Friend and foe : Or, the breastplate of righteousness

Transcriber's note: Unusual and inconsistent spelling is as printed.



"I do like to look on such a sunset," Norah said,
adding softly, "it makes one think of Heaven."



The Breastplate of Righteousness.


A. L. O. E.















Friend and Foe;





"You'll never succeed, Ned!" cried Bessy Peele, with a little laugh, as she stood watching her maimed brother's attempts to write a letter.

Twice, the wind coming through the cottage door had sent his paper fluttering to the ground. Ned had raised it, and then tried to fix it by placing a pebble upon it, but the paper had slipped from under the pebble as soon as the sailor had begun to write.

"It's not much," continued Bessy, "that a one-armed man can do."

"He can polish up your window, Bessy, and carry your basket, and get your garden into trim order," answered the sailor with cheerful good humour.

And leaving the cottage for a few moments, Ned soon returned with a brick, the weight of which as effectually fastened down the sheet as if he had had a left hand to rest upon it.

"Safe at anchor at last!" cried Ned. "But this is a clumsy way of getting over the difficulty. Necessity, folk say, is the mother of invention. I'll get the carpenter, as soon as I have the ready rhino to pay for it, to screw on some bit of timber to this maimed stump of mine, with something like a hook at the end; 'twill serve almost as well as a hand, and save me and my friends no end of trouble."

"Not a bad thought!" cried Bessy, who was apt to grumble at having to give the little assistance which the one-armed sailor required. "You needn't wait, Ned, till you've the money. Bill Jones, who works at the carpenter's, is a handy lad, and owes me a deal of kindness for nursing his mother in sickness. He'll manage to look out a good bit of hard wood and a hook, will make what you want cleverly, and never say a word about payment."

"I'd rather wait till I've shot in my locker," said Ned. "The poor lad's time is his money."

"His master's rather," observed Bessy. "But old Stone is an easy-going man, and does not keep a very sharp look out. Why Bill Jones—a good fellow is he—made a little chest of drawers for his mother, all of mahogany wood, and I don't believe that his master so much as guessed that he had not been working from morning till night every day in the week at the fittings in Sir Lacy Barton's study."

Ned had begun his letter, but he raised his head, and the ink dried on his pen as he inquired, "Do you mean that he helped himself to his master's wood, and used up the time which belonged to his master, to make a chest for his mother? And do you call him 'good' for this?"

"I do call him good, and clever too!" answered Bessy, sharply. "Isn't it right for a lad to care for his mother? And wouldn't it be right for him to do a good turn for a poor maimed sailor, who has lost his arm serving the Queen?"

"Would it be right in Bill Jones to carry off Sir Lacy's purse to give to his mother; or, if I chanced to be in want, to help a poor maimed Jack-tar like me?"

"How can you ask such idle questions?" cried Bessy Peele, in a tone of contempt. "Why, if Bill Jones did a thing like that, he'd be clapped into jail directly."

"Keep to the question, mistress!" said Ned, with a playful twinkle in his bright blue eye. "I didn't ask whether it would be safe for Bill to take Sir Lacy's purse, out of love for his mother, or kindness for me, but whether it would be right for him to be generous at the expense of another man."

"Taking a purse! That would be downright stealing!" cried Bessy.

"And are not the wood and the labour he pays for, as much the carpenter's property, as the purse is Sir Lacy Barton's? Is it not just as wrong to rob the one as the other?"

"I never knew a man with such particular notions as you have!" cried Bessy, tossing her head. "You're always pulling one up sharp with the question whether a thing is right!"

"Because," said Ned Franks, gravely, "we have to do with a righteous God. Mind you, Bessy, the Bible is the only chart as is given us to steer by, and when one sees in that chart, 'provide things honest in the sight of all men,' *—'He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much, and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much,' † one learns that the safe channel is a very narrow channel indeed, and that if we don't carefully keep the right course, we shall run the vessel aground."

* Rom. xii. 17.      † Luke xvi. 10

"Well," said Bessy, as she laid out some linen to iron, "I for one will never believe that the great God above ever notices such little matters as these you speak of."

"Maybe you'd have thought it a little matter for Eve to pluck a fruit, but 'twas a matter that let in death and misery into a world," said Ned. "The skipper of the first craft as ever I sailed in, thought it a little matter when, one evening, our vessel just touched on a rock, as he fancied; he smoked his pipe, drank his grog, and turned into his cabin, and never dreamed of the small leak down below, till he was wakened in the morning with the cry of 'Three feet water in the hold!' The vessel was as nigh lost as could be, with all the hands on board. And 'tis so with our souls, Bessy Peele. The little sins, as we call them, are the little leaks in the timber, and if one goes to the bottom, 'tis all the same, whether the water came in by a big hole or a small one."

Bessy banged down her hot iron on the shirt before her with a noise and bustle which seemed to say, "I want no more of this preaching."

Ned Franks quietly dipped his pen again and went on with his letter.

Presently Bessy looked towards the door of her cottage.

"I thought Norah would have been here afore this," she observed; "she generally manages to walk over early from the town."

"You said, if I remember right, that her mistress kindly allows her to visit home the first Monday in every month."

"Yes," replied Bessy Peele, "and it's a great pleasure it is for Norah and me to meet. She's a good girl, if ever there was one. I've had a deal more comfort in her than in Dan. She has been in her place now for more than a year, and I don't believe that Mrs. Martin has had ever a fault to find with my girl."

"What sort of a lady is Mrs. Martin?" asked Ned.

"Oh! One of your saintly ones," cried Bessy. "Always has my girl up to read the Bible to her of an evening, and sees that she goes to church once or twice every Sunday. The lady's getting a little old, and a little blind, Norah says, and can't afford to give good wages, but a respectable place like that is a stepping-stone to a better."

"Bessy," cried the sailor, "if your girl is moored in a safe good harbour, don't you be in haste to have her heave anchor and hoist sail; there's more to be thought of in a place than the mere matter of wages."

"Ah! But—" began Mrs. Peele, but she interrupted herself with an exclamation of pleasure—"Here she is!"—as a bright, pretty-looking girl of fourteen ran eagerly into the cottage.

Norah, for it was she, was warmly welcomed by her mother, and then presented to the one-armed sailor.

