The battle of life : or, What is a Christian

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



Mytton, never so much as raising his eyes from his occupation,
went on as if life depended on success,
setting one little scrap by another.




What is a Christian.


A. L. O. E.







CHAPTER I. A Blessing.

CHAPTER II. No Blessing.

CHAPTER III. In the Dark.

CHAPTER IV. The Watcher.

CHAPTER V. Sickness and Sorrow.

CHAPTER VI. The Mother's Errand.

CHAPTER VII. Thinking over it.


CHAPTER I. The Lonely Cot.

CHAPTER II. Treasure Found.


CHAPTER IV. Earthly Hope.

CHAPTER V. Heavenly Hope.


CHAPTER I. The Patient Restored.

CHAPTER II. Decision.

CHAPTER III. Division.

CHAPTER IV. Sabbath Hours.

CHAPTER V. Darkness and Night.

CHAPTER VI. A Way Opened.


CHAPTER I. A Storm Down Below.

CHAPTER II. The Twins.


CHAPTER IV. The Struggle.

CHAPTER V. A Brother to the Rescue.

CHAPTER VI. Victory.


CHAPTER I. The Young Stepmother.

CHAPTER II. Off to the Station.

CHAPTER III. A Dinner-Party.

CHAPTER IV. Battle in the Nursery.

CHAPTER V. Silver Turned into Gold.


CHAPTER I. Back Again.

CHAPTER II. Neglected Duty.

CHAPTER III. A Service of Obedience.

CHAPTER IV. A Service of Hope.

CHAPTER V. A Service of Love.

CHAPTER VI. One Family.







A Blessing.

"THERE'S no use in talking more over the matter, mother; when I says a thing—I does it!" cried John Carey, striking his fist upon the table, to give emphasis to his words. "I've told Dick Brace that as soon as I gets the thirty pounds of my uncle's legacy, I'll club it with his, and we'll start in business together, and make a good thing, I don't doubt, out of the 'Jolly Ploughboys,' now the brickmaking is begun so near to the place."

"I don't like your keeping a public, John; and I don't like your joining in anything with Dick Brace," observed Widow Carey, with an anxious shake of the head.

"He's a jolly good fellow," said John.

"He's not a God-fearing man," rejoined the widow. "I doubt there will be a blessing upon anything in which you are mixed up with him."

"I shouldn't care to have him for a brother, but he's just the fellow for a partner in business," cried John; "sharp as a fox, and merry as a cricket. You'll see we'll get on like a house on fire, mother, and I'll be able to pay your coal club for you every week, and maybe your rent too, if you don't care to have the little back-room at the 'Jolly Ploughboys.'" And John bent his tall form, and looked with a merry, kindly smile into his parent's face as he added, "There's a bribe for ye, mother!"

Mrs. Carey returned the smile; indeed it would have been hard not to have done so, so pleasant, at least to a parent's eyes, looked that fine strong young peasant, in the prime of life, with the fresh hue of health on his cheek.

There was something in the appearance of John, with his tawny hair and whiskers, broad and somewhat flat face, and bold decided manner, that made his companions sometimes call him in sport "the young lion:" but he was a very good-humoured lion, for though self-willed and sometimes hasty, there was nothing savage in the nature of the widow's only son.

Mrs. Carey smiled indeed, but she was thoroughly in earnest as she replied, "Were the sacks full of gold sovereigns instead of coals, they wouldn't be bribe enough for me; and as for taking your back parlour—let alone that I'd not choose to end my life in a public—maybe you'll want a younger companion one of these days to keep house for ye, my boy."

John threw back his head and laughed. "I've been a-thinking of that," said he. "If matters go right, and the money come in, there's Dinah Dealtry at the farm—she'd make a trim little wife."

Again the widow shook her head. "I hope you'll never put the ring on her finger, John. She's not a girl to make a good man happy, nor to bring up a family in the right way. There wouldn't be a blessing, I fear, on such a marriage as that."

"Mother, you're always thinking about a blessing," cried John, with a little impatience.

"Because I've always found God's blessing to be the one thing needful, my son, and I never feel myself safe in doing anything upon which I cannot ask it. We may plough and sow a field, but not a blade will grow, unless God's blessing come in the rain and the sunshine. And so it is with everything in life: we spend our money for that which is not bread, and our labour for that which satisfieth not, unless God's blessing crown all."

"I don't see that," said John, bluntly.

"Look at your Bible, my boy; Jacob left home with nothing but his staff and the blessing, and came back with his children, his flocks, and his herds. 'Twas the blessing on Joseph that brought him from prison to palace, and made all things to prosper in his hand. David was hunted like the partridge on the mountains, but the blessing brought him at last to the throne."

"Those lived in old times," cried John Carey; "but we don't look now for palaces or thrones, or, if we did, we shouldn't get 'em! What does the blessing do for us now?"

"John, John, I'm an old pilgrim, and maybe I'm getting nigh the end of my journey, so I may speak the more boldly about it. I've found the blessing like a staff to lean on all the way through; and if I hadn't grasped it, there's many and many a time I'd just have lain down, and given myself up to despair."

"I think you've had more troubles than most folk, mother," observed John, more gravely; "and if there was a blessing on dear good father, how was it that he suffered for years?"

"There was a blessing on him, yes, in his illness, and through his illness," said Mrs. Carey, fervently, while the tears started to her eyes; "no one could have been with him day and night as I was, and not have seen that there was one! Your father had peace, and hope, and joy, and patience—oh! Wonderful patience! And hard as we were put to it sometimes, God always raised up some friend to help us, and opened a way before us when it seemed as if we could not got on. God's blessing was sought by my dear husband from his youth, and I'm sure it went with him wherever he went, prospered him in his honest labour, brought him through troubles, temptations, and trials, cheered him in sickness, made his deathbed at last like the very gateway of heaven! And now he's gone where all is blessing—for ever!" Mrs. Carey closed her sentence with a little stifled sob, as she looked at an empty chair which was now never moved from its place in the corner.

"I didn't mean to make ye sad, mother," said John, laying his broad hand with rough kindliness upon the shoulder of the widow; "and I don't want to worry ye about either the public-house or the girl, but I can't look at matters just as ye do, and, ye see, about that there business with Dick Brace—I've made up my mind. Don't ye be a-vexing yourself about me—all will go right, never fear!"

Then, turning and taking down his cap from its peg, John said, in a merrier tone, "I'm going to old Justice Burns, to get him to pay me uncle's legacy as he promised he would, and then I'm off to London to buy a few things as I want, but I hope to be back soon after dark."

Mrs. Carey saw that expostulation was useless, so she made no further opposition.

"You've a long trudge before you," said she, "take your father's good staff;" and she rose to bring it from its place in the corner just behind the arm-chair.

"Leave it there, mother, I don't want it," cried "the lion." "'Tain't twenty miles to London and back; and were it forty, 'twould not be much to young limbs like mine. Only mind you've a good supper ready for me, for I'll come back hungry as—as a lion!" And nodding a good-bye to the widow, the young man quitted the cottage, whistling merrily as he walked down the hill.

Mrs. Carey watched him fondly as long as his tall form continued in view, and listened to the sound of that whistle which was so pleasant to her ears.

"God bless the lad!" said the mother. "Bless him in his work and his ways, bless his going out and his coming in, bless him now and for ever! He mayn't know the worth of the blessing now, but since my eyes first looked on my babe, there's not been a day, scarce a waking hour, but I've asked it for him from my heart. God will hear a poor mother's prayers, though I'm afraid just now that this legacy hardly comes as a blessing. My dear husband's brother never gave him so much as a shilling to help him through all his long illness, and now leaves to his son thirty pounds, money which seems likely to set the lad against the steady work by which he has gained his bread, to bring him amongst bad companions, and perhaps lead him to marry a girl whose mind is set on flirting and finery, who is not worthy of the true love of a noble-hearted fellow like John! It's a care and trouble to me the thought of this money—but, like all other cares, I must just bring it to my Lord; if pilgrims but set their faces towards Zion, God will direct all their path!"


No Blessing.

"WHAT an odd view mother takes of life!" thought John, as he went whistling along the road towards the house of Justice Burns, to whom his uncle had been butler, and in whose hands he had left his savings. "Mother always seems to feel as if she were on a journey, with her staff in her hand, and her bundle on her back, though she has bided these thirty years in that little cottage where I was born. She's always a-thinking of getting on to another world, and perhaps since father has gone there that's natural enough, for he was the light of her eyes. But I take it this world is a very good world, and I'm in no hurry to leave it. I mean to settle down and thrive in that little public-house which is to be let at such a bargain, drive a good business, make plenty of money, and then ask little Dinah to come and share my home. A lucky legacy that of my uncle's, and come at a lucky time. Mother may say what she likes, there's nothing better in life than a little hard cash—except a great deal of it!" And John Carey laughed gaily to himself as he pulled the bell at the Justice's door.

"What do you want here?" asked the liveried servant who answered the bell.

"I want to see Justice Burns. I'm the nephew of his late butler, and he has money of mine in his hands."

"Ah! You're the nephew of poor old Carey, are you?" said the footman, relaxing into an easy sociable manner. "Come in and sit down in the hall. You can't see master yet, for he's taking his breakfast."

As John entered the hall, he might have guessed that a meal was going on in the house, from the very savoury scent which proceeded out of the dining-room.

"Breakfast! Why it's nigh noonday!" cried honest John, who had already taken his dinner, "It's plain the Justice ain't up with the lark."

"You wouldn't be up with the lark neither, if you had such nights as he has," said the servant, who was inclined for a gossip. "The Justice is a martyr to gout—suffers misery, he does, and makes every one about him miserable too, I suppose to keep him company."

"I should say his gout doesn't take away his appetite," observed John, glancing at a steaming dish which the butler was carrying in at that moment to his master.

The footman shrugged his shoulders. "There's the mischief," said he. "The more the Justice suffers, the more he eats; the more he eats, the more he suffers; but he can't do without his turtle and venison, his sauces and wines. Doctor and cook, he keeps both of them at work. I'd not have such legs as he has for ten thousand pounds a year; they're swelled as big as two, and he can hardly get up from his chair; we've to wheel him from one room to another."

"'Twould have been better, maybe, for the Justice if he'd had to follow the plough at sunrise, and get a good appetite for his bread and cheese," observed John, glancing down with some satisfaction at his own active powerful limbs, that had never suffered from an hour's disease.

"Oh! I often say that it would have been a good thing for him, if he'd had to work hard for his bread, clip hedges or break stones on the road," said the talkative footman. "But there's his bell, I must answer it at once, for he's mighty easily put out when a fit of the gout is upon him."

"Well, maybe hard cash, even a great deal of it, is not always a blessing," was the thought which John Carey had leisure to turn well over in his mind during the half-hour which he had to wait while the Justice was eating and drinking in misery and pain, wasting on gluttonous indulgence that money for which he would one day have to render a strict account.

At last the Justice was ready to see John Carey in the study. The young countryman, as he trod the Turkey-carpet of that luxurious room, looked with mingled pity and contempt on the owner of so much wealth, bolstered up with cushions, and swathed in flannels, with the peevishness of suffering written upon his red bloated face. John could not help thinking of the cheerful patience of his own father during sickness, and the thankful pleasure with which he had received every little comfort, as a direct gift from his God.

"What's this you want—your uncle's legacy? I don't know why he should have bothered me with a petty matter like this," said the Justice peevishly, when John had explained his business.

"Thirty pounds—is that the sum? Yes, I remember; I was writing out a cheque for it last night when I was taken so ill that I could scarcely hold the pen in my fingers."

The Justice looked as if it were a labour and pain to him now to open the desk before him with his swollen gouty hands, and he had hardly taken out the cheque when his servant ushered in the doctor.

"There—go, they'll cash it for you in Argyll Street; I can't be plagued with business," said the Justice hastily, motioning to John to quit his presence.

Young Carey hurriedly put the cheque into his pocket-book and left the house, feeling that he would not change places with that wretched Dives, who lived but for self, even if there were no danger of the "place of torment" succeeding the state of luxury of him who fared sumptuously every day.

"I'm thirsty, and I've a long trudge before me," said John to himself. "I'll just step into the little inn yonder, and refresh myself with a tumbler of beer."

John found in the "White Hart," Sam Soames, a man with whom he had but a slight acquaintance, "the less the better," as Mrs. Carey often had said. No one who looked at Sam as he sat with his elbows rubbing through his sleeves, with his battered hat, dirty shirt, and poverty-stricken aspect, would have guessed that he was a skilled workman, who could win two guineas a week. Sam had earned a great deal of money in his time, but as fast as he made it, the gold seemed to slip through his fingers. It might be said of him in the forcible language of Scripture, "he earneth wages to put into a bag with holes." *

* Haggai i. 6.

Never had John's father, through all his long sickness, when he had no power to earn a shilling, known the actual want which was staring in the face of this man, who had no one to blame but himself that he was not one of the most thriving workmen in the town where he lived. Money had come—and had gone—a blessing was not upon it!

John Carey was of a kindly, sociable temper, such as scarcely suited his nickname of "young lion." Worthless as he knew Sam Soames to be, he pitied his wretched condition, and was willing to do him a kindness. He treated Soames to beer, and while the two men drank together, John chatted freely with his companion over his own affairs. Carey told Soames of the legacy which had been left by his uncle, and of the cheque for thirty pounds which he was going to get cashed in London. In his openness of heart, the "young lion" told him moreover of his own plan of partnership with Brace, and invited Sam to come and look in on him sometimes when he should be landlord of the "Jolly Ploughboys." This Sam Soames very readily promised to do, hoping, no doubt, that his easy-tempered friend would not be hard upon him when the time for reckoning should come.

"It was too bad in me to talk about my good-luck to that poor ruined fellow," thought honest John, as, after paying for what he and his companion had taken, he started off on his long walk to London; "it was like making a hungry dog look in through the window at a well-filled larder, when he has not so much as a bone to grind between his jaws. Well, well, if Sam Soames had my thirty pounds to-day, there would not be thirty pence of it left by Sunday. He's one of them chaps that no one can help; hard cash—much or little of it—would be no blessing to him."

And with this reflection John dismissed the subject from his mind, and took to whistling again.

The "young lion" was scarcely at all tired by his ten miles' walk to London. He was puzzled, however, to find his way through its labyrinth of streets, crossing each other in every direction, and found the noise and bustle of the mighty city very distracting.

"I've heard of some one who said that he'd rather hear the lark sing than the mouse squeak," muttered John to himself, "and I'm much of his mind. I'd think a fortune dearly earned if I'd to go moiling and toiling all my days in a racket like this. But different folk have different tastes; maybe there are some who like it, and would rather see carriages rolling along, than a field of fine wheat bending as the wind blows across it. I'm not one of that sort—that's all."

John had some trouble in finding Argyll Street, and it was an hour later than he expected when he reached the bank at last. The young peasant felt a little shy on entering the large room in which were so many clerks at their desks.

"Here be a lot of fine gentlemen," thought John, "who have nothing to do from morning till night but count up money, and shovel out gold. How tired one would get of the clink of it, and the endless summing and reckoning! I'd rather by far sow beans!"

John's rough jacket and hob-nailed shoes seemed to himself out of place in the bank. Anything like transacting business was new to him, and the "young lion" looked awkward and shy as he advanced, cap in hand, to the front of one of the desks, behind which stood a clerk, who appeared to John to be a very fine gentleman indeed.

The clerk inquired what was his business.

"I want to get this here cheque cashed," said John, pulling his pocket-book from his breast-pocket, and then fumbling in it to find his valuable paper. It was some little time before he could lay his strong clumsy fingers upon it, and put it down on the desk.

"Who gave you this?" asked the clerk.

"Justice Burns, it's for thirty pounds; you see my uncle, he left me a legacy, and—"

The man of business cut the speech of the countryman short.

"This cheque is of no use," he said, pushing it back towards John, "there is no signature on it."

Carey stared in blank amazement, first at the speaker, then at the cheque. What the clerk had said was true enough; the gouty Justice in drawing out the cheque had forgotten to sign his name.

John rubbed his heated forehead, and looked perplexed. "What's to be done?" said he.

"You must take back the cheque and get it signed, of course," said the clerk; "as it is, it is of no more use than blank paper." And having thus summarily dismissed the business, the clerk turned away to attend to a gentleman who had just entered the office.

"This ben't the First of April, or I should have thought the Justice had chosen to play me a trick," thought John, as, somewhat mortified and provoked, he replaced the cheque in his pocket-book, and then quitted the bank.

"He'd no right to send me on such a fool's errand as this because he'd a twinge in his gouty foot. I'll tell him my mind when I see him to-morrow. I'll just go and refresh myself now a bit; for an hour of walking about this Babel takes more out of a fellow than a day spent in hedging and ditching. I'll buy the few things I want, and then get home as fast as my legs will carry me. I shall be ashamed to tell Dick Brace that I've lost a day's work, and had a twenty miles' walk for my pains; 'twill always be a-coming up as a joke against me."


In the Dark.

JOHN CAREY had enjoyed his walk to London, and had never so much as thought if he were tired or not; but whether from the noise and excitement to which he had been unaccustomed, or whether from the damp on his spirits telling on his bodily frame, the road which he retraced on his return seemed to him a weary long one. The sun set in a bank of clouds, a heavy mist filled the air; it appeared to John as if he should never get beyond the line of streets and villas which stretch, mile after mile, along the suburbs of London. The country was reached at last, but the evening mist lay so heavy upon it, that John could see nothing of the fields, and the hedges and trees which bordered the road loomed dim and indistinct through the increasing darkness. John had no inclination to whistle.

"Somehow, everything looks dull to me this evening, and I feel a bit down-hearted," muttered John, as he dragged his weary limbs along. "Mother says as how there's nothing ever comes to us by chance, that there's never a brier thrown across a pilgrim's way but he may pluck a blessing from it. I don't see how that can be, but mayhap that's because I ain't a pilgrim, and don't ask or look for the blessing. I can see nothing in this here matter about the cheque but the stupid blunder of a lazy old glutton, and all I get from it is a waste of shoe-leather, and a loss of time and temper. I suppose that I shall have another trudge up to London to-morrow; no, that there Justice should pay for the coach, if there's anything of justice in him but the name."

Darker and darker grew the night, weary and more weary the traveller; one of his shoes hurt his foot, and he painfully limped along.

"If I didn't know every foot of the road here," said John to himself, as he turned down the lane which led to his home, "I'd be a-losing myself in the darkness. I wish I'd done as my mother bade, and taken my father's good oaken stick; one doesn't think, when setting out fresh and hearty in broad daylight, how glad one may be of a staff before the journey is done."

John was to have need of that staff in more ways than one. Scarcely had the thought passed through his mind, when he was suddenly startled by a violent blow on the back of his head, which knocked off his cap, and stretched him on the road. Up the young lion sprang in a moment, facing the cowardly assailant who had attacked him from behind, and receiving as he did so, another heavy blow, which made him stagger backwards, while the blood gushed from his wound. John was bold and strong, and not one to be easily mastered in a struggle, but he had been taken by surprise, he was weary, and had no weapon but his own bare fists.

In vain John tried to close with his assailant, another blow laid him prostrate again, and the highwayman kicked him with his heavy boot, when attempting again to rise. Lights seemed flashing in the young man's eyes, there was a rushing sound in his ears, he had a confused sense of pain and of a struggle for life, and then all consciousness left him—John Carey lay senseless and bleeding.

While Sam Soames, stooping over him, rifled him of the pocket-book, which the ruffian expected to find full of money obtained by cashing the cheque. Soames made off at once with his booty, without attempting to take anything else, or to ascertain whether his victim yet breathed.

It was not long before the guilty Soames discovered that he had hazarded soul and body for that of which he could make no use. But had the pocket-book, instead of an unsigned cheque, contained hundreds of bank-notes, worse than worthless had been that which bore on it the stain of blood, and carried with it a curse like that which rested upon Cain, a fugitive and vagabond upon the face of the earth.

John Carey lay for some time apparently lifeless, perhaps it was the drizzling rain which awoke him at last; he opened his eyes on the darkness, but was utterly unable to move from the damp ground on which he was lying. He could scarcely collect his senses sufficiently to remember anything that had happened, or to imagine how he came to be stretched there, helpless upon the road.

Gradually there dawned upon his mind some recollection of a struggle, then a desire to get home, then a belief that he should never be found till the morning, when his corpse would be carried to his mother. So confused was John's brain from the shock which it had sustained, that even this idea was more like a half-waking dream, than an actual effort of reasoning powers. The sufferer could not fix his thoughts upon anything, not even on the awful probability that he was on the very verge of an eternity for which he was not prepared. Here lay the only son of the widow, the child of so many fond prayers, likely, before the night should have passed away, to be summoned before his Maker, yet unable even to utter the cry—

"God be merciful to me, a sinner!"


The Watcher.

IN the meantime, Widow Carey sat hour after hour in her little cottage, watching and waiting for the return of her son. She had laid the supper ready, the home-made loaf on the spotless cloth, the red herrings which she had bought that afternoon as a dainty for John after his long tiring walk. Though Mrs. Carey had had no refreshment since noon but a cup of weak tea, she would not taste the food before her, till John should be present to share it.

Many a time Widow Carey rose, went to the door, and looked down the lane, hoping to see the tall form which she knew so well ascending the hill; many a time she fancied that she heard his blithe whistle in the distance, and stirred her little fire, and put on the kettle, that John might have something warm to drink after being out so long in the damp night air.

A very long time Widow Carey waited, and it was to her all the longer from the anxious thoughts which were her companions. Hard as she tried to draw comfort from prayer, to assure herself that God would direct her and her son, and bring everything right in the end, the shadow of approaching troubles lay heavy that night on the widow. She could not help picturing to herself John at the bar of the "Jolly Ploughboys," constantly associating with a man of Brace's loose and dangerous views, and a girl who never so much as gave a thought to religion. Mrs. Carey pictured John gradually becoming more careless and worldly, more cold in his affection towards herself, more neglectful of his duty towards God. The widow dreaded her son's being exposed to temptations from which she had no power to guard him, temptations to which his easy, unsuspicious nature would especially expose him.

"Oh! If I could but have the comfort of knowing that my boy had given himself, heart and soul, to his God—I think I could bear any hardship or trial!" sighed the widow, as she sat thinking, with her hand pressed over her eyes.

"He's such a loving son, such a brave, noble, generous man, he has kept so steady, he has worked so hard, I don't wonder that he feels less than others might feel the need of a Saviour to forgive, and of the Holy Spirit to guide him. But there's only one path that leads us to Heaven, and the Lord Himself has told us that that path is a narrow one. We can't walk on it, yet go on our own way, we can't follow two guides at once who would take us in opposite directions; and oh! If we wilfully stray but ever so little from the path which God has marked out, 'tis in the nature of things that we should wander off farther and farther. There's no standing still in the journey of life; our course each day must be upward or downward, and I'm afraid, how sorely afraid, that my darling is entering upon one that will not have a blessing upon it."

Time passed on, midnight was near; Mrs. Carey grew a little alarmed. Certainly John might have been tempted to tarry for the night in London, which offered so many amusements, but she had never known him do so before. He might have been persuaded by Dick Brace to join some jovial party, and sit drinking to a late hour; the widow had never known John give way to intemperance, but the doubt which would rise in her mind, made her more uneasy and restless than ever.

At last the poor mother could no longer stop in her cottage, suspense was more than she could bear; she could not sleep, she could not rest, she lighted her little lamp and went forth into the darkness, in the faint hope of meeting her son.

Chill fell the night rain upon the slight form of the widow. Even to herself, it seemed as if she were bound on a useless errand, and yet her heart impelled her to go on. Her steps were on withered autumn leaves which the night wind blew over her path; their rustle as they fell was the only sound which reached the ear of the mother. Twice she stopped and half resolved to go back, then went on her dark dreary way.

Presently the gaze of the widow fell on a dark object indistinctly seen on the road; Mrs. Carey's heart throbbed faster, and she quickened her steps. The light of her lamp fell on something which seemed at once to stop the beating of that heart altogether, and to curdle the very blood in her veins!

Then from her lips burst a loud wild cry for help, a cry which startled and aroused sleepers in the cottage next to her own, so piercing and shrill it sounded on the still midnight air. In a few minutes, but to the mother they seemed like hours, forms were seen hurrying through the darkness, and kindly voices answered the repeated cry for aid. Widow Carey was found kneeling on the road by the senseless body of her son, supporting his head upon her knees, and, with trembling fingers, trying to staunch the blood which flowed from a deep gash in the young man's brow.


Sickness and Sorrow.

A TIME of heavy tribulation to the widow followed the horrors of that night. John Carey was not indeed killed, the spark of life glimmered still, but he lay for weeks in a dangerous state, sometimes buried in stupor, sometimes raving with fever, never able to give a clear account of what had occurred.

It was evident that he had been the victim to violence; the fact of his having gone to London to cash a cheque for a considerable sum was soon known far and wide, and it was, of course, concluded that the "young lion" had been waylaid on his return home, and robbed of the money.

Search was made at once for the man who had committed the crime, a reward was offered for his apprehension. Suspicion fell upon Soames, who was proved to have heard from John's own lips of the cheque, and whose character and wretched circumstances made him appear one not unlikely to have committed an act of violence to save himself from destitution. The sudden disappearance of Soames from the neighbourhood confirmed the suspicion; but the wretched man succeeded in eluding pursuit; he was reserved to suffer, at a later period, the punishment due for other crimes.

In anguish, the widow watched and prayed by the bedside of her suffering son, imploring God, day and night, to spare his life and his reason. The crisis was over at length; the fever was subdued, consciousness returned, but the once powerful young man lay weak and helpless as a child. His tawny locks shorn away, the bandage over his brow, his eye dim, his cheek hollow, who, in that languid invalid, would have recognised the "young lion!"

The doctor forbade any subject being mentioned to John that could produce excitement; he must be kept as quiet as possible, and have as much good wine and generous nourishment as he could take to restore his exhausted strength. Good wine, generous nourishment! How were they to be procured? That question which she could not answer, went to the mother's heart. Mrs. Carey had earned her livelihood by charing and washing, but during her son's illness she had been unable to earn a sixpence by either, nursing him had engaged all her time, and taxed her utmost strength.

During the first fortnight, his mother had felt the press of poverty but little; John could hardly touch food, the doctor had not sent in his bill, much interest was excited in the neighbourhood, little presents were received, and the few tradesmen who supplied necessaries let their accounts run up, without troubling the afflicted mother for immediate payment. Thus for a while, as has been said, Mrs. Carey, watching by the sick-bed of John, and absorbed by the anxiety caused by his critical state, felt no actual want of money. But this did not last very long.

When John was once known to be likely to recover, interest in his case grew weaker, while the need for help grew greater. The hunger of convalescence began just when the shelf was empty; and bills came dropping in when not a sixpence was left in the purse. The baker, who had at first been all sympathy and bustling kindness, shrugged his shoulders, and threw out hints that a man in receipt of wages was bound to subscribe to a club, and not leave the burden of his support during sickness to a widowed mother, and neighbours who were willing enough to help, but who had to care for families of their own.

Dick Brace, over his glass of foaming ale, observed that John Carey had been a simpleton to travel at night with thirty pounds in his pocket, and doubly a simpleton for having given notice in a low inn that he intended to do so.

Mrs. Carey, worn out with anxiety and watching, her nerves shaken by lack of sleep, her spirits depressed by debt and difficulties which thickened around her, found it hard indeed to let patience have its perfect work, and to place firm trust in the changeless love of Him who so sorely tried her.

There are times in the experience of most Pilgrims to Heaven when darkness seems to be above and around them, and the Tempter whispers into their troubled ears, "God hath forgotten to be gracious." The feeble body weighs down the soul, the spirit can scarcely rise in prayer. In such seasons of weakness and gloom, how soothing these words of Scripture! "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh, in darkness and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." *

* Isaiah l. 10.

The widow could better have borne her outward trials, her son's illness, and the poverty which it brought with it, had she been able to see any spiritual good arising from them to one who was dearer to her than life. But it did not seem to Mrs. Carey that affliction had brought John nearer to God. When his brain had been excited by fever, it was about Dinah that he had raved; and now, though he spoke but little, John had more than once dropped words which shewed that he had not given up his scheme of partnership with Brace, that he still looked forward to being joint-landlord with him of the little public-house near the brick field. This grieved the widow beyond everything else.

She did not, indeed, fear that either Dick or Dinah would have much to do with a penniless man who might—and probably would—be unable to work for months yet to come; but that John after all that had happened—after what seemed to his mother like a solemn warning from Heaven—should persist in going on his own wilful way against the wishes of a parent who had almost broken down her health in nursing him, nearly crushed his mother with grief.

One day (it was the first day on which John had been able to sit up in a chair), Mrs. Carey placed before him the little dinner which she had obtained with difficulty, and had prepared with the greatest care. The pale, gaunt man, who looked the wreck of what he had been, felt that strong craving for food which often follows long illness, and the slender repast which his mother brought excited his impatience and scorn.

"Why, mother, you must think me a baby still," exclaimed the invalid almost with anger. "Is that spoonful of minced meat a dinner to put before a man who could devour a sirloin of beef? And where is the wine which the doctor said I must have?" added John, glancing impatiently round him.

