Miss Levick's words irritated instead of soothed her, and she could not help feeling there was not so much sympathy as she had a right to expect.
The teacher felt all this, and her tears dropped silently as she thought over Maggie's words.
"You have not so great cause for grief." There was a lesson in her past life that her heart prompted her to unveil for the instruction of the young mourner, and though she shrank from the task she determined it should be done.
"Maggie," she began in a low voice, "I have no home, Maggie. There are times when my path looks dreary to me. Once loving hands clasped mine, but one by one they have all lost their hold upon me and crumbled away into dust, while I am left to walk alone. I do not murmur at this, though there have been times when my heart has said, 'The Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.' And if you will listen I will tell you how a heart more impulsive and passionate than yours was brought to rest quietly in the hands of One who doeth all things well.
"I was born in New England, and amid its wild, picturesque scenery I grew to love nature most devoutly—not calm, serene, quiet; I gloried in the war of elements, the play of the winds, the lightning, the thunder. When very young it was one of my pastimes to be out in the rain-storms; there was something in this akin to my own passionate nature. I did not like anything tame and restrained. My mother was a warm-hearted, loving woman, but so given to the world, so immersed in the whirl of society that she could not spend much time with her children. She saw that we were well fed, well dressed, well behaved, and her duty was done. I remember so well how prettily she looked—the dainty cap and collar, and when I used to put my arms about her neck and tell her how pretty she was, she would put me aside for fear I should spoil her toilet.
"My father was a proud-spirited man, who dearly loved my wild, uncontrolled ways; there was no danger of mussing him, and rare sport we used to have during his hours of leisure. I loved my father fondly, and people said that I had more influence over him than any other human being. Wealthy, and possessed of a social disposition, our house was a rendezvous for all. An Englishman by birth, my father was accustomed to seeing his sideboard well filled, and by degrees he grew to frequent it too often.
"When I was about twelve years old my mother died, and after four years spent in school I returned to find a great change in my father. He would at times be gloomy and morose for days together, keeping the whole house in a state of fear and discomfort by his sudden caprice and unreasonable exactions. This would pass away and he would appear as usual. These attacks grew to be more frequent, and at last came to be his habitual frame, and his frequent absence from home, which at first was a great sorrow to me, came to be looked for as a great relief.
"Months passed on, and at last I woke up to know what others had known for a long time, that my father was drinking deeply and losing constantly at play. O, Maggie, I can never tell you the terrible suffering through which I passed. I left society and shut myself up at home, determined, if it was possible, to save him. I had influence with him: but how could I appeal to him—how let him know that I knew the places he frequented and the company he kept!
"Then change came. I grew indignant that he should bring all this misery upon me—the poverty and disgrace that I felt sure must follow such a course. Then in a moment of tenderness I would plead and expostulate with him, begging him with tears to leave his habits of dissipation for my sake, for his own sake, for the sake of my dead mother; while he would talk and weep, telling me that he could not break away; there was something continually drawing him to the gaming-house—he knew it was ruining him, but he must go, while the bitter, burning tears would roll over his face. Little by little every available article of property was disposed of and poverty stared us in the face.
"At length my father's constitution failed under the wear of constant excitement, and he was forced to leave his customary resort and confine himself to the house, and not unfrequently to his bed. Remorse preyed upon him, and his sufferings at times were terrible. With all this I was not impatient, neither did I leave him, for it was a part of my being, the love I had for him; and though at times a flood of bitterness possessed my soul—wretched, helpless, tortured with distress of mind and body, I sought to comfort and console him.
"He lingered for two years a pitiable wreck of what he had once been, and died, I trust, repentant, leaving me alone and utterly destitute.
"I had relatives in Baltimore, said to be wealthy, and for a few weeks I trusted in their kindness; but there was no notice of my letters for a long time, and then one came couched so blandly, sympathizing with me in my loss, hoping I was well, but saying not a word of the future, or manifesting the least care or concern for what might become of me. Bitter were the tears, but it roused me. I determined to rely upon myself. My father had been a thorough scholar, and I was educated according to his system. There was nothing superficial, and the extent of my reading, both in English and the classics, was far more than the course usually prescribed for ladies. I also inherited a talent for music which had been carefully cultivated, so that I was well able to teach any branch that might be desired. Through the kindness of our family physician I obtained a situation in a seminary at some distance from my home, as music teacher. My deep mourning, together with my extreme youth, procured sympathy and kindness from many; but I rejected all the overtures and led a life of perfect isolation, as much alone as if in a wilderness. I aimed to be kind and courteous in my demeanor to all, but no one was admitted in the least degree into my confidence, and every emotion was carefully concealed from observation. Satisfied with my books and my music, learning language after language, not that I liked study so passionately, but it made me forget, I felt that I never could be again what I had been. My chief solace, when not studying, was at the instrument; and here with my pupils did I spend hour after hour, reveling not alone in the written music, but improvising according to my will. These pieces pleased me best, for here I could pour out my anguished feelings, the mournful, withering wail of my despair.
"How long this might have lasted I can not say; but my heavenly Father, against whom my heart, without knowing it, rebelled so grievously, was pleased to deal mercifully with me, and sent me in my withering, deadening grief a great and precious gift. You have often asked me about this miniature, Maggie," and she unclasped a bracelet from her arm. It was richly chased, and contained the likeness of a noble-looking man in the prime of manhood.
"It was my husband, my noble, generous husband," and she pressed her lips to the dumb semblance.
"Harris Levick was an inmate of the same boardinghouse with me, but for a long time we were as perfect strangers. He pitied me at first; and not repulsed by the manner in which his advances were met, he persevered until my heart gave way, and I learned first to regard him as a friend, a brother, and after that to love him with all the devotion of one whose love flowed in but one channel to one object. Once more I entered society because he wished it, and again sunshine rested in my heart and on my life.
"Months passed; we were married, and I left my labors at the seminary to preside over a home simple in all its furnishing, for Harris was not wealthy, but oh, what a paradise it was to me! We had books, flowers, and music. We had young hearts full of love for each other and hope for the future, and for one short year I forgot all the bitterness of the past; and when love's signet ring was clasped with one sweet pearl I felt that God was good to me, and thought I was grateful for his blessings. Four years with rare delight swept over me, and when God touched my treasures I found that my heart was as proud and as bitter as ever.
"Harris was a lawyer, with fine talent and a steadily increasing practice. For a young man he was said to excel, and all looked forward to a brilliant future for him. How many times we talked over the home we should possess in a few years, planning its surroundings and its adornments with almost satisfaction, hardly thinking that change might mar the programme; and still would Harris often close this dreaming by, 'If God wills,' and seated by his side with no wish for anything beyond his love, I too could respond, 'If God wills.' Yes, it was easy to say, 'Thy will be done,' when that will brought me only what I craved.
"We had been married four years. Willie, my precious baby, was three years old, the joy of our home, the dearest, most affectionate little heart. There was a particular case on the docket. My husband had need of all his skill and ability, besides it was necessary that he should meet personally with several connected with it, and on whom much depended. This rendered a journey to Chicago necessary. How I remember the morning he left me; bright and beautiful as it was, I could not help the tears that would come. True, it was comparatively a short journey, still I could not keep down the sobs.
"'I shall be gone only a week, darling, it will soon pass. Cheer up, here is Willie, bright as a sunbeam, and I will write if possible every day.'
"Try as I would, I could not restrain myself.
"'Why, Allie, had I thought you would have felt so bad I would not have gone.'
"'It is very foolish I know, Harris, but it seems to me that I shall never see you again,' and I wept convulsively.
"'God bless and keep my treasures,' said Harris.
"I kissed him passionately again and again, and then saw the door close after him.
"It was two days before I heard from my husband; he was well, business prospering, would be home in the time specified, and I was sorry that I had been so foolish; the days were pleasant, and he needed change; he might have made a pleasant excursion of it if I had not been so babyish; and I told Willie of all my weakness, and I promised I would never give way again. I knew my husband was never so happy as when at home; he was ambitious in his profession, a stirring business man; it would be necessary for him to go away often, and his leaving should never be clouded again. Thus I resolved. Willie, putting his dimpled arms about my neck would say to me, 'Good, pretty ma, don't cry any more when pa goes away.'
"The week was nearly passed, Harris would close his business and leave in the morning. How my heart thrilled as at night I dressed myself carefully, and put the little suit his father liked best on Willie! Then, seating myself and taking my baby on my lap, I rocked him and told him stories to while the time away till I heard the tramp of the iron horse.
"Nine o'clock rung out from the little French clock on the mantel. A moment and the rumbling of the cars was heard, while the whistle screeched out its warning, and Willie bounded from my arms, 'Pa come, pa come!'
"'Not yet, darling,' and I whiled him back to wait patiently. It was far past his usual bedtime, but his eyes were never brighter. This was an unusual occasion, and he could sleep later in the morning. An hour passed, it seemed to me an age; again and again I went to the door to listen. By and by there was a carriage at the gate, and footsteps coming up the graveled walk.
"'There is more than one; my husband must have brought company, that is what has kept him so long at the depot.' And I took Willie by the hand and opened the door. Four gentlemen stood on the steps, but my husband was not among them. I staggered back, and should have fallen but for the kindly care of one.
"'Tell me all; I can bear it; my husband is dead.'
"I did not need the words, I knew it. But when they told me of the accident, the terrible collision, the fearful death of so many, and my husband among the number, I felt the good slipping away from me. My grief was too bitter, my eyes were dry, and my brain like bursting. Why should God take one and not the other? And I clasped my child to my heart; and if I ever prayed earnestly it was that we might both go.
"'We thought it would be a comfort to you to see your husband; the body will soon be here.'