"Here's your uncle, my dear, whom you never have seen afore, who's been in the storms and the wars."

"And who is heartily glad to see you," cried Ned.



NED and Norah very soon made friends with one another. There was a cheerful kindliness about the maimed sailor, that set the young girl at her ease.

"He seems so frank and pleasant," thought Norah, "and there's such a bright honest look in his eyes, that I'm sure I shall like him extremely."

"She's a trim little vessel," thought the sailor, "with a pretty figure-head of her own; but I wish that she carried a little less bunting, she'd look better without all those flowers."

Norah had indeed a sweet innocent face, but her dress was not such as beseemed her station in life—it showed an effort to look fine, which did not prevent it from looking shabby. The gay-coloured dress was stuck out by a hoop; the bonnet, which was rather an old one, was trimmed with some large half-faded pink flowers. To the simple-minded sailor it became the young maiden so ill that he was glad when it was taken off, and Norah's neatly braided hair appeared the sole ornament of her head.

But Mrs. Peele was not of the sailor's opinion. "My dear, what pretty flowers!" she exclaimed, taking up the bonnet in her hand, and turning it round to admire the trimming.

"Sophy Puller gave the flowers to me: was it not kind?" said Norah. "And she gave me this too," she added, pulling out of her dress a gaudy glass brooch, made to imitate diamonds and rubies.

Mrs. Peele was charmed with the brooch, and handed it over to Ned, who held it between his finger and thumb, looked at it for a moment, and then returned it in silence to its owner.

"Who is Sophy Puller?" asked he, thinking to himself, "I hope that the giver of that trumpery is not of a piece with her gift."

"She's a milliner's apprentice, and such a dear girl!" cried the artless Norah. "She often drops in to tea, and we have such famous gossips together over our bread and butter! It is so friendly and pleasant!"

"And do you get your mistress's leave to entertain this messmate?" inquired the sailor.

Nosh's smooth cheek flushed, and she looked a little embarrassed, as, without answering her uncle's question directly, she said, "I don't think there can be any harm."

"Harm indeed!" exclaimed Bessy Peele, warmly. "It would be hard indeed if a poor girl could not give a slice of bread and butter to a friend."

"At her mistress's expense," added Ned.

Norah appeared uneasy and confused, and turned her inquiring eyes on her uncle, as if he had suggested some painful doubt which had never before entered into her mind.

Mrs. Peele called away her attention.

"Let's see what you've brought in that parcel, my darling; it's never empty-handed as Norah comes to her mother!"

The parcel was carried to the window, and Ned Franks, who had no curiosity to know its contents, sat down again to his writing.

His ear was, however, soon caught by his sister's scornful exclamation, "Tea indeed! You don't mean to say that Mrs. Martin gives four shillings a pound for this powdery trash!"

"Bessy," said the sailor, looking up with a smile, "if the lady kindly sends you a present, don't you take it for better or worse?"

Again Norah looked at her uncle with that perplexed inquiring gaze, and seemed about to speak.

But her mother gave her a nudge, with a whisper, "Say nothing, he takes things so oddly."

Neither the nudge nor the words escaped the quick perception of Ned.

"Sunken rocks!" thought he. "I must sound that poor simple child as to how she came by that tea, if I chance to catch her alone."

Dan Peele soon came home from the fields, and his sharp cunning features were lighted up with such honest joy at sight of his sister, that Ned Franks said to himself, "There's a warm corner in the heart of that boy, I've judged the poor fellow hardly."

"I'm always so glad when you come home, Norah," cried Dan, almost dancing with glee, making the party laugh by adding, "then mother gives us such a thundering big pudding, and puts on the jam so thick."

Norah's presence indeed added not a little to the cheerfulness of the little circle at the family meal. She laughed and chatted gaily, and told many a little incident of her life with Mrs. Martin.

"Did I ever tell you, mother, of my first trying to read aloud to my mistress? The dear teacher at our school used to say that I read well—but wasn't I a bit frightened at the notion of having to read aloud in a drawing-room! I could hardly get up my courage when the bell rang, and I had to go up on purpose to read. There was the old lady in her big arm-chair, and the lamp with its shade on the table."

"'Take a seat, Norah,' said my mistress kindly, 'and go on with the work where I left off.'"

"'I'm glad it's to be sewing, not reading,' thought I. But wasn't I puzzled when not a bit of work could I see, nothing on the table but one old-looking book! I peeped about here and there, without daring to get up from my chair, wondering where the work could be hidden, while my mistress was wondering all the while why I did not begin."

"'What are you waiting for, Norah?' said she."

"'Please, ma'am, I can't find no work, I think it must have dropped under the table?'"

Norah's little story was duly laughed at, especially by Dan, who did not understand the joke, as he knew as little as his sister had done, that a book can be spoken of as "a work."

"Oh and another time I was so stupid!" Norah went on, laughing at the recollection. "I was reading to mistress a large new book, that had a good many pictures in it, when she dropped asleep as she sometimes does."

"When, just waking from her nap, 'Norah,' says she, 'I'd like to look at the plates.'"

"Up jumped I with a 'Yes, ma'am, directly; shall I bring the kitchen plates or the china?'"

Again there was a burst of merriment at the blunder of the little maiden.

"Do you like the reading, Norah?" asked Ned.

"Why, yes, sometimes," answered the lively young girl, "only the sermons are rather too long."

"Sermons!" exclaimed Dan and his mother in a breath; and the latter added, "I hope you get some other reading besides that."

"Oh, yes, history and travels; and then, you know, Sophy Puller lends me books to read by myself."

"What sort of books?" asked the sailor.

"Oh, delightful books!" exclaimed Norah. "I'm in the middle of one now, all about a dreadfully wicked woman who killed her husband, and I think she'll be hanged at the end—but she had great excuses you know."

"That must be jolly reading," cried Dan; but Ned Franks shook his curly head.

"I very much doubt that such reading is good for our little lass," observed he.

"Well, I own, it's very tiresome to have to leave off in the middle to sweep a room or cook a dinner," cried the girl, "but I sit up late at night to make up."

"I don't look on that Sophy Puller as your true friend," observed Ned Franks.

"Oh, don't say that—she is so kind: she wanted me to come out and spend the evening with her sometimes, when she has each fun, and dancing, and larking with her companions. I should have liked of all things to go; but when I asked mistress, she shook her head and said that she did not approve of young girls being out late at night."