"My son," answered the widow meekly, "I give you what I can, not what I would?"

She had herself not tasted meat for a fortnight.

"What do you mean?" cried John. "You know as well as I do that I've plenty of money—there's all the legacy left by my uncle."

Another pang to the heart of the mother! She had often noticed before that John's illness had affected his memory, but she had hoped of late that this was improving. It was a bitter disappointment to find him thus, as she thought, forgetting the fact that he had been robbed as well as almost murdered.

"What do you mean?" repeated the sick man with petulance. "And why do you look so sad?"

"My boy, you know that you were robbed of your all six weeks ago," said the widow.

"Not of a farthing!" cried John. "Surely you cannot have gone on all this time without asking for the money?"

He looked eagerly into the face of his mother, who could hardly bear to meet his excited gaze.

"You applied for it yourself, dear John, on that dreadful Monday," said she.

"And got a cheque—but the cheque was not signed, I could not cash it, I could not get a farthing of the money!" exclaimed John, with unusual animation. "Go, mother, go directly to the Justice, ask him for the legacy which he has in charge—tell him that the cheque was not worth a nettle-leaf!"

John's manner was becoming more excited, for he read in his mother's face that she either did not understand, or did not believe him.

"I cannot go to Justice Burns and ask him for—for—" Mrs. Carey did not finish the sentence aloud, but thought "for money which he doubtless has paid already."

The simple widow knew nothing about cheques, had never seen one in her life, and she feared that her son's fever was returning upon him.

"If you do not go, I must, and will!" exclaimed John, by a desperate effort starting to his feet, and then sinking back exhausted on his seat.

"Oh! My son, I will do what you wish, anything that you wish!" cried the anxious mother. "Only promise that you will keep quiet, and I will go at once to the Justice."


The Mother's Errand.

NEVER had Mrs. Carey gone more unwillingly on an errand. It was not merely that—after being long shut up in a sick-room, weakened by watching and fasting, the fresh air made her feel giddy, so that, but for her husband's good staff, she could scarcely have gone on her way; but that she shrank with extreme dislike from making what she feared to be an unjust claim, and naturally dreaded that, by so doing, she would arouse the anger of the Justice, whose irritable temper was well known in the village.

"I'm sure that I shall never have the face to give him my poor son's message," murmured the widow, as she at last reached the Justice's door, and timidly rang the bell, so timidly that the sound was not heard, and she had to ring again.

"Would the Justice be so kind as to see me, just for two minutes," said the poor woman, when the butler at last appeared at the door.

The man glanced at the thin, anxious face, the shabby but decent mourning; he felt pity for a widow who, as he believed, had come to ask for charity, and who was not likely to receive it.

"Master does not care to see poor folk," observed he; "there's no use coming to him."

"Perhaps if you were so kind as to give him my name, Widow Carey, he might let me have just a word with him; I bring a message from my son."

"Your son, what, the poor fellow who was almost battered to pieces in the lane!" cried the butler. "Just you wait here a little—there's no harm in taking in your name."

The butler was scarcely absent a minute, but in that minute the poor widow had found time for a silent, fervent prayer.

"The Justice will see you," said the kindhearted man, and Mrs. Carey was ushered into the study.

The knees of the widow trembled under her, partly from weariness, partly from fear; she grasped her staff more tightly, and leant more heavily on it. Timidly she glanced at the Justice as she entered his presence. He was, as when John had seen him, bolstered with cushions and swathed with wraps, but his fat swollen face looked more grave and annoyed than when young Carey had come for his money.

"How shall I ever dare to tell him what brings me here!" thought the widow.

Justice Burns was the first to speak, which he did in a sharp decided tone. "I know what you've come for, Mrs. Carey."

"He's clever—for I scarce know myself," was the poor woman's silent reflection.

"When a man's ill, and worried with sleeplessness and pain," continued the Justice, knitting his brows, "no one has a right to find fault, if for once, he make a stupid blunder."

"I'm so glad—so thankful that you think so, Sir, I'm sure you're very good," began John's mother, amazed that the Justice should guess beforehand what she had come to say. "I hope then, that you'll kindly forgive—"

"Forgive—I've nothing to forgive!" cried the Justice, surprised in his turn. "I never dreamed that the cheque had not been signed, till two days ago I glanced over my bank-book, and found that the thirty pounds had never been drawn by your son. As I had concluded—like the rest of the world—that he had been robbed of that sum, I wrote up to London to make inquiries, and heard this morning that a countryman had presented an unsigned cheque in Argyll Street, which, of course, had not been cashed. I'll not trouble you again with cheque; here's the money in good hard cash; I'd have sent it, had you not called;" the Justice pushed across the table a canvass bag heavy with gold. "I suppose that you can give a receipt; just count out the money, and see that all's right."

To the surprise of the Justice, the poor widow, instead of taking up the bag, burst into tears. The relief was so great, so unexpected, that, weak as she was, it quite overcame her.

"Well, I see nothing to cry about," said Justice Burns, in a softened tone, for, selfish as he was, even he had a kindly corner in his heart; "it was odd enough that I should have made such a blunder for the first time in my life, but it was the rarest piece of luck for your son that I neglected to sign that cheque."

"It was a blessing," faltered the widow, drying her eyes. "Oh! Sir—it was all through God's blessing!"


Thinking over it.

WHILE his mother was putting on her bonnet before setting out on her errand, John Carey had finished the slender meal which appeared to leave him more hungry than before. He had watched the widow as she had taken his father's staff from the corner to stay her feeble steps, and it had then struck John, for the first time, how much his mother had aged since his illness, how pale and weary she looked.

"Stay, dear mother," John had cried, with a feeling of self-reproach; "you look so tired, I can't bear to see it. Wait, and we'll find some one else to send."

But the widow's only reply had been a faint smile, as she had left the cottage on her errand for her son.

"My mother has been half-killing herself for me, ungrateful dog that I am," muttered John, his self-reproach growing stronger and stronger. "Why, what can she have been living on all these six weeks, while I've been lying like a log in my bed? I can see well enough in her face what she's been a-suffering for me, without grudging, without complaining, bearing with all my ill temper, nursing me night after night! And what kind of a return do I make for it all? Did I not say to mother this very morning that I wanted to speak to Dick Brace about our little piece of business? She only sighed—I could see she was vexed; but I let her be vexed rather, than give up what I'd set my heart on.

"I've sometimes thought," continued John Carey, still muttering to himself, "I've sometimes thought that if I ever get well again—and now it's like as I may—I'd turn to God, serve Him as my parents have served Him, and begin what mother calls a pilgrim's life in good earnest. But if I did so—ah! The first steps are those as be so hard to take! If I did so—I must honour and obey my mother, as the Bible tells me I should; I must give up this pleasant plan of starting in business with Brace, I must give up the 'Jolly Ploughboys.' 'Twould be a hard pull—it would!"

John rubbed his chin; thinking wearied him, but he could not throw the subject off his mind.

"I might give up Dick Brace and the business, but that would not be the worst of it. Dinah Dealtry!" thought John. "She would not look at a mere day-labourer—she would not live in a cottage like this with my mother!"

He glanced with something like discontent around him at the humble home in which he had been born.

"Dinah has as good as told me that she'd ha' nothing to say to a man who could not offer her a house of her own. If she wouldn't choose to live with mother, mother wouldn't care to live with her; them two could never get on together, they've such different notions and ways."

John heaved a sigh of perplexity and vexation.

"It seems as if I must choose between the two, for I can't have both—that's clear; and I must choose between the two paths also; I know well enough which is the right one, but—but—how thinking does make one's head ache—and one's heart too for the matter of that!"

There are many who, like John Carey, are quite convinced that the pilgrim's path is the right one, the only path which can end in peace; many who are almost persuaded to try it, and who yet shrink back from the sacrifice of what conscience tells them that they must leave behind, if they decide on following the Lord fully in their daily walk through life. It was from this hesitation, from this indecision, so dangerous to the soul, that our Lord would warn His servants when He spoke those solemn words: "If thy hand offend thee (cause to offend) cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell." * Things dear as a hand or an eye must be given up through God's helping Grace, if they keep us back from the narrow way which leads unto life eternal.

* Mark ix. 43.

John Carey thought long, and thought sadly; his brain grew weary, his mind confused, till at length he could do no more than simply lift up his heart to God, and ask for His Spirit to guide him. The once strong, self-willed man was becoming more like the little child who knows his own weakness, and turns to a parent for help and support.

John's solitude was suddenly broken by the sound of tramping footsteps without, and then a loud rap from some one's knuckles on the outer door of the cottage. The latch was lifted, and Dick Brace entered with a quick, bustling air. He threw down a newly-killed pigeon on the table, and greeted John in a loud hearty tone, such as had not been heard for many weeks in that sick-room.

"Ha! Old fellow, glad to see you about again, though," he added with an oath, "you look like one who's had to swim hard for life—they've cropt your mane, and not left much of the 'young lion' about you. I've brought a pigeon I've shot with a new gun I've been trying—no, it's not worth talking about," he added, with a blustering awkwardness of manner, as John seemed about to thank him for the bird.

And Brace seated himself opposite to the invalid, looking fidgety and somewhat embarrassed, as John might have perceived, had he not been too busy with his own thoughts to notice the manner of his companion.

"You are just the man as I was a-wanting to see," said young Carey, his pale face flushing with the effort of speaking; "I've something to say to ye, Dick, and I'd better out with it at once. You see, I don't want to deal unhandsome by you—but about that partnership we meant to set up—"

"Of course that affair went to smash when you were robbed of your tin," interrupted Dick Brace; "one can't set up in business with only a shovel, a spade, and a hammer!"

"But I was not robbed," began Carey, when again his companion cut him short.

"Besides, I've been thinking," said Dick, "that two landlords would be one too many for the 'Jolly Ploughboys'—a landlady would be quite another thing; so," he added, with an awkward little laugh, "I'm going to enter into partnership for life, and I've found Dinah Dealtry quite willing to set up in business with me."

John's flushed face turned very pale; this was the only sign of emotion which he gave. He let not a word escape that might betray his secret to Dick, who, having told his tale, soon afterwards took his leave.

When Widow Carey came home, full of thankful joy, with the money, she only thought her son unusually silent and grave—she believed that this was because he was weary, but she did wonder not a little that his appetite should have so suddenly left him.

When Mrs. Carey heard afterwards from the baker of Dick's engagement to Dinah, the mother guessed what it had been that had cast a gloom over her son. She never mentioned the girl's name to John, and it never once passed his lips. The young man felt that his prayer for guidance had been answered in wisdom and goodness, but he could not feel thankful then for the blighting of earthly hopes.

But a time was coming when John Carey could not only submit, but rejoice that he had been kept from the path that he had wished to pursue; when he could be grateful from the bottom of his heart for the blows which had nearly cost him his life, for the sickness which had wasted his strength, the disappointment which had wounded his heart.

This was when, about a year afterwards, he brought a bright, happy young bride to his home, and saw his mother's eyes beaming with pleasure almost as great as his own; for Jane was the girl of all others whom the pious widow would have chosen to dwell with her as the wife of her son.

"You'll give us your blessing, mother, won't you?" asked John.

The widow took the strong hand which was held out to her, joined it to Jane's, and pressed both to her happy heart.

"Oh! My children," she cried, "may God—your father's God—give you both grace to go on as you have begun, walking hand in hand, as pilgrims to a better home—cheering each other, and helping each other on the way! Never forget that all earth can give is nothing without God's blessing; that blessing gives peace and hope in this life, to be followed by perfect bliss with Him in whose presence is fulness of joy, and in whose right hand are pleasures for evermore!"





The Lonely Cot.

LONELY was the little cottage in which dwelt Silas Mytton, the hewer and chopper of firewood. It stood in a corner of a heath, with not another house near it, and all the winds could sweep over it unchecked from every quarter. It was a small patched-up place, with one little window at the side of the door, and above it another peeping from under the low thatched roof. The cottage had been scarcely large enough to hold Silas, his wife, and their five children; but now Mrs. Mytton was dead, and the eldest boy had gone to sea.

The common looked pleasant enough in the summer, when the blossoms on the flags showed like white feathers round the patches of water, and the heather purpled the ground, and yellow furze dotted it with gold, and geese fed there, and donkeys browsed, and butterflies fluttered over the honied wild-flowers.

But a very dreary place looked the common in winter, when the heath was brown, and the blossoms dead, and the patches of water grew broader and larger, and all around them was swamp, till sharp frost turned the water into ice, and the north wind rushed wildly across the waste, and covered it with snow. Mytton's cottage was then a dreary abode indeed, for seldom did any one care to go near it, and the wind not only swept over but through it, at least so it seemed to the dwellers therein.

There was a little thatched out-house or shed in front of the cottage, and from thence, hour after hour, as long as daylight lasted, might be heard the sound of chopping up wood. It was by this, that Mytton gained his living; for, except in harvest-time, and then rarely, he never worked as a day-labourer for any of the farmers around. Wood-chopping seemed to come as natural to the Mytton family as flying does to birds, or swimming to fishes. Mrs. Mytton had been chopping in the shed but the day before she died, and on the evening after the poor woman's funeral, when her sorrowing family returned from the churchyard, they set to chopping again. Mytton might be seen constantly at work, with his shirt-sleeves rolled up to his elbows, showing his hairy freckled arms as he steadily plied the hatchet.

He was a hard-featured, stern-looking man, with rough grizzled chin, and cheeks shaven but once a month, and his appearance was that of one who had had a long struggle with want and care. Mytton's trials, however, had rather soured than subdued him; he was a prouder man in his cottage than Sir Marmaduke in his castle. The wood-chopper was wont to tell his children on winter evenings how his grandfather's grandfather had been a gentleman, and a mighty rich one too, who had owned more acres of land in Shropshire than there were sedges round the pool; who had kept twenty hunters in his stables, and had gone up to London once every year in a family coach drawn by six fine grey horses.

The little Myttons, shivering in their cold cottage, used to listen to their father's accounts of such grandeur in bygone days, much as they would have listened to fairy stories. They knew that they neither fared better, nor worked the less hard, because they bore the name of some grand squire who had lived at a time which seemed to them as far back as that of the Deluge. The fine family coach was to the young wood-choppers much the same kind of thing as that which Cinderella's fairy in the story made out of a pumpkin. When the tale had been told, the cottage children went to their beds, and thought very little more about the grandeur of olden times.

All but Amy, the eldest girl, a shy and thoughtful child, with large forehead and earnest brown eyes, which seemed never to rest on the objects near her, but to be looking for something beyond. As Amy's eyes, so was her mind; in her secluded cottage home, the girl was living in a little world of her own.

When scrubbing the tile-floor, or mending the linen, or chopping wood (for girls as well as boys passed most of their time at this work), Amy's thoughts were full of fancies suggested by her father's winter tales. She was imagining the grand times come again—her father living in a turreted castle ten times as large as Sir Marmaduke's dwelling, and her brothers—Silas, Ned, and Joe—each mounted on a prancing white horse with trappings of gold; and her dear mother dressed out in satin and gems, giving out loaves every Sunday to hundreds and hundreds of the poor. These were but foolish fancies, and Amy would have been ashamed to have told them to any one but little May, her youngest sister, who would open wide her blue eyes and think how delightful it would be to ride in a carriage, and eat roast meat every day in the week!

Amy's foolish day-dreams only lasted till the time when, at a lady's request to her parents, she attended a village school, which was nearly two miles from her home. Then every day the little pale girl, with her bag on her arm, might be seen crossing the common. Amy was the quickest and most willing of scholars, her lessons were always well learned, she was ever ready with her answers, and the teacher regarded as her best pupil, the thin, stunted, sickly child, who seemed to take in the meaning of everything with her eyes.

These were very happy times for poor Amy, though the walk to and from the school was almost too much for her strength, and wearily she dragged her limbs along before she reached her father's cottage. Amy was ill-clad and ill-fed, her frame had never been hardy; with her nothing seemed to grow but her mind. At the age of twelve, which was hers when my story opens, Amy was little taller, and scarcely as heavy, as her sister May, who was but half that age.

Amy's happy school-days had not lasted for long. After the sudden death of her mother, the eldest girl of Mytton could no longer be spared from home. She must, young and fragile as she was, do the cleaning and cooking, the washing and mending, and help with the chopping besides.

Amy never complained, and seldom cried except at night when every one else was sleeping, but she felt her mother's loss keenly. She felt also her own weak health, for her strength was ebbing away day by day. Still the poor child went on with her labour as long as her small thin fingers could work; till one day she almost fainted in the shed, and never more was the chopper to be lifted by Amy Mytton. She did what she could in the cottage, but that little grew less and less; a terrible cough racked her frame; her head drooped as if its weight were too much for her strength to support, her appetite totally failed her, and Amy could never keep herself warm.

Mytton did not appear to see the change in his daughter, or, if he did, it aroused his impatience, not his tenderness; indeed there was little of tenderness in the nature of Silas Mytton.

"I wish that you would get rid of that trick of barking, child!" would be the almost angry exclamation of the father, when disturbed by the cough which had broken Amy's rest half through the night.

If, when he drove his bundles of wood in a donkey-cart to the town, any one who knew poor Amy inquired after her health, "Oh! she's well enough," he would say. Or, if he could not say that, Mytton's answer would be, "The child's a bit pinched with the cold, but she'll be all right in the spring."

But spring came, and Amy was not all right: the March winds seemed to chill her slight frame, even more than the hard frosts of winter. With a bitter spirit Mytton saw his pale, patient little girl gradually fading away.

"If she'd common comforts, she would do well enough," he would mutter. "If she had a rich man for her father, she'd not live in a cottage which lets the wind in like a sieve, she'd be wrapped up in velvets and shawls, and have a score of doctors, and they'd soon get the little one round."

Mytton fell into the common mistake of thinking that money could do everything, and this had the effect of filling his soul with malice and envy towards those better off in the world than himself, as if what the rich possessed were something taken from the poor.

Mytton had the savage feelings of a man who thinks that he has been pushed out of a place which is his by right, and Amy learned to dread anything recalling to her parent what his grandfather's grandfather had been in the past, for it always put him out of humour with everything in the present. Mytton would growl at his hard fare, abuse every one above him in social position, or, if he were in a silent mood, hack savagely at his wood, looking as if it were by no means the only thing which he would willingly chop into pieces.

Amy's brothers and little sister were so much accustomed to hear her cough, and see her feeble and sickly, that it never entered their minds that her illness might end in death. They had never known Amy strong, and the change in her was so gradual, that the children who were with her day after day scarcely noticed it at all.

One March morning, however, little flaxen-haired May came to her sister with a perplexed and rather troubled expression on her round, chubby face.

"Amy," she said, laying her thick sun-browned fingers on the wasted hand of her sister, "when Mrs. Gapp was here about the wood, what do you think I heard her a-saying to her husband 'bout you?"

"What was it, dear?" asked Amy.

"She looked at you sad-like and said, (she didn't know I was a-hearing,) 'She's not long for this world,' says she, and Gapp, he answered nothing, but he nodded his head so gravely. Amy, what did she mean?"

A light delicate flush rose on the pale cheek of Amy, and a strange brightness came into her eyes. She raised them for a moment towards the blue sky, and then turned them earnestly, not sadly, on her young sister.

"Did she say that?" asked Amy, softly.

"What did it mean?" repeated May.

"That I may soon go—where dear another has gone," murmured Amy, folding her thin little hands, and again glancing up at the sky.

May, child as she was, was startled at the words and the look; for the first time it flashed across her mind that her sister must be very ill.

"You must not go—you shall not go—we can't spare you—we can't do without you!" cried May, throwing her arms around her sister, as though to imprison her in their tight, loving embrace.

One thought possessed the mind of the little rustic for all the rest of that day, how could she make Amy well? The child was chidden by her father for being hours absent from the wood-shed, "after some mischief," as he said, when poor May had only been employing her clumsy fingers in stitching up her own pinafore into a pillow-case, and tearing up paper to stuff it, so that Amy's languid head—that head which so often was aching—might have a cushion to rest on. It was with great triumph that May carried her pillow to Amy in the evening; to have made it all by herself was a feat, to have invented it was an effort of genius, and the child thought that her cushion must work a wonderful charm on her suffering sister.

"Is it not nice—does it not make you feel so comfy?" asked May, as she placed her somewhat flat and limp paper cushion over the back of the wooden chair upon which Amy was seated.

"It is very nice, very comfy, I shall prize it so dearly, for it is stuffed with love," replied the sick girl, with a faint but pleasant smile.


Treasure Found.

ON a bright sunny morning in the beginning of April, Silas Mytton harnessed his donkey to the cart, and led it to the shed, where he and his two younger sons loaded the cart with the bundles of wood on the sale of which their livelihood depended. The air was mild; Amy's chair was dragged by May to the doorway, where the sunbeams came streaming in; and there the little invalid sat watching her father and her brothers, Joe, the elder of the two boys, standing in the cart to receive the bundles that were tossed up to him, and pile the firewood in something like order. It was always with goodwill that the boys helped to load the wood-cart, for on the days when it went to the town, the noise of chopping was silenced, and the axe and knife might lie still on the block in the shed.

"Hard work they've cost us, and little enough they'll bring us!" muttered Mytton, as the last bundle was put on the top of the rest. He gave a blow with his stick to the patient donkey to make it move on, and slowly the wood-cart creaked along the rough road across the common, Silas Mytton walking beside it.

May followed it awhile with her eyes, and then ran up to her sister.

"Amy, you're better, much better!" cried the affectionate child. "I know you'll soon be quite well."

"What makes you think so?" asked Amy.

"Oh your eyes are so bright, and you look so happy—happier than you ever have looked since mother died, and Silas went off to sea."

"I am happy, I was having such pleasant thoughts," said Amy.

"I daresay you was telling yourself a nice story, such as you used to tell me," observed May, "about our being very rich and grand, and wearing—oh I such fine clothes! Very different from this old thing!" added the child, laughing, as she touched her father's fustian jacket, which lay across Amy's knee.

The sick girl had been attempting to put a patch on one of the sleeves, but the weight even of an old garment wearied her wasted arms, and she had put it down on her lap.

"I was thinking of royal robes—white and shining, like those beautiful clouds up yonder," said Amy, softly, "and crowns all glittering like the dew on the grass, when the sun is shining upon it."

"For us to wear?" asked May.

"Yes, for us to wear," replied Amy; and again that expression of peace and joy which, had struck her little sister before, lighted up the sick girl's sunken features.

"Oh! Amy, I want you to tell me a story, like as you used to do," cried May, with eager pleasure. "There's father gone away with the cart, Joe and Davy are off to see if they can't find a bird's nest in some hedge-row, there's no one here but you and me, and won't we be cosy together! I'm going to make another pillow, for that one's got a bit flat;" (rather flat it had been from the first, notwithstanding being often beaten up by the thick little fingers that had made it.)

"Look, I'll bring the three-legged stool and sit at your feet," continued the child; "but first I'll run and get some paper to tear up into bits—I know where I can find some, quite enough for a tiny pillow."

Away ran the little cottager, cheerful and blithe as the bee that was humming over the common on that sweet morning in early spring. Her fears for her sister had quite passed away—childhood is seldom long burdened with cares. And the discovery of an old bag which might, with very little trouble, be turned into a tiny pillow-case had sufficed to make May quite happy.

The child soon returned to Amy, holding up with one hand her print dress, so as to enable her to early in it a supply of loose pieces of paper, which she intended to tear into fragments for stuffing, while with the other hand she dragged the three-legged stool which was to serve as her seat.

"I must take care that the wind does not blow all my paper away!" cried May, as the breeze which she met at the cottage door sent some fragments fluttering behind her. "I'll sit with my back to it—just here; or, stay—please hold my papers for me, Amy, while I run for the bag to put the little bits into as fast as I tear them up, or they'll be blown all over the common."

When May returned with the bag, she found Amy eagerly looking over the papers which had been left in her charge.

"Oh! May, darling, where did you find these?" exclaimed Amy, without raising her eyes from her occupation, as soon as she heard the step of her little sister.

"In the boys' room," replied May; "them papers was all turned out of the old box that Joe made into the hen-roost; it was full of dirty old papers that warn't no use to nobody."

"No use!" exclaimed Amy, with unwonted energy. "Oh! May, look—look—here are leaves from a Bible, from God's own Word! I am so happy, so thankful to get them!" And the sick girl pressed a fragment, yellow with age, to her lips.

"I thought you'd a whole Bible of your own—what you got at the school as a prize," said May, who did not share, nor understand the pleasure of her sister on finding a few torn leaves.

"I gave it to Silas, 'twas my parting present, and oh! How I've longed for a sight of a Bible since!" exclaimed Amy, whose affection for her brother had led her to make what had been to her a sacrifice indeed. "And now God sends me these precious papers! Let's gather out every piece, May, that has any of the Word printed upon it."

"Not such a little scrap as this surely," said May, picking up a small fragment that had fallen on the ground.

"Let us see what that little scrap holds," said Amy, and taking it from May she read aloud, "'an inheritance undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for'—" *

Here the paper was torn, it contained but a part of a verse. But the gaze of Amy rested on it with joy as she cried, "May, May, these few words describe what we look for, long for, the Home prepared up above!"

* 1 Peter i. 4.

"I don't know what they mean," said May; "what is that long word ''heritance?'"

"It has something to do with coming into property, I think," replied Amy. "Don't you remember what father said yesterday evening about the great inheritance in Shropshire which some one of our name had a long long time ago?"

"Oh! That meant the great house, with all the hundreds and thousands of acres about it that we hear about, but never see!" laughed May.

"But we believe—we believe that there is such place," said Amy.

"I don't care much about it, for I know I shall never have it!" cried May.

"But if you believed that you might have it, that you certainly would have it one day, that it had been bought and was reserved—that means kept for you, would you care then?" asked Amy, with an eagerness which brought on a violent fit of coughing.

It was some time before she had recovered her breathing sufficiently to enable her to go on with the conversation. As soon, however, as Amy could speak, she continued, but in a fainter tone, "Now, May, this is just what I believe about the inheritance in Heaven, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. I believe that there is a bright, happy, glorious Home which the Lord Jesus bought for us, for me, for you, with His own precious blood, and which He is keeping for us, until He has made us ready to enter in, and dwell there for ever."

"You mean when we die?" said May very gravely, looking full into the pallid face of her sister; the fear which she had dismissed was rising up again in the mind of the child.

"Oh! What is dying to a Christian! It is going home—getting possession," cried Amy, faintly but joyfully. "His treasure is in Heaven, and he is going to enjoy it! You should have heard, May, how our teacher used to speak of the beautiful land above!

"'There fairer bowers than Eden bloom,
  Nor sin nor sorrow see—'"

Again the cough interrupted the words of the young invalid. Amy, after the fit was over, leaned back on her pillow in a state of exhaustion.

May ran and brought her some water; Amy drank it, and smiled.

"You must not speak, it makes you cough so," said May.

"I mayn't have much time left for speaking, darling," faltered Amy; "and I wish so much to tell you things that may make you happy, as I am, when God has taken me up to my Home. May, what does it matter now to that Mytton who lived so long long ago that he was so rich and so great, had servants and horses in plenty, and all else that money could get! He had his inheritance, but he could not keep it, he could not take anything with him into his grave."

"But he may have been a good man," observed May, "some rich people are good, you know."

"If he was a real, true Christian, as I hope he was," said Amy, "then he left his earthly inheritance for one ten million times better! See, May, see, here is another description of it in this leaf torn from the Bible; listen how beautiful it is:

   "'The street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.'" *

* Rev. xxi. 21, 22, 23.

"Who is the Lamb?" asked May, who had listened with a kind of wondering awe.

"The Lord Jesus Christ," replied Amy, pronouncing the sacred Name with reverence. "He is called the Lamb, because as a lamb was killed by the Jews in the old-old times as a sacrifice for sin, so the Blessed Saviour was killed as a Sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. He is 'the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.' † That is the wonderful history which I used to read in my Bible. May, the Lord suffered, willingly suffered all the pain that cruel men could inflict, that He might wash away our sins, and make us the heirs of Heaven. Was not that wonderful love! He lay, as a Babe, in a manger, and died, as a Man, on a cross, that we might dwell in glorious mansions and live for ever and ever. Was not that love—oh! Such love!"

† John i. 29.

Amy closed her eyes, and May, glancing up at her sister, could see that their lashes were moist with tears.

The little child laid her hand upon Amy's. "We will love the Lord too," said she.

Amy opened her eyes, and, smiling on May, softly murmured, "'We love Him because He first loved us.' * It is so sweet to love the Lord Jesus, and rest on His love; to serve Him now, and then see Him, as I hope to do—very soon."

* 1 John iv. 19.

There was nothing more said on the subject at that time. May busied herself in carefully separating every fragment of the torn Bible from the rest of the papers which she had brought, putting "the holy words," as she called them, into her bag.

Amy intended to stitch them all carefully together, to keep as a treasure, when she should have strength to sort and arrange them. In the meantime, the few verses which she had read to May were as manna for her soul to feed on.

