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Title: Stories of a Governess
Author: Fisler, Annie
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stories of a Governess" ***

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[Illustration: Stories of a Governess.]



  STORIES
  OF A GOVERNESS.

  BY
  MISS ANNIE FISLER.

  NEW YORK:
  PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL SUNDAY-SCHOOL UNION
  AND CHURCH BOOK DEPOSITORY,
  762 BROADWAY.

  1866.



  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1865, by
  the GENERAL PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION AND
  CHURCH BOOK SOCIETY, in the Clerk’s Office of the District
  Court of the United States, for the Southern District of
  New York.



  PUBLISHED THROUGH THE
  OFFERINGS OF THE SUNDAY SCHOOL OF
  TRINITY CHURCH,
  PITTSBURGH, PA.



  IN REMEMBRANCE
  OF PLEASANT DAYS
  AT “SOUTHSIDE.”



STORIES OF A GOVERNESS.

CHAPTER I.


The children had all been very eager about the new governess. They had
sat full three minutes at a time, more than once, discoursing about
her, wondering whether she was young or old, whether she was pretty or
ugly, and whether she was cross or good-tempered. In short, there had
been no end to their wonderings; but they could not agree, and so sat
waiting full of curiosity till she should come down stairs.

Lillie sat on the floor in front of the grate, her chin on her hands,
her eyes fixed on the bright fire. Frank was watching the door, in a
very unnatural sort of quietness for a boy, with Tan curled up at his
feet; and Jennie was nervously tearing off the corners of her book,
since it had grown too dark to read it, thinking that Miss Lane was a
very long time in taking off her cloak.

On the sofa lay a plump little darling, with a pair of dark soft eyes
shining out of the stillness; one round rosy cheek rested upon her
pretty brown hand, and the silky hair was tangled by her race with Tan
on the piazza. Nobody knew what Rosie was thinking, for Rosie did not
talk much—did not tell all the puzzles in her child-brain, though it
was quite full of them, like any other child’s.

Outside, the wind had gone down, but the bare trees, the naked lawn,
and the great wide stretch of waste land beyond that, looked bleak
enough in the gathering gloom of the winter twilight. Softly fluttering
down, like white birds, came a few light flakes of the first snow, and
now and then the swaying back of a thick cedar-tree, showed a grave at
its foot, receiving the downy covering. It was the resting place of the
children’s mother; she had lain there a year, and the little ones had
grown quite used to the sight of that which had once made their hearts
ache for “poor mamma out in the cold.”

There was a wistful look in the little faces, and a yearning for love
in the little hearts all unsatisfied, since the good mother had gone to
rest; but none, even down to little Rosie, had forgotten the prayers
she had taught them, nor to lift, night and morning, their innocent
hands to the All-Father.

And now Tan had risen, snuffed about, gone from one child to another,
pattering about on his soft paws, saying, “good night” to all. He
sprang noiselessly upon the sofa, by Rosie’s head, and taking in his
mouth a beautiful white kitten lying there, carried it off to his
basket in the corner.

At this movement of Tan’s every child was on its feet, to witness this
nightly performance, which afforded the lookers-on the most intense
delight. Kitty submitted very quietly, as a matter of course, and
the puppy trotted off as gravely as mother cat might have done. He
put pussy to bed first, turning her over to her own side with his
paws, if she encroached upon his, and then, ensconcing himself snugly
in his corner of the basket, he winked himself to sleep with much
satisfaction. When Tan had gone to sleep, the children grew tired of
waiting again; but presently, a shout from Frank, who had gone to the
window, roused them.

“There’s papa!” he cried, and in two seconds, all, even sleepy Rosie,
were in the hall, waiting for his greeting. In they came, a joyous
party, clinging to their papa’s arms and knees, claiming kisses and
answers to a multitude of questions in one breath, forgetting their
late interest in the new governess who stayed so long in her own room,
and caring only to welcome him who claimed a double share of their
love, now that they had no mother.

Jennie rang the bell, ordering James, when he answered it, rather
imperiously, to take her father’s coat and to bring his slippers,
bustling about uneasily, and overturning a light stand near her in her
haste.

“Softly, Jennie daughter; not so much noise,” chided her papa, rubbing
his hands before the blaze, as if he were glad to be at home again.
Gently as the words were spoken, they brought tears to the eyes of
the sensitive child, and she drew back with a shadow fallen upon her
gladness.

With shy ecstasy Rosie was rubbing her brown face against her papa,
much as pussy might have done; and Lillie performed a joyful dance with
Tan, who had waked up with the commotion, holding him by the fore-paws,
and endangering the costly vases by her romping. Frank was pouring out
a history of the day with great glee, standing first upon one foot,
then upon the other, winding up with:

“And Ben brought Miss Lane from the cars at half past four. We have not
seen her yet. But papa—”

He stopped. There she was.

“How do you do, Mr. Graham? How do you do, children?” said a sweet
voice, and they all, including Tan, became as mute as mice.

James came with candles, and then the examination began. Miss Lane was
not old, neither was she very young; she was almost as small and slight
as Jennie, and not at all pretty, as Frank declared more than once,
though he liked to look at her face too.

She was dressed neatly and well; her collar shone, her hair shone, her
teeth shone, her hands were almost lily white, and her step as light as
the snow-fall out of doors. She had a quiet sort of grace that was very
fascinating, and from the crown of her head to the sole of her small
walking-shoe, stood before them the perfect lady.



CHAPTER II.


The breakfast bell had been rung, Miss Lane came in at its last tingle
and saw the children waiting for her.

“Good morning! Where is your papa?”

“Gone: he goes to his office at six every morning, and doesn’t come
home till evening,” answered Jennie.

“Who reads prayers?”

“No one, since mamma died.”

The lady stood silent a moment; a little tinge of red colored her
cheek, and she did not trust her voice for a few seconds, lest it
should tremble.

“I cannot,” was her first thought; “it is not my place; they may think
it presuming.”

“I will,” was her next; “God has put it in my way; it is plainly my
duty.” Then speaking aloud to Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper, she said
calmly:

“If you will call in the servants, I will read prayers: I suppose Mr.
Graham would not object.”

“Oh, no, ma’am.”

In a little time they came in and sat down, wondering at the new ways
of the teacher, but joining in the prayers quite reverently, and as
they went out again, casting curious glances at the pale quiet face of
the reader. As for the children, their appetites were quite forgotten
in this new and interesting study of the governess, and Jennie secretly
determined to imitate her in her mode of eating. It was really a
pleasure to watch the neat, graceful fingers at any work, and the
children began to find and to feel something of that subtle charm in
perfect grace and tact which mere beauty cannot supply. Though she
spoke but little, and did not seem to watch them at all, not a word,
not a motion, scarcely a glance of her new pupils escaped her. She was
silently deciding upon the character of each.

After breakfast, the whole party ran to the windows, to admire the
snow-fall; Miss Lane among the rest. It lay white and pure upon the
lawn and the trees, and the sun sparkled over it.

“He giveth snow like wool, and scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes,”
said the teacher.

“Who? God?” asked Rosie, who could not be content without caresses, and
so had crept shily to the side of the teacher.

“Yes, and do you know why it is like wool?”

“Because it is white,” answered Frank, coming up softly, while the rest
followed after a moment of hesitation, and closed round Miss Lane with
bashful but eager glances.

“Yes, and for another reason. Because it is warm; it protects the
tender wheat, keeps it alive in the ground till the spring opens. It
is like your cloaks and overcoats, only so much softer, so much more
beautiful.”

“Warm? snow warm? I thought it was cold.”

“Persons have been saved from freezing by burying themselves in snow.”

“Do you know stories?” questioned Rosie, with a flush over her brown
face.

“Yes, a great many. I will tell you one about a person who had no bed
but one of snow for many nights.”

“Did you know him? did you ever see him?” were the eager questions; and
the children crouched at her feet, forgetting their reserve.

“Yes, very, very well, all my life. This person, this gentleman, when
he was young like you, cared only for books, books all the time, and
wandering about over all the rocks, through all the woods in the
neighborhood. After a while, when he grew older, he wanted to travel.
He went to Asia, to Africa, to Europe—he saw all the great world, but
he forgot God.”

“Forgot God! oh, how dreadful!”

“Forgot God; forgot to love him and pray to him—tried to live without
him. But God remembered him. He never forgets any one, you know—not
even the smallest bird or worm. He counts the tiniest blade of grass.”

“By and by a very sad thing happened to him. A beautiful lady whom he
had loved a long, long time, and who was to have been his wife, died
suddenly. She was deaf, quite deaf, but so very patient and sweet,
living such a holy life, so near to God, that all her goodness shone
in her face, making it so lovely, so radiant, that no one could look
at her without loving her, and wondering if angels were not like her.
She was lost at sea. She had been in England with her father, and was
returning to America, when the ship was lost. They both went down
together, and when this gentleman heard it, he seemed as if he could
never be happy again.

“He looked quite broken-hearted; but the taking of her who was to have
been his wife to the rest of the blessed did not seem to draw him any
nearer to God, and after a while he wandered off again, and was not
heard of for years. He lived for months near the shore of the Gulf of
California, alone, excepting the company of two pet seals, which he
learned to love dearly. He used to go out on the sand and watch the
seals there. Sometimes the young ones, when left by their parents on
the beach, would make the most pitiful moaning and crying, like a
little child in pain. It used to melt his heart to hear them; he said
it made him think of the voice of the lost, crying out of the sea;
and so his melancholy grew deeper and darker than ever. He would have
stayed there perhaps till he died; but his seals were lost, and then,
in his loneliness, he roamed away again.

“He settled at last in New Mexico, and though he lived so much alone,
his gentleness and kindliness won him many friends, and he began to
think he had found a home. But at length he longed to return, and when
he set out he sped towards the mountains. He dared not travel through
the valleys, for fear of the Indians, but had to keep out of their
sight, if he wished to preserve his life. The mountains were covered
with snow. The cold was bitter, and he knew that many days must pass
before he could reach a safe shelter; but his heart did not fail him,
for he began in those fearful, solitary nights to beg for God’s aid,
to think of him as he had not done in years before.

“Every night he lay down in the snow, hungry and tired, for it was
dangerous to shoot game. If the Indians had heard the report of his
rifle, they would have been upon him quickly; and he suffered severely
for want of food. His shoes gave out too, but not his courage and trust
in God, which had all come back to him as he lay under the stars,
in his snowy bed, so awfully alone, shut out from humanity. On the
thirteenth day, he limped into a fort, almost barefooted, hollow-eyed
and gaunt, very weak, but joyful over his deliverance, and, with a new
heart, praising God.”

“Where is he now?” asked Rosie, when Miss Lane paused.

“Gone to rest,” she answered solemnly.

By this time the hour for school had arrived, and all were eager to
begin the work of learning, so they gladly followed the teacher as she
led the way up stairs to the school-room.



CHAPTER III.


Before many days the children had learned that Miss Lane intended to be
obeyed; so the idea of resisting her authority gradually faded out of
their minds, if they had ever entertained it. She went about her duties
in her quiet, graceful way, showing in every action that she worked for
God, and made the thought of her accountability to Him the rule of her
life.

There was a promptness and decision in her manner that irresistibly
drew every child into her way, and very soon there was no complaint of
tardiness or carelessness in the school-room. Jennie’s hair was brushed
smoothly, because Miss Lane’s satin braids made her ashamed of her
tangled locks. Lillie thought of her own ten ragged finger-nails with
a blush, when the rosy tips of her teacher’s fingers glided over the
piano-keys; and Frank scraped his shoes before coming into the parlor,
because he had once left a stain on the clear gray of her dress with
his muddy boots; he could not forget her distressed look as she noticed
it, and reformed accordingly.

A taste for beautiful things began to be developed in their minds
too, and the stars, the sunset, and a snow-fall were seen with new
eyes. They learned, too, to know that God was about them, around them,
above them; that there was no thought in their heart but he knew it
altogether; that he must be the Guide in the daily walk of his baptized
children. So the days went on in content.

There came sometimes a girl of Jennie’s age to visit the children; Mary
Noel was her name; her parents lived on the opposite shore of the lake,
about a quarter of a mile from Mr. Graham’s, and were very careless,
worldly people, keeping but a loose watch over their child.

Miss Lane did not fancy her from the first, and disapproved of the
intimacy with her young charges; but she had never seen anything
positively evil in the child’s behavior, and therefore could not forbid
it. But one afternoon, while Mary Noel was there, something occurred
which decided her to prevent all intercourse between the children.

Lillie and Mary in passing Miss Lane’s door found it ajar, and looked
in curiously at the pictures, curious boxes and books that adorned it,
all arranged with most exquisite neatness and taste.

“Let us go in,” proposed Mary. “She is not there, is she?”

“No; but I would rather go in when she is there,” answered Lillie.

“Well, I’d like to see those pictures; come,” and she pushed the door
open.

“I don’t think Miss Lane would like it,” persisted Lillie.

“Why? what need you care? The room’s in your father’s house.”

“I don’t think it would be quite right, quite polite; Miss Lane is so
precise.”

“I know; such a stiff old maid, too. You’ll all be just like her. Well,
I’m going in. I wonder if there are many pictures in that album; I’m
going to look.”

“Come out, Mary; we had better not disturb anything. I am sure Miss
Lane would be displeased.”

“You all act as if you were afraid of her. She isn’t mistress here yet.
Mamma said may-be she’d be your stepmother sometime; how would you like
that?”

The child’s face became scarlet; she stamped her foot.

“It is not true; it is a wicked story. You are very bad to say so. I’ll
ask papa;” and Lillie sat down in the window with tears in her eyes.

In the mean time, Mary was examining one by one the contents of the
room, opening books and boxes, and peering about, full of curiosity.

“Oh, Lillie, here is this bottle; it is so delicious! Oh, just
smell—Cologne! And isn’t the bottle pretty?”

“Beautiful!” exclaimed Lillie, springing up and taking it out of her
hand quickly—too quickly; the choice ornament fell from her grasp, and
lay broken in two pieces upon the floor, while the odor of the Cologne
water filled the room.

Lillie’s cheeks crimsoned; she stood with clasped hands and loud
beating heart, surveying the fragments.

“What _shall_ we do?” she exclaimed.

“Let us go away—she’ll find the bottle broken; we need not say
anything. She will not know that you did it.”

So, conscience-smitten and miserable, the little girl followed her
tempter down stairs; her first thought being an earnest desire to
escape the blame. Lillie was nervous and sensitive and very timid; the
idea of her teacher’s displeasure overshadowed all the sunshine of
that day, and made it indeed a time of wretchedness. She trembled with
terror when she heard Miss Lane’s step, and shrunk back with a guilty
flush whenever she caught her eye, growing pale and chill at the sound
of her voice, lest the dreaded question should be asked, and contending
with her ever rebuking conscience which urged her to confession.

“Ah!” she thought, “if I had only not given up at first—if I had only
never touched it—it was so wrong. Mamma used to tell us that we were
always punished for doing wrong, even if no one saw us: and now I know
that is why I broke the vase. Miss Lane cannot trust me when she knows
it; and, oh, she said she would rather we troubled her every minute
with mischief than to see us do _one dishonorable_ thing. She will
be sure to find it out too, oh, dear! and I never can tell her; it
frightens me to think of it. What shall I do? I am so unhappy;” and the
child buried her head in the sofa cushions, sobbing aloud.

By and by she crept into the parlor, quite pale and subdued, worn out
by the ceaseless reproaches of her conscience, and waited in much
sadness for her papa’s coming. The children were in great glee watching
the snow as it came softly down, and listening to the loud howling of
the wind round the house, happy in their good home, the loving hearts
around them, and the bright firelight.

How little they knew of the great world, with the sin, suffering, and
death in it; of the dying, despairing thousands on God’s earth, crying
out to him in sore pain and need, the day of their rejoicing long since
passed!

Presently there was a shout, as Miss Lane came at a quick pace up the
walk, struggling against the wind and storm, holding her cloak fast
around her. She came in merrily, laughing, and with a vivid color in
both cheeks.

“It is perfectly delightful,” she cried, as soon as she saw the
children. “How happy is the dog rolling in the snow!”

“Where have you been? We were lonesome; we’ve been hunting you
everywhere.”

“I have been to visit my Sunday scholars, and I came round by the
post-office for my letters, and I have two such pleasant ones.”

“Did you go to see all the scholars? And did you find out who it was
that sat on the end of the bench last Sunday?”

“Yes; her name is Phœbe Birch, and I went to her house. She has a
stepmother who is not kind to her. Her father was sitting in a corner
of the room; he had been drinking; and when I went in, Phœbe was
crying. Her eyes were quite red and swollen; she brightened at the
sight of me; but I was too much afraid of both the father and mother to
talk much to her, poor child! At last I asked her if she would not come
regularly to Sunday-school, and gave her a little Prayer-book, which
seemed to make her very happy. The mother scolded and said, ‘She was
good for nothing already, and she did not think going to Sunday-school
would make her any better.’ I told her that I hoped it would. But when
I had got out of the close little room, from that hard scowling woman
and the drunken man, into the fresh air, I could scarcely bear to
think of poor little Phœbe’s spending all her life there.”