"I say, wasn't that a shame?" exclaimed Dan.

"It's a hard thing that she should keep you so tight, and not let you have a bit of fun, when you're slaving all day," cried Bessy.

"A hard thing is it," said Ned Franks, "that the lady won't let your child go swimming amongst the sharks?"

"If I was you, Norah," cried Dan, "I'd slip off without leave after the old dame was abed; you said she shut up soon after eight."

"That's just what Sophy told me," said Norah.

"But you was afraid, I s'pose, of being caught," observed Dan.

"I was more afraid," replied Norah, simply, "that mistress might be taken ill in the night, and you know she depends upon me."

"God help that poor child, she's beset with snares," thought the one-armed sailor. "When she comes home she learns nothing but dishonesty, covetousness, and untruth; at her place there's an evil influence drawing her in like a whirlpool to folly, and may be to worse. And she so simple and artless. Simple and artless now, but if she have much to do with that Sophy Puller, it is not long that she'll keep so. I should like to drop in a word of warning, but I can't do it here, as Bessy is always driving on the opposite tack."

"Norah," he said aloud, "will you let me walk back with you in the evening?"

"I should be so glad to have you," cried the girl, "and then I need not hurry back so early. Mistress told me unless my brother or some one would see me home, I was not to stay out after sunset."

"A careful mistress," observed Ned.

"The cross old crab!" exclaimed his nephew, both speaking at the same moment.

"Oh, no, she's not cross," cried Norah. "My mistress is good, very good; I never knew any one like her but Mr. Curtis, our vicar, and my dear kind teacher at school."

"You'd like her a deal better, I guess, if she wasn't so strict," said Mrs. Peele.

"I don't know, I'm not quite sure of that," replied Norah, in a hesitating tone. "I should like Mrs. Martin to see more company, and to let me have a little more freedom, but she does not keep me in out of crossness. If you only knew how good she is to the poor, and how dearly she loves her Bible, and how patient she is when in pain, and she suffers a great, great deal, 'specially from her poor eyes, but she never murmurs at all!" The girl's face kindled with emotion as she spoke of her kind old mistress, and Ned watched it with a feeling of pleasure, while his heart warmed towards his young niece.

"Blessings on the child, they've not spoilt her yet," thought he. "She sees the light, and she's bearing towards it; shame is it that those nearest to her should try to turn her out of her course."



"MIND now that you manage to give the old woman the slip, and have a jolly night of it with your friend Sophy Puller—" such were the words with which Dan Peele parted from his sister, as she set out with the sailor on her long walk back to the county town in which her mistress resided.

It was a glorious evening. The sun had just stink below the horizon, but lines of glowing fire showed where his orb had dipped below the blue hills, and his beams had left a rich rosy flush on the clouds that floated above.

Ned Franks, as he gazed on that beautiful sky, felt that the young girl who tripped on by his side shared his sense of peaceful enjoyment.

Norah was the first to break silence. "I do like to look on such a sunset," she said, adding softly, "it makes one think of heaven."

"The home we're bound for," said Ned.

"I hope so," murmured Norah, in a tone that was scarcely above a whisper.

"And how do you think we are ever to get to heaven?" asked the sailor.

"Oh, surely you know!" answered Norah, with some surprise at the question, since, from several words dropped by himself in the course of the day, and from what she had heard of him from her mother, Norah had judged her uncle to be a very religious man. "My mistress has often told me that all believers go to heaven, because the Lord Jesus died for them, and has washed away all their sins."

"Right, quite right," said the sailor fervently; "that's the pole—star Faith always points to, that's what we must always keep in view. But who are believers, Norah? Though heaven lie straight afore us all, I take it that few will be so bold as to say that all who are called Christians will get to heaven."

Norah did not answer for two or three minutes, and then said, "Are not believers those who love the Lord Jesus Christ?"

"Right again!" cried Ned Franks. "And now tell me, Norah, is it not true that when we love any one much, we are ready and glad to do something for his sake?"

"Oh! Yes, indeed!" exclaimed Norah. "I've often thought that. I should like to do something for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. I was lately reading to my mistress of the early martyrs, and then it seemed to be such a great and noble thing to die for religion."

"It is just as great and noble a thing, Norah, my girl, to live for religion, and that is what all believers must do; for we only deceive ourselves when we think that without obedience to God we have either true faith or love."

"I don't quite know what you mean," said Norah.

"Do you remember the words of Christ? 'He that taketh not his cross and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me.'" *

* Matthew x. 38

"I can't tell what my cross is," said Norah, "nor how I can take it up."

"We take up our cross whenever we do for conscience what we would not do for pleasure," observed Ned, "or when we give up for the Lord's sake what we would willingly have for our own. To come to the point, Norah—for I like plain sailing, and you'll understand twenty times better if I speak of a simple fact—would you mind telling me frankly whether Mrs. Martin gave you that tea?"

"No," replied Norah, faintly.

"Thank God, she at least is truthful," thought the sailor.

"And did you," he continued aloud, "buy that tea for your mother?"

Norah silently shook her head.

"Then tell me, child, how did you get it?"

Ned bent down his tall head, but could scarcely catch the low answer, "I took it."

"Just what I feared," said Ned Franks.

"But indeed—indeed," cried Norah Peele, "I did not know that I was doing so wrong! I would not have touched money or anything like that, but—but mistress would never miss it, I thought, and mother always expects some little present when I come home, and I've nothing to spare out of my wages, and so many, many do the same thing. I never was told that it was such a sin!"

"Did not conscience tell you, my child? Did not the Word of God tell you? Where it exhorts 'servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again, NOT PURLOINING, but shewing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.'" *

* Titus ii. 9-10.

"I did wrong, very wrong," murmured Norah, "but it is so difficult to deny one's self, and to deny others, and always to keep duty before one, however hard it may be."

"That is our cross," observed Ned.

"But I thought," said Norah, "indeed I'm sure, that both my mistress and the clergyman have said over and over again, that the Lord bore the cross for us, and that now we've nothing to do to earn our own salvation; we've just to believe, and we're safe."

"Do you forget what the Bible says, 'the devils also believe and tremble.'" *

"They do not believe and love, as we do."