In her coarse, faded black print dress, seated at the door of her humble home, with deadly sickness upon her, the cottager's child felt happy and rich; was she not, through redeeming love, an heir of the kingdom of light and glory? Yea, far firmer than the mountains stands the promise of Christ to the lowly believer, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." †

† Matt. v. 3.


A Search.

"HOW late father is of coming back," cried Joe, as he entered the cottage, flushed and heated, after a long ramble with his brother. Sunburned little peasants were they, clad in coarse garments which, with their rough wear, gave plenty of work to Amy's thin fingers.

"You've been a-clamberin' and scrambling about," observed little May. "Joe, your smock is torn right down the side, and, David, the brim is nigh off your straw hat—a bit o' yer hair is sticking through."

"You'll give a stitch or two, and make the old thing hold together!" cried David, tossing the hat to Amy. "It ain't fit for a scarecrow. That rich old Mytton, as father talks on, he'd ha' stared could he ha' seen what his grand-grand-children would ha' come to!"

"Oh! That old Mytton, I think he was the man in the moon!" laughed Joe. "I don't believe a word about that big carriage and six grey horses. But I say, what's become of father, I thought he'd ha' been back afore now."

"I hope father's sold the wood, or won't he be in a way, and won't we catch it!" cried May.

"He was going not only to sell but to buy at the town," observed Amy. "Father promised to get a nice new bit of print for you, May, for I told him I'd mended and patched that frock of yours as long as I could, but that now it's all coming to pieces, let me do what I will, it's so old."

"I don't think as how it ever was new!" cried Joe. "You wore it at first yourself as long back as I can remember, Amy."

"Ah! There's father coming! I can see him over the common!" exclaimed May eagerly, for the purchase of a new frock was a great event to the child.

"And there's no wood left in the cart, I'm glad of that," observed David. "But sure Dobbin must be lame, he's a-going so slow. There's father a-whacking him well; but he don't go much the faster."

The sound of Mytton's blows on the back of the patient, plodding creature always gave pain to Amy's kindly heart. She would never have willingly inflicted pain on any of God's creatures, least of all upon one that had long and faithfully served her.

The children went out to meet their father, all but Amy, who was so feeble that to rise unaided from the chair upon which she was seated was an effort almost beyond her strength. The poor girl could tell from the tone of Mytton's voice before he entered the cottage that he was out of temper, and inclined to quarrel with all the world.

"Take the beast out of the cart, boys; he's not worth the thistles that he crops! I don't believe I could get five shillings for the lazy brute if I sold him to-morrow. And there was Sir Marmaduke, with his two spanking bays," continued Mytton, as he crossed the threshold of his humble little dwelling, "whirling along the highway, covering me with his dust, and nigh driving over cart, donkey, and all; a fellow whose grandfather was a manufacturer, and spun all his money out of sheep's wool!" Mytton threw himself down on a seat, pulled off his felt cap, and wiped his heated brow with his hand; a handkerchief was a thing of which he did not boast the possession.

"Did you buy the print for me, father?" cried May, who had followed Mytton into the cottage.

"No," the man answered sharply.

"Oh! You forgot it!" exclaimed May, in a tone of disappointment.

"I didn't forget it, I was in the shop, the fellow behind the counter was just going to serve me, when a fine open carriage pulls up at the door, and Sir Marmaduke flings the horses' reins to his liveried lackey and gets out. Of course, I had to stand back to let the fine gentleman pass, I whose ancestor kept a coach-and-six, when he, maybe, was a-running barefoot behind it!" Mytton looked unutterable scorn as he spoke. "He'd come to ask after the yellow satin he'd ordered for his drawing-room curtains; yellow satin, forsooth! Every yard of it costing as much as I'd earn in a week by my labour! I didn't choose to stand there waiting till a sneak of a shopman had done bowing and fawning and smiling to the great man, whose fortune had sprung up like a mushroom, so I turned on my heel and went out. I'm as good a man as Sir Marmaduke any day, for all his swaggering pride!"

Any one who had seen the sneer on the lip of the peasant might have guessed, and would have guessed truly, that there was more of pride under his blue smock, than swelled the heart of the wealthiest peer in the land. In a savage spirit of discontent, Mytton cut a thick hunch of bread from the loaf which Amy had spread ready for him, and a slice from the piece of stale cheese. There was no grace said before dinner by Mytton, indeed thanksgiving would have keen a mockery from one who looked upon himself as wronged, because he had been born in a station as lowly as that which the Lord of Heaven, when He came to visit earth, had chosen for His own.

Mytton ate his bread and cheese in gloomy silence, which his daughters were afraid to break; the two boys were lingering outside with the donkey. Presently Joe thrust in his flaxen poll at the door, and said, "There be a yellow post chaise coming 'cross the common."

And May ran out to look at it, either because any kind of conveyance was a rarity in that place, or because the presence of one stern irritable man made the cottage uncomfortable.

The thoughts of Amy had wandered far-away from the scene before her, when they were suddenly recalled to earth by an exclamation from her father, who was seated opposite to the open door.

"Why—the chariot is stopping here!" cried Mytton.

A bald-headed gentleman put his head out of the carriage window.

"Can you tell me, little girl, if any one of the name of Mytton lives in this neighbourhood?" said he, addressing himself to May, who stood with her chubby finger in her mouth, staring at instead of answering the stranger.

"That be my father," said Joe, grinning with wonder that any one coming in a yellow chariot should wish to see him.

"Is any one wanting me?" asked Silas, rising and going forth from his cottage, for in that quiet spot every word spoken had been heard in the dwelling.

Instead of replying, the gentleman opened the door of the chaise and got out.

"I thought, from the description given me, that this must be the place, Sharp," said he to a younger man who directly followed him.

Mytton looked a little surly, like an Englishman who feels that his cottage is his castle, and wishes to know on what errand strangers come, before he welcomes or admits them.

"Have you any business with me, sir?" he inquired.

"I have a little business, my good man, which can best be transacted within doors. My name is Garway—I am from London. Can I have a little talk with you?" asked the gentleman.

And, taking Mytton's silence for consent, he and his companion entered the cottage, followed by Silas and the wondering group of his children.

"Pray don't disturb yourself—an invalid, I fear," said Mr. Garway, motioning courteously to Amy, who had attempted to rise on his entrance to offer one of the strangers her chair.

The lawyers, for such they were, then seated themselves on high wooden stools which Mytton had made himself, and the younger man produced, to the surprise of the children, not only a large pocket-book, but an ink-bottle and steel pen, and pushing aside the fragments of bread and cheese on the table, placed his writing materials upon it, evidently preparing to take notes. This looked like business indeed.

"Can you inform me," said Mr. Garway to Silas, "whether you are in any way, however remotely, connected with the ancient family of the Myttons of Oaklands, in Shropshire."

The question brought the blood to the swarthy cheek of the hewer of wood.

"My grandfather's grandfather was the owner of the finest place in that county," said he.

The children glanced curiously at the strangers, half expecting them to laugh at such a boast from so poor a man as their father; but they both looked perfectly grave, and Mr. Sharp dipped his pen, and wrote something in his book.

"From what source do you derive your information—I mean, how do you know the fact which you assert?" inquired Mr. Garway.

"I have heard my grandfather speak about it often, when I was a boy," answered Silas; "he died afore I was ten years old."

Mr. Sharp set down the reply.

"But have you only oral—I mean, do you only draw upon your own memory?" asked the lawyer. "Can you trace up the family links which connect you with Hugh Mytton, who lived in the reign of Queen Anne? Have you any proofs to give that you are descended from him?"

"May I be bold, sir, to ask why you put these questions?" asked Mytton, the strong brawny fist which he was resting on the table actually trembling with nervous excitement.

"It may be of consequence to you, my good friend, that I should know all that you can tell me. I put these questions in no spirit of idle curiosity. The fact is, that the last inheritor of Oaklands, in the direct line, has died, and there is considerable difficulty in tracing out to whom the succession legally belongs."

The little rustics stared at each other; they could not understand the lawyer's long words, but they could see that they powerfully excited their father. The veins in his forehead swelled, his hand trembled more than before. A dim idea dawned on the minds of the young Myttons that the fairy tale of the coach and six horses might turn out to be true after all!

"Now, let me ask you again," continued Mr. Garway. "Have you any means of proving your descent from Hugh Mytton of Oaklands?"

"I remember my grandfather telling me all about him forty years ago, as well as if it were yesterday," stammered forth Mytton.

"Ah—you remember, but that's not quite enough. Can you tell me the names of your grandfather's parents, when they lived, and at what church they were married?"

Silas rubbed his brow, passed his fingers through his hair—looked first to the right, and then to the left—but could make no reply to the question. It was very clear that his memory could not go beyond his grandfather, and the tales which the old man had told. He was unable to declare, with certainty, even where his own parents had been married. Mytton could give no distinct evidence on any point, except as to his having heard in his childhood of the great property in Shropshire, owned by one of his ancestors, who used to go up to London once a year in a coach drawn by six fine grey horses.

"But have you no documents, no certificates, no family papers of any kind?" asked Mr. Sharp, upon whose steel pen the ink had dried, while his companion was vainly trying to draw information from Mytton.

Mytton caught at the lawyer's suggestion, as a drowning man might at a rope.

"There was a box holding papers somewhere," cried he.

"Yes, in our room," said Joe.

"Fetch it—bring it at once!" cried both the lawyers and Mytton, speaking together.

"Can't, it's a hen-coop now," muttered the boy, shrinking back, alarmed at the fierce expression on the face of his father.

"You little dog—" began the enraged man, but Mr. Garway stopped his explosion of rage with a gesture of the hand.

"Softly, friend, let me question the boy," he said. "If the box has been made into a hen-coop, what have you done, let me ask, with the papers it contained?"

"I han't done nothin' with 'em," faltered Joe, giving a timid sidelong glance at his father.

"Yes, you patched the window-pane," said little May, pointing to the casement in which more than one pane held more of paper than of glass.

Mr. Sharp instantly rose, went up to the window, and carefully examined the paper; then shook his head, and returned to his seat.

"It, is desirable that every fragment of old papers which the box contained should, if possible, be recovered," observed Mr. Garway. "I would have the strictest search made for them at once."

Off started Joe and David, almost before the sentence was finished; they were only too glad to make their escape from the room, and their ambitious hopes were awakened by the gentlemen evidently setting great value upon what had seemed worthless to them.

"I has," began May, and stopt short in fear.

"You have what, little woman?" asked Sharp.

"Bits in my bag," whispered the child.

Mytton eagerly snatched the bag from her arm, and emptied its contents on the table; turning-the bag inside out, to make sure that no scrap should escape his notice. He turned over the soiled printed leaves with evident disappointment.

"Only bits of an old Bible, no use at all," he muttered.

"I beg your pardon, my good man," said Mr. Garway; "it by no means follows that an old family Bible, of which these leaves appear to have formed a part, should be of no use to us in our search. Many persons keep family records of births and marriages in the blank page of their Bibles, and if this—"

"Ha! Look here!" interrupted Mr. Sharp, catching up a yellow three-cornered morsel of paper with writing upon it, which had got mixed up with the printed portions. "Here is '—ried June 1, 1714,' doubtless this is part of an old record of marriage."

"If we could only discover the rest of the page from which that was torn," cried Mr. Garway. "I should not wonder if we found that we had got hold of the right clue at last."

Diligent search was made amongst the papers which May had put into her bag, but not another scrap could be found to match that three-cornered bit. The whole cottage—upstairs and downstairs—was searched;—the shed, the yard, the dust-hole, the hen-coop, every likely and unlikely spot was hunted over for paper, and papers were found, but the lawyers, after examination, shook their heads at them all.

The Mytton family were in a state of violent excitement, all except one pallid girl who sat by the window, almost unnoticed, because too feeble to join in the search. The extreme anxiety to find a page taken from a family Bible, a page which might possibly help to prove a right to an earthly inheritance, sadly contrasted with the utter indifference felt as regarded the heavenly inheritance to which God's Word skews the believer's claim. But that indifference was not shared by Amy: the scene of bustle around her suggested holy thoughts to her mind. While Silas and the lawyers were eagerly peering over fragments of papers brought by the younger Myttons, the words of a hymn, like soft, low, music, were breathing peace into Amy's soul.

"When I can read my title clear
     To mansions in the skies,
 I'll bid farewell to every fear.
     And wipe my weeping eyes."


Earthly Hope.

THE sun's red rim had just sunk over the common; evening would soon close in, nothing had been found, save that one little scrap, which could possibly help even a keen lawyer in finding a clue. The strangers rose to depart, sorry to have had their trouble for nothing; the boys were quaking at thoughts of what would follow after the gentlemen had left; for a thunder cloud of gloom had gathered on the face of their father, and the children could read that face too well to expect to escape a storm.

May was standing close by Amy's chair, when, after a severe fit of coughing, her sister bent down towards her and whispered, "May, I have just thought of something; is not my pillow stuffed with paper?"

"Oh! Please—please don't say nothing about it!" was the anxious whispered reply, "Father will whack me well for tearing it up into such little bits."

"I will try not to bring you into trouble; but I think that we ought to tell father," said Amy.

Mr. Garway had risen, and was putting on his hat, as he turned to nod a kindly good-bye to the sick young girl. Amy, with a painful effort, drew the pillow from under her head and said faintly, "Perhaps this had better be looked at, it is stuffed with pieces of paper."

"Why did you not tell that before?" exclaimed Mytton with anger.

And in a moment, his rough hand had torn up poor May's work from the top to the bottom, and scattered its contents in a little heap on the table.

"Plenty of fragments of old manuscripts here," said Garway, whose quick eye instantly detected the yellowish hue and the peculiar fabric of many of the morsels of paper.

"Ah! I should not wonder if this matched our three-cornered bit," cried Sharp, pouncing upon a tiny piece which held but three letters, "mar." He placed the two fragments together, they fitted exactly.

Mytton uttered an exclamation of triumph.

"We must carefully search over all these bits of paper," observed Garway, "and fit in the fragments, if we can, like pieces of a dissected map. But this tedious work will take hours, if not days, and we have already been here for a considerable time. We will take away this heap of little scraps, and pursue the occupation at our leisure."

"I beg your pardon, genl'men, but not one bit of paper shall go out of this cottage!" cried Mytton, to whom it seemed as if the fortunes of himself and his family had all been sewn up in that pillow. "Search here till doomsday, if you like it, but I'll not have a scrap of that there heap taken out of my sight."

Expostulation was in vain; the hewer of wood, feverish with ambitious hopes, would not trust his treasure to the care of the lawyers. The hunt for yellowish scraps, which were carefully collected and put together, went on till darkness closed in, and then the lawyers re-entered their conveyance, and drove off to take their dinner at the nearest inn, promising to return in an hour.

During the time of their absence, Mytton, never so much as raising his eyes from his occupation, went on as if life depended on success, setting one little scrap by another, and muttering savage words, which made Amy's blood run cold, about the folly which had torn into fragments that which might be of such priceless value. It was well for the children that Mytton was too busy with his heap of small scraps, to vent his anger in anything but words.

It was nearly two hours before the lawyers returned, and there they found Mytton, just where they had left him, bending over the table, and anxiously examining the stuffing of Mary's pillow by the dull light of a tallow dip. The children had all gone to bed, for Amy's cough had irritated her father, whose nerves were painfully on the strain. And May, after many a long, weary yawn, having fallen asleep on the floor, had been roughly wakened, and sent upstairs.

The lawyers brought clearer light and sharper intelligence to the work before them, which was pursued till far into the night. With the help of a little paste, all the scraps which could be made to fit into each other were arranged into something like order. At last, nearly half of the flyleaf of the family Bible, with its record in different handwritings of births, marriages, and deaths, stretching over more than a hundred and fifty years, was patched together—the rest of the leaf had been irrecoverably lost.

The lawyers left the cottage weary and sleepy; Mytton went to his pallet bed, weary, indeed, but so restless that he could not close an eye till the dawn. It seemed almost as if the labouring man were never again to enjoy a night of sound rest.

A lawsuit was commenced regarding the succession to the Mytton estate, which, for month after month, dragged its slow length along. Other evidence besides the mutilated fly leaf, but partly collected through clues which it gave, was brought forward in courts of law. Mytton awaited the conclusion of the suit with a restless impatience which deprived him of appetite and sleep. Daily labour to earn a scanty subsistence became intolerable to a man who hoped to find himself the possessor of several thousands a year.

Mytton and his family almost starved while awaiting the wealth which would, perhaps, never be theirs. Mytton twice sold part of the scanty furniture of his home to scrape up money to take him to London, to watch the progress of his suit. The very flesh wasted from his bones, the poor man grew haggard and wan, and his temper more savage than ever. From morning till night he could think of, speak of nothing but the inheritance which he hoped for, and the same theme haunted his dreams. And this was a man who had had placed within his reach a heavenly inheritance beyond all price, yet who had scarcely given it a thought! A man who had had in the Scriptures the very title deeds, as it were, of that inheritance, and yet had not taken the trouble to read them.

Stands he alone in his folly?


Heavenly Hope.

THE summer flowers came, and withered away; the days grew shorter and shorter. The swallows took their flight to warmer climes; winter was stealing on apace, and yet the lawsuit was not ended on which hung the succession to the Mytton estate!

Amy's feeble spark of life was growing fainter. It was a surprise to herself that she had survived to see the winter, with increasing cares and hardships around her. But the poor sufferer had not been left deserted; help had been sent her in time of need. The clergyman, who came from a considerable distance to visit the sick member of his flock in her lonely dwelling, interested other friends in her case; many a little comfort found its way to the cottage on the common, which Amy gratefully received as a gift from her Father in heaven.

A few days before Christmas, when the wide common looked like an almost unbroken sheet of snow, the rough and little used cart-track across it being entirely hidden from view, little May sat on her low wooden stool at the feet of her sister. The poor child looked thinner and more thoughtful than she had done in the spring, when this story opened. There was no sound of wood-chopping from the shed, which was itself falling into decay.

Mytton had now gone, as he often went, to the nearest public-house to get a sight of the papers, for the tedious suit was apparently at length drawing near to its close. The boys did not care to work unless their father's eye were upon them; they had run off to amuse themselves, no one exactly knew where. They had little to tempt them to stay near the cottage; the last bit of bread that was in it had been finished at breakfast.

"Oh! Amy," sighed poor May, "I wish—I wish we'd never heard of that Mytton estate, that those men in black coats had never come near our cottage, or found these scraps in your pillow! Looking for that inheritance, as father calls it, has been plague and worry to us ever since, and if he don't get it at last, 'twill drive him right out of his wits!"

"I fear that disappointment now would nigh break his heart!" murmured Amy.

"But if he does get it, won't it make him happy, oh! So very, very happy!" cried May.

"I don't know—I hope so; but one can't be quite sure with anything earthly," said Amy.

May looked surprised at the doubt. "I'm sure that it will, if father only gets the inheritance," she cried; "but 'tis so very long a-coming, I'm afraid it will never be his."

"I believe that I shall enter into mine first," said Amy very faintly, and her lips formed the words to which she had hardly strength to give breath, "far better—far better—undefiled and that fadeth not away!"

There was something in the countenance of Amy, sweet and placid as it was, that alarmed May, she could scarcely tell why. The child rose hastily and ran to the door, she felt more anxious than she had ever before been for her father's return.

Scarcely had May opened the door, when Mytton's shadow fell on the threshold; she had not heard his footsteps on the deep snow. The face of Silas was pale with excitement, even his lips were bloodless, and wild eagerness was in his eyes. He clutched in his hand a telegram paper, having met the bearer in the way. May saw at once that great tidings had arrived, but scarcely knew whether Mytton's strange manner betokened the excess of despair or of joy.

She was not long left in doubt!

With the loud exclamation, "I have it!" The inheritor of Mytton strode into the cottage up to the place where Amy was seated.

Perhaps she had heard the exclamation of triumph, for there was a smile on her lips, but it might have been left there by a thought of deeper, sweeter joy than any that his tidings could give. Amy's expectations had been realised, she had entered on her inheritance of life, and peace, and bliss!

Very often in succeeding years did May Mytton think on the doubt expressed by her dying sister as to whether the possession of an estate would make their father happy. It certainly never did so. The chopper of faggots, uneducated, unfitted to mix in the society of those now his equals, proud and shy, afraid of ridicule, and painfully conscious that his rustic manner must expose him to it, was more miserable in his fine old mansion than he had been in his lonely cottage.

The conduct of Joe and David planted his pillow with thorns. They were sent to a fashionable school, where they learned, indeed, much that gentlemen's sons are expected to know, but with it, acquired habits of reckless extravagance and folly. The boys thought themselves far more of gentlemen than their uneducated father could be, and Mytton bitterly felt that they did so. They wasted his money, despised his control, embittered his life by their excesses, and at last disgraced themselves in the sight of the world. To Mytton and his two younger sons, the inheritance so eagerly desired had brought sorrow, disappointment, and shame!

It was not so with May, or with Silas her eldest brother. They never set their hearts upon riches, nor chose their portion here. They made use of the wealth which they inherited as a trust confided to them by their heavenly Master, most enjoyed when most laid out to His glory.

For Amy's short life of suffering had not been spent in vain: the Bible which she had given, the words which she had spoken, had been of far more avail in ennobling the two who loved her best, than all the broad acres of Mytton.

May, amidst many family trials, pursued her course of usefulness in humble faith, cheered by the hope of rejoining her sister, and rejoicing with her for ever, in that bright inheritance above which the Lord hath prepared for them that love Him!





The Patient Restored.

"I'M glad that you'll have your husband back again to-day, Mrs. Laver, and I hope that such a long time spent in the hospital will have set him up for good," said Mrs. Batten, the fishmonger's stout good-humoured wife, as she took up the little parcel of snuff which she had just been purchasing at Mrs. Laver's counter.

"It is time he was back indeed. I've had the shop on my hands these ten weeks, or rather, I may say, these six months, for Martin was, I may say, good for nothing long before he took to his bed," replied Mrs. Laver.

She was a thin care-worn woman, about thirty years of age, who had in her youth been good-looking; but the lines on the forehead, and at the corners of the lips, showed the trace of trouble, and perhaps also of temper. Mrs. Laver's manner of speaking was snappish and short, giving an impression, even to strangers, that her life was full of worries, and that she had not much patience to enable her to bear them. Mrs. Laver's dress was decidedly shabby, and was by no means improved by her attempt to make it look gay. Fringe, that did not match her gown in colour, had been sewn on to hide the patches; Mrs. Laver had stuck faded roses into her brown-black lace-cap, and dangling gaudy gilt drops were hanging down from her ears. The tobacconist's wife had a trick of jerking her head when anything annoyed her, which set these earrings quivering and shaking as if in anger or scorn. Altogether, with her sharp grey eyes, and tightly-drawn lips, Mrs. Laver looked a person with whom few would care to be very closely acquainted.

"Certainly it's hard upon a woman to have charge of a tobacconist's shop," observed the fishmonger's wife, glancing at the window, which was darkened with bundles of meerschaums, and boxes of cheap cigars, labels of "Government manillas," and "fine old shag," with pipes whose bowls were fashioned into all kinds of fanciful shapes to attract apprentice boys, and other juvenile customers. Mingled with these, prints and ballads, of a very low description, helped to block up the panes.

Mrs. Laver shrugged her shoulders at the observation; she quite agreed that her lot was a hard one.

"I'm sure," she said, "that if any one knew the moiling and toiling I've had, what with looking after the shop, and keeping things tidy and respectable like, minding the child, and—ah! You little brat!" exclaimed Mrs. Laver, interrupting her complaint, to make a sudden dash at her little girl, a child of about two years of age, who, having been placed by her mother on the counter, had stretched out her hand to the jar of snuff left upon it.

"You're always in mischief, you are!"

There was a sharp slap, and then a low sobbing cry; little Annie was not likely soon to forget the maternal lesson against meddling with goods on the counter.

"Poor little soul," said Mrs. Batten, glancing with pity at the child, whose cheek, usually pale, was reddened by the mother's blow, and wet with the tears running down. "How like she is to her father, to be sure! She does not look over strong either. You'll bring her with you to Greenwich to-morrow, and your husband too, I suppose."

"Yes, a breath of fresh air on the river would do any one good who had to live in this poky little street! Hold your noise, will you!"

These last words were addressed by Mrs. Laver to Annie, and accompanied by a violent shaking of the little girl's arm, which set the mother's earrings quivering.

"If you go on whining like that, I'll give you to the black man, I will, instead of taking you with me to Greenwich!"

Mrs. Batten had just succeeded in fumbling a lozenge out of her pocket, and whether from the effects of the sweet, the threat, or the shaking, Annie was soon quiet enough, though her cheeks still glistened with the tears which her mother had not wiped away.

"We start at two, don't forget," said Mrs. Batten; "if to-morrow is as fine as to-day, the steamer is like to be crowded."

"The more the merrier," replied Ann Laver, the frown passing away from her brow, though its furrow always remained there: "a bit of a spree will brighten up my man; he had got so gloomy and moping-like when his illness was coming on, that I did not know what to make of him. He's fond of the river, I know. Good-day to you, Mrs. Batten. We'll be down at the wharf before two."

"Good-bye, little one," said the fishmonger's wife, as she quitted the shop, nodding and smiling at Annie, who, still perched on the counter, watched her with wistful eyes.

The sweet little face of the child was again very pale, with its habitual expression of patience and thought. Annie did not look like a light-hearted child. One might have fancied, as she sat with her large blue eyes fixed on the jars and pipes and papers in the window, that a good deal was passing through her infant mind, and that not of a cheerful description.

Though Mrs. Laver was fond of her only child, there was not much tenderness in her manner towards her. Mrs. Laver would have been indignant had any one charged her with cruelty, above all towards her daughter; but the harsh word, the hasty slap, the angry threat with which Annie was familiar, had much the same effect on the poor little girl that a blight has on the tender green leaves of the spring. Annie loved her mother, but scarcely as much as she feared her. The little one wanted more of the sunshine of smiles.

She had pined wearily for her father, and the two first nights after Martin Laver had gone to the hospital, his child had cried herself to sleep, "'Cause Daddy's away, and I can't have his bye-bye kiss," as she sobbed.



VERY quiet and very dull sat Annie on the counter, staring gravely at the window. She could not clamber down from the counter, and she dared neither play with anything on it, nor ask to be set down on the floor by her mother, who was putting things in order on a shelf, with her back towards the little girl. Suddenly Annie uttered a cry of delight, stretched out her hands, and in her eagerness to get down from her perch would have fallen off the counter, had she not been caught in the arms of her father, who fondly pressed her to his heart.

"Ah! Martin, is that you? I did not look for your coming till the evening," cried Mrs. Laver, turning round, and then giving her husband a welcome that was not unkindly, though she shewed none of the rapturous delight of the child, who clung to her father's neck, and buried her face on his shoulder.

Martin Laver was a tall, fine-looking man, and until his illness had possessed more activity and strength than most men; but his eyes were now sunken, his face looked sickly, and he slightly stooped from weakness.

"Put that monkey down, she'll tire you," said Ann.

Martin smiled, and, shaking his head, pressed his little one to him more closely. He however took a seat, and sat down in the shop, leaning his arm upon the counter. It was such a pleasure to him to feel the soft little hands of his child again stroking his face, and playing with his whiskers, and then the sweet infant lips pressed to his cheek.

In the conversation between husband and wife which followed, Ann took by far the larger share. She told all the gossip of the neighbourhood, while Martin sat listening, or perhaps scarcely listening, with a thoughtful, and somewhat anxious look on his face.

Ann expected a great deal of credit from her husband for the way in which she had conducted the business during his absence.

"I cleaned that window with my own ten fingers," she observed, "and that's not what every woman would have done, you may take my word for that."

The expected praise was heartily given.

"And I've arranged it too, with a pretty bit of taste; those picture ballads attract the passersby, as fly-papers catch flies, specially the one about the murder."

"Ah! That reminds me of what I had resolved on," said Martin, rising from his seat.

After setting down Annie on the counter, he went up to the window, took down the papers, and examined them, one after the other, dividing them into two sets as he did so. Martin then replaced the larger number in the window, but four of the ballads he laid down on the counter with the words, "You had better use these to light the fire, my dear."

"Light the fire! My patience," exclaimed Mrs. Laver, her earrings glancing and twinkling with the jerk of her head. "Why, each of those may bring us a penny, and I'm not so flush of cash as to use them for lighting fires. Take care of the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves."

"With me this is no mere matter of money," said Martin. "I want to tell you, dear wife, all that is now on my mind. I've been thoughtless and careless enough in times past, but my eyes have been opened of late, and I intend, God helping me, to lead from henceforth the life of a Christian man."

Martin spoke with some effort, for he knew that his words would rouse a bitter feeling of opposition in his self-willed and worldly wife.

"As a matter of conscience," continued the husband, "I have resolved that nothing immoral or profane shall ever again be seen in my shop."

"Hoity, toity! Fiddlety dee! Here's a pretty kettle of fish!" exclaimed Mrs. Laver, in a tone that frightened Annie, and made her stretch out her hands to her father. "I thought that, in the hospital, you'd have got rid of all that stuff and nonsense."