"And the humane man began making preparations to receive it. All the while I sat mechanically clasping my child tightly and passionately, asking to be taken out of a life so wretched as mine would be without his presence.
"The door opened, and a litter borne by four men was placed in the middle of the room. Gently they arranged everything, and with the delicacy of those who know what sorrow is, left me alone with my dead.
"There lay my husband dressed just as when he left Chicago—his face calm and serene, while the blood still oozed from a wound in the temple, and his breast was mangled and bleeding; still I could not make it real, while Willie begged so hard for 'pa to wake up.' Poor child! he could not realize his misery; he did not know what it was to be fatherless.
"Days passed. They put my dead from me. How was I to live without him? Alas! had I read the lesson rightly I should perhaps have been spared another. Hardly three months had passed when scarlet fever broke out in the village, and Willie sickened and died.
"My cup was full; the waves of bitterness rolled over me; I was ready to curse God who had dealt so severely with me; and no words can describe the darkness, like the shadow of death, that settled over my soul. I neither wept nor prayed. I thought of God only as an enemy whose hand was relentlessly against me, and every power of my body and mind seemed locked up by a stony despair. I followed my baby to the grave, but it was as one who neither saw nor heard. I went back to my lonely home and brooded silently over my hard fate.
"The autumn days hung their beauty all around me, but I had no eye to see, no ear to catch the joyfulness floating around me. Christmas came, a bright, beautiful winter morning, and I stood by the window watching passers-by. There were no friends, no Christmas cheer for me. Why was my fate so pitiless? As I stood by the window, my heart making bitter responses to every peal of the bell, our clergyman passed, a kind, benevolent-hearted man; he bowed kindly, and then entered.
"'Are you not going out this morning, Mrs. Levick?'
"'No sir. I have nothing to rejoice over, unless it be that every drop in my cup has turned to bitterness.'
"He did not answer me at once, but taking both my hands, and looking earnestly into my face said, 'Almost every house was smitten; we lost two of our darlings.'
"He passed on to the church, and presently I heard the swelling notes of the organ, and the voice of the people. Every note came directly to my ear, for the door was being opened and closed continually.
"'Ah!' thought I, 'they can sing, they can observe Christmas; they have lost only children, I have lost all.'
"When the service was over I watched to see the people go back to their homes. My heart smote me not a little as I saw that not less than one-half the congregation wore the badge of bereavement. There was a widow with her fatherless children; feeble age tottered on missing the strong arm of manhood on which it had been accustomed to lean; little children, motherless, walked with demure steps by their father's side; and there a lonely couple thinking of the little ones that used to follow them with dancing steps.
"'What a wretched, suffering world it is!' and I bowed my head upon my hands and wept, the first tears I had shed since they took my baby from my arms. Just then baby's old nurse came in—the dear old motherly heart—the sight of my grief touched her.
"'He knoweth what is best; each heart has its own sorrow,' and she held me in her arms just as she used to hold Willie. Then she talked to me a long time of God's goodness and love; that he knew and pitied our anguish; that this life was not all, there was a future, and that it would not be long till we should stand on the farther shore.
"Somehow her simple words went directly to my heart; and although I wept till I was nearly exhausted it did me good, and that night I slept like a child.
"I awoke next morning with a strange feeling of weakness in every limb, and a sense of bewilderment and confusion that I tried in vain to shake off. Past events, even my recent bereavement, would rise up for an instant before me, and then float away into dim distance. I was prostrate with high fever, through which I was tenderly watched by Mrs. Bryan, aided by friends whose approach I did not now repel.
"After long delirium and unconsciousness I awoke at last to reason, and for several days bore reluctantly with what I fancied was Mrs. Bryan's needless caution in keeping the room so dark. At length I could bear it no longer, I wanted to see the sunlight once more, and insisted that the window should be opened. Poor Mrs. Bryan put me off till to-morrow, then the curtains were rolled up, and the blinds thrown open; I knew it, for I felt the pure air on my cheek. But, alas! I could dimly see the sun shining through the rose tree, and the white spire of the village church; all was dim and faint as before.
"It was not that my room was darkened; the light had gone out of my eyes, I was almost blind; I should never see the sunshine nor the flowers again; all my life I must be a helpless, dependent creature, a burden to myself and to others.
"I remembered then my ingratitude, the hardness of my heart, because he had taken my idols, and I felt the Lord had justly smitten me. Day after day I could see less of the flickering sunlight, and at length it was gone to me entirely.
"Oh how beautiful now seemed to me the broad green earth! How I longed to look upon the sweet flowers! Once I would not look at them because they reminded me of those his hands had so often gathered for me. Now I longed but to look at them, while the song of the birds filled me with pleasant music. For hours did I sit and listen to the robins as they crooned out their love songs in the old elm tree, when suddenly a thought struck me: 'These winged creatures warble and bask in the sunlight, answering the purpose of their existence, while I, a rational creature, am gloomy and sad of heart, and full of complainings. I am of more consequence in His sight than a bird.' These reflections brought tears, and I found myself offering up a prayer that I too might become as happy in the purpose of my life. This prayer was the earnest wish of my heart, and it was not long till I found the Saviour, and, leaning upon him, felt happier in my blindness than when I walked alone with my wicked heart.
"My chastening was severe, but the Lord raised up friends in my necessity. After three months of total blindness, the result of long-continued nervous excitement, my sight was gradually restored. In the meantime I had made the acquaintance of a family from the South, who pressed me so kindly to return with them to their own home that I could not refuse.
"This home was in the suburbs of New Orleans, where the mild air and sweet perfume of orange groves did much toward establishing health. Alas, that blight, war and desolation should sweep over such a home! How I felt I hardly know, nor in what way I found myself in camp and hospital. The lengthened watch that knew no variation in the long wards, the terrible suffering of the brave men who had periled their all for the Union, and I ministering to their wants, aiding them to bear suffering patiently, binding up their wounds, above all, pointing them to Him whose precious love had brought him to do more for them than they had done for others—sad as it was, it was no doubt the very thing for me; I forgot my own griefs, personal sorrow was unthought of. I felt thankful for the benefits I had received, leaned more and more upon his protecting care, and looked forward, not blindly and with mute despair, but with hope of a joyful reunion on the other shore. For me I can say, 'It is good that I have been afflicted.' I feel a firm confidence in the goodness and mercy that will not leave me nor forsake me."
The hands of the clock were slowly creeping past the midnight hour; the leaping flames were gone; in their place were only embers glowing redly under the white ashes, even as hope will live and glow in a strong heat under all the smoldering ashes of disappointment.
Maggie rose from her seat and folded her arms about her teacher's neck.
"I pray God to teach me the sweet lesson you have learned. I am so sorry that I said 'you had not so much cause for grief as I.' But why do they call you Miss Levick?"
"Your question is very natural. It was simply a mistake on the part of Mrs. Champlan, and I had not energy enough at the time to correct it. After that I felt it was just as well, I should escape questioning."
They went forth in a few hours, each to her appointed lot, and the angels looked down upon them both.
"Alone with God!" the keynote this Of every holy life, The secret power of fragrant growth, And victory over strife.
"Alone with God!" in private prayer And quietness we feel That he draws near our waiting souls, And doth himself reveal.
"Alone with God!" earth's laurels fade, Ambition tempts not there; The world and self are judged aright, And no false colors wear.
"Alone with God!" true knowledge gained, While sitting at his feet; We learn life's greatest lessons there, Which make for service meet.
The mother's voice was low and tender, and solemn.
On two sweet voices the tones were borne upward.
It was the innocence of reverent children that gave them utterance.
"Who art in heaven."
"Who art in heaven," repeated the children, one with her eyes bent meekly down, and the other looking upward, as if she would penetrate the heavens into which her heart was aspiring.
"Hallowed be thy name."
Lower fell the voice of the little ones. In a gentle murmur they said,—
"Hallowed be thy name."
"Thy kingdom come."
And the burden of the prayer was still taken by the children—
"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," filled the chamber.
And the mother continued—
"Give us this day our daily bread."
"Our daily bread," lingered a moment on the air, as the mother's voice was hushed into silence.
"And forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors."
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever."
All these holy words were said piously and fervently by the little ones, as they knelt with clasped hands beside their mother. Then as their thoughts, uplifted on the wings of prayer to their heavenly Father, came back again and rested on their earthly parents, a warmer love came gushing from their hearts.
Pure kisses—tender kisses—the fond "good-night." What a sweet agitation pervaded all their feelings. Then two dear heads were placed side by side on the snowy pillows, the mother's last good-night kiss given, and the shadowy curtains drawn.
What a pulseless stillness reigns without the chamber. Inwardly, the parents' ears are bent. They have given those innocent ones into the keeping of God's angels, and they can almost hear the rustle of their garments as they gather around their sleeping babes. A sigh, deep and tremulous, breaks on the air. Quickly the mother turns to the father of her children, with a look of earnest inquiry upon her countenance. And he answers thus her silent questions:—
"Far back through many years have my thoughts been wandering. At my mother's knee thus said I nightly my childhood's evening prayer. It was that best and holiest of all prayers, 'Our Father,' that she taught me. Childhood and my mother passed away. I went forth as a man into the world, strong, confident, and self-seeking. Once I came into great temptation. Had I fallen in that temptation, I should have fallen never to rise again. I was about yielding. All the barriers I could oppose to it in the in-rushing flood, seemed just ready to give way, when, as I sat in my room one evening, there came from an adjoining chamber, now first occupied for many weeks, the murmur of low voices. I listened. At first no articulate sound was heard, and yet something in the tones stirred my heart with new and strong emotions. At length there came to my ears, in the earnest, loving voice of a woman, the words,—
"'Deliver us from evil.'