"They do not believe and obey as we must do, Norah. What were the words of the Lord to those whom He called to be His disciples, were they not, 'follow Me'? And if we follow the Holy Saviour, think you it can be on a path of sin? God forbid! Nay, St John says, 'Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.' † We must put on the breastplate of righteousness, if we would follow the Lord."

* James ii. 9      † 1 John iii. 9.

"But no one, not the best, has nothing more to do with sin," murmured Norah.

"True enough," said Ned Franks, stopping in his walk, as if to give more force to his words, "but they have to do with it as an enemy, not as a master, they have to fight it, not to obey. Look you here, Norah," continued the sailor, seeking an illustration from objects most familiar to his own mind; "if you and I saw a frigate, with the Union Jack of old England floating aloft, would we not say at once that she was a British vessel?"

"Yes," replied Norah, wondering at the abrupt turn in the conversation.

"But if we saw her, with all sails set, making right for a Russian port, and if we could see through a glass that there were Russian sailors in the rigging, a Russian pilot at the helm, a Russian captain giving commands, should we believe that the frigate was English, if half-a-dozen Union Jacks were hoisted from the mast?"

"No," replied Norah, quickly, "we should think that the flags were hung up for a sham."

"And it is a sham, nothing but a sham," exclaimed Ned, walking on again, and faster than before, "for man, woman, or child to set up Christian profession, when they care nothing for Christian practice; to hang out, as it were, the flag of the Cross, while self-will steers where Satan directs, and they're hearing right on for the rock of destruction."

"Think you that a real Christian would willingly hold parley with any sin, far less welcome it upon deck? No, it is his enemy, his Saviour's enemy, which he must resist to the death. If it tries to board, as 'tis always trying, he must yield it not a foot, not an inch; he must hurl it over the bulwarks, throw it into the sea, give no quarter to sin, in the name and in the strength of the Great Captain of his salvation!" Ned's tone was raised, his eyes flashed, and he instinctively clenched his hand as thus, in figurative language, he described the Christian's secret struggle against sin.

Norah felt roused and animated, though she hardly realised the full meaning of what the sailor had said.

"Do you not think," asked the girl after a short pause, "that it is not easy for us always to tell what is sin and what is not? People view the same thing in such different ways."

"It seems easy enough to me," replied the simple-minded tar. "We've not to trouble ourselves with what this person thinks, or that person fancies, but come straight for our sailing orders to the Lord. Is that what He would approve? Is that what He would have done in my place? I guess, Norah, that you would not have taken that tea had you known that your mistress's eye was upon you, much less had you felt that your heavenly Captain looked on."

Norah drooped her head, and was silent.

"So you see, dear child," continued Ned, "that we've a daily battle to fight, and a daily cross to take up, if our faith is a real thing, if our religion be not a sham. The Lord's Cross was the cross of sacrifice, no one but Himself could bear that, and that He endured for our sakes; our cross is the cross of daily self-denial, which we must take up for His sake. If we've anything, great or small, that is displeasing to our Lord, be it a bad habit, a sinful pleasure, a foolish companion, or even a book, we must give it up at once, and for ever. A Christian must be holy, for his Master is holy; he must wear the breastplate of righteousness, the guard for the heart against sin."

"I should like to wear it," said Norah, whose thoughts had lately been more turned to the subject of religion than they had ever been in her childhood's home.

"Then I've but one more bit of advice for you, my girl," cried the sailor; "'tis one I should like you to get from wiser lips than mine. Ask the Lord for that breastplate of righteousness, for one that will stand rough work and hard blows; don't trust in any pasteboard good resolutions of your own."

And with this simple but important word of counsel, Ned Franks closed a conversation which was to leave a lasting impression upon the mind of his youthful niece.



NORAH PEELE was of an affectionate disposition and an eager spirit, and she was at an age when there is an attraction in anything new. What she had heard of religion from Mrs. Martin, and at the church which she constantly attended, had drawn her heart towards her Saviour, and made her delight in feeling that she owed all her hopes of heaven to Him. Norah took pleasure in going to church, especially in listening to the sweet music, and her eyes would fill with tears when she heard or read of the sufferings of Christ.

But Norah's religion had been one of feeling rather than of practice; its power had not overcome evil habits which she had acquired in her home. It had been rather like fragrant oil floating on the top of a vase of water, than like wine, which spreads through the whole, giving colour and sweetness to every drop. Norah's religion had been too much like a Sunday dress, not worn in her working hours; it had not made her perfectly honest, just, and true in all her dealings. Norah had come to Christ, like the rich young man of whom we read in the gospel, but she had not yet learned to follow Christ in the steps of His holy life.

The few blunt words of the sailor had opened Norah's eyes to the truth. Had she hitherto deserved the name of a Christian at all? Had not hers been a false profession? If so, should she not, from henceforth, resolve to lead a new life, to be what she had wished to appear, to deny sinful self, to take up her cross and follow her Lord!

Norah, with the eagerness of her nature, determined to do all this, perhaps without sufficiently counting the cost, perhaps without dwelling enough on the warning, "ask the Lord for that breastplate of righteousness which will stand rough work and hard blows; don't trust in any pasteboard resolutions of your own." From henceforth, Norah determined that she would let her light so shine before men, that they should see her good works, and glorify her Father in heaven.

When Norah had fulfilled her usual evening duties, read to Mrs. Martin, made her tea, seen to her comforts, and left her in quiet repose for the night, the young girl sought her own little room, with her mind and heart still full of what her sailor uncle had said. She had usually amused herself at night with reading the trashy novel lent by Sophy Puller, but now for the first time Norah Peele paused before she opened the book.

"I wonder if this is one of the things which I must give up?" thought Norah. "Certainly it makes me sit up very late at night, and mistress wonders how I can use up so many candles, and she has often told me to go to bed early, for fear I should fall asleep over my work, and set the house on fire. And then these novels do fill my head so full of thoughts—some very bad ones I fear! While I was reading the Bible to mistress, I could not help my mind running on that dreadful woman and that horrible murder, they interested me so! Yet what is the harm in reading; how shall I know if it is really my duty to give up this pleasure?"

Norah half opened the dirty volume.

"What did my uncle say? He told me to bring everything straight to the Lord, to ask—Is this what He would approve, what He would have done in my place?"