Miss Lane looked round the beautiful rooms, her eye glancing through an
open door to the glittering table awaiting them with its delicacies,
and she sighed heavily. Her cloak lay on the sofa; she was holding her
hat by one string, and Lillie was trembling, lest any moment she might
go up to her own room to put them away, and so discover the mischief
that had been done. What would she have given to live over that day
again, that she might have left _that_ undone?

It was too late then, and her face blanched as Miss Lane, gathering up
her things, went gaily up stairs to brush her hair. In a little while
she came down again, and Lillie’s watchful eyes saw—as no doubt she
expected—a change in her face immediately.

“Has any one been in my room to-day?” she inquired. There was a chorus
of Noes, and she continued:

“Some one or some _thing_ has knocked my Cologne bottle off the
bureau, and I found it lying shattered on the floor.”

“It must have been Sallie,” said Jennie, “she is so careless; she
spilled all the ink in my bottle on the parlor carpet yesterday.”

“What were you doing with ink in the parlor?” asked Miss Lane.

“I was writing my exercises: Mary Noel and Lillie made so much noise in
the hall that I could not write in my room.”

“Don’t go there to write again; it is not the proper place; and I wish
none of you to have anything to do with Mary Noel; she is not a proper
companion for you, I am sure. When she comes here to ask you to walk
with her again, just tell her I do not allow you to go. I must speak
to Sallie about breaking my things; there is no occasion for such
accidents.”

She walked toward the door. Lillie started up to stop her; but the
words died on her lip. She could not utter them; she could not bear to
see the expression of disapproval gathering upon her teacher’s face,
to know her trust was forfeited, and feel the punishment deserved.

“What did Sallie say?” asked Jennie, when she returned.

“She says she never touched the bureau, and seemed much hurt at my
suspecting her,” answered Miss Lane, sitting down by the window with a
grave air, and looking out upon the snow in silence.

“You need not believe her,” continued Jennie, “she is not true. Mrs.
Hall can’t teach her to be.”

“I have good reason to believe her,” was the answer; and Mr. Graham’s
arrival at that moment caused the children to rush with a shout to meet
him, forgetting Sallie and the Cologne bottle.



CHAPTER IV.


“But if you go to-night, Miss Lane, we cannot finish Evangeline.”

“Why not, Jennie? _You_ can read aloud to the rest.”

“But I don’t like reading aloud.”

“Neither do I like reading aloud. I do a great many things I don’t like
to do.”

“I’ll read it to myself—then the rest can do the same.”

“I don’t _like_ to read aloud a thing that I have read again and again.
I don’t _like_ to play games that you little ones like. I don’t care to
play for you, when each one can do it for himself.”

Miss Lane looked at Jennie gravely. The little girl’s lip began to
quiver, her eyes filled.

“Oh, Miss Lane!” she faltered.

“Suppose I were never willing to do anything for your pleasure, Jennie,
just because I did not fancy it, wouldn’t you think me a little
selfish?”

The tears were rolling over Jennie’s cheeks now, and Miss Lane sat in
silence, wishing the child’s sensitiveness were not so exquisite. The
gentlest chiding touched the quick—it was almost a cruelty to rebuke,
even when rebuke was needed. That word “selfish” had set Jennie’s
heart-strings to quivering; and thoughtlessness, as much as anything
else, had prompted her first speech; so she sat downcast, bearing her
pain in silence, while her teacher was almost as much grieved as she.

“I think it would not be quite kind to sit alone and read to yourself
all the evening, when the rest are so anxious to finish the story, and
you know but one can have the book at a time.”

There was no answer; but Jennie had forgotten her great repugnance to
reading aloud in remembering that only the day before, Miss Lane had
left her book for an hour, to tell baby stories and read Mother Goose
to Rosie, when she was lying peevish and sick in bed.

“She could not have liked it,” pondered the child, and the first dim
consciousness of duty rose in her mind to puzzle her. Sorely troubled
was Jennie; she did not fancy giving up her own will in anything. She
had an instinctive dislike to law and order, to getting up early,
setting things to right, and losing her own pleasure.

A little flash of light seemed let into her soul, and all her daily
wrong-doing lay clear before her. She read selfishness on all, or at
the best, thoughtlessness for others’ pleasure. Before her like a
picture, she saw her dear mother stretched on her patient bed of pain,
smiling ever to keep sadness out of the hearts of her little ones, and
fading slowly day by day out of their beautiful bright world into what
seemed loneliness, chilliness, darkness to Jennie in her fresh youth.
Now and then the sweet weak voice had begged her daughter to read the
Word of Life to her as she went through the valley of the Shadow
of Death; and many times this seemed a wearisome task. How glad the
child would have been to remember having volunteered _once_ to cheer
her mother’s waiting-time with the words of Jesus! Such anguish as it
was then to know that many times the mild request for a Psalm or the
lessons of the day had been met by a frowning, fretful compliance. Too
late, too late, thought Jennie with anguish and yearning for

  “The touch of the vanished hand,
     And the sound of the voice that was still.”

And almost the last words that dear mother had uttered were:

“Jennie, be good to the little ones, dear—patient, loving. They will
have no mother, and the world is dreary without love, my child; give it
to them, all that you can, and fill my place.”

It had been long ago in her child life, when time is counted by hours
and days, and we think a year so long, since her mother went to rest,
but it was not till that hour that the meaning of her mother’s words
came to her. There had never seemed to be much need for the exercise
of her care over the little ones; so she thought. It seemed as if
there were nothing she could do—at least nothing that she _liked_ to
do—teaching the Catechism, reading aloud, telling stories and such
things were so disagreeable, and she could not have patience with the
little ones.

While Jennie was sitting at the window, looking out on the winter scene
and thinking, with the tears drying on her cheek, Miss Lane had gone to
the piano, and was playing softly—she was singing too, in a low voice,
and the silent darkness was creeping over the lawn under the trees and
into the room, gathering shadows on the walls and settling stilly over
the fields and sky.

  “Broken-hearted, lone and tearful,
   By that cross of anguish fearful,
   Stood the Mother by her Son.”

Deep and touching was the voice, as were the words, and a feeling of
awe, pain, and strange longing love filled the heart of the child, and
her soul went out in prayer to the Saviour who died for her, to keep
her in his ways and make her spirit white.

That same evening, after Miss Lane had gone to stay with poor dying
Phœbe Birch, Jennie finished the story to her little brother and
sisters; played her papa’s favorite songs, and went to bed infinitely
rewarded for her sacrifice in the “peace of mind which passeth
understanding.”

The dreaded messenger who walks among us unseen at all hours had called
for the lonely child in her comfortless home, and Phœbe’s soul was
passing to the land of rest, where many saints had gone before.

The morning before, Phœbe had gone down stairs to make the fire and
prepare breakfast. It was a chilly morning, and the child’s garments
were very thin, but she was very happy. She had a friend. In all the
wide world, a few weeks before, there had been no one to greet her
pleasantly, no one to care whether she lived or died, and her poor
heart was aching, aching all the time for that love which every child
claims as its right.

All day long it was toil, and wearying at fault-finding, sometimes
weeping at blows from her drunken father or her cruel stepmother, till
there seemed neither rest nor brightness for her on earth.

At last, one Sunday, as she stood wistfully watching the children going
into Sunday-school, an impulse to follow them seized her. So, trembling
and with flushed cheeks, she glided through the door and sat down on
the first vacant seat.

How beautiful it all was! The children were singing; and into the
sensitive, wounded spirit of the child crept a strange, soothing peace,
as if the great world of pain and sin were shut out from her forever.

Heaven must be like that, she thought, and her eyes rested on a fair
face near her with a sort of reverent admiration. It was a face patient
and calm, with a touch of sadness in it though the eyes looked ever
upward, and the lips smiled. The brow was clear and broad and white,
the hair bright and smooth, and children’s faces turned lovingly to
meet the gentle glances cast upon them from those unclouded blue eyes.

For one moment, this lady with her grace and exceeding refinement,
passing her delicate fingers over the organ keys, seemed as far off
from the child as the angels in heaven; but when her soft voice had
inquired Phœbe’s name, when those lily hands held her own brown hand,
some of Phœbe’s awe vanished, and a warm, grateful love sprang up in
its place.

And after that the working, suffering days never seemed so long.
Somehow, the thought of Sunday brightened all the week, and Phœbe
lifted up her heart. Sometimes, indeed many times, Miss Lane came to
see her and gave her books. Once or twice the child had spent an hour
in her kind friend’s own dainty room. And when at last she became “a
member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of
heaven,” Miss Lane stood near to encourage, and ever since had been
pointing out the way in which she should walk.

No one could dream then, how inexpressibly sweet and strong was this
tie that bound her to her benefactress. No one knew how the thought
of this earnest love warmed and lighted that cold room in the gloomy
December morning. And but little could the outer world of those more
fortunate than she, guess how exquisitely beautiful were the thoughts
and feelings of this poor, untaught child, whose one joy had changed
the earth into a Paradise.

So she lighted the fire and sat fanning it into a blaze with her apron,
thinking, with a thrill of delight, that to-day Miss Lane was to begin
teaching her to knit fancy knitting. She had promised to find sale
for any articles that Phœbe might make; and such a bright vision rose
before her fancy that she clapped her hands and laughed aloud—such a
picture of a winter cloak, a hood, and a little offering to the Sunday
School, which it burned her cheek to think she had never been able to
give. And on Christmas morning she would go herself to Lyle’s to buy a
bouquet for Miss Lane, one made up of delicate, pure flowers like the
lady herself, with heliotrope and geranium leaves.

Inside of her Prayer-book was a withered, faded blossom, which Miss
Lane had given her weeks ago, and told her it meant, “I love you,” and
Phœbe kissed it night and morning, and many times in the day, if hard
words brought tears to her eyes or tempted her to lose her trust and
hopefulness. It all came back when she touched this talisman, or read,
“Let not your heart be troubled.”

She used to think a great many strange thoughts, these lonely days,
when sometimes, for many hours, there was no human friend to whom she
could speak, and only the wide, blank snow, with the leafless trees
waving over it, for her to look out upon.

She liked to look at the sky, and watch the clouds at sunset, for
God seemed just beyond them, and her loneliness left her when she
remembered that He was her Father, and a beautiful hope was in her
heart, that she, the believing child, might save that erring, earthly
parent.

So, when the blaze sprang up, Phœbe, under the influence of its warmth,
grew drowsy and fell asleep, and dreamed. While she dreamed, the
messenger came; slowly the flame crept towards her, and a spark rested
on her cotton dress; it glowed and spread and crackled, then burst into
a flame and bathed her in a stream of fire. Her father and mother were
asleep up stairs, but her dreadful, agonized screams soon reached their
ears.

When they burst into the room, the panting, trembling, shrieking child
was rolling on the floor, blackened, burnt, a pitiful sight for human
eyes. She had wrapped a piece of carpet about her, and so put out the
dreadful fire; but the agony of those few seconds who can tell?

She bore it all, the dreadful, sickening dressing of the burns, her
faintness, and the coarse words of the step-mother, who reproached her
even then; she bore it because Miss Lane held her hand, whispered her
words of Jesus, and cooled her brow, praying God to help her bear it.
He did help her, and a wonderful patience and sweetness came into her
soul, so that heaven seemed to lie not far off.

She could not bear, at first, that her comforter should leave her, but
one word on the duty of resignation dried her tears, and she waited in
calmness till her dear friend came to her again.

Every moment that she could spare from her duties, Miss Lane devoted to
the sufferer. Her soft fingers soothed when none others had the power,
and when the pain was torture she sang the young girl into quietness,
lifting her soul to God in prayer, and cheering her when the fear of
death was strong. So two days passed, and a second night of watching
came.



CHAPTER V.


Lillie had never spent such miserable days as those two when the
warfare with her conscience was waging continually. Everything went
wrong, nothing gave her any pleasure, she was thoroughly miserable, and
so irritable that she had to be sent two or three times each day to her
room for cross answers and ill conduct.

She knew quite well that she could have no peace till she confessed her
fault, she saw that she could not do right till that spot on her usual
truth and sincerity had been washed out. But timidity held her back;
she kept putting off the evil day, and rose each morning with a sense
of heaviness and depression about her, resolving to get rid of the
weight before another night came.

She could not pray, for while she said the words she knew the act was
mockery, because she was continuing in wilful sin. So, this safeguard
being removed, the child fancied herself falling into sins innumerable,
and darkening all the hours of the day with the shadow of one fault.

Two or three times she had gone to Miss Lane, intending to confess;
but when there, the words died on her lips, and remained unsaid—such
a trembling and terror seized her. She tried to persuade herself that
opportunity was wanting, as her teacher was so much engaged with the
dying Phœbe that she was only seen at meals and in school hours; but
that was poor comfort.

The very next afternoon Lillie determined to meet her teacher in the
hall, and tell her the whole truth; but when she heard Miss Lane going
quickly down the steps, her feet almost refused to move, and when she
opened the hall door, Frank was there, kneeling on the rug, and fitting
on the small over-shoe for his idol.

She could not speak before Frank; he would consider her so mean, her
cheek crimsoned at the thought, and a glimpse at Miss Lane’s pale, sad
face frightened her still more; it looked so fixed and settled, so far
off from things of earth, that she could not bear the idea of those
eyes falling on her in shocked surprise and reproach.

She drew back, the soft “good-bye” was uttered, the slight figure
flitted through the door, and in a second was skimming down the lawn
with quick, graceful motions. It was too late!

About half-an-hour later, as she and Jennie were drawing in the
school-room, the latter, looking out of the window, exclaimed—

“There’s Mary Noel! What brings her here, I wonder?”

Lillie was putting her drawing materials away hurriedly, a look of
eagerness taking the place of the weary expression that had before
rested upon her face, when Jennie continued—

“You must not go down, you know, Miss Lane told us not to have
anything to do with her.”

“I don’t care!” exclaimed Lillie.

“For shame, Lillie! I’ll tell papa. What would _he_ say if he heard you
speak so?”

“I’m not going to sit still, shut up in the house all day. Besides,
what is the harm? Mary Noel don’t hurt anybody.”

“It is wrong to do what your teacher tells you not to do. You know Mary
Noel is not a good girl.”

“She’s as good as anybody. You don’t like her, nor care to play with
her at all, or you would not be so obedient all at once.”

Just then the door opened, and Mary appeared.

“Don’t you want to go and slide? It is fine on the ice, Lillie,” she
exclaimed.

“Miss Lane and papa don’t like Lillie to go on the ice alone,” answered
Jennie, quickly.

“That was when the ice was thinner,” interposed Lillie, angry at her
interference.

“What a baby you are, to care for everything Miss Lane says. I don’t
see what right she has to rule you.”

“She don’t rule us,” cried Jennie, indignantly; but Lillie, whose
wrong-doing had not been without its effect upon her sense of justice
and natural nobleness, began to consider herself an ill-used person,
and flushed crimson at the thought of being “ruled.”

“She does,” continued Mary; “why, the other afternoon, Lillie was
afraid——”

A quick, imploring gesture from Lillie stopped her words, and Jennie,
facing round, eyed both girls suspiciously.

“What was she afraid of? What have you been doing?”

“Oh, nothing. Come, Lillie, are you going?”

“No, she isn’t,” uttered Jennie, imperatively.

“You can’t hinder me.”

“I’ll tell papa.”

“Well, tell him.”

“I’ll go now, and Mrs. Hill will lock you up, if I speak to her.”

“Oh, dear, there’s another mistress, is there? Why, it’s a wonder you
get liberty to eat or sleep,” exclaimed Mary, mockingly.

“I did not care about going on the ice,” said Lillie, standing up and
looking wrathfully at Jennie, “but since you have made yourself so
disagreeable about it, I _will_ go. So there’s nobody to blame but
yourself. Papa has told you never to speak to me in that manner, many a
time.”

The two strode down stairs and out of the house with much dignity,
leaving Jennie in great anger. But presently, the excitable girl’s
nerves grew more quiet, a feeling of sorrow took the place of her
wrath, and her tender conscience began to accuse her of hastiness and
sinfulness in provoking her sister. It was not long before every other
thought was forgotten in an intense feeling of self-reproach, and, like
all impulsive persons, she went quickly from one extreme to another,
and acquitted Lillie of all blame, laying it upon herself.

“Oh! if I had only not been so quick. Oh! if I had governed my
tongue—and I have been warned so many times—Lillie would not have
gone, I’m sure; she nearly always does what she is told. May-be she
will be drowned. I will run and coax her to come back. I could never
hold up my head again.”

She ran out along the bank of the lake, and called the two girls
loudly. They were sliding near the shore, and Jennie’s anger and
impatience returned at the sight of them in safety, disobeying the
commands of those to whom they owed obedience; so that another scene of
quarrelling took place, and Jennie went back sobbing with vexation, and
Lillie continued to slide, more obstinate and hardened than before.

“Let us go out further,” proposed Mary, “the ice is smoother nearer the
other side.”

“Are you sure it is sound?”

“Yes, Tom drew a load of wood over it yesterday.”

So on they slid till they reached a broad, square place, where Mr.
Graham’s men had been cutting ice, with a thin coating as smooth as
glass upon it.

“I’m not afraid to cross that. Are you, Lillie?”

