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Title: Jessica's First Prayer—Jessica's Mother
Author: Stretton, Hesba
Language: English
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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 "Jessica's First Prayer—Jessica's Mother" ***

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[Illustration: “‘Lord, these are the lambs of thy flock.’”]

Jessica’s First Prayer

Jessica’s Mother

  Hesba Stretton

  New York
  H. M. Caldwell Co.


  The Coffee-Stall and its Keeper    PAGE 5

  Jessica’s Temptation                   15

  An Old Friend in a New Dress           23

  Peeps into Fairy-land                  35

  A New World Opens                      44

  The First Prayer                       50

  Hard Questions                         54

  An Unexpected Visitor                  60

  Jessica’s First Prayer Answered        69

  The Shadow of Death                    82

Jessica’s First Prayer.



In a screened and secluded corner of one of the many railway-bridges
which span the streets of London there could be seen, a few years
ago, from five o’clock every morning until half-past eight, a tidily
set out coffee-stall, consisting of a trestle and board, upon which
stood two large tin cans with a small fire of charcoal burning under
each, so as to keep the coffee boiling during the early hours of the
morning when the work-people were thronging into the city on their
way to their daily toil. The coffee-stall was a favorite one, for
besides being under shelter, which was of great consequence upon rainy
mornings, it was also in so private a niche that the customers taking
their out-of-door breakfast were not too much exposed to notice; and,
moreover, the coffee-stall keeper was a quiet man, who cared only
to serve the busy workmen without hindering them by any gossip. He
was a tall, spare, elderly man, with a singularly solemn face and a
manner which was grave and secret. Nobody knew either his name or
dwelling-place; unless it might be the policeman who strode past the
coffee-stall every half-hour and nodded familiarly to the solemn man
behind it. There were very few who cared to make any inquiries about
him; but those who did could only discover that he kept the furniture
of his stall at a neighboring coffee-house, whither he wheeled his
trestle and board and crockery every day not later than half-past
eight in the morning; after which he was wont to glide away with a
soft footstep and a mysterious and fugitive air, with many backward
and sidelong glances, as if he dreaded observation, until he was lost
among the crowds which thronged the streets. No one had ever had the
persevering curiosity to track him all the way to his house, or to find
out his other means of gaining a livelihood; but in general his stall
was surrounded by customers, whom he served with silent seriousness,
and who did not grudge to pay him his charge for the refreshing coffee
he supplied to them.

For several years the crowd of work-people had paused by the
coffee-stall under the railway-arch, when one morning, in a partial
lull of his business, the owner became suddenly aware of a pair of very
bright dark eyes being fastened upon him and the slices of bread and
butter on his board, with a gaze as hungry as that of a mouse which has
been driven by famine into a trap. A thin and meagre face belonged to
the eyes, which was half hidden by a mass of matted hair hanging over
the forehead and down the neck--the only covering which the head or
neck had; for a tattered frock, scarcely fastened together with broken
strings, was slipping down over the shivering shoulders of the little
girl. Stooping down to a basket behind his stall, he caught sight of
two bare little feet curling up from the damp pavement, as the child
lifted up first one and then other and laid them one over another to
gain a momentary feeling of warmth. Whoever the wretched child was, she
did not speak; only at every steaming cupful which he poured out of his
can her dark eyes gleamed hungrily, and he could hear her smack her
thin lips as if in fancy she was tasting the warm and fragrant coffee.

“Oh, come now,” he said at last, when only one boy was left taking his
breakfast leisurely, and he leaned over his stall to speak in a low and
quiet tone, “why don’t you go away, little girl? Come, come; you’re
staying too long, you know.”

“I’m just going, sir,” she answered, shrugging her small shoulders to
draw her frock up higher about her neck; “only it’s raining cats and
dogs outside; and mother’s been away all night, and she took the key
with her; and it’s so nice to smell the coffee; and the police has left
off worriting me while I’ve been here. He thinks I’m a customer taking
my breakfast.” And the child laughed a shrill laugh of mockery at
herself and the policeman.

“You’ve had no breakfast, I suppose,” said the coffee-stall keeper, in
the same low and confidential voice, and leaning over his stall till
his face nearly touched the thin, sharp features of the child.

“No,” she replied, coolly, “and I shall want my dinner dreadful bad
afore I get it, I know. You don’t often feel dreadful hungry, do you,
sir? I’m not griped yet, you know; but afore I taste my dinner it’ll be
pretty bad, I tell you. Ah! very bad indeed!”

She turned away with a knowing nod, as much as to say she had one
experience in life to which he was quite a stranger; but before she had
gone half a dozen steps she heard the quiet voice calling to her in
rather louder tones, and in an instant she was back at the stall.

“Slip in here,” said the owner, in a cautious whisper; “here’s a little
coffee left and a few crusts. There. You must never come again, you
know. I never give to beggars; and if you’d begged I’d have called the
police. There; put your poor feet towards the fire. Now, aren’t you

The child looked up with a face of intense satisfaction. She was seated
upon an empty basket, with her feet near the pan of charcoal, and a cup
of steaming coffee on her lap; but her mouth was too full for her to
reply except by a very deep nod, which expressed unbounded delight.
The man was busy for a while packing up his crockery; but every now and
then he stopped to look down upon her, and to shake his head.

“What’s your name?” he asked, at length; “but there, never mind! I
don’t care what it is. What’s your name to do with me, I wonder?”

“It’s Jessica,” said the girl: “but mother and every body calls me
Jess. You’d be tired of being called Jess, if you were me. It’s Jess
here, and Jess there: and every body wanting me to go errands. And they
think nothing of giving me smacks, and kicks, and pinches. Look here!”

Whether her arms were black and blue from the cold or from ill-usage
he could not tell; but he shook his head again seriously and the child
felt encouraged to go on.

“I wish I could stay here for ever and ever, just as I am!” she cried.
“But you’re going away, I know; and I’m never to come again, or you’ll
set the police on me!”

“Yes,” said the coffee-stall keeper very softly; and looking round to
see if there were any other ragged children within sight, “if you’ll
promise not to come again for a whole week, and not to tell any body
else, you may come once more. I’ll give you one other treat. But you
must be off now.”

“I’m off, sir,” she said, sharply; “but if you’ve a errand I could go
on I’d do it all right, I would. Let me carry some of your things.”

“No, no,” cried the man; “you run away, like a good girl; and, mind!
I’m not to see you again for a whole week.”

“All right,” answered Jess, setting off down the rainy street at a
quick run, as if to show her willing agreement to the bargain; while
the coffee-stall keeper, with many a cautious glance around him,
removed his stock in trade to the coffee-house near at hand, and
was seen no more for the rest of the day in the neighborhood of the



Her part of the bargain Jessica faithfully kept; and though the solemn
and silent man under the dark shadow of the bridge looked for her every
morning as he served his customers, he caught no glimpse of her wan
face and thin little frame. But when the appointed time was finished
she presented herself at the stall, with her hungry eyes fastened
again upon the piles of buns and bread and butter, which were fast
disappearing before the demands of the buyers. The business was at its
height, and the famished child stood quietly on one side watching for
the throng to melt away. But as soon as the nearest church clock had
chimed eight she drew a little nearer to the stall, and at a signal
from its owner she slipped between the trestles of his stand and took
up her former position on the empty basket. To his eyes she seemed even
a little thinner, and certainly more ragged, than before; and he laid a
whole bun, a stale one which was left from yesterday’s stock, upon her
lap, as she lifted the cup of coffee to her lips with both her benumbed

“What’s your name?” she asked, looking up to him with her keen eyes.

“Why,” he answered, hesitatingly, as if he was reluctant to tell so
much of himself, “my christened name is Daniel.”

“And where do you live, Mr. Dan’el?” she inquired.

“Oh, come now!” he exclaimed, “if you’re going to be impudent, you’d
better march off. What business is it of yours where I live? I don’t
want to know where you live, I can tell you.”

“I didn’t mean no offence,” said Jess humbly; “only I thought I’d like
to know where a good man like you lived. You’re a very good man, aren’t
you, Mr. Dan’el?”

“I don’t know,” he answered uneasily; “I’m afraid I’m not.”

“Oh, but you are, you know,” continued Jess. “You make good
coffee; prime! And buns too! And I’ve been watching you hundreds of
times afore you saw me, and the police leaves you alone, and never
tells you to move on. Oh, yes! you must be a very good man.”

Daniel sighed, and fidgeted about his crockery with a grave and
occupied air, as if he were pondering over the child’s notion of
goodness. He made good coffee, and the police left him alone! It was
quite true; yet still as he counted up the store of pence which had
accumulated in his strong canvas bag, he sighed again still more
heavily. He purposely let one of his pennies fall upon the muddy
pavement, and went on counting the rest busily, while he furtively
watched the little girl sitting at his feet. Without a shade of change
upon her small face she covered the penny with her foot and drew it in
carefully towards her, while she continued to chatter fluently to him.
For a moment a feeling of pain shot a pang through Daniel’s heart;
and then he congratulated himself on having entrapped the young thief.
It was time to be leaving now; but before he went he would make her
move her bare foot and disclose the penny concealed beneath it, and
then he would warn her never to venture near his stall again. This was
her gratitude, he thought; he had given her two breakfasts and more
kindness than he had shown to any fellow-creature for many a long year,
and at the first chance the young jade turned upon him and robbed him!
He was brooding over it painfully in his mind when Jessica’s uplifted
face changed suddenly, a dark flush crept over her pale cheeks, and the
tears started to her eyes. She stooped down, and picking up the coin
from among the mud she rubbed it bright and clean upon her rags and
laid it upon the stall close to his hand, but without speaking a word.
Daniel looked down upon her solemnly and searchingly.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“Please, Mr. Dan’el,” she answered, “it dropped, and you didn’t hear

“Jess,” he said sternly, “tell me all about it.”

“Oh, please,” she sobbed, “I never had a penny of my own but once; and
it rolled close to my foot; and you didn’t see it; and I hid it up
sharp; and then I thought how kind you’d been, and how good the coffee
and buns are, and how you let me warm myself at your fire; and, please,
I couldn’t keep the penny any longer. You’ll never let me come again, I

Daniel turned away for a moment, busying himself with putting his cups
and saucers into the basket, while Jessica stood by trembling, with
the large tears rolling slowly down her cheeks. The snug, dark corner,
with its warm fire of charcoal and its fragrant smell of coffee, had
been a paradise to her for these two brief spans of time; but she had
been guilty of the sin which would drive her from it. All beyond the
railway-arch the streets stretched away, cold and dreary, with no
friendly face to meet hers and no warm cups of coffee to refresh her;
yet she was only lingering sorrowfully to hear the words spoken which
should forbid her to return to this pleasant spot. Mr. Daniel turned
round at last, and met her tearful gaze, with a look of strange emotion
upon his own solemn face.

“Jess,” he said, “I could never have done it myself. But you may come
here every Wednesday morning, as this is a Wednesday, and there’ll
always be a cup of coffee for you.”

She thought he meant that he could not have hidden the penny under his
foot, and she went away a little saddened and subdued, notwithstanding
her great delight in the expectation of such a treat every week; while
Daniel, pondering over the struggle that must have passed through her
childish mind, went on his way, from time to time shaking his head,
muttering to himself, “I couldn’t have done it myself: I never could
have done it myself.”



Week after week, through the three last months of the year, Jessica
appeared every Wednesday at the coffee-stall and, after waiting
patiently till the close of the breakfasting business, received her
pittance from the charity of her new friend. After a while Daniel
allowed her to carry some of his load to the coffee-house, but he
never suffered her to follow him farther, and he was always particular
to watch her out of sight before he turned off through the intricate
mazes of the streets in the direction of his own home. Neither did he
encourage her to ask him any more questions; and often but very few
words passed between them during Jessica’s breakfast time.

As to Jessica’s home, she made no secret of it, and Daniel might have
followed her any time he pleased. It was a single room, which had once
been a hay-loft, over the stable of an old inn, now in use for two or
three donkeys, the property of costermongers dwelling in the court
about it. The mode of entrance was by a wooden ladder, whose rungs were
crazy and broken, and which led up through a trap-door in the floor
of the loft. The interior of the home was as desolate and comfortless
as that of the stable below, with only a litter of straw for the
bedding and a few bricks and boards for the furniture. Every thing that
could be pawned had disappeared long ago, and Jessica’s mother often
lamented that she could not thus dispose of her child. Yet Jessica was
hardly a burden to her. It was a long time since she had taken any
care to provide her with food or clothing, and the girl had to earn or
beg for herself the meat which kept a scanty life within her. Jess was
the drudge and errand-girl of the court; and what with being cuffed
and beaten by her mother, and overworked and ill-used by her numerous
employers, her life was a hard one. But now there was always Wednesday
morning to count upon and look forward to; and by and by a second scene
of amazed delight opened upon her.

Jessica had wandered far away from home in the early darkness of a
winter’s evening, after a violent outbreak of her drunken mother, and
she was still sobbing now and then with long-drawn sobs of pain and
weariness, when she saw a little way before her the tall, well-known
figure of her friend Mr. Daniel. He was dressed in a suit of black,
with a white neckcloth, and he was pacing with brisk yet measured steps
along the lighted streets. Jessica felt afraid of speaking to him, but
she followed at a little distance, until presently he stopped before
the iron gates of a large building and, unlocking them, passed on to
the arched doorway, and with a heavy key opened the folding-doors and
entered in. The child stole after him but paused for a few minutes,
trembling upon the threshold, until the gleam of a light lit up within
tempted her to venture a few steps forward, and to push a little way
open an inner door, covered with crimson baize, only so far as to
enable her to peep through at the inside. Then, growing bolder by
degrees, she crept through herself, drawing the door to noiselessly
behind her. The place was in partial gloom, but Daniel was kindling
every gaslight, and each minute lit it up in more striking grandeur.
She stood in a carpeted aisle, with high oaken pews on each side
almost as black as ebony. A gallery of the same dark old oak ran round
the walls, resting upon massive pillars, behind one of which she was
partly concealed, gazing with eager eyes at Daniel, as he mounted the
pulpit steps and kindled the lights there, disclosing to her curious
delight the glittering pipes of an organ behind it. Before long the
slow and soft-footed chapel-keeper disappeared for a moment or two into
a vestry; and Jessica, availing herself of his short absence, stole
silently up under the shelter of the dark pews until she reached the
steps of the organ loft, with its golden show. But at this moment Mr.
Daniel appeared again, arrayed in a long gown of black serge; and as
she stood spell-bound gazing at the strange appearance of her patron,
his eyes fell upon her, and he also was struck speechless for a minute,
with an air of amazement and dismay upon his grave face.