"In the hospital I hope that I have got clearer views both of a Christian's hopes and a Christian's duties than I ever had before," began Martin.

But his wife would not let him finish his sentence.

"Put back those pictures, I say, and don't let us have any more of this sort of thing, which will only keep us in perpetual hot water!" she exclaimed. "Put them back, or I'll do it myself," and she advanced as if to take them.

Martin was a poor man, but he knew that God had placed him in the position of master in his own little home. He did not choose to bandy words with his wife, but he gave his answer in his action.

Quickly and firmly, he put the four ballads together, and tore them across, then laid down the halves on the counter. There was a resolution shewn by his manner and look, that for a moment overawed as well as surprised Ann Laver. No man is likely really to lose his hold over the affections of his wife, by letting her see that her influence cannot turn him from what he knows to be right. The husband who wins his spouse's respect is most likely to keep her love.

Customers now entering the shop, Martin took his place behind the counter and served them, while Mrs. Laver carried off Annie to the little back parlour. The woman was sullen and out of temper; she foresaw that struggle which must take place, sooner or later, in every home, where two who are not agreed on the most important of subjects, are coupled together as man and wife.

"There will be no peace her; I can see that well enough," muttered Ann to herself. "He'll be pulling one way, I pulling the other; but let him drag his very life out, he'll never get me to follow him in his methodistical ways!"

The jerk which followed this resolution was more defiant than usual.

"There will be no peace here!" How often had that painful thought crossed the mind of Martin, as he had lain in the hospital ward, silently resolving, at whatever cost, fully to follow the Lord.

Feeling too weak in health to be able to battle against a woman's violent will, yearning for the quiet, and comfort, and love, which can make even a humble home such a holy and happy place, Martin had looked forward with something like dread to the constant domestic struggle which was likely to follow any attempt on his part to lead a consistent life. Laver could better, far better, have borne even persecution from without, than the constant jarring with the woman whom he loved, which seemed likely to embitter his life. It was as one who girds himself and prepares for a painful conflict, that Martin, on returning to his home, resolved from the very first to confess his principles openly, to take his stand on the ground of conscience; and while acting with consideration and gentleness towards his wife, never to yield to her a single point where his duty to God was in question.

Martin had not, however, much opposition to encounter on that day of his return, which chanced to be the last of the week. Perhaps Ann's heart, for she had a heart, had warmed towards the husband of her youth, who had suffered so patiently and long; perhaps the sight of that pale sunken cheek roused a feeling of pity within her. Ann kept truce on the first evening, and gave only a look of careless indifference when Martin asked aloud a blessing at his meal, with his Annie's little hands tenderly folded within his own.

Annie was very unwilling to quit her father when Mrs. Laver, in her quick sharp manner, told her that it was time to come to bed, for that she could not keep her eyes open. Those blue eyes filled with tears, little arms were clasped round Martin's neck, and he only prevented the child from bursting out crying, by a promise to come in a little while, and give her a good-night kiss. Mrs. Laver carried Annie upstairs, and Martin was left alone with his thoughts.

"That child is as a piece of my heart, dearer than my life!" reflected the parent. "Helpless and weak as she is, able to do little more than lisp my name, that very helplessness and weakness only serve to make her more dear! She can, at least, cling to me—and love. How gracious is God to compare His own tenderness to that of a parent! 'Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.' And all that God requires of us is just what a parent requires of a child, faith, love, and obedience."

There was a proof of love and obedience which Martin knew it to be his bounden duty to give; but he, like many other fathers of families, especially those who are married to worldly wives, felt it to be a duty very difficult to perform. For some little time before going to the hospital, Martin had found the comfort of private prayer, but he had never yet ventured to propose family prayer to his wife. Martin knew that it would be well to begin the custom on that night; delay would not only be wrong, but would increase the difficulties before him.

Laver reproached himself for the repugnance which he felt to entering upon the subject to Ann. Were they not one in the sight of God and of man? Should they not be one in their hopes and their actions? But Martin knew too well that, in all that regarded religion, he and his wife were not one, but severed by a great gulf.

For several minutes he stood irresolute beside the little crib in which Annie lay asleep, before he could summon up resolution to say to her mother, "Wife, let us thank God for His mercies, and ask for His blessing, together."

Without waiting for a reply, Martin instantly knelt down, and though Ann remained standing, she was perfectly quiet while her husband offered up a short but very earnest prayer for herself, himself, and their child.

To speak was at first an effort, but courage and joy came with prayer, and Martin rose from his knees like one who has had a burden rolled from his heart.

"Thank God, I have made a beginning!" thought the husband.

"Where will this end?" thought the wife.



AS Martin Laver was still weak from recent illness, he slept till a later hour than usual on the Sunday morning. It would have been pleasant to him to have begun his home-life again with a day of rest, had he not more than suspected that, from the opposing views of his wife, Sunday, of all days in the week, was most likely to prove a day of conflict.

The first sight which greeted the eyes of Martin, after he had come downstairs in the morning, was that of Ann Laver arranging the pipes and cigars in the window.

"Nay, Ann, no need to take that trouble," said her husband. "I'll put up the shutters again. I've asked God's forgiveness for having so often broken the Fourth Commandment, and His help to keep it better in future. From this time forth, we will neither buy nor sell upon Sundays."

Ann's short truce with her husband was over, and her passion burst forth the more violently from having for a while been kept under control.

"I tell you what, Martin, I'm not going to have more of this nonsense!" cried the woman, turning fiercely round on her husband. "We've hard enough work as it is to keep soul and body together, while we do as other folk do. Sunday's our best day for business, and, if you're such an idiot as to put up your shutters to please the parson, you'd better give up shop-keeping at once, and take to begging, or throw yourself and your wretched family upon the mercy of the parish!"

"I do not think so," replied Martin, calmly. "I believe that no one is the worse in the end for obeying the Word of God in a simple, straightforward way. 'The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it.' * But were it not so, had we only the choice of a poorhouse with that blessing, or a palace without it, we should be fools indeed did we choose the latter. 'What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?'" †

* Prov. x. 22.    † Matt. xvi. 26.

"I hope you don't mean to set up for a saint!" cried Ann, with a scornful jerk of the head.

"I wish to be a real Christian," replied Martin "and the one is the same as the other."

"What stuff you are talking!" cried Ann, with impatience. "Of course we are Christians, not heathens, though we don't pretend to be saints."

"Saint, which means holy, is the Bible name for all God's servants," replied Martin, leaning against the counter as he spoke. "You will find the word Christian, I think, but three times in all the Scripture, that of Saint more than forty or fifty; St. Paul's description of all the Lord's people in Rome was 'beloved of God, called to be saints.'" †

† Rom. i. 7.

"I am no saint, and I don't want to be one," said Ann Laver, with scorn; "but I know that I'm a baptised Christian, and that is enough for me!"

"Simon had but lately been baptised," observed Laver, "when St. Peter, the apostle, said to him, 'Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, because his heart was not right in the sight of God.' ‡ Oh! Dear wife, suffer me to speak for a few minutes freely on those things on which our salvation depends. God asks for our hearts, He will accept nothing less, and He accepts these hearts that, by His Spirit, He may make them holy."

‡ Acts viii. 21.

Ann would not hear her husband to the end.

"How you veer and change about!" she exclaimed. "Before you went to the hospital, it was all—'What must I do to be saved?' And now you are all for holiness as the way to get to Heaven."

"No, never, not the way!" exclaimed Martin, with such energy that his wife stared at him in surprise. "Christ is the Way, the only Way, it is His blood that cleanseth from all sin. * But, as some good man has said, 'He does not save us in our sins, but from our sins.'

* 1 John i. 7.

"'If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature'; † he that comes to the Saviour in faith, seeks to follow the Saviour in that 'holiness without which no man shall see the Lord!'" ‡

† 2 Cor. v. 17. ‡ Heb. xii. 14.

Ann Laver had never come to the Saviour, nor felt her need of being saved; she was one of the many who choose their own way, and do their own will, and yet expect, somehow or other, to get to Heaven in the end. She was like a person with bandaged eyes walking towards the edge of a precipice, and the attempt to unbandage her eyes, or stop her on her perilous course, only roused her pride and her anger. It is needless to repeat the bitter things which she said to him whose love had made him speak the truth which she hated to hear. After a violent burst of temper, Mrs. Laver, slamming the door behind her, retired into the back parlour, where Annie had good reason to know that something had put her mother thoroughly out of temper.

With a heavy sigh, Martin Laver went to put up his shutters again. He was so weak from his recent illness, that he had to pause more than once, even when making so slight an exertion. Six months before he would have lifted ten times the weight of a shutter with ease. It was sad to feel the once strongly-knit arms so feeble; but it was not this sense of weakness, nor the fear of approaching poverty, that drew that deep sigh from Laver's heart. It was the burden of that cross which is wont to press more or less heavily upon all who would follow Christ fully—that cross of which the Blessed Master knew the weight day by day, and which He bids all His servants take up.

"Because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you," * the Lord once said to His disciples, and through His Word He says so still. Persecution has been the portion of God's saints not only in times when fire and sword were used to destroy them, but when hatred could be shewn only in sneers and taunts, that do not endanger life, but deprive it of earthly enjoyment.

* John xv. 19.

While Laver was replacing the shutters, he thought of Christian in "Pilgrim's Progress," and how hard his wife tried to stop him when he would flee from the wrath to come.

"He had to bear her taunts and revilings," thought Laver; "what a hard struggle it must have cost Christian to leave all that had once been most dear. How different would his pilgrimage have been, had he and his wife been of one heart and one mind, and gone through all their trials together! But though his wife would not go one step with him, she followed at last in his track. Doubtless he had prayed for her very, very often, and God answered his prayer, though not till after Christian had left this earth and its sorrows behind him. Perhaps it may be thus with us; my poor Ann may remember my words, when I am no more here to speak them."

Martin raised his hand to his brow, for a faintness was coming over him. "God help me to be so careful in my daily conduct, to keep my lips and my life so pure, that my wife must own, however unwillingly, that in trying to be a better Christian, I am also a better husband, father, and friend. When she taunts me with being a saint, may I have grace to become one indeed, that, at least, she may never think me a hypocrite, saying one thing and doing another."

Ann would scarcely speak to her husband during all the time of breakfast, but she missed no opportunity of speaking at him, addressing herself to their child.

"Ah! You want more butter to your bread, do you?" she cried, pushing towards Annie a slice which she had just cut from the loaf. "Your father takes good care that we shan't have butter, and it will soon come, I suppose, to doing without the bread too!"

Ann glanced angrily towards the darkened shop as she spoke.

Annie held out her little foot to her mother, one of her tiny shoes needed repair, and the cotton sock appeared through a hole in the leather.

"So you want new shoes, little brat!" cried Ann. "I only wish you may get them! You'll have to run barefoot about the streets soon, and what will you do then, I wonder!"

"Ask Daddy carry me!" lisped the little child, as she calmly went on with her meal, undisturbed by fears for the future.

Even Ann could scarcely help smiling at the unexpected reply.

And Martin, as he stooped to kiss his little one, thought, "if she can so quietly trust her father, shall I not trust mine, who is the Giver of all good things?"

"I suppose you'll be going to some prayer-meeting or other?" said Ann, abruptly, to her husband, as soon as the uncomfortable meal was ended.

"I am going to church," replied Martin, and he could not forbear adding, "I wish we could go there together."

"Oh! I'm no saint, whatever you may be!" exclaimed Ann, with a jerk of the head. "I'm going to Greenwich with the Battens and their set—a lark on the river is a deal more to my taste than all your preaching and praying. I shall pay for my trip with my last Sunday's earnings, which I've kept for the purpose," she added, to give a keener sting to her taunt.

"I should be the last to wish to deprive you of any harmless pleasure," said her husband; "but if you spend the Lord's day in such an excursion, it will be without my consent."

"Your consent, indeed, I never asked for it!" exclaimed the rebellious wife to him whom she had vowed before God to obey. "You go your way, I will go mine; with your leave or without your leave, I'm off to Greenwich by two."

The husband and wife were, indeed, walking on different paths, such as must conduct to different ends. "Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life." * These are our Lord's own words; but how few act as if they believed them to be true!

* Matt. vii. 13, 14.

Crowds press along the broad way, careless and disobedient, yet hoping that, after all, peace and rest and Heaven will be theirs at the end! "Ye shall not surely die" † is the Devil's whisper still, and, like Eve, we are too ready to listen. But let those who would continue in their sins remember that God hath declared in His word that "the end of these things is death," ‡ and that they who are His servants indeed have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

† Gen. iii. 4.    ‡ Rom. vi. 21.


Sabbath Hours.

MARTIN found the time spent in church a time of refreshing, and returned to his home in a quiet, tranquil mood, better able to bear and to forbear, with the charity which hopeth and endureth all things. It grieved him, however, to see his wife dressed in as flaunting a style as their narrow means would allow, and his child also decked out in tawdry finery, wearing a faded red sash, and a blue bead necklace round her neck.

The dinner was as uncomfortable a meal as the breakfast had been, though Mrs. Laver now put on gaiety of manner, in a spirit of defiance to her husband. She took pleasure in talking to her child of the delights of the coming treat, the band that would play on the deck of the steamer, and all the mirth and fun there would be amongst the company there.

Annie was too young to understand or to care much about such things; she was rather frightened at the idea of going amongst strangers, and looking up with her arch innocent eyes into her father's face, she lisped out, "Daddy come too!"

Martin shook his head, and replied, as he stroked the soft hair of his child, "No, Annie, father is not going in the steamer, father is stopping behind."

"Then Annie 'top too!" cried the little one, thrusting her small hand into that of her parent.

"You little goose, do you mean that you will not go with me, and have all the fun?" asked Ann, in an angry tone, which certainly had not the effect of making the child desire to do so.

"No, Annie 'top with Daddy!" repeated the little one, beginning to cry at the idea of being taken away.

"Oh! I'm sure I don't want you, you'd be only a plague; there's nothing so tiresome as having children dangling about one in a steamer; one's always afraid of the stupid brats falling overboard," cried Ann, with a passionate jerk. "It's time I was off," she said, rising from the table; "your father will have had enough of your company, I guess, before I come back in the evening."

But here Mrs. Laver was wrong. Never had the invalid more enjoyed a walk than he did the quiet stroll which he took into Kensington Gardens on that warm afternoon, to give his pale little girl fresh air. How pleasant felt the breeze on his cheek, how bright were the rays of sunshine that streamed here and there through the trees, what a thankful heart was lifted up to God from him who so lately had left a sick-bed, as he sat quietly on the green grass, with his darling playing at his feet!

Annie's simple prattle was to her father's ear sweeter than any music, and scarcely disturbed the holy thoughts which were passing through his mind.

"Much as I delight in my child, should I be willing that she should remain always what she is now, small, weak, and knowing little? I look for growth in her young frame, and if from month to month she never grew taller, I should know that some disease must be stunting my child. So we are told in the Scripture to 'grow in grace,' * every passing month should leave us more earnest, devout, and humble. If our religion be not a growing one, it is a stunted one, nay, we have reason to fear lest it be dead altogether. Faith, true living faith, must expand into holiness, as the bud opens into the flower, and the dawn brightens into the day!"

* 2 Peter iii. 18.

Annie and her father were very happy together; and when Martin slowly walked homewards, holding the hand of the little prattler who trotted by his side, it seemed to him that but for one trial, he would be one of the happiest men upon earth. But the remembrance of his wife was to Martin like a heavy black cloud in an otherwise brilliant sky. Silently, he prayed for Ann as he walked, though little knowing how much at that moment she needed his prayers.

Scanty as was the evening meal, Annie made it a very merry one. No butter had been left from the breakfast, so she played at spreading the dry bread with her spoon, and when her father cut it into pieces, and called them soldiers, the child ate it as contentedly as if it had been iced-cake. Then a few empty reels to play with, made the little one perfectly happy; and while she rolled them backwards and forwards on the floor, Martin could quietly enjoy the pleasure of reading.

First, he read his Bible, then a book which had been lent to him by the chaplain of the hospital which he had recently quitted. It contained the Memoir of a missionary's wife, * who had laboured amongst the Jews in the Turkish province of Moldavia. Martin felt particularly interested in the account given of Nahum, a convert, as conveyed in such passages as these, which I extract from the published letters of the lady:—

"I wish I could bring before you an aged man, highly esteemed among the Jews, and also by the Rabbis, a respectable shopkeeper, a good Hebrew scholar . . . He is of an acute and philosophical turn of mind, and was a bitter opposer of Christianity. Fancy this man brought to the feet of Jesus, and you will see our most interesting Rabbi Nahum . . . He says that in hours of need he has prayed in the name of Christ, and is now praying for strength to confess Christ openly; but he says Abraham was praised because he was willing to give up his one child; but he would need to be nine times as strong as Abraham to give up his nine. He desires the prayers of Christ's people."

* Memoir and Letters of Mrs. Edwards.

"Poor fellow! Poor fellow!" murmured Martin, pausing for a moment in his reading. "His was a hard test of faith indeed; but could he not take his children with him?" And the father glanced fondly at his Annie, before he went on with his book.

Some way farther on in the volume, he again found mention of Nahum.

"His mind seems more and more decided; he speaks now of baptism, though still indirectly. He acknowledges that faith should trust all things to the Lord, that He is able to do all things for us. But who can withhold sympathy from the father of nine children, when taking a step which probably will involve them all in ruin.

"I feel for him from the bottom of my soul!" exclaimed Martin.

After reading several more pages in the volume, Martin came to the account of the baptism of Nahum with three of his children, after bitter opposition from his unconverted wife.

"She would not eat nor drink, she abused and upbraided him," but she could not hold him back from his purpose of openly confessing his Saviour. Martin eagerly read the account of Nahum's first meeting with his wife, after the decisive step had been taken, and her passionate exclamations of sorrow for her three baptised children.

"I hear not—I hear not! I die—I die! I will kill them, then I will die! And indeed," wrote the missionary's wife, "she threw herself on the balcony ready to die. We feared more for the old man. Twenty-five years have they lived together, true, faithful, attached. After she went, his anguish was fearful."

"Anguish, indeed!" exclaimed Martin. "When I think of this poor Jew's heavy cross, I take shame to myself for shrinking from taking up mine, which is so much lighter. I daresay that he had other troubles to bear besides the fierce opposition of his wife."

Martin read on as follows:—

"The dear old man determined on Monday to open his shop, his own shop, in a street where there are none but Jews. He did so, it almost cost him his life. Upwards of a thousand Jews assembled, stones were thrown, and all manner of abuse heaped on him."

"And I," thought Martin, with self-reproach "have deemed it a sacrifice merely to close my shop upon Sundays, to run the risk of a little loss, of having, maybe, one meal less in the day, or a more threadbare coat on my back! What a small—what a paltry sacrifice seems mine by the side of that of this brave old man, with a thousand of his old neighbours and countrymen baiting him, yelling at him, trying to stone, so fierce against him, that I see that it is written a little farther on, 'could they have gotten him they would have minced him into shreds!'—Ah! I am glad that the Germans were able to protect him a little."

In Mrs. Edwards' next letter, Martin read more of the dangers of Nahum and his Christian children, who had taken refuge under the missionary's protection.

"The Jews collected in vast multitudes, the uproar became great, the police could not keep peace. Our house had been beset with Jews all day looking over the paling, beating any of the lads whom they found in the streets, throwing stones into the court, &c. At length, at night I was awakened by loud noises at the gate; they were trying to break in. Nahum and his children were sleeping in a little room near the gate; their object certainly was to beat or to murder him, and carry off the children . . . A boy on horseback was sent to the Consul for assistance . . . Meantime several Germans had encountered the Jews, and driven them back."

"This poor Nahum seems to have led the life of a hunted hare," observed Martin; "but the worst of all must have been the division between him and his wife. Ah! There seems to be something more about her on the very next page."

He read on—

"His poor wife held out ten days, begging for a divorce, which he would not grant. At length, both she and her eldest son came at night to our house with the young child, and there they all are now. They are very anxious to be baptised."

"Anxious to be baptised!" exclaimed Martin, joyfully, half-closing the book. "Then the tie between man and wife held fast after all the hard strain upon it, and when she could not drag him back from the Lord, her husband drew her towards the Saviour! Here are Christian and Christiana in that far-away place, Moldavia!"

Martin went on with his reading again.

"Ah! I see that the missionary wisely refused to baptise the wife till she should shew that she really desired to be Christ's, and not merely to please her husband. But Nahum had won the victory; his home was to be a Christian home."

Here is something more about him in a letter from the lady farther on in the book:—

"In the old man we have exceeding great joy; he reads each morning the Scriptures with his family, expounds and prays."

"That story of Nahum, the converted Jew, seems as if it were just written for me," cried Martin, laying down the volume on the table. "Here am I, an Englishman, in a Christian land, half-afraid to say to my neighbours, 'I will close my shop on Sundays, because I will honour the law of God,' lest they should, perchance, laugh at me for being 'a Saint.' There was Nahum, openly confessing his faith at the risk of losing both property and life! Here am I, grieved and discouraged by a few hasty words from poor Ann; there was Nahum standing firm against the persuasions, the anger, the despair, of his wife, though he dearly loved her! A poor kind of Christian must I be! I fear but a coward at heart, and ill-fitted to bear the burden and heat of the day. God help me, and give me more grace and more courage, and then, perhaps, He will one day give to me, as to faithful Nahum, more cause to rejoice over a converted and loving wife!"


Darkness and Night.

THE day wore away, twilight came on, Annie grew tired of her play, her eyelids were heavy, she almost dropped asleep in her father's arms, as he carried her gently upstairs, and put her to bed.

Martin was vexed, but not alarmed at the prolonged absence of his wife; he knew that Ann would be unwilling to quit a party of pleasure early, and he was thankful that his little nestling was peacefully asleep in her cot, instead of being kept awake to a late hour in the midst of bustle and noise.

It was not till twilight had given place to night, and storm and rain had come on, that Martin became uneasy and restless. Many times he went to the outer door, and looked anxiously up the street, where the gas-lamps were throwing their yellow light on the brown, wet, glistening pavement. Few passed the shop on that rough night, save the policeman on his beat; even the public-house on the opposite side of the way looked empty and dark.

At last there was the rattle of a cab over the paved road. Martin did not expect his wife to come in such a conveyance and was surprised when the horse was suddenly pulled up, as the voice of Mrs. Batten called out from the window:

"Here! This is the place, the tobacconist's shop."

Then, catching sight of Martin standing at his door, Mrs. Batten called to him in a more subdued tone of distress—

"Oh! Mr. Laver, for mercy's sake come and help her. Gently, gently, we shall hardly be able to get her out of the cab."

"What has happened?" exclaimed Martin, scarcely able to utter the question, Mrs. Batten's tone had sent such a chill of dread to his heart, as he threw open the door of the cab.

"Steamers racing—boiler burst—she is frightfully scalded; we took her to a chemist's, where her hurts were dressed, but she moaned and prayed to be taken home. I thought she'd have died on the road."

Martin heard very few of the words of his neighbour, his whole attention was anxiously given to his miserable wife. Fearfully disfigured, her swollen features half-covered by bandages, Ann's husband would hardly have recognised her as the same flaunting woman who some hours before had quitted his home.

It was a difficult task, even with the aid of Mrs. Batten and the driver, to lift Mrs. Laver out of the cab, and, still more so, to carry her up the narrow staircase. Every touch caused agony, and the unhappy woman swooned as soon as she was laid upon the bed.

"She ought to have been taken to the Infirmary, I said she ought," cried Mrs. Batten; "but she would hear of no place but home."

Little Annie, roused from peaceful sleep, started up from her pillow, startled at the sound of voices in the room, and still more so at the strange and fearful-looking figure stretched on the bed so close to her crib.

"What's that?" cried the child in terror, pointing at her insensible mother.

"Hush! My lamb, lie down," whispered Martin. "Mother's come back from Greenwich, you must make no noise to disturb her."

Even in that hour of distress Martin thanked God from his heart that his child had not shared the fate of her parent.

Mrs. Batten hurried off in the cab for a doctor, whose arrival was anxiously awaited by Martin. When the medical man had come and examined the patient, he pronounced Mrs. Laver to be in a critical state. She was in great pain of body and anguish of mind, and passed the rest of that night in fearful misery. At an early hour of the morning, Martin, at Ann's own desire, sent an urgent message to Mr. Vale, the clergyman of the parish, to ask him to come and see his sick wife.

"Laver!" repeated Mr. Vale, when the message was delivered by Mrs. Batten. "Surely that is the name on the tobacconist's shop in John Street."

"The very same," said the fishmonger's wife. "I used always to see with regret that shop open when I passed it on Sundays," observed the clergyman, who had once entered it when on his way to church, in order to expostulate with Mrs. Laver both on her Sabbath-breaking, and on the character of some of the ballads exposed in her window. "Last Sunday, however, I noticed that, for the first time, the shutters were up. I suppose that both Laver and his wife had gone on this unfortunate party of pleasure."

"No, sir, not he," replied Mrs. Batten, frankly. "I wish that none of us had had more to do with the matter than Martin Laver. He had words with his wife, she told me herself, poor soul, about that same closing of the shop; he was determined to give up all selling and buying upon Sundays, and mighty angry was she at what she called his folly; but maybe he was the wiser of the two after all."

Poor Mrs. Laver, moaning on her sick-bed, had good cause to come to the same conclusion. What had she procured with those Sunday earnings which she had reserved for the Sunday treat? A few hours of boisterous pleasure, to be followed by many weeks of pain! And sickness drew poverty after it; for Martin's time was necessarily so much taken up with nursing his wife, and attending to their child, that business was much neglected, while illness brought many expenses. Ann Laver had to pay a very dear price indeed for her frolic down the river, undertaken against the will of her husband.

But this, it may be said, was quite accidental; Ann might have broken the Fourth Commandment every Sunday in her life, and yet have been never the worse.

No, never believe that, my reader, all money unlawfully earned may be called Satan's loan, and at one time or other, a fearful amount of interest has to be paid for every farthing thus borrowed. "Lightly won—lightly gone," says the proverb, but this expresses but half of the truth. Ill-gotten money not only seems to slip through the fingers, but it leaves a brand on the soul, and a fearful debt on the conscience. An account is kept, and all must be paid for in this world, in the next, or in BOTH! *

* Christ has paid all debts of His saints.

Let not only the godless rich, but the godless poor—the thief, the Sabbath-breaker, the wretched earner of the wages of sin—pause and reflect on this awful sentence, written in God's holy Book—"Your gold and silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days!" †

† James v. 3.


A Way Opened.

THE next six weeks were for Martin, weeks of sore trial. His wife's sufferings brought on her an attack of low fever; his night's rest was broken, his strength exhausted by watching, his business was failing at the very time when comforts were most urgently needed. Martin locked his sorrow in his own heart, and let not a word escape that could distress his suffering wife. He strengthened himself in the Lord, comforting himself with the words of Scripture, "If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons" . . . thus dealing with His children that they may be "partakers of His holiness." *

* Heb. xii. 7-10.

The visits of Mr. Vale were likewise a great comfort to Martin Laver, especially as they seemed to have a softening effect upon Ann. She was often, indeed, irritable and complaining; the pain which she had to endure well accounted for that, but she would at least listen to the truth, and never again did she venture to taunt her husband with being a saint.

At the end of six weeks Ann was sufficiently recovered to be able to come again into her shop, and even to take her place behind the counter for a short time, while Martin went to make some necessary purchase.

"Things seem little changed here," said Ann to herself, as she glanced around. "There are the pipes which I tied up myself with a bit of old ribbon, the ballads too in their place, not a soul seems to have bought them. I fear that business has been terribly slack, and my poor Martin looks ill too; he has never had a chance of getting up his strength. He must have had a hard time of it while I was keeping my bed. Oh! Mrs. Batten," cried Ann, as the portly figure of the fishmonger's wife appeared at the door of the shop, "you see I'm again at my post."

"Glad of it, mighty glad of it!" said Mrs. Batten, coming up to the counter, but with little of gladness upon her good-humoured face. "I'm afraid you've been hard put to it," she added, lowering her voice, "or your good man would not have had his umbrella and greatcoat in pawn."

"In pawn!" exclaimed Ann, with a startled look; for she had little idea of the extent of the difficulties which Martin had had to encounter. "Are you sure that he has them in pawn?"

"As sure as that my name is Betsy Batten. I saw him coming out of the shop, and asked him about it, just as he was turning into the chemist's, next door, to pay a precious long bill."

Ann bit her lip, and silently turned away to busy herself with sorting cigars. Here was a startling confirmation of a fear which had often crossed her mind during her illness, that her husband's business was not thriving, and that, unless matters mended, ruin might soon stare them both in the face.

The tobacconist's wife said nothing more on the subject, though it was never out of her thoughts, until she and Martin were at their quiet evening meal, with little Annie sitting, as usual, upon her father's knee.

"Martin, you're a-hiding something from me," said Ann, abruptly, looking full at her husband. "Don't think I'm afraid to hear truth; I'd rather know it right out at once, and so be prepared for the worst. We'll be bankrupt before the winter sets in."