Foolish child that she was, Lillie could not bear to acknowledge that
she was afraid.

“You are afraid!” exclaimed Mary, with a loud laugh, seeing her
hesitate. “I dare you to cross it. It is not thin.”

“You’re afraid yourself.”

“I knew you were. See, you’re only trying to get out of it.”

With a crimson face and her heart beating loudly, the little girl
advanced upon the treacherous ice. She had just gone beyond the edge
of the thick part, when a crack and a shriek rang upon the air, and
she felt herself going down. It was all the work of an instant, like
a flash, though neither remembered exactly how it happened. Mary
caught the clothes of the sinking child, and drew her out, dripping,
shivering, and pale with fright, upon the thick ice. There they looked
at each other an instant, and then began to sob with nervous excitement.

Lillie was so touched and awed by the emotion of her usually
insensible companion, that she had not the heart to cry out against her
for tempting her to her death, as had been her first impulse. So, in
that deplorable plight, with the dripping water freezing about her, she
hastened home.

She was too much subdued to heed Jennie’s “I told you so,” and “You
might have known,” but submitted to Mrs. Hill’s rather rough usage in
meekness, obeying her sentence of going to bed and taking a hot drink,
in silence.

And there she lay in solitude, weeping over her sin, resolving to do
better in the future, starting up with a great thrill of terror when
the thought that she might even then have been in God’s presence with
the unrepented sin on her soul, came into her mind.

“I will tell Miss Lane just as soon as she comes home,” she said to
herself again and again, and as the night came on, she sat listening
eagerly for the light steps of the teacher. Jennie came creeping in
with a penitent face, after a while, to show her completed drawing,
and to tell her, shyly but earnestly, how sorry she was for her share
in the afternoon’s disaster.

“Papa will punish me, I suppose,” remarked Lillie, at last, when there
was a pause. “But I think I am cured of going with Mary Noel any more.
I wonder if he will be very angry!” And the old dread of reproaches
came upon her with such force, that she was about to utter an entreaty
to Jennie for silence concerning the events of the afternoon, when her
better soul came to her again, and she resolved to bear whatever might
be given her in patience.

Presently, as she lay there alone, listening for sounds in the large,
still house, she heard the joyful outcry that welcomed her papa, and a
few seconds after, the light, tripping step of Miss Lane sounded near
the door. Pretty soon, she was heard descending, and then the buzzing
of voices, as the parlor door was opened, came confusedly to her ear.

A moment more and the sound was shut out from her, and Sallie came
up with a tray, and her nice tea arranged upon it—she saw at a
glance—by Miss Lane’s own hands.

But Lillie was almost too sad and depressed to eat. Her heart was very
full of tears by this time, as she thought that her own fault had shut
her out from the light and warmth and pleasure down stairs. She heard
the piano soon, and voices of happy laughter reached her faintly, borne
through the long empty halls and quiet rooms up stairs. But these
sounds of mirth, instead of enlivening her, only made her sadder.

The great tears ran down her cheeks as she thought how little she was
missed, and wondered if her papa would come to say “good night” to her.
The moonlight began to shine in at her window. She got up and looked
out at her mamma’s grave, and wept again in her loneliness and gloom.
The door opened softly, and turning round quickly, she saw her papa
standing grave and sorrowful before her.

“I’m sorry to hear what my little Lillie has been doing,” he said,
sadly.

The child covered her face with both hands.

“Indeed, indeed, papa, I am so sorry,” she sobbed.

“But that will not undo it, my child, it cannot give me back my _trust_
in your honor and truth.”

It was very bitter. What would she have given to blot out all those
last days? Her guilty pleasure seemed so very worthless now, and she
had given in exchange her papa’s esteem, Miss Lane’s confidence, her
peace of mind. She sat with her head bent down in humiliation, while
her papa stood over her with the face which he had worn when her mamma
died. Lillie could not bear it.

“Oh! papa, please forgive me, please trust me again; I cannot bear it.”

And Lillie felt his arms around her, and his kiss on her cheek, while
she sobbed as if her heart would break.

“I will take any punishment, papa, so you’ll let me be your little
Lillie again. It has been so miserable.”

“My dear, I forgive you—you must not forget that there is some one
else whose pardon you must ask. You have displeased God no less than
me—and you are His baptized child, you know.”

Lillie hung her head, and her papa, kissing her again, left her to seek
that pardon, which she did seek humbly and with tears. Before she slept
she opened her heart to her teacher also, and received an assurance of
forgiveness.

“Never try to conceal anything, Lillie,” said Miss Lane; “your
punishment is sure to come sooner or later. Your sin will find you
out in some way. God allows not the slightest wrong-doing to pass
unpunished—and a hidden fault is like poison in the soul, blackening
and corrupting it. Little children can hide but little from those who
are older. I guessed much from your manner, and Sallie told me you and
Mary had been in my room, when I asked her if she knew anything of the
accident.”

“Then what _could_ you have thought of me, Miss Lane!”

“I was very much disappointed in you, my dear, I will tell you frankly.
I thought you incapable of concealment or deceit.”

“Oh, Miss Lane, I have been so unhappy. I wanted to tell you, but I was
afraid, and I really thought it very mean to go into your room without
permission.”

“But you listened to the tempter _twice_, my dear, and you see what
the consequences have been. If you had resisted the first time, it
would not have been so easy to fall the second. Every time we yield, we
lose one portion of strength, and by familiarity with sin, our horror
of it passes quickly away. There might come a time, my dear, when a
deceitful, disobedient action would not trouble your conscience at all.”

“Oh, Miss Lane! But, indeed, there are so many things to make me
naughty, and Jennie was so cross and overbearing that I _would_ go.”

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried
he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to
them that love Him,” was the answer, as Miss Lane, kissing the little
penitent, went out and left her with God.



CHAPTER VI.

  “The snow had begun in the gloaming,
     And busily all the night,
   Had been heaping field and highway
     With a silence deep and white.”


It was Saturday, the children’s holiday. Miss Lane was walking through
the glen towards the village, and looked at everything with pleasure.
The ground was covered with a light snow, and the trees wore a
sparkling coat of mail. It seemed as if a new earth had been created
during the night, so strange and beautiful was the aspect of the forest.

The air was soft and fresh, and quite still; the snow was like an
exquisitely pure carpet under her feet, and here and there, a branch,
laden with its weight of pearls, bent over the path.

It was more like a dream than anything real, for the trees wore a
foliage fairy-like in its delicacy, and a gray sky hung over the
whole. Sounds came muffled to her ears, and the brook was ice-bound.
Everything was so strangely, wonderfully beautiful, that her heart was
thrilled, and she was half afraid to think how very glad she was—how
very fair the world seemed. So, moving on quickly in the lightness of
her heart, pushing the snow with her feet, she came out of the long
avenue of crystal, and knocked at the cottage door.

“She was took bad in the night, ma’am,” was the step-mother’s reply to
her inquiries, and the awful nearness of death fell upon the marvellous
loveliness of the day, changing the bounding gladness of the lady’s
heart into a calm, quiet sadness, and leaving an impress of wonder and
fright on the hard face of the woman, as they stood in the presence of
that soul so near the borders of the silent land.

“She’s been lying just so for two hours, Miss. I can’t get her to open
her eyes or to speak. The doctor’s been here, and he says ’taint no
use; so he went away again.”

The perfectly white face of the child was upturned towards them, her
eyes were closed, and deep black circles enclosed them, sunken in
their sockets. The battle of life was almost over. The little gleam
of brighter days was about to broaden into the full sunlight of the
celestial abode, and a land of love was opening for the lonely heart.

“Phœbe, it is I, your friend, Miss Lane. Can you not speak to me?”

The heavy lids were lifted, and a ray from the dimming eyes rested
upon the lady’s face, as she leaned over the miserable bed, the tears
dropping silently.

“The doctor said he thought nothin’ wouldn’t rouse her, ma’am. She is
nearly gone, for sure;” and the step-mother lifted her apron to her
eyes.

The father, haggard from drink, yet with a certain expression of awe on
his face, too, came in and stood on the other side of the bed.

With great gentleness, Miss Lane administered a cordial, and soon the
deathlike look left Phœbe’s face a little. The fingers lying languidly
in her friend’s palm closed in a slight pressure, and her lips moved in
a whisper. The teacher put down her ear and caught the words, “The Holy
Communion—send for Mr. Payne.”

In a moment the step-mother was hastening for the man of God.

“Father,” said Phœbe again, speaking with much difficulty; and the
wretched man came nearer, so that his child’s eyes rested upon his
face. “I am going to leave you—oh, be ready to meet me; promise:”
and the solemn tones of her voice broke up the ice of wickedness and
hardness about the man’s heart, till he wept.

There was a great stillness in the room again, and it was only broken
by a low moan of pain from the dying child.

“Do you suffer, Phœbe?” asked Miss Lane.

“Oh yes, and it is dark—lonely.”

“Jesus is there, my dear; trust in Him.”

“I cannot see—oh, save me.”

“Our Saviour is waiting, Phœbe. He is near. Do not fear. Lift up your
heart unto the Lord.”

A light broke over her face, and the moaning ceased. She moved her hand
to her breast; and, lifting the sheet, Miss Lane saw lying there, the
little Prayer-book she had given her, with its faded heliotrope between
the leaves. The tears fell faster, and she kissed the poor, wasted
cheek of the girl.

“That makes me happy—” she murmured, with such a look of delight that
a great pang passed through the teacher’s heart, as she thought of how
little love had brightened the poor girl’s life, when one kiss was felt
amidst her suffering to be such a joy.

“I’ll remember it in Paradise—you have taught me the way there,” she
continued.

And now Mr. Payne came, and the solemn sacrament began. Kneeling round
the bed of that departing soul, the broken body and shed blood of
the Lord were received by chastened spirits—while “the peace which
passeth understanding” rested in the hearts of all.

It was over, and Phœbe lay on her pillow exhausted, but with a calm
mind, and an expression of perfect joy on her face. And now the end was
very near. For one, two hours, the soul wrestled with the body, and the
pain was hard to bear: but then a calmer time came, when she was free
from pain, and before sun-setting she fell asleep, or rather woke into
light and life.

Her friend smoothed back the soft hair, closed the eyes, took the
little Prayer-book from the dead hands, gave it to the humbled father
with a silent prayer, and reverently kissing the marble brow, went
softly home through the quiet woods, feeling as if she had been close
to heaven.

At the sun-setting, its brilliant rays illuminated all the trees and
shrubs till the forests were resplendent. The sky was blue, and a few
clouds floated near the horizon, tinted with a border of gold. In the
distance, the heaven and the woods seemed to meet; the clouds, the
millions of branches sparkling with diamonds, appeared—one might
conceive—like the gates at the entrance of Paradise, and shining upon
them was the splendor of the sun behind.

A soul had entered into rest, and God’s world, held in his hand, was
made all beautiful by the reflection of his glory. Suddenly, darkness
came, and the wonderful beauty faded away.



CHAPTER VII.


It was a dull gray morning, and it had been raining all night. Jennie
was very unwilling to get up—it was a daily trial to her—but this
morning it seemed absolutely impossible, she could not keep her eyes
open; and yet, half dozing as she was, she was uncomfortably conscious
that she was doing wrong.

Seven sounded from the clock—half past—and then she heard Miss Lane
and the children descending. She lay still, idly watching the drops as
they fell against the panes, trying to make up her mind that she did
not care for the disapproval of her own conscience nor for the reproof
which she was quite sure awaited her from Miss Lane. In fact, she was
indifferent to everything but the dreamy, lazy delight of lying there
and hearing the dripping of the rain drops. Presently, her charming
reverie was rudely disturbed by Lillie, who rushed into the room with
the command from Miss Lane that she should come down immediately.

A disrespectful answer rose to Jennie’s lips as the blood rushed over
her face. A month ago she would have uttered it, disregarding the
consequences; but she had learned a little, a very little, of the
meaning of self-control, from her teacher’s words and example; so she
kept her lips closed.

“You’d better come,” continued Lillie, “Miss Lane’s going to show us
about the Christmas things as soon as breakfast is over.”

“I don’t care,” murmured Jennie, shutting her eyes slowly.

“Very well then;” and Lillie went down stairs, in a state of great
indignation, to report to Miss Lane.

“Jennie says she don’t care, and is going to sleep again,” she
exclaimed, not without a little triumph at her own superior goodness
in her tone, and waiting to hear her teacher’s comment upon such
unprecedented conduct. But Lillie was disappointed; neither frown nor
flush changed the fairness of her face.

“Very well,” she said, in a quiet voice, looking at the child steadily,
showing that she read her thought, and calling a blush of consciousness
and shame to her cheek.

About an hour afterwards, Jennie, coming down, found some bread and
butter and a glass of milk on the dining-room table for her. She rang
the bell impatiently, and Sallie presently appeared.

“Sallie, I want some muffins. Did you save any for me?”

Sallie closed the door carefully, and coming near her, said in a half
whisper,

“Miss Lane said you were to have only this; but I saved you some hot
muffins and a piece of steak. I’ll bring ’em in.”

And she did so accordingly.

“I suppose,” exclaimed Jennie, her face in a blaze, “I’ll eat what I
please in my own father’s house. If she thinks she’s mistress here,
she’ll see she’s mistaken. Dear me!”

“And that is what she _does_ think. I declare I never see anything so
imposed upon as you all are. You have to come and go at her beck. I
wouldn’t stand it,” answered Sallie.

“You must not speak so!” said Jennie, rebukingly, recalled somewhat to
her senses by the servant’s words; and Sallie retreated abashed.

Jennie buttered a muffin and put a piece of the steak upon her plate.
She was quite hungry; the steaming viand increased her appetite, but
could not quiet her thoughts.

“I am doing wrong, wrong, wrong,” kept floating in her mind. She leaned
her head on her hand. “I have made a bad beginning, the day will go
wrong. I hate to give up—but this is mean—and Miss Lane has never
done a harsh or unkind thing to me since she came here. It is deceitful
to take these things when she cannot see me. But then, what right has
she——” her face flushed for a moment, but strangely enough, these
words, “Submit yourselves to all your governors, teachers, spiritual
pastors and masters,” occurred to her at that instant, and all doubt as
to her duty in the matter was cleared away.

Pride still remained to be conquered.

“She need not think I am afraid of her, either, though she does think
her word is law. I would have this if I wanted it—but I know it is
wrong; it is not Miss Lane that I care for.”

She put away the tempting breakfast, and ate her bread and butter
quickly, and when Sallie came in, said shortly and with averted face,
“I did not eat those things because it was not right. I ought to have
been up in time. It was wicked in you to try to cheat Miss Lane,
though,”—seeing Sallie’s face of mortification—“I suppose you meant
to be kind to me.” And Jennie walked up to her own room, angry with
herself, Miss Lane, and Sallie, yet with an uncomfortable sense of
having been most deserving of blame.

Only the evening before she had promised herself that it should be
such a pleasant day. Miss Lane had intended to teach her and Lillie to
knit. They were each to make a pair of stockings for a poor little girl
in the village, and had looked forward with intense delight to the time
for commencing them.

This little child, Alice Ross, had lost her father; and her mother, who
was a poor woman in every way, having very delicate health, found it
difficult to keep her daughter and herself from starving, and worked
all day long with her sore heart to keep the wolf from the door.

Alice’s pale, sorrowful face was sad to see, and she came shivering
to Sunday school in her thin dress, with her little bare hands stiff
and red from the cold, and sat silent and dejected among the bright,
childish faces around her, and often wiping scalding tears from her
hollow cheeks.

Such a pitiful thing it was to see this little one, in the beginning
of life, bearing a burden so heavy for her weak shoulders, that the
children’s tender hearts ached for her, and they poured out their
compassion into the ears of their sympathizing friend.

“Papa has plenty of money,” said Rosie, “he might buy things for
Alice’s mamma.” And when “papa” came home, the eager sprites surrounded
him with designs upon his purse, and entreaties for charity to Mrs.
Ross.

“Well, I’ll give you money. I’ll help her. Miss Lane shall tell us what
she needs—on one condition.”

They were eager for the “condition;” of course, _they_ would do
anything.

“That you deny yourselves enough to pay me for what I give.”

“Of course; but what can we do without, papa? We have everything——”
They were rather disappointed for the moment that he had not given them
something _great_ to do—some extraordinary self-sacrifice to perform.

“We _must_ have dresses and shoes and stockings, and we can’t do
without cloaks, unless we stay in the house all the time—and that
would not be right, because we must go to church,” mused Rosie. It was
such a novelty to all, that they seemed in great glee, and Jennie began
to feel exceedingly virtuous immediately.

“We might sell our skates,” exclaimed Lillie, looking up brightly, but
Frank cried out against “taking away all their fun.”

“You must be willing to give up some ‘fun,’ Frank; but I want you to
keep your skates. Exercise is good and healthful,” said his papa.
“But if you don’t give up something you like, it will not be denying
yourself; don’t you see?”

Frank hung his head.

“I’ll tell you all, to-morrow morning, what you can do. You must say
good night now, and think about it seriously. Because God has been
very good to you, my dears, in giving you all you desire, you must be
willing to share with others, even at the sacrifice of some of your
pleasures. It is not good for us to have _all_ we wish, and I will see
how my little ones bear doing without some gratification for the sake
of doing good.”