“Come, now,” he exclaimed, harshly, as soon as he could recover his
presence of mind, “you must take yourself out of this. This isn’t any
place for such as you. It’s for ladies and gentlemen; so you must run
away sharp before any body comes. How did you ever find your way here?”

He had come very close to her, and bent down to whisper in her ear,
looking nervously round to the entrance all the time. Jessica’s eager
tongue was loosened.

“Mother beat me,” she said, “and turned me into the streets, and I see
you there, so I followed you up. I’ll run away this minute, Mr. Daniel;
but it’s a nice place. What do the ladies and gentlemen do when they
come here? Tell me, and I’ll be off sharp.”

“They come here to pray,” whispered Daniel.

“What is pray?” asked Jessica.

“Bless the child!” cried Daniel, in perplexity. “Why, they kneel down
in those pews; most of them sit, though; and the minister up in the
pulpit tells God what they want.”

Jessica gazed into his face with such an air of bewilderment that a
faint smile crept over the sedate features of the pew-opener.

“What is a minister and God?” she said; “and do ladies and gentlemen
want any thing? I thought they’d every thing they wanted, Mr. Daniel.”

“Oh!” cried Daniel, “you must be off, you know. They’ll be coming in a
minute, and they’d be shocked to see a ragged little heathen like you.
This is the pulpit, where the minister stands and preaches to ’em; and
there are the pews, where they sit to listen to him, or to go to sleep,
may be; and that’s the organ to play music to their singing. There,
I’ve told you every thing, and you must never come again; never.”

“Mr. Daniel,” said Jessica, “I don’t know nothing about it. Isn’t there
a dark little corner somewhere that I could hide in?”

“No, no,” interrupted Daniel impatiently; “we couldn’t do with such
a little heathen, with no shoes or bonnet on. Come, now, it’s only a
quarter to the time, and somebody will be here in a minute. Run away,

Jessica retraced her steps slowly to the crimson door, casting many a
longing look backwards; but Mr. Daniel stood at the end of the aisle,
frowning upon her whenever she glanced behind. She gained the lobby at
last, but already some one was approaching the chapel door, and beneath
the lamp at the gate stood one of her natural enemies, a policeman. Her
heart beat fast, but she was quickwitted, and in another instant she
spied a place of concealment behind one of the doors, into which she
crept for safety until the policeman passed on upon his beat.


The congregation began to arrive quickly. She heard the rustling of
silk dresses, and she could see the gentlemen and ladies pass by the
niche between the door and the post. Once she ventured to stretch out a
thin little finger and touch a velvet mantle as the wearer of it swept
by, but no one caught her in the act, or suspected her presence behind
the door. Mr. Daniel, she could see, was very busy ushering the people
to their seats; but there was a startled look lingering upon his face,
and every now and then he peered anxiously into the outer gloom and
darkness, and even once called to the policeman to ask if he had seen
a ragged child hanging about. After a while the organ began to sound,
and Jessica crouched down in her hiding-place, listening entranced to
the sweet music. She could not tell what made her cry, but the tears
came so rapidly that it was of no use to rub the corners of her eyes
with her hard knuckles; so she lay down upon the ground and buried her
face in her hands and wept without restraint. When the singing was over
she could only catch a confused sound of a voice speaking. The lobby
was empty now, and the crimson doors closed. The policeman also had
walked on. This was the moment to escape. She raised herself from the
ground with a feeling of weariness and sorrow; and thinking sadly of
the light, and warmth, and music that were within the closed doors, she
stepped out into the cold and darkness of the streets, and loitered
homeward with a heavy heart.



It was not the last time that Jessica concealed herself behind the
baize-covered door. She could not overcome the urgent desire to enjoy
again and again the secret and perilous pleasure, and Sunday after
Sunday she watched in the dark streets for the moment when she could
slip in unseen. She soon learned the exact time when Daniel would
be occupied in lighting up, before the policeman would take up his
station at the entrance, and again, the very minute at which it would
be wise and safe to take her departure. Sometimes the child laughed
noiselessly to herself until she shook with suppressed merriment, as
she saw Daniel standing unconsciously, in the lobby, with his solemn
face and grave air, to receive the congregation, much as he faced his
customers at the coffee-stall. She learned to know the minister by
sight, the tall, thin, pale gentleman who passed through a side door,
with his head bent as if in deep thought, while two little girls, about
her own age, followed him with sedate yet pleasant faces. Jessica took
a great interest in the minister’s children. The younger one was fair,
and the elder was about as tall as herself, and had eyes and hair as
dark; but oh, how cared for, how plainly waited on by tender hands!
Sometimes, when they were gone by, she would close her eyes, and wonder
what they would do in one of the high black pews inside, where there
was no place for a ragged barefooted girl like her; and now and then
her wonderings almost ended in a sob, which she was compelled to stifle.

It was an untold relief to Daniel that Jessica did not ply him with
questions, as he feared, when she came for breakfast every Wednesday
morning; but she was too shrewd and cunning for that. She wished him
to forget that she had ever been there, and by-and-by her wish was
accomplished, and Daniel was no longer uneasy, while he was lighting
the lamps, with the dread of seeing the child’s wild face starting up
before him.

But the light evenings of summer-time were drawing near apace, and
Jessica foresaw with dismay that her Sunday treats would soon be over.
The risk of discovery increased every week, for the sun was later in
setting, and there would be no chance of creeping in and out unseen in
the broad daylight. Already it needed both watchfulness and alertness
to dart in at the right moment in the gray twilight; but still she
could not give it up; and if it had not been for the fear of offending
Mr. Daniel, she would have resolved upon going until she was found out.
They could not punish her very much for standing in the lobby of a

Jessica was found out, however, before the dusky evenings were quite
gone. It happened one night that the minister’s children, coming early
to the chapel, saw a small tattered figure, bareheaded and barefooted,
dart swiftly up the steps before them and disappear within the lobby.
They paused and looked at one another, and then, hand in hand, their
hearts beating quickly, and the color coming and going on their faces,
they followed this strange new member of their father’s congregation.
The pew-opener was nowhere to be seen, but their quick eyes detected
the prints of the wet little feet which had trodden the clean pavement
before them, and in an instant they discovered Jessica crouching behind
the door.

“Let us call Daniel Standring,” said Winny, the younger child, clinging
to her sister; but she had spoken aloud and Jessica overheard her, and
before they could stir a step she stood before them with an earnest and
imploring face.

“Oh, don’t have me drove away,” she cried; “I’m a very poor little
girl, and it’s all the pleasure I’ve got. I’ve seen you lots of times,
with that tall gentleman as stoops, and I didn’t think you’d have me
drove away. I don’t do any harm behind the door, and if Mr. Daniel
finds me out he wont give me any more coffee.”

“Little girl,” said the elder child, in a composed and demure voice,
“we don’t mean to be unkind to you; but what do you come here for, and
why do you hide yourself behind the door?”

“I like to hear the music,” answered Jessica, “and I want to find out
what pray is, and the minister, and God. I know it’s only for ladies
and gentlemen, and fine children like you; but I’d like to go inside,
just for once, and see what you do.”

“You shall come with us into our pew,” cried Winny, in an eager and
impulsive tone; but Jane laid her hand upon her outstretched arm, with
a glance at Jessica’s ragged clothes and matted hair. It was a question
difficult enough to perplex them. The little outcast was plainly too
dirty and neglected for them to invite her to sit side by side with
them in their crimson-lined pew, and no poor people attended the chapel
with whom she could have a seat. But Winny, with flushed cheeks and
indignant eyes, looked reproachfully at her elder sister.

“Jane,” she said, opening her Testament, and turning over the leaves
hurriedly, “this was papa’s text a little while ago: ‘For if there come
unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there
come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him
that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a
good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my
footstool; are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges
of evil thoughts?’ If we don’t take this little girl into our pew we
‘have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with
respect of persons.’”

“I don’t know what to do,” answered Jane, sighing; “the Bible
seems plain, but I’m sure papa would not like it. Let us ask the

“Oh, no, no!” cried Jessica, “don’t let Mr. Daniel catch me here. I
wont come again, indeed; and I’ll promise not to try to find out about
God and the minister, if you’ll only let me go.”

“But, little girl,” said Jane, in a sweet but grave manner, “we ought
to teach you about God, if you don’t know him. Our papa is the
minister, and if you’ll come with us we’ll ask him what we must do.”

“Will Mr. Daniel see me?” asked Jessica.

“Nobody but papa is in the vestry,” answered Jane, “and he’ll tell us
all, you and us, what we ought to do. You’ll not be afraid of him, will

“No,” said Jessica cheerfully, following the minister’s children as
they led her along the side of the chapel towards the vestry.

“He is not such a terrible personage,” said Winny, looking round
encouragingly, as Jane tapped softly at the door, and they heard a
voice saying, “Come in.”



The minister was siting in an easy chair before a comfortable fire with
a hymn-book in his hand, which he closed as the three children appeared
in the open doorway. Jessica had seen his pale and thoughtful face many
a time from her hiding-place, but she had never met the keen, earnest,
searching gaze of his eyes, which seemed to pierce through all her
wretchedness and misery, and to read at once the whole history of her
desolate life. But before her eyelids could droop, or she could drop
a reverential courtesy, the minister’s face kindled with such a glow
of pitying tenderness and compassion as fastened her eyes upon him,
and gave her new heart and courage. His children ran to him, leaving
Jessica upon the mat at the door, and with eager voices and gestures
told him the difficulty they were in.

“Come here, little girl,” he said, and Jessica walked across the
carpeted floor till she stood right before him, with folded hands, and
eyes that looked frankly into his.

“What is your name, my child?” he asked.

“Jessica,” she answered.

“Jessica?” he repeated, with a smile; “that is a strange name.”

“Mother used to play ‘Jessica’ at the theatre, sir,” she said, “and I
used to be a fairy in the pantomime, till I grew too tall and ugly. If
I’m pretty when I grow up mother says I shall play too; but I’ve a
long time to wait. Are you the minister, sir?”

“Yes,” he answered, smiling again.

“What is a minister?” she inquired.

“A servant!” he replied, looking away thoughtfully into the red embers
of the fire.

“Papa!” cried Jane and Winny, in tones of astonishment; but Jessica
gazed steadily at the minister, who was now looking back again into her
bright eyes.

“Please, sir, whose servant are you?” she asked.

“The servant of God and of man,” he answered solemnly. “Jessica, I am
your servant.”

The child shook her head, and laughed shrilly as she gazed round the
room and at the handsome clothing of the minister’s daughters, while
she drew her rags closer about her and shivered a little, as if she
felt a sting of the east wind which was blowing keenly through the
streets. The sound of her shrill childish laugh made the minister’s
heart ache.

“Who is God?” asked the child. “When mother’s in a good temper,
sometimes she says ‘God bless me!’ Do you know him, please, minister?”

But before there was time to answer the door into the chapel was
opened and Daniel stood upon the threshold. At first he stared blandly
forward, but then his grave face grew ghastly pale, and he laid his
hand upon the door to support himself until he could recover his speech
and senses. Jessica also looked about her, scared and irresolute, as if
anxious to run away or to hide herself. The minister was the first to

“Jessica,” he said, “there is a place close under my pulpit where you
shall sit, and where I can see you all the time. Be a good girl, and
listen, and you will hear something about God. Standring, put this
little one in front of the pews by the pulpit steps.”

Before she could believe it, for very gladness, Jessica found herself
inside the chapel, facing the glittering organ, from which a sweet
strain of music was sounding. Not far from her Jane and Winny were
peeping over the front of their pew with friendly smiles and glances.
It was evident that the minister’s elder daughter was anxious about
her behavior, and she made energetic signs to her when to stand and
when to kneel; but Winny was content with smiling at her whenever her
head rose above the top of the pew. Jessica was happy, but not in the
least abashed. The ladies and gentlemen were not at all unlike those
whom she had often seen when she was a fairy at the theatre; and very
soon her attention was engrossed by the minister, whose eyes often
fell upon her, as she gazed eagerly, with uplifted face, upon him. She
could scarcely understand a word of what he said, but she liked the
tones of his voice and the tender pity of his face as he looked down
upon her. Daniel hovered about a good deal, with an air of uneasiness
and displeasure, but she was unconscious of his presence. Jessica was
intent upon finding out what a minister and God were.



When the service was ended the minister descended the pulpit steps
just as Daniel was about to hurry Jessica away, and taking her by the
hand in the face of all the congregation he led her into the vestry,
whither Jane and Winny quickly followed them. He was fatigued with
the services of the day, and his pale face was paler than ever, as he
placed Jessica before his chair, into which he threw himself with an
air of exhaustion; but bowing his head upon his hands he said, in a low
but clear tone, “Lord, these are the lambs of thy flock. Help me to
feed thy lambs!”

“Children,” he said, with a smile upon his weary face, “it is no
easy thing to know God. But this one thing we know, that he is our
Father--my Father and your Father, Jessica. He loves you, and cares for
you more than I do for my little girls here.”

He smiled at them, and they at him, with an expression which Jessica
felt and understood, though it made her sad. She trembled a little, and
the minister’s ear caught the sound of a faint though bitter sob.

“I never had any father,” she said sorrowfully.

“God is your Father,” he answered very gently: “he knows all about you,
because he is present everywhere. We cannot see him, but we have only
to speak and he hears us, and we may ask him for whatever we want.”

“Will he let me speak to him, as well as these fine children, that are
clean and have got nice clothes?” asked Jessica, glancing anxiously at
her muddy feet, and her soiled and tattered frock.

“Yes,” said the minister, smiling, yet sighing at the same time; “you
may ask him this moment for what you want.”