"No, not so bad as that," replied Martin, calmly; "but now that you are—thank God!—so much stronger, it is better that you should know all. There should never be a secret between man and wife. Ann, I can't get on with this business; it is to me a losing concern; I don't make enough to pay rent and cover expenses."

"And they have been so heavy, so heavy of late!" sighed Ann.

"It is a relief to me to find that Mason, our neighbour round the corner, is willing to take the whole concern off our hands at Michaelmas, if you and I agree in thinking that it is better to give up the business before we are entangled in debt. If this arrangement be settled, we shall then be clear of the world, though," added Laver, with a melancholy smile. "We shall have little enough left, I fear, with which to begin life again."

Ann covered her eyes with her hand, and moaned aloud in her bitterness of spirit. "There's no use in going on longer, struggling to get a livelihood here," she murmured. "My father is dead, my brothers won't help us; I'm sure don't know which way to look."

"Upwards!" said Martin, hopefully.

The word had scarcely escaped his lips when a tap was heard at the door, and on Martin's rising and opening it, the now familiar form of Mr. Vale, the rector, entered the parlour. Even little Annie had always a smile with which to welcome the kindly old man, who used to pat her on the head, and give her his cane to play with.

"I ask pardon for interrupting you at your meal," said the clergyman, motioning to Martin and his wife to resume their seats, while he took that which was instantly placed for him by Ann. "I thought, Laver, that you might be the man to help me out of a little difficulty in which I unexpectedly find myself now. My Scripture reader, John Hallam—you know him?—came to me an hour ago to inform me that he had just received a telegram from Wales. His father, who lives in a farm there, has been taken dangerously ill, and Hallam is wanted at home. Now, it so happens that at this time there is a particular press of work in our parish, and my curate is absent on leave. It has occurred to my mind that you might take my Scripture reader's place for a week, or longer, if his return be delayed. What do you say to the suggestion?"

Martin and his wife exchanged glances; it seemed as if a door had been unexpectedly opened before them.

"There is no kind of work which I should like better, sir," said Laver, "were I only fit to undertake it. But you see, sir, I've no experience, and I should but disappoint you and wrong the people, by attempting to do that which I could not perform well."

"I know enough of your character, Laver," observed the rector, "to feel sure that your heart would be in the work, and this is one of the first of qualifications. Besides, it appears to me that you have studied your Bible, and love it. It would be a real relief to my mind if I could have one in whom I could put confidence to take Hallam's place, if but for a week."

"There could be no harm at least in trying me for a week, sir," said Laver, deeply gratified at having been chosen by Mr. Vale to fill, even for a short period, such a responsible office.

Martin little guessed at that time, that the engagement for a week was to last through many years. The father of Hallam died, leaving to him, as his eldest son, the management of his farm and the care of his widow. But Mr. Vale, in the meantime, had found Martin Laver so zealous and useful, so diligent in his work, and so judicious in his way of performing it, that the clergyman was glad to retain him in the office of Scripture reader.

Martin had now entered upon the happiest as well as the most useful portion of his life. It was his delight, as well as his duty, to visit the widows in their affliction, support the weak, comfort the sorrowful, and direct sinners to the Saviour. It was given to the humble labourer to win many souls from darkness into light.

But perhaps Martin's deepest source of happiness was to be found in his own home. Annie grew up to be all that a father's heart could desire—his helper in all good works. Mrs. Laver also learned to realise the blessedness of living the life, as well as of holding the faith, of a saint. She learned that whom the Lord pardons and saves, He purifies also, and that faith and obedience are closely linked together in this world, as in Heaven holiness and happiness will both be made perfect together.





A Storm Down Below.

"WHAT—she says that she saw the silver paper knife in my box! It's a false slander—it's a burning shame! I defy her to say so again!"

These exclamations were uttered by Miriam Macbean in a voice almost hoarse with passion, as she turned suddenly round, and with sparkling eyes and clenched fist, faced the fellow-servant who had, as she thought, accused her of purloining the property of her mistress.

Caroline cowered under the tempest of anger which she had brought upon herself, for Miriam looked ready to strike as well as to storm. The young maid was almost foaming with fury, for Miriam regarded her own spotless character as something more precious than life; it had never been so much as breathed on before, and her naturally fiery temper was all in a blaze in a moment.

"Miriam, there is no use in being so angry," said her mistress, Mrs. Mellor, with quiet dignity of manner. "No one wishes to accuse you unjustly, or to believe anything against you. I merely asked Caroline if she knew what had become of the silver knife which, as you are both well aware, usually lies on the drawing-room table. I had missed it to-day from its place. Caroline has hunted for it in vain, but mentioned that she had seen something like it in your box, and—"

"Search my box—turn it upside down—I don't care—I'm not afraid of any investigation," cried Miriam, with ungovernable rage. "Let her—let that viper bring down the box, and there's the key."

Miriam pushed it rudely towards the lady. "You shall see yourself, and judge for yourself; I'll not stir a step from this spot until this matter is sifted to the bottom!"

"Go and bring down the box, Caroline," said Mrs. Mellor, perplexed and annoyed at the scene before her.

Caroline was only too glad to escape for a few minutes from the presence of the furious girl, and muttered to herself as she ascended the stairs, that she wished that she had bitten her tongue off before she had said a word about seeing that knife in Miriam's box.

Mrs. Mellor, feeling very uncomfortable, took her seat on a chair in the kitchen, leaning her arm on the dresser, while awaiting Caroline's return.

"I am glad," she thought to herself, "that Miriam has a few minutes in which to let her passion cool down."

But Miriam looked as if her passion were only glowing to more intense heat, as she stood with her arms a-kimbo, her eyes glaring, her cheeks flushed scarlet, and on her face an expression of defiance which nearly bordered on insolence.

"Open it—open it—turn everything out, I insist on a thorough search!" she cried fiercely, as Caroline, trembling, brought in the box. "I shouldn't care a straw if all the world were to see what's in it!"

And with her teeth rigidly set, the young maid watched the movements of her mistress, as Mrs. Mellor put the key into the lock, turned it, and then raised the lid.

"I am sure that I do not doubt your honesty, Miriam; had you not insisted yourself—" began the lady, as she lightly turned over a few of the neatly packed linens and books which the box contained.

She did not finish her sentence, for at the moment that she uttered the last word her hand touched a paper cutter of white metal which lay near the top of the box, and Caroline exclaimed—"That's the thing that I saw!"

"This is certainly not my paper knife, though something like it, I own," said the lady, annoyed at the mistake which her housemaid had made.

"Certainly it is not," muttered Miriam. "It was the parting gift of my soldier-brother before he sailed from England—and there's about as much silver in it as there is truth in her!" And she turned a withering glance on Caroline, who appeared extremely confused.

"I've not a notion what has become of the knife. I've never touched it since I dusted it yesterday," said the young housemaid.

Mrs. Mellor saw that a fierce storm of words was beginning again between her two servants, and was determined, if possible, to put a stop to this, at least for a time.

"Caroline," she said, "I hear the house-door opened, your master has just come in, go and ask him from me whether he has ordered the fish for dinner."

As soon as Caroline had quitted the kitchen, the lady said, turning to Miriam, "I can permit no high words, no quarrelling in my house; I hope that you and Caroline will make up—"

Miriam had so completely lost self-control that she interrupted her mistress. "I'll not stop under the same roof with her—I'll not stop in any place where I've been suspected of stealing! I hope you'll suit yourself, ma'am, I give you warning!" cried Miriam, with passionate emotion, the hot tears rising to her eyes.

"I should be sorry to part with you, Miriam; you have given much satisfaction to your master and me; I do not suspect you in the least," said the lady.

But Miriam only muttered, "I'll not stop, I'll not stop!"

"You had better consult your friends before you take any foolish step, which you might bitterly regret," observed Mrs. Mellor.

"I've no friends in London, or anywhere else, only my soldier-brother who has lately returned from Abyssinia," said Miriam; "he is the only relation whom I have now left in the world."

"Go and consult with him then," said her mistress; "you are much too angry at present to be able to judge for yourself."

And the lady quitted the kitchen, thinking to herself as she did so, "What a valuable servant Miriam would be, if she could only control that terrible temper! When there is nothing to ruffle her, no one could perform her duties better, but an affair like this serves to show how much of the tiger-cat spirit is within her."


The Twins.

"ANYTHING the matter down in the lower regions, my dear? You look annoyed," said the mild, placid little husband of Mrs. Mellor, as his lady entered the drawing-room in which he was resting himself after his walk.

"Oh! We've had a tempest in a teapot!" replied Mrs. Mellor. "Miriam is in one of her tempers."

"I thought that I heard loud voices as I came into the house," said the quiet, easy-going master, as he laid down on the table a new magazine which he had been reading as he walked.

The attention of Mrs. Mellor was attracted by the shine of the paper cutter which was placed between the leaves as a marker.

"Why, there's the very silver knife which has caused all this storm!" cried the lady. "I never dreamed of your having taken it out of the room."

"I wanted it to cut the leaves of my book. Is any harm done?" asked her husband.

"I'm afraid that that paper knife has lost me one of the most honest, most industrious, most steady girls that I ever had in my service," replied Mrs. Mellor, who was really vexed at what had occurred. "However, it may not be too late to set matters right," she added; and after hastily ringing the bell, she quitted the room.

The loud voices which her husband had heard from the kitchen were sounding louder than ever. Mrs. Mellor had rung the bell rather sharply, but it was not till she had more than once called out the name of Miriam, that Miriam appeared up the kitchen stairs.

"Miriam, the paper knife is found; your master had it," said the lady in a mild voice, intended to soothe the feelings of the maid. "All is right now, all is cleared up; I've no wish that you and I should part because Caroline made a mistake."

"All's not right," said Miriam with petulance; "hurt feelings can't be plaistered up with a word. I can't stop in this house with Caroline. I'm going to tell my brother, ma'am, that I've given you warning."

And the ill-tempered girl, turning her back on her mistress, hurried upstairs to put on her bonnet and shawl.

"What a sad pity it is that Miriam, a good girl in other respects, lets herself be so conquered by her temper," thought Mrs. Mellor, as, with just displeasure, she returned to the sitting-room in which she had left her husband.

The lady would have thought it sadder still, had Miriam been long enough in her service for her to have known all the noble qualities possessed by this ill-tempered girl. Miriam had as high a sense of honour as could have been hers had she been born and bred a lady. Her lips were never stained with untruth, she never did a mean or deceitful thing. Had Miriam found the door of her mistress's store-room open, there would not have been in it one spoonful of tea or one lump of sugar the less. Had Miriam discovered the contents of a purse scattered over the carpet, Mrs. Mellor's gold would have been as safe in Miriam's care as if locked up in an iron box. There was no wretched purloining of trifles, no picking or stealing with Miriam; her conduct was as upright when no mortal was near to watch it, as if she had known that her actions were witnessed by all the world.

For Miriam Macbean lived in the fear and love of God. Religion with her was no empty name. With all the straightforward earnestness of her nature, she had given herself to the service of her Heavenly Master. When, at her confirmation, in answer to the question whether she would take upon herself the vow made for her at her baptism, she had uttered the solemn words "I Do," that answer came from the bottom of her heart, and with a fervent prayer that God would help her to keep her vow. Miriam had never forgotten that day, and had often repeated that prayer.

And Miriam was not only of a conscientious spirit, she had a warm affectionate heart. She and her twin brother Hamil had at an early age been left orphans, and almost alone in the world. Never, perhaps, had brother and sister loved each other more fondly than did the young Macbeans. Often would Miriam recall the days of her childhood, when the twins lived in a country home. There was a brook which flowed near the cottage in which they had dwelt, and often, when fording this brook, Hamil would carry Miriam with tottering footsteps across the water, to save her from wetting her feet. The boy, who was strong and hearty, would never allow that the weight of his dear little sister could tire him.

A slight incident which had occurred when the children were scarcely ten years of age, had shown how warmly Miriam returned the affection of her twin brother. Hamil, when searching a hedge for blackberries, had chanced to be bitten by a viper. The boy's cry of terror and pain had brought Miriam in alarm to his side. Child as she was, her little foot was in an instant stamped upon the head of the snake that had wounded her brother; her love seemed to take away fear, and catching up a large stone, she actually succeeded in killing the reptile.

Then, seeing the small mark of the serpent's bite in Hamil's bleeding hand, the brave child, without a moment's hesitation, drew it to her lips, and with all her might proceeded, as she said, "to suck out the poison."

A farmer who happened to be not far from the spot, and who had seen what had happened, came up just as Miriam, panting and excited when all the danger was over, was embracing her young brother with a violent burst of tears.

"Well done, my brave little maiden!" exclaimed the farmer, clapping her on the shoulder. "But you did not stop to think that you might have been sucking poison in while trying to suck it out."

"It didn't need thinking!" cried the child through her tears. "I'd much rather have lost my life than my brother!"

Happily neither of the children suffered from the effects of the venom; but Hamil never forgot the proof of affection given to him by his sister.

The tie which united the hearts of the twins did not become weaker by the lapse of years, and parting was a sore trial to both when Miriam entered her first place, and Hamil enlisted as a soldier.

Most of the young maid's spare moments were given to writing to her absent brother, and when he was on his campaign in Abyssinia, a letter with the African post-mark on it, filled her with keen delight. The letter would be read over and over again, and then hoarded amongst her treasures.

When victory crowned the British arms, when Magdala fell, Miriam was as proud of her hero brother as if the whole success of the war had depended on the prowess of his single arm. She was almost wild with joy when she heard that Hamill was ordered home, and that, after their painful separation, she should see her twin brother once more.

Great joys and great sorrows are often closely linked together; sometimes when we are feeling for the sweet ripe fruit, we unexpectedly find the serpent. Miriam had some difficulty in getting leave to go and see her brother, who was stationed for a short time at Greenwich after his arrival from Abyssinia. Miriam's impatience was so great that she almost threw up her place, because she had to wait for two or three days before obtaining this leave.

At last, with a heart bounding with joy, Miriam set out on her little journey in company with Mrs. Smith, a soldier's wife, who was going to her husband at Woolwich. Fast went the train, but not fast enough to suit the impatience of Miriam. Short was the journey, but to the eager girl every mile seemed to swell into ten.

Woolwich was reached, and Miriam with her companion was soon hurrying up one of the streets.

"How fast you walk, my dear," observed Mrs. Smith with a smile; "you must remember that I'm not quite so young as you are. I'll get my husband to find out your brother and bring him to our meeting-place at the baker's; for, eager as you are, I suppose that you'll hardly rush right into the barracks to see him."

Miriam laughed—how merry and blithe was her laugh—and slackened her pace a little.

As they turned the corner of a street, Mrs. Smith spoke again, but in a lower tone, to her young companion.

"We had better cross over to the other side of the road; don't you see that soldier in front of us can't walk straight, I'm sure that the fellow is drunk."

Miriam did not appear to have heard what was said, and when Mrs. Smith put her hand upon the girl's arm to draw her across the road, to her surprise she felt that the arm was nervously trembling! Looking into Miriam's face, Mrs. Smith saw that she had suddenly turned very pale, and that her eyes were fixed with intense emotion upon the form of the soldier in front, though his back was turned towards them.

"Come, I say, he's in liquor," repeated Mrs. Smith in a whisper, "let's go to the other side of the way."

At that moment the soldier chanced to turn round: it had not been needful for Miriam to see that face—that flushed face: she had already recognised her darling brother in the half-intoxicated man whom her companion had been afraid to pass!

Hamil was not so far gone in drinking as not to recognise Miriam; the sudden meeting half-sobered him, and he gave her a loud, much too loud a greeting. But the red face, the thick utterance, the unsteady gait, the noisy mirth, all cut like a knife into the heart of poor Miriam. She had never thought, till that day, that she could be ashamed of her brother.

She would have given anything that Mrs. Smith had not seen him, that he had not turned round, but gone on his way. The words, "I'm sure that he's drunk," seemed to haunt her, ringing in her ears all the rest of the day, and breaking her rest at night, after she had returned from her miserable visit to Woolwich. Wretchedness made Miriam's naturally warm temper very irritable indeed on that evening.

Caroline wondered what could have come over her, and Mrs. Mellor determined that she would not soon again give her young servant an afternoon's leave.

After a sleepless, wretched night, poor Miriam rose before daybreak, and wrote a letter to her brother. A very touching letter it was, and blotted with her tears. There was not a word of reproach in it, but much sorrow and more love, and gentle tender counsel, such as a pious mother might have given to her son. No stranger who might have chanced to see "Miriam in one of her tempers," would have believed that that girl with flashing dark eyes and unbridled tongue could ever have written such a letter.

With sickening suspense Miriam awaited her brother's reply. At that time her soul was almost constantly wrestling in prayer. Whether she were employed in dusting the room, or preparing the meal by the kitchen fire, or at the wash-tub, Miriam was silently lifting up her heart in an agony of entreaty for her twin brother.

The answer to her letter came before long. Miriam's heart was in a flutter as she tore the envelope open, then she could scarcely read the lines before her, because of the thankful tears which flowed before she had read the letter half through. Hamil was quite as much ashamed of his conduct as his sister had been, and the young soldier had the manliness to own it. He had been led away by evil company, he had not had the strength to resist the temptations which beset a man in barracks, but he promised to struggle against what he confessed to be his besetting weakness, a taste for ardent spirits. Hamil asked his sister to pray for him; he would, he wrote, follow her good advice, and "watch and pray" for himself. He trusted that he would never again give his darling Miriam cause to blush for her brother.

A great weight was lifted from the heart of Miriam; Hamil seemed dearer than ever. Again the sister could go on her way rejoicing in hope. To Miriam's great satisfaction, Hamil was soon afterwards removed to barracks in London.

Though her brother was now so much nearer to her, Miriam was but seldom able to see him. She was too upright a girl to spend on her own gratification without leave, the time which belonged to her mistress. Miriam was by far too honest and conscientious to entertain even a brother without her employer's knowledge, and still less at her employer's expense. Miriam was a Christian girl, and in this behaved like a Christian. An occasional meeting with Hamil on a Sunday afternoon, when they would walk to church together, was all that the sister could venture to expect, but this was enough to make her whole life brighter. Miriam looked forward through all the week to her happy hour upon Sunday.

Matters had thus gone on quietly for some little time, when the unfortunate affair of the silver knife occasioned the scene related in the first chapter. From childhood, Miriam had had a hot impatient temper, and though she had often regretted it, she had never striven against it with all her heart and soul, as against an enemy that was drawing her into serious sin. It was natural to her, Miriam would say, and this wretched excuse served in some measure to quiet her conscience.

Miriam saw other people selfish and mean, dishonest and untruthful; she knew that her fellow-servant's standard of duty was very much lower than her own. Miriam did not realise that she, with all her scrupulous honesty and piety, was bringing disgrace on her religion by a temper quite unworthy of a follower of Him who was meek and lowly; nay, that her conduct was actually a stumbling-block in the way of Caroline, who almost dreaded and disliked, while she could not help in most things respecting her.

"It's all very fine Miriam's pretending to be better than other folk!" exclaimed Caroline, when Miriam, as has been related, left the kitchen to obey her mistress's call. "But her praying, her Bible-reading, and church-going, don't prevent her from flying out like a fury. I wouldn't have her temper for the world! For all her strict notions, I take it that I'm as much of a Christian as she!"


In Peril.

MIRIAM, excited and angry still, went up to her little attic to prepare for her walk, carrying up with her the box which Caroline had brought down. With Miriam the storm had not yet blown over.

"For Caroline, indeed, to talk about seeing anything in my box!" she muttered, as she put down her burden on the floor with a heavy bang. "She knows well enough that I'd no more stoop to do the mean things that she does, than I'd go begging barefoot about the streets! And to think of mistress listening for a moment to the backbiting sneak! I'm glad that I gave her warning! I'd rather be a galley-slave, I would, than stop in a place where I am not trusted."

Miriam's mind was like a piece of water that has been violently disturbed, and which can reflect nothing distinctly; every image is distorted and confused. But even before she had quitted the house, reason had begun to resume its quiet power, and Miriam to have a suspicion that her own conduct in the affair had not been altogether either sensible or right.

"I wonder if Hamil will think that I have done a foolish thing," said Miriam to herself, as she went out into the street, where the freshness of the air served to help in cooling her temper.

"He was vexed when he heard of my leaving my last place, just because I had quarrelled with the nurse. I shall only have a four months' character now, and, after all, four mouths was hardly a long enough time for mistress to know me so well as to listen to nothing against me. I wish that I had kept my temper better, but I can't help flaring up when any one touches my character. I am so much afraid that Hamil will be vexed. He is so quiet and calm and wise himself, he has such a beautiful temper; I never knew him fly into a passion in all his life! He knows I have been a peppery little thing from my childhood, only I never was angry with him, oh! No—I never could be angry with him!"

Tender thoughts of her brother still further calmed the spirit of Miriam; the troubled waters were becoming quiet as a mirror again, and the excited mind could once more reflect. Miriam began now to think that she had come on a useless errand, for it was likely enough that she might not be able to have a word with her brother, who did not expect in the least to see her at such a time, and who would probably be engaged in performing military duty. Besides this, Miriam was by far too modest and well-conducted a girl to go to the barracks alone, without any proper protection. How was she to let her brother know that she was waiting to see him, and wishing to ask his advice?

"I do believe that I shall have to go back again just as wise as I came. I've been acting the part of a foolish, ill-tempered child," thought Miriam, as she slackened her pace, walking up Albany Street towards the barracks. Here, however, Miriam was mistaken, for the thought had scarcely crossed her mind, when her glance fell on a tall form in uniform that she knew well, on the opposite side of the street.

"Oh! This is fortunate indeed," exclaimed Miriam, "to think that Hamil should be the first soldier whom I should meet!"

She had little time for self-gratulation, however, for as she spoke Hamil turned aside from the pavement, and disappeared within the door of a public-house.

Miriam had been heated by exercise and excitement, but now she turned suddenly cold. The terror which had struck her two months before when she had looked at that same dear form staggering under the influence of drink, came over her again, and almost overpowered her. Was her brother, the brave noble-hearted brother, whom she so fondly loved, he of whom she had been so proud, was he yielding again to that deadly vice, which would sink him lower than the brutes!

Miriam's anxiety for Hamil's safety during the campaign in Abyssinia had been light and easy to be borne compared with what she felt now; for had not her brother owned that a taste for drinking was his besetting weakness, and to what must that taste, if indulged, inevitably lead in the end? To shame, disease, and misery, condemnation before God, things a thousandfold worse than death! Hamil was entering on the steep downward incline, and what a precipice lay before him! The full extent of her brother's peril flashed on the mind of Miriam, and every other feeling yielded to the one desire to save him, as she quickened her steps almost to a run.

The modest young maiden had never crossed the threshold of a public-house, nor had she even thought of doing so before; Miriam had a natural shrinking from going amongst strangers, and into a place where it would be unseemly for her to appear—and yet, to the no small surprise of Hamil, as he stood at the bar with a glass of gin in his hand, he heard a voice nervously pronounce his name, and, turning, beheld his twin at his side!

"You here!" exclaimed the soldier, almost dropping the glass in his amazement.

"I must speak with you—it is on a matter of importance—I am leaving my place," said Miriam, so breathless with excitement, that she could hardly bring out the words.

Hamil's first impulse was to toss off the liquor for which he had paid, before leaving the bar, but he changed his intention, put down the untasted glass, and followed his sister out of the place. The soldier was annoyed that Miriam, even for one minute, should have been seen within those doors.

"What brought you here? What had you to say to me?" Hamil asked, with a little approach to impatience in his manner; had he possessed less fine a temper, he would have been angry.

"Oh! Hamil—how could you, after all that you promised—" began Miriam, but she could not, from emotion, go on. All that had led her to seek her brother on the present occasion, her own affairs, her loss of place, her quarrel with Caroline, seemed to have entirely escaped from her mind. She had room there now for but one thought, that of the temptation and danger of Hamil.

The soldier could very well imagine what was passing through the brain of his sister. He felt humbled and disgusted with himself, for when he had entered that public-house, Hamil knew that he was breaking through many an earnest resolution made to himself, as well as the promise made to his sister. The twins walked on for some little way in silence, then, as if by tacit consent, they took the first turn into the Regent's Park.

Entering the enclosure, Hamil and Miriam went over the grass to a quiet seat, where they could converse together undisturbed and unheeded by any one. Neither of the Macbeans uttered another word until they had reached this seat, and sat down upon it; each was busy with bitter thoughts which it would be difficult and painful to put into language. Miriam, indeed, was beginning to turn her thoughts into prayer, and when once she was able to do this, half their bitterness was taken away.


The Struggle.

"I KNOW all that you will say, Miriam," began Hamil, who was the first to break silence, looking down gloomily at the dusty grass before him. "You don't suppose that I've not often thought of my promise, and tried to keep it too. I had not so much as entered a public since I received your letter, till a few days ago, and then two of my comrades, jovial fellows, laughed me out of my resolutions, and got me to stand treat."

"And so the door was opened to the enemy," suggested Miriam, sadly; "you did not find it easy to close it again."

"I'll not deny it, I took more than was good for me, and I was near getting into a scrape at the time. But the worst of it is," continued Hamil more rapidly, kicking up the dust with the heel of his boot, "the worst of it is, that now the thirst and the longing is awakened again, and it seems as if I could not resist them! I do not want to disgrace myself, nor to vex you, Miriam, but I hardly am my own master in this. No one knows, but those who have felt it, the difficulties which beset a man who would get rid of a taste for spirits."

"Hamil, you are a soldier, a brave, noble soldier, one who never, in the field, was daunted or kept back by difficulties," said Miriam, pressing the arm of her brother. "Remember the fearful mountain passes through which you went with the army in Abyssinia. Of what long weary marches you have told me, when you had to struggle up heights, through stony, almost impassable defiles, till your breath failed, and your muscles were strained, and you felt that your limbs could scarcely support your weight. But difficulties did not turn you back then. You were the Queen's faithful soldier and were willing to serve her to the death."

"I could not have held back then," observed Hamil.

"And can you hold back now?" cried Miriam. "Oh! Hamil, remember what our curate said to us before our confirmation; you and I can never forget that sermon. He told us that we are all the enlisted soldiers or Christ, with His weapons to bear, and His battles to fight, and that for His sake we must all learn to 'endure hardness.' *

"Life is our one great campaign, sin is our great enemy, and the Lord Christ Himself the Captain of our salvation. If we follow Him we must expect to have to face some difficulties, if we follow Him we must fight. Oh dear brother, after hearing that sermon, do you not recollect how you and I went together to the wood in the hollow, and, under the great beech-tree, prayed that we might indeed be Christ's faithful soldiers and servants to the end of our lives?"

* 2 Tim. ii. 3.

Hamil heaved a deep sigh; sweet and holy was the remembrance of that day in their early youth, when he and his twin sister had resolved that, come what might, they would ever keep steady in the service of Him who had Himself triumphed over Satan, and who could make them more than conquerors by the strength of His Holy Spirit. The whole scene came back on the soldier's mind; the golden sunlight streaming through the boughs on the ground strewn with the brown fallen beech-mast, the sound of a stream gurgling near, the hum of a bright insect on the wing that had hovered around the twins where they sat on the mossy seat afforded by the gnarled roots of the tree.

Hamil passed his hand across his eyes as he murmured, "Would I were now what I was then!"

"You may be more, much more than you were then," cried Miriam. "You and I were but as young untried recruits, who knew little of what might be before us, but who were ready boldly to face an enemy, whenever one might attack us. Now, you are as one bearing the burden and heat of the day, you know your enemy—"

"A great deal too well," interrupted Hamil; "he has not only attacked, but has got the better of me at last."

"Only for a time!" cried Miriam, eagerly. "Never despair, the struggle is not yet over! You were, as one may say, a straggler from the ranks, you were not on your guard, the enemy took you at disadvantage. He struck you down for a moment, but you are up and at him again, you won't give in, you'll fight to the end. Is it not written in the Bible, 'Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you?' * Wrestle against temptation, and overcome it, dear brother, in the name and in the strength of the Lord!"

* James iv. 7.

Miriam's eyes sparkled as she spoke, and, as Hamil looked on that bright animated face raised so earnestly to his own, the voice of his only sister roused his spirit like the call of a trumpet sounding to arms.

"Ah! Miriam," cried the young soldier, "if I had you always beside me to keep me up to the mark, I think that something might be made of me yet. Come what may, you are always ready to rush to the rescue. It's the old story of the viper again; I wish that you could stamp your foot upon my enemy, intemperance, as you did on the venomous reptile."

"You must do that for yourself, or rather you must ask God to do it for you, Hamil, struggling hard yourself all the time. There is such comfort in that text which you and I learned together years ago; 'God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.'" *

* 1 Cor. x. 13.

"Victory over sin is certainly worth a struggle," said Hamil.

"It is worth the hardest, the longest struggle!" cried Miriam, who felt that her words were making an impression on the mind of her brother. "Oh! Hamil, was it not joy when, after all that you had suffered, after all that you had done, you stood a conqueror in King Theodore's fortress of Magdala! Was it not joy when you returned to old England to receive such a welcome as is given to victors alone? But what is such joy compared to that of the Christian soldier, one who has been enabled to triumph over enemies without and within, the world, the flesh, and the Devil, if, at life's close, he can say with St. Paul, 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.'" †

† 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.