And so they went to bed, full of curiosity, though without much
comprehending the real meaning of their father’s words. But when the
morning came, each child was about his chair at his early breakfast.

“What early birds you are! What brought you down stairs at such an
hour? Isn’t this the first time you have seen the sun rise this year?”

He glanced smilingly at Miss Lane, who appeared in the back ground,
looking over the glossy heads of Frank and brown Rosie.

“I must confess, _I_ was curious, too, and hearing the commotion, I
followed to learn the mystery.”

“Now, ‘brown Rosie,’ how much do you suppose you thought of it all last
night? The sand-man had arrived when you kissed me—did he wait till
you put your head on the pillow?”

“I _did_ think of it, papa,” said the little one, putting her head on
one side, like a bird; “and,” she continued in a low tone, so that only
her father could hear, “I asked God about it.”

“Bless you! my love,” he exclaimed, pressing the soft face close to him.

“We _can’t_ think what it can be,” cried Jennie, in much impatience.
“Oh, do, papa, tell us quickly.”

“Well, my dears,”—a profound silence reigned, four little hearts beat
quickly. “Last year your Christmas tree and the presents on it cost me
sixty dollars.” A shadow gathered over more than one face. “This is
such a sad time for so many, and we must do with less ourselves to help
them. If you are willing to do without your presents this year, Alice’s
mother shall have the money.”

Lillie sighed, Frank made a wry face, and Jennie could not quite help
the exclamation:

“Oh, my bracelet!” but little Rosie’s brown eyes remained quite bright,
and she stroked her father’s cheek contentedly.

“Well, my dears, what do you say?”

“Oh, papa, you could not think us so cruel; of course we are willing,”
the three cried in a breath. “We did not think of _that_, you know,
and so it can’t help being a disappointment just at first.”

“Anything would be better than that, papa,” ventured Frank. “It will be
so dull—and then, no Christmas presents. Why, who ever heard of such a
thing?”

“Little Alice, I dare say,” his father replied; “I imagine she has
never had a present in her life.”

Frank seemed amazed at the idea. His imagination had never fathomed the
depth of such misery.

“But,” continued his papa, “you can sell Robin, or your watch, or your
gun.”

“Oh, papa, Robin! And, you see, I’m so used to the watch—and my gun,
why, just think, I couldn’t stand seeing the ducks on the lake with
nothing to shoot at them.”

“Well, my boy, Alice has no stockings, and Mrs. Ross no wood—just
think of this room without a fire this morning!”

“I know it, it is all right, papa—I’m agreed!” cried Frank, abruptly,
leaving the room.

“Very well, then, here’s the purse. I’ll put it into Miss Lane’s
hands—she’ll be prudent. Are you satisfied, Kitten?” pulling Rosie’s
ears.

“Yes, papa, for I thought you might want Dolly, and you know I love
Dolly—that would have been sad.”

“I think we must manage a dolly for little Alice, too, Miss Lane,” said
Mr. Graham.

Rosie started a little anxiously. A look of perplexity puckered her
smooth forehead, and all day she moved about in an unusually thoughtful
manner. Towards evening, as Miss Lane was going to her own room to get
her bonnet and cloak, before setting out for Mrs. Ross’s dwelling, in
order to make inquiries into her necessities, she heard a little voice
talking in the nursery, and going to the door, peeped in. Rosie sat on
the floor, with her little bureau of doll’s clothing before her. She
had the precious plaything in her arm, and was soothing it with gentle
words.

“Now you must not cry, for I shall come to see you sometimes, and I
hope Alice will be good to you. But, you know, she never had a dolly,
nor a present in all her life—just think how dreadful, and her papa’s
gone, and they have no wood to make a fire: so you must comfort Alice,
for she must be very unhappy. I am sure I love you very much, better
than anything I have, and that is the reason I give you away. You have
made me so happy that I think you’ll make Alice happy too, and then she
won’t cry when she comes to Sunday school any more. It makes me so sad
to see her.”

The tears were in Rosie’s eyes, her lip was quivering. Her sacrifice
was greater than that of all the rest. Miss Lane stole away on tip-toe,
much touched. When she was ready to go, a timid voice begged leave to
accompany her, and the little girl carried her treasure in silence to
the poor child, whose face lighted with such joy on seeing it, that
content came into Rosie’s face immediately; so that, though her voice
trembled, she smiled in begging Alice to “take good care of it,” and
trotted home briskly and happily.

It was the very next day that Lillie and Jennie were to begin the
stockings for Alice, and Lillie, knitting-needle in hand, was trying
patiently to follow Miss Lane’s directions about the beginning, while
Jennie sat sullenly looking out of the window, wishing she had no stain
on her conscience to make her ashamed of going into the parlor with the
rest.



CHAPTER VIII.


“Jennie,” called a full, clear voice twice before there was any answer.
At the second summons Jennie slowly opened the door, and saw Miss
Lane waiting at the foot of the stairs. “Get your work-box, thimble,
and scissors, and come down stairs. I want you and Lillie to make a
knitting-bag before you begin the stockings.”

“Yes, I will,” answered Jennie, glad that the first trouble, the
meeting with her teacher, was over.

Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed. Miss Lane was about to despatch a
messenger for her, when the door opened, and a discontented, frowning
face appeared. The work-box was dashed upon the sofa, and Jennie
exclaimed angrily,

“I don’t want to sew—I have been hunting and hunting for my
scissors—somebody’s always meddling with my things—and now, when I
found those, I can’t find my thimble. I wish—” she cried, turning
passionately upon her sisters, “I wish you’d stay out of my room. You
have no business there—you know it.”

There was a sob in her voice. Lillie’s color rose violently, while
Rosie looked grieved and frightened. The former opened her lips to
retort, but at a sign from Miss Lane, restrained herself.

“Take your work-box and go up stairs, Jennie,” said Miss Lane, quietly.

The young girl started in a sort of amazement, and looked into her
teacher’s face. She had not the slightest intention of obeying her,
and felt in a whirl of anger at being ordered about so like a child;
but the clear, steady eye met hers unwaveringly, not the faintest
tinge of color dyed the smooth cheek. There was power there not to be
resisted—and before that quiet _will_ she bowed.

Taking her box in her hand, she obeyed, as a matter of course, and
went to her room again, in loneliness. She lay down on the bed and
sobbed. Oh! how everything darkened around her! How far off now lay the
beautiful, new life of which she had been dreaming! That fair, clean
white leaf which she had promised herself should have no stain, was
soiled already; and the sun was shining on a day begun without prayer,
without a thought of God, and the clouds of idleness, disobedience, and
anger, were rising to dim it all.

Only yesterday, everything had seemed so bright—only yesterday, Jennie
had resolved to give herself to God entirely, had felt a waking up to
work in His cause, and promised that at Easter she would be confirmed.
But now, how fearfully she had failed! It was always so! she could not
keep her resolutions, there was no use in trying—she knew it would
never be any better.

All her life long she would have that struggle about getting up in the
morning, and she so disliked that same dull, every-day work. If it
were only right to do just what one pleased! A wild, thrilling wish
filled her heart that it were so, and for an instant, the chains that
conscience and a sense of duty cast around her, seemed too galling to
be borne. Sad, discouraged, and restless, she tossed from side to side
of the bed, making herself more miserable by indulging in her sinful
thoughts.

Presently a hand touched her cheek, and Miss Lane said: “Come, Jennie,
get up; brush your hair, and I will help you to find your thimble—the
day is passing away.”

Mechanically she obeyed, bathing her face and hands, smoothing her
hair, and feeling more cheerful for the pleasant smile beaming upon her
all the time.

“When had you your thimble last?”

“Yesterday, I believe. I was braiding a little at papa’s slipper; but I
don’t know where I left my work.”

“Where were you working?”

“Let me see.” She paused to think a minute. “I was sitting on the
window-seat in the library. I must have left it there.”

“We’ll go down and look. Have you no place for keeping your things?”

“I have that basket for larger things, but that was not down stairs. It
takes so much time to run about, putting things away.”

“Do you think it would have taken as much as it has done to hunt the
thimble this morning?”

“I never thought of that! So it does,” exclaimed Jennie, flushing into
animation at the discovery.

“Besides,” continued Miss Lane, “did it never occur to you that it was
sinful to be careless, even in little things?”

The look of weariness returned to her face.

“Miss Lane, I _can’t_ do right, there is no use in trying! I do think
I’ll try, but it never lasts.”

“May-be, you think you can do it without help, my dear?”

“I did not think of praying about such a little thing,” she answered,
in a low tone, her face flushing.

“Little things make great things, my dear. Our lives are made up
of little things. Constant, little vexations are harder to bear in
patience than some great grief. If we want God’s help in our life, we
must ask it for little things, because great things may happen only
once in a life-time, and the little trials are of hourly occurrence.
Which was harder to bear—giving up your Christmas tree, or the
vexation about your thimble?”

“About the thimble,” answered Jennie immediately.

In the mean time they had reached the library. On the floor lay a
beautifully bound and illustrated copy of Percy’s “Reliques”, with the
print of Tan’s paws on its open leaves; and among tangled braids and
silk lay the torn, soiled, half-finished slipper. Miss Lane gathered
all up in silence, and continued the search for the thimble without a
word.

“You see,” said Jennie, thoughtfully, standing in the middle of the
room, with her head on one side, “I was sewing here, and I was in
great haste to get done. Rosie came in and wanted me to read her ‘The
Children in the Wood.’ So I got up there to reach the book—you see,
there is just where it was on the shelf—and then, I don’t remember
anything more about the thimble. I did not sew again, and when it was
too dark to read I forgot all about the slippers and book, too—because
you were playing a favorite piece in the parlor.”

“I wonder what your papa would say to those mud stains on his
‘Reliques?’ You must have left the book on the floor, and Tan trod on
it. If it were my book, I should not value it after it had been so
defaced.”

“Oh!” answered Jennie, carelessly, “he can easily get another one.”

“You can buy more material for the slippers, and another thimble, too;
but don’t you know that the money for those things would buy Mrs. Ross
a cloak, or pay for the splitting of all her winter’s wood? The book
must have been an expensive one, and your thimble was gold.”

“I never thought of it in that light,” said Jennie, slowly. “Then I
suppose we ought to be careful, even if we have everything we want.”

“Certainly, we have to account for the way in which we spend or waste
money, as well as time.”

Jennie looked up in dismay.

“Oh! Miss Lane, what an array there will be against us at the time of
reckoning. So many things I have done wrong, though the day is not half
done!”

“You began wrong in the first place!”

“I know it, and I meant to do all right. I don’t believe there is much
use in trying;” and she sat down despondently.

“I have not seen you try yet. You yield at the slightest temptation.”

The tears sprang to Jennie’s eyes; she seemed much grieved.

“You are not to have the victory without a battle, my child; not to
wear the crown unless you have run for it. And it seems to me that you
make resolutions in a fit of enthusiasm, thinking _that_ the only thing
to be done, whereas it is only the beginning. Have you really tried not
to be careless? Have you really prayed for God to help you to conquer
that fault?”

“No,” she answered slowly, “it never seemed so serious before. I did
not think of its being a sin.”

“Don’t you see it now?”

“Yes, but you must show me. I don’t know how to begin. I wish I had
some rules to follow that I dare not break.”

“You have a rule. God’s laws must not be broken wilfully. I cannot give
you rules more binding.”

“Well, I should like to be as careful and as neat as you are; but how
am I to learn?”

“Put your things in order, and keep them so. There is nothing easier.
Then you never have any hunting to do—and thus your temper is not
excited so often. I suppose we might as well give up the search for the
thimble, it does not come to light. I have no doubt that Tan chewed it
up. I’ll go up to your room and help you put your things in order, so
that you may make a beginning. Come.”

“I am so sorry about the thimble. Do you know, it is almost the last
thing mamma gave me of her own? I dropped her ring in the orchard, and
Frank trod on her pearl pin. I had it in my scarf, and left it on the
hall table one day. Tan pulled it on the floor, and Frank crushed it
with his boot. And now the thimble has gone. Lillie has all her things
safe, and Mrs. Hill keeps Rosie’s for her. Oh, I’m _so_ sorry!”

“Well, there is no use in regretting it now—or rather—I hope it will
do you good. I thought you loved your mamma.”

“Oh, Miss Lane!”

“Well, my dear, you do not seem to care for anything she has given you.
I should think you would cherish everything she has touched. It shocks
me to think of your allowing her gifts to lie about the floor.”

Jennie’s tears flowed fast as they walked up stairs together.

“This is the way I keep my drawers,” said Miss Lane, opening one after
another, and exhibiting piles of neatly folded handkerchiefs, snowy
collars and cuffs, stockings rolled up compactly, and dainty garments
with sprigs of lavender between.

“Oh, how beautiful! It is a pleasure to look at them. Mine are so
different,” cried Jennie, as she looked.

“Here is my work-basket. Here are the cases for my thimble, for my
spools, and for my scissors. Here is my needle-book, too, and in this
bag are silks wound upon ivory winders. I keep this long silk bag with
the shallow basket in the bottom for my knitting, and I must tell you
that I never lose anything. Shall we go now into your room awhile and
make an examination?”

“I am ashamed that you should see my things. I always _stuff_ them in.
It takes so long to put them away particularly.”

“We agreed a little while ago that time was saved by being careful,
you know. I think you must confess that most of your morning has been
wasted in hunting what would not have taken you twenty minutes to put
away properly.”

In the top drawer of Jennie’s bureau were a comb and brush, one shoe
and a slipper, a Prayer-book, several pairs of gloves, a heap of
stockings, one dumb-bell, a pair of _graces_, and a half eaten apple.
In the second, among a pile of incongruous articles, was an overturned
work-basket, with all the silks and cotton in a snarl, and, one by one,
Miss Lane placed various pieces of unfinished work on a chair by her
side. The first was a slipper partly embroidered.

“I began that for papa’s birthday, but I did not like the pattern—so I
bought the others,” explained Jennie, as it came to light.

“Those were mats for mamma’s cologne bottles: but I lost my crochet
needle, and could not finish them,” she continued, as a crimson
worsted mat, minus the border, appeared.

“That was a purse I was knitting for Mrs. Hill: but just look at the
silk—it is one knot; so I had to give it up.

“That was a drawing I promised to do for Dr. Sprague; but I got
so tired of all that shading—and I don’t care to finish that
embroidery—it is out of fashion, you know.

“That is a story I commenced; but I spilt ink on the last pages, and it
soaked through the bottom of my drawer, and stained my white dress till
it is totally ruined. Here it is. I can never wear it again. Wasn’t it
provoking?”

After much work the drawers were reduced to order, the gloves matched,
excepting two which remained unmated, the work-box righted, and all
soiled, rumpled articles removed. Jennie surveyed the whole with much
pleasure, and felt as if nothing could induce her to allow chaos to
prevail again.

“All you have to do now, Jennie, is to remember that, after using a
thing, you must put it into the place from which you took it, and
then it is always there.” Touching the pile of things on the chair,
she continued: “Here you have a lesson. I don’t know that I need say
anything. You see all that begun and never ended. Is your life to be
incomplete, full of plans given up almost as soon as formed,—like
that, with all the threads broken, tangled—no harmony in it—no use
in it—no work in it? Are you going to fritter away all your energy in
devotion to an object for an hour or a day, only to lay it aside after
the first novelty has passed, and a new interest takes its place? Are
you going to fade away from the world without having done anything in
it? Did you ever finish one thing?”

Jennie could think of nothing—not one thing. Drawing, music, French,
German, Italian, all sorts of fancy work, visiting the poor, being
constant in her attendance at church, zealous in good works, had
all been tried successively, and dropped before anything had been
accomplished, any habit formed, so that Jennie, with excellent
opportunities, was really not so well-informed as many girls of her age.

In her desultory reading, she had gathered a mixture of facts and
fiction, till her brain was in as much confusion as her bureau. She
could not converse five minutes in French without a mistake, though she
could skim over a French story and manage to get the substance of its
contents in a very short time indeed. Though passionately devoted to
music she could scarcely play a single piece through correctly. When
the drudgery came, Jennie’s interest flagged. She exhibited much taste
and talent in drawing, but her lack of application had prevented her
from making any progress, and half-finished sketches littered her table
and writing desk.

Her teacher’s words awoke her thoughts. She saw herself as she was,
dreaming, impractical, useless, with her mind undisciplined, full of
weeds like a neglected garden, which, no matter how beautiful in the
beginning, cannot thrive without care and cultivation. She recalled
her mother’s many warnings against this her besetting sin, which she
had allowed to pass unheeded, because it had never been shown to her
clearly before; but there lay the proofs of her folly and wrong-doing,
and on her soul were wrecks of broken promises and resolutions, duties
forgotten, prayers hurriedly said or omitted altogether.

A great fear and dread possessed her. Must it always be so? And at the
great Day, must she be weighed in the balances and found wanting? Oh,
if she could but change it all! But she _had_ tried again and again.
This trying was like the rest; her enthusiasm died away and she gave
it up. Miss Lane said nothing—she was putting the unfinished articles
into a large empty basket. At last Jennie broke the silence.

