Certainly," said mamma. "Bring him in."

But before they went in, Willie paused and turned to Bessie.

"Who was that on the stairs?" he asked in a whisper.

"Oh! that was only Aunt Patty," answered the little girl. "You need not
be afraid of her. She don't mean to be so cross as she is; but she is
old, and had a great deal of trouble, and not very wise people to teach
her better when she was little. So she can't help it sometimes."

"No," said Willie, slowly, as if he were trying to recollect something,
"I am not afraid; but then I thought I had heard that voice before."

"Oh, I guess not," said Bessie; and then she took him in and seated him
in her own little arm-chair, close to the piano.

No one who had noticed the way in which the blind boy listened to the
music, or seen the look of perfect enjoyment on his pale, patient face,
could have doubted his love for the sweet sounds. While Mrs. Bradford
and Miss Rush played or sang, he sat motionless, not moving a finger,
hardly seeming to breathe, lest he should lose one note.

"So you are very fond of music; are you, Willie?" said Mrs. Bradford,
when at length they paused.

"Yes, ma'am, very," said he, modestly; "but I never heard music like
that before. It seems 'most as if it was alive."

"So it does," said Bessie, while the ladies smiled at the boy's
innocent admiration.

"I think there's a many nice things in this house," continued Willie,
who, in his very helplessness and unconsciousness of the many new
objects which surrounded him, was more at his ease than his sister.

"And mamma is the nicest of all," said Bessie. "You can't think how
precious she is, Willie!"

Mrs. Bradford laughed as she put back her little daughter's curls, and
kissed her forehead.

"I guess she must be, when she is your mother," said Willie. "You must
all be very kind and good people here; and I wish, oh, I wish it was
you and your sister who gave the money for Dr. Dawson. But never mind;
I thank you and love you all the same as if you had done it, only I
would like to think it all came through you. And father says"--

Here Willie started, and turned his sightless eyes towards the open
door, through which was again heard Mrs. Lawrence's voice, as she gave
directions to Patrick respecting a parcel she was about to send home.

"What is the matter, Willie?" asked Mrs. Bradford.

"Nothing, ma'am;" answered the child, as a flush came into his pale
cheeks, and rising from his chair, he stood with his head bent forward,
listening intently, till the sound of Aunt Patty's voice ceased, and
the opening and closing of the front-door showed that she had gone out,
when he sat down again with a puzzled expression on his face.

"Does anything trouble you?" asked Mrs. Bradford.

"No, ma'am; but--but--I _know_ I've heard it before."

"Heard what?"

"That voice, ma'am; Miss Bessie said it was her aunt's."

"But you couldn't have heard it, you know, Willie," said Bessie,
"'cause you never came to this house before, and Aunt Patty never went
to yours."

These last words brought it all back to the blind boy. He knew now.
"But she _did_," he said, eagerly,--"she did come to our house. That's
the one; that's the voice that scolded mother and Auntie Granby and
Jennie, and that put the money into the Bible when we didn't know it!"

Mrs. Bradford and Miss Rush looked at one another with quick, surprised
glances; but Bessie said, "Oh! you must be mistaken, Willie. It's quite
_un_possible. Aunt Patty does not know you or your house, and she
never went there. Besides, she does not"--"Does not like you to have
the money," she was about to say, when she thought that this would be
neither kind nor polite, and checked herself.

But Willie was quite as positive as she was, and with a little shake of
his head, he said, "Ever since I was blind, I always knew a voice when
I heard it once. I wish Jennie or Mrs. Granby had seen her, they could
tell you; but I know that's the voice. It was _you_ sent her, after
all, ma'am; was it not?" and he turned his face toward Mrs. Bradford.

"No, Willie, I did not send her," answered the lady, with another look
at Miss Rush, "nor did any one in this house."

But in spite of this, and all Bessie's persuasions and assurances that
the thing was quite impossible, Willie was not to be convinced that the
voice he had twice heard was not that of the old lady who had left the
money in the Bible; and he did not cease regretting that Jennie had not
seen her.