"Miriam, my sister, I thank God for sending you to me," said the soldier, pressing the hand of his twin. "I was throwing down my weapons, I was yielding to the foe, or rather, like a deserter, going over to his side. I have been worse than a coward in the battle of life. But from this hour, God helping me, I'll stick to my colours, and follow my Leader! I'll never set my foot within the door of a place where I know from experience that the enemy would have me at an advantage. I'll pray not to be led into temptation, and I'll keep, as far as I can do so, out of the way of temptation."

The heart of Miriam bounded with joy. She looked on the fine, manly, bronzed countenance of her brother, with the expression of calm resolution upon it, and felt how great, how glorious is the Christian's struggle against besetting sin, when he engages in it, "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." *

* Eph. vi. 10.


A Brother to the Rescue.

"BUT now," said Hamil, "I want to know what brought you up to our quarters when I so little expected to see you. I remember now that you said something—I don't know exactly what—about leaving your place. I thought that you were so comfortable in it," continued the soldier. "When last we met on Sunday, you seemed pleased with your master, mistress, wages, everything. I hoped that you would stay in that place till my term of service should be over, and we could set up business together in some snug little home of our own."

"You remember that I spoke to you about my fellow-servant," said Miriam.

"Yes, Caroline, I think, was her name. You described her as a poor, ill-brought-up girl, who has never been taught that black's black, and who has scarcely found out yet that she has such a thing as a soul. But you were taking her in hand, Miriam, and had got her to read at least one verse in the Bible every day, and to go to church now and then. I'm not the only one," added the soldier with a smile, "whom a little sister of mine watches over for good."

"I'm afraid that you'll not think me very good when you hear all my story," said Miriam.

"Not another case of quarrelling, I hope!" cried Hamil.

"Well, you shall know all, and judge for yourself," said Miriam.

And she and her brother arose from their seat and recommenced walking, as they went on with their conversation.

"Caroline and I had just finished our dinner," continued Miriam, "when mistress's bell rang, and Caroline went up to answer it. She was away for some time, hunting in every nook and corner, as I heard afterwards, for a silver paper knife which mistress had missed from the drawing-room table. I knew nothing, of course, to what she was about, and was quietly washing up the dishes, when down came Caroline to the kitchen, looking as red as your uniform, and, to my great surprise, who should come with her but mistress. Mrs. Mellor looked grave and uneasy, and told me of the loss of the paper cutter, keeping her eyes fixed on my face as she spoke.

"'I have not been in the drawing-room, ma'am, since I helped to clean it in the morning,' said I, 'but I remember that the silver knife was then all right in its place.'

"Mistress seemed more uneasy than before, and then said, glancing first at Caroline, then at me, that my fellow-servant thought—fancied that she had seen that paper knife in my box when I had chanced to open it in the forenoon, while we were up in the attic together."

"I say!" exclaimed Hamil, indignantly. "Did you tell her that you would as soon have swallowed the knife as have stolen it?"

"Not exactly—though I said something like it—and I demanded that the box should be instantly brought down, and thoroughly searched."

"Right, perfectly right!" cried Hamil Macbean.

"I called Caroline a viper, a sneak, and I don't remember what names besides; I bade her go and fetch down the box; indeed, I scarcely knew what I was saying, I was in such a thundering passion."

Hamil thought, "Wrong, quite wrong," but he made no observation aloud.

"So the box was brought down from the attic, and mistress opened—I cannot say that she searched it. One of the first things on which her eye fell was your gift; you remember my beautiful paper cutter, made in the shape of a dagger?"

"Ah! Caroline must have mistaken it for the silver one!" cried Hamil.

"She owned that she had done so," said Miriam; "they are really a good deal alike."

"Do you suppose," inquired Hamil, gravely, "that this Caroline had actually herself taken the silver knife from the table?"

"No," replied Miriam, quickly; "to do her justice, she is not bad enough for that. We soon found what had become of the knife. Master had taken it to cut the leaves of some book that he was reading while he was out walking. He chanced to return home in the midst of the business, and everything was explained."

"And so the whole matter ended, I hope," said Hamil.

"No, I gave warning to mistress. She wanted me to stay, but I would not. I can never speak to Caroline again, so how could I stop in that house?"

"Why could you never speak a word to Caroline again?" inquired Hamil Macbean. "There is at least one word which you should speak—you should ask her pardon for calling her a viper."

"Ask her pardon!" repeated Miriam, indignantly. "Surely you are not taking her part—the part of one who would have blackened the character of your only sister!"

"Listen to me quietly, dear Miriam, for a minute, and, if you can do so, answer me calmly. Did Caroline, or did she not, believe that she had seen the silver knife in your box?"

"She must have known me well enough to be sure that I would have scorned to touch it!" cried Miriam, evading the question.

"People readily believe what they wish to be true," observed Hamil.

"What do you mean? Why should Caroline wish me to be a thief?" asked Miriam, abruptly, looking with surprise into the face of the soldier.

"By your own account, the knife was lost, had been searched for in vain; suspicion must have lain on Caroline herself; she naturally was only too glad to turn it on another, and you yourself own that the paper cutter was like your own, which she had chanced to see in your box. And you must take another thing into account, dear Miriam. Caroline has not been able to live for months with you, without finding out that your ideas of duty are very much higher than hers. She must begin to suspect that if you are right, she must be wrong, and such suspicion is very unpleasant. The life of every consistent Christian is a rebuke to a godless world. I believe that this is the chief reason why the world is so ready to hate him, so eager to pick holes in his conduct. I daresay that it was a comfort to Caroline to think that you were no better than herself."

"I am glad that she cannot now have that comfort of thinking me dishonest," cried Miriam, who was half-amused, half-vexed, at the view of the subject taken by Hamil.

"But she can, and, I fear, does think you violent and passionate," observed the soldier. "Caroline knows that, though you keep your hands from picking and stealing, you certainly do not keep your tongue from evil-speaking."

Miriam felt hurt at the observation; had any one but, her twin brother made it, she would have been seriously angry.

She was silent for a minute, and then said, "You, who are so calm and good-tempered yourself that nothing ever ruffles you, cannot understand the difficulty of keeping down a quick, hot temper like mine."

"Ah! Miriam, Miriam, are you one to be daunted by difficulties?" cried Hamil. "Remember the words which you spoke a few minutes ago; remember all that you said about the struggle, the weapon, the victory. In the campaign of life, woman as you may be, you are as much a soldier as myself. If one enemy rushes upon me from the right hand, another lies in ambush for you on the left. Your besetting sin may be—and certainly is—very different from mine; but we have both the same need to stand on our guard, the same need to watch and to pray."

Miriam thought to herself that giving way to temper was a little sin compared to giving way to intemperance. Hamil seemed to read what was passing through her mind.

"You are not tempted to intoxication from drink," he observed, "but you are tempted to intoxication from anger. And while intoxicated from one cause or the other, we are both led to do and to say things which we may afterwards bitterly repent. Sister, the same Word of God which bids us 'be sober,' and 'provide things honest in the sight of all men,' bids us also learn of Him who was meek and lowly, and tells us that 'he that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city.'" *

* Prov. xvi. 32.

"Certainly my temper did get the better of me to-day," said Miriam, frankly, for she was of a candid and open disposition, and could not deny that she had been violent towards Caroline, and insolent in her manner towards Mrs. Mellor.

"Ay, let me repeat your own words in reference to myself," cried Hamil; "the enemy took you at disadvantage, he struck you down for a moment, but you won't give in, you're up and at him again."

"I don't see what you would have me do," said Miriam, looking distressed.

"Return home, tell your mistress frankly that you know that you were too hasty, that if she will overlook what has passed, you will be glad to remain in your place."

"I should not like to do that, and yet—if it were not for Caroline," began Miriam, in a hesitating tone.

"Caroline is to be settled with too," said Hamil. "Go to her, tell her that you are sorry that you gave way to anger (though you had enough to provoke you to it, I own), offer to let bygones be bygones, and—"

"Never! I could not do that! I could never humble myself so!" exclaimed Miriam.

"There is pride up in arms!" said Hamil. "Satan has not, perhaps, in all his army, a more dangerous spirit than he. Stand on your guard—he's upon you!"

"After all that has passed between us, I could not speak to Caroline!" cried Miriam.

"Not if it were your clear duty to do so, not in obedience to your Captain's command?"

"There are some things too hard for flesh and blood!" exclaimed Miriam.

Hamil said nothing in answer to this; he continued his walk in silence, but bent his steps towards Albany Street, which he soon re-entered, Miriam still by his side. He went on without speaking a word, till he reached the public-house from which he had been a short time before so hastily summoned by his sister. Hamil stood still before it, and abruptly bade Miriam good-bye.

"Where are you going?" she inquired.

"Where I don't want you to follow me again," he said gloomily, almost sternly. "I have a feverish thirst on me, Miriam; I know that I ought to abstain; but there are some things too hard for flesh and blood, as you told me a minute ago."

All that Hamil's words meant flashed upon Miriam Macbean; his danger was, in some respects like, while yet so unlike, her own. Each had a duty to perform, each had a sacrifice to make; Miriam had urged her brother to the conflict, and now, like a coward, was flinching from it herself.

"Oh! Hamil!" exclaimed the poor girl, in a faltering tone of entreaty, "Go back to your quarters at once, and I will go back to my home. You do your duty, and may God help me to do mine, pride shall not win the victory over your sister."

A smile and a warm grasp of the hand were all that passed then between the twins. Miriam turned and sped on her way; but ere she reached the end of the street, she stopped and looked back with a throbbing heart. She saw her brother's tall form as he strode onwards, far beyond that perilous place which he was never to enter again; and the girl's spirit rose in thanksgiving and prayer—prayer for herself, thanksgiving for him.



MIRIAM'S ring at the door of Mrs. Mellor's dwelling was answered by Caroline. The girl looked pale, and her eyes were swollen as if with crying.

"Caroline," said Miriam at once, for every moment of delay made the effort of speaking more painful, "I am sorry for what passed this afternoon between us."

"I'm sure that you are not more sorry than I am!" cried Caroline. "I wish that silver knife had been at the bottom of the sea—I heartily do—mistress is so displeased with me, and I never thought that I was doing such mischief by speaking a word."

"Let us both forgive and forget," said Miriam, and she held out her hand.

Poor Caroline shook it readily and heartily, she was surprised and relieved at the thundercloud having so rapidly passed away. Caroline was not of a proud or passionate temper herself and had cowered beneath the tempest of anger which she had thoughtlessly raised.

Nothing had ever convinced Caroline so much of the power of religion as Miriam's saying, as she did now, "I am sorry that I used such language towards you."

Caroline knew Miriam's character well enough to feel assured that no earthly motive would have brought her to humble herself thus to one who had deeply offended her.

Miriam passed up the staircase quickly, her mind relieved of a heavy burden. She had found the performance of duty less painful than she had expected, and it was such a comfort to be again at peace with herself and with all the world. The beautiful words of St. Paul recurred to her mind with more force than they ever had done before: "let all bitterness and wrath, and anger and clamour, and evil-speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven you." *

* Eph. iv. 31, 32.

On the landing-place, Miriam happened to meet her mistress. There was still a grave expression of displeasure upon Mrs. Mellor's face, as she thus addressed her young servant.

"Have you seen your brother, Miriam?"

On Miriam's replying that she had just done so, the lady continued, in the same cold manner, "And what does he think of the hasty step which you have taken in giving me warning?"

"He thinks it a foolish one, ma'am," replied Miriam, colouring up to her eyes, and pressing the bannister tightly with her hand, for it was hard to a proud spirit to make the humbling confession.

"Then perhaps you would wish to remain in my service still," said the lady, "and I should be very willing to keep you, and overlook the burst of temper into which you were betrayed in my presence, had I reason to hope that such bursts would not again recur. But I cannot," continued Mrs. Mellor, "have perpetual quarrelling in my kitchen; I cannot keep two servants who will not live in harmony together, I must—and will have my house an abode of peace, as every Christian home should be."

"Oh! Ma'am, if you would but try me," cried Miriam. "Caroline and I have made up our quarrel, and I hope that it will be our last."

The face of Mrs. Mellor brightened. "If such be the case," said the lady, "I will gladly try you again."

And never had Mrs. Mellor cause to regret having done so. It was not that Miriam was never again tempted to give way to a temper naturally violent; it was not that the hasty word would not rise to her tongue, nor the angry blood to her cheek; evil habits and evil tempers are not to be conquered without a struggle, sometimes long as well as severe.

But both Miriam and Hamil had learned to keep watch against besetting sins, and knew where to look for help in their time of need; they both pressed onwards where duty called them, as faithful soldiers of the cross; and they hoped one day to join in the song of triumph which the redeemed will raise: "thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." *

* 1 Cor. xv. 57.





The Young Stepmother.

"THIS is most vexatious, most perplexing; I am sure that I scarcely know which way to turn," exclaimed Mrs. Fairley, as she entered the room in which her firstborn babe lay asleep in his cradle, trimmed with muslin, blue ribbon, and lace.

The lady was very young, and looked even younger than she was. She had but lately left the school-room when she had married Mr. Fairley, a widower, and so had become stepmother to his two children, who were six and seven years of age. Little suited was a lively girl, who had never so much as paid a bill for herself, to undertake at once the care of a house and family.

"Then I suppose that Dr. Blane thinks, ma'am, that Master Tom's rash is something infectious; I felt sure that it was," said the nurse.

"He says that it is scarlatina in a very mild form, and that Jessy's sore throat has been the same, though we never guessed what was the matter with her," replied Mrs. Fairley. "My terror now is for the babe—my little, fragile darling!" continued the young mother, gazing with anxious love on the sleeping infant. "His brother and sister have the malady slightly, but for a babe not five weeks old to take such a complaint might be—I dare not think what it might be." And the eyes of the lady filled with tears, for her baby was the very delight of her heart.

"I suppose, ma'am, that you'll join master in London at once," suggested the nurse; "it would be a sad risk for baby to remain in this house while the scarlet fever is in it."

"I feel as if we must go—and yet," said the poor young mistress, pressing her brow with her hand, "I cannot bear to leave the other dear children—above all, when they are not in health."

"Oh, ma'am, Miss Jessy is all right again; and as for Master Tom, he will need nothing but a little care," observed Leah, the nurse.

"If I were but sure that he would have it, I should leave with an easier mind," said the lady; "but I must take you to look after baby, and I leave the two children with a girl whom I never saw till a few days ago—a girl who has never been in service before. It seems so strange—so unkind."

"Susan looks as steady a girl as ever I saw in my life, ma'am; she comes out of a good nest too; her mother was highly respected, and kept a school. Depend upon it, Susan will take good care of Master Tom and his sister," observed Leah.

"I wish that I knew what to do," said the young mother, with an anxious sigh, as she seated herself by the cradle. Before her marriage, Lucy had never had to decide on any matter more important than the colour of a dress, or the choice of an amusement. Now she found herself in a position of serious responsibility as mistress and mother, with no experience, no strength of will, no knowledge of character, to help her. Mrs. Fairley wished to do her duty towards her husband's children; kind and gentle she always had been to them both, but she dreaded scarlet fever much for herself, and a great deal more for her baby, and dared not remain at the risk of catching the disease from Jessy or her brother.

"If I might be bold to speak, ma'am," said the nurse, "I'd say we'd better be off by the afternoon's train, and none of us go nigh the children. It's lucky they are on the upper floor, and that they have not been with baby since Miss Jessy complained of her throat. But scarlet fever is the most catching thing in the world, ma'am, 'specially after the rash has come out. Susan will look after the others, but we must think of the baby. He's sickly, he is, poor darling; a very little illness would make him go off like the snuff of a candle."

Mrs. Fairley shuddered at the thought of danger to her child. She hastily rose from her seat.

"You are right, quite right, nurse," she said; "we must leave this house at once; you had better see to the packing directly. I will speak to Susan myself, and give her the strictest orders, and tell her—And, oh! I must write at once to put off the children's party that we were to have had on Friday to keep Tommy's birthday. I must send notes to the Hardys, the Lauries, the Wares. It will be a sad disappointment to poor Tommy and Jessy not to have their young friends, but I'll give them each a new five-shilling piece to make up for their disappointment."

And so the young stepmother hurried away to write her notes, give her orders, arrange what dresses she should take to London, send for a conveyance, do the twenty little things which were needful to be done before suddenly quitting her country home, things which might each be trifles in themselves, but which required thought, and care, and time, so became serious matters to Mr. Fairley's young wife.

"I am so vexed to leave Tommy and Jessy under the care of a new nursery-maid, a mere girl!" repeated Mrs. Fairley, as she locked her desk, after hurriedly writing off her notes. "What will the world say? What will my husband say? It seems like deserting the children. But neither of them can be called really ill, and they will have every comfort which they can require; Dr. Blane is skilful and kind, and certainly. If one can judge by face and manner, Susan is to be trusted, yes, I hope, I think that she is to be trusted!"

And repeating this again and again to herself, to quiet her own anxiety, young Mrs. Fairley went on with her preparations for her sudden journey to London.


Off to the Station.

"YES, she is going away, I told you that she was! There's Giles carrying out the big black box, with the cords tied about it, to put it up by the coachman!" exclaimed Tom Fairley in a tone of fierce passion, as he stood on a chair by the window, grasping the bars with his hands, and looking down on the carriage which was waiting at the door to take his stepmother to the station.

Master Tom had been ordered to keep his bed during that day, but Tom cared little for orders. He was a spoilt, passionate boy, whom his gentle new mamma had never been able to manage. He loved Mrs. Fairley a little perhaps, but he had never learned to obey her.

"Perhaps mamma is only going for a drive," said Jessy, a pale little girl with large dark eyes, who was seated on a foot-stool nursing the doll that had been her stepmother's gift.

"Going to take a drive with a big corded box, you stupid!" exclaimed Tom. "I tell you she is going to London. Giles is bringing more packages out—one—two—three—and there's a hamper besides! There's nursie coming out with baby wrapped up in the large India shawl. She has got into the carriage, and here comes mamma in her pink bonnet. She is going to London without us—when she promised long ago to take us there with her!"

"Mamma won't go without bidding us good-bye!" exclaimed Jessy, starting up from her seat and running to the window with her doll in her arms. She clambered up on the chair beside her brother, and flattening her nose against the pane, glanced down as eagerly as Tom at the departure.

"She will go without bidding us good-bye, she's in the carriage, she'll soon be off!" And Tom stamped so violently with his shoeless foot on the chair, that he almost pushed off his sister.

The boy was only half-dressed, for he had lately escaped from his bed; he had neither jacket on his back, nor shoes on his feet; his hair was a wild mop round a face which looked as red as scarlet, but quite as much from passion as from fever.

"She's cruel, she's very, very unkind!" cried Jessy. "Betsy told us quite true, she doesn't care for us, not one pin, 'cause she is not our own mamma!"

The last nursery-maid had done great wrong both to her mistress and the children by trying to make the latter think that their stepmother did not love them as if they were her own. More from folly than from a wish to do mischief, Betsy had been sowing evil in the minds of those committed to her care.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." * But oh! How unblessed must they be who help to destroy peace in families, whose tongues, like Satan's own darts, kindle malice, distrust, and jealousy in the hearts of those around them! Well had it been for the little Fairleys that Betsy had been dismissed from her place.

* Matthew v. 9.

"Mamma is looking up at the window, she is kissing her hand!" cried Tom. "But I won't kiss my hand to her," he sulkily added. "Why does she go and leave us! There—she's driving away—away to the station!"

The boy jumped down from the chair, and flung himself on his chest on the carpet, kicking with passion. He could not bear to watch the carriage disappearing behind the trees.

"I'll never, never again believe that mamma loves me!" exclaimed Jessy, bursting into tears as she got down more slowly.

"Oh I never say that, Miss Jessy!" cried the mild voice of Susan, who had just entered the room. She was a bright, cheerful-looking girl of sixteen, very neatly dressed, with hair smooth as satin beneath her simple little white cap.

"I'll say what I choose," sobbed Jessy; "it was very unkind to go without us, and never even to come to bid us good-bye."

"Mistress is as much vexed as you are about it," said Susan. "Yes, indeed," she continued, without appearing to notice a volley of angry kicks on the floor, by which Tom expressed his utter disbelief, "mistress dared not come near you after the doctor had told her what was the matter with you both, lest she should carry infection to the baby."

"She cares for no one but the baby!" growled Tom. "It's unfair, it's horridly unfair."

"Now, Master Tom, will you listen to reason?" said Susan, turning towards the boy in a cheerful, good-humoured manner. "Suppose that you had to decide whether your mamma should come and give you a good-bye kiss, at the risk of carrying back illness to your own little brother, would you ask her—would you wish her to come to you at such risk?"

"She did not want to come—she did not choose to come!" muttered Tom, who was not inclined to listen to reason.

"She never thought about us at all," cried Jessy.

"Nay, Miss Jessy, I can answer for it that mistress has been thinking a great deal about both of you," said the young maid. "She has been giving me such particular directions about your comfort, and the tears were in her eyes when she spoke of going to London and leaving you behind."

"Were they?" asked Tom, in a softened tone. He raised himself to a sitting posture on the floor, and looked up at Susan through the rough tumbled hair which was hanging over his eyes.

Some people have an art of putting things in the brightest, fairest light, of smoothing down angry tempers, and raising kindly feelings in the hearts of others. Susan was one who had learned this art in the school of the Gospel. She shewed so clearly that it was no unkindness that had taken the young stepmother away, she made the children realise so vividly what sad consequences would be likely to follow should their baby brother take the infection of scarlet fever, that all the storm of anger was lulled. When Susan gave to Jessy and her brother the two bright crown pieces sent to them by Mrs. Fairley, even the words "How kind!" came from the lips of the girl.

Susan had, however, a great deal of trouble in coaxing Tom to obey the doctor's orders by returning to his crib. She had no authority to punish, and it was very hard to persuade. Susan promised the boy to sit beside him, and read to him, so that the time should not seem dull.

"I'm tired of every one of my books, they're so stupid," cried Tom. "I've read Blue Beard ever so often, and I don't care for any of the rest."

"I've a little book of my own, which will be quite new to you, I daresay," said Susan. "It is in my box; I will go for it directly. And I wonder," she added, playfully, "whether, when I come back, I shall find Master Tommy in bed."

As soon as the door was closed behind Susan, Tom scrambled back into his crib in just as much haste as he had left it, and pulled the bed-clothes almost over his rough little head, "to give Susan a surprise," as he said. Tom was, perhaps, a little tired and weak, for though the attack of scarlatina had been but slight, the fever had not quite left him.

Susan had a soft pleasant voice, and as she read one after another of "Anecdotes of Christian Graces," choosing such as would be most likely to interest her young charges, Jessy drew near and sat close beside her, resting her doll upon Susan's knee, while Tom lay quietly listening till his eyelids grew heavy and drooped, and long breathing soon told that the little boy had fallen asleep.

Susan was very young, and she felt that hers was an anxious and responsible charge, left as the two children were entirely under her care during the absence of their parents. The burden upon the nursery-maid was all the more heavy as the training of the young Fairleys had been in some points neglected, and in others mismanaged; they did not submit, they would not obey, nor had they learned to look up with fear and love to a Father in heaven.

Jessy, indeed, before she went to rest, knelt down before a chest of drawers, put her little hands together, and gabbled over something which was meant for a prayer, her wandering eyes and careless tone showing that she gave not a thought to the solemn act of addressing the High and Holy One whose Name she was taking in vain every time that it passed her lips.

Susan saw all this, and it grieved her, but she felt that she must have patience and ask for grace, that she might be a humble means of leading to God the precious souls of these two children. Very different from Jessy's careless "saying prayers" was the young servant girl's earnest pleading when she knelt down by her sleeping charges that night. She entreated forgiveness for all her past sins, as one who knows how hateful in the sight of God is all sin; she asked for the grace of the Holy Spirit to make her heart pure, and to guide all her thoughts, words, and actions. Susan also prayed, and prayed heartily for her young charges—asking God to enable her to do her duty towards them, both in caring for their health and comfort, and in watching over their souls.

"Bless me, and make me a blessing to others," had been Susan's earnest prayer since she had first learned to feel that she was not her own, but "bought with a price," * that she and all her powers should be devoted to her Lord. It was a great comfort to the young nursery-maid to be able to go straight to God for the guidance and help that she needed, looking unto Him in all her troubles and cares, and doing her work as unto Him.

* 1 Cor. vi. 20.

There was no human being to watch whether Susan faithfully did her duty towards her absent mistress; there was no one to find fault if—as too many girls would have done—she cared first for her own comfort and ease. But Susan had not read in vain the Word of the Lord: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." *

* Eph. vi. 5, 6.

Three times during the night did the anxious young maid rise to see if her charges were resting quietly. She gently replaced the coverlet which Tom had tossed off in his sleep. The night-light placed on the saucer was burning very feebly indeed; it was flickering, dying; in a few moments more it would go out, and leave the nursery in darkness. Susan took another from the box, lit it, and stood for a little space watching the tiny spark.

"I am a poor weak girl," thought Susan. "I can do very little, indeed, to show my love for my Lord, but there was one command which He gave to all His servants, and so to me amongst the rest: 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.' † I cannot serve God as clergymen and missionaries do, learned and holy men who shine as great lights in the world; but may not even I be as this tiny night-light, shut up in a quiet nursery, where no one cares to look at it, yet throwing its feeble light around, useful according to its power, shining as well as it can, though it seems little more than a spark? Even I, in my humble way, may spend and be spent for my Lord, and help to cheer and enlighten others, though they be but two little children."

† Matt. v. 16.

The thought was a sweet one to Susan, and she fell asleep with the prayer on her lips, "Oh, bless me, and make me a blessing!"


A Dinner-Party.

TOM FAIRLEY arose in the morning perfectly free from fever, and the doctor, when he came in the forenoon, said that the boy would soon be as well as ever, and that in one or two days, should the weather continue warm, he and his little sister might take a turn in the garden.

"A turn in the garden indeed," muttered Tom, as soon as the doctor had left the room, "it's not there that I'm going, to trot up and down the stupid gravel walks, or make daisy-chains like a baby. Susan, you shall take us to the toy-shop in the town, and there we will spend all our money, and buy lots of pretty things, and sweeties besides, and make ourselves jolly."

The boy finished his sentence by spinning his crown-piece on the table, amusing himself by watching the round half-transparent silver globe which it seemed to form, till the motion given by his fingers became less rapid, and gradually the globe rattled down into its natural form, and lay as a piece of money on the table.

Susan waited till the noise of the spinning was over, and then quietly observed, "I am afraid, Master Tom, that a long time must pass before it will be right for you and your sister to shop in the town."

"Why, mamma often takes us there," said the boy.

"Remember that for weeks, if not months, there will be a risk of your giving the fever to any one whom you meet. You carry infection with you."

"Oh, hang the infection!" exclaimed Tom, angrily. "I don't mean to be shut up like a wild beast in a cage." And the boy looked so fierce as he said this that he seemed to have enough of the wild beast about him to render the cage a somewhat desirable thing.

"No one will guess that we have had any fever at all," observed Jessy, who, while better tempered than her brother, was less straightforward and open. "See—there are no marks left; and if you are not so cross as to tell, no one will know that anything has been the matter with Tom or with me."

"Oh, Miss Jessy, your own conscience would know it; your own conscience would whisper, 'Is it right, for my own selfish pleasure, to run the risk of carrying sickness, and perhaps even death, into some happy home? If I should hear of some poor child catching the fever and dying, could I ever feel happy again?'"

Jessy stared at Susan in surprise. The idea of being guided by the secret voice of conscience in her heart was new to the child, who had hitherto cared only to follow self-will.

Tom broke out abruptly with the question, "As you make such a mighty fuss about infection, Susan, are you not afraid of catching the fever yourself? I wonder that you don't run away in a fright, like mamma with the baby."

"It was your mamma's duty to go; it is my duty to stay," replied the young nursery-maid, with a smile. "I am not in the least afraid, for I trust in God who careth for me."

"Do you mean that because you trust in God, He will keep you from catching the fever?" asked Jessy.

"I did not mean that," replied Susan. "God sometimes lets His people have troubles, and sickness is often one of them; but He helps and cheers His servants in distress, and brings them out of it at last. God teaches them sweet lessons of patience and hope and faith, so that every tried Christian will be able to say, sooner or later, 'It is good for me that I have been afflicted.' * If we trust in God, King David's beautiful words may be ours, 'I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me;' † for the Lord will either keep trials away, or He will, by His power and love, turn the trials themselves into blessings."

* Psalm cxix. 71.    † Psalm xxiii. 4.

The Fairleys would have cared nothing for teaching on the subject of religion from one whose conduct did not show its power over herself; but Susan lived as she tried to teach the children to live, and therefore her words had some influence. Tom and Jessy could see that she who feared God had no other fear, and that while caring for others, she could, with happy trust, leave the care of herself unto Him. This was the children's first lesson of faith in a watchful Providence.