Norah shut the book, and thrust it into a drawer: her conscience had given an honest answer to the question, and the pleasure which she felt from the consciousness that she had for once exercised self-denial, quite made up to the little maid for the amusement which she had lost. Norah went to rest that night more happy than she had ever felt before.

But when Norah awoke in the grey dawn, and rose to perform her round of daily duties, the first fervour of excited feeling had had a little time to cool, and she began more seriously to consider what difficulties might beset her in her new course of practical obedience. A variety of things, small in themselves, yet of great importance, because they were matters of conscience, pressed on the young girl's mind.

Must she not so much as take a reel of cotton that was not her own—nor touch that plateful of sweet cakes which had hitherto offered an unresisted temptation? Must she act at every moment of her life with the sense that God's eye was upon her? Did real faith require all this?

But what weighed most of all on poor Norah was the idea of Sophy Puller and her stolen meals at the house. Norah was a lively young girl, exceedingly fond of mirth, and though she loved her good old mistress, the idea of having no society more gay than that of the invalid lady seemed to Norah as dreary as that of a life in prison. Sophy's gossip, Sophy's books, Sophy's friendship, had been the great delight of an existence which, without them, so Norah believed, she would find insupportably dull.

"It will be dreadfully difficult to know what to say to Sophy," was Norah's reflection, as when going at noon to make some little purchase for her lady, she turned the subject over in her mind for at least the twentieth time. "She has not talked with my uncle, and I shall never be able to make her understand what he thinks, she will consider it all so absurd! I almost hope that dear Sophy will not come to see me to-day, above all that she may not come at tea-time! I could hardly bear to let her see that I think it wrong to entertain her at my lady's expense! She would laugh at my scruples—or else she would be so hurt and angry! Oh! It would grieve me to vex or offend her. To lose Sophy for a friend would be a dreadful trial indeed! It would be more than I could endure!"

As Norah pursued her way, with her brow knit with anxious thought, as if the cares of a nation were upon her, she chanced to pass a haberdasher's shop which had always for her great attraction, as one of her besetting weaknesses was a love of dress, which weakness had been greatly fostered by her intercourse with Sophy. Instinctively Norah paused before the large plate-glass window, and looked at the tempting array of fashionable dresses set out with prices affixed.

"What—that black silk robe with flounces and jacket complete for only two guineas! If ever I saw such a bargain!" exclaimed Norah, whose great ambition was to possess such a Sunday dress, as Sophy had told her that black silk was the most genteel thing in the world, and made a girl look just like a real lady at once! "But two whole guineas!" reflected Norah. "Whenever shall I get that to spend on a gown, when I can hardly afford even this coloured print that I wear!"

A carriage drew up at the door, and an elegantly-dressed lady descended and entered the shop.

"There goes one who can spend guineas upon guineas, and buy everything pretty and new, without any trouble, and without feeling that she is doing anything wrong. How happy she must be in that lovely bonnet and feathers, and satin mantle trimmed with such beautiful lace!"

So thought the poor silly child, who had little idea of any troubles of a different kind from her own.

"I'm sure," and Norah breathed a sigh of discontent, "I'm sure that the poor have much harder trials to bear than the rich, they need much more self-denial, their cross is much harder to bear!"

Norah turned away from the shop with a feeling of bitter envy, to which covetousness had given rise. Against such strokes of the enemy, her newly-tried breastplate was not proof.

The next shop passed by Norah was of very different appearance from the last, but offered temptations of its own.

"A mangle—and to be had for five pounds! That is just what mother is always wanting! Oh! How I wish that I had money to buy it! I wonder why things are made so uneven in the world, why some have thousands of pounds to throw away on their pleasures, while others have a life-long struggle to earn their daily bread!"

Norah returned to the house out of spirits, because, though she hardly knew it, a mistrust of the love of her Heavenly Father had crept like a shadow over her heart. She felt more than ever, how dreadfully hard it would be to risk offending Sophy, and that to follow the Lord fully is no light and easy thing.



"WELL, Norah my darling, I've just slipped in for five minutes to see you, I can't stop long, but just pour me out a cup like a dear, I'm half grilled in this dreadful hot weather!" And the milliner's girl threw herself on a chair, and began fanning herself with her pocket-handkerchief.

For the first time Norah was sorry to see her friend, and especially to see her at tea. Though Norah had been so often during the day thinking over what course she should take, and what words she should say, yet the sudden appearance of Sophy Puller seemed to take her by surprise.

"Quick, cut me a slice, for I must soon be off; plenty of butter you know; I thought that you promised me that this time I should taste the old lady's tartlets. Why, is anything the matter?" cried Sophy, who perceived a peculiar hesitation and confusion in the manner of Norah.

"You know, dear, that I went home yesterday and saw my sailor uncle—the uncle who has lost his arm."

"Ah! Yes, if I'd only time, I should like to hear all about him," said Sophy, "but I've come on a little bit of business, and I thought it was best to drop in at tea-time; I knew that my darling would always make me welcome!" Here followed a caress, which made poor Norah feel more embarrassed than ever.

"My uncle said—my uncle thought—he heard about your coming, and he told me—" Every word of her studied explanation seemed to have escaped from Norah's mind; she stammered, and turned very red; Sophy looked at her in surprise.

"What on earth do you mean?" she enquired.

Norah's hand was upon the loaf, and she unconsciously squeezed it so tightly as to leave the mark of the pressure upon it.

"My uncle thought that I should tell my mistress when I have a friend at meals," stammered forth Norah, wondering at her own courage when the sentence was uttered.

"That old Mrs. Martin may be sure to have hot muffins ready for her!" cried Sophy, bursting into a merry laugh. Her mirth disconcerted her friend as much as her anger might have done.

"Uncle Ned doesn't think it—quite right," said Norah, looking down, "that I should entertain any guest at my lady's expense, and without her knowledge."

"Stuff and nonsense!" exclaimed Sophy Puller. "I think that uncle of yours must have lost his head as well as his arm, or he would not be putting such rubbish into your silly little mind!" And catching up the knife, and taking the loaf from Norah, Sophy began to make up for lost time by helping herself in good earnest.

"But—" began Norah, timidly.

The milliner's girl cut her short.