But to have Jennie or Mrs. Granby see her was just what Mrs. Lawrence
did not choose, and to avoid this, she had gone out, not being able to
shut herself up in her own room, which was undergoing a sweeping and
dusting. She had not been afraid of the sightless eyes of the little
boy when she met him on the stairs, never thinking that he might
recognize her voice; but she had taken good care not to meet those of
Jennie, so quick and bright, and which she felt would be sure to know
her in an instant. But secure as Aunt Patty thought herself, when she
was once out of the house, that treacherous voice of hers had betrayed
her, not only to Willie's sensitive ears, but to that very pair of eyes
which she thought she had escaped. For, as the loud tones had reached
Maggie and Jennie at their play, the latter had dropped the toy she
held, and exclaimed, in a manner as startled as Willie's, "There's that
woman!"

"What woman?" asked Maggie.

"The old woman who brought the money to our house. I know it is her."

"Oh, no, it is not," said Maggie; "that's Aunt Patty, and she's an
old lady, not an old woman, and she wouldn't do it if she could. She
is real mean, Jennie, and I think that person who took you the money
was real good and kind, even if we did feel a little bad about it at
first. Aunt Patty would never do it, I know. Bessie and I try to like
her, and just as we begin to do it a little scrap, she goes and does
something that makes us mad again, so it's no use to try."

"But she does talk just like the lady who came to our house," persisted
Jennie.

"You can see her if you have a mind to," said Maggie, "and then you'll
know it is not her. Come and look over the balusters, but don't let her
see you, or else she'll say, 'What are you staring at, child?'"

They both ran to the head of the stairs, where Jennie peeped over the
balusters.

"It _is_ her!" she whispered to Maggie. "I am just as sure, as sure.
She is all dressed up nice to-day, and the other day she had on an old
water-proof cloak, and a great big umbrella, and she didn't look so
nice. But she's the very same."

"Let's go down and tell mamma, and see what she says," said Maggie, as
the front-door closed after Aunt Patty.

Away they both rushed to the parlor; but when Jennie saw the ladies,
she was rather abashed and hung back a little, while Maggie broke forth
with, "Mamma, I have the greatest piece of astonishment to tell you,
you ever heard. Jennie says she is quite sure Aunt Patty is the woman
who put the money in the Bible and paid Dr. Dawson. But, mamma, it
can't be; can it? Aunt Patty is quite too dog-in-the-mangery; is she
not?"

"Maggie, dear," said her mother, "that is not a proper way for you to
speak of your aunt, nor do I think it is just as you say. What do you
mean by that?"

"Why, mamma, you know the dog in the manger could not eat the hay
himself, and would not let the oxen eat it; and Aunt Patty would not
buy the grove, or tell papa what was the reason; so was she not like
the dog in the manger?"

"Not at all," said Mrs. Bradford, smiling at Maggie's reasoning. "The
two cases are not at all alike. As you say, the dog would not let the
hungry oxen eat the hay he could not use himself, but because Aunt
Patty did not choose to buy the grove, we have no right to suppose she
would not make, or has not made some other good use of her money, and
if she chooses to keep that a secret, she has a right to do so. No, I
do not think we can call her like the dog in the manger, Maggie."

"But do you believe she gave up the grove for that, mamma? She would
not be so good and generous; would she?"

"Yes, dear, I think she would. Aunt Patty is a very generous-hearted
woman, although her way of doing things may be very different from that
of some other people. Mind, I did not say that she _did_ do this, but
Willie and Jennie both seem to be quite positive that she is the old
lady who was at their house, and I think it is not at all unlikely."

"And shall you ask her, mamma?"

"No. If it was Aunt Patty who has been so kind, she has shown very
plainly that she did not wish to be questioned, and I shall say
nothing, nor must you. We will not talk about it any more now. We will
wind up the musical box, and let Willie see if he likes it as well as
the piano."

Very soon after this, Mrs. Granby came for Willie and Jennie, and
no sooner were they outside of the door than they told of the
wonderful discovery they had made. Mrs. Granby said she was not at all
astonished, "one might have been sure such a good turn came out of
_that_ house, somehow."

[Illustration: decoration, end of chap. 15]



[Illustration: Title decoration, chap. 16]



XVI.