Susan had a good deal to try her temper during the rest of that day. The Fairleys, like most children when recovering from illness, were very impatient and cross; they would not bear contradiction, they quarrelled, they broke their toys, they tore their books, they grumbled against the doctor who kept them in-doors when they chose to go out. Susan came in for a large share of their rudeness; but she was quiet and patient, never returned a cross word, and did all that she could to give pleasure to those who seemed resolved not to be pleased.

Dinner in some degree restored the Fairleys to good humour. After being kept for some days on low diet, the children were very hungry, and keenly enjoyed their meal.

As Tom was finishing a leg of chicken after having eaten a wing, he abruptly stopped, struck the handle of his knife and fork upon the table, and exclaimed, as a thought suddenly arose in his mind, "I hope all this nonsense about infection has not made mamma put off my birthday party!"

He looked Susan full in the face as he spoke, and her silence was answer sufficient.

Knife and fork were flung to the other end of the table, Tom started to his feet in a violent fury, and Jessy burst into tears.

It was some time before Susan could gain a hearing. The birthday party had been looked forward to with delight; the Fairleys were very little accustomed to disappointment, and knew not how to bear it. Gradually, however, the storm lulled a little, and Susan was able to suggest a few thoughts of comfort. The children should have a birthday feast after all, she would ask Mason the cook for a little flour, eggs, and strawberry jam, she would show Tom and Jessy how to make pastry themselves, and that would be far better fun than having it up from the kitchen, or from a confectioner's shop.

Jessy dried her eyes, listened and smiled; the child was accustomed to the pleasure of eating pastry, but the pleasure of helping to make it was something entirely new. Tom's passion subsided into sulky ill-humour, as he sat balancing his crown-piece on his thumb, then throwing it up and catching it again.

"What's the use of having a feast with no guests to eat it?" muttered the boy. "And what's the use of having money when one is not able to spend it?"

"Well, Master Tom," said Susan, gaily, "if you can't tell what to do with your money, I know a famous way in which you could spend it; and if you want guests, I know how you can get as many as you please to invite."

"You do—do you?" cried the boy, with eager surprise.

"It happens," said Susan, "that my dear mother's birthday falls on the same day as yours, and I have been intending, for some time past, to give a feast to four children in honour of the day."

"You—a nursery-maid!" exclaimed Tom Fairley. "And pray, does mamma know what you are after?"

"Oh! No," replied Susan, smiling, "no one knows but myself; but perhaps, if you are very good, I may let you into my secret?"

"But you've no business to invite any one into our house," cried Tom, in an insolent tone. "It would be a pretty joke indeed if you could have friends here, when we are not allowed to have one."

"My guests will not eat their dinner here," replied Susan. "I shall send it for them in so clever a way that all the four dinners could be easily packed up in my thimble."

"Your thimble! Oh! What do you mean—what can you mean?" cried both the Fairleys in a breath.

And Jessy added, with a merry little laugh, "I don't think that such a feast as yours would feed a hungry mouse."

"Ah! Missie, you are quite mistaken there," cried Susan, amused at the children's looks of surprise. "My guests shall have right good cheer. Would you like to know what fare will be provided?"

"Let's hear all about it," said Tom.

"What would you think of meat, potatoes, rice, and onions made up into a nice Irish stew, and a good slice of bread into the bargain? Each of my guests will have this."

"I say!" exclaimed the astonished Tom, dropping his money in his surprise. "And can that—meat, onions and all—go into your thimble?"

"Not exactly the dinner itself, but the dinner price," replied Susan. "And one good thing about my feast is this—I am quite sure that my little guests will be pleased, not one will go grumbling away. They will most likely not have tasted meat for a whole week before, and will enjoy their hot Irish stew as much, perhaps more, than you, Master Tom, did your chicken."

"I don't like riddles," cried the boy, impatiently. "Who are these hungry guests of yours? And how can you have them to dinner? Just tell us straight out what you mean."

Susan was pleased at the opportunity of explaining to her young listeners the simple but beautiful arrangements of the DESTITUTE CHILDREN'S DINNER SOCIETY, * by which a half-starved boy or girl from the miserable dens of London is provided with an excellent meal for threepence, bringing a single penny in addition. She spoke of the poor little ragged wanderers who have never in their lives known what it is to have a comfortable home, nor perhaps—till this charity was begun—a really satisfying meal.

* See "Ragged School Magazine" for February 1868.

Susan had been in London with an uncle who kept a cook-shop. She told how it made her heart ache to see pale, thin, barefooted children hovering round the place to smell the savoury scent which to them must have been so tantalising, and to gaze through the windows at the tempting food which they might not taste. Susan did not say how often she had stinted herself in her meals that she might give to those who needed.

"I was thankful," said Susan, "to find that God had put it into the hearts of the wise and good to feed these poor hungry lambs, and in a way so simple and easy that even a servant girl can help a little in the work."

"How will you do it, how will you send your dinners," asked Jessy, "when you live so far-away from London?"

"Twelve postage stamps can be bought for one shilling; I will put twelve stamps into a letter, and direct it to Mr. Gent, 1 Exeter Hall, Strand, London. I will merely write inside, 'For children's dinners, from a cheerful giver.' And then, when my letter is dropped into the post-box, I know that it is all the same as if I had sent off four invitations to dinner. I am sure that four pairs of eyes will look brighter, and four young hearts will be merrier, and I shall enjoy my own meals a great deal more when I think of my poor little guests."

"Why, I could have a dinner-party of twenty for my five shillings!" exclaimed Tom, who had picked up his silver crown-piece. "Mamma never asks more than a dozen at a time, and I am sure that the feasting them costs her a lot of money, for I've heard her talking to papa about the dreadful long bills."

"I think that I'll get you to change my big piece of money into five shillings, Susan," said Jessy, "and take one of them for stamps, and send my stamps with yours, and then there will be eight hungry children feasted, and two 'cheerful givers,' you know."

The eyes of Susan glistened. It was not so much that she was glad that the hungry should be fed, but that she rejoiced at having been the means of giving to her young charge this first lesson in Christian love. It was for this, and for this alone, that Susan had mentioned to any one her own intended deed of kindness. She felt that she could in no way teach so well as by her own example; the children might be quick to imitate, though they would be slow to obey.

"You'll not have any of my money for your dirty, ragged beggar-boys," said Tom, laughing, as he chucked up his crown-piece again. "I'll not spend it on mutton, potatoes, and onions, or pack up twenty hot dinners in a letter. I know what I'll do, since this stupid infection won't let me go to the town. I'll ask Giles to go shopping for me; he shall buy me a top, a whip, some string, and all sorts of things that I fancy."

Jessy came up smiling to the nursery-maid, and slipped her crown-piece into Susan's hand. "I can't cut this into five bits, you know, but you will get Giles to change it, and buy the twelve stamps for the dinners."

Susan took the money with a thoughtful air.

"Are you not pleased?" asked Jessy.

"I was just thinking," observed Susan, "that it would never do to pack up infection in the paper."

"Could you do that?" cried Tom in surprise. "I never heard of anything like this horrid infection!"

"I know of one thing that is like it," said Susan, gravely, "the infection of a sinful example. Evil spreads from one soul to another, as fever from person to person. Oh! How grievous it would be by one's works or one's words to give something far worse than any sickness to those whom we love."

"I suppose," observed Tom, "that bad men are shut up in prison that they mayn't infect other people with their wicked example."

"There are many who do harm in that way, whom no one would think of shutting up," replied Susan. "The selfish, the idle, the worldly, the proud, may be spreading the infection of their faults around them, and yet their company may be thought very good, and not dangerous in the least. No one would willingly take a fever, but how many willingly take bad advice, and follow an evil example."

"But what is to be done about the dinners?" interrupted Jessy. "It would never do to pack up scarlet fever with potatoes and mutton."

Susan considered for a moment or two. "Giles seems very good-natured," she observed. "Perhaps he would kindly take the trouble of not only buying the stamps, but putting them up in the letter!"

"That will do famously," cried Jessy.

Susan then removed the cloth from the table, and carried away the plates and dishes. The heart of the young maid warmed towards her little charge.

"I doubt that my dear young lady ever before thought of helping the needy," reflected Susan, "and now she does so simply from kindness of heart; she knows nothing yet of mercy to the poor, shown as a proof of grateful love to the Lord. But it is well to make a beginning," said Susan to herself, as she carried the tray downstairs. "The time may come when Jessy will delight in doing good, with the means and power to do much, such as I never will have.

"Ah! The tiniest spark that glimmers in a night-light may kindle a very large fire, or a beacon that will be seen for many miles round! Who knows but that, by God's blessing, a poor nursery-maid's simple teaching may be the means of drawing children's hearts to the Lord; and that these children, in future days, may be burning and shining lights, so as both by their words and works to glorify their Father in Heaven!"


Battle in the Nursery.

SUSAN felt shy of speaking to Giles about writing a letter for her, and sending the stamps. She would far rather not have told her little secret to the man-servant, who, she feared, would laugh at her plan. But Giles, on the contrary, was pleased as well as amused at the idea of sending dinners to Exeter Hall.

"I don't mind putting up a third dozen stamps of my own," said the butler, as he pulled out his brown leather purse to give change for Jessy's crown-piece. "I like this notion of giving dinners, and I've often an odd shilling to spare that I never should miss. I was one of twelve children myself, and know what a struggle it costs even a man in good work to fill so many hungry mouths; I can't think how the orphans get fed at all. I'm going to the town to-morrow, so I'll get an envelope ready in the morning, and I'll mention the matter to cook—dinners are just in her line; I should not wonder if she, too, pulled out her shilling."

There are thousands of households in our land where kind hearts and generous hands would be ready to aid in such works of love, if so simple a way of doing good were suggested. In the servants' hall as well as in the drawing-room "cheerful givers" would be found. Well would it be, if in every rich man's kitchen, where the fire roars up the chimney, and the joint turns round on the spit, and the place is filled with the scent of steaming soups and savoury dishes, a little collecting-box were kept for "Destitute Children's Dinner Society," into which those who never themselves know want might sometimes drop in a penny unseen, to help friendless little ones, faint and pining with hunger.

Susan was delighted at her unexpected success. "How good does come out of evil!" thought she. "But for this fear of conveying infection by writing the letter myself while nursing my little patients, I should never have dreamed of mentioning the matter to Giles. I should quietly have dropped my letter into the post-box, and my fellow-servants would have known nothing about it. My poor little shilling is likely to grow into four, and this is not the best part of the business: three persons may begin from to-day to take a pleasure in feeding the poor, and who can tell how many meals to the hungry, and what rich blessings to those who care for them, may spring from so tiny a seed as my mentioning that good society to little Miss Jessy to-day?"

Susan was returning upstairs with a very light heart, when the sounds which reached her ear from the nursery made her quicken her steps to a run. There were screams either of passion or of pain, and when Susan opened the door she saw Tom, scarlet with rage, holding Jessy's doll by the feet, and banging its head against the fender, while the little girl was vainly struggling to rescue her toy from his hands.

In another minute, Mrs. Fairley's pretty gift would have been battered to pieces, had not Susan darted forwards, wrenched it away from the hold of the boy, and put the doll on the top of the cupboard, beyond the reach of the furious child.

Tom's passion was instantly turned upon her who had dared thus to interfere between him and his sister. He flew like a wild cat on Susan, struck her with violence, and then actually bit her on the arm, then flung himself on the carpet, kicking and roaring with passionate fury.

Thus cruelly attacked by a cowardly bully, Susan felt at first anger as well as pain. Had her master been in the house, she would have complained to him, and Master Tom might for once have met with the punishment which he so richly deserved.

But poor Susan had no one to appeal to, and she had been given no authority to inflict chastisement herself. She must bear and forbear, and by patience endeavour to overcome evil by good.

"Oh! The bad, bad boy—how he has hurt you!" cried Jessy, indignantly, as Susan drew up her sleeve, and showed the marks left by his cruel teeth on her arm. "I wish I could beat him—I do!"

"When Master Tommy thinks quietly over his conduct, I am sure that he will be sorry that he has hurt his poor nurse," observed Susan, in a tone of gentle reproof.

This was all which she trusted herself to say on the subject.

She occupied herself in quieting and comforting Jessy. The hair of the doll, rudely torn from its head, was picked up by Susan, smoothed, and replaced; a few stitches repaired the doll's dress, which had been rent in the struggle. Jessy was soon made happy again, and then listened with interest to the account given by Susan of her conversation with John. The young nursery-maid forgot her pain when seeing the pleasure caused by the news that sixteen guests instead of eight were likely to be invited to share the hot Irish stew.

Susan, for the rest of the day, took no outward notice of Tom, except by attending to all his wants. It would not be wise or right to treat him as if nothing had happened, until he should ask forgiveness; this would be to make him think lightly of his sin.

Susan's silence towards him was more distressing to the boy than would have been the passionate chiding or even slap which he would have had from Betsy, had he treated her half as ill as he had treated Susan. Tom tried indeed to show that he did not care for being in disgrace, and for the first half-hour made as much noise as he could, spinning his crown-piece, drumming with his feet, and singing snatches of rude songs to make-believe that he was happy. But Tom could not keep up this show for long; Susan's patience tired out his passion. The boy became silent, sulky, and sad; Susan could not help thinking that Tom was ashamed of himself, though too proud to own that he was so.

In the meantime, the young maid made Jessy as happy as possible, playing with or reading to her in a soft low tone, to which Tom could listen if he would, as he sat with his back turned towards her, pulling an old basket to pieces, and scattering the bits on the floor.

When the children's bedtime drew near, Susan, remembering the careless way in which Jessy had said the Lord's Prayer, thought that she could not better employ a few minutes than in giving her charge a short and simple explanation of the holy words, which had so often passed her lips without her mind having an idea of their meaning. Susan took Jessy upon her knee, and explained as well as she could how great and holy is the Being who permits us to call Him "Father," and how the bright, happy angels do His will in the glorious Heaven above. It was sweet to Susan thus to feed her Lord's little lamb.

When Susan came to the fourth petition in the Lord's Prayer, Jessy looked pleasantly into her face and observed, "God always gives me daily bread, and meat, and nice things besides; won't God be pleased that I am going to give some to the poor little hungry children?"

Susan kissed the child, and replied, "The Lord is always pleased when we try to do His will, by being kind to His poor."

When the fifth petition in the prayer was explained, again Jessy looked full into the eyes of her nurse. "Can you forgive Tom out and out?" asked the child.

"I can—I do," replied Susan.

"I can't, and I don't," cried Jessy.

"Oh, dear Missie, we must pray for the spirit of forgiveness, for without it we dare not hope to be forgiven by God. The Lord has taught us mercy and love to those who have wronged us; not only by His words, but by His blessed example."

And then to her quiet, attentive hearer Susan told that touching story of prayer even for murderers, which, while it is a lofty theme for angels, falls sweetly on the ear of a child.

Susan did not speak long, for she feared to weary Jessy. The servant did not know what force her own gentleness and kindness gave to her words. Jessy felt that Susan, who thought and talked about holy things, was a very different person in her conduct and ways from what Betsy had been—she who never cared for religion. Even a child could draw the conclusion that what made Susan good must be good—that what made Susan happy would be likely to make herself happy; and a wish arose in Jessy's heart that she might grow more like Susan. The tiny night-light was already casting its radiance around.

After Jessy had laid her little head on her pillow, Susan put Master Tommy to bed. The little boy still seemed sulky, neither attempted to say his prayers, nor bade good-night to his nurse. He carried his money with him to his bed, and thrust it under his pillow.

"Master Tom," said Susan, gently, as she bent over the child, "I could not bear to go to sleep till I had asked forgiveness of God, and of any one whom I might have treated unkindly."

Tom made no reply, but pulled his coverlet over his head, and turned his face to the wall.

The boy was struggling against the better feelings which were rising up in his heart. The teaching and example of Susan had made quite as deep an impression upon Tow as upon his sister, but pride and temper were strong within him. Tom fell asleep muttering to himself that he was not sorry, he did not care! As for begging pardon—that was a thing which he had never done in his life, except when he had been in immediate fear of a flogging from his father.


Silver Turned into Gold.

TOM's sleep was, however, troubled, and did not last very long. He awoke feeling restless and thirsty. He wished to call for some milk and water, but the room was so still that he fancied that Susan must be asleep, and if she were at all like Betsy, there would be no use in trying to awaken her. The candle had been put out, only the tiny night-light was gleaming, casting long black shadows from curtains and bed-posts upon the nursery wall. Nothing was heard but the ticking of the clock, and to the nervous ear of the boy it seemed to tick strangely loud.

Conscience was awake in Tom's heart, and in the stillness of night, its voice was louder than usual. The child softly drew back the curtain of his crib, and looked towards the corner where he supposed that the young nurse was lying asleep.

He saw Susan kneeling before a chair, her head bowed down on her clasped hands; in the quiet hour, when she believed that her charges were slumbering, she was pouring out her heart to her God.

The boy watched, but did not dare to disturb her. Even he, young as he was, could feel that real prayer made that room a more holy place. Susan was speaking to One who could hear, to One who was near; the answer to the young servant's prayers was already seen in her life.

When Susan arose from her knees, Tom softly called her by her name. In a moment, the nursery-maid was by the side of her charge.

"Did you want anything that I can give you?" she gently inquired.

"Were you praying for me?" asked Tom, in a low and earnest tone.

"Yes; I should not be easy about the children under my care, unless I often prayed for them," the nursery-maid replied. "I am afraid that you went to sleep without asking a blessing for yourself, and so there was all the more need that I should ask it for you."

To Susan's great surprise, the child's arms were suddenly thrown round her neck, and in the voice of one struggling against a sob, he exclaimed, "Oh! Susan, I'm sorry—so sorry that I hurt you so much!" His rough little head was on her shoulder, and her dress was wet with his tears.

Gently and tenderly Susan forgave, and tried to soothe the boy. She did not, however, as in mistaken kindness some might have done, tell him that his fault was nothing, that he need not trouble himself about it. But she assured him how freely and gladly she forgave it, and told him to seek forgiveness from God, and ask from Him that grace by which alone he could conquer his temper in future.

Susan then brought milk and water to relieve the feverish thirst of her charge, beat up his pillow, and made him as comfortable as it was in her power to make him.

Tom was in a nervous excited state, and wished Susan to stay by his bedside.

"I feel so hot and restless," he despairingly said, "I never shall get to sleep."

"Shall we pray the Lord to give you sweet sleep?" asked Susan.

Tom looked at her in surprise. "Can we pray about things like that?" he inquired.

"Oh! Yes, we can bring all our little troubles and trials to our Lord," replied the young maid. "It is He who giveth rest both to the soul and the poor weary body."

Perhaps the first time that Tom Fairley had ever asked anything from God with a desire and hope of having what he asked for, was when he prayed on that night for sleep. When he had done so, he thrust his little hand under his pillow, pulled forth his silver crown-piece, and tried to force it into the hand of his nurse.

"This is for you—you shall have it for your own, it's to make up—" cried the boy.

"No, Master Tommy, no indeed—I thank you all the same," said Susan, drawing back her hand with decision.

"Take it for the hungry children, then," persisted Tom.

"Not now, dear, certainly not now; you are tired and sleepy, you have had no time to think over the matter," said Susan, who would have deemed it wrong to take advantage of the excited state of the child, even to help a charitable cause. "Turn round and go to sleep now, dear boy; perhaps you may think in the morning of some quite different way in which you would like to spend your money."

Tom was too sleepy to reply; his mind was growing calm and his eyelids heavy. The touch of Susan's soft hand was lulling him to rest, with the sound of her soothing voice as she repeated a simple but beautiful verse—

"This night I lay me down to sleep,
 I give my soul to Christ to keep;
 Wake I soon, or wake I never,
 I give my soul to Christ for ever."

The young nurse did not quit Tom's side till he had sunk into deep, sweet slumber.

Susan had expected that Tom would change his mind in the morning regarding the way of spending his crown; but she had done the boy injustice. The heart of Tom Fairley was like rich and generous soil which had been covered with a thick growth of weeds: there was much that was noble in him, but it had never till then been drawn forth.

Tom was heartily sorry for having struck and bitten the gentle girl who had so carefully and tenderly watched over his comfort. He was resolved to make what amends he could, and as Susan would accept none of his money for herself, he insisted that every penny of it should go in the way which he knew would please her most. Tom refused to taste his breakfast till Susan should have carried his crown-piece to Giles to increase the number of invitations to be sent to destitute children.

"Well, to be sure, I never knew money grow like your shilling!" exclaimed Giles, when Susan, with pleasure beaming in her eyes, brought him the crown-piece to add to the little collection.

"Master Tommy gives it, and with all his heart. May he never know, dear child, what it is to want a meal!" cried Susan.

Giles smiled good-humouredly as he turned the crown-piece round and round. "Four shillings and five make nine," he muttered, "that's an odd number, and would buy an awkward lot of stamps to send in a letter. I'll do the handsome thing myself—and follow this new fashion set in the nursery; 'tis but one shilling more to give—I'll turn all the silver into one little bit of gold, and send it safely in a registered letter to Exeter Hall. We'll have a grand dinner-party amongst us, and invite forty young folk at once."

It was keen delight to Susan to feel that her little offering of one piece of silver had been—as it were—changed into gold; that where she had meant to give food to four, she had been the means of spreading the table for forty!

But far more important than the extension of this little work of charity in the dwelling of Mrs. Fairley, was the good which Susan's influence was silently working around her in the hearts of those who could watch the "tiny night-light" of her example. The little Fairleys were learning lessons of piety and love which were likely to make them, when they should grow up, holy and happy Christians, influencing in their turn, perhaps, hundreds of their fellow creatures.

Let no servant of God, in however lowly a state, think that "one talent" may safely be buried, or the feeblest light safely be hidden. Especially let those who live amongst children remember how great the power of their own influence may be for evil or good. Those who have showered blessings on thousands may have received in the nursery their first impressions of religion. A servant girl of whom the world never has heard, may be found on that day when all secrets are known, to have helped to form the character of a Wilberforce or a Howard.

To some Christians whose lives have been very obscure, may yet be fulfilled that glorious promise, "they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." *

* Daniel xii. 3.





Back Again.

"THAT's he—that's he—hurrah! Look, wife, look! He's a-sitting on the box of the coach that we may see him the better! Hurrah!" And with a cheer which came from the heart, Michael Garth lifted the straw hat from his wrinkled brow and grey hair, as a carriage drove rapidly along the country road, by the side of which stood his neat little cottage.

"Bless him! Bless him!" faltered old Martha, grasping eagerly her husband's arm with her trembling fingers, and straining her dim eyes to see the vicar's sailor son returning after ten years' absence from England.

"He sees us—he minds us!" said Michael.

"He's a-lifting up his cap—cheer, Mat, cheer—are ye dumb, lad!" cried Martha to her grandson, a red-haired lad of sixteen, who had come running from the plough to see the officer drive past.

Mat cheered, and his grandfather cheered; hearty and strong sounded the old man's voice—if an old man he could be called who had none of the weakness or infirmity of age.

And Lieutenant Harry Maude nodded and smiled, and shouted out as he passed a kindly greeting to the good old couple whom he had known from his childhood.

"He's not changed—not a bit changed!" cried Michael, as the carriage rolled away down the dusty hill. "A trifle older, may be, and a trifle browner, and he hadn't them fine whiskers afore; but there's just the same smile, the same merry look, as when I lifted him, over the five-bar-gate when he was a little chap no higher than my knee."

"How happy the vicar and all the ladies will be," said Martha, wiping her eyes with her apron, for the pleasure of seeing the young master come back had made them fill with joyful tears.

"Ay, to have him at home again, and after such dangers," cried Michael.

"Warn't there a shipwreck?" asked Mat.

"A shipwreck—a dreadful one," answered the old labourer. "Didn't ye see the account of it in the 'Times' the vicar lent me, and which went the round of the village till the paper a'most dropped to pieces, 'cause every one wanted a reading. I forgot—my memory's not what it was—ye were on the job at the farm down in Surrey. Master Harry there, he did wonders, brought off a lot of poor souls, I can't mind me how many, but I knows as he got thanks and praises without end. And the Queen—bless her!—sent him some medal—I take it she was proud of him, she was!"

"We are all proud of Master Harry!" cried Martha. "If I was the Queen, I'd make him a duke. I hopes now he's got such a deal of honour he'll not be above thinking of poor folk like me."

"He'll not forget us, not he!" said old Michael, rubbing his chin. "Master Harry won't never forget us. We'll have him at the cottage to-morrow, I'll be bound."

"Nay, nay, old man, we mustn't look for that," said Martha. "Mind ye what a many years he's been from his family, and what lots they'll have to say to each other, and what a many friends will be coming to see the lieutenant. We mustn't expect him to-morrow, nor the day after, for that's when the Squire's daughter is to be married, and Master Harry will be at the wedding, on course."

"He'll be bridesman, I s'pose," observed Michael.

"And more looked at and thought of a deal than the bridegroom himself, save by Miss Lily the bride," said old Martha, as she turned and re-entered her cottage.

Though the good woman had expressed her belief that a visit from Lieutenant Maude was not to be expected for two days longer at least, there can be no doubt that she kept her cottage in as high a state of preparation as if he might at any moment appear. There was not a spot on her pots and pans; not a speck of dust rested on the rows of plates (willow-pattern), that adorned the shelf on the wall, nor on her clean washed floor. Fresh snowdrops were put into the broken-handled crockery-teapot, which served as a jar for flowers. The glass of the case which held the stuffed owl which Harry in his boyhood had so often admired, was rubbed as bright as a mirror.

Martha took into daily wear that green shawl which the young sailor had presented her with before going abroad, and which she had reserved for high days and holidays, as she had deemed it "much too good for a poor old body."

Even the approaching wedding of Miss Lily was a small event in the eyes of the old labourer and his wife, compared to the return to the vicarage of "brave Master Harry" from sea.


Neglected Duty.

IF there was pleasure in the cottage at the officer's return, what was the joy within the home of his parents! Perhaps there was not a more cheerful group in all England than that which gathered round the pastor's fireside on that cold evening in March. There were eager questionings, pleasant replies; every eye was turned towards Harry as he sat with his feet resting on the fender, and his mother's hand clasped in his own. Harry had much to relate which every one wanted to hear, and half the tale seemed untold when, at a later hour than usual, the family retired to rest, after the evening prayer had been prayed, and the evening hymn sung by voices which trembled with thankful joy.

Before breakfast on the following morning, as the vicar was taking his usual early walk round his lawn, he heard a quick step behind him, and then Harry's hand was laid on his arm.

"Ah! My boy, glad to see you! I could hardly have a word with you yesterday, your mother and the girls seemed resolved to have you all to themselves," said the vicar, as he wrung the hand of his son.

"It is so delightful to be at home once more!" observed Harry, while he sauntered along the gravel path at his father's side. "Everything looks just as when I left it, I could fancy myself, as in old times, just returning from school. It was a pleasure to me yesterday to see the familiar faces of good old Garth and his wife, who were standing in front of their cottage. I suppose that the hulking lad at their side was 'little Mat,' whom I remember at the Sunday class, when I made my first essay at teaching. Precious hard work it was to ram anything into his brain!"

"Mat is a good lad, though not a bright one," observed the vicar. "As for the Garths, there is not a more honest fellow in the village than Michael, and Martha is one of the kindest-hearted creatures that I ever met with in my life."

"I recollect," remarked the young officer, "that there was only one thing about the Garths which you used to regret in old days. They were steady in attendance at church, but they were not communicants then."

"Nor are they now," said the vicar, stopping for a moment in his walk. "It is to me a strange, an almost unaccountable thing, that God-fearing, God-serving people such as they, who attend the Lord's house, and prize His Word, should yet, month after month, year after year, turn their backs upon His table."

"They brought their children to be baptised," remarked the lieutenant.

"Ay, and their grandchild too," added the vicar, resuming his walk; "the Garths would have looked upon themselves as heathen had they neglected the one sacrament ordained by our Lord, while, apparently without any scruple, they constantly neglect the other. I have preached in public, and spoken in private on the subject, but still I am grieved to see three-fourths of my flock leave the church before the communion service begins, and the Garths always amongst them."

"Have they ever given a reason for this?" asked Harry.

"I doubt whether they have any reason which they could put into words," answered his father. "Garth agrees to everything that I say, will, as he says, 'attend some day, but not yet awhile;' his wife folds her hands, looks down, and says nothing. I suppose that if either of them were to be taken dangerously ill, I should be sent for in haste to administer the communion to the sick; as if they thought that there was some charm in the service to smooth their journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, or that life-long disobedience to their Master's command could be atoned for by one dying attempt to do His bidding when, perhaps, the mind would scarcely have power to grasp the meaning of the service."

"Or death may come suddenly, as I have seen it come so often to the strong and the young," observed the naval officer. "How little we can tell whether, when our summons comes, we shall be left one hour for preparation! I remember when I was ashore in one of the West India ports, I ventured to say something to a friend of mine, a young merchant, who was showing me kind hospitality, about his practice of doing business on Sundays. He answered me with perfect good humour, that he was obliged to work hard, for that he had set his heart on scraping up enough to take him home; that he would act very differently when in old England again, there he would take his rest on Sundays, go to church, and attend to his soul."