Jessica gazed round the room with large wide-open eyes, as if she were
seeking to see God; but then she shut her eyelids tightly, and bending
her head upon her hands, as she had seen the minister do, she said, “O
God! I want to know about you. And please pay Mr. Daniel for all the
warm coffee he’s give me.”

Jane and Winny listened with faces of unutterable amazement; but the
tears stood in the minister’s eyes, and he added “Amen” to Jessica’s
first prayer.



After waiting until the minister left the vestry Daniel found that
Jessica had gone away by the side entrance. He had to wait, therefore,
until Wednesday morning for an opportunity to speak to her, and the
sight of her pinched little face was welcome to him when he saw it
looking wistfully over the coffee-stall. Yet he had made up his mind to
forbid her to come again, and to threaten her with the policeman if he
ever caught her at the chapel, where for the future he intended to keep
a sharper lookout. But before he could speak Jess had slipped under
the stall and taken her old seat upon the upturned basket.

“Mr. Daniel,” she said, “has God paid you for my sups of coffee yet?”

“Paid me?” he repeated, “God? No.”

“Well, he will,” she answered, nodding her head sagely; “don’t you be
afraid for your money, Mr. Daniel; I’ve asked him a many times, and the
minister says he’s sure to do it.”

“Jess,” said Daniel, sternly, “have you been and told the minister
about my coffee-stall?”

“No,” she answered, with a beaming smile, “but I’ve told God lots and
lots of times since Sunday, and he’s sure to pay in a day or two.”

“Jess,” continued Daniel, more gently, “you’re a sharp little girl, I
see; and now, mind, I’m going to trust you. You’re never to say a word
about me or my coffee-stall; because the folks at our chapel are very
grand, and might think it low and mean of me to keep a coffee-stall.
Very likely they’d say I mustn’t be chapel-keeper any longer, and I
should lose a deal of money.”

“Why do you keep the stall then?” asked Jessica.

“Don’t you see what a many pennies I get every morning?” he said,
shaking his canvas bag. “I get a good deal of money that way in a year.”

“What do you want such a deal of money for?” she inquired; “do you give
it to God?”

Daniel did not answer, but the question went to his heart like a
sword-thrust. What did he want so much money for? He thought of his
bare and solitary room, where he lodged alone, a good way from the
railway-bridge, with very few comforts in it, but containing a desk,
strong, securely fastened, and in which were his savings’ bank book,
his receipts for money put out at interest, and a bag of sovereigns,
for which he had been toiling and slaving both on Sunday and week-days.
He could not remember giving any thing away, except the dregs of the
coffee and the stale buns for which Jessica was asking God to pay him.
He coughed, and cleared his throat, and rubbed his eyes; and then,
with nervous and hesitating fingers, he took a penny from his bag and
slipped it into Jessica’s hand.

“No, no, Mr. Daniel,” she said; “I don’t want you to give me any of
your pennies. I want God to pay you.”

“Ay, he’ll pay me,” muttered Daniel; “there’ll be a day of reckoning
by and by.”

“Does God have reckoning days?” asked Jessica. “I used to like
reckoning days when I was a fairy.”

“Ay, ay,” he answered, “but there’s few folks like God’s reckoning

“But you’ll be glad; wont you?” she said.

Daniel bade her get on with her breakfast, and then he turned over in
his mind the thoughts which her questions had awakened. Conscience told
him he would not be glad to meet God’s reckoning day.

“Mr. Daniel,” said Jessica, when they were about to separate, and he
would not take back his gift of a penny, “if you wouldn’t mind, I’d
like to come and buy a cup of coffee to-morrow, like a customer, you
know; and I wont let out a word about the stall to the minister next
Sunday. Don’t you be afraid.”

She tied the penny carefully into a corner of her rags, and with a
cheerful smile upon her thin face she glided from under the shadow of
the bridge and was soon lost to Daniel’s sight.



When Jessica came to the street into which the court where she
lived opened, she saw an unusual degree of excitement among the
inhabitants, a group of whom were gathered about a tall gentleman
whom she recognized in an instant to be the minister. She elbowed her
way through the midst of them, and the minister’s face brightened as
she presented herself before him. He followed her up the low entry,
across the squalid court, through the stable, empty of the donkeys just
then, up the creaking rounds of the ladder, and into the miserable
loft where the tiles were falling in and the broken window-panes were
stuffed with rags and paper. Near to the old rusty stove, which served
as a grate when there was any fire, there was a short board laid across
some bricks, and upon this the minister took his seat, while Jessica
sat upon the floor before him.

“Jessica,” he said, sadly, “is this where you live?”

“Yes,” she answered; “but we’d a nicer room than this when I was a
fairy and mother played at the theatre; we shall be better off when I’m
grown up, if I’m pretty enough to play like her.”

“My child,” he said, “I’m come to ask your mother to let you go to
school in a pleasant place down in the country. Will she let you go?”

“No,” answered Jessica; “mother says she’ll never let me learn to
read, or go to church; she says it would make me good for nothing. But
please, sir, she doesn’t know any thing about your church, it’s such
a long way off, and she hasn’t found me out yet. She always gets very
drunk of a Sunday.”

The child spoke simply, and as if all she said was a matter of course;
but the minister shuddered, and he looked through the broken window to
the little patch of gloomy sky overhead.

“What can I do?” he cried mournfully, as though speaking to himself.

“Nothing, please, sir,” said Jessica, “only let me come to hear
you of a Sunday, and tell me about God. If you was to give me fine
clothes--like your little girls’--mother ’ud only pawn them for gin.
You can’t do any thing more for me.”

“Where is your mother?” he asked.

“Out on a spree,” said Jessica. “She wont be home for a day or two.
She’d not hearken to you, sir. There’s the missionary came, and she
pushed him down the ladder till he was nearly killed. They used to call
mother ‘the vixen’ at the theatre, and nobody durst say a word to her.”

The minister was silent for some minutes, thinking painful thoughts,
for his eyes seemed to darken as he looked round the miserable room,
and his face wore an air of sorrow and disappointment. At last he spoke

“Who is Mr. Daniel, Jessica?” he inquired.

“Oh,” she said cunningly, “he’s only a friend of mine as gives me sups
of coffee. You don’t know all the folks in London, sir!”

“No,” he answered, smiling, “but does he keep a coffee-stall?”

Jessica nodded her head, but did not trust herself to speak.

“How much does a cup of coffee cost?” asked the minister.

“A full cup’s a penny,” she answered promptly; “but you can have half a
cup; and there are half-penny and penny buns.”

“Good coffee and buns?” he said, with another smile.

“Prime,” replied Jessica, smacking her lips.

“Well,” continued the minister, “tell your friend to give you a full
cup of coffee and a penny bun every morning, and I’ll pay for them as
often as he chooses to come to me for the money.”

Jessica’s face beamed with delight, but in an instant it clouded over
as she recollected Daniel’s secret, and her lips quivered as she spoke
her disappointed reply.

“Please, sir,” she said, “I’m sure he couldn’t come; oh! he couldn’t.
It’s such a long way, and Mr. Daniel has plenty of customers. No, he
never would come to you for money.”

“Jessica,” he answered, “I will tell you what I will do. I will trust
you with a shilling every Sunday, if you’ll promise to give it to your
friend the very first time you see him. I shall be sure to know if you
cheat me.” And the keen, piercing eyes of the minister looked down into
Jessica’s, and once more the tender and pitying smile returned to his

“I can do nothing else for you?” he said, in a tone of mingled sorrow
and questioning.

“No, minister,” answered Jessica, “only tell me about God.”

“I will tell you one thing about him now,” he replied. “If I took you
to live in my house with my little daughters you would have to be
washed and clothed in new clothing to make you fit for it. God wanted
us to go and live at home with him in heaven, but we were so sinful
that we could never have been fit for it. So he sent his own Son to
live among us, and die for us, to wash us from our sins, and to give us
new clothing, and to make us ready to live in God’s house. When you ask
God for any thing you must say, ‘For Jesus Christ’s sake.’ Jesus Christ
is the Son of God.”

After these words the minister carefully descended the ladder,
followed by Jessica’s bare and nimble feet, and she led him by the
nearest way into one of the great thoroughfares of the city, where he
said good-by to her, adding, “God bless you, my child,” in a tone which
sank into Jessica’s heart.

He had put a silver sixpence into her hand to provide for her breakfast
the next three mornings, and with a feeling of being very rich she
returned to her miserable home.

The next morning Jessica presented herself proudly as a customer at
Daniel’s stall, and paid over the sixpence in advance.

He felt a little troubled as he heard her story, lest the minister
should endeavor to find him out; but he could not refuse to let the
child come daily for her comfortable breakfast. If he was detected, he
would promise to give up his coffee-stall rather than offend the great
people of the chapel; but unless he was it would be foolish of him to
lose the money it brought in week after week.



Every Sunday evening the barefooted and bareheaded child might be seen
advancing confidently up to the chapel where rich and fashionable
people worshipped God; but before taking her place she arrayed herself
in a little cloak and bonnet which had once belonged to the minister’s
elder daughter, and which was kept with Daniel’s serge gown, so that
she presented a somewhat more respectable appearance in the eyes of
the congregation. The minister had no listener more attentive, and he
would have missed the pinched, earnest little face if it were not to
be seen in the seat just under the pulpit. At the close of each service
he spoke to her for a minute or two in his vestry, often saying no
more than a single sentence, for the day’s labor had wearied him. The
shilling, which was always lying upon the chimney-piece, placed there
by Jane and Winny in turns, was immediately handed over, according to
promise, to Daniel as she left the chapel, and so Jessica’s breakfast
was provided for her week after week.

But at last there came a Sunday evening when the minister, going up
into his pulpit, did miss the wistful, hungry face, and the shilling
lay unclaimed upon the vestry chimney-piece. Daniel looked out for
her anxiously every morning, but no Jessica glided into his secluded
corner, to sit beside him with her breakfast on her lap and with a
number of strange questions to ask. He felt her absence more keenly
than he could have expected. The child was nothing to him, he kept
saying to himself; and yet he felt that she was something, and that he
could not help being uneasy and anxious about her. Why had he never
inquired where she lived? The minister knew, and for a minute Daniel
thought he would go and ask him; but that might awaken suspicion. How
could he account for so much anxiety when he was supposed only to know
of her absence from chapel one Sunday evening? It would be running a
risk, and, after all, Jessica was nothing to him. So he went home and
looked over his savings bank book and counted his money, and he found
to his satisfaction that he had gathered together nearly four hundred
pounds, and that he was adding more every week.

But when upon the next Sunday Jessica’s seat was again empty the
anxiety of the solemn chapel-keeper overcame his prudence and his
fears. The minister had retired to his vestry, and was standing with
his arm resting upon the chimney-piece, and his eyes fixed upon the
unclaimed shilling which Winny had laid there before the service, when
there was a tap at the door, and Daniel entered with a respectful but
hesitating air.

“Well, Standring?” said the minister questioningly.

“Sir,” he said, “I’m uncomfortable about that little girl, and I know
you’ve been once to see after her; she told me about it; and so I make
bold to ask you where she lives, and I’ll see what’s become of her.”

“Right, Standring,” answered the minister; “I am troubled about the
child, and so are my little girls. I thought of going myself, but my
time is very much occupied just now.”

“I’ll go, sir,” replied Daniel promptly; and after receiving the
necessary information about Jessica’s home he put out the lights,
locked the door, and turned towards his lonely lodgings.

But though it was getting late upon Sunday evening, and Jessica’s home
was a long way distant, Daniel found that his anxiety would not suffer
him to return to his solitary room. It was of no use to reason with
himself, as he stood at the corner of the street, feeling perplexed
and troubled, and promising his conscience that he would go the very
first thing in the morning after he shut up his coffee-stall. In the
dim, dusky light, as the summer evening drew to a close, he fancied he
could see Jessica’s thin figure and wan face gliding on before him,
and turning around from time to time to see if he were following. It
was only fancy, and he laughed a little at himself; but the laugh was
husky, and there was a choking sensation in his throat, so he buttoned
his Sunday coat over his breast, where his silver watch and chain hung
temptingly, and started off at a rapid pace for the centre of the city.

It was not quite dark when he reached the court, and stumbled up the
narrow entry leading to it; but Daniel did hesitate when he opened the
stable-door, and looked into a blank, black space, in which he could
discern nothing. He thought he had better retreat while he could do
so safely; but as he still stood with his hand upon the rusty latch he
heard a faint, small voice through the nicks of the unceiled boarding
above his head.

“Our Father,” said the little voice, “please to send somebody to me,
for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.”

“I’m here, Jess,” cried Daniel, with a sudden bound of his heart, such
as he had not felt for years, and which almost took away his breath as
he peered into the darkness until at last he discerned dimly the ladder
which led up into the loft.


Very cautiously, but with an eagerness which surprised himself, he
climbed up the creaking rounds of the ladder and entered the dismal
room, where the child was lying in desolate darkness. Fortunately he
had his box of matches in his pocket, and the end of a wax candle with
which he kindled the lamps, and in another minute a gleam of light
shone upon Jessica’s white features. She was stretched upon a scanty
litter of straw under the slanting roof where the tiles had not fallen
off, with her poor rags for her only covering; but as her eyes looked
up into Daniel’s face bending over her a bright smile of joy sparkled
in them.

“Oh!” she cried, gladly, but in a feeble voice, “it’s Mr. Daniel! Has
God told you to come here, Mr. Daniel?”

“Yes,” said Daniel, kneeling beside her, taking her wasted hand in his,
and parting the matted hair upon her damp forehead.

“What did he say to you?” said Jessica.

“He told me I was a great sinner,” replied Daniel. “He told me I
loved a little bit of dirty money better than a poor, friendless,
helpless child, whom he had sent to me to see if I would do her a
little good for his sake. He looked at me, or the minister did, through
and through, and he said, ‘Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be
required of thee: then whose shall those things be which thou hast
provided?’ And I could answer him nothing, Jess. He had come to a
reckoning with me, and I could not say a word to him.”

“Aren’t you a good man, Mr. Daniel?” whispered Jessica.