“Miss Lane, I am going; to try again. Will you help me? Please make
rules for me. Please tell me what I am to do.”

“First, you must expect to do nothing without God’s help: for that you
must ask: to ask it, you must rise earlier, so as to have the time.
Never begin the day without prayer: your life, without that, is like
a boat rudderless upon the broad ocean. Never do anything upon which
you cannot ask God’s blessing. Finish what you undertake, no matter how
great your disgust may be before it is ended. And do but _one_ thing at
a time.”

“I will try. Then I shall finish Alice’s stockings and burn all these
things so as to begin anew.”

“No, Jennie, you must not burn them: you surely cannot meditate such a
sinful waste.”

“But, Miss Lane,” she exclaimed, comprehending with a flash of dismay
her teacher’s meaning, “you cannot expect me to finish all those
things now. Why, I hate the sight of them. I could never untangle that
silk, and the worsted is all to wind. I have another pair of slippers,
too, down stairs—those that Tan tore: and I promised Dr. Sprague the
drawing a year ago—I should be ashamed to give it to him now.”

“It is time you were telling the truth about it, Jennie. You
promised—did you not?”

“Yes.”

“There has been nothing to prevent your doing it, excepting your
distaste for finishing your work, has there?”

“No.”

“Then, my dear, it seems to me, there is but one thing to be done; you
want to bring a clear conscience into your new life. Can’t you see your
duty plainly in this case?”

“Yes, I do. Well,—” with a grimace, “I suppose it must be done. Oh,
dear, it is not going to be easy at all! I shall be glad to get that
Bristol board out of my sight—it is a torture every time I see it.”

“I think you are old enough to know that it would be wrong to finish
any one of these things in such haste as not to do it well, Jennie?”

“Yes,” she answered, alarmed at seeing how Miss Lane took it for
granted that all must be done. “But, indeed, I shall have no time for
Christmas things—and I did _so_ want to knit Alice’s stockings.”

“I know it is a great trial; but you must begin right; and the
lesson will have no effect if you get off so easily. I leave it to
yourself—you may do as you think best. I should not hesitate if it
were myself—the duty is so plain.”

Miss Lane walked out of the room, and Jennie, taking the basket on her
lap, sat down, to think intently. In a few minutes she rose, read the
morning lessons, said her prayers, and, going to the library, searched
perseveringly till she found her thimble. It was on the top shelf,
where she had left it in taking down the “Reliques.” Then setting
herself to work at her drawing, she became so interested that the
dinner-bell startled her quite unpleasantly, and she saw with a thrill
that much towards beginning her new life had been done.



CHAPTER IX.


The sun had gone down; the gay, busy voices of the children were hushed
as twilight came on. Jennie put down her silk, which she was patiently
trying to untangle. Lillie laid aside her stocking, and Rosie crept
to Miss Lane, putting her brown head on the lady’s knee, while Frank
stretched himself with Tan on the rug before the crackling fire.

The wind whistled and howled and moaned, the sky was gray and wintry;
but within doors everything was comfortable and nice.

“It is just the time for a story!” suggested Lillie, slyly, and—“Oh,
please do,” began Rosie, while Frank and Jennie started forward eagerly.

“I think I have nearly exhausted myself: it would really be a
difficult matter to get up a story now, I have told you so many.”

“Oh! tell us one about yourself—something about you when you were a
little girl,” exclaimed Rosie.

“Well, I will tell you about something that happened to me once. I
cannot promise that it will be very interesting, but it is all true.
My mother died when I was only a little baby, and I had always been
with my father. He took the care of me that usually falls to a mother’s
share. I was very fond of him, indeed, and he called me his ‘Joy.’
He gave me a great many beautiful things, and taught me every day. I
never played with other children, because I scarcely ever saw any, and
did not go to school. I think I shall never forget our long evenings
together, when sometimes we sat for hours without speaking, and papa
only roused himself when the light began to grow dim.

“I was timid, and used to be very much afraid of going through the long
hall alone to my own room, but I never told papa of it, and kept up my
courage by feeling that God was around me always.

“It was a lonesome old house, too, with heavy, trailing vines covering
the long porch and darkening the lower windows. We seldom entered the
parlor; it was a dark room, with rich, thick carpet, and old, heavy
furniture, and between the two front windows was an immense mirror,
which always showed me my demure, frightened little figure, the first
thing when the door was opened.

“There were dark, curiously shaped vases on the tables, and over the
mantelpiece hung my mother’s portrait. I used to stand in awe of that,
though the face was a young and laughing one, but the bright, dark
eyes seemed to follow me wherever I moved, and the half-opened lips
seemed ever going to speak. I used to have such a longing to hear one
word from those lips. I could remember nothing of my mother, and papa
never mentioned her name. It was only when I went to my aunt’s that I
learned the manner of her death even, and I was ever yearning, with
the curiosity of childish love, to know something of her.

“In papa’s room there was a casket of letters, and another of jewels,
and under a glass case were kept a crimson riding cap, with a long
black feather, and a pretty silver-handled whip, with a pair of tiny
gloves, which they told me had once been my mother’s; but he never
spoke to me of them.

“I think I was very happy then, too, though they declared I was
unnaturally quiet and moping. In the summer time I gathered flowers,
and papa told me marvellous stories of their meaning and form, until
the frailest anemone seemed to me like some wonderful, beautiful
friend, and I could find the modest, smiling faces of the very earliest
violets, and purple and pink-tinged hepaticas under the green, graceful
lady ferns, or among the moss that covered the rocks in the glen.

“There was a certain mysterious, dear, delightful garret, too, with
its store of enchantment for rainy days, in the shape of old chests
filled with various wonders,—such as worn, but most charming books
and magazines, and curious old pictures, while others held dresses,
antiquated cloaks, bonnets, and shoes, and many a beautiful thing gone
out of fashion long ago.

“Many an hour I sat there, oblivious of dinner, absorbed in some
entrancing book, or speculating about the wearers of these cast off
garments, until the shadows of evening warned me that papa must be
waiting for me down stairs.

“But I had certain warm, living friends there, about which I must not
forget to tell you. At the head of the stairs, behind the chimney,
there was a hollow log, in which some little, brown birds made a nest
every year. There was a little round hole in the side of the house,
which served them for a door, and they came flitting in and out there
many times in the day. I used to be in a state of great excitement from
the time of their spring house-cleaning till the first egg was laid,
and was a shy, silent, but frequent visitor while the lady-mother was
sitting.

“I think she must have learned to know me very well, for after a while
she scarcely stirred when I approached, and used to turn her cunning,
black eyes upon me, with her little head on one side by way of welcome.
I should have clapped my hands the first time this happened, had I not
been afraid of startling her, as she had such quiet ways; but nothing
could restrain the expression of my perfect delight when the wee,
helpless, open-mouthed birdies appeared. Then I shouted till papa came
in amazement to see what was the matter, and even sober Allie and James
hastened out of the kitchen to see what it all meant.

“But the first time I put my hand, all trembling with eagerness, into
the warm nest, and took out a soft, round, brown creature, scarcely
daring to kiss the pretty head, and putting it back in all haste, lest
it should be hurt, such a thrill of love and ecstasy passed over me
that it was almost painful to bear.

“So these tiny, twittering elves grew so near and dear to me, that
when the time came for them to fly away, I used to feel sadly lonely
and forlorn for many days. And when spring came, I mounted the garret
stairs daily, in expectation of their return.

“Then there was my music. Papa brought the piano out of the gloomy
parlor and put it into his own pleasant study, and there he taught me
to play. So it was an ever new pleasure to sit before it hour after
hour, playing whatever suited my fancy.

“We had an Æolian harp, too, in my own little window; and I used to
gather roses, white and crimson, by putting my hand out through that
window.

“Papa taught me to keep my room in perfect order. He was very
particular, and could not tolerate dust or confusion. I soon became
so very precise that Allie used to shake her head and declare I was
born for an old maid. When I came to be with other children, I found
that this being so _set_, as she called it, in my own ways, was rather
inconvenient, and it was a hard lesson to learn that I must give up my
cherished plans, for others’ pleasure, till I saw how selfish it was to
persist in my own ways—orderly, systematic, and right as they were,
in one sense—without any regard to the wishes or inclinations of any
one around me. It has taken me many long years to _unlearn_ some things
which my isolated child life taught me, and the lesson has been a very
hard one.”

Miss Lane was silent a moment, and the children heard her sigh. But she
proceeded:

“So the summer and winter days went on, and papa began to walk feebly
and to look pale: he coughed, too, and ceased to run and play with me
as he had formerly done; and once or twice Dr. Lee came to see him. I
knew nothing of sickness, and death seemed like something far off in
the future, that had come to my mother, I knew, but I fancied it could
not approach papa or me. The years that stretched far before me, seemed
unending, and I had never dreamed of a life without papa. He was as my
life. Never for one day had I been out of his sight: he seemed a part
of me.

“It came upon me very suddenly, that I might lose my dear father. I was
sitting in the library one afternoon, partly hidden by the curtain of
the window, reading; and I had been quiet so long that, I suppose, papa
had forgotten I was in the room. I remember it all quite as well as if
it had been yesterday. Dr. Lee came in, and he and papa began to talk.
I did not quite understand at first; but when Dr. Lee said:

“‘You’ll never get well—there’s no physician on earth can cure you;
but you may prolong your life by going abroad,’ it all came upon me. My
heart seemed to stand still. I peeped out, panting, from my screen, and
saw the dear, mild face, with the settled paleness and gravity on its
features which I had ever seen there, the tall figure a little bent,
the beautiful hair growing gray about the temples; and, as the doctor
spoke, his hollow cough began to sound through the room: and then I
knew he must leave me! The word of doom had gone forth.

“I rushed from the room, I ran up stairs, thinking only to hide myself
from the sunshine and from everything. Oh! my dear, dear father—how
could I bear it? I lay on the floor in agony, sobbing and thinking
God _would_ not leave me so alone, till I grew quiet from the very
intensity of my suffering; and when I lifted my head, throbbing
with pain, the darkness was resting upon the room, and shadows were
flickering on the wall.

“I half fancied I must have been asleep, and it was all a horrible
dream: but in a moment, the anguish and heartache returned, and,
fleeing as if from some awful presence of grief, I sped down stairs
again. I reached the door and put my hand upon the knob. But my heart
failed me—I could not open it. I heard a step—a slow, feeble step. A
thrill of piercing sorrow made me shudder—for how long was I to hear
that step?—and then I opened the door.

“Papa turned round, and I stood quite still. He saw my face and my
tears, I suppose, for he stopped and held out his hands—and, in a
moment, I threw myself on his breast, only able to cry as if my soul
were leaving my body,

“‘Oh, papa, papa, papa!’

“‘Poor, poor Mary,’ he said, smoothing my hair, and pressing me tightly
in his arms, and kissing my cheek till I grew quiet. I looked up at
last—he was there with me—I held his hand, his eyes were just as
kind—he was alive—he spoke to me, my great love must keep him—I put
my arms round him as if I would _never_ let him go—and resolved to die
when he died—never, never to loose myself from him. Surely, surely, I
could keep him, I thought. God must know how dreary the world would be
to me without him.

“Papa was so calm that I began to lose my fear at last, and to think it
was not true; when, as I lifted my face to kiss him, there dropped on
my cheeks two bitter, awful, _man’s_ tears. I shrank back affrighted.
I bit my lips to keep from screaming. I clasped my father as if I must
grow to him, and began to gasp and sob as if my heart was broken.
Those tears touched me, I have no words to tell how much.

“‘Papa, I cannot bear it—I cannot have it so!’ I cried.

“‘Don’t, my daughter, don’t say so. It is God’s doing.’

“‘Oh! papa!’

“‘It will not be long, my child, that you must be alone!’

“‘But I cannot, cannot live without you—you must not die.’

“‘You have God, my child. It grieves me to hear you speak so.’

“‘But, papa, I cannot see God—He is not near.’

“‘Oh, Mary, He _is_ near, He is about you, He will care for you.’

“I moaned myself to sleep—and woke in the night with a great cry—for
I had dreamed that my father was gone. But he was near to soothe me,
and from that time till our parting, kept me with him, day and night.

“And so there began to be this shadow over my life. It hid the
brightness of the fairest day from my eyes, and came between me and all
childish enjoyment. When papa played, I wept because it was so soon to
be that I could listen no longer, and his laugh sounded hollow, while
my own always ended in a sob. As the time passed, he tried to teach
me to receive the blow in meekness, as coming from the hand of the
All-Father; and it makes me happy to remember that his own faith and
trust in God never wavered.

“So, after a while, I came to think of this life as but a short one
at best, and to look forward to the one in which we could be together
forever. At these times, he spoke of my mother, and I began to know
more of her, and to understand better his joy at the prospect of seeing
her again. By the time the winter had worn away and spring had come,
when I was counting the days, one by one, which we had together, I
had learned, at last, to bear in patience, and did not grieve him by
violent outbreaks of sorrow.

“In May, he was to go to Italy. It was not likely I should ever see
him again, though if I had allowed myself to feel that fully, I could
not have borne it all as I did. He thought it best for me to remain
in America; indeed, it was impossible for me to go with him—though I
poured out my heart in entreaties to be allowed to do so. I am always
sorry when I think of my undisciplined spirit—my unwillingness to
submit at this time; it added to papa’s grief, and he wore himself out
in trying to show me the _good_ in it all, which seemed so hard for me
to see.

“Dr. Lee had told him that to go abroad was the sole chance of adding
to his days, and he thought it his duty to cherish the boon of life as
long as possible; or else, I believe nothing would have induced him
to leave me. I was to stay with aunt Marion Bell, my mamma’s sister,
whom I had never seen; but the prospect of cousins for companions, and
a pony to ride—of a free, fresh country life did not rouse me in the
least from my sadness.

“At last it was all over, and he was gone. He had kissed me again and
again, had bidden ‘God bless me!’ and torn himself away. It was very
dreadful.”

Miss Lane paused, while each of her little hearers remembered the
parting of a year ago, when their dear mother went away.

“But all the time,” she then resumed, “I kept in my mind these last
words of my father: ‘Be patient, my child, be patient always;’ and that
helped the time to pass away.

“At first, I used to wake with the heavy weight of sorrow upon me,
morning after morning, and sit apart, pale and sad, with the tears
starting at the slightest word—and was no doubt an object of wonder
to my merry, boisterous cousins, who looked on me from wide open eyes,
with wondering glances, scarcely ever approaching me or speaking to me.

“But by and by, I began to look out of my corner with some interest
upon this new scene, though as yet I was not an actor in it—and
I had made up my mind not to _live_, only to _wait_ till papa
returned—thinking all those around me, with their ways so different
from his, unworthy of much notice; and as for affection, it had never
even occurred to me that there was enough room in my heart for any body
but my idol.

“There was my grandmother, an old lady, with the daintiest of caps,
and hair as shining white as silver. She always wore a black dress,
with the whitest of inside handkerchiefs fastened by a beautiful
old-fashioned pin of seed pearls, and on her finger glittered a diamond
ring that dazzled my eyes. Those white unwrinkled hands used to be
busied with most delicate work, or with her Bible and Prayer-Book,
which lay always on a table by her side.

“I stayed by her side mostly, and she lavished tender words and
caresses upon me: these made me sad, because they reminded me of papa;
but I was attracted by something in her face that made me think of
mamma’s picture, and so I studied her features with eager, wondering
eyes. One day, while I had been watching her intently, I suddenly
exclaimed:

“‘Grandmamma, tell me something about mamma—you are so like her
picture.’

“Aunt Marion, who was sitting upon the sofa opposite to me, gave me a
quick glance, frowned, and shook her head; then, getting up, said:

“‘Mary, please run and get my thimble out of my work-basket—it is
lying out on the piazza.’

“I ran and brought the thimble. What was this about my mother? Was I
never to know? My face flushed hot, my heart began to beat fast and
loud. My father—oh, my father! Alone, alone—the world seemed so empty
and hard and cold. I suppose grandmamma noticed my loneliness and
sadness, for one day she said to me:

“‘Why don’t you play with your cousins?’

“‘I don’t care to play—they are so rough.’

“‘But, Mary, don’t you know your father wished you to be well and
strong by the time he came back?’

“‘Yes, ma’am.’

“‘You will not become so by moping in this melancholy way. My dear, I
think you take but a poor way of showing your affection for your dear
papa.’

“‘But, grandmamma, I’m quite sure I never can be happy without him;
there is no use in trying. The time will seem so long before he comes
back.’

“‘My dear, I know how much you love him; but I must say to you that
you may have to spend the rest of your life without him; and do you
think that he—that God would be satisfied if it should be passed in
grieving?’

“‘Oh! grandmamma, it cannot be so!’

“‘My child, you must be patient and take what comes. God afflicts us
all our days, and does not tell us why, but we must receive the cup, no
matter how bitter, knowing whose hand it is that offers it. I cannot
bear to see you thus resisting His will.’

“‘I did not think—I did not mean it. I will try to be better; but
indeed, indeed I cannot help feeling the heart-ache about papa, and
sometimes I wake, feeling so sad that I am almost afraid to stay
alone.’