_WILLIE'S RECOVERY._


Willie seemed amazingly cheered up and amused by his visit, and told
eagerly of all he had heard and noticed, with a gay ring in his voice
which delighted his mother. It was not so with Jennie, although she
had come home with her hands full of toys and picture-books, the gifts
of the kind little girls she had been to see. She seemed dull, and her
mother thought she was tired of play and the excitement of seeing so
much that was new and strange to her. But Mrs. Richards soon found it
was worse than this.

"I don't see why I can't keep this frock on," said Jennie, fretfully,
as Mrs. Granby began to unfasten her dress, which was kept for Sundays
and holidays.

"Surely, you don't want to go knocking round here, playing and working
in your best frock!" said Mrs. Granby. "What would it look like?"

"The other one is torn," answered Jennie, pouting, and twisting herself
out of Mrs. Granby's hold.

"Didn't I mend it as nice as a new pin?" said Mrs. Granby, showing a
patch nicely put in during Jennie's absence.

"It's all faded and ugly," grumbled Jennie. "I don't see why I can't be
dressed as nice as other folks."

"That means you want to be dressed like little Miss Bradfords,"
answered Mrs. Granby. "And the reason why you ain't is because your
folks can't afford it, my dearie. Don't you think your mother and me
would like to see you rigged out like them, if we had the way to do it?
To be sure we would. But you see we can't do more than keep you clean
and whole; so there's no use wishin'."

Jennie said no more, but submitted to have the old dress put on; but
the pleasant look did not come back to her face.

Anything like sulkiness or ill-temper from Jennie was so unusual that
the other children listened in surprise; but her mother saw very
plainly what was the matter, and hoping it would wear off, thought it
best to take no notice of it at present.

The dress fastened, Jennie went slowly and unwillingly about her task
of putting away her own and her brother's clothes; not doing so in her
usual neat and orderly manner but folding them carelessly and tumbling
them into the drawers in a very heedless fashion. Mrs. Granby saw this,
but she, too, let it pass, thinking she would put things to rights when
Jennie was in bed.

Pretty soon Tommy came to Mrs. Granby with some long story told in the
curious jargon of which she could not understand one word.

"What does he say, Jennie?" she asked.

"I don't know," answered Jennie, crossly. "I sha'n't be troubled to
talk for him all the time. He is big enough to talk for himself, and he
just may do it."

"Jennie, Jennie," said her mother, in a grieved tone.

Jennie began to cry.

"Come here," said Mrs. Richards, thinking a little soothing would be
better than fault-finding. "The baby is asleep; come and fix the cradle
so I can put her in it."

The cradle was Jennie's especial charge, and she never suffered any one
else to arrange it; but now she pulled the clothes and pillows about as
if they had done something to offend her.

"Our baby is just as good as Mrs. Bradford's," she muttered, as her
mother laid the infant in the cradle.

"I guess we think she is the nicest baby going," said Mrs. Richards,
cheerfully; "and it's likely Mrs. Bradford thinks the same of hers."

"I don't see why Mrs. Bradford's baby has to have a better cradle than
ours," muttered Jennie. "Hers is all white muslin and pink, fixed up so
pretty, and ours is old and shabby."

"And I don't believe Mrs. Bradford's baby has a quilt made for her by
her own little sister," answered the mother.

"And it has such pretty frocks, all work and tucks and nice ribbons,"
said Jennie, determined not to be coaxed out of her envy and ill-humor,
"and our baby has to do with just a plain old slip with not a bit of
trimming. 'Taint fair; it's real mean!"

"Jennie, Jennie," said her mother again, "I am sorry I let you go, if
it was only to come home envious and jealous after the pretty things
you've seen."

"But haven't we just as good a right to have them as anybody else?"
sobbed Jennie, with her head in her mother's lap.

"Not since the Lord has not seen fit to give them to us," answered Mrs.
Richards. "We haven't a right to anything. All he gives us is of his
goodness; nor have we a _right_ to fret because he has made other folks
better off than us. All the good things and riches are his to do with
as he sees best; and if one has a larger portion than another, he has
his own reasons for it, which is not for us to quarrel with. And of all
others, I wouldn't have you envious of Mrs. Bradford's family that have
done so much for us."