“No; I’m a wicked sinner,” he cried, while the tears rolled down his
solemn face. “I’ve been constant at God’s house, but only to get money;
I’ve been steady and industrious, but only to get money; and now God
looks at me, and he says, ‘Thou fool!’ Oh, Jess, Jess, you’re more fit
for heaven than I ever was in my life!”

“Why don’t you ask him to make you good for Jesus Christ’s sake?” asked
the child.

“I can’t,” he said. “I’ve been kneeling down Sunday after Sunday
when the minister’s been praying, but all the time I was thinking
how rich some of the carriage people were. I’ve been loving money and
worshipping money all along, and I’ve nearly let you die rather than
run the risk of losing part of my earnings. I’m a very sinful man.”

“But you know what the minister often says,” murmured Jessica:

“‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent
his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’”

“I’ve heard it so often that I don’t feel it,” said Daniel. “I used to
like to hear the minister say it, but now it goes in at one ear and out
at the other. My heart is very hard, Jessica.”

By the feeble glimmer of the candle Daniel saw Jessica’s wistful eyes
fixed upon him with a sad and loving glance; and then she lifted up
her weak hand to her face, and laid it over her closed eyelids, and her
feverish lips moved slowly.

“God,” she said, “please to make Mr. Daniel’s heart soft, for Jesus
Christ’s sake. Amen.”

She did not speak again, nor Daniel, for some time.

He took off his Sunday coat and laid it over the tiny, shivering frame,
which was shaking with cold even in the summer evening; and as he did
so he remembered the words which the Lord says he will pronounce at the
last day of reckoning:

“Forasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my
brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Daniel Standring felt his heart turning with love to the Saviour,
and he bowed his head upon his hands, and cried, in the depths of his
contrite spirit, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”



There was no coffee-stall opened under the railway arch the following
morning, and Daniel’s regular customers stood amazed as they drew
near the empty corner where they were accustomed to get their early
breakfast. It would have astonished them still more if they could have
seen how he was occupied in the miserable loft. He had intrusted a
friendly woman out of the court to buy food and fuel, and all night
long he had watched beside Jessica, who was light-headed and delirious,
but in the wanderings of her thoughts and words often spoke to God,
and prayed for her Mr. Daniel. The neighbor informed him that the
child’s mother had gone off some days before, fearing that she was ill
of some infectious fever, and that she, alone, had taken a little care
of her from time to time. As soon as the morning came he sent for a
doctor, and after receiving permission from him he wrapped the poor
deserted Jessica in his coat, and bearing her tenderly in his arms down
the ladder he carried her to a cab, which the neighbor brought to the
entrance of the court. It was to no other than his own solitary home
that he had resolved to take her; and when the mistress of the lodgings
stood at her door with her arms a-kimbo, to forbid the admission of the
wretched and neglected child, her tongue was silenced by the gleam of a
half-sovereign which Daniel slipped into the palm of her hard hand.

By that afternoon’s post the minister received the following letter:


“If you will condescend to enter under my humble roof you will have
the pleasure of seeing little Jessica, who is at the point of death,
unless God in his mercy restores her. Hoping you will excuse this
liberty, as I cannot leave the child, I remain with duty,

                            “Your respectful servant,
                                              “D. STANDRING.

“P. S. Jessica desires her best love and duty to Miss Jane and Winny.”

The minister laid aside the book he was reading, and without any delay
started off for his chapel-keeper’s dwelling. There was Jessica lying
restfully upon Daniel’s bed, but the pinched features were deadly
pale, and the sunken eyes shone with a waning light. She was too feeble
to turn her head when the door opened, and he paused for a moment,
looking at her and at Daniel, who, seated at the head of the bed, was
turning over the papers in his desk, and reckoning up once more the
savings of his lifetime. But when the minister advanced into the middle
of the room Jessica’s white cheeks flushed into deep red.

“Oh, minister,” she cried, “God has given me every thing I wanted
except paying Mr. Daniel for the coffee he used to give me!”

“Ah! but God has paid me over and over again,” said Daniel, rising to
receive the minister. “He’s given me my own soul in exchange for it.
Let me make bold to speak to you this once, sir. You’re a very learned
man, and a great preacher, and many people flock to hear you till I’m
hard put to it to find seats for them at times; but all the while,
hearkening to you every blessed Sabbath, I was losing my soul, and you
never once said to me, though you saw me scores and scores of times,
‘Standring, are you a saved man?’”

“Standring,” said the minister in a tone of great distress and regret,
“I always took it for granted that you were a Christian.”

“Ah,” continued Daniel, thoughtfully, “but God wanted somebody to ask
me that question, and he did not find anybody in the congregation, so
he sent this poor little lass to me. Well, I don’t mind telling now,
even if I lose the place; but for a long time, nigh upon ten years,
I’ve kept a coffee-stall on week-days in the city, and cleared,
one week with another, about ten shillings: but I was afraid the
chapel-wardens wouldn’t approve of the coffee business, as low, so I
kept it a close secret, and always shut up early of a morning. It’s me
that sold Jessica her cup of coffee, which you paid for, sir.”

“There’s no harm in it, my good fellow,” said the minister kindly; “you
need make no secret of it.”

“Well,” resumed Daniel, “the questions this poor little creature has
asked me have gone quicker and deeper down to my conscience than all
your sermons, if I may make so free as to say it. She’s come often and
often of a morning, and looked into my face with those clear eyes of
hers, and said, ‘Don’t you love Jesus Christ, Mr. Daniel?’ ‘Doesn’t
it make you very glad that God is your Father, Mr. Daniel?’ ‘Are we
getting nearer heaven every day, Mr. Daniel?’ And one day says she,
‘Are you going to give all your money to God, Mr. Daniel?’ Ah, that
question made me think indeed, and it’s never been answered till this
day. While I’ve been sitting beside the bed here I’ve counted up all my
savings: £397 18s. it is; and I’ve said, ‘Lord, it’s all thine; and I’d
give every penny of it rather than lose the child, if it be thy blessed
will to spare her life.’”

Daniel’s voice quavered at the last words, and his face sank upon the
pillow where Jessica’s feeble and motionless head lay. There was a very
sweet yet surprised smile upon her face, and she lifted her wasted
fingers to rest upon the bowed head beside her, while she shut her
eyes and shaded them with her other weak hand.


“Our Father,” she said in a faint whisper, which still reached the
ears of the minister and the beadle, “I asked you to let me come home
to heaven; but if Mr. Daniel wants me, please to let me stay a little
longer, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.”

For some minutes after Jessica’s prayer there was a deep and unbroken
silence in the room, Daniel still hiding his face upon the pillow, and
the minister standing beside them with bowed head and closed eyes, as
if he also were praying. When he looked up again at the forsaken and
desolate child he saw that her feeble hand had fallen from her face,
which looked full of rest and peace, while her breath came faintly but
regularly through her parted lips. He took her little hand into his
own with a pang of fear and grief; but instead of the mortal chillness
of death he felt the pleasant warmth and moisture of life. He touched
Daniel’s shoulder, and as he lifted up his head in sudden alarm he
whispered to him, “The child is not dead, but is only asleep.”

Before Jessica was fully recovered Daniel rented a little house for
himself and his adopted daughter to dwell in. He made many inquiries
after her mother, but she never appeared again in her old haunts, and
he was well pleased that there was nobody to interfere with his charge
of Jessica. When Jessica grew strong enough, many a cheerful walk had
they together, in the early mornings, as they wended their way to the
railway bridge, where the little girl took her place behind the stall
and soon learned to serve the daily customers; and many a happy day was
spent in helping to sweep and dust the chapel, into which she had crept
so secretly at first, her great delight being to attend to the pulpit
and the vestry, and the pew where the minister’s children sat, while
Daniel and the woman he employed cleaned the rest of the building.
Many a Sunday also the minister in his pulpit, and his little
daughters in their pew, and Daniel treading softly about the aisles, as
their glance fell upon Jessica’s eager, earnest, happy face, thought
of the first time they saw her sitting among the congregation, and of
Jessica’s first prayer.

Jessica’s Mother

Hesba Stretton


  Great Plans                      PAGE  3

  It’s Only a Stroke                    14

  Jessica’s Mother                      23

  Jessica’s Choice                      37

  How a Christian Ought to Act          45

  Daniel’s Prayer                       54

  A Busy Day for Daniel                 61

  Hopes of Recovery                     70

  The Gate of Death                     76

  Speak of His Love                     85




It was a gloomy Sunday in the gloomiest part of the year, when the
fog hung over London day and night, only lifting itself off a little
for two or three hours about noon time. The bells which rang from
the church towers might have been chiming from some region above the
clouds, so distant they sounded and so hidden were the belfries in
which they hung.

In the early part of the day the congregations went to and from their
various places of worship with a feeling of sombre depression at the
long continuance of the gloom; but after nightfall the darkness was
only natural, and though the lamps gave but little light, and shone
merely like yellow balls in the fog, the passengers in the street moved
more briskly and talked more cheerfully than in the morning. Here and
there the brilliantly illuminated windows of some church or chapel cast
a pleasant gleam upon the pavement, and the open doors seemed to invite
any cold or weary passer-by to enter into its light and warmth; but
as if these buildings, the temples of God, were designed only for the
rich, and for those who had comfort enough in their own dwellings, it
was noticeable that but a very scanty sprinkling of worshippers dressed
in vile raiment were to be seen among the congregations, though there
was no lack of those who wore goodly apparel and gay clothing.

The fashionable chapel of which Daniel Standring was the chapel-keeper
was no exception to the general rule, for there were no poor to be
found in it. There was within it every appliance of comfort and style
such as could give satisfaction to a wealthy congregation. The oak pews
were high enough for the head of an occasional slumberer to repose in
quiet indulgence, and they were well lined and carpeted and cushioned.
The shades for the lamps toned down their light to a clear yet soft
lustre, and the apparatus for heating the building was of the most
efficient kind.

The crowds who flocked to hear the minister were increasing every
Sunday, and Daniel Standring had, with some reluctance, yielded to the
necessity of sharing his office of pew-opener with a colleague; a man,
however, of less dignity and solemnity of deportment than himself, and
who was quite willing to look up to him as a superior. Moreover, the
old members of the church, the “carriage people” especially, recognized
him only as their chapel-keeper, and entrusted any message or any
commission to him alone; and he also retained the charge of attending
upon the vestry. The other man was no more than a subordinate; and
after a while he was reconciled to this division of the office.

There had been two things much talked about among the people for some
time past: the first, that the minister himself should have a colleague
found for him, and the second, that a large and still more fashionable
chapel should be built.

As to the colleague there were several difficulties in the way, the
chief one being to find such a preacher as would attract the same
congregations as those which came in crowds to listen to the minister;
for it was found that whenever it was known that he would be absent
from his pulpit the numbers dwindled away, until during his yearly
holiday the chapel would seem almost empty, compared to the throng of
curious and eager listeners who hung upon his words, and scarcely dared
to sigh over his representations of their misery and peril lest they
should miss hearing a single syllable of the eloquence which described

Still every member of the congregation said it was essential that
a colleague should be found for their beloved pastor before he had
quite worn himself out; and great blame was thrown back upon the small
provincial church which five-and-twenty years ago had thrust him, a
mere youth of twenty, upon the exhausting duties of the ministry. As
for the second subject, it was settled without much difficulty, for
only money, not a man, was wanted; and upon the vestry table there was
a subscription-list already promising some thousands of pounds, and
beside it lay the plans for the new chapel, drawn up by an eminent

The chapel doors had been opened by Daniel, and the gas toned down to
precisely the brilliance and softness which the congregation loved,
especially the lamps on each side of the pulpit, which shed a revealing
light upon the minister’s thoughtful face and upon his dark hair
just tinged with grey. In the vestry Jessica had just given a final
and delicate stroke of dusting, and was wiping the large pulpit Bible
and hymn-book with her clean pocket-handkerchief ready for Daniel to
carry up into the pulpit while the organist was playing the opening
voluntary, which he did with so solemn and ministerial an aspect that
a stranger, not accustomed to the etiquette of the place, might be
betrayed into the supposition that he was the minister himself.

Daniel was waiting now in the porch like some faithful steward ready
to receive his master’s guests; and as carriage after carriage rolled
up almost a smile of satisfaction softened his rigid features. The
minister’s children had passed him with a smile and a nod, and he had
shut the door of their pew in the corner, so he knew the minister
was come, and putting a little additional briskness in his manner he
looked out for seats for the strangers who were filling the aisles, at
the same time listening for the first notes of the organ.

The minister had entered the vestry just as Jessica had finished wiping
the imaginary dust off the Bible and hymn-book, and he drew his chair
up close to the fire, as if coming through the fog had chilled him. He
looked sad and downcast, and his head sank forward upon his breast.
For a minute Jessica stood behind his chair in silence, and then she
stretched out her hand, a small thin hand still, and laid it timidly
upon his arm.

“Jessica,” said the minister, covering her small palm with his
scholarly hand, “I am sorrowful to-night, and I have great heaviness of
heart. Tell me, my child, do you understand what I preach about in my

“Oh, no, no!” answered Jessica, shaking her head deprecatingly, “only
when you say God, and Jesus Christ, and heaven! I know what you mean
by them.”

“Do you?” said the minister, with a very tender smile; “and do I say
them often, Jessica?”

“Sometimes they come over and over again,” replied Jessica, “and then I
feel very glad, because I know what you are preaching about. There is
always God in your sermon, but sometimes there isn’t Jesus Christ and

“And what do I mean by God, and Jesus Christ, and heaven?” he asked.

“I don’t know anything but what you’ve taught me,” said Jessica,
folding her brown hands meekly over one another; “you’ve told me that
God is the Father of our souls, and Jesus Christ is our elder brother,
who came down from heaven to save us, and heaven is the home of God,
where we shall all go if we love and serve him. I don’t know any more
than that.”

“It is enough!” said the minister, lifting up his head with a brighter
look; “one soul has learned the truth from me. God bless you, Jessica,
and keep you in his fear and love for evermore.”

As he spoke the deep tones of the organ fell upon their ears, and the
vestry door was opened by Daniel, coming for the pulpit books. There
was an air of solemn pride upon his face, and he bowed lower than usual
to his minister.