“‘I think it would be very strange and unnatural, my dear, if you did
not grieve; but sorrow may be selfish, too. It is the duty of every one
to strive to be happy and cheerful for the sake of those around. Every
one has a certain influence—the youngest and feeblest of us. Your sad
face makes many an unhappy hour for those around you. I have passed
through more pain and sorrow than you can dream of, my child, and yet
I am content—because I trust it all to God, and know that whatever
befalls, “He doeth all things well.” It is your duty, my dear, to join
with the rest and try to feel more happy.’

“I did not think this possible, and could not understand how I was
to control my _feelings_ at all. I had learned to _act_ according to
certain rules and laws of conscience, but _feeling_ seemed another
thing. I think, if a long letter from papa upon this very subject had
not come to me, I should have gone on in ignorance of the meaning of
her words. He called this trouble my ‘cross,’ and told me to bear it
‘ever patiently, looking upward in hope and cheerfulness.’

“So I tried, and soon learned to laugh and be gay with the rest. I had
been called a good child and gentle tempered; but sometimes the wild,
undisciplined children vexed me beyond measure, and after some outbreak
the tears would come in abundance, for fear I was going backwards, and
papa, when he came, would be disappointed. I used to be frightened
at my own anger and vehemence, and once, after a quarrel, ran to
grandmamma in great grief, to complain that—

“I had never seen such children in my life—that they were making me as
bad as themselves.

“‘My dear,’ answered my wise grandmother, ‘remember, you have never
been with children before—your temper has not been tried—you have
not known yourself—these temptations are showing you to yourself—be
careful not to let them get the better of you. “He that ruleth his own
spirit is greater than he that taketh a city.” The trouble with you is
that you want to have every thing your own way, and because others are
not so neat and so precise as yourself, you lose patience, and so make
trouble about you. There are not two persons in the world alike. If it
were not for love and the beautiful spirit of patience which God gives
us if we ask Him, there would be nothing but jarring and wrangling
everywhere. You cannot live alone; no one will find happiness in such a
life—neither would it be right. Therefore you must learn to bear and
forbear; your life will be a sad mistake if you do not.’

“So I endured Cora’s sleeping in my room and leaving her clothes in a
heap in the middle of the floor, in grim silence. I tried not to wince
when she turned over, so carelessly, my books and music, and when she
overturned my inkstand in my writing desk, I restrained my tears, and
after the first flash of angry feeling, I tried quietly to repair the
damage without a word. Cora seemed much amazed at this conduct, so
unlike the past, and after a stare of astonishment, told me heartily
and freely that she was very sorry.

“By-and-by, much to my amazement, she began to touch my possessions
carefully, and now and then, gathered stray articles of her own off the
sofa or bureau, or from under the bed, with a praiseworthy effort to
set things to rights. Before the summer was over Aunt Marion declared
that Cora was as particular as myself, and I was convinced that
patience was a good rule to live by; and so often was I called upon to
exercise it, that I learned always to be on the watch.”

“There!” Jennie started, “I expected to hear that bell, and here
is papa! Miss Lane, you _will_ tell us more after tea?” she said,
imploringly.

“If you care to hear it!”

“Yes, oh! yes,” cried all in chorus, and the party filed out to tea.



CHAPTER X.


The children could scarcely wait to finish their tea before they begged
for the continuation of the story.

“Miss Lane is telling us her life, papa,” they exclaimed, as they
gathered closely about her, with wide awake faces.

She went on:

“There were two boy cousins, Robert and John, and a little Nellie, a
sweet, gentle-natured little thing, whom I learned to love very soon.
Besides these two cousins, there was another boy, a good deal older
than any of us, who spent all his vacations at Uncle Bell’s. He had
neither father nor mother, sister nor brother. Uncle Bell was his
mother’s brother and his guardian, so that he called that his home. He
was to have a great fortune by-and-by, so we all knew; but I remember
pitying him so much, and thinking I would not give my dear father for
a thousand times his wealth. One day, when we three girls were talking
about this, and thinking how very dreadful it must be, he heard us, and
coming out of the library where he had been reading, said:

“‘You need not pity me, I shall never have to _grieve_ for my
relations.’

“It struck me then, and made me thoughtful and sad many times
afterwards, that I might soon be called upon to mourn for papa over the
sea; but I learned to like Willie better than the rest, because he,
like me, was alone in the world. He used to tell us stories, and play
on the piano for us very often, and was so gentle and good tempered
that everybody loved him.

“I remember how the dog started up and ran at the sound of his
footsteps, and there was no place pussy liked so well as his shoulder
or knee for a sleeping place. His voice was very sweet, and his eyes so
bright and kind, that every one was happier for a glance from them. I
liked him so much that, after a while, no place seemed so charming as
the seat by his side, and he always smoothed away difficulties as if by
magic. Once I asked him if he ever got angry.

“‘Oh, yes, a great many times—I am provoked half the time—something
is always vexing me.’

“‘You never seem to be. You never show it. How can you help it?’

“‘It only makes things worse to talk. I whistle when I am angry.’

“He smiled, too, I believe, for his face was always sunny, and in its
cheerful light I sometimes grew ashamed of my melancholy feelings and
of being vexed by trifles. He had faults, for, afterwards, I found them
out; but in those days he seemed a perfect being to me, and by and by,
I became almost as enthusiastically devoted to him as I was to papa.

“He never talked to us much about being good—he _acted_ a lesson for
us—and untruth, meanness or anger fled from his presence. I never saw
him hurt any thing, though he was tall and strong and active. When you
are older, you will read Sir Galahad, or sometime, if you like, I will
read it to you, and then you can know better what he was like, than I
can tell you.

“He had a pet dove—we called it Daisy. It was hatched late in autumn,
in the barn, and he brought it to the house, to keep it from freezing.
He fed it with his own hands, and much trouble it gave him. It learned
to know him, and often went with him in his walks, perched upon his
shoulder, and when he went to college, he carried it with him. So in
his daily life, he bore with him patience, pity and love, which shone
in his face and blossomed into good deeds to those about him.

“But aunt Marion was the comedy of the house. I think she never knew
where any thing was; and, much as we loved her, pleasant as she was,
we avoided her as much as possible, for fear of being sent upon
explorations after missing articles. There was no occasion for giving
us lectures upon order where Auntie was. She was a _living_ lesson
to us against carelessness. She was full of childlike spirits and
bright ways, perfectly simple and ingenuous, a charming woman; but the
one fault had mastered her completely; it had grown with her growth,
strengthened with her strength, and was the drop of bitterness in the
cup of happiness which we all drank there.

“If we sat down to read—the luckless individual who first caught her
attention had no sooner become interested, than her voice roused him
with,

“‘Robbie, have you seen my ball of yarn? perhaps Carlo carried it into
the garden: I had it on the piazza the last time I saw it. Do run and
get it.’

“A moment more, it would be:

“‘Cora, do you know where my thimble is? I had it in the kitchen when I
went to see about the pudding. Ask Jane for it.’ Or,

“‘Mary, do run up to my room and see if you can find my other slipper.
I had to put on one of your uncle’s this morning. I could not see
mine.’ Or,

“‘Where _do_ you suppose I left my clean linen collars? Sarah certainly
brought them up stairs yesterday, and I have not seen them since.’

“My uncle Bell was exceedingly orderly and systematic. This failing
of his wife’s annoyed him. He never could depend upon her for being
in time, or entirely ready for any thing, and lived in a state of
continual discomfort. One of aunt Marion’s coaxing smiles used to
disarm him and chase the frowns away, for the time, only to return,
when dinner was late, the dessert forgotten, or Auntie was absent at
prayers because she could not find her morning dress. I remember once
sitting and speculating upon the best way of remedying all the evil
and trouble arising from this failing, till aunt Marion, struck by my
thoughtfulness, asked me what made me so quiet.

“‘I was wondering why you don’t know where your things are, when it is
so easy and would make every body more comfortable,’ I told her.

“‘It seems almost too late to begin now, Mary—my habits are all
formed—I should find it very hard work to change indeed. My dear, when
I was a little girl like you, was the time to do that.’

“‘And must it spoil all your life, and Uncle’s, and Cora’s, and John’s,
and Robbie’s?’ I said, not thinking how my words would affect her.

“‘So it does, my dear,’ said Auntie despondingly. ‘Oh, Mary, our lives
have all been spoiled—they have been a mistake—all the years before
me will not make it right. Never let a failing overcome you, never give
up to it. Learn the meaning of self-control, then learn to practise
it—when you are young. Take out all the germs of evil when they are
young and tender, for after a while, it is like taking your life, to
dig out the strong, knotted roots.’

“So I tried to remember _that_—and my terror of becoming, like
poor aunt Marion, the victim of any weakness, kept me on the watch
continually.

“And how uncomfortable she was herself! She missed so much happiness or
pleasure because she could not be ready in time. She was always too
late for church. She scarcely ever finished any work, because some of
the materials were lost or destroyed before it was half done. And every
day, something neglected, many things undone, reproached her.

“I remember one time, in particular, when her failing caused much
vexation and trouble. A very dear and near friend of Uncle Bell’s had
died. He was anxious that the whole family should attend the funeral,
which was to take place in the morning. We were all ready—Cora,
Robert, John, Willie, Uncle Bell and myself—the carriage was at the
gate, the coachman holding the horses’ heads, but still Aunt Marion
did not appear. Uncle began to pace back and forth—a sure sign of
impatience with him—Robbie was fretting and wondering why his mother
did not come, and we had grown quite weary of waiting, when I ran up
stairs to see what was the matter.

“A scene of confusion presented itself. The bureau drawers were all
pulled out, the closet doors all opened, a bandbox was on the bed, a
pitcher in the middle of the room, on the floor, brushes and combs on
the chairs, and a heap of garments over the sofa. Aunt Marion herself,
arrayed in bonnet and shawl, was limping about the room, with one foot
shod, and a face of great perplexity.

“‘Auntie, we’ve all been ready for ten minutes. What is the matter?’ I
asked.

“‘I can’t find my other boot—I’ve looked in every place,’ was the
answer.

“‘Can’t you wear another one?’

“‘I have none fit. Slippers will not do.’

“So I began a search, and presently, the children, the servants and, at
last, Uncle Bell himself, were called up to assist.

“We looked in every imaginable place where the shoe might have been
left or lost, but could not find it, and at last left Auntie, sitting
forlorn and puzzled in the middle of her room, while we set out, vexed
and tired, for the funeral. Poor Uncle wore a grave, stern expression
of countenance all day, and we were so awed by his silence and
gloom, that we dared not talk to each other, and so we were very glad
when the day was over and we could say good night.

[Illustration: Stories of a Governess.]

“Some weeks after, the shoe came to light. It was discovered in a
bandbox, with Auntie’s best winter hat. How it came there will remain
among the mysteries, I suppose; but that lost shoe made me determined
to have a place for everything and keep everything in its place.

“I think I shall never forget those long summer days—the fishing on
the rocks, while the trees, leaning over the banks, left green, quiet
shadows in the water—the wandering hour after hour among the beautiful
flowers and ferns, or the rowing in Willie’s boat while he told us
stories or sang to us. But though it was all so charming then, there is
not much to tell you about it now.

“My father had taught me to speak the truth. I scorned an approach
to a lie, and many times I expressed my contempt for my cousins’
dishonorable proceedings in no very measured terms. Cora was timid and
careless: it did not occur to her that many little words were wrong,
that the intention to deceive made the lie, not the false statement
itself—and much trouble I made for myself and her by my anger at her
disregard of truth.

“I became so suspicious of her that, by-and-by, I doubted almost every
word she uttered. Childlike, I did not consider that she had never
had any training, that she had never had the lectures upon honor and
frankness that I had received—indeed, she scarcely knew the meaning of
the words—though she was good at heart.

“Morning after morning I used to say to her,

“‘Cora, aren’t you going to say your prayers?’ as she was hastening
down stairs without doing so.

“‘Oh, I’ll be late to breakfast, and papa will scold. At night is
enough;’ and down she would run, leaving the door open. Vexed by this,
I used to get up and close it after her with a noise, and then my mind
was not in a state for praying and reading. Sometimes I would find
myself in the middle of my prayers, forgetting the words in recalling
her misdeeds, and, shocked at myself, I used to cry and think how far
back I was going—consoling myself always at the last, by laying the
blame upon those around me.

“Once poor Cora got into sad disgrace. I never think of that without a
feeling of self-reproach. Aunt Marion had sent her with a small pitcher
to bring some cream from old Ricy, who kept the dairy. Cora came down
with a pretty silk apron on, and Auntie sent her to change it for a
gingham one, telling her she might soil it.

“I don’t know how she came to be tempted to disobey; she was not
usually a self-willed child; but, instead of obeying, she put on two
aprons, the gingham one over the silk, and as soon as she was out
of sight of the house, took off the former, hiding it by the fence,
intending to put it on when she came back.

“She was gone a long time—I remember it quite well. Willie had
promised to take us all to a pic-nic in his boat when she returned,
and I waited impatiently for her return. He was to row us down the
river to a certain shady, cool place, and there we were to spend the
day with a party of children from Newton. We had been looking forward
to this time for weeks past, and had danced with joy when the day came
so clear and bright. I watched and waited and fretted about her getting
back, till I had worked myself quite into a state of excitement and
indignation. ‘I never saw anything so selfish—so mean. She knows we
can’t go without her. She does it on purpose,’ I said to grandmamma two
or three times.

“‘Don’t be unjust, my dear. Settle yourself. You’ll be tired before the
time comes,’ was all the answer I received, while the knitting-needles
continued to move as slowly as ever. How it fretted me! I felt it a
positive injury that she did not care more—that she could be so calm.
At last, Cora appeared. She came into the yard, swinging the pitcher
unconcernedly. I ran out to meet her.

“‘What _did_ keep you so long?’ I cried when she was near enough to
hear.

“‘Have I been gone long?’ she asked so coolly as to provoke me beyond
measure.

“‘Of course you have; we’re all ready; Willie and the boys have gone
down to the boat. Where’s the cream?’

“‘I did not get any,’ she answered in a low voice, flushing uneasily.

“I did not believe her. I knew something was wrong, but I feared if
aunt Marion suspected anything it might delay us longer—and it seemed
to me then that I could not bear to be kept ten minutes longer. I was
in a fever of impatience already.

“‘Go, get your bonnet, I’ll tell Auntie,’ I cried hastily, and Cora,
with a look of relief, gave me the pitcher and ran up stairs. I carried
it into the dining-room, and gave it to Auntie. ‘Cora could not get
any, Auntie,’ I said, and I was conscious of looking guilty, so that I
dared not raise my eyes.

“‘Oh, I’m so sorry. But you have been good to wait so long—now you
must go—good-bye,’ said kind Auntie, and so she began to search
through the spice-box with a puzzled expression on her face. I escaped
for fear of being sent upon a search for something. Had I told a lie?
That fearful thought flashed through my soul like lightning as I shut
the door, and I stopped with a loudly beating heart. How fearful it
seemed! How all the beautiful, glad day had changed!

“I half turned back. Like a flash, clear as noon-day, it looked to me
then—that Cora had done some wrong, and that I for fear of losing
my pleasure was helping her to deceive. Those words burnt themselves
into my heart. I put my hand on the door-knob, and then the thought
came—‘What shall I say? I have nothing to tell—it will be mean to get
her into trouble, when I know nothing.’

“Ah! but I _did_ know. The fluttering fingers, the downcast eyes, the
bright blush, had told me as plainly as words could tell, that all was
not right. But a whistle, a shout of ‘Come, girls!’ made my blood
dance again, and a great thrill of pleasure shot through me, as I ran
swiftly out of the gate, forgetting every thing, eager only for the
sport. Cora was coming out from behind the hedge of box as I passed
through the garden. She started when she saw me.

“‘Come, Cora—quick, they are waiting,’ I cried, running on.

“‘What did mamma say?’ she asked, reaching my side.

“I stopped short. ‘Nothing, only that she was sorry,’ I answered,
scarcely daring to look at her. ‘Cora, I hope you have not been doing
any thing—you know Auntie would send you back if you had, and then we
should be late.’

“I was scarcely conscious of what I did. If I had reflected at all, I
should have shrunk in horror from persuading any one to deceive, and
yet I said those words with the hope of frightening her into silence
lest we should miss our pleasure. I knew how easily she could be moved
for good or evil. I thought only how we should miss our boating if
she should be inclined to confess, and so I put a stop to any such
intentions, effectually, by rousing her fears. Cora understood.

“‘You must never tell, then, and mamma won’t find out. I hid my apron,
and Ricy will never think of the cream,’ she said confidentially.

“A day, an hour ago, I should have repelled any efforts to make
me an accomplice in a lie, with scorn, loathing, wrath; but three
handkerchiefs were waving for us to come, and shouts of ‘all aboard!’
were borne to our ears from the river bank. I did not stop—I did not
even hesitate—busy whispers were at my heart, my face was flushed. I
disregarded the reproaches of conscience. Deliberately, consciously,
and with a clear knowledge of what my sin was, I stepped into the boat.
A few strokes of the oars, and with a long breath of relief, I told
myself, it was too late.

“We were wild with delight—the boat glided on so swiftly, the sky was
cloudless—the birds seemed too happy to sing, and the bright sunshine
gilded tree and rock and water—and then, as we turned at a bend in the
shore, a white tent appeared, and groups of children shouted welcome to
us. We had music, refreshments, and games, and the hours passed only
too swiftly.