"Yes," put in Mrs. Granby, with her cheery voice; "them's the ones that
ought to be rich that don't spend all their money on themselves, that
makes it do for the comfort of others that's not as well off, and for
the glory of Him that gives it. Now, if it had been you or me, Jennie,
that had so much given to us, maybe we'd have been selfish and stingy
like; so the Lord saw it wasn't best for us."

"I don't think anything could have made you selfish or stingy, Janet
Granby," said Mrs. Richards, looking gratefully at her friend. "It is
a small share of this world's goods that has fallen to you, but your
neighbors get the best of what does come to you."

"Then there's some other reason why it wouldn't be good for me," said
Mrs. Granby; "I'm safe in believin' that, and it ain't goin' to do
for us to be frettin' and pinin' after what we haven't got, when the
Almighty has just been heapin' so much on us. And talkin' of that,
Jennie, you wipe your eyes, honey, and come along to the kitchen with
me; there's a basket Mrs. Bradford gave me to unpack. She said it had
some few things for Willie, to strengthen him up a bit before his eyes
were done. And don't let the father come in and find you in the dumps;
that would never do. So cheer up and come along till we see what we can
find."

Jennie raised her head, wiped her eyes, and followed Mrs. Granby, who,
good, trusting soul, soon talked her into good-humor and content again.

Meanwhile, Maggie and Bessie were very full of the wonderful discovery
of the afternoon, and could scarcely be satisfied without asking Aunt
Patty if it could really be she who had been to the policeman's house
and carried the money to pay his debts; also, paid Dr. Dawson for the
operation on Willie's eyes. But as mamma had forbidden this, and told
them that they were not to speak of it to others, they were obliged to
be content with talking of it between themselves. If it were actually
Aunt Patty who had done this, they should look upon her with very new
feelings. They had heard from others that she could do very generous
and noble actions; but it was one thing to hear of them, as if they
were some half-forgotten story of the past, and another to see them
done before their very eyes. Aunt Patty was not rich. What she gave to
others, she must deny to herself, and they knew this must have cost
her a great deal. She had given up the grove, on which she had set her
heart, that she might be able to help the family in whom they were so
interested,--people of whom she knew nothing but what she had heard
from them. If she had really been so generous, so self-sacrificing,
they thought they could forgive almost any amount of crossness and
meddling.

"For, after all, they're only the corners," said Maggie, "and maybe
when she tried to bear the policeman's burden, and felt bad about the
grove, that made her burden heavier, and so squeezed out her corners a
little more, and they scratched her neighbors, who ought not to mind
if that was the reason. But I do wish we could really know; don't you,
Bessie?"

Putting all things together, there did not seem much reason to doubt
it. The policeman's children were positive that Mrs. Lawrence was the
very lady who had been to their house, and Aunt Patty had been out on
two successive days at such hours as answered to the time when the
mysterious old lady had visited first them, and then Dr. Dawson.

Papa and Uncle Ruthven came home on the evening of the next day,
having made arrangements that satisfied every one for the summer among
the mountains. Porter's house, with its addition and new conveniences,
was just the place for the party, and would even afford two or three
extra rooms, in case their friends from Riverside wished to join them.
The children were delighted as their father spoke of the wide, roomy
old hall, where they might play on a rainy day, of the spacious,
comfortable rooms and long piazza; as he told how beautiful the lake
looked even in this early spring weather, and of the grand old rocks
and thick woods which would soon be covered with their green summer
dress. Still Bessie gave a little sigh after her beloved sea. The old
homestead and Aunt Patty's cottage were about four miles from the lake,
just a pleasant afternoon's drive; and at the homestead itself, where
lived Mr. Bradford's cousin, the two gentlemen had passed the night.
Cousin Alexander had been very glad to hear that his relations were
coming to pass the summer at Chalecoo Lake, and his four boys promised
themselves all manner of pleasure in showing their city cousins the
wonders of the neighborhood.

"It all looks just as it used to when I was a boy," said Mr. Bradford.
"There is no change in the place, only in the people." He said it
with a half-sigh, but the children did not notice it as they pleased
themselves with the thought of going over the old place where papa had
lived when he was a boy.