"For an instant, it seemed to me as if that voice were that of my mother. Back with a sudden bound, through all the intervening years, went my thoughts, and a child again I was kneeling at my mother's knee. Humbly and reverently I said over the words of the holy prayer she had taught me, heart and eye uplifted to heaven. The hour and power of darkness had passed. I was no longer standing in slippery places, with a flood of water ready to sweep me to destruction; but my feet were on a rock. My pious mother's care had saved her son. In the holy words she had taught me in childhood was a living power to resist evil through all my after life. Ah! that unknown mother, as she taught her child to repeat this evening prayer, how little dreamed she that the holy words were to reach a stranger's ears, and save him through the memory of his own childhood and his own mother. And yet it was so. What a power there is in God's word, as it flows into and rests in the minds of innocent childhood."
Tears were in the eyes of the wife and mother, as she lifted her face and gazed with a subdued tenderness, upon the countenance of her husband. Her heart was too full for utterance. A little while she thus gazed, and then with a trembling joy, laid her hand upon his bosom. Angels were in the chamber where their dear ones slept, and they felt their holy presence.
Hallowed, ay, hallowed! not alone in prayer, But in our daily thoughts and daily speech; At altar and at hearthstone—everywhere That temple-priests or home-apostles preach. Oh, not by words alone, but by our deeds, And by our faith, and hope, and spirit's flame, And by the nature of our private creeds, We hallow best, and glorify thy Name. Nature doth hallow it. In every star, And every flower, and leaf, and leaping wave, She praises Thee, who, from Thy realm afar, Such stores of beauty to this fair earth gave. But these alone should not Thy love proclaim— Our hearts, our souls respond—"All hallowed be Thy Name."
THE HAPPY NEW YEAR
"Happy New Year, papa!" The sitting-room doors were thrown open, and a sweet little girl came bounding in. Her cheeks were all aglow. Smiles played around her cherry lips, and her eyes were dancing with sunny light.
"Happy New Year, my sweet one!" responded Mr. Edgar, as he clasped the child fondly to his heart. "May all your New Years be happy," he added, in a low voice, and with a prayer in his heart.
Little Ellen laid her head in confiding love against her father's breast, and he bent down his manly cheek until it rested on the soft masses of her golden hair. To her it was a happy New Year's morning, and the words that fell from her lips were heart-echoes. But it was not so with Mr. Edgar. The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, had, like evil weeds, found a rank growth in his heart, while good seeds of truth, which in earlier life had sent forth their fresh, green blades, that lifted themselves in the bright, invigorating sunshine, gave now but feeble promise for the harvest-time.
No; Mr. Edgar was not happy. There was a pressure on his feelings; an unsatisfied reaching out into the future; a vague consciousness of approaching evil. Very tenderly he loved his little one; and as she lay nestling against him, he could not help thinking of the time when he was a child, and when the New Years were happy ones. Ellen loved no place so well as her father's arms. When they were folded tightly around her, she had nothing more to desire; so she lay very still and silent, while the thoughts of her father wandered away from the loving child on his bosom to his own unsatisfied state of mind.
"For years," he said within himself, "I have been in earnest pursuit of the means of happiness, yet happiness itself seems every year to be still farther in the distance. There is something wrong. I cannot be in the true path. My days are busy and restless, my nights burdened with schemes that rarely do more than cheat my glowing fancy. What is the meaning of this?"
And Mr. Edgar fell into a deep reverie, from which he was aroused by the voice of his wife, as she laid her hand upon his shoulder.
"A happy New Year, and many joyful returns!" she said, in loving tones, as she pressed her lips to his forehead.
He did not answer. The tenderly spoken good wishes of his wife fell very gratefully, like refreshing dew, upon his heart; but he was distinctly conscious of not being happy.
So far as worldly condition was concerned, Mr. Edgar had no cause of mental depression. His business was prosperous under a careful management, and every year he saw himself better off by a few thousand dollars. Always, however, it must be told, the number fell short of his expectations.
"There is something wrong." Mr. Edgar's thoughts were all running in one direction. A startling truth seemed suddenly to be revealed to him, and he felt inclined to look at it in all possible aspects. "Why am I not happy?" That was urging the question home; but the answer was not given.
After breakfast, Mr. Edgar left home and went to his store. As he passed along the street, he saw at a window the face of a most lovely child. Her beauty, that had in it something of heavenly innocence, impressed him so deeply that he turned to gain a second look, and in doing so his eyes saw on the door of the dwelling the name of Abraham James. There was an instant revulsion of feeling; and for the first time that morning Mr. Edgar remembered one of the causes of his uncomfortable state of mind. Abraham James was an unfortunate debtor who had failed to meet his obligations, among which were two notes of five hundred dollars each, given to Mr. Edgar. These had been placed by the latter in the hands of his lawyer, with directions to sue them out, and obtain the most that could be realized. Only the day before—the last day of the year—he had learned that there were two judgments that would take precedence of his, and sweep off a share of the debtor's property. The fact had chafed him considerably, causing him to indulge in harsh language toward his debtor. This language was not just, as he knew in his heart. But the loss of his money fretted him, and filled him with unkind feelings toward the individual who had occasioned the loss.
No wonder that Mr. Edgar was unhappy. As he continued on his way, the angry impulse that quickened the blood in his veins subsided, and through the mist that obscured his mental vision, he saw the bright face of a child, the child of his unfortunate debtor. His own precious one was no lovelier, no purer; nor had her lips uttered on that morning in sweeter tones, the words, "A happy New Year, papa!"
How the thought thrilled him.
With his face bowed, and his eyes upon the ground, Mr. Edgar walked on. He could not sweep aside the image of that child at the window, nor keep back his thoughts from entering the dwelling where her presence might be the only sunbeam that gave light in its gloomy chambers.
When Mr. Edgar arrived at his store, his feelings toward Mr. James were very different from what they were on the day previous. All anger, all resentment, were gone, and kindness had taken their place. What if Mr. James did owe him a thousand dollars? What if he should lose the whole amount of this indebtedness? Was the condition of the former so much better than his own, that he would care to change places with him? The very idea caused a shudder to run along his nerves.
"Poor man!" he said to himself, pityingly. "What a terrible thing to be thus involved in debt, thus crippled, thus driven to the wall. It would kill me! Men are very cruel to one another, and I am cruel with the rest. What are a thousand dollars to me, or a thousand dollars to my well-to-do neighbor, compared with the ruin of a helpless fellow-man? James asked time. In two years he was sure he could recover himself, and make all good. But, with a heartlessness that causes my cheek to burn as I think of it, I answered, 'The first loss is always the best loss. I will get what I can, and let the balance go.' The look he then gave me has troubled my conscience ever since. No wonder it is not a happy New Year."
Scarcely had Mr. Edgar passed the dwelling of his unfortunate debtor, when the latter, who had been walking the floor of his parlor in a troubled state of mind, came to the window and stood by his child, who was as dear to him as a child could be to the heart of a father. "Happy New Year, papa!" It was the third time since morning dawned that he had received this greeting from the same sweet lips. Mr. James tried to give back the same glad greeting, but the words seemed to choke him, and failed in the utterance. As the two stood by the window, the wife and mother came up, and leaning against her husband, looked forth with a sad heart. Oh, no! it was not a happy New Year's morning to them. Long before the dawn of another year, they must go forth from their pleasant home; and both their hearts shrunk back in fear from the dark beyond.
"Good morning, dear," said Mr. James, soon afterward, as, with hat and coat and muffler on, he stood ready to go forth to meet the business trials of the day. His voice was depressed, and his countenance sad.
The business assigned to that day was a painful one for Mr. James. The only creditor who had commenced a suit was Mr. Edgar, he having declined entering into any arrangement with the other creditors, coldly saying that, in his opinion, "the first loss was always the best loss," and that extensions were, in most cases, equivalent to the abandonment of a claim. He was willing to take what the law would give him. Pursuant to this view, a suit had been brought, and the debtor, to anticipate the result, confessed judgment to two of his largest creditors, who honorably bound themselves to see that a pro rata division was made of all his effects.
The business of this New Year's Day was to draw up as complete a statement as possible of his affairs, and Mr. James went about the work with a heavy heart. He had been engaged in this way for over an hour, when one of his clerks came to the desk where he was writing, and handed him a letter, which a lad had just brought in. He broke the seal with a nervous foreboding of trouble; for, of late, these letters by the hands of private messengers had been frequent, and rarely of an agreeable character. From the envelope, as he commenced withdrawing the letter, there dropped upon the desk a narrow piece of paper, folded like a bill. He took it up with almost reluctant fingers, and slowly pressed back the ends so as to read its face and comprehend its import. Twice his eyes went over the brief lines, before he was clear as to their meaning. They were as follows:—
"Received, January 1, 18—, of Abraham James, One Thousand Dollars, in full of all demands.
Hurriedly, now, did Mr. James unfold the letter that accompanied this receipt. Its language moved him deeply.
"Abraham James, Esq.,
"Dear Sir: I was not in a right state of mind when I gave directions to have a suit brought against you. I have seen clearer since, and wish to act from a better principle. My own affairs are prosperous. During the year which has just closed, my profits have been better than in any year since I started business. Your affairs, on the contrary, are unprosperous. Heavy losses, instead of fair profits, are the result of a year's tireless efforts, and you find yourself near the bottom of the wheel, while I am sweeping upward. As I think of this, and of my unfeeling conduct toward you in your misfortunes, I am mortified as well as pained. There is an element in my character which ought not to be there. I am self-convicted of cruelty. Accept, my dear sir, in the enclosed receipt, the best reparation in my power to make. In giving up this claim, I do not abandon an item that goes to complete the sum of my happiness. Not a single comfort will be abridged. It will not shrink the dimensions of my house, nor withdraw from me or my family any portion of food or raiment. Accept, then, the New Year's gift I offer, and believe that I have a purer delight in giving than you in receiving. My best wishes are with you for the future, and if, in anything, I can aid you in your arrangements with creditors, do not fail to command my service.