“There’s a vast crush of people to-night, sir,” he said; “the aisles
and the galleries are all full, and there’s a many standing at the door
yet who will have to go away, for there’s no room for them.”

The minister covered his face with his hands and shivered, with the
cold no doubt; and Daniel and Jessica were leaving the vestry when they
were called back by his voice speaking in husky and agitated tones.

“Standring,” he said, “I have something of importance to say to you
after the service this evening, so come back here as soon as the
congregation is gone. And, Jessica, take care to sit in your own
place, where I can see you; for I will preach about Jesus Christ and
heaven to-night.”

Jessica answered only by a little nod, and left the vestry by a door
which did not open into the chapel. In a minute or two afterwards she
was making her way up the crowded aisles to her usual seat at the foot
of the pulpit steps, where, with her head thrown back, her face lifted
itself up to the minister’s gaze.

She had just time to settle herself and glance at the minister’s
children, who were looking out for her, when the last quiet notes of
the organ ceased, and the vestry door opened. The minister mounted the
stairs slowly, and with his head bent down, but as soon as he was in
the pulpit he looked round upon the faces whose eyes were all fastened
upon him.

Many of the faces he knew, and had seen thus upraised to him for scores
of Sundays, and his eyes passed from one to another swiftly, but with
a distinguishing regard of which he had never been conscious before,
and their names swept across his memory like sudden flashes of light.
There sat his own children, and his eyes rested fondly upon them as
they looked up to him; and he smiled tenderly to himself as his glance
caught the flushed and fervent face of Jessica.

The sermon he had prepared during the week was one of great research
and of studied oratory, which should hold his hearers in strained
and breathless attention; but as he bowed down his head in silent
supplication for the blessing of God he said to himself, “I will preach
to this people from the saying of Christ, ‘He calleth His own sheep by
name, and leadeth them out.’”



The first part of the service passed by as usual, disturbed only by the
occasional rustle of a silk dress, or the carefully hushed footstep up
the aisles of some late comer, and the moment for the prayer before the
sermon was come. Every head was bent, and a deep stillness prevailed,
which grew more and more profound as the minister’s voice still
remained silent, as if he was waiting until there was no stir or rustle
or movement to be heard throughout the congregation.

There was something awful in this solemn pause before his voice was
lifted up to God; and, as it prolonged itself, a sigh, it might have
been from the minister’s inmost heart, was heard by those nearest to
the pulpit. One or two looked up, and saw his head bowed down, with
the softened light of the lamps falling upon the silvery streaks of his
hair, and they dropped their faces again upon their hands, waiting.
Then there ran a thrill and a shiver through all the congregation,
and here and there a sob which could no longer be repressed broke the
laboring silence.

After that there were whispers and murmurs, and faces lifted up with
a vague dread upon them; and still the minister did not raise his
face from the crimson cushion that his voice might allay the growing
agitation. His children were looking up at last; and Jessica had risen
from her knees and was gazing up with eager eyes to his drooping head.

There was a stir now, and the spell of silence was broken; while
Jessica, forgetful of everything but her deep love for him, ran swiftly
up the steps and touched him timidly with her hand. The minister
neither spoke nor moved.

The great congregation was in a tumult instantly, standing up, and
talking, and crying out with hysterical sobs, and pushing out of their
pews, and thronging towards the pulpit. In a few minutes the minister
was carried down into the vestry, and the crowd gathered about the
door of it. Some of the chief men belonging to the chapel urged the
congregation to disperse and return to their homes; but they were
too much excited to leave before it was known what had befallen the

Jessica pushed her way--being small and nimble, and used to crowds--to
the very door of the vestry, where Daniel stood to guard it from being
invaded by too many strangers; and she waited there beside him until
the door was opened by a hand-breadth, and a physician whispered from
within, “It is not death, but a stroke.”

More quickly than the words could be carried from lip to lip among the
crowd Jessica glided through the midst to the pew where the minister’s
children were kneeling, with arms about one another, sobbing out
inarticulate prayers to God. She stood for a moment beside them,
scarcely knowing what to say, and then she fell down on her knees by
Winny, and put her lips close to her ear.

“Miss Winny,” she said with a trembling voice, “the doctor says it’s
nothing but a stroke. He isn’t taken with death, Miss Jane; it’s only a

The children started up eagerly and caught Jessica’s hands, clinging
to her as some one older and wiser than themselves. They had had no
bitter taste of life’s troubles before this, for their mother had been
taken from them before they were old enough to understand their loss,
and their lives had been tenderly smoothed and cared for. That Jessica
should bring them some intelligence and consolation in their sudden
panic of dread invested her with a kind of superiority; so now they
looked to her as one who could help and counsel them.

“What is a stroke, Jessica?” asked Jane, looking imploringly towards
her with her white face.

“I don’t hardly know,” answered Jessica. “I know what strokes used to
be when I lived with mother; but this is different, Miss Jane; this
stroke comes from God, and it cannot be very bad.”

The children were all three of them silent after Jessica had spoken:
but each one of them was gathering comfort and strength from her
words. It was a stroke which had come from God, and therefore it could
not be very bad. No one had seen it fall; no one had known that the
Father’s hand was lifted up to strike, and it had come down softly
and gently, only hushing the voice and shutting up the gateway of the
senses. Now that it was known, the chapel was gradually emptying as
the congregation went away, and Jane and Winny, feeling calmed and
strengthened, were ready to listen to their nurse, who was now anxious
to take them home.

“Let Jessica come home with us, nurse,” said Winny, who still held
Jessica’s hand between both her own. The nurse consented willingly,
and in a few minutes they were walking homewards, one on each side
of Jessica. They felt strangely bewildered still; but Jessica was
like a guide to them, leading them through the fog and over the slimy
crossings with familiar confidence, until they reached the door of the
minister’s house, when she hung back shyly, as if not meaning to go in
with them.

“You mustn’t leave us yet,” cried Winny, impetuously. “Papa is not come
home, and I’m a little bit afraid. Aren’t you afraid, Jessica?”

“No,” answered Jessica cheerfully. “It can’t be anything dreadful bad.”

“You must come in and stay with us,” said Jane, the calm sedateness of
her manner a little shaken by her fears. “Nurse, we will take Jessica
into papa’s study till he comes home.”

The three children went quietly up stairs to the study and sat down
by the fire, which was burning brightly, as if waiting to welcome
the minister’s return after the labors of the day. The minister had
gathered about him many books, so that every part of the large room was
filled with them.

On the table lay those which he had been studying during the week,
while he was preparing his elaborate sermon which was to have
astonished and electrified even his accustomed hearers; and upon the
desk there were scattered about the slips of paper upon which he
had jotted down some of the profound thoughts which only a few of
his people could comprehend. But upon the chimney-piece, at the end
where his easy-chair was placed, and close to his hand, lay a small
pocket-Bible, so worn with much reading that there was no book in his
study like it.

The troubled children sitting on the hearth knew nothing of the
profound and scholarly volumes on the table; but they were familiar
with the little Bible, and Winny, taking it in her hand, lifted it to
her lips and kissed it fondly.

“Papa always used to read and talk to us on a Sunday night after we had
come home,” she said sorrowfully, speaking already as if the custom was
one long past, which could never be resumed.

“Does a stroke last long, Jessica?” inquired Jane, with a look of deep

“I’m not sure,” answered Jessica. “Mother’s strokes were sharp and soon
over, but the smart lasted a long while. Maybe the stroke is now over,
but perhaps the smart will last a little while. God knows.”

“Yes,” said Jane, the tears standing in her eyes, “and God knows what
is best for papa and us. We’ve known that a long time, but now we must
believe it with our hearts.”

“Believing is a deal harder than knowing,” remarked Winny, with
a look wonderfully like her father’s, and the three children were
silent again, their minds full of thought, while they listened for the
minister’s return to his home.



They were heavy steps which the three listening children heard at
last in the hall below, and upon the staircase the sounds of carrying
a helpless burden up the stairs, and Jane and Winny pressed closer
to Jessica, who looked from one to the other with an air of tender
encouragement. As the sounds drew near, they crept by one impulse to
the door, and opening it a little way they saw their father’s face as
he was carried past them, pale but peaceful, with the eyelids closed
as if he were in a deep sleep. Jessica’s quick eyes detected Daniel
standing in the darkness at the end of the passage, and as soon as the
sad procession had passed into the minister’s chamber, and the door was
shut, she darted out and led him eagerly to the study.

“Oh, Standring!” cried Jane and Winny in one breath, “tell us
everything about papa.”

“Come, come, you needn’t be frightened, my little ladies,” answered
Daniel soothingly. “Please God, your papa will be all right again in a
week or two. The doctors say he’s been studying too much to make his
grand sermons, and he hasn’t given his brain rest enough. But he’ll
come all right again by and by, or I don’t know whatever will become of
the chapel.”

“He won’t die?” murmured Jane, with quivering lips.

“Die!--oh, no!” said Daniel. “Why, my dears, you’re all of a tremble.
It would be the best for you to go to bed, for you can’t do any good
sitting up.”

“Standring,” said Winny, “I wish you’d let Jessica stay all night with
us. She could sleep with nurse; and our room is inside nurse’s, and if
we leave the door open we could talk to one another.”

“She may stay and welcome, if nurse likes, Miss Winny,” answered
Daniel; and as the nurse was anxious for her children to feel their new
sorrow as lightly as possible she was glad to grant their request.

So after a while it happened that Daniel was wending his way alone,
through the fog and the damp of the streets, towards a little house in
a quiet and respectable sort of court, where for the last three years
he had dwelt with his adopted child. His mind had been fully occupied
with the strange events of the night and the paralysis of his stricken
master; but now that he was alone, and his thoughts were free to return
to his own affairs, they suddenly recalled to him the minister’s last
words to himself.

What could it be of importance that he had to say to him when the
evening service was finished? His brain had been busy with guesses, in
spite of his conscience, during the singing of the hymns, and even
during the first prayer, when he stood at the chapel-door to arrest
the entrance of any late comer until it should be ended. Something of
importance, and now the minister could not reveal it to him!

He knew that at a private committee meeting, during the past week, a
plan had been proposed for erecting a small residence close to the new
chapel and schoolrooms, where the chapel-keeper might dwell; and it had
been suggested that his salary should be raised to such a sum as would
free him from the necessity of seeking any other employment. In fact,
the care of the chapel would be work enough, for it was to be very
large and magnificent; and already his duties filled up four clear days
of the week.

Could it be to speak about this the minister had desired him to come
into his vestry immediately after the congregation had departed? But
it was not so much the minister’s business as that of the chief men
belonging to the church. Could it be anything about Jessica? It did
not seem very likely; yet the minister was very partial to Jessica, and
always seemed pleased to see her about the vestry, and he was talking
to her very kindly when Daniel went to fetch the pulpit books. It was
a hard thing to pacify his awakened curiosity, and he supposed nobody
could satisfy it but the minister himself. How long was the stroke
likely to last?

Daniel was asking himself this question, which neither he nor any one
else could answer, just as he reached the door of his dwelling. There
was a dim light from a lamp at the entrance of the court, and there
was the red gleam of his own fire shining upon the white window-blind
within, so that he could distinguish pretty plainly the figure of a
person, which looked more like a heap of rags, crouching upon his
door-sill. A tattered coat was tied round the neck by the sleeves,
and an old brimless hat was drawn over the back of the head; but
the tangled hair, which hung in ragged locks over the face, was too
long for a man’s; and as he stooped down to look more closely it was
certainly a woman’s face which was turned towards him.

“Come, come,” he said, “you’ve no business here, you know; so you’d
better get up and go home. You don’t belong to this place, and you’ve
made a mistake coming here. This is my house.”

He had his key in his hand, ready to let himself in where the
comfortable fire was waiting for him; but he could not open the door
until the miserable creature had moved, and, though she raised herself
a little, she did not get up on her feet.

“I don’t belong to any place,” she answered suddenly, yet fiercely;
“and I haven’t made a mistake in coming here. You’re Daniel Standring,
and I’m Jessica’s mother.”

Daniel reeled for a instant as if he had been struck by a very heavy
blow. He had long ago ceased to trouble himself about Jessica’s mother,
or to dread her reappearance; and the minister had assured him that,
if she should ever return to claim her daughter, he would use all his
influence to protect Jessica from her, as being an unfit person to have
the training of a child. The woman was standing up now, but leaning
her back against his door, snapping her fingers at him with her face
stretched out, with a glare of angry defiance in her bright eyes which
sparkled through the gloom.

“I’ve nearly had the door down,” she said, with a hoarse laugh, “till
all your neighbors came out to see what was the matter; but I scared
them in again. The police himself turned tail like a coward.” And she
laughed again so loud that the quiet court seemed to ring with the
sound, and a door or two was cautiously opened, and Daniel saw his
neighbors peeping out; all of them decent people, who held him in
respect as the chapel-keeper of so fashionable a chapel.

“I want my daughter,” she cried, in high, shrill notes; “my Jessica, my
daughter. Where is she, you scoundrel?”

“Come, now, then,” answered Daniel, emboldened by the advance of two or
three of the men, who came up to form a flank of defence or resistance,
“this behavior won’t do. Jessica isn’t here; so you’d better take
yourself off. I wouldn’t give her up to you if she was here; but she
isn’t here, and there’s an end of it.”

The woman seated herself once more upon the sill and leaned her head
against the door-post.

“If you go in, I go in,” she said, doggedly; “and if I stay out, you
stay out. I want my Jessica.”

It was an embarrassing position for Daniel. He did not like to resort
to force in order to enter his house, for several reasons. First,
and chiefly, he was now too sincere a Christian to choose any violent
or ungentle measures, but, besides this, the person before him was a
woman, and the mother of Jessica; and he was himself in a softened
mood, from the excitement and sorrow of the evening. He stretched out
his arm and fitted the key into the lock, but before he turned it he
looked as closely as he could through the gloom into the woman’s face.

“You’re not drunk, are you?” he said.

“Neither sup nor drop has passed my lips to-day,” she answered, with a
groan of suffering.