"I went to the spot where the old barn was burned down, Aunt Patty,"
he said. "No signs of the ruins are to be seen, as you know; but as I
stood there, the whole scene came back to me as freshly as if it had
happened yesterday;" and he extended his hand to Aunt Patty as he spoke.

The old lady laid her own within his, and the grasp he gave it told her
that years and change had not done away with the grateful memory of her
long past services. She was pleased and touched, and being in such a
mood, did not hesitate to express the pleasure she, too, felt at the
thought of having them all near her for some months.

About half-way between the homestead and the Lake House, Mr. Bradford
and Mr. Stanton had found board for Mrs. Richards and her boy. It was
at the house of an old farmer who well remembered Mr. Bradford, and who
said he was pleased to do anything to oblige him, though the gentlemen
thought that the old man was quite as well satisfied with the idea of
the eight dollars a week he had promised in payment. And this was to
come from Maggie's and Bessie's store, which had been carefully left in
mamma's hand till such time as it should be needed. All this was most
satisfactory to our little girls; and when it should be known that the
operation on Willie's eyes had been successful, they were to go to Mrs.
Richards and tell her what had been done for her boy's farther good.

Mrs. Bradford told her husband that night of all that had taken place
during his absence, and he quite agreed with her that it was without
doubt Aunt Patty herself who had been the policeman's benefactor.

"I am not at all surprised," he said, "though I own that this did not
occur to me, even when Richards described the old lady. It is just like
Aunt Patty to do a thing in this way; and her very secrecy and her
unwillingness to confess why she would not have the grove, or what she
intended to do with the money, convinced me that she was sacrificing
herself for the good of some other person or persons."

Then Mr. Bradford told his wife that Aunt Patty meant to go home in
about ten days, and should Willie's sight be restored before she went,
he hoped to be able to persuade her to confess that she had had a share
in bringing about this great happiness. He was very anxious that his
children should be quite certain of this, as he thought it would go far
to destroy their old prejudice, and to cause kind feelings and respect
to take the place of their former fear and dislike.

Mrs. Bradford said that good had been done already by the thought that
it was probably Aunt Patty who had been so generous, and that the
little ones were now quite as ready to believe all that was kind and
pleasant of the old lady as they had been to believe all that was bad
but two days since. She told how they had come to her that morning,
Maggie saying, "Mamma, Bessie and I wish to give Aunt Patty something
to show we have more approval of her than we used to have; so I am
going to make a needle-book and Bessie a pin-cushion, and put them in
her work-basket without saying anything about them."

They had been very busy all the morning contriving and putting together
their little gifts without any help from older people, and when they
were finished, had placed them in Aunt Patty's basket, hanging around
in order to enjoy her surprise and pleasure when she should find them
there.

But the poor little things were disappointed, they could scarcely
tell why. If it had been mamma or Aunt Bessie who had received their
presents, there would have been a great time when they were discovered.
There would have been exclamations of admiration and delight and much
wondering as to who could have placed them there,--"some good fairy
perhaps who knew that these were the very things that were wanted,"
and such speeches, all of which Maggie and Bessie would have enjoyed
highly, and at last it would be asked if they could possibly have made
them, and then would have come thanks and kisses.

But nothing of this kind came from Aunt Patty. She could not enter
into other people's feelings so easily as those who had been unselfish
and thoughtful for others all their lives; and though she was much
gratified by these little tokens from the children, she did not show
half the pleasure she felt; perhaps she really did not know how.
True she thanked them, and said she should keep the needle-book and
pin-cushion as long as she lived; but she expressed no surprise, and
did not praise the work with which they had taken so much pains.

"What is this trash in my basket?" she said, when she discovered them.
"Children, here are some of your baby-rags."

"Aunt Patty," said Mrs. Bradford, quickly, "they are intended for you;
the children have been at work over them all the morning."

"Oh!" said Mrs. Lawrence, changing her tone. "I did not understand. I
am sure I thank you very much, my dears; and when you come to see me
this summer, I shall show you how to do far better than this. I have a
quantity of scraps and trimmings of all kinds, of which you can make
very pretty things."