“I shall always remember Willie’s kindness in amusing the smallest,
settling all troubles, and inventing new pleasures for us that day. He
was the life of the party, and with his merry ways made many friends
among the little ones. I was so full of excitement that I had no time
to think, but towards evening a quieter time came, and I sat down apart.

“Cora was near by in a ring of girls and boys, shouting with pleasure,
her limbs and face all alive with play, and then I grew sad. What was
it worth? It was all gone, nearly over now—the laughing and sport—but
the pain of the sin still remained—it had been there all day, like a
shadow haunting me, but I would not think of it. I had had my will—and
did it satisfy?

“Presently there was a call.

“‘Come, Mary, Cora, Robbie, Johnnie, we are all ready—come,’ and
Willie appeared with Nellie in his arms.

“‘Oh! just a little longer, Willie,’ cried Cora, ‘do—it is _so_ early.’

“‘No, not a minute; Auntie bade us come before the dew had fallen;’ and
off he marched.

“We knew there was no use in saying one word, but the spirit of
naughtiness was strong within us, and we pouted and grumbled much
at being obliged to leave before the rest. In the boat, there was a
gentleman, who gave me a seat beside him, and said he had just come
from Italy, and that he had seen papa. He was a Mr. Percy, and was
going with us to make a visit at uncle Bell’s. When he mentioned papa,
a whole flood of feeling came into my heart; I could not say a word. I
looked down at the water and shut my lips tight.

“‘He was in an old tower, with hills—purple hills all about him, and
a white mountain not far off. There was a valley, too, and a glimpse
of the deep blue sea. The air is always soft—and the sky, the sunshine
makes one think of heaven.’ This he said to Willie.

“Oh, the great aching and longing that came upon me! the yearning
for one touch of that dear hand, for a glimpse of that ‘blue sea’
which shut him out from me! It was so sore that I could scarce keep
from sobbing. But I could not ask if he were well. I could not trust
my voice, and he must have taken my silence for indifference, as
presently, he began to speak of something else, and we went floating on
with that hungering in my heart for more tidings of dear papa in his
tower.

“I thought of him as looking out upon the white mountain with the glory
of the sunset on it, and the sea dancing, and I wondered if his heart
ached for me as mine did for him; and then the dreary time of our
separation stretched out and lengthened till it seemed unending, and
I had almost cried out in the anguish of my longing. The tears were
dropping one by one into the water, and the dreamy talk of the others
went on till we reached the shore. Mr. Percy took no further notice of
me, as I saw with much pain; he thought I did not care for papa, and
so I walked up to the house, listening feverishly for one word more of
Italy.



CHAPTER XI.


“The evening passed away; I lingered for a word; but though there was
much talk, I still remained unsatisfied. I was restless, impatient.

“‘Come, Mary, we’re going to play in the dark dining-room,’ said
Robbie, after tea, and while the elders were all gathered in the parlor.

“‘No, don’t trouble me,’ I answered shortly, afraid of losing a word of
the conversation.

“‘You need not take my head off for asking you,’ said Robbie, running
off in anger, and my face flushed as I saw both Willie and the stranger
glance towards me. I was very sorry; I liked Robbie; though sensitive,
he was kind to me, and we had never quarrelled. My first impulse was to
run after him and tell him I did not mean to be cross, when the fear
that the coveted news might be told in my absence, restrained me. I
waited and listened and grew weary with hoping. My nerves had been
so excited all day, that the slightest sound which might prevent my
catching every word, caused me to start and flush. The children were
boisterous, the noise of their play came through the hall. I closed the
door quickly and impatiently and hastened back to my station.

“‘Don’t shut the door, Mary,’ said aunt Marion. ‘Why don’t you go and
play with the rest?’

“‘I don’t want to play,’ I answered pettishly.

“‘Then you must be tired—you had better go to bed. Willie, ring the
bell, please.’

“‘No,’ I cried passionately, in a heat at this interruption, ‘no, I am
not tired.’

“I watched for the striking of the clock. I knew that at eight we must
all retire. There would be no help for it then, and I listened as if
my doom were to be sounded. John came in with the letters, the nurse
carried baby away—I knew it was almost time. I was on the rack, my
eyes were wide open, my cheek burned, my ear almost ached, my heart
fluttered—I held my hands tightly clasped.

“‘There! clear and prompt, one, two—till eight strokes rang out,
and the children filed in, flushed and sleepy, to say good-night. I
unclasped my fingers; nerveless, weak and trembling, I tottered to aunt
Marion—the unnatural strain had relaxed and left me ready to drop. I
looked up at her imploringly, saying:

“‘Oh! Auntie, let me stay a little longer;’ and waited for her answer,
as if my life hung on her words.

“‘No, my dear, you will be ill—you look wretched now; I should think
this day was enough. Are you never satisfied?’

“Something in my throat choked me, the tears began to come, they rained
over my cheeks. I _must_ stay.

“‘Just a little longer, Auntie—oh, please.’

“‘Well——,’ began Auntie, relentingly, but the rest cried out,
indignantly,

“‘Then we’ll stay too; ’tisn’t fair.’

“‘How can you be so foolish, Marion? Send those children all to bed.
Mary don’t know what is best for her,’ interposed Uncle, and we were
sent away. I ran up to my room; I threw myself on the floor; I panted,
and sobbed, and moaned.

“‘Oh, papa, papa, take me away; I cannot, cannot bear it. Oh, I
cannot—so cruel—so wicked. Oh, papa, papa!’

“‘Why what _is_ the matter?’ inquired Cora, with much concern.

“‘Oh,’ said Robbie, who had come to the door at the prospect of a
scene, ‘this is our nice, good girl—our pattern, grandmamma said: but
you see she can be like other people when she gets her temper up.’

“Conviction came to me. I ceased to sob. I answered not a word to his
taunts, though they cut deep, for right sure was I that he never would
have uttered them, but for the one unkind word I had given him in the
evening, in return for his kindness. Surely every wrong word or thought
or deed, or even look, brings its own punishment—and who can count
the harm wrought by once giving up to anger? the harm not only to
ourselves but to others? My forgetfulness, my impatience was causing
my cousin to sin grievously—to go to sleep with anger in his heart,
instead of lifting it to God in prayer.

“I was not yet willing to yield. This desire to know of my dear
father’s welfare was turning into a strong purpose of having my own
will. Self-will was my bane, though I was only half conscious of it. My
own way, my own wishes, seemed best. My dear father’s gentle, loving
sway had never seemed irksome. I had known nothing of this germ of evil
in my own heart, which was to grow and blossom and bear fruit in anger,
in wrong doing, in deceit—and so had not yet strength to resist it.
The weed was taking root firmly, displacing the flowers of gentleness,
truth, obedience, slowly but surely, and poisoning my thoughts of duty
to God and man with its breath. I had been conquered by it in all the
deeds of that day.

“I undressed myself, inwardly chafing against what I was pleased to
think Uncle Bell’s oppression, and contrasting papa’s indulgence with
it. ‘_He_ would not have made me come up here, when I wanted so to hear
it all,’ I said to myself, with the hot tears on my cheeks. ‘He would
not have been so cruel, so unkind. I will not stay here—I will write
to him to-morrow. They are all so wicked—so wrong—I shall be like
them if I stay. I am getting like them now,’ I continued, with a sudden
fear that struck me like a chill, and I paused, and threw myself on my
knees, and poured out a fervent prayer to be kept, through God’s mercy,
in the straight path.

“Wave after wave of sorrow, trouble, self-reproach, and penitence
passed over me.

“I had hated them; and the vision of our Holy Saviour, bleeding,
suffering, praying for his murderers, rose before me.

“They had been kind to me—most kind, most indulgent. Because their
ways were not my ways, must they be condemned? and I had cast them off
in my arrogance, thinking I could govern myself.

“How could they guess what feelings of yearning and love, and what
agony of expectation had been in my heart all the evening? The wrong
lay in my own thoughts—kindness made them insist upon my going up
stairs at the right hour. Must they not have thought it weariness that
prevented my joining the plays of the others?

“Oh, how humbled I felt. And that cross word to Robbie—could I ever
wipe out the evil it had done? Could I ever get back the love he
had given me so freely before? Oh, sad, sad thought! The anger, and
taunting, and neglected prayers, were they not written in God’s great
book? It was my sin—mine. I fancied my poor cousin, trembling before
God’s awful look, and the sin caused by my impatience brought before
him. And had I not brought shame on Christ? I who called myself his
child, and said I lived by his rule, and yet could bear up no better
than that?

“I took my candle, and crossing the hall, I knocked at my cousin’s
door. Robbie opened it. His eyes were red—he had been weeping. I was
so touched that, for a moment, the words would not come; then I said:

“‘Oh, Robbie, I am so sorry I was cross this evening. I wanted to hear
about papa, and I was so afraid your speaking to me would make me miss
something. Indeed, I’m sorry.’

“‘Never mind—I was more cross to you—I’m sorry, too,’ was his answer.

“‘It was so wicked in me—and—and I was afraid you would not say your
prayers right when you were angry,’ I continued, afraid to look at him.

“‘I will now. Don’t worry. Good night;’ and he shut the door,
pretending to be gruff that he might not show how much he felt.

“I was almost happy now; but I thought I should keep awake till
aunt Marion came up stairs, that I might tell her of my sorrow for
not obeying her promptly. When I went back, Cora was tossing about
restlessly on the bed, her face was burning hot—she muttered words in
her troubled sleep.

“‘In the large bush of box-wood,’ she muttered, as I leaned down to
hear. ‘I meant to tell—but—’ here she moaned and seemed distressed,
her brow contracted into a frown, and then a look of pain crossed her
face. ‘Mary was in such a hurry,’ she said. She was quiet a moment, and
then began again: ‘you might scold—I did think at first—oh—’

“In her sleep she was thinking of it—that wrong at which I had
guessed, and which, at one word from me, she would have confessed at
first. I had not given her credit for conscientiousness. I thought she
had forgotten the whole thing. Here was another growth in my harvest of
the day’s wrong doing. Oh, what was I to do?

“‘Cora, Cora, wake up. Tell me, what was it? What is it? Let us go down
to Aunt Marion.’

“I shook her in my fright, but she only turned and muttered, and would
not wake. I lay down in sore distress—I could only wait in patience,
I durst not go down stairs. Presently, sight and sound and troubled
thought faded away, and I was asleep before I knew that I was growing
sleepy.

“I had been dreaming uneasily, and woke with a start of fright. A
great weight was upon me—the events of the day, the sin and pain and
weariness flashed upon me and were almost too grievous to be borne.

“I could not tell what time it was—but the feeling that I must
tell all to aunt Marion was strong upon me. I heard no sound in the
house—perhaps they had all retired—my natural timidity made me
tremble at the thought of the stillness of the house. The moon was
shining brightly—its rays were streaming in at my window, and shadows
lay silently on the wall and about the floor.

“Cora was asleep still. I could not bear it. I thought I should go
down the hall and listen at aunt Marion’s door, hoping to find her
awake, that I might tell her. I listened a moment, holding my breath.
It seemed so lonely that I feared to rise; there was a sound like the
clicking of a key in the lock, then a stirring, murmuring sound, as
if a breeze were passing. I lifted my head, noiselessly, but my heart
fluttered with fear, a faintness came over me, terror kept me still, I
could not have screamed if I had tried.

“At the foot of my bed was a door opening into a room which was never
used, and very seldom entered. There was a sort of closeness and
dreariness about it even in the day time—and none of us cared to open
the door. Now and then, I had stolen in, on tip-toe, to look at some
cast-off pictures on the wall, or to hide with my book from Cora’s
teasing; but such a proceeding was of rare occurrence and only took
place on sunshiny days.

“I was always particularly careful to lock the door upon retiring,
and had with my own hand turned the key before getting into bed that
evening. Now the door stood wide open—there was a blank, black space
in the white wall. I stared with eyes wide open in horror, but in a
moment fell back faint with the relief. It was the foot of our French
bedstead. The dark mahogany, being between me and the door, gave it the
appearance of being open.

“Trembling and chilled with the fright, in my nervous, feverish state,
ready to start at every sound, every shadow, I rose, and stepping
timidly, felt my way along the hall, carefully, quietly, praying God
to keep me. I reached the head of the steps and looked down into the
black, empty hall below. There was no sound, but from the library door
a little stream of light wandered and wavered over the carpet.

“Going on softly, scarcely breathing, I reached the door and looked in.
I cannot tell you what I felt at the sight which met my eyes. I could
not have moved or spoken if I had tried, so great was the terror which
seized me.

“There was a lighted lamp on the window seat, and a tall woman was
busily taking books from the shelves and piling them in the middle
of the room. She was dressed in a long white wrapper, and her hair
streamed nearly to her feet. Her face was towards me. I saw that her
eyes were black and large, and there was a wild expression in them.

“Presently she ceased in her work, and, lighting a taper, put it to
the books. Then, the spell was broken! I don’t know how I reached
aunt Marion’s room, but I remember shrieking at the top of my voice
and fleeing as if wings were on my feet. Such agony of fear I am
sure I never can feel again. I burst into the room, I threw myself
trembling, panting, cowering, on the bed—only able to sob out, ‘In the
library—oh! a woman—she is burning the books.’

“That is all I remembered of what took place then, but in the morning
I saw the woman again, and spoke to her, even touched her hand gently,
and kissed her cheek, though a good many of my favorite books lay
blackened and charred on the floor of the library. The long hair was
bound up, and the wild, black eyes were very sad now,—oh, so sad, so
wistful, so full of dumb questioning, like those of some beautiful,
caged animal; and she sat with her hands clasped, looking down, very
pale, grief-worn and quiet.

“But after a while they took her away again. She was my aunt, my
mother’s sister, and had been insane for years. She had been taken to
an asylum, but escaped occasionally from her keepers and returned to
her old home. They tried to keep her there, but she was better away
from her friends, and though years had passed they had never given up
the hope of her recovery.



CHAPTER XII.


“When morning came, the fears and troubles of the night passed
away like a mist, and I felt less inclined to tell aunt Marion my
short-comings. In the excitement about the crazy girl, I forgot it
almost entirely, and indeed she was so busy that I had no opportunity
of speaking to her alone. So, when the bustle was over and my
whisperings of conscience returned, I made _that_ an excuse to
myself—and tried to dismiss the whole matter from my mind.

“But how surely our sin finds us out! how one spot on our souls, not
washed clean by repentance, spreads itself and poisons the good in us:
and one step taken in the wrong path leads to another and another, till
we are sinking hopelessly in the mire of mistakes and sin, and lose
time and strength in struggling back to the broad, clean way, if indeed
the mire be not too deep for our force, and we remain there ever going
deeper and deeper.

“Remember, dear children, to pluck out, by the grace of Jesus, every
root of sin and keep a clear conscience; don’t let any stain rest
there, or it blackens the whole. And then, think, is the pain, the
embarrassment of confession, equal to the fear of being found out, the
depression, the stings of conscience which last so long?

“Mr. Percy remained all that day, and I had the satisfaction of hearing
all about papa. If I had but had patience to wait. I was angry with
Cora, for having been the cause of my discomfort; I avoided her,
feeling guilty; and as for her, she moped alone almost the whole day.

“After a while, grandmamma called me to her room and told me my
mother’s story—my poor, dear, young mother! She could not tell it
without many tears, neither could I listen unmoved, and it seemed to me
that I had lived a life-time in hearing it.

“My father was a lieutenant in the army. He and my mother were very
young when they met each other, and they became much attached. There
was so much opposition to their marriage, for many reasons—one, their
youth, another, my father’s profession—that at last, unhappily, they
disobeyed their parents and displeased their friends by marrying
secretly.

“Soon after, papa was ordered with his regiment to Florida, to fight
the Indians, and my delicate young mother accompanied him. Her friends
had never forgiven her, never seen her; and grandmamma wept when she
told me what she fancied must have been my mother’s grief at leaving
her home without a word of tenderness for those whom she had loved so
dearly. But she went, and months passed without any tidings from her.

“At last there came a letter, telling of my birth, and then they longed
to see her again. The yearning was so sore that grandmamma would have
gone herself, had it been possible. That being out of the question,
Aunt Millicent, her twin sister, whose light-heartedness had left
her when my mother went away, determined to go. They had friends in
Florida, and she could make her home with them; so it was arranged.

“In the mean time my mother fancied that but one thing was wanting
to her perfect happiness. She lived in garrison, and was the light
of the old colonel’s eyes, as well as of her husband’s. Gay and
simple-hearted, full of childish spirits and happiness, they could
think but little of their hardships where her bright, fair face
appeared.

“At last the tidings that the home hearts had melted for her, that her
dearest sister was on her way to meet her, came to her, being the one
thing she craved to make life beautiful to her. Aunt Millicent was
to travel with a party bringing supplies and reinforcements to the
garrison, thinking it the safer plan.

“A party was sent out to meet them, on the day upon which they were
expected. My mother, in the gaiety of her heart, begged to be of the
company; and as the Indians had been quiet for some time, my father
allowed her to go. He could not accompany her, being officer of the
day, and saw her mount her horse and ride off laughing in the sunshine
without a thought of the grief which was to fall upon him like a
thunder-bolt before night.