“Well, well!--come in,” said Daniel; “and you too, Mr. Brookes, if you
please. I’m not myself at all to-night; and it ’ud hearten me to have
somebody to back me. Come in.”

He opened the door into a comfortable and neat room, where everything
was arranged with scrupulous order; for he was an orderly man by
nature and Jessica had already the thrifty habits of a housekeeper. The
fire had been well raked over with small coals before he and Jessica
started for chapel, and now it was a bank of glowing embers.

The woman tottered across to the hearth and flung herself into Daniel’s
arm-chair. They could see now how wan and hollow her face was, with the
cheeks fallen in and the burning eyes sunk deep into the head, while,
as she stretched out her thin and yellow hands over the fire, the red
gleam shone through them. The poor tatters she wore were limp and
dank with fog, and the slippers into which her naked feet were thrust
were worn out at the toes, so as to give free inlet to the mud of the

Daniel regarded her in silence for a minute or two, and he then passed
on into a small kitchen at the back and returned quickly with some
bread and cheese and some coffee, which he warmed up in a little
saucepan. She drank the coffee eagerly, but she could not swallow more
than a mouthful or two of the bread.

“And this is Jessica’s home,” she said, when she was revived a little;
“and a very comfortable home too. Eh! but I’m a lucky mother, and she’s
a lucky girl. Will she be in to-night, Mr. Standring?”

“No,” answered Daniel, shortly.

“Well, I can make myself comfortable,” she said, with a laugh which
made Daniel shiver. “I dare say her bed is softer than any I’ve slept
on of late. Last night I slept under a scaffolding on some shavings.
Don’t put yourself out about me. I can make myself comfortable.”

“But you cannot stay here all night,” replied Daniel decisively.

“And why not?” she rejoined. “I suppose I’m as good as my daughter. Ah,
she’ll never be the woman I’ve been! I rode in my carriage once, man,
I can tell you. And what should hinder me staying a night, or a week,
or a month in your paltry little house? No, no! you’ll not see my back
to-night, I promise you.”

“I wouldn’t give you a night’s lodging for five shillings,” said Daniel

“I not going to give you five farthings for it,” said the woman,
settling herself in his arm-chair with an air of impudent defiance.
“Jessica’s home is my home. If you turn me out, out she goes with me.”

Daniel drew his neighbor aside into the kitchen, where he consulted
with him in whispers while he kept his eye upon his terrible visitor
through the open door.

“What am I to do with her?” he asked. “I wouldn’t have her stop
here for anything. Jessica is staying all night with the minister’s
children; but she’ll come back to-morrow. Whatever am I to do?”

“Give her some money to go away,” answered Brookes; and after a little
heavy-hearted hesitation Daniel resolved to act upon his advice. He
returned into his comfortable little parlor, which in some way had
never looked even to himself so comfortable and pleasant; and he
addressed his visitor with a determined and resolute aspect.

“Now,” he said, “if you won’t go away peaceable I’ll send for a
policeman, as sure as I’m the chapel-keeper of St. John’s Chapel. I
don’t want to be violent with you, for I’m a Christian man; but I don’t
know that a Christian man is bound to give you a lodging in his own
house. I should rather think he wasn’t. But if you will go away quiet,
here is a shilling to pay for a bed and breakfast elsewhere. That’s all
I can do or say. It’s that, or the police.”

The woman deliberated for a few minutes, looking hard into Daniel’s
face; but there was no sign of irresolution or relenting upon his grave
features; and at last she raised herself slowly and weariedly from the
chair, and dragged her slip-shod feet across the floor towards him. She
took the shilling sullenly from his hand and without a word passed into
the cold and damp of the streets, while Daniel watched her unsteady
steps down the court with a feeling of relief.

But when Brookes was gone, and the door was locked for the night, and
the agreeable warmth of the glowing fire wrapped round him, he could
not keep his thoughts from wondering where the wretched woman had found
a shelter. His mind also looked onwards with misgiving to the future
which lay immediately before him and Jessica; and again he lamented
on his own account that he could not go for counsel to Jessica’s
other friend, the minister who had been stricken into silence and
unconsciousness even concerning interests still nearer and dearer to
his heart.



Early the next morning Daniel went to the minister’s house, half hoping
that he should hear that the malady of the night before had been only a
temporary insensibility, from which he had recovered. But the minister
lay in the same state of unconsciousness, and showed no sign of
returning life. The nurse told him that a ragged and miserable woman,
who called herself Jessica’s mother, had seen him during the Sunday
afternoon, and held a long conversation with him, after which he had
ordered some food to be given her in the kitchen.

This, then, no doubt, was the subject upon which the minister wished to
speak to Daniel; and the latter felt more than ever lost in doubt as to
what he ought to do, as it was now impossible to hear the advice which
his master had intended to give to him.

He walked thoughtfully towards the chapel, with Jessica beside him,
scarcely knowing how to break the news to her. She was a little sad,
and less talkative than usual, and her small hand was thrust lovingly
into his own, as if she felt that it was needful to assure herself
that it could return her warm grasp. When they opened the vestry-door,
and, going in, saw all the confusion which bore testimony of the last
night’s calamity, Daniel drew the child closer to him with his arm, and
bending down stiffly kissed her uplifted face.

“He isn’t going to die,” said Jessica, with a trembling voice; “he is
only resting himself, the doctor says, and then he will know us again,
and speak to us all.”

“To think,” cried Daniel, in a mournful amazement, “that he should have
spoken thousands and thousands of words, ay! millions! and I scarce
gave an ear to them; and now I’d almost offer a golden guinea for every
word he could speak to me! Ay! Jessica, so that he spoke pretty short
and simple, I’d give a guinea a word if he could tell me what I ought
to do.”

“Do you want him to say something particular?” asked Jessica.

“Ay! very particular,” answered Daniel.

“Couldn’t you ask God?” suggested Jessica.

“Well,” he answered, doubtfully, “of course I could; but then there’s
no direct answer, which I couldn’t mistake. My mother used to open her
Bible and take the first words she set her eyes on for answer; and very
queer answers they were sometimes. I’m not good enough yet to expect a
very clear answer to my prayers.”

Jessica made no answer, for Daniel’s mode of reasoning was a little
obscure to her; but she set to work to put the scattered chairs in
order, while Daniel looked on with loving but troubled eyes.

“Jessica,” he said, “the trouble I’d like to talk to him about is that
your mother’s come back again.”

She started, and looked at him with great, wide-open eyes of amazement
and terror, while her face quivered, and she twitched her small
shoulders a little, as if already shrinking from a blow. But the
expression of pain and fear passed away quickly, and though her face
was pale a smile came upon it.

“Doesn’t God know that mother’s come back?” she asked.

There was no need for Daniel to answer her question, but he turned
it over and over again in his own mind with something very much like
doubt. It seemed as if it would have been so much better, especially
at this crisis, for Jessica’s mother to remain absent that it was as
if God had given up His particular providence over the affairs of
insignificant people like himself and Jessica. It would be no wonder
if amid all the affairs of the hosts of angels, and the myriads of
worlds of which he had a vague idea, that God should overlook a little
matter like the tramping to and fro of a drunken woman. It was a
saddening thought; but Daniel was in the mood to cherish it.

“Do you know where mother is?” asked Jessica.

“No, deary,” answered Daniel. “I gave her a shilling last night to pay
for her lodging and breakfast. She told me she’d had nothing to eat
or drink all day; but the nurse said she’d been to see the minister
yesterday afternoon and had a good meal. She’s sure to come again.”

“Ay, she’s sure to come again,” echoed Jessica.

“And so,” continued Daniel, “nurse and me have agreed you’d better stay
with the young ladies for a bit, out of the way like, till I can see
how I can settle with your mother. You’d be glad to stay with Miss
Jane and Winny, Jessica?”

“Yes,” she answered, her face quivering again, as if she could scarcely
keep herself from crying, “but I’d like to see my mother.”

“See your mother!” repeated Daniel, with unfeigned astonishment;
“whatever for, Jessica?”

“She’s my mother,” replied Jessica, “and the Lord Jesus Christ had a
mother. Oh! I’d like to see her again, and tell her about God, and
Jesus Christ, and heaven. Perhaps she’d become a good woman!”

She could control herself no longer, and throwing herself on her knees
before the minister’s chair she hid her face in her hands, and Daniel
heard that amid her sobs she was murmuring some prayer to God for her
mother. This was a new perplexity, that Jessica should wish to see her
cruel and hard-hearted mother; but there was something in it which he
could neither blame nor gainsay. He would rather have kept Jessica in
safety at the minister’s house than have her exposed to the frequent
and violent visits of the drunken woman to his own little dwelling; but
if Jessica decided otherwise he would not oppose her. His house did not
seem the same place without her presence in it.

“Choose for yourself, deary,” he said, very gently: “come home with me,
and run the chance of your mother coming again soon; or go back to Miss
Jane and Winny, who are so fond of you, and where everything is fine,
and you’ll be in such good company. Choose for yourself.”

“I’ll go home with you,” said Jessica, getting up from her knees with a
cheerful smile. “I couldn’t think this morning who’d sweep the kitchen,
and get the breakfast. I’d rather go home with you, if you please.”

It was impossible for Daniel not to be gratified at Jessica’s choice,
however troubled he might be with the idea of her mother’s disturbance
of their peace; for home was not home without her. They kept very near
to one another all day at their work, and it was late at night before
they returned home, where they found no one sitting upon the doorsteps,
as Daniel timorously expected. But their neighbor Brookes informed them
that Jessica’s mother had been sobbing and crying before the closed
door during a great part of the evening.



Daniel was very anxious that Jessica should not be exposed to her
mother’s violence at any time during his absence, when he would not
be there to protect her from any ill-usage; and as he was almost
constantly engaged with the chapel affairs for the next two or three
days he and Jessica were never at home until late in the evening.

But upon Thursday night as they turned into the court Jessica’s quick
eye saw a woman’s figure leaning against the door-post of their house.
She stood still for an instant, clasping Daniel’s hand with close and
timid grasp and then, quitting him, she ran forward, and stretching
out both her hands, almost as if she wished to throw herself into her
mother’s arms, she cried, “Mother! mother!”

The woman laughed loudly and shrilly, and flung her shriveled arms
about Jessica, fondling her with a maudlin fondness; Jessica drew back
sorrowfully, and lifted herself on tip-toe to whisper into Daniel’s ear:

“She’s a little drunk, you know,” she said, “but she isn’t very bad
yet. She isn’t furious. What shall we do?”

It was precisely the question Daniel was asking of himself, for he
could not bear the idea of taking a drunken woman into his respectable
and orderly house; and yet, could he turn out Jessica’s mother before
Jessica’s eyes? He paused for some minutes before unlocking the door,
while the woman continued to talk in a foolish strain to her child, but
at last he felt compelled to open it, and she was the first to push her
way in. She took possession again of his arm-chair, and tossed her old,
tattered hat into a corner of the room, while he looked on in helpless
and deep dismay.

“Mother,” said Jessica, speaking to her in gentle but steady tones,
“this isn’t your house at all, and you can’t stay here. It’s Mr.
Daniel’s house: but I dare say he’ll let me give you some supper, and
then you’d better go away, and come to see me again when you’re quite

The woman fastened her red and sunken eyes upon Jessica, and then burst
into a fit of passionate lamenting, while she drew the child closer to

“Oh! I wish I was a better woman!” she cried. “I’ve been driven to it,
Jessica. But I’m coming to live here with you now, and be decent like
the rest of you. I’m going to turn over a new leaf, and you’ll see how
steady I’ll be. I’ll be no disgrace to any of you.”

“But, mother,” said Jessica, “you can’t live here, because it’s Mr.
Daniel’s house, and he only took me out of charity, when I was ill and
you left me. We can’t look for him to take you.”

“If you stay, I stay,” said her mother, in a tone of obstinacy, setting
her elbows firmly upon the arms of the chair, and planting her feet on
the floor; “or, if I go, you go. I’d like to know who’d have the heart
to separate a mother from her own child!”

Jessica stood for a minute or two looking at her mother with eyes full
of sadness and pity, and then she crept to Daniel’s side, and whispered
to him with an air of pleading:

“I don’t think she ever knew that God is our Father,” she said.

Daniel found himself at a complete loss as to what he ought to do.
The miserable creature before him shocked every sense of decency and
propriety, which had been firmly and rigidly rooted in his nature; and
the very sight of her, drunken and disorderly, upon his hearth, was an
abomination to him. Since she had last spoken she had fallen into a
brief slumber, and her grey, uncovered head was shaking and nodding
with an imbecile aspect. Jessica was going upstairs, for what he did
not know, unless it was to make some arrangement for her mother’s
accommodation; and he remained motionless, staring at the wretched
woman with a feeling of abhorrence and disgust which increased every

But presently he heard Jessica’s light steps descending the stairs, and
started with surprise when she came into the room. She had changed her
tidy dress for the poorest and oldest clothing in her possession, and
she approached him with a sorrowful but patient look upon her face.

“Mr. Daniel,” she said, unconsciously falling back into speaking the
old name by which she had first called him, “you mustn’t go to take
mother in out of charity, as well as me. That ’ud never do. So I’ll go
away with her to-night, and in the morning, when she’s sober, I’ll
tell her all about God, and Jesus Christ, and heaven. She doesn’t know
it yet, but maybe when she hears every thing she’ll be a different
woman; like me, you know; and then we can all help her to be good. Only
I must go away with her to-night, or she’ll get into a raging fury like
she used to do.”

“No, no, no!” cried Daniel vehemently. “I couldn’t let you go, dear.
Why, Jessica, I love you more than my money, don’t I? God knows I
love you better. I’d rather lose all my money, ay, and my place as
chapel-keeper, than lose you.”

“You aren’t going to lose me,” said Jessica, with the same patient
but sorrowful light in her eyes, “I’m only going away for a little
while with my mother. She’s my mother, and I want to tell her all
I know--that she may go to heaven as well as us. I’ll come back

“She shall stay here,” said Daniel, hesitatingly.

“No, no,” answered Jessica, “that ’ud never do. She’ll be for stopping
always if you give in once. You’d better let me go with her this one
night; and to-morrow morning, when she’s all right, I’ll tell her
everything. She’ll be very low then, and she’ll hearken to me. Mother!
I’m ready to go with you.”