This was intended to be kind; but the promise for the future did not
make up for the disappointment of the present; and the children turned
from her with a feeling that their pains had been almost thrown away.

"Mamma," Bessie had said afterwards, "do you think Aunt Patty was very
grateful for our presents?"

"Yes, dear, I think she was," said mamma, "and I think she meant to
show it in her own way."

"But, mamma, do you think that was a nice way? You would not have said
that to any one, and I felt as if I wanted to cry a little."

Mamma had seen that her darlings were both hurt, and she felt very
sorry for them, but she thought it best to make light of it, so said,
cheerfully, "I am quite sure Aunt Patty was gratified, pussy, and that
whenever she looks at your presents, she will think with pleasure of
the kind little hands that made them."

"When I am big, and some one gives me something I have pleasure in,
I'll try to show the pleasure in a nice way," said Maggie.

"Then you must not forget to do it while you are young," said mamma.
"Let this show you how necessary it is to learn pleasant habits of
speaking and acting while you are young."

"Yes," said Maggie, with a long sigh, "and Aunt Patty ought to be
excused. I suppose, since she was not brought up in the way she should
go when she was young, she ought to be expected to depart from it when
she is old. We must just make the best of it when she don't know any
better, and take example of her."

"Yes," said mamma, rather amused at the way in which Maggie had put
into words the very thought that was in her own mind; "let us make the
best of everything, and be always ready to believe the best of those
about us."

All this Mrs. Bradford told to her husband, and agreed with him that it
was better not to endeavor to find out anything more till the trial on
Willie's eyes was over.

Maggie's new volume of "The Complete Family" was begun the next day
in these words: "Once there was a man who lived in his home in the
mountains, and who always listened very modestly to everything that
was said to him, so his wife used to say a great deal to him. And one
day she said, 'My dear, Mr. and Mrs. Happy, with all their family,
and a great lot of their best friends, are coming to live with us this
summer, and they are used to having a very nice time, so we must do
all we can to make them comfortable, or maybe they will say, "Pooh,
this is not a nice place at all. Let us go to the sea again. These are
very horrid people!"' And the man said, 'By all means, my dear; and we
will give them all they want, and let them look at the mountains just
as much as they choose. But I do not think they will say unkind words
even if you are a little disagreeable, but will make the best of you,
and think you can't help it.' Which was quite true, for M. Happy and
B. Happy had a good lesson the man did not know about, and had made a
mistake; and sometimes when people seem dreadfully hateful, they are
very nice,--I mean very good,--so it's not of great consequence if they
are not so nice as some people, and they ought not to be judged, for
maybe they have a burden. And M. Happy made two mistakes; one about
Mrs. Jones, and the other about that other one mamma don't want me to
write about. So this book will be about how they went to the mountains
and had a lovely time. I guess we will."

Rather more than a week had gone by. Willie Richards lay on his bed in
a darkened room, languid and weak, his eyes bandaged, his face paler
than ever, but still cheerful and patient. It was five days since the
operation had been performed, but Willie had not yet seen the light,
nor was it certain that he would ever do so, though the doctor hoped
and believed that all had gone well. They had given the boy chloroform
at the time, and then bound his eyes before he had recovered his
senses. But on this day the bandage was to be taken off for the first,
and then they should know. His mother sat beside him holding his thin,
worn hand in hers.

"Willie," she said, "the doctor is to be here presently, and he will
take the bandage from your eyes."

"And will I see then, mother?"

"If God pleases, dear. But, Willie, if he does not see fit to give you
back your sight, could you bear it, and try to think that it is his
will, and he knows best?"

Willie drew a long, heavy breath, and was silent a moment, grasping his
mother's fingers till the pressure almost pained her; then he said,
low, and with a quiver in his voice, "I would try, mother; but it would
be 'most too hard after all. If it could be just for a little while,
just so I could see your dear face for a few moments, then I would try
to say, 'Thy will be done.'"

"However it is, we must say that, my boy; but, please the Lord, we
shall yet praise him for his great goodness in giving you back your
poor, dear eyes."

As she spoke, the door opened, and her husband put his head in.