"Most truly yours,
For the space of nearly five minutes Mr. James sat very still, the letter of Mr. Edgar before him. Then he folded it up, with the receipt inside, and placed it in his pocket. Then he put away the inventories he had been examining, and tore up several pieces of paper, on which were sundry calculations. And then he put on his warm overcoat and buttoned it to the chin.
"Edward," said Mr. James, as he walked down the store, "I shall not return this afternoon. It is New Year's Day, and you can close up at two o'clock."
It cost Mr. Edgar a struggle to write the receipt in full. A thousand dollars was a large sum of money to give away by a single stroke of the pen. Love of gain and selfishness pleaded strongly for the last farthing; but the better reason and better feelings of the man prevailed, and the good deed was done. How light his heart felt, how suddenly the clouds were lifted from his sky, and the strange pressure from his feelings! It was to him a new experience.
On the evening that closed the day, the first evening of the New Year, Mr. Edgar sat with his wife and children in his elegant home, happier by far than he was in the morning, and almost wondering at the change in his state of mind. Little Ellen was in his arms, and as he looked upon her cherub face, he thought of a face as beautiful, seen by him in the morning, at the window of his unfortunate debtor. The face of an angel it had proved to him; for it prompted the good deed from which had sprung a double blessing. While he sat thus, he heard the door-bell ring. In a few minutes the waiter handed in a letter. He broke the seal, and read:—
"MY DEAR SIR: This morning my dear little Aggy, the light of our home, greeted me with a joyous 'Happy New Year.' I took her in my arms and kissed her, keeping my face close to hers, that she might not see the sadness of mine. Ah, sir! the day broke in gloom. The words of my child found no echo in my heart. I could have wept over her, if the strength of manhood had not risen above the weakness of nature. But all is changed now. A few minutes ago the 'Happy New Year' was flowing to me from the sweet lips of my child, and the words went thrilling in gladness to my heart. May the day close as happily for you and yours, as it is closing for me and mine. God bless you!
Mr. Edgar read this letter twice, and then handed it, without a word, to his wife.
The story, to which she listened eagerly, was briefly told. When Mr. Edgar had finished, his wife arose, and, with tears of love and sympathy in her eyes, crossed over to where he was sitting, and throwing her arms around his neck, said, "My good, my generous husband! I feel very proud of you this night. That was a noble deed; and I thank you for it in the name of our common humanity."
Never had words from the lips of his wife sounded so pleasant to the ears of Mr. Edgar. Never had he known so happy a New Year's Day as the one which had just closed. And though it saw him poorer than he believed himself in the morning, by nearly a thousand dollars, he was richer in feeling—richer in the heart's unwasting possessions—than he had ever been in his life.
THE SCRIPTURE QUILT
"In one of the boxes sent to us by the Sanitary Commission," writes a Christian worker in a southern army hospital, "was a patch-work quilt of unusual softness and lightness. When we opened it, we found a note pinned to it. It read as follows:—
"'I have made this Scripture quilt for one of the hospital beds, for I thought that while it would be a comfort to the poor body, it might speak a word of good to the precious soul; the words are so beautiful and blessed, and full of balm and healing! May it be blessed to the dear boys in the army, among whom I have a son.'
"It was made of square blocks of calico and white cotton intermingled, and on every white block was written a verse from the Bible or a couplet from one of our best hymns. On the central block, in letters so large as to catch the careless eye, was that faithful saying, in which is our hope and strength—'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.' And below it the prayer of all prayers, 'God be merciful to me a sinner.' The head border, which would be nearest to the sick man's eye, and oftenest read, had the sweetest texts of promise, and love, and comfort. Among them I read, 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish.' 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.' 'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters!' 'I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.' 'Oh,' we said, 'Oh that all our beds had such quilts! God will surely speak through these texts to the sick and wounded men! They will read them when they will read nothing else. Who knows how much good they will do?'
"It was not long before a man sick with pneumonia was brought in, and we put our new quilt on his bed. He noticed nothing at first, he was too sick; but when he grew better, I saw him intent on the texts. 'Handy to have 'em here!' he said, pointing to them as I stood near him. 'You know how to value them, then,' I said. 'I do,' he answered, with heartiness. After that I saw many studying the quilt—almost all who lay beneath it. One poor fellow, who had tossed in pain and feverishness for several days, caught sight of the words, 'And I will give you rest.' He beckoned to me, and said, 'Rest! where can I get it? Rest for body and mind, both! I am half mad—sick, as you see, but sicker—as no one can see. Tell me how to get rest!' 'Did you never hear of the way?—never hear of Jesus?' 'Tell me again.' I told him the story of the cross. 'Died for my sins?' he asked. 'Yes, yours. He saw you in your sins and pitied you, loved you, died to save you from sin and give you rest; to make you happy.' 'I have never been happy—never. I have been too wicked. And he really died for me? I never felt it before. It never seemed to me a real thing.' 'I hope you will come to feel it the most real thing. Have you seen the lines—
"'None but Jesus, none but Jesus, Can do helpless sinners good'?
"'It's true. I know it is none but Jesus! I've tried everything else.'
"'I'll go to Jesus, though my sins Have like a mountain risen,'
I repeated. 'I can't go. I feel that I can't do anything. I am here a very wretched man; and that is all.' 'Just leave yourself to God, then,—
"'Here, Lord, I give myself away, 'Tis all that I can do.'
That's all you have to do.' 'Is that verse here?' I showed it to him on the quilt. 'I'll keep it before me. Oh for rest! a little rest!' he groaned again. Not long after he found it,—found peace in believing, and left his hospital bed, happier than he had ever been before.
"An Irishman lay under the Scripture quilt. One day when nearly well, he was looking at it. 'Is that radin?' he asked, putting his finger on the text. 'Yes.' 'Sure, and what does it say?' I read, 'And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.' 'Ye might rade that,' he said, pointing to another text. 'I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me.' 'It is the Lord who says this,' I added after the text. 'Sure, it's good to a lonesome pareson to hear what you rade.' 'So it is. There is no book like the Bible in dark and trying hours.'
"At last came the boy who had the best right to the comfort of our Scripture quilt,—the son, of whom the good woman who made it spoke in the note attached. It was a strange circumstance that he should have come to lie beneath it, but so it was. He had lain there nearly senseless for more than a week, when I saw him kiss the patch-work. I thought he might be wandering, or if not, had found a text of hope or consolation that seemed to suit his need, and marked with my eye the place he had kissed, to see what it was. It was no text, but a calico block, the pattern a little crimson leaf on a dark ground. He kept looking at it, with tears in his eyes, and I was almost sure his mind was wandering. Nay, he was never more in his right mind, and his thoughts were at home with his mother. A bit of the gown he had so often seen her wear had carried him back to her. He kissed it again. I approached him. He looked up, and smiled through his tears.
"'Do you know where this quilt came from?' he asked. 'Some good woman sent it to us through the Sanitary Commission.' 'You don't know her name, nor where it came from?' 'No, but I saved a note that was pinned to the quilt.' 'Would you be willing to let me see it some time when it is convenient?' 'Oh, yes. I'll get it now.' I got it for him; his hand trembled, and his lips grew white as he opened it and saw the writing. 'Please read it to me quite slowly,' he said, returning it. I read it. 'It is from my mother; shall you keep it?' 'Yes,' I answered, 'I value it very much, and also the quilt.' He put his hands over his eyes. I thought he wished to be alone, and left him. As I stood by his bed the next day, I was wondering if he had not seen his mother's texts, as well as the bit of her gown. He had, and pointed one out to me. It was, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.' 'I am no more worthy,' he whispered. I put my finger on the next white block, and read aloud, 'When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him.' As I looked up, I saw there were tears upon his cheeks, and his lips were tremulous. He covered his eyes, and I left him. A few days after, when he had grown much stronger, he held up to me the text I had shown him. 'I was a great way off,' he said, 'but He has met me and had compassion on me.' 'You feel the Saviour's love?' 'It fills me with peace. What love! What a Saviour!' 'Shall I not write to your mother and tell her that her son, who was dead, is alive again; was lost, and is found?' 'Will it not be too much trouble?' 'Oh, no, a pleasure instead.' I wrote the blessed tidings, making the mother's heart rejoice. And now our Scripture quilt was even dearer and more sacred than before."
However dark the skies may appear, And however souls may blunder, I tell you it all will work out clear, For good lies over and under.
—Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
SPEAK TO STRANGERS
"Who was that quiet-appearing girl that came into church quite late, last Sabbath?" I asked a friend of mine who was an active member in the church which I had recently joined.
"Did she wear a striped shawl and a dark dress?" inquired my friend. "If so, it was Annie Linton, a girl who is a seamstress in Brown's shop."
"I did not notice her clothes in particular," I answered, "but her face attracted me; I should know it among a thousand faces. How could you pass by a stranger so indifferently, Mrs. Greyson? I expected that you would ask her to remain to Sabbath-school, and go into your Bible-class, but you did not once look at her."
"I did not once think of it, and if I had, probably she would not have accepted the invitation, as she is a stranger in town, and undoubtedly will not remain here long," my friend replied quickly, in the way of defense.
I said nothing more, for Mrs. G. was really an excellent Christian woman, with this one fault,—carelessness,—which sometimes caused her to make grave mistakes.
But I could not help thinking about the stranger girl. Her large dark eyes and finely formed face revealed more than ordinary intelligence, and in some way I gained the impression that she was deeply impressed with religious conviction, if not a Christian already. It seemed to me that she left the church very reluctantly, and was half waiting an invitation to the Bible-class.