The woman opened her swollen eyelids and staggered to her feet, laying
her hand heavily upon the slight shoulder of Jessica, who looked from
her to Daniel with a clear, sad, brave smile, as she bent her childish
shoulders a little under her mother’s hand, as if they felt already the
heavy burden that was falling upon her life. It was a hard moment for
Daniel, and he was yet doubtful whether he should let them both go, or
keep them both; but Jessica had led her mother to the door, and already
her hand was upon the latch.

“Stop a minute, Jessica,” he said; “I’ll let you go with her this once,
only there’s a lodging-house not far off, and I’ll come with you and
see you safe for the night, and pay your lodgings.”

“All right!” answered Jessica, with a quick, sagacious nod; and in a
few minutes they were walking along the streets, Jessica between her
mother and Daniel, all of them very silent, except when the woman broke
out into a stave or two of some old, long-forgotten song. Before long
they reached the lodging-house of which Daniel had spoken, and he saw
them safely into the little, close, dark closet which was to be their

“Good-night,” said Daniel, kissing Jessica with more than usual
tenderness; “you don’t feel as if you’d like to come back with me, now
we’ve seen your mother comfortable, do you?”

“No,” answered Jessica, with a wistful look from him to her mother, who
had thrown herself upon the bed and was fast asleep already. “I think
I’m doing what God would like me to do; aren’t I? He knows she is my

“Ay, God bless you, my dear,” said Daniel, turning away quickly, and
closing the door behind him. He stumbled down the dark stairs into the
street, and returned to his desolate home, saying to himself, “I’m sure
I don’t know how a Christian ought to act in this case; and there’s
nobody to go and ask now.”



The two following days, Friday and Saturday, were always a busy time
at the chapel, for the whole place had to be swept and dusted in
preparation for the coming Sunday. Never had Daniel felt so depressed
and downhearted as when he entered the chilly and empty chapel early in
the morning and alone; for Jessica was to follow him by and by, when
her mother had strolled away for the day to her old haunts.

Only a week ago he and Jessica had gone cheerfully about their work
together, Jessica’s blithe, clear young voice echoing through the place
as she sang to herself, or called to him from some far-off pew, or down
from the gallery. But now everything was upset and in confusion. He
mounted the pulpit steps, and after shaking the cushions, and dusting
every ledge and crevice, he stood upright in a strange and solemn
reverie, as he looked round upon the empty pews, which were wont to be
so crowded on a Sunday.

It would make a wonderful difference to the place, he thought, if
anything worse should happen to his master; for even to himself Daniel
could not bear to say the sad word, death. They could never find his
like again. Never! he repeated, laying his hand reverently upon the
crimson cushion, where the minister’s grey head had sunk in sudden
dumbness before God; and two large solemn tears forced themselves into
Daniel’s eyes, and rolled slowly down his cheeks.

He did not know who ever would fill the pulpit even on the coming
Sabbath; but he felt that he could never bear to stay at the chapel
after its glory was departed, and see the congregation dwindling down,
and growing more and more scanty every week, until only a few drowsy
hearers came to listen sleepily to a lifeless preacher. No! no! That
would go a good way towards breaking his heart.

Besides all this, how he longed to be able to ask the minister what
he ought to do about Jessica’s mother! But whether for instruction in
the pulpit or for counsel in private the minister’s voice was hushed;
and Daniel’s heart was not a whit lighter, as he slowly descended the
pulpit steps.

It was getting on for noon before Jessica followed him, bringing his
dinner with her in a little basket. Her eyes were red with tears, and
she was very quiet while he ate with a poor appetite the food she set
before him. He felt reluctant to ask after her mother; but when the
meal was finished Jessica drew near to him, and took hold of his hand
in both her own.

“Mr. Daniel,” she said, very sorrowfully, “when mother awoke this
morning I told her everything about Jesus Christ, and God, and heaven;
and she knew it all before! Before I was born, she said!”

“Ah!” ejaculated Daniel, but not in a tone of surprise; only because
Jessica paused and looked mournfully into his face.

“Yes,” continued Jessica, shaking her head hopelessly, “she knew about
it, and she never told me; never! She never spoke of God at all, only
when she was cursing. I don’t know now anything that’ll make her a good
woman. I thought that if she only heard what I said she’d love God, but
she only laughed at me, and said it’s an old story. I don’t know what
can be done for her now.”

Jessica’s tears were falling fast again, and Daniel did not know how to
comfort her. There was little hope, he knew, of a woman so enslaved by
drunkenness being brought back again to religion and God.

“If the minister could only see her!” said Jessica. “He speaks as if he
had seen God, and talked to him sometimes; and she’d be sure to believe
him. I don’t know how to say the right things.”

“No, no!” answered Daniel. “She saw him on Sunday, before he had the
stroke, and he talked a long time to her. No! she won’t be changed by

“She’s my mother, you know,” repeated Jessica anxiously.

“Ay!” said Daniel, “and that puzzles me, Jessica; I don’t know what to

“Couldn’t we pray to God,” suggested Jessica, again, “now, before we go
on any farther?”

“Maybe it would be the best thing to do,” agreed Daniel, rising
from his chair and kneeling down with Jessica beside him. At first
he attempted to pray like some of the church-members at the weekly
prayer-meeting, in set and formal phrases; but he felt that if he
wished to obtain any real blessing he must ask for it in simple and
childlike words, as if speaking face to face with his Heavenly Father;
and this was the prayer he made, after freeing himself from the
ceremonial etiquette of the prayer-meetings:

“Lord, thou knowest that Jessica’s mother is come back, and what a
drunken and disorderly woman she is, and we don’t know what to do with
her, and the minister cannot give us his advice. Sometimes I’m afraid
I love my money too much yet, but, Lord, if it’s that, or anything
else that’s hard in my heart, so as to hinder me from doing what the
Saviour, Jesus Christ, would do if he was in my place, I pray thee to
take it away, and make me see clearly what my Christian duty is. Dear
Lord, I beseech thee, keep both me and Jessica from evil.”

Daniel rose from his knees a good deal relieved and lightened in
spirit. He had simply, with the heart of a child, laid his petition
before God; and now he felt that it was God’s part to direct him.
Jessica herself seemed brighter, for if the matter had been laid in
God’s hands she felt that it was certain to come out all right in the

They went back to their work in the chapel, and though it was
melancholy to remember that their own minister would be absent from the
pulpit on the Sunday which was drawing near, they felt satisfied with
the thought that God knew all, and was making all things work together
for the good of those who loved him.



Daniel went home with Jessica, still disturbed a little with the dread
of finding his unwelcome visitor awaiting their arrival; but she
was not there, and there was no interruption to their quiet evening
together, though both of them started and looked towards the door at
every sound of a footstep in the court.

After they had had their tea, and while Jessica was putting away the
tea-things in the kitchen, Daniel unlocked his desk, and took out his
receipts for the money he had out on interest. Since he had adopted
Jessica he had not added much to his savings; for besides the cost of
her maintenance there had also been the expenses of housekeeping. In
former times he had scarcely cared how uncomfortable his lodgings
were, provided that they were cheap; and he had found that to have a
tidy and comfortable house of his own involved a great outlay of money.

Sometimes a thought had crossed his mind, of which he was secretly
ashamed, that the minister, who seemed so fond of Jessica, or at
least some of the rich members of the congregation, might have borne
part of the charge of her living; but no one had ever offered to do
anything for her. He had spent his money with a half grudge, and now
the question upon his mind was, did God require him to waste--he said
“waste” to himself--his hardly-earned savings upon a drunken and wicked

It was a hard trial. He loved Jessica, as he had said, more than his
money, and had never really regretted taking her into his home; she
was like a daughter to him, and he was a happier and a better man for
her companionship. But this woman was an abhorrence to him, a disgust
and disgrace. She had no more claim upon him than any other of the
thousands of lost men and women who thronged the streets of London.

Surely God did not require him to take this money, which was the sole
provision for his old age; and now that the minister was so stricken
there would be no new chapel built for him, and no house for the
chapel-keeper, and no increase of salary. That was already a settled
point, for the physicians who were attending the minister declared
positively that never again would his over-worked brain be capable of
sustaining any long strain of thought, such as had drawn together his
eager and attentive congregations.

It was scarcely even a question whether he would be able to resume his
position as pastor of this old church; and under a new minister it
was probable the place might be half emptied, and his emoluments as
chapel-keeper be considerably lessened. He was getting older, too,
and there was not more than ten years’ work in him. He looked at his
treasured receipts, and asked himself, Could it be possible that God
required him to sacrifice his past gains and risk his future comforts
upon Jessica’s mother?

Then another question, in the very depths of his conscience, was
whispered to his heart, which at first was willing to remain deaf to
the small and quiet voice; but it grew louder and more clamorous, until
Daniel found that it must be heard and answered.

“What think you Christ would have done with this woman?” it asked. If
God had brought her to that door where He dwelt as a poor carpenter,
would He have thrust her back upon the misery of the life which drove
her again and again to the vilest of her sins? Would Jesus, who came
to seek as well as to save those who are lost, have balanced a book of
savings against the hope, faint though it was, of rescuing the woman’s

“Daniel, Daniel,” answered the quiet voice to his inmost heart, “what
would thy Lord have done?” He tried to set it aside, and hush it up,
while he turned the key upon his receipts, telling himself that he had
done all that his duty as a Christian demanded of him when he rescued
and adopted Jessica. But the Spirit of God has a gracious tyranny which
requires more and more from the soul which begins to sacrifice itself.
He had mastered his love of money for the sake of a child whom he
loved; now he must conquer it to rescue a wretched woman whom he shrank

The struggle seemed to last long, but it was ended before Jessica came
back to the fireside. Daniel’s prayer in the afternoon had been too
sincere for him to be left in darkness to grope along a wrong path. His
face wore a smile as Jessica took her sewing and sat down opposite to
him; such a smile as rarely lit up his rigid features.

“Jessica,” he said, “God has shown me what to do.”

“Perhaps it’ll be better than the minister himself,” answered Jessica.

“Ay!” answered Daniel. “I don’t think the minister could have told
me plainer. Why, Jessica, suppose the Lord had been living here, and
your mother had come to his door, wouldn’t he have cared for her, and
grieved over her, and done everything he could to prevent her going on
in sin? Well, dear, it seems to me it wouldn’t be altogether right to
take her to live with us all at once, because you are a young girl and
ought not to see such ways, and I might get angry with her; but I’ll
hire a room for her somewhere, that shall be always kept for her, and
whenever she comes to it there will be a bed, and a meal for her; and
we’ll be very kind to her, and see if by any means we can help to make
her good.”

Jessica had dropped her sewing and drawn near to Daniel; and now she
flung her arms round his neck, and hid her face upon his breast, crying.

“Why, now, now, my dear!” said Daniel, “what ails you, Jessica?
Wouldn’t the Lord Jesus have made a plan something like that? Come,
come; we’ll pray to him to make her a good woman, and then--who
knows?--she may come here to live with us.”

“She’s my own mother, you know,” sobbed Jessica, as if these words
alone were thoughts in her heart.

“Yes!” answered Daniel, “and we must do our best for her. Jessica, I
know now that I love God more than aught else in this world or the

It was a knowledge worth more than all the riches of earth; and as
Daniel sat in his chimney-corner he could hardly realize his own
happiness. To be sure that he loved God supremely, and to have the
witness in himself that he did so! He felt as if he could take all
the world of lost and ruined sinners to his heart, and, like Christ
himself, lay down his life for them. There was only one shadow, if
it could be called a shadow, upon his joy unspeakable, and full of
comfort--it was that he could not gladden the heart of the minister by
telling him of this change in his nature.

The next day was a very busy one for Daniel; for besides his ordinary
duties he charged himself with finding a suitable place for Jessica’s
mother. He met with a room at last in the dwelling of a poor widow, who
was glad to let him have it on condition that he paid the rent of the

He and Jessica bought a bed and a chair and a table, and put everything
in readiness for their expected visitor. Scanty as was the furniture,
it was a warm and certain shelter for the poor vagrant, who spent half
her nights shivering under archways or in unfinished buildings; and
never had Daniel felt so pure a gratification as when he gave a last
look at the room, and taking Jessica by the hand went back to his own
home, no longer afraid of meeting the woman on his threshold.



It was a happy Sunday for Daniel, in spite of the minister’s absence
and the downcast looks of the congregation as they occupied their
accustomed seats. The chapters read out of the Bible had new meaning
for him, and the singing brought happy tears to his eyes. It seemed as
if he had never truly known God before; and though the sermon, by a
student merely, was one which he would have criticised with contempt
a week ago, now it was pleasant only to hear the names of his God and
Saviour; just as one is pleased to hear even a stammering tongue speak
the praises of those we love.

During the evening service Jessica went to stay with the minister’s
children. Jane came down to her in the hall and told her they were to
sit in their father’s room while the strange nurse and their own nurse
were having tea together in an adjoining room.

“Nurse thinks,” said Jane, “that, if papa knew, he would like us to
sit with him this Sunday evening; and sometimes we think he does know,
though he never speaks, and he seems to be asleep all the time. We
are to read our chapter and say our hymns just as if he could hear.
And nurse says he told your mother only last Sunday that he loves you
almost like one of his own little girls. So we said we should like you
to come and read with us; for you are not a bit afraid, Jessica.”

They had mounted the stairs while Jane was whispering these sentences;
and now, hand in hand, they entered the minister’s room.

There was a fire burning and a lamp lit upon a table, so that the
minister’s face could be plainly seen, as they stole with tender
caution to his side.

It had been a pale face always, but it was very colorless now; the lids
were closed lightly over the eyeballs, which seemed almost to burn and
shine through them; and the lips, which might have been speaking words
that seemed to bring his listeners almost into the presence of God,
were locked in silence. Yet the face was full of life, which rippled
underneath, as it were; as if the colorless cheeks, and thin eyelids,
and furrowed forehead were only a light mask; and while the children
gazed upon it the lips moved slowly, but soundlessly.

“He is talking to God,” whispered Jessica, in a tone of awe.