"Here's the doctor, Mary," he said, with a voice that shook, in spite
of his efforts to keep it steady; and then he came in, followed by the
doctor and Mrs. Granby.

The latter, by the doctor's orders, opened the window so as to let in
a little softened light, and after a few cheerful words the doctor
unfastened the bandage, and uncovered the long sightless eyes. Willie
was resting in his mother's arms with his head back against her
shoulder, and she knew that he had turned it so that her face might be
the first object his eyes rested on.

It was done; and, with a little glad cry, the boy threw up his arms
about his mother's neck.

"What is it, Willie?" asked his father, scarcely daring to trust his
voice to speak.

"I saw it! I saw it!" said the boy.

"Saw what, sonny?" asked his father, wishing to be sure that the child
could really distinguish objects.

"I saw mother's face, her dear, dear face; and I see you, too, father.
Oh, God is so good! I will be such a good boy all my life. Oh, will I
never have to fret to see mother's face again?"

"Ahem!" said the doctor, turning to a table and beginning to measure
some drops into a glass, while Mrs. Granby stood crying for joy at the
other end of the room. "If you're not to, you must keep more quiet than
this, my boy; it will not do for you to grow excited. Here, take this."

"Who's that?" asked Willie, as the strange face met his gaze.

"Ho, ho!" said the doctor. "Are you going to lose your ears now you
have found your eyes? I thought you knew all our voices, my fine
fellow."

"Oh, yes," said Willie, "I know now; it's the doctor. Doctor, was I
just as patient as you wanted me to be?"

"First-rate," answered the doctor; "but you must have a little more
patience yet. I'll leave the bandage off, but we will not have quite so
much light just now, Mrs. Granby."

Willie begged for one look at Auntie Granby, and then Jennie was
called, that he might have a peep at her, after which he was content
to take the medicine and lie down, still holding his mother's hand, and
now and then putting up his fingers with a wistful smile to touch the
dearly loved face he could still see bending over him in the dim light.

That evening the policeman went up to Mr. Bradford's. He was asked to
walk into the parlor, where sat Mr. Bradford and Aunt Patty, while old
nurse was just taking Maggie and Bessie off to bed.

"Oh, here is our policeman!" said Bessie; and she ran up to him,
holding out her hand. "How is your Willie?"

"That's just what I came to tell you, dear. I made bold to step up and
let you know about Willie, sir," he said, turning to Mr. Bradford.

"And what is the news?" asked the gentleman.

"The best, sir. The Lord has crowned all his mercies to us by giving us
back our boy's sight."

"And has Willie seen his mother's face?" asked Bessie, eagerly.

"Yes, that he has. He took care that should be the first thing his eyes
opened on; and it just seems as if he could not get his full of looking
at it. He always was a mother boy, my Willie, but more than ever so
since his blindness."

"How is he?" asked Mr. Bradford.

"Doing nicely, sir. Rather weakish yet; but when he can bear the light,
and get out into the fresh air, it will do him good; and I hope he'll
come round after a spell, now that his mind is at ease, and he's had a
sight of that he'd set his heart on, even if we can't just follow out
the doctor's orders."

Bessie felt as if she could keep her secret no longer. "May I,
papa,--may I?" she asked.

Papa understood her, and nodded assent.

"But you _can_ follow the doctor's orders," said she, turning again to
the policeman, "and Willie can have all the fresh air he needs,--fresh
mountain air, he and his mother. And Maggie and I are to pay it out
of the money that Uncle Ruthven gave us for the eye doctor whom
the"--here Bessie looked half doubtfully towards Aunt Patty--"the old
lady paid. And now, you see, it's a great deal nicer, 'cause if she
hadn't, then, maybe, Willie couldn't go to the country."

Bessie talked so fast that Richards did not understand at first, and
her father had to explain. The man was quite overcome.

"It's too much, sir, it's too much," he said, in a husky voice,
twisting his cap round and round in his hands. "It was the last thing
was wanting, and I feel as if I had nothing to say. There ain't no
words to tell what I feel. I can only say may the Lord bless you and
yours, and grant you all your desires in such measure as he has done to
me."