The next Sabbath she came again and occupied the same seat,—just in front of my own. She bowed her head very reverently during prayer, and once during the sermon I saw her lip quiver with emotion, and a tear came into her eye. The services closed, and the stranger lingered as before. My friend, good Mrs. G., again forgot to speak to the girl. She passed out of the church slowly, and did not come again. I thought she must have left town, as I had not seen her for several days; but one Sabbath, as I attended another church, I saw her again. She seemed a little more at ease, I thought, and there was a quiet smile on her face. After the services were concluded, I saw many a pleasant smile given to the stranger girl, and I understood the secret of the changed look upon her face. I made some inquiries, and learned that she had joined this church, and was earnest and active in all its work. I also learned that she had made a profession of religion just before coming to our village, and had an unusually clear experience. How much the indifference of our own people had to do with her finding a home in another church, I know not.
Several years have passed since this occurred, but I have never forgotten it. Many a stranger's hand I have clasped as I thought of Annie Linton's sweet face. I was young in Christian experience then, and that lesson was a profitable one to me.
Speak to the stranger, Christian friend, with the assurance that no evil will grow out of it. It is better sometimes to step over the rules of etiquette than to chill some warm stream of God's new-given love by coldness and indifference.
Loving words are rays of sunshine, Falling on the path of life, Driving out the gloom and shadow Born of weariness and strife.
Often we forget our troubles When a friendly voice is heard, They are banished by the magic Of a kind and helpful word.
Keep not back a word of kindness When the chance to speak it comes; Though it seems to you a trifle, Many a heart that grief benumbs
Will grow strong and brave to bear it, And the world will brighter grow, Just because the word was spoken; Try it—you will find it so.
THE MAJOR'S CIGAR
After a separation of ten years I met my old friend, Major——, at a railway station. If he had not spoken first I should not have recognized my Virginia comrade of '64. It was not merely the disguise of a silken hat and shaven cheek, but—as I told him after we had chatted a little about each other's ups and downs since the war—I was sure this was the first time I ever saw him away from the table without a cigar in his mouth.
"Haven't smoked for five years," was his reply. "I'm down on tobacco as thoroughly as you ever were."
"Good! Tell me all about it."
We locked arms, and walked leisurely up and down the platform. Dropping the dialogue, this was, in substance, his story:—
"It wasn't a sudden conversion. I never was quite so easy in my mind over it as I pretended to be. I intended to taper off when I got home from the army. And I did, smoked less in three weeks than I used to in one. But one summer I went off on some business for our company, which kept me up in the mountains, among the charcoal-burners, three days longer than I expected. I got out of cigars, and couldn't obtain any for love or money. In forty-eight hours I was more uncomfortable and unstrung than I ever was before in all my life. I actually borrowed an old Irishman's filthy clay pipe, and tried to smoke it. I thought of that miserable summer we spent crawling about the trenches in Virginia, and I wished I was there again, with a cigar in my mouth. Then I began to realize what a shameful bondage I was in to a mere self-indulgence. I, a man who secretly prided himself on his self-control, nerve, and manliness,—who never flinched at hard fare or rough weather,—a downright slave to a bad habit; unnerved and actually unfit for business for lack of a cigar. It made me angry at myself; I despised myself for my pusillanimity.
"Going into the matter a little further, I found that the money I had spent for cigars in a dozen years would have paid for my house and furnished it. I had smoked away more money than I had laid out for our library, our periodicals, and our intellectual culture generally. Cigars had cost me nearly twice as much as I had given to church work, missions, and charity. My conscience rose up at the record. I knew I could not plead any equivalent for the outlay; it had not fed me; it had not strengthened me; it had simply drugged me. Every cigar had made the next cigar a little more necessary to my comfort. To use the mildest word, it had been a useless expenditure.
"My detention in the mountains was calculated to open my eyes to my domestic shortcomings, and I saw, as I never saw before, how selfishly unsocial tobacco had made me at home. I smoked before I was married, and my wife never entered any protest against my cigars afterward. But our first baby was a nervous child, and the doctor told me it would not do for it to breathe tobacco smoke. So I got in the way of shutting myself up in the library of evenings, and after meals, to enjoy my cigars. As I look at it now, nothing is more absurd than to call smoking a social habit. It's a poor pretense of sociability, where a man is simply intent on his own enjoyment. My wife owns now, that my tobacco-tainted breath and tobacco-saturated clothing were always more or less a trial to her. The satisfaction it has given her to be rid of a tobacco atmosphere, and the thought of my contemptibly selfish indifference to her comfort all those years, have humbled me, I tell you. And I wouldn't exchange my own daily satisfaction now-a-days in being a cleaner man—inside and outside—for the delight that anybody gets out of his cigars.
"I didn't need to go outside of my own doors to find reasons enough for giving up the habit; but I think I found still stronger ones, after all, when I went away from home. The more I thought about the harm tobacco does in the community at large, the more sure I felt that it was time for me to stop giving it the moral support of my example. I know I smoked too much, and that my nervous system is the worse for it; and I think the people who are likely to be hurt the most by it are just the ones who are most likely to smoke excessively. And then, I've noticed that the medical men who stand up for tobacco, are always men who use it, and are liable to the suspicion of straining a point in justification of their own self-indulgence.
"On one point, though, I believe the authorities agree. No one denies that it is a damaging indulgence for boys. It means a good deal when smoking is forbidden to the pupils in the polytechnic schools in Paris, and the military schools in Germany, purely on hygienic grounds. The governments of these smoking nations are not likely to be notional on that matter. But the use of tobacco by our American boys and men is excessive and alarming. We ought to save our rising generation for better work than they can do if tobacco saps the strength of their growing years, and makes the descent easier, as no doubt it often does, to worse vices. I don't know how to forgive myself for the temptation I set before my Sabbath-school class of bright boys, year after year, by my smoking habits.
"It isn't in the family, either, that the selfishness of the habit is most apparent. I don't believe, other things being equal, there is any other class of men who show such a disregard in public for other people's comfort as tobacco users do. A man would be considered a rowdy or a boor who should wilfully spatter mud on the clothing of a lady as she passed him on the sidewalk. But a lady to whom tobacco fumes are more offensive than mud, can hardly walk the streets in these days, but that men who call themselves gentlemen—and who are gentlemen in most other respects—blow their cigar smoke into her face at almost every step. Smokers drive non-smokers out of the gentlemen's cabins on the ferry-boats, and the gentlemen's waiting-rooms in railway stations, monopolizing these rooms as coolly as if only they had any rights in them. I can't explain such phenomena except on the theory that tobacco befogs the moral sense, and makes men specially selfish."
The Major's train came in just then, and as he took my hand to say good-by, its smoking-car drew his parting shot: "See there! Did you ever reflect how the tobacco habit levies its taxes on everybody? The railway company furnishes an extra seat to every smoker, which, in the nature of the case, must be paid for by an extra charge on the tickets of all the passengers. What a stir it would raise, if the legislature should attempt to furnish luxuries to any special class, at public cost, in this way. How we'd vote them down! I vote against this thing by throwing away my cigar!"
WHAT TO MIND.
Mind your tongue! Don't let it speak An angry, an unkind, A cruel, or a wicked word; Don't let it, boys—now, mind!
Mind eyes and ears! Don't ever look At wicked books or boys. From wicked pictures turn away— All sinful acts despise.
And mind your lips! Tobacco stains; Strong drink, too, keep away; And let no bad words pass your lips— Mind everything you say.
Mind hands and feet! Don't let them do A single wicked thing; Don't steal or strike, don't kick or fight, Don't walk in paths of sin.
THE LITTLE SISTERS
"You were not here yesterday," said the gentle teacher of the little village school, as she placed her hand kindly on the curly head of one of her pupils. It was recess time, but the little girl addressed had not gone to frolic away the ten minutes, not even left her seat, but sat absorbed in what seemed a fruitless attempt to make herself mistress of an example in long division.
Her face and neck crimsoned at the remark of her teacher, but looking up, she seemed somewhat reassured by the kind glance that met her, and answered, "No, ma'am, I was not, but sister Nellie was."
"I remember there was a little girl who called herself Nellie Gray, came in yesterday, but I did not know she was your sister. But why did you not come? You seem to like to study very much."
"It was not because I didn't want to," was the earnest answer, and then she paused and the deep flush again tinged her fair brow; "but," she continued after a moment of painful embarrassment, "mother cannot spare both of us conveniently, and so we are going to take turns. I'm going to school one day, and sister the next, and to-night I'm to teach Nellie all I have learned to-day, and to-morrow night she will teach me all that she learns while here. It's the only way we can think of getting along, and we want to study very much, so as to sometime keep school ourselves, and take care of mother, because she has to work very hard to take care of us."
With genuine delicacy Miss M—— forbore to question the child further, but sat down beside her, and in a moment explained the rule over which she was puzzling her young brain, so that the hard example was easily finished.
"You had better go out and take the air a few moments, you have studied very hard to-day," said the teacher, as the little girl put aside the slate.
"I had rather not—I might tear my dress—I will stand by the window and watch the rest."
There was such a peculiar tone in the voice of her pupil as she said, "I might tear my dress," that the teacher was led instinctively to notice it. It was nothing but a nine-penny print of a deep hue, but it was neatly made and had never been washed. And while looking at it, she remembered that during the whole previous fortnight Mary Gray had attended school regularly, she had never seen her wear but that one dress. "She is a thoughtful little girl," said she to herself, "and does not want to make her mother any trouble. I wish I had more such scholars."