“Jessica,” said Winny, pressing close to her, “I can’t help thinking
about Paul, when he was caught up into the third heaven and heard
unspeakable words. I think perhaps he looked like my father.”

She had never called him father before, and she uttered it in a
strangely solemn voice, as if it was a more fitting title than the
familiar one they had called him by on ordinary days. They stood beside
him for a few minutes, and then they crept on tiptoe across to the
hearth. The children read their chapter, and said their hymns, and
sang a favorite one of their father’s, in soft low tones which could
scarcely have been heard outside the room; and the little timepiece
over the fireplace chimed seven as they finished.

“It was just this time last Sunday,” said Jane, “when papa had the
stroke. He was just going to pray when the chapel-clock struck seven.”

“I wonder what he was going to say?” said Winny, sorrowfully.

“Our Father!” murmured a voice behind them, very low and weak, like the
voice of one who has only strength to utter a single cry; and turning
quickly, with a feeling of fear, they saw their father’s eyes opened,
and looking towards them with inexpressible tenderness. Jessica laid
her finger on her lips as a sign to them to be still, and with timid
courage she went to the minister’s side.

“Do you know us again?” she asked, trembling between fear and joy; “do
you know who we are, minister?”

“Jessica, and my children,” he whispered, with a feeble smile
fluttering upon his face.

“He is come back!” cried Jessica, returning with swift but noiseless
steps to Jane and Winny. “Let us make haste and tell the others. Maybe
he is hungry and weak and faint. But he knows us--he is come back to us

In a few minutes the joyful news was known throughout the house, and
was carried to the chapel before the evening service was over; and the
congregation, as they dispersed, spoke hopefully of the minister’s
recovery. It was the crowning gladness of the day to Daniel, and he
lingered at the minister’s house, to which he hastened as soon as he
had closed the chapel, until it was getting on for midnight; and then
he left Jessica with the children and started off for his home with a
heart in which joy was full.



Daniel had a good way to go, for the minister’s house was in an
opposite direction to his own from the chapel. The November fogs still
hung about London, and the lamps gave only a dim light through the
gloom. Those who were yet walking about the streets marched quickly, as
if anxious to reach whatever shelter they called their own.

Daniel himself was making his way as fast as he could along the muddy
pavement, when he came to a part of the streets where the drainage was
being repaired, and where charcoal fires were burning in braziers here
and there, at once to give warning to the passers-by and to afford
warmth to the watchmen who stayed beside them all night. One of the
watchmen had brought an old door and reared it up against a rude wall
of stone and bricks so as to form some protection from the rain, which
now and then fell in short showers.

He had quitted his shed, for some reason or other, and as Daniel
drew near his steps were arrested; for crouching underneath it, and
stretching out her shrivelled arms over the brazier full of charcoal,
was Jessica’s mother. The fitful light was shining strongly upon her
face, and showed the deep lines which misery and degradation had
ploughed upon it and the sullenness and stupidity which were stamped
upon her features.

He stood still, gazing at her with disgust; but very soon a feeling of
profound pity took its place. He had been wondering what had become of
her since Friday morning, and had even felt a kind of anxiety about
her; and now, as he thought of the room with its comfortable bed which
was waiting for her, instead of the brief shelter of the shed, he
climbed over the heaps of rubbish which lay between them, calling to
her, for he did not know her name, “Jessica’s mother!”

The woman started to her feet at the sound of his voice, and looked him
full in the face with an expression of utter wretchedness. Her eyes
were inflamed and swollen with tears, and every feature was quivering
as if she had no control over them. She was so miserable a creature
that Daniel did not know in what words to speak to her; but his heart
was moved with an unutterable compassion, unknown to him till now.

He even felt a sympathy for her, as if he had once been in the same
depths of degradation, as he looked down shudderingly into the deep
abyss where she had fallen by her sins; and the sense of her misery
touched him so closely that he would have given his life for her
salvation. He stretched out his hand towards her, but she pushed it
away, and with a groan of despair she fled from the light, and sought
to hide herself in the darkness of the foggy streets.

But Daniel was not easily turned aside from his desire to bring some
help to Jessica’s mother, even if it were no more than to rescue her
from the chilliness of the November night. He followed her with steps
as rapid as her own, and only that she had the first start he would
have been quickly at her side. She fled swiftly along the streets to
escape from him, and he pursued her, hoping that she would soon weary
and would turn to speak to him.

But she kept on until Daniel found himself at the entrance of one of
the old bridges of the city which span the wide waters of the river.
Side by side with it a new bridge was being constructed with massive
beams of timber, and huge blocks of stone, and vast girders of iron,
lying like some giant skeleton enveloped in the fog, yet showing dimly
through it by the glare of red lights and blazing torches, which were
kindled here and there, and cast flickering gleams upon the black
waters beneath, into which Daniel looked down with a shiver, as he
paused for a moment in his pursuit.

But he had lost sight of the woman when he lifted up his eyes again,
unless the strange dark figure on one of the great beams stretching
over the river was the form of Jessica’s mother. He pressed towards it,
quitting the safety of the old bridge; but, as a wild and very mournful
cry smote upon his ear, he missed his footing, and fell heavily upon a
pile of masonry at some distance below him.

It could only have been a minute that he was unconscious, for the
deep-toned clock of St. Paul’s had chimed the first stroke of midnight
as he lost footing, and the boom of the last stroke was still ringing
through the air when he tried to raise himself and look again for the
dark figure which he had seen hanging over the river; but he could not
move, and he lay quietly, without making a second effort, and thinking
clearly over what had happened.

There was little doubt that the wretched woman whom he had sought to
save had hurried away from all salvation, whether of God or man; and
yet how was it that, instead of the shock of horror, a perfect peace
possessed his soul? For a moment it seemed to him that he could hear a
voice speaking, through the dull and monotonous splashing of the cold
water against the arches below him, and it said to him, “Because thou
hast been faithful unto death, I will give thee a crown of life.”

Was he going to die? he asked himself, as a pang of extreme agony ran
through all his frame, and extorted a moan from his lips. He was ready
and willing, if it was the will of God; but he would like to see his
little Jessica again and tell her gently with his own lips that her
mother was dead, and gone--he could say nothing gentler--to her own
place, which God knew of.

The midnight hour was quieter than usual in the busy city, for it was
Sunday and the night was damp; so Daniel lay for some time before he
heard the tread of a passer-by upon the bridge above him. He could hear
many sounds at a little distance; but he could not raise his voice
loudly enough to be audible through the splash of the waters. But
as soon as he heard footsteps on the bridge he cried, with a strong
effort, “Help me, or I shall die before morning!”

It seemed a long time, and one of great suffering to him, before he was
raised up and laid upon the smooth pathway of the bridge. But he did
not cry out or groan; and as the little crowd which gathered around him
spoke in tones of commiseration and kindness he thanked them calmly,
and with a cheerfulness which deceived them. They bore him to the
nearest hospital, but as they would have laid him on a bed there he
stopped them, with great energy and earnestness.

“Let the doctor see me first,” he said, “and tell me whether I am
likely to die or live.”

The doctor’s hand touched him, and there were a few questions put to
him, which he answered calmly; and then, as the doctor looked down upon
him with a grave face, he looked back with perfect composure.

“I’m a Christian man,” said Daniel, “and I’m not afraid to die. But if
you think there’s no chance for me I’d rather go home. I’ve a little
girl at home who’d like to be with me all the time till I’m taken away
from her. The key of my house is in my pocket. Let me be taken home.”

They could not refuse his request; but the doctor told him he might
live yet for some days, though the injuries he had received gave no
hope of his life; to which Daniel replied only by a solemn smile. It
was nearly morning before he reached his house, under the care of a
nurse and a student from the hospital; and thus he entered for the last
time the home where he had spent the three happiest years of his life
with Jessica.



For several days Daniel suffered great pain, but with such perfect
peace and joy in his heart that it seemed as if he could scarcely
realize or feel his bodily anguish. Jessica was with him constantly;
and when he was free from pain she read aloud to him, or talked with
him of the heaven to which he was going, and which seemed to be open
to his gaze already, as one catches a glimpse from afar off of some
beautiful country basking in the glory of a full noontide sunshine.

The chapel people came to see him, some of them in the carriages which
of old set him pondering on their riches; and they left him, marveling
that they had known so little of the religiousness of the man who
had ushered them to their pews Sunday after Sunday. But as yet the
minister had not visited him, though he had sent him word that as soon
as it was possible he would come to see him.

The last day had arrived; both Daniel and Jessica knew that it was
the last day, and she had not stirred from his side since morning;
and still the minister had not come--had not been able to come to the
death-bed of his old friend. For they were old friends, having met many
times a week for a dozen years in the same chapel; and since Jessica
had drawn them closer together the learned and eloquent preacher had
cared for Daniel’s illiterate soul, and the chapel-keeper had learned
to pick up some crumbs of nourishment from the great feast which the
minister prepared week after week for his intellectual congregation. He
had not been, but Daniel was undisturbed, and so, patient and peaceful,
with a smile upon his lips when he met Jessica’s wistful eyes, he
waited for the last hour and the last moment to come.

Yet before it was too late, and before his eye grew dim, and his tongue
numbed with the chillness of death, the minister arrived, pale in face,
and bowed down with weakness, and with a trembling voice which faltered
often as he spoke. They clasped one another’s hands, and looked into
one another’s face with a strange recognition, as if both had seen
further into the other world than they had ever done before, and then
the minister sank feebly into the chair beside Daniel’s pillow.

“I will rest here, and stay with you for an hour,” he said.

“It is the last hour,” answered Daniel.

“Be it so,” replied the minister. “I too have looked death in the face.”

They were silent for a while, while the minister rallied his strength,
and then he bent his head, his head only, for he was too feeble yet to
kneel beside the dying man, and he poured forth a prayer to God in his
inmost heart, but with hesitating lips, which no longer uttered with
ready speech the thoughts which thronged to his brain. The Amen with
which he ended was almost a groan.

“My power is taken from me,” he said; “the Almighty has stricken me in
the pride of my heart. I shall never more speak as I used to do, of his
glory and majesty, and the greatness of his salvation.”

“You can speak of his love,” murmured Daniel.

“Yes,” he answered despondently, “but only as a child speaks. I shall
never stir the hearts of the congregation again. My speech will be

“Jessica, tell him what you and I have been talking about,” said Daniel.

Jessica lifted up her face from the pillow, and turned it towards the
minister, a smile struggling through her tears; and though her voice
was unsteady to begin it grew calm and clear before she had spoken
many words.

“We were talking how he’d never be the chapel-keeper any more, and go
up into the pulpit to carry the books before you; and then we thought
it was true, maybe, what the doctor says, that you’d never be well
enough again to preach in such a big chapel; and so we went on talking
about the time when we shall all be in heaven. We said that perhaps God
would give you more beautiful thoughts there, and grander words, and
you’d still be our minister; and the angels ’ud all come thronging up
in crowds all about you and us to hearken to what you’d thought about
Jesus Christ and about God; and there’d be a great congregation again.
Only whenever you were silent for a minute we could look up and see the
Saviour himself listening to us all.”

Then the minister bowed his pale face upon his hands; but he did not
answer a word.

“There is one thing still I want to say,” said Daniel. “I’ve made my
will, and left all I had to Jessica; but I don’t know where she’ll find
a home. If you’d look out for her--”

“Jessica shall come home to me,” interrupted the minister, laying his
hand upon hers and Daniel’s and clasping them both warmly.

“I’m a Christian man,” whispered Daniel. “I know that I love God, and
that he has made me something like himself. There’s a verse about it in
the Bible.”

“‘Beloved,’” said the minister, “‘now are we the sons of God, and it
doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall
appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.’”

There was no stammering of the minister’s speech as he pronounced these
words, and his face grew bright, as did the face of the dying man.
Daniel’s mind wandered a little, and he groped about, as in the dark,
for the Bible, which lay upon the bed; and he murmured,

“It’s time to take up the books, for the congregation is waiting, and
the minister is ready. I will take them up to heaven.”

He spoke no more; but the Bible after a while fell from his hand, and
Jessica and the minister, looking upon his face, saw that in heaven he
was beholding the face of the Father.

It proved true that the minister could never again preach a sermon such
as in former times, when the people listened with strained attention,
and he was to them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant
voice, and playeth well on an instrument; but they heard his words
and did them not. Yet he was a man of calmer happiness than before;
and in his quiet country home, where sometimes of a Sunday he mounted
the pulpit-steps of a little chapel, and taught a simple congregation
simple truths, he drew nearer day by day in spirit to the great
congregation who were waiting for him, and before whom his lips should
never more be silenced.

Transcriber’s Note:

Spelling, punctuation and hyphenation have been retained as they appear
in the original publication, including the use of “wont” for “won’t” in
“Jessica’s First Prayer”, except as follows:

_Jessica’s First Prayer_

  Page 17
    ‘You make good coffee _changed to_
    “You make good coffee

  Page 26
    sobs of pain and wearness _changed to_
    sobs of pain and weariness

  Page 27
    through at the inside- _changed to_
    through at the inside.

  Page 43
    looking round encourageingly _changed to_
    looking round encouragingly

  Page 54
    CHAPTER IV. _changed to_

  Page 70
    often saying no more that _changed to_
    often saying no more than

  Page 89
    minister and the beadle, ‘I asked _changed to_
    minister and the beadle, “I asked

_Jessica’s Mother_

  Page 21
    it with our hearts. _changed to_
    it with our hearts.”

  Page 31
    the door into a comforttable _changed to_
    the door into a comfortable

  Page 35
    in some away had never looked _changed to_
    in some way had never looked

  Page 50
    when she hears every, thing _changed to_
    when she hears every thing

  Page 53
    He knows she is my mother. _changed to_
    He knows she is my mother.”

  Page 58
    on any farther? _changed to_
    on any farther?”

  Page 64
    would he have thrust _changed to_
    would He have thrust

  Page 74
    caried to the chapel _changed to_
    carried to the chapel

  Page 79
    like some giant skeletion _changed to_
    like some giant skeleton

  A Contents has been added for _Jessica’s Mother_.

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