"Now, don't be talking any more such stuff, Norah dear; you're not such a baby as to mind silly cant! I'll tell you what I've come here for to-day." Sophy went on talking as fast as a mouth full of bread and butter would let her. "You're going to have a treat—such a treat! There's an entertainment to-night in the Town Hall; you must have seen the big bills about it stuck upon every wall—the famous juggler is to perform, who helps a dozen people out of one bottle to a dozen different wines, and puts an extinguisher upon his wife, and makes her vanish into air, and who does a thousand other things more wonderful even than these! Now, you and I, my darling, are going to see him to-night."

"I cannot—I cannot indeed," said Norah, who nevertheless greatly desired to go.

"But I've got a ticket for you!" cried Sophy, pulling it out of her pocket, as if the sight of the bit of blue pasteboard must set all scruples at rest. "Mr. Green, he's the manager you know, he's a friend of my father. 'Peter Puller,' says he, 'shall have as many tickets as he likes half-price.' Oh! you must come indeed, Norah, darling! The lads I told you of, and Bell and her brothers, are all to be of the party! 'Twill be the rarest fun in the world!" Sophy took hold of the teapot, and helped herself to the tea.

"I should like it of all things," sighed Norah, "but I am sure that I would not get my mistress's leave."

"Then you'll go without it, to be sure—just hand me the sugar, my dear—nothing can be more easily managed. I just tap at the door at ten minutes to nine; the door is left on the latch."

"But mistress bids me lock it, and put up the chain for the night for fear of robbers," said Norah.

"You can do all that when you come home; you'll be back by eleven, you know; as for robbers and all that rubbish, only old women who are timid as mice ever dream of such things. Now, you must not look so grave, dear Norah. I've set my heart on your going, indeed I'll take no denial, when I've got the ticket and all. I'd never forgive you, never, if you disappointed me now."

It is needless to repeat all the arguments used by an unprincipled girl to persuade poor Norah to consent to do what her conscience condemned. Sophy never paused to consider that she was acting as Satan's servant, and doing the devil's work, in tempting her young simple friend from the straight narrow path of duty. Perhaps Sophy actually believed that she was showing kindness to Norah. Be that as it may, the milliner's girl did not leave the house till she had wrung from the weakness of her friend a half-consent to be ready to go with her that night.

Alas for poor human resolution! The first strong shaft of temptation had pierced it through and through.

Had the sailor's words, then, gone for nothing? Had they effected no change whatever? Yes, one important point had been gained. Norah could no longer do wrong with an easy conscience; her eyes had been opened to the danger and guilt of what she had deemed little sins. Norah knew that not one could be harboured and indulged, save at the peril of her soul. She felt that the religion which does not purify the life is not true religion at all.

Norah's mind was so restless and uneasy as she sat down to her work, that even the prospect of the amusement before her, gave as much pain as pleasure. She dared not think of her uncle, far less of those truths which she had heard from his lips.

When we yield to one temptation we have less power to resist another. Waters entering through the narrowest breach soon make for themselves a wider way. Norah sought relief from uneasy reflection in the very thing which she had so lately given up as wrong.

"I can't go on with this tiresome darning," exclaimed the young servant, flinging a bundle of stockings aside. "I must just have a glance at that book; I must just see if that wretched woman was hanged for murder after all."

So, neglecting her duty, misusing her time, trying to silence her conscience, Norah plunged into the midst of a novel but too well suited to inflame her imagination and corrupt her mind. She was so deep in the interest of the story, that she started with impatient annoyance at the sound of the bell which summoned her up to the drawing-room, to read to her mistress as usual.



WELL was it for Norah Peele that a quiet time for thinking was thus forced upon her, unwilling as she felt at the moment to lay down her tempting novel, and obey her mistress's summons.

When Norah entered the peaceful room, where the soft light of the shaded lamp fell on Mrs. Martin's placid voice and silvery hair, as she sat with her hands clasped, and a look of much patience in her almost sightless eyes, Norah felt as if she had quitted a glaring theatre, and come into a house of prayer. There was before her one who had long worn the breastplate of righteousness, and fought the good fight of faith, and who would soon receive the victor's crown from Him whom she loved and obeyed.

Norah took up the book which she was accustomed to read, but so pre-occupied was her mind with its own perplexing thoughts, that she began at the first chapter at which she chanced to open the volume, without paying attention to a marker left in the proper place.

"Surely we have heard that before," said Mrs. Martin.

Norah had not attended to one word of what she had been reading.

The girl was ashamed of her mistake, and at once set it right, but it was soon followed by another. Norah turned over two pages at once and read on, quite unconscious that her blunder rendered a sentence absolute nonsense.

Again Mrs. Martin recalled her to herself in a patient, gentle way; but Norah still read in so dull and lifeless a manner, that it could be no pleasure to hear her.

"You may shut the book, Norah," said the lady; "perhaps yesterday's long walk has tired you; I will only have my evening chapter from the Bible; there is no reading like that."

Norah took up the blessed volume, and now her attention wandered no more. The chapter read was the 22d of St Luke. Conscious of her own backsliding, of the weakness which she had shown, of the evil intention which she had harboured after all her good resolutions, every verse which she read from the Bible seemed to Norah to convey a reproach. At last, when she came to Peter's assurance that he would fellow his Master to prison and to death, and the mournful warning which followed, Norah's voice failed her, and she paused for a minute to recover her own self-command.

"I am always thankful," said Mrs. Martin, "that St Peter's fall has been recorded in Scripture: it puts us on our guard against our own weakness; it shows us that even faith and love like his were not enough to guard him from sin in the hour of temptation."

"Then what can guard?" faltered Norah.

"The grace of God's Holy Spirit, which we must seek for by prayer. It was that grace which made Peter, who had thrice denied his Lord, afterwards boldly confess Him in the presence of Caiaphas himself! It was that grace that made Peter, who had been terrified at the words of a woman, afterwards nobly endure the terrible death of the cross! Without God's grace we can do nothing, with it we can do all things; His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Our daily prayer should be, 'Lord, give me thy Holy Spirit!' remembering the gracious promise, 'Ask, and it shall be given you.'" *

* Matt. vii. 7.