The next morning Mary was absent, but her sister occupied her seat. There was something so interesting in the two little sisters, the one eleven, and the other eighteen months younger, agreeing to attend school by turns, that Miss M—— could not forbear observing them very closely. They were pretty faced children, of delicate forms, the elder with dark eyes and chestnut curls, the other with orbs like the sky of June, her white neck veiled by a wealth of golden ringlets. She observed in both, the same close attention to their studies, and as Mary tarried within during the play time, so did Nellie; and upon speaking to her as she had to her sister, she received the same answer, "I might tear my dress."
The reply caused Miss M—— to notice the garb of her sister. She saw at once that it was of the same piece as Mary's, and upon scrutinizing it very closely, she became certain that it was the same dress. It did not fit quite so nicely on Nellie, and was too long for her, and she was evidently ill at ease when she noticed her teacher looking at the bright pink flowers that were so thickly set on the white ground.
The discovery was one that could not but interest a heart so benevolent as that which pulsated in the bosom of that village school-teacher. She ascertained the residence of their mother, and though sorely shortened herself by a narrow purse, that same night, having found at the only store in the place a few yards of the same material, purchased a dress for little Nellie, and made arrangements with the merchant to send it to her in such a way that the donor could not be detected.
Very bright and happy looked Mary Gray on Friday morning, as she entered the school at an early hour. She waited only to place her books in neat order in her desk, ere she approached the teacher, and whispering in a voice that laughed in spite of her efforts to make it low and deferential—"After this week sister Nellie is coming to school every day, and oh, I am so glad!"
"That is very good news," replied the teacher kindly. "Nellie is fond of her books, I see, and I am happy to know that she can have an opportunity to study them every day." Then she continued, a little good-natured mischief encircling her eyes and dimpling her sweet lips—"But can your mother spare you both conveniently?"
"Oh, yes, ma'am, yes, ma'am, she can now. Something happened that she didn't expect, and she is as glad to have us come as we are to do so." She hesitated a moment, but her young heart was filled to the brim with joy, and when a child is happy it is as natural to tell the cause as it is for a bird to warble when the sun shines. So out of the fullness of her heart she spoke and told her teacher this little story.
She and her sister were the only children of a very poor widow, whose health was so delicate that it was almost impossible to support herself and daughters. She was obliged to keep them out of school all winter, as they had no suitable clothes to wear, but she told them that if they could earn enough by doing odd chores for the neighbors to buy each of them a new dress, they might go in the spring. Very earnestly had the little girls improved their stray chances, and very carefully hoarded the copper coins which usually repaid them. They had nearly saved enough to buy a dress, when Nellie was taken sick, and as the mother had no money beforehand, her own treasure had to be expended.
"Oh, I did feel so bad when school opened and Nellie could not go, because she had no dress," said Mary. "I told mother I wouldn't go either, but she said I had better, for I could teach sister some, and it would be better than no schooling. I stood it for a fortnight, but Nellie's little face seemed all the time looking at me on the way to school, and I couldn't be happy a bit, so I finally thought of a way by which we could both go, and I told mother I would come one day, and the next I would lend Nellie my dress and she might come, and that's the way we have done this week. But last night, don't you think, somebody sent sister a dress just like mine, and now she can come too. Oh, if I only knew who it was, I would get down on my knees and thank them, and so would Nellie. But we don't know, and so we've done all we could for them—we've prayed for them—and oh, Miss M——, we are all so glad now. Aint you too?"
"Indeed I am," was the emphatic answer. And when on the following Monday, little Nellie, in the new pink dress, entered the schoolroom, her face radiant as a rose in sunshine, and approaching the teacher's table, exclaimed, in tones as musical as those of a freed fountain, "I am coming to school every day, and oh, I am so glad!" The teacher felt as she had never done before, that it is more blessed to give than to receive. No millionaire, when he saw his name in public prints, lauded for his thousand-dollar charities, was ever so happy as the poor school-teacher who wore her gloves half a summer longer than she ought, and thereby saved enough to buy that little fatherless girl a calico dress.
We built us grand, gorgeous towers Out toward the western sea, And said in a dream of the summer hours, Thus fair should our record be.
We would strike the bravest chords That ever rebuked the wrong; And through them should tremble all loving words That would make the weary strong.
There entered not into our thought The dangers the way led through, We saw but the gifts of the good we sought, And the good we would strive to do.
Here trace we a hurried line, There blush or a blotted leaf; And tears, vain tears, on the eyelids shine, That the record is so brief.
THE WIDOW'S CHRISTMAS
Mrs. Mulford was a woman who doted on ruins. Nothing in the present was as beautiful as she had enjoyed in the past; and it seemed utterly impossible for her to imagine that there was anything in the future that could compensate her for the trials she had endured.
In her girlhood Mrs. Mulford had been surrounded with the luxuries of life; and after her marriage her surroundings were but a trifle less magnificent. In such an air of luxury and ease, her children were being reared when suddenly a great change came.
Mr. Mulford was a rash speculator, and on that memorable "Black Friday," the idol he had worshiped, the god of gold, proved itself to be nothing but clay, and was as dust in his hands. He could not rally from the shock; pride, ambition, courage, were all annihilated; and Mrs. Mulford, to whom beggary seemed worse than death, could only mingle her tears with his in speechless agony.
Arthur, the eldest child, a boy of fourteen, endeavored to comfort his grief-stricken parents.
"I will work for you, father. I can easily get a place in a store."
"My boy! my boy!" said the poor man, clasping his son affectionately in his arms; "stay by your mother, and the girls, they will need you, dear boy!" And he imprinted a kiss on the glowing cheek, that had in it a father's blessing and farewell.
The next morning Mrs. Mulford was a widow, and her children fatherless. A trifle the creditors allowed her was all she had to depend upon, the money she had inherited from her father having been swept away by the financial tornado.
She had taken a little place in the country, and with Arthur's help, and Bridget's,—who had followed the fortunes of her mistress—had succeeded in making things look quite cozy and attractive.
"Sure, ma'am," said Bridget, in her homely attempts to comfort her mistress, who dragged herself about like a sable ghost, "if ye'd only smile once in a while ye'd be surprised at the comfort ye'd get!"
"Ah, Bridget," Mrs. Mulford replied, with a long-drawn sigh, "my smiling days are over. I try to be patient, but I cannot be cheerful."
"Ah, but, it's the cheerful patience that brings the sunshine; and ye really shouldn't grieve the children so."
"Do they mind it, Bridget?"
"Sure, an' they do! Master Arthur, bless the boy! says it's just like a tomb where ye are; and Miss Minnie and Maud have their little hearts nearly torn out of them; and they are such wee, little birdies!"
But Mrs. Mulford could not be easily beguiled from her sorrow, especially as she was obliged to have recourse to her needle to eke out the limited allowance, and every stitch she took was but an additional reminder of the depth to which she was reduced.
To such a disposition the needle is but a weapon of despair, bringing neither comfort nor hope, nor in any way lightening the burdens of life. The recurrence of an anniversary was, to Mrs. Mulford's mind like the unveiling of a monument to the departed, and was usually spent in solitude and tears.
She had managed to exist through the Thanksgiving season, and Bridget had done her best to make the occasion worthy to be remembered—by the children at least; and if it hadn't been for that kitchen goddess, I don't see how the house could have held together.
She had always some comical story to tell the children, something to excite their wonder or admiration, and every few days would surprise them with some fresh molasses candy or cunning little cakes baked in curious patty pans.
Minnie and Maud rather enjoyed their poverty, as it allowed them more freedom and exemption from little rules that society enjoined. It was such fun to roll in the snow, and draw each other on the sled, without any caution in regard to ruffles and frills that used to be such a torment to them, and such a restraint on their buoyant natures.
Christmas was drawing near, and its approach filled Mrs. Mulford with uncontrollable despondency. It had been a gay season in her young days, and her own children knew it as the season of especial rejoicings and unlimited toys and candies. Now it was all so changed! Even a moderate expenditure was not to be thought of, when it was so difficult to procure even the necessaries of life, and she really wished the day was over, for she dreaded its arrival. The furniture never looked so dingy and faded, nor the curtains so coarse, nor her surroundings so pitiful, as when she looked around and thought that Christmas was coming.
Neither did the past ever seem so beautiful and glowing as when she cast a retrospective glance in that direction at this memorable season. But in the kitchen all was animation and excitement; as different an atmosphere as if there were ever so many degrees of latitude between them; Mrs. Mulford occupying the frigid, and Bridget the torrid zone. Every afternoon and early in the morning, Minnie and Maud were down in a corner of the kitchen very busy over some mystery, in which Bridget was as much interested as they were themselves.
Arthur bustled about from one room to another, always the active, cheery, hopeful boy, who kept everybody informed of what was going on in the outside world; and he, too, evidently had some weighty secret pressing against the buttons of his jacket. Christmas eve came, and the children began to think it never would be dark enough for them to get ready for Santa Claus.
"What are you going to do, Minnie?" inquired Mrs. Mulford, as Minnie brought in the stockings to hang by the fire.
"Get ready for Santa Claus, mamma," was the reply. "You know that to-morrow is Christmas!"
"But Santa Claus don't come to poor people, my child," and the tears filled her eyes at the recollection of the generous gifts of former years.
"Oh, yes he does, mamma," said Minnie, who was eleven years old, and two years the senior of her sister; "yes he does! He knows where we live." And she continued pinning the stockings upon the line she had stretched across the mantel.
"I wish I could have afforded a tree!" sighed the mother, watching her daughter's movements with considerable curiosity.
"We don't want a tree, do we, Maud? A stocking is ever so much nicer. It looks so funny all stuffed out, and then you don't know what's in it, and you have to shake it out, and hunt way in the toe! Then you can put such tiny things in, to make everybody laugh."
Then she pinned on the names which Arthur had printed very nicely on slips of paper, and stood off a little distance to admire her handiwork.