“Several hours afterwards a horse came galloping back to the garrison,
riderless, and when my father saw it he fell to the ground as if a
bullet had struck him. It was the horse my mother had ridden. It
was not long before they went in search of those who had set out so
fearlessly in the morning, with sad forebodings. They scarcely hoped to
find the remains of any; it was the habit of the Indians to mutilate
fearfully the bodies of those slain by them, and the agony of all was
increased by the thoughts of the tender young form hacked and torn by
the savages.

“Very soon they reached the spot where the work of death had been done.
Three bodies lay upon the ground, and at some distance, under a tree,
to which he had dragged himself with much pain, lay a soldier mortally
wounded. They gathered round him. Close at his side, with his hat over
her face, lay my dead mother, shot through the heart. The soldier could
just speak.

“‘Lieutenant,’ said he, ‘I would have protected your lady with my last
drop of blood: they would have had to tear me to pieces before they
should have taken her body.’

“And when the strong men around, with tears on their cheeks, lifted the
hat, there was the young face, with almost a smile parting the lips.
Before they had left the place, the rest of the party returned from
pursuing the Indians, and they heard the particulars of the sad event.

“It seems, as they were riding along gaily, not dreaming of danger, the
Indians fired upon them from the woods, and killed one man. My mother,
in terror, sprang from her horse, and attempted to reach the baggage
wagon, thinking she would be safer in that, but as she was running
towards it, a bullet struck her, and she fell instantly dead. The men
rallied and turned, and the few Indians, taking alarm lest there
should be help for the whites at hand, fled.

“The wounded soldier died on the way back, and when my aunt arrived
in the afternoon, she saw only my mother’s dead face, and found only
a deaf ear, into which she poured all the tardy messages of love and
forgiveness from home.

“Neither Aunt Millicent nor my father ever entirely recovered from the
shock. My father’s poor health and spirits were caused by this grief
in the beginning of his life, and he shut himself up with his child,
refusing to see any of my mother’s family for years: it was not until
he was going to Europe that he had any intercourse with them.

“Aunt Millicent was so shattered, so shocked, by this dreadful
occurrence, that her nerves never recovered from it. She was morbid,
ailing, and delicate for a long time; and, taking to heart a great
disappointment which happened to her several years after, she became
hopelessly insane.

“‘My dear,’ said my grandmother, when she had finished her story, ‘let
not the sun go down upon your wrath. You cannot tell what sorrow and
punishment the morning may bring you. The pride and stubbornness of age
need severer lessons to train them into gentleness and patience than
the same faults in youth—and so surely, for every fault, God sends a
pain to cure it.’

“And how inexpressibly I was touched! My dear father! I resolved that
in the future, nothing that the most loving care, the utmost devotion
to every wish, could do towards making his days brighter, should be
left undone—and Paradise seemed not so far off now, because I knew
that there waited for us both, the bright-eyed, gentle, young mother,
whose kisses and glances I had never consciously received. And so
another evening came, and I forgot the yesterday resolutions in my new
thoughts.



CHAPTER XIII.


“The next day Cora was sick. She lay in bed, moaning in a feeble way,
her face very much flushed, her lips dry and parched. She was very ill,
they said, and the doctor was sent for. My first thought was that she
would die with her sin unrepented.

“So she lay in a kind of stupor for many days. There was silence, or
only whispers and soft steps over the house, and we neither laughed nor
played. It was very solemn and strange. Once, when the door was ajar, I
caught a glimpse in the darkened room of a hot face on the pillows, and
a shorn head bound with white bandages.

“And thus the time passed. Every morning I woke in a fright, thinking
the pale messenger had come in the night; and at each assurance, ‘She
still lives,’ my spirits rose, until night and gloom coming again, I
became sad and fearful. And then we wondered what death was, and it
seemed to our young lives very dreadful, and we sat pale and grieving
together over our many unkindnesses to Cora, thinking if she were only
well, only with us once more, that we could never be vexed with her
again.

“I had been sitting alone in the library, one afternoon, trying to
forget my pain in a book. The blinds were down, there was only a
glimmer of light here and there, and the gloom, the stillness, grew so
deep that I went out into the sunshine, looking for life to take my
thoughts from death.

“There was Cora’s pretty Italian greyhound, Fairy, on the piazza. She
put her pretty head into my hands, looking wistfully into my face, as
if asking for her mistress. I could not bear that. I went into the
garden. There was her flower bed, full of weeds, and the buds were
withering for want of water. I began to pluck out the weeds, working
zealously, glad to do something for her—and resolved to tend her
garden till she was well.

“The old white-haired gardener came near while I was thus employed. He
shook his head.

“‘Poor Miss Cora! I ’spect she won’t work no more in this garden.’

“He was an old man, bent and worn. To have seen the child’s and his
figure moving together about those walks a month ago, who would have
dreamed the lighter, younger form must lie low first?

“‘We’re in the Lord’s hands,’ said the old man, looking upward. ‘I did
not think her time would come first;’ and he hobbled on. I watched
him. It seemed strange to me to see him so content. Day after day, he
plodded on in the same dull routine. I never saw him without that same
sense of wondering pity. He did not read, he could not play, he worked,
worked from morning till night. What was life to him? I asked myself.
Presently he came limping back, he held something in his hand. ‘I got
this in the biggest bush of box. It is an apron, isn’t it?’

“Yes; it was Cora’s little silk apron, with the greasy spots from the
spilt cream on it. I took it into my hand with such a pain shooting
through my very heart, tears rushed to my eyes, and I could scarcely
stand. And the thought that she was now near the threshold of that
unseen world, where all must render an account of the deeds done in the
body, made me shudder with dismay.

“I did not know what to do. Words cannot describe my feelings of
self-reproach, the pain of knowing that _I_ had prevented her from
easing her conscience by confession. I went back to the house, carrying
the apron. Aunt Marion, in her white wrapper, passed quickly along the
hall, with ice on a plate for the sick-room, too anxious to think of
any one but her suffering child.

“While I was still standing there, she returned. Tears were on her
cheeks. She came to me and clasped me in her arms, sobbing. ‘I cannot
bear it—it seems too hard,’ she said. Seeing what I held in my hand,
the weeping was renewed.

“‘Where did you find her apron—poor, dear Cora?’ she asked, after a
while, touching it tenderly, almost reverently, as we do the veriest
trifle belonging to the dead.

“‘Baines found it in the garden, Auntie,’ I answered, looking down. The
opportunity was near for making my confession.

“‘In the garden? How could it have come there?’ said Auntie, still
smoothing out the creases with her gentle fingers, the tears dropping
all the while.

“I did not answer. Aunt Marion looked up at my silence, she saw my
tears, my pale cheeks, my down-cast looks. ‘Do you know any thing about
it, Mary?’ she asked.

“‘Yes. Cora put it there,’ I said, ‘in the box-wood—the day of the
pic-nic;’ and then, with tears and broken words, I told her all. She
listened without saying a word; but it was painful to see the mother’s
face, flushing, paling, full of pain. She rang for Ricy, who came in a
moment or two.

“‘Did you give Miss Cora cream the day the children had their pic-nic,
Ricy? I sent her for some in the morning,’ said Auntie.

“‘Yes, ’pears like I did,’ answered Ricy, meditating. ‘Yes, Missis, I
did; bressed lamb! and she had that bery apurn on, ’cause I thought
she’d spill de cream on’t, an’ tole her so. Laws, ’taint no countin’ on
life dese yer days; to see her then, so peart, and now——,’ and Ricy,
at a gesture from my aunt, went away in tears.

“‘If she had only told me of it—if she had only said one word of
sorrow for her faults,—one word,—it would not have seemed so hard,’
moaned Auntie, rocking herself to and fro.

“‘Oh! Auntie, I think she meant to tell you—she talked about it in
her sleep, she was troubled, she did not seem the same afterwards:
but—but—’ and then I faltered out my own share in the guilt, and told
her of Cora’s hesitation, and of my fear that we should be late, and
of offering to tell about the cream while Cora ran for her bonnet,
being afraid she would confess and so delay us.

“My gentle aunt’s look of displeasure, her repellent gesture and cold
words: ‘I must go to my child and leave you to your thoughts; they
cannot be pleasant ones,’ were bitter indeed to bear. Surely my sin had
found me out.

“So she went up stairs again, and left me in my grief alone. It seemed
as if the sun never could shine again—that a great black cloud had
shut out my sky, and there was nothing but despair in the world. And
so I lay there, too sad to weep, only choking and sobbing, till Willie
came and carried me into his own cool room, and with gentle words
soothed me, till I had poured out my grief to him and so lightened the
burden.

“He told me I must not mourn so, and showed me that I must not follow
my own will even in this, since it was that self-will which caused all
my troubles. In his beautiful way, he told me where the wrong lay,
and pointed to the one safe path for avoiding pitfalls and thickets,
and before the hour was spent, stilled even my cries at the thought of
Cora’s dying—saying, ‘God’s will must be our will, and we dare not
murmur.’

“Willie himself sat by my bedside till I went to sleep, and he it was
that brought Aunt Marion to kiss me before I closed my eyes. It was
a very tender kiss, for anger and bitter feeling melt away in the
presence of death, and her heart was stirred too deeply to wish to
inflict pain on one already suffering.

“Daylight was streaming into my room when I opened my eyes. I heard the
birds singing, the doves cooing, and busy sounds of life everywhere.
I dressed myself, and the cheerful light drove away the sadness of
the day before. Surely one need not fear under such a sky and such a
sunshine.

“I opened my door and glided noiselessly down stairs. I passed Aunt
Marion’s door. Grandmamma was kneeling by the bed, and Uncle Bell
stood at the window with his back towards me. Fairy was whining at
the door of the sick room. The front door was open; there came in
a fresh smell of pure air and new hay from outside, and I heard a
laugh from the lawn. A face—one, two, three, Nellie’s, Robbie’s,
Willie’s—appeared. There were smiles and tears both on them, and
in joyful tones, they poured into my ear the good tidings, ‘Cora is
better.’

“So she was. In a week we gathered about her as she reclined in her
chair, pale and quiet, and we brought her June roses, June cherries,
and young, downy June chickens to inspect—enchanted at winning a
smile, and ready to run at her slightest bidding.

“But the lesson taught me through pain and suspense lasted all the time
of my stay there; and patience and self-denial, with a whole train of
good feelings, came out of Cora’s illness and suffering.

“She, too, was changed. When winter came, and I went to
boarding-school, we bade each other good-bye with real sorrow, and we
have continued friends all the years of our life.

“I think neither of us will ever forget the spilt cream, the picnic,
and the little silk apron.”



CHAPTER XIV.


“Oh, Miss Lane, is that all?” cried the children. “Please tell us the
rest. What became of Willie? and did your papa come back?”

Jennie’s silks were untangled, and Mr. Graham’s eyes were wide open;
but bed time had come for Tan and Rosie, and so they had to be
satisfied for that evening.

Christmas came and went. Allie Ross and her mother were made happy, and
Lillie finished the stockings. Poor Jennie succeeded only in finishing
her “odds and ends” by New Year, and very sad and dispirited she grew
over the work many times; but when it was over, and she began fresh and
with a clear conscience, she was glad of the discipline.

Christmas Day did not seem dull, though not a single present filled
the stocking of any. Mr. Graham had no idea of making the sacrifice
incomplete: he intended that his children should feel what self-denial
meant, and learn to practise it.

It was some time before Miss Lane finished her “Life,” as the little
ones called it. It was rather a mild day—one of the January thawing
ones—before they heard the whole.

“Did your cousin Robbie get to be a good boy, Miss Lane,” asked Rosie,
while they were all in the parlor, before evening came on.

“Yes. I told you about my cousin Robbie when I first came here. It was
he that wandered in the snow, trying to escape from the Indians in New
Mexico.”

“Oh, what a pity!”

“I don’t know, my dears; he did his work, and God gave him rest,” was
the answer.

“It seems sad to die, though.”

“Not to every body, my children.”

“And Johnnie and Nellie, and Cora and Willie?”

“Johnnie is a dignified gentleman now, very rich, very honorable,
with a beautiful wife, and two pet children that call me Auntie. Cora
married a clergyman, and is in China, teaching the heathen: she is very
noble, very true, and full of zeal.

“Little Nellie grew to be a lovely woman, so very bright and happy that
it lightened one’s heart to look at her. She stepped as if treading on
air, and was full of music, playing and singing through life, with a
promise of joy in her future. Every body loved Nellie Bell, and admired
her as we do some beautiful, rare flower, thinking her about as fit as
a blossom to bear the ills and cares of life. And yet Nellie was the
heroine of the family, caring for her mother, who grew blind, with the
most beautiful tenderness, bearing the burden of her papa’s moroseness
and repinings, and putting away, with a sublime self-sacrifice, all
the fair and lovely dreams that must have filled her heart, to be the
comforter and helper of their old age.

“By and by, uncle Bell lost his property, and Nellie generously gave
up her own dowry, left by her grandmother, to support him—wearing a
plain dress, when she delighted in gay colors and soft fabrics; giving
up her books, her pony, her music, and doing many things with her own
dainty fingers, that they might not miss the servants, some of whom she
was obliged to dismiss.

“And her natural gayety softened into the loveliest, calmest content.
Her eyes grew deep and radiant, and her lips smiled always; her brow
was as smooth too as ever, and nothing could change the child look of
ingenuousness in her face.

“I think I have never seen anything so pure and sweet as her ways. She
seems living ever near to God, taking blessings from His hand, and when
He sends sorrow, smiling with the same patience; because both alike
come from her Father.

“A few years ago, there was a new joy in her life, and the cup was
dashed from her lip as she was about to drink it. A sudden death came
to one who was to have been her husband, death from home, when he was
not dreaming of it, and while she was even waiting and watching for him
day by day.

“She was waiting for the words, ‘He is here,’ and they told her, ‘He is
dead’—and the strange event threatened to put out the light and warmth
in her young heart for a time; but it brightened again, and she took
up her duties with patience, sweetness, peace, even happiness, because
God is good, and his presence in the world is beautiful, because a long
life teaches us much, and we must thank the Giver for it.”

“How very sad,” said the children.

“You would not call her sad, if you were to see her. She, I am sure,
would not have her lot changed.”

“And you and Willie?” suggested the children, after a pause.

“I am here, my dear,” continued Miss Lane with a little sigh, looking
thoughtfully out of the window. “You know all about me. My fate, I
suppose, was to tell you stories. I never saw my dear father again
alive. In the next spring, he sailed for home, he died on the sea, and
they buried him in the water. It was very hard to bear at first. To
this day, I have not recovered from the yearning for one more touch of
his hand, one more sound of his voice. It seemed as if I were dying of
hunger for a sight of his face once more, and I grew so pale and weak
that every body feared for my life. It seemed as if my soul’s food had
been taken away, and I pined for many months, till a good man, even
dear, gentle Willie, showed me my sin in grieving so much, and I tried
again to lift up my head.

“And when I finished my education, because there was other need greater
than mine, I gave up my little fortune, and took this work of teaching
upon myself. Willie is your Dr. Sprague.”

“Our Dr. Sprague! our Dr. Sprague your Willie! Hurrah! Papa, Dr.
Sprague is Miss Lane’s Willie!” cried the children, running to the door
as Mr. Graham appeared.

“Whose Willie am I?” said a voice, speaking from out the depths of a
great-coat, as another gentleman appeared behind their papa; and four
young forms were held tight in a strong pair of arms, as their turns
came.

“_Do_ you know Miss Lane?” inquired Lillie, when, tea being over and
some degree of quietness restored, she sat curiously watching the two
faces of her friends.

“Yes, a little,” answered the gentleman, nodding and smiling in a
wonderfully contented manner.

A moment after all were moved to mirth, as little Rosie said,
deliberately bringing out her words, as if she had come to the
conclusion after much study, and looking meditatively into Miss Lane’s
face:

“I think she likes him yet—Willie, I mean.”

On the next day, they learned that in the spring, Miss Lane would have
her own home and fireside, to which, she assured them, when their tears
fell at the thought of parting with her, they would ever be welcome.

Many new lessons were learned during those winter months, habits of
order were acquired, and self-control became no longer so difficult to
exercise.

Though Jennie did not become a _model_ of neatness and punctuality, she
did much in the way of improvement, and learned to subdue her temper,
though tried severely.

Lillie, too, and Frank found there was another ruler than their own
will, and made a good beginning in the straight, narrow way, before
Miss Lane departed, her dear face looking fairer and brighter than ever
to her ardent admirers, the young Grahams.


THE END.



Transcriber’s Note:

Punctuation has been standardized. Capitalization, spelling and
hyphenation have been retained as they appear in the original
publication, except as follows:

  Page 31
  and the first dim consciousnes of duty _changed to_
  and the first dim consciousness of duty

  Page 69
  the eager sprites sur-surrounded _changed to_
  the eager sprites surrounded

  Page 118
  The chlidren could scarcely _changed to_
  The children could scarcely

  Page 157
  afterwards a horse came gallopping _changed to_
  afterwards a horse came galloping

  and at some distauce, under _changed to_
  and at some distance, under





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