Norah read on to the end of the chapter in a low soft tone, and with a spirit humbled and subdued. Once again her voice failed her; it was at the words, the Lord turned and looked upon Peter! She thought what that look of love and pity must have been, how it must have thrilled to the heart of the backsliding disciple! And did not He who had watched the apostle, still mark the wanderings of His feeblest lamb; was He not still ready thus to guide by his eye the erring one who longed once more to return to the straight path of duty?

As soon as Norah's invalid mistress had retired to her early rest, Norah went to her own little room, not to prepare, as she had intended, to go out at night with her worthless companion, leaving the house exposed to robbers, and an aged lady in danger, if taken with sudden illness, of finding herself deserted, but to fall on her knees and ask forgiveness for the sinful purpose of her heart.

Norah could not have put her prayer into words, but her soul's pleading was something like this—

   "Oh, Lord! Help me! Oh, Lord forgive me! I am a poor, foolish, sinful girl! The evil I would not, I do, and I leave my duties undone! Oh, give me Thy Holy Spirit; give me the breastplate of righteousness, strong and firm against every temptation, that I may know Thy will, and do Thy will, and follow my Saviour all my life, and be happy with Him for ever!"

A few minutes before the church-clock struck nine, a shadow fell on the pavement in front of Mrs. Martin's dwelling, and there was the sound of a low rap, as of a stealthy hand on the panel of the door, followed by an eager whisper, "Quick, Norah, quick, we are late."

The door unclosed but a few inches, the chain prevented its opening wider. Young Norah stood behind it, the glare of the street lamp showed her pale, agitated face.

"Oh, Sophy, don't be angry; I may not—must not come. I have written my reasons on the paper in which this book is wrapped up, take it, and oh, forgive me."

Norah drew back as if afraid of trusting herself to say more.

Sophy, disappointed and angry, had snatched the novel out of Norah's hand.

"I'll never believe, nor trust, nor speak to you again," she exclaimed, turning away with a burst of petty resentment.

Perhaps Sophy hoped to hear Norah's voice entreating her to return; she only heard the rattle of the chain, and the sound of the closing door. Something firmer than panel, and stronger than iron or steel, had been now raised to be a barrier between Norah Peele and her false friend.



How different is the importance given on earth and in Heaven to the same events! The famous speech, the brilliant entertainment, the political crisis, which fill columns of "The Times," and are the talk of eager thousands from one end of Britain to another, may seem as much beneath the notice of angels as bubbles floating on a stream; while the bright inhabitants of Heaven may hover over some humble mansion, to watch the struggle between right and wrong in one as lowly as the little servant-maid Norah.

No passer-by would have given a second thought to the girl on her knees, cleaning Mrs. Martin's doorstep in the early morning, yet that poor simple servant had fought a battle, and won a victory, on which angels might look with interest, for the result of such triumphs will last when earth itself shall have passed away.

As Norah went on with her humble occupation, lifting up her heart as she did so in a silent hymn of thanksgiving, her attention was attracted by a small object that lay on the road close to the pavement. Norah rose, and, going to the spot, picked up a small canvas bag, which had probably been dropped there since the previous evening. Norah loosened the string, and opened the bag, to see what might be in it, but she almost dropped it again in her surprise at sight of its glittering contents.

"Sovereigns! All bright, new, golden sovereigns!" exclaimed the astonished Norah.

She hastened into the house, shut the door, dropped on her knees, and emptied the bag into her lap, that she might count over the treasure without fear of being either disturbed or noticed.

"Two, four, six, eight! I had never so much money before in my life! Oh!" cried Norah, clapping her hands, "I shall now be able to buy both the black silk dress and the mangle, and something for Sophy besides, to make her forget last night, for I could not bear that there should be any bitter feeling between us!"

It was not unnatural that such should be the first thoughts that should rise to the mind of Bessy Peele's daughter. It must be remembered that Norah had not been brought up with strict ideas of honesty, that it was but lately that she had put on the breastplate of righteousness, or even desired to have that "holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." * But the young Christian had only swerved from her course for a minute, conscience was still at the helm.

* Hebrews xii. 14.

"What am I thinking of!" cried Norah, still on her knees, with the bright coin lying on her lap. "This money is not my own, I cannot honestly spend it. If I have found it, some one else must have lost it; I must give it back to its owner!"

An expression of disappointment came over the young girl's face, but it was almost instantly chased away by a look like sunshine.

"Oh! Here is another opportunity given me of showing my love to my Lord, of proving that my faith is real; that I am not hanging out false colours! Is it not an honour and a joy to do, or to give up anything to please my Heavenly Master?"

Norah caught up the coins, and hastily thrust them all back into the bag, counting them as she did so. She would not trust herself to look again at the glittering gold, she would not trust herself even to think what Mrs. Peele or Sophy would say if they knew that she now held so large a sum in her hands. Norah felt impatient for the time when Mrs. Martin would come down from her room, that she might give over the tempting bag into the charge of the lady, and ask her what would be the best way of finding out its owner. Norah could think of nothing else as she filled the kettle, spread the table, and made the toast for breakfast. She felt as if in possession of a very great secret, which she longed to disclose to her mistress.

"You must have received some good news, Norah," was Mrs. Martin's remark, as she first met the beaming glance of her little servant.

"Oh, ma'am! Only see what I've found this morning on the road, not ten yards from the door, eight new sovereigns, all in this bag!"

And Norah, with some excitement, placed the bag in the hand of her mistress.

"And what will you do with this?" asked the old lady.

"Oh, ma'am! You know it's not mine, I thought you would kindly help me to find out who has lost it."

"Norah, you're the most honest girl that ever I met with!" burst involuntarily from the lips of her mistress.

Mrs. Martin had unintentionally touched a painful chord; Norah's awakened conscience started back from unmerited praise.

"Oh, no, ma'am! Don't say that!" cried the girl, surprised into a sudden confession, "I've not been faithful to you as I should; I've taken little things; I've had a guest at my meals, but I mean never to do so more; I hope that you will forgive me!"

"Norah, I thank God for you!" said the old lady, tears rising into her eyes as she spoke.

How warm went her words to the heart of Norah, no praise could have been so sweet!

Norah had unwittingly removed a weight from the mind of her gentle mistress. Mrs. Martin had had painful suspicions, which she had vainly tried to put away, as to the strict honesty of her young maid. She had often asked herself whether it might not be her duty to speak seriously to Norah on the subject, but had put off doing so from day to day, partly because the duty was painful to her tender sensitive spirit, partly because she tried to persuade herself that her dim sight and failing memory might have led her into error, and she would not distress her maid till she had clearer proof of her guilt.