Bridget was called in from the kitchen to see if it was all right, and Arthur was induced to leave his work just for a minute to note the effect of the display.
"Here now!" he exclaimed, "I told you to hang up the clothes bag for me. You don't suppose that little thing will hold all my treasures, do you? Is the chimney clear?" And he pretended to search anxiously for anything that might prevent the descent of good old Santa Claus, whose coming had never before been anticipated with such unqualified delight.
Mrs. Mulford was in the midst of a troubled dream, when shouts of "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!" rang through the house, and awakened her to the reality of the day she so long had dreaded.
She knew how dreadfully disappointed the children would be, it is so hard for them to understand the exigencies of life, and wished she might keep her room all day and have Bridget bring up her meals.
"If ye please, ma'am," said the worthy maid-of-all-work, not stopping to knock at the door, "if ye please, ma'am, ye'd better come down-stairs; the children are nigh about crazy waiting for ye;" and the sunshine of her face illuminated the long room after she had retreated down the stairway.
"They can't feel very bad," said Mrs. Mulford, as she slowly turned from her room. "It seems to me I never heard them laugh so heartily. Oh, to be a child again!" And she sighed heavily.
As she entered the sitting-room, what a sight met her eyes! There were wreaths of green over her portrait and papa's; a narrow border running round the mantel; and festoons falling in every direction.
"Come, mother," said Arthur, "you first; Bridget can hardly wait, and our breakfast won't be worth eating."
"Oh, no," said the mother, "Maud should have the first chance; and the impatient child eagerly availed herself of the privilege."
It was astonishing what an amount of goodies rolled out of that stocking, and after they were laid aside there were one or two parcels to be opened. There was a nice pair of warm gloves, just what she wanted to use in drawing the sled, or making snow-balls; a new doll, and a book full of pictures. Minnie's stocking was quite as bountifully stocked, and every new surprise seemed to enkindle their mirth and enthusiasm.
Arthur had filled his own stockings with all sorts of odds and ends, on purpose to increase the fun and hilarity, and pretended to be surprised that Santa Claus patronized second-hand shops. Bridget sat down with the children to unload her collection of treasures, and even Mrs. Mulford was forced to laugh heartily at her comical remarks, especially when she drew out a potato, which was labeled, "The last of the Murphys!" "May they always be first in the field!" said Bridget.
When Mrs. Mulford was finally induced to examine the contents of her own stocking, the children, with Bridget, who was only an older child, gathered around, and watched anxiously the proceedings.
There were a pair of nice brackets hanging outside, which Arthur had cut with a penknife; and as she took up each article that had been wrought by loving little fingers, the worsted pulse-warmers, the pretty mats and tidies, she felt that it was indeed possible for love to build upon the old ruins a beautiful palace for the heart to dwell in.
"Forgive me, my dear children!" she exclaimed, embracing them each in turn. "Bridget, my good girl, we will begin the world anew. I have been a weak woman."
"Sorry a bit of it!" said Bridget, wiping away her tears with the corner of her apron. "It's a heavy cross ye had, but we're all going to help carry it."
"And, mother," broke in Arthur, "I've got a situation in a grocery store."
"Yes. It isn't much, but I'll learn the business; and then, you know, I can take care of you."
What a Christmas breakfast they had! It wasn't so much what was on the table, although Bridget had made delicious waffles, and everything was super-excellent, but it was the guest that sat at the board with them that made it a feast to be remembered. While they were at the table, talking over plans in which the mother manifested undoubted interest, there was a sudden, sharp knock at the door that startled all the inmates of the house.
"A new calamity!" sighed Mrs. Mulford, falling back into the old attitude.
"It must be Santa Claus himself!" exclaimed Bridget, putting her head through the kitchen door. Arthur admitted the gentleman, so swathed in an immense scarf about the neck and chin as to leave one in doubt as to whether he were friend or foe.
"Well, well!" said the stranger, divesting himself of his wraps, and stamping the snow from his boots in the little hall; "Such a tramp as I have had! Where's Carrie?"
"Carrie?" inquired Arthur, fearing he had admitted a lunatic.
"Yes, Carrie. My niece, Carrie Wharton. Are you her boy?"
"I don't know, sir."
"No more do I. She was Carrie Wharton, married Ned Mulford, and a long tramp I've had to find her."
"Have you any bad news?" inquired Arthur, laying a detaining hand on the stranger's arm; "because, if you have, I'd rather you wouldn't mention it to-day. My name is Arthur Mulford, and we've had such a happy Christmas."
"No fear, my boy, bless your tender heart! Why, I've come from Santa Claus myself, and am chock full of sunshine that turns into gold." Saying which, he entered the room where Mrs. Mulford and her children were sitting, and Bridget hurrying to clear off the breakfast things.
"Carrie!" said the stranger in eager tones, advancing toward Mrs. Mulford, who seemed to have heard a voice from the far-away past. She was in her own home again, a careless child; father and mother were living, death had never crossed her threshold, and all was joy and happiness. A bewildered moment, and then a flash of recognition.
"Yes, dear child! Would I could have got to you sooner;" and he held the weary head close to his generous heart, and smoothed the worn brow.
"I felt I was growing old, and had a hankering after a home to die in, and always the face of my little niece, Carrie, seemed to give me the heartiest welcome."
"Then you didn't die," said Arthur, looking on the scene as if it were a part of a fairy story.
"Of course I didn't. Came near it, a dozen times, but always escaped. Couldn't see why I was spared and better folks taken, but it's all clear now. Why, I had as hard work finding out anything about Ned Mulford, or Ned Mulford's widow, as if I'd been trying to find Captain Kidd."
"It's because of our poverty," sighed the widow.
"Yes, I suppose so. It's the way of the world! But who cares? We'll begin the world anew."
Mrs. Mulford stared at hearing her own words repeated, and Bridget, who kept an ear on the proceedings, stood for a moment in open-mouthed amazement, much as if she feared that there was to be another great convulsion of nature.
"Yes," continued Uncle Nathan, "yes, that's what brought me back. Money don't make a home, I know that well enough, for I've seen it tried. Arthur, what are your plans?"
"I was going into Mr. Chase's grocery the first of January."
"Do you want to? Any taste for hams, herrings, tape, and shoe-strings?"
"No, sir," replied Arthur, laughing at the combination, "but I'd like to help mother. I promised father to see after her."
"You've done your duty. But my opinion is you'd rather go to college than into a grocery."
"Oh, sir!" and the flush on the boy's face was not to be misunderstood.
"College it is, then. Carrie, you are to be my housekeeper; these are my little girls;" clasping the children in a hearty embrace, "and see if we don't turn out a happier family than any Barnum ever exhibited."
The Christmas dinner was a marvel of cookery, and Uncle Nathan enlivened the meal with accounts of his adventures.
"And this was the Christmas I had dreaded!" said Mrs. Mulford, as she retired to her room.
The children had reluctantly gone to bed, fearing that this good "Santa Claus," as they persisted in calling Uncle Nathan, would disappear in the night, and leave them as suddenly as he came.
Arthur dreamed of his books and college, and woke up half a dozen times in the night to assure himself that the great man sleeping so soundly beside him was not simply the magician of the "Arabian Nights."
Mrs. Mulford's pride was truly humbled by this manifestation of God's goodness, and long and earnestly she prayed that henceforth, whatever trials might come upon her, she might bear the burden with cheerful patience, trusting in God to lead her through the shadows into the sunshine of a more perfect day. And in after life no memory was more precious to her than that of a Christmas morning when the children taught her a lesson of unselfishness and duty.
Come into our homes, oh ye Christmas angels! Brush away the cobwebs that regret and selfishness have strewn around, and put in their stead the wreaths and vines that are fragrant with the immortality of love! No home so poor that will not be the brighter for your coming! No heart that is not enriched by your presence, oh ever blessed Christmas guests!
"There are as many lovely things, As many pleasant tones, For those who dwell by cottage hearths As those who sit on thrones."
WITH A WILL, JOE
It was a summer afternoon; the wheelbarrow stood before Mrs. Robin's door; the street was empty of all traffic, for the heat was intense. I sauntered languidly along on the shady side opposite the widow's house, and noticed her boy bringing out some linen in baskets to put on the wheelbarrow. I was surprised at the size of the baskets he was lugging along the passage and lifting on to the wheelbarrow, and paused to look at him. He pulled, and dragged, and then resting a moment began again, and in the silence of the street, I heard him saying something to himself. I half crossed the road. He was too busy to notice me, and then, in a pause of his toil, I heard him gasp out, "With a will, Joe." He was encouraging himself to a further effort with these words. At last, bringing the large basket to the curbstone, he ran in and got a piece of smooth wood as a lever; resting one end of the basket on the wheelbarrow, he heaved up the other end, and saying a little louder than before, "With a will, Joe," the basket was mounted on to the wheelbarrow.
As he rested, and looked proudly at his successful effort, he saw me, and his round, red face, covered with perspiration, became scarlet for a moment, as I said, "That's a brave boy." The mother's voice sounded in the passage, "I'm coming, Joe," and out she came as the child, pointing to the basket, said, "I've managed it, mother." It was a pretty sight, the looks of the widow and her willing boy. Though no further word was spoken, the sense of satisfaction on each face was very plain, and I have no doubt in each heart there was a throb of pleasure that words have no language for.
I went on my way, but the saying, "With a will, Joe," went with me. How much there was in that simple phrase, "With a will!" How different is our work according as we do it with or against our will. This little fellow might have cried or murmured, or left his mother to do the work, and been dissatisfied with himself, and a source of discontent to his mother, but he had spurred himself on to toil and duty, with his words, powerful in their simplicity—"With a will, Joe."