Mr. Bradford then told what arrangements had been made, in order to
give Richards time to recover himself. The policeman thought all these
delightful, and said he knew his wife and boy would feel that they
could never be thankful and happy enough.

"And to think that all this has come out of that little one being
brought up to the station that day, sir; it's past belief almost," he
said.

"So good has been brought out of evil," said Mr. Bradford.

As soon as the policeman had gone, Maggie and Bessie ran up-stairs to
tell their mother the good news, leaving papa and Aunt Patty alone
together. Mr. Bradford then turned to the old lady, and laying his hand
gently on her shoulder, said,--

"Aunt Patty, you have laid up your treasure where moth and rust do not
corrupt; but surely it is bearing interest on earth."

"How? Why? What do you mean, Henry?" said Mrs. Lawrence, with a little
start.

"Come, confess, Aunt Patty," he said; "acknowledge that it is to you
this good fellow who has just left us owes his freedom from debt, his
child's eyesight, his release from cares which were almost too much
even for his hopeful spirit; acknowledge that you have generously
sacrificed a long-cherished desire, given up the fruits of much saving
and self-denial, to make those happy in whom you could have had no
interest save as creatures and children of one common Father. We all
know it. The policeman's children recognized you, and told my little
ones. Why will you not openly share with us the pleasure we must all
feel at the blind boy's restoration to sight? Did you not see dear
Bessie's wistful look at you as she bade you good-night? These little
ones cannot understand why there should be any reason to hide such
kindness as you have shown to these people, or why you should refuse to
show an interest you really feel. It is true that we are told not to
let our left hand, know that which is done by our right hand; but are
we not also commanded so to let our light shine before men that they
may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven? And can we do
so, or truly show our love to him, if we hide the services rendered for
his sake behind a mask of coldness and reserve? My dear aunt, for his
sake, for your own, for the sake of the affection and confidence which
I wish my children to feel for you, and which I believe you wish to
gain, let me satisfy them that it was really you who did this thing."

The old lady hesitated for a moment longer, and then she broke down
in a burst of humility and penitence such as Mr. Bradford had never
expected to see from her. She told him how she had heard them all
talking of the policeman and his troubles, and how much she had wished
that she was able to help him; how she had thought that the desire
to have the grove was only a fancy, right in itself perhaps, but not
to be indulged if she could better spend the money for the good of
others; and how, without taking much time to consider the matter, she
had decided to give it up. Then she had half regretted it, but would
not confess to herself or others that she did so, and so, feeling
irritable and not at ease with herself, had been impatient and angry at
the least thing which seemed to oppose her plans. The children, she
said, had shamed her by their greater patience and submission under
the disappointment she had so unintentionally brought upon them, and
now she felt that the ill-temper she had shown had brought reproach on
the Master whom she really wished to serve, and destroyed the little
influence she had been able to gain with the children.

Mr. Bradford told her he thought she was mistaken here, and if the
children could only be quite certain that it was she who had proved
such a good friend to the policeman's family, they would forget all
else in their pleasure at her kindness and sympathy.

So Mrs. Lawrence told him to do as he thought best; and she found it
was as he said; for when Maggie and Bessie came down in the morning,
full of joy at the happiness which had come to Willie and his parents,
they ran at once to Aunt Patty, and Bessie, putting her little arms
about her neck, whispered,--

"Dear Aunt Patty, we're so much obliged to you about Willie, and if
we had only known it was you, we wouldn't have felt so bad about it.
Now we only feel glad, and don't you feel glad, too, when you know how
happy they all are?"

Then Maggie sidled up, and slipping her hand into Aunt Patty's, said,--

"Aunt Patty, please to forgive me for saying naughty things about you
when I didn't know you was the queer old lady."

Aunt Patty was quite ready to exchange forgiveness; and for the two
remaining days of her stay, it seemed as if her little nieces could not
do enough to show how pleased and grateful they were; and when she left
them, they could tell her with truth how glad they were that they were
to see her soon again in her own home.

And if you are not tired of Maggie and Bessie, you may some time learn
how they spent their summer among the mountains.



FOOTNOTES:

[A] "Chapel Gems."





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bessie and Her Friends" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home