Norah's honesty about the money had for the moment entirely swept away all her lady's suspicions, and caused her to utter what a little consideration might have made her retract; but Norah's frank confession entirely relieved Mrs. Martin's mind. That confession showed regret for the past, which was in itself an earnest of a future life of fidelity and truth. The lady felt that henceforth Norah would be more to her than a servant, one who would be her comfort, one whom she could trust, whom she could love.

Nothing more, however, was said by either mistress or maid on the subject. After a brief silence, Mrs. Martin recurred to that of the money.

"Norah, you know that I expect my brother, Mr. Lowndes, to breakfast here to-day," she observed. "We will give the bag over to him. He is a magistrate, as you are aware, and will be the best person to advise us how to find out the real owner."

As the lady spoke, the well-known sound of her brother's double-rap at the knocker announced his arrival.

Norah, light of foot, and light of heart, ran to the door to answer the summons, and Mr. Lowndes, a tall portly man, soon made his appearance in the room.



THE magistrate, after greeting his sister, sat down, and wiped his heated brow with a large silk handkerchief. There was a look of satisfaction upon his sensible, intelligent face.

"The police have had a busy night of it," said Mr. Lowndes. "The fellow very nearly got off: but he's been arrested at last, and there's little doubt but that the charge will be brought home to him now."

"What charge—of what do you speak?" asked Mrs. Martin.

"Why of a charge against a scamp called Peter Puller," (Norah could not help starting at the name,) "who is one of a gang of unprincipled fellows who have been trying in different parts of the country to pass a quantity of base coin. We'd information sent down from London—a detective arrived last night, we've had a hunt—which has proved successful. It was quite time for the police to be on the alert, a great deal of mischief has been done already, for the false money is so close an imitation of the good, that the simple folk about here have taken it pretty freely. I saw a poor widow yesterday, who was in bitter distress, finding that the sovereign for which she had sold her pig, was worth no more than a brass farthing."

"What heartless fraud!" exclaimed Mrs. Martin.

"This fellow—this Peter Puller, had some of the false coin on his person when he was caught," continued Mr. Lowndes, "but we have reason to think that we have not found all. Doubtless he would try to get rid of it when he discovered that the police were close on his track."

Mrs. Martin raised her hand to her forehead, as if an idea had struck her.

"Norah, my maid, picked up a canvas bag this morning," she said, "with eight sovereigns in it; she gave it to me to take charge of till we could find to whom it belonged."

"Let's see it by all means," said Mr. Lowndes, taking his spectacles and placing them on his nose.

Mrs. Martin took the bag out of her pocket, and handed it to her brother, who shook out the bright pieces on the table, took up each, one by one, looked at it closely through his glasses, poised it on his finger to feel the weight, then flung it down to try if it would ring. After each trial, he shook his head gravely; while Mrs. Martin, and Norah, who was waiting at the table, watched with interest to see the result.

"Worthless, every one of them!" cried Mr. Lowndes, first replacing the coins in their bag, and then the spectacles in their case. "It is well for your little maid there that she did not attempt to pass them, unless she could easily prove that she had nothing to do with Puller or any of his set."

Norah felt like a rider who has suddenly reined up on the brink of a dangerous precipice, and who looks down, shuddering but thankful, on the deep chasm into which he so nearly had fallen!

The idea of being even for a moment suspected of uttering base coin, of being a party to a wicked fraud, and the knowledge that she had often received secret visits from the criminal's daughter, made her draw in her breath with a gasp! What if it could have been proved that Norah had gone out on the previous night in company with Sophy Puller and her party, and had been found in the morning attempting to buy goods with false coin! Everything would have come out at Puller's trial, and even if Norah had escaped a jail, her character would have been lost. All this shame, terror, and misery had been escaped by her simply keeping in the course of duty, and denying self to follow the Lord.

Norah was about to leave the room, when the magistrate called her back.

"Stay here a moment, my good girl," he said, laying his broad hand on the canvas bag which was on the table beside him. "Your conduct appears to have been most praiseworthy in this affair. It is not every young servant who, having found, as she thought, eight sovereigns, would have carried them at once to her mistress. You've earned a good character, Norah, and I make no doubt that you'll keep it, and find through life that honesty is the best policy in all things."

Then in a less serious tone Mr. Lowndes went on. "I'm giving a fête to-day in my ground to all our school children here, in honour of my little girl's birthday. We're to have the grand conjurer to show his tricks, then a feast, and fireworks to close the entertainment; could you spare me this little maid?" continued the magistrate, turning towards his sister. "I should like to show the children one who has set them so good an example of honesty and uprightness."

"I will spare Norah with pleasure," said the kind old lady, "and make the same arrangement with my char-woman as I did upon Monday. Most glad am I that Norah should have this innocent amusement; I am certain that she will enjoy it, for she will feel that she has deserved it!"

Norah curtsied, blushed, and went out of the room in the quiet manner which became a young servant, then went bounding down stairs to the kitchen to make her needful preparations. Norah was full of delight; she knew that she had her lady's free forgiveness for all the past, and her confidence for the future, and but one cloud rested on the sunny sky above Norah—the thought of the shame and trouble in which her late companion must be involved by the sad disgrace of a father.

"Ah! Poor Sophy! She has had no one to show her the straight right way, no one to speak to her faithfully as my sailor uncle spoke to me! She has not heard of the daily battle to fight, the daily cross to take up; she has not been taught that we are never, never so happy as when we heartily try, by the help of God's grace, to obey His will in all things!"

So thought Norah Peele then, and through the course of a useful, happy, and honourable life, she never found cause to change her opinion.

There is a beautiful verse in the Bible which describes in few words the future glory of those who 'love the Lord' and therefore 'hate evil.' * It is this—'Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.' †

* Psalm xcvii. 10.      † Psalm xcvii. 11.

The first fruits spring up even here; to the faithful and true is given the command, 'Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!' *

* Phil. iv. 4.

But who can tell what the full harvest of light and bliss will be in the world to come, when the Redeemer shall say to His own: 'Well done, good and faithful servant; thou halt been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!' *

* Matt. xxv. 23.