Often since have I recalled the scene and the saying. When some young lady complains to me, "I have no time to give to doing good. I've visits to make, and shopping to do, and embroidery to finish, how can I help the poor when I'm so pressed for time?" I am apt to say mentally, "How different it would be with her, if she had ever said to herself, 'With a will.'"
Yes, with a will we can do almost anything that ought to be done; and without a will we can do nothing as it should be done. To all of us, whatever our station, there come difficulties and trials. If we yield to them we are beaten down and conquered. But if we, ourselves, conquer the temptation to do wrong, calling the strength of God to aid us in our struggle with the enemy, we shall grow stronger and more valiant with every battle, and less liable to again fall into temptation. Our wisdom and our duty are to rouse ourselves,—to speak to our own hearts as the child did in his simple words, "With a will, Joe." When there is any wrong thing that we want to do, our will then is strong enough. The Evil One comes with his temptation, and helps us to our ruin, with his strength.
The times when we flag are when we want to do right. "When I would do good, evil is present with me," was the testimony of the apostle of the Gentiles, and it is the experience of all, unless they go to Him who can make our wills obedient to his will. Our prayer should be, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit [will] within me."
DO WITH YOUR MIGHT.
Whatsoe'er you find to do, Do it, boys, with all your might! Never be a little true, Or a little in the right. Trifles even Lead to heaven, Trifles make the life of man; So in all things, Great or small things, Be as thorough as you can.
AFFECTING SCENE IN A SALOON
One afternoon in the month of June, 1870, a lady in deep mourning, followed by a little child, entered one of the fashionable saloons in the city of N——. The writer happened to be passing at the time, and prompted by curiosity, followed her in to see what would ensue. Stepping up to the bar, and addressing the proprietor, she said:—
"Sir, can you assist me? I have no home, no friends, and am not able to work."
He glanced at her and then at the child, with a mingled look of curiosity and pity. Evidently he was much surprised to see a woman in such a place, begging, but, without asking any questions, gave her some change, and turning to those present, he said:—
"Gentlemen, here is a lady in distress. Can't some of you help her a little?"
They cheerfully acceded to the request, and soon a purse of two dollars was made up and put into her hand.
"Madam," said the gentleman who gave her the money, "why do you come to a saloon? It isn't a proper place for a lady, and why are you driven to such a step?"
"Sir," said the lady, "I know it isn't a proper place for a lady to be in, and you ask me why I am driven to such a step. I will tell you, in one short word," pointing to a bottle behind the counter labelled "whisky,"—"that is what brought me here—whisky. I was once happy, and surrounded with all the luxuries wealth could produce, with a fond, indulgent husband. But in an evil hour he was tempted, and not possessing the will to resist the temptation, fell, and in one short year my dream of happiness was over, my home was forever desolate, and the kind husband, and the wealth that some called mine, lost—lost, never to return; and all by the accursed wine cup. You see before you only the wreck of my former self, homeless and friendless, with nothing left me in this world but this little child;" and weeping bitterly, she affectionately caressed the golden curls that shaded a face of exquisite loveliness. Regaining her composure, and turning to the proprietor of the saloon, she continued:—
"Sir, the reason why I occasionally enter a place like this is to implore those who deal in this deadly poison to desist, to stop a business that spreads desolation, ruin, poverty, and starvation. Think one moment of your own loved ones, and then imagine them in the situation I am in. I appeal to your better nature, I appeal to your heart, for I know you possess a kind one, to retire from a business so ruinous to your patrons.
"Do you know the money you take across the bar is the same as taking the bread out of the mouths of the famishing? That it strips the clothing from their backs, deprives them of all the comforts of this life, and throws unhappiness, misery, crime, and desolation into their once happy homes? O! sir, I implore, beseech, and pray you to retire from a business you blush to own you are engaged in before your fellow men, and enter one that will not only be profitable to yourself, but to your fellow-creatures also. You will excuse me if I have spoken too plainly, but I could not help it when I thought of the misery, the unhappiness, and the suffering it has caused me."
"Madam, I am not offended," he answered, in a voice husky with emotion, "but I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you have said."
"Mamma," said the little girl—who, meantime, had been spoken to by some of the gentlemen present—taking hold of her mother's hand, "these gentlemen want me to sing 'Little Bessie' for them. Shall I do so?"
They all joined in the request, and placing her in the chair, she sung, in a sweet, childish voice, the following beautiful song:—
"Out in the gloomy night, sadly I roam; I have no mother dear, no pleasant home; No one cares for me, no one would cry Even if poor little Bessie should die. Weary and tired I've been wandering all day, Asking for work, but I'm too small, they say; On the damp ground I must now lay my head; Father's a drunkard, and mother is dead.
"We were so happy till father drank rum, Then all our sorrow and trouble begun; Mother grew pale, and wept every day; Baby and I were too hungry to play.
+ + -+ Against Liquor Against Tobacco Recognizing in alcoholic beverages a Acknowledging smoking, chewing, deadly enemy to the delicate or snuffing tobacco to be functions of the human system, a always detrimental to the human menace to the home, and their use as system, an enemy to perfect a drink an outrage against society, health and happiness, and an the State and the Nation, I hereby offense against good form and promise to not only abstain from respectable society, I hereby them myself, but to use my influence express myself against the use against their manufacture, sale, and of this vile poison. I shall consumption. also endeavor to discourage its use among my friends and Name_____ associates. Address_____ Name_____ Date_____ Address____ Date_____ + + -+ "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." I Cor. 3:17. "Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." I Cor. 6:9, 10. + + -+
Slowly they faded, till one summer night Found their dead faces all silent and white; Then with big tears slowly dropping, I said, 'Father's a drunkard, and mother is dead.'
"Oh! if the temperance men could only find Poor, wretched father, and talk very kind; If they would stop him from drinking, then I should be very happy again. Is it too late, temperance men? Please try, Or poor little Bessie must soon starve and die. All the day long I've been begging for bread; Father's a drunkard, and mother is dead."
The game of billiards was left unfinished, the cards thrown aside, and the unemptied glass remained on the counter; all had pressed near, some with pity-beaming eyes, entranced with the musical voice and beauty of the child, who seemed better fitted to be with angels above than in such a place.
The scene I shall never forget to my dying day, and the sweet cadence of her musical voice still rings in my ears, and from her lips sunk deep into the hearts of those gathered around her.
With her golden hair falling carelessly around her shoulders, and looking so trustingly and confidingly upon the gentlemen around her, the beautiful eyes illuminated with a light that seemed not of this earth, she formed a picture of purity and innocence worthy the genius of a poet or painter.
At the close of the song many were weeping; men who had not shed a tear for years wept like children. One young man who had resisted with scorn the pleadings of a loving mother, and entreaties of friends to strive and lead a better life, to desist from a course that was wasting his fortune and ruining his health, now approached the child, and taking both hands in his, while tears streamed down his cheeks, exclaimed, in deep emotion:—
"God bless you, my little angel. You have saved me from ruin and disgrace, from poverty and a drunkard's grave. If there are angels on earth, you are one! God bless you! God bless you!" and putting a note into the hand of the mother, said:—
"Please accept this trifle as a token of my regard and esteem, for your little girl has done me a kindness I can never repay; and remember, whenever you are in want, you will find me a true friend;" at the same time giving her his name and address.
Taking her child by the hand she turned to go, but, pausing at the door, said:—
"God bless you, gentlemen! Accept the heartfelt thanks of a poor, friendless woman for the kindness and courtesy you have shown her." Before any one could reply she was gone.
A silence of several minutes ensued, which was broken by the proprietor, who exclaimed:—
"Gentlemen, that lady was right, and I have sold my last glass of whisky; if any one of you want any more you will have to go elsewhere."
"And I have drunk my last glass of whisky," said a young man who had long been given up as sunk too low ever to reform, and as utterly beyond the reach of those who had a deep interest in his welfare.
NELLIE ALTON'S MOTHER
"Mamma, O mamma!" cried an eager young voice; and Nellie Alton, a plump, rosy schoolgirl of twelve summers, rushed into her mother's room, and, flinging her text-books on the sofa, seated herself on an ottoman at her mother's feet. Mrs. Alton looked up from her sewing with a quiet smile, and said, as she pushed back the tangled curls from Nellie's uplifted forehead,—
"What is the matter with my daughter? Has anything serious occurred at the institute?"
"O mamma," said Nellie, half reproachfully, "you can't have forgotten that it is just a week to-day since I received that invitation to Minnie Shelburne's party. You said at the time, that you didn't know whether I might accept, and I think I've been very patient not to tease you about it. Almost all the girls are going. Mrs. Doane has bought the loveliest silk for Carrie and Jessie; and Mrs. Hilton has three women sewing on Emma's dress. Here I am not knowing whether I can go. Cousin Sue said she thought my 'mother a woman of great deliberation.'"
"In years to come you will rejoice over the truth of that remark, my darling."
"But, mamma, please decide now, won't you?"
"I have decided, my dear. Last night your father and I had a long talk about the matter, and we agreed—"
"To let me go?" cried eager Nellie.
"No, dear. Anxious for your truest good, we were sorry we should have to disappoint you. But we cannot grant you a harmful pleasure." Nellie bit her lip, while her eyes filled with tears.
"May I ask your reasons, mamma?"
"Yes, dear; and I feel that my sensible little daughter cannot but be satisfied with them. All the advantages you are now having tend to make you, at some future time, a useful woman in society. To obtain their full benefit, your mind must remain undiverted from your studies, and you must be kept free from everything that will detract from your health and strength. Parties will excite you, deprive you of sleep, fill your mind with foolish fancies, retard you in your school work, and make you thin, pale, and irritable. We should sadly miss our bright, blooming Nellie. Do you wonder we refuse to let you attend the party?"