"'Now, I've no time,' added he.

"'My friend,' I ventured to observe, 'I often think of a proverb of Zeller—'

"'"The Americans say that time is money, the Christian says that time is Grace!"'

"The merchant smiled, shrugged his shoulders, and turned away. Poor fellow! His time of grace was to be short! He was seized with yellow fever that night, and remained unconscious of all that was passing around him, until called to meet his God!"

A shade of sadness passed over the face of Harry Maude, as he recalled the last moments of the poor young man who had been so busy in making the money which he was never to spend, as to have no time to spare in preparing for that eternity on which he so soon was to enter!

The vicar and his son walked on some paces in silence, then Harry said in a more cheerful tone, "I think that I'll drop in at Garth's cottage to-day; I know that the kind old folk won't be sorry to see me enter it again."

"And you might find some opportunity, Harry, of giving a word in season."

"I'm a little shy of doing that," replied the young officer; "I don't feel myself fit to teach others, there's so much that I myself need to learn."

"But you have learned two things, my son, which are the very root and foundation of all Christian knowledge; you have learned that you are a sinner, and that Jesus Christ is a Saviour. It is not the minister alone who is bound to spread the glad tidings of salvation. The woman of Samaria, as soon as she had found the Messiah, left her water-pot, and hastened away to carry the good news to all whom she met."

"I believe that it is a cowardly feeling of shame that so often keeps us from speaking on the subject of religion," said Harry; "at least it is so with me."

"Certainly cowardice is the last thing of which any one but yourself would have accused the winner of the Albert medal," observed the vicar with a smile. "You showed, on that awful night of the shipwreck, how ready you were to risk your life or limb to save the bodies of your fellow creatures; you are scarcely the man to flinch back when far more precious souls are in danger. But here come two of the girls to seek you; our sailor is not likely to be left much to himself after ten years of absence. Let us go and meet your sisters, my son."


A Service of Obedience.

"I TOLD you he'd come, I told ye, mistress!" exclaimed Michael Garth, in a tone of triumph, as he glanced in through the open cottage door at his wife, who was darning her good man's stockings.

Up started old Martha at the words, the threaded needle dropped from her fingers, and the stockings from her knee.

"Maybe he's only taking a turn down the road," she began, as she hurried to the door.

But, before the sentence was finished, Harry Maude was striding up the narrow garden path which led up to the cottage, and, the next moment, he was heartily shaking the brown, hard hand of old Michael.

"So glad to see you both! Shall I come in?" asked Harry.

And, as Martha's smiles and curtseys gave the reply, the officer bent his tall head, and entered through the low doorway into the cottage.

Martha, in a flurry of pleasure, dusted with her apron the arm-chair which she had already twice dusted that morning; but Harry was too gallant to deprive the old dame of her accustomed seat, and took possession instead of a rush-bottomed chair. Michael stirred the wood-fire to a blaze, such being perhaps his idea of a warm welcome, and stood with his cap in his hand, pleasure written in every line of his wrinkled, but still rosy face.

"How well I remember this cottage!" cried Harry. "And what pleasant visits I used to pay here when I wanted my fishing-rod mended, or my kite put to rights, or advice about my sick rabbits! There is my old friend the owl with his staring glass eyes, the sampler framed on the wall, with the flowering tree worked on each side, and the text down the middle; the little crockery cow on the mantelpiece, the old prints of George III., Wellington, and Nelson, the kettle on the hob, the big log on the hearth, just as I used to see them all here ten years ago!"

"I wonders as how you han't forgotten such like things, Master Harry," said Mrs. Garth, with a smile of gratification, "such a power of fine sights as you must have come across in your travels."

"I have seen a good deal," observed Maude, "for I have been in all the four quarters of the globe since I last crossed this threshold. But of all the fine sights which have met my eyes, there was not one that pleased me like that of the faces of kind old friends."

"Ye'll not be leaving home in a hurry again, I take it, master," said old Michael Garth.

"I hope only for a very short time, but I must go up to London to-morrow."

"Go up to Lunnon!" repeated both the Garths in surprise; and Martha added, "Why, sir, ye only came from it yesterday."

"I must return thither to-morrow for all that, but only to remain there one night."

"It must be a mighty business to keep you tossing to and fro like a football, a hundred and fifty miles each way, as if Lunnon weren't farther off than yon church," said Garth. The honest labourer had never made one such journey in the course of all his long life.

"I should ha' thought as how ye'd ha' needed a little rest," observed Martha.

"I do need rest, for I've been much knocked about," replied the young sailor, "and I'd fever in the Channel, and have not yet picked up my strength. But for all that, sick or well, I'm bound for London to-morrow."

"Maybe you've a lot of money to get there," said old Michael Garth.

"Not a farthing; not even will my travelling expenses be paid," replied Harry.

"But sure and sartain, sir, ye can't go to-morrow, it's Miss Lily's wedding-day!" exclaimed Martha. "Don't you wish to be at the marriage?"

"I do wish it much," said Harry Maude. "It is a disappointment to me not to be present, but I am obliged to give up the wedding, for the train starts for London at eleven."

"Well—to be sure!" murmured Martha Garth, lifting up her hands in surprise.

Michael's curiosity was fairly aroused. "What, going all the way to Lunnon, and just for one night, and the wedding given up, too," he muttered. "Might I be bold enough to ask, Master Harry, what is hurrying ye hither and thither like this?"

"Simply an invitation to dinner," replied Harry, smiling at the looks of astonishment exchanged between Garth and his wife.

"Why, sir, ye can ha' dinners and to spare here—every house open to ye within ten miles round!" exclaimed Michael. "Sure and sartain, if I was you, I'd not go a-travellin' three hundred miles for one dinner!"

"Perhaps if you had received such an invitation as I have," replied the young naval officer, "you would hold a different opinion."

And, leaning back in his chair, Harry drew from his breast-pocket a large envelope with a red seal bearing the royal arms, which enclosed a card which he took out, and handed across the deal table to Martha Garth.

The old lady began fumbling for her spectacles, but her husband, whose sight was better, was at her side stooping to look over the card, before Martha had fixed her glasses on her nose.

"Her Majesty's commands! Well—if ever!" exclaimed the labourer.

"Dearie heart! To dine with the Queen! What an honour!" cried Martha, involuntarily half-rising from her seat.

"I don't wonder ye couldn't put aside such an invitation as that, sir," said Michael, "let what might come in the way!"

"My Sovereign's invitation is a command," replied the loyal young officer. "At whatever inconvenience or cost, loss of time or of pleasure, I am bound to obey it."

"And you'll be proud to obey it, I'll answer for that," said Michael Garth; "you'd go to the Queen's table, if you'd to travel all the three hundred miles a-foot, with shoes, or without 'em."

"Would you do so?" inquired Harry, turning a quick searching eye upon the old man.

"The Queen's not like to ask such as me," replied Michael, with a short laugh, and he looked down on his fustian jacket and hob-nailed boots.

"But if our Sovereign were to do so, if that card of invitation had come to you in your cottage with your and your wife's names upon it, so that there could be no room for mistake; would you have thrown it aside, and let the day pass without so much as taking any notice of the gracious message from your Queen?"

"No, surely," replied both of the Garths in a breath.

"Though," Martha added, "neither of us be fit at all to appear before Her Majesty. We should feel strange enough, I take it, amongst all the lords and ladies; we'd be no fit company for them."

"But ye see, wife," observed old Michael, "if the Queen invited poor folk like we, she'd not expect much from us, she'd put up with our country ways; but, if we disobeyed her, and flouted her kindness, the Queen, mind ye, might be angered."

"And with just cause," observed Harry Maude. "Now, will you forgive me," he continued, leaning his arms on the table, and bending forward in the earnestness of his speaking, "will you forgive me if I remind you that you both have received—not merely once—but very many times, a most gracious invitation, which is also a command, from your Heavenly Sovereign, the King of kings? He bids you appear before Him at His table to partake of His Holy Supper; you know better than I can know, how you have received the gracious invitation."

Both the cottagers were taken aback by this sudden turn which the conversation had taken.

Mrs. Garth uneasily twisted about in her fingers the card which she still retained.

Michael was silent for some moments before he replied, "Ye see, sir, there's such a difference!"

"A difference indeed," said the naval officer; "we are a thousand times more bound to obey a Heavenly than an earthly monarch, and the honour and privilege of being bidden to God's table are a thousand times greater than those of appearing at the Queen's."

"I don't gainsay that, sir, I don't gainsay it," replied Garth; "but there be some difficulties, you see—"

Harry waited for the labourer to finish his sentence, but as he either could not, or would not, the officer spoke again.

"I suppose that there are few duties, Michael, which we might not find some excuse for neglecting. For instance," he held out his hand for the card which was returned to him by Martha, "I might find plenty of excuses for not obeying my Queen by going up to London to-morrow. I might plead that I had just returned to my home after a very long absence, that my family were unwilling to part with me, that I was weary of travelling, that I was expected to attend at a wedding, and was very anxious to do so. I might make such excuses, and others besides, and even persuade myself that they were good ones; but in truth not one of them, nor all of them put together, would really be sufficient to acquit me of disloyal, undutiful neglect of my Queen. Now, my friends, suffer me to entreat you to ask yourselves honestly, as in the sight of the Lord, will your excuses for never attending His Holy Supper be such as you will venture to plead when you stand at the last great Day in the immediate presence of your King?"

"I never had it put to me afore like that," said Garth, looking fixedly into the fire.

"There are various lights in which we may regard the Lord's Supper," continued Harry, "the first and most simple, perhaps, is this; it is a feast to which His faithful subjects are specially called by the great King, whose invitations are commands. Turn to the parable which the Lord himself has given to us. * Observe the gracious invitation, 'Come, for all things are now ready.' Notice the excuses made by those who should have been joyful guests, the ground bought, the oxen to be proved, the wife that had lately been married. Were these excuses accepted?"

* Luke xiv.

Martha looked troubled and uneasy. "I al'ays say as how we should go up to the Table one of these days," she said, "but somehow or other, the time seems never to come."

"I fear that you are not sufficiently in earnest on the subject," observed Harry. "Were a message to be brought to you from our Queen, your mind would be fixed upon it, you would scarcely think of anything else."

"You see, sir," said Michael Garth, "if we neglected the Queen's invitation, we should never be likely to get a second; but there's not a month as passes but we have an opportunity of staying to Communion, and so, it may be wrong, I don't deny it, but one's more inclined to put off."

"Ah! You wait for the convenient season," observed Harry, gravely, "forgetting that present neglect may be sin, and that by future obedience, if we be permitted to live to show it, we cannot make up for the past. Opportunities lost are blessings thrown away, we cannot recall them again. Let us not forget, in regard to taking the Sacrament, that the same voice which bade us watch and pray and keep the commandments, said also, 'This do in remembrance of Me.'* And had we no other reason for partaking of the Holy Communion, no special benefits to hope for, it should suffice to make us do the bidding of our King that this is A SERVICE OF OBEDIENCE."

* Luke xxii. 19.


A Service of Hope.

THERE was silence in the cottage for a short space of time after Harry had finished the last sentence.

Michael Garth continued to look fixedly into the fire, with a thoughtful expression upon his weather-beaten face. His wife watched him anxiously, wishing that he should be the first to reply. Presently Garth turned from the fire, slowly seated himself beside it, and resting his hands on his knees, began—

"All you've said, sir, is true; but I don't feel us how I'm fit yet to take the Lord's Supper. I've been a hard-working man, I've no learning, and I don't think I'm good enough yet; that's the long and short of the matter."

"And there be such terrible words about taking the Communion unworthily," said Martha, timidly.

"Those terrible words were written to the Corinthians, who were actually guilty of intemperance when they met together for their love-feasts," replied Harry Maude. "It is impossible, as our services are conducted, that we could offend as they did."

"But sure, sir, we can take the Lord's Supper unworthily," observed Garth.

"Yes, assuredly, if we dare to approach the Table when living in wilful sin," said the officer. "If we keep the leaven of malice and wickedness in our hearts, we are unfit to partake of the feast. If we are acquiring money by fraud or theft, we are unfit to partake of the feast. If we are denying the Lord who bought us, we are unfit to partake of the feast."

"God forbid that we should do any of these things, sir!" exclaimed honest Garth. "I'm no better than others, I know, but I'd never touch a penny as was not my own, and I don't bear malice, I hope, towards any living creature."

"No, I'm sure he don't!" cried the goodwife.

"Depend upon it, my friends," said Harry, "there is nothing which unfits a believer for appearing at the Table of his Lord, but that which would unfit him for Heaven—self-righteousness and wilful sin. If a man be really unprepared to partake of the bread and the wine, he has cause to fear every hour of the day—he has cause to fear when he lies down at night, lest death should suddenly overtake him—because he is unprepared to die."

"But though we mayn't be living in wilful sin, yet we're far from being what we should be," said Michael Garth, thoughtfully shaking his head.

"And so were those whom our Lord Himself chose to appear at the very first Communion service that ever was held upon earth," cried Harry.

"Why, sir, they were the holy Apostles who took the bread and wine from our Lord's own hands," said Michael.

"And what were those Apostles but weak, erring men, whose spirit was willing, but whose flesh was weak?" asked young Maude. "Did not our Lord, when He called them around Him, know that some of them had just been disputing which should be the greatest? Did He not know that, in the course of a few hours, all would forsake Him and flee? Did He not know that one, the foremost amongst them, would deny Him with curses and oaths? The Lord knew all this, and yet He invited His Apostles to share His Holy supper. Would He have praised for humility, or rebuked for disobedience, any one of them who should have refused to come, saying, 'Lord, I feel that I am not worthy?'"

"There was no fear that they should refuse," murmured Martha, "they would not have dared to keep away when the Lord bade them come."

"But it seems that disciples in the present day dare to do that which Apostles would not have ventured to do, refuse their Lord's invitation," said Harry.

"But ye see, sir," observed Garth, after a pause, "it was all such a new thing with the Twelve; there had never been anything like the Communion before."

"Excuse me," said Harry, quickly; "the Christian feast of the Holy Supper is founded on the Jewish feast of the Passover, which our Lord Himself kept in obedience to God's command. If you turn to the 12th chapter of Exodus, you will find that on one particular evening in the year, every Israelitish household had to partake of a lamb, in remembrance of the firstborn of Israel being spared, through the sprinkled blood of a lamb, when the firstborn of Egypt were slain. 'This day shall be unto you for a memorial, said the Lord, all the congregation of Israel shall keep it.' * A Jew who should have neglected attending the Holy Feast would have shewn, by such neglect, that he cared not for the blood of sprinkling, that he did not choose to cast in his lot with that of the Lord's chosen people."

* Exodus xii. 14, 47.

"But surely, sir," said Michael, earnestly, "we Christians in Britain are not bound to keep a Jewish feast."

"No more than we are called upon to sacrifice a lamb," replied Harry, "and sprinkle its blood on our door-posts. Our sacrifice was offered once for all, when the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world, died on Calvary for us. But the feast which he ordained in place of the Jewish Passover, is to be kept 'till He come.' † What are the words of St. Paul on the subject? 'Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast.'" ‡

† 1 Cor. xi. 26.    ‡ 1 Cor. v. 7.

"I never understood afore that the Passover had anything to do with the Lord's Supper," said Michael.

"It was what is called a type of it," replied the officer. "The Israelites in the Passover celebrated their deliverance from death, and the bondage of Egypt; Christians celebrate in the Communion their deliverance from eternal death, and the bondage of sin. The Israelites rejoiced in the gift of Canaan, Christians rejoice in the gift of Heaven. The Israelites, when starting on their long journey through the desert, gained strength in body by partaking of the food which they ate by God's command. Christians, in their long journey through life, gain strength in soul by partaking also, by God's command, of bread and wine, with faith and repentance."

"Oh! My friends, let us never forget this. If we feel that we are sinful and weak, let us go to the Lord's Table for grace and strength to struggle against sin, grace and strength to press on towards Heaven. 'Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith.' * The Christian Communion is not only a service of obedience, it is also a service of hope, and a service of joy."

* Heb. x. 22.

Harry rose as he finished the last sentence, but the old labourer did not rise; Michael did not wish his visitor to quit the cottage just yet.

"Then really I may be angering God by leaving this thing undone," he began, rather as if speaking to himself, than as addressing any other person present.

"I am afraid that wilful neglect of anything which we are bidden, in the Bible, to do is sin, a sin of omission," said Maude. "We are apt to think little of such sins; and if we abstain to a certain degree from doing what we ought not to do, we are seldom much troubled by the conviction that we have left undone that which we ought to have done. But God's Word teaches a different lesson. The barren fig tree cumbered the ground, not because it brought forth bad fruit, but because it bore no fruit at all. The man with one talent was reproved, not because he had misspent the money, but because he had not used it for good."

"In our Lord's own account of the Judgment, He tells us not of the sentence which will be passed upon those who have injured, robbed, or murdered His poor; but that which awaits those who have neglected to help them. This shews us most clearly that God marks our sins of omission. I would not have ventured thus to speak to you, my friends," continued the young officer earnestly, "had I not feared that, almost without knowing it, you might be committing this sin by neglecting an ordinance of God. I own that I have often myself thus offended by leaving known duties undone, and from the bottom of my heart I join in the dying prayer of Archbishop Usher, 'Oh! God, forgive me my sins, especially my sins of omission!'"

"Amen!" murmured the old labourer, and his wife, as she folded her wrinkled hands, faintly echoed the "Amen."

"And once more I ask your pardon for having spoken thus freely," said Harry Maude, holding out his hand to Garth with cordial frankness of manner. "But I had it on my heart to entreat you not to miss a blessing by neglecting a duty, and turning away from a service of obedience, of hope, and of joy. Every loyal subject of the Lord, when of ripe years, is invited to the Table of his Heavenly King, and it is his blessed privilege as well as his bounden duty to appear there as a thankful guest, looking forward to the time when he, through Christ's merits and death, shall be welcomed to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at the glorious feast in the Kingdom of Heaven."


A Service of Love.

HARRY MAUDE quitted the cottage, and Michael and Martha returned to their occupations, the one digging in the garden, the other mending stockings by the fireside. But the old man bending over his spade, and his good wife over her needle, were both reflecting on what they had heard.

"To think of his taking us to task like that! But he meant it kindly—yes, he meant it kindly," murmured Martha to herself as she darned. "He'd not have us treat our great and merciful God as we would never dare to treat our Queen. We've been a-shutting ourselves out from the feast in church; I pray God He mayn't shut us out from the Feast up above."

But though Michael and Martha thus pondered over the subject, neither of them felt inclined to talk about it.

When Mat came in from the plough, his grandmother told him that "young Master Harry" had come to see them, but not one word did she repeat of the conversation that had taken place, except that part which simply related to the invitation from the Queen. The husband and wife avoided even speaking to each other about that subject which was uppermost in the minds of both.

Evening closed in; the aged couple and their grandson sat down to their simple supper, and, while they ate, chatted about the morrow's wedding, and the sailor's return, and the Queen's invitation, and other topics of the day.

But when the meal was over, and Martha had cleared away the fragments, Michael, from his seat by the hearth, gravely addressed his wife.

"Martha, I've been a-thinking about what you and me was hearing to-day about these same sins of omission—that's the word—leaving undone what ought to be done. You and me—we reads our Bible on Sundays reg'lar enough; but I mind me that the parson told us in church that we should no more do without our daily reading of Scripture than without our daily food. Suppose now you bring the Book. It's late to begin the custom, seeing we're both growing old, but there's the less time for delay, so we'll read a bit o' the Bible to-night afore we go to our rest."

"Ah! Michael, I've often thought of this, but I didn't like to be the first to speak about doing it," said Martha, as, after dusting the large Bible with her apron, she set it on the deal table before her husband, and then pushed the little brass candlestick towards him, that the light from the candle might fall on the Book.

Michael slowly opened the holy volume, slowly turned over page after page, before he found the passage which he sought. Then, in a solemn tone, tracing the lines as he read with his finger, the old cottager began the 22nd chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke.

Mat sat very quiet and attentive at his grandmother's side; the cottage seemed to the lad to have become as holy a place as the church; and though his grandfather certainly could not read like the parson, the lad thought to himself that somehow or other the words went just as straight to the heart.

Michael read on slowly and steadily till he came to the end of the 19th verse, and then his voice faltered, the finger which rested on the page trembled, and, with a deep sigh, the old man closed the Bible.

"Be you not well?" asked Martha, anxiously.

Her husband leant back in his chair, and pressed his hand over his eyes.

"It's not that, wife, it's not that," replied Michael, removing his hand. "It was those words—'twas the bidding us do this 'in remembrance of Me.' I couldn't abide the thought of having so long neglected the dear Saviour's dying wish, let alone it's being the King's command. You see," continued Michael, addressing himself to his grandson, "I have known what it was to receive a dying request, and to treasure it up, and keep it, as if 'twere a bit of my life. Your Granny knows the story well, but, maybe, you han't heard so much about it."

Then, after pushing back his chair from the table, and again passing his hand across his eyes, Michael Garth began his simple tale.

"I had as good and kind a mother as ever lived, and, I take it, never son loved mother more than I did. When I was a lad, not much older than you be, I sickened with the fever which was a-spreading all through the village. My mother she watched me day and night, and would scarce stir from my bedside till the doctor he said as how the worst was over.

"But the worst was not over," continued Michael with feeling, "for she had caught the fever from me, she had, and on the day when I first rose from my bed, my mother lay a-dying upon hers! I was just able to crawl to her side, to get her blessing, and to hear her last words. I half wished in my grief that the fever had taken us both away, so there would have been no sore parting for either. My mother drew from under her pillow my father's silver watch, which she had kept ever since she had lost him. She was so weak she scarcely could hold it, and her voice was so faint that I had to bend down close to catch her last words, 'Keep it for my sake;' they was the last words as ever she spoke. I could not answer, a lump was in my throat, but I vowed in my heart that I'd never part with that watch to my dying day!"

"And you never did!" exclaimed Martha. "So that there old watch is locked up safe in yon box at this moment."

"I treasured that watch, I wore it by day, I put it under my bolster by night, often and often did it bring my mother to my mind, it seemed like a bit of herself. If I was a-tempted to go wrong, the very sound of its ticking when I wound it up at bedtime seemed like a warning voice from her grave. Years passed on, and I married, and a family came—bless 'em—and after that great troubles. You mind that hard winter, wife, when I was ten weeks out of work, and we scarcely knew where to turn to get a crust to keep soul and body together!"

"I can never forget it," said Martha; "we lay down hungry, and we got up hungry, and were well-nigh driven to part with the bed beneath us for rent."

"I was well-nigh driven to part with something else," observed her husband. "Many and many's the time that I thought of my silver watch as the one thing that I could turn into money; but I al'ays shrank back from doing that, I counted it would be a'most like trampling over my mother's grave. One day I was pretty near desperate; there was the rent unpaid, and the little uns crying, and I started off for the town where the pawnbroker lived. When I came nigh the place, in sight of the three gilt balls, I pulled out my watch, it seemed to throb like a living thing in my hand. I stood stock still and looked on it, and all the deathbed scene came back upon me as fresh as if I had just left it, the pale face—the wistful eyes—the faint whisper, 'Keep it for my sake.'

"I turned back, Mat, I couldn't go on; I had had my long trudge for my pains; thinks I, it's rather starve outright I will, than break the last command of my mother."

The voice of Michael sounded husky, and Martha raised her apron to her eyes.

"And better times came," observed Mat.

"Ay, lad, better times came," said Michael; "but I've not finished the story of my watch. It was about seventeen years ago, the very winter when ye was born, lad, and a sharper winter never I knew. I was coming home one evening, a cutting wind was a-blowing, which seemed to pierce to the very marrow. The stream was quite frozen over, I thought it was hard enough to bear me, and to save going round by the bridge, I tried to cross on the ice. The first step I took there was a crack. The next—the ice gave way, and down I splashed into the water."

"The stream ain't very deep," observed Mat.

"Quite deep enough, lad, to make a plunge into it on a bitter cold evening no pleasuring matter," said Michael. "I was any way up to my arm-pits, and a bit cut by the ice besides. I scrambled out with a little trouble, shivering and wet, my teeth chattering with cold, and my hands a-bleeding with the ice. But the first thing as I thought on was my watch, I clapped my hand to the little pocket which your Granny had made in my jacket on purpose to hold it; the pocket was empty, the watch had slipped out into the stream in the struggle and scramble."

"It warn't likely to be worth much after being in the water," said Mat.

"Worth, lad! It warn't the money's worth as I cared for!" exclaimed the old man. "Had it been a brass farthing as had been given me as a keepsake by a dying parent, it would ha' been more to me than a purse of gold! I didn't take much time to think about it, the day was short, 'twas already getting dusk, if I waited, the under-current might drag my watch down where I never should find it again. Back I plunged into the deadly cold water, striking my arms right and left to break the ice, and to keep in the life which was well-nigh frozen out o' me, for a numbness was a-creeping over my body. I searched and searched, feeling about the bottom, now with my feet, now with my hand, and more than once I got right under the ice, and lost my breath, and thought it was all over with me. I've done many a hard day's work in my life, but the toughest job as ever I had was the seeking 'mid the ice for my watch on that piercing night in December."

"But you found it at last," said Martha.

"Ay, ay, I found it at last," rejoined the old man, a gleam of honest pleasure lighting up his weather-worn face; "warn't I glad when I found it warn't a round pebble as I had touched with my foot, as I was afeard at the first! I brought the watch up out of the water, after I'd been a-hunting, gasping and struggling, shivering and freezing, the best part of an hour. It was the thought of the words, 'Keep it for my sake,' as gave me strength to hold on; and though I had to lie in bed for a week, and had rheumatics that I didn't shake off till the summer, all along of that search under the water, there was something as out-matched the trouble and the pain—it was such a comfort to my heart to know that I'd kept the dying request of my mother!"

The tale was not a now one to Mat, but it was one which, by the family of Michael, was always heard with interest, and it had deepened in the minds of his children and grandchildren impressions of filial reverence and love. The old silver watch, thus handed down from generation to generation, was—and was likely long to be—a precious relic in the cottager's home.

When Michael had finished his story, his grandson observed, "I don't see why you should ha' thought about that watch when you was a-reading that chapter just now."

"Do you not see, lad, it's all plain enough to my mind!" exclaimed Martha. "Your grandfather was willing to suffer hunger and hardship, danger and chill, sickness and pain, rather than neglect the last wish of a dear mother who had taken her death from watching over him—"

"And yet," interrupted Michael Garth, finishing the sentence for his wife, "never till this night have I taken to heart the dying wish of One who has loved me better than ever did my mother, and has suffered more for me than ever a mother suffered! I've read His words, and scarce given them a thought—God have mercy upon me, a sinner—for my heart must have been more dead than a stone!"

"Ah! Michael," said old Martha, leaning forward on her chair, and laying her hand on the arm of her husband, "there was something which Master Harry missed out when he spoke to us to-day so anxious and earnest about attending the Holy Communion. He said that the Lord's Supper be a service of obedience, and a service of hope, and he was right enough there; but it's more than that, it's a service of love besides. How the holy angels must wonder that those for whom the loving Lord poured out His very life's blood, can go on year after year as—shame to us we have done, neglecting His dying command—as if He had never spoken, or they had never heard the words—'This do in remembrance of Me!'"


One Family.

BRIGHT and cloudless rose the sun on the following morning. The air was balmy as in May, and the budding leaves on the boughs, the early wild-flowers under the hedges, all seemed to rejoice.

Harry Maude was up as early as the sun life was too full of happiness for him, for the young officer to care to waste the fresh morning hours in sleep. He gave his early moments to God, and found that:

"His morning smiles bless all the day."

Though young Maude could not, on account of his journey to London, attend the wedding service, he accompanied his sisters, who were bridesmaids, to the Grange, before he started by the train. The Maudes found the family of their friends, the bride included, at their early breakfast, a cheerful meal, at which Harry and his sisters joined as welcome guests. The sight of the happiness of others was ever a source of happiness to the young lieutenant. One of the brightest hours of his life was that spent at the Grange amongst old friends and companions upon that bridal day. Pleasant is it to fulfil the command, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice."

Though the young officer quitted with regret the cheerful circle of his friends, yet it was, perhaps, with a feeling of yet deeper gratification that he appeared on the evening of that day in the presence of his Queen. He sat at the board of his Sovereign, a welcome and honoured guest, because he had nobly done his duty, because in the hour of trial and danger his courage had never failed. Thankfulness, and not pride, beat in the bosom of Harry; he gratefully acknowledged that it was God who had helped him in need, who had strengthened his arm and nerved his heart, who had carried him safe through dangers, and crowned him with honour and joy. That evening, when on the young officer rested the approving glance of his Queen, was one which to his dying day he would recall with gratification.

"Earth's pleasures are fleeting, and its honours are passing away; the bridal feast and the royal banquet may both be joyous, but they belong to those things which Time sweeps from our view at last, as though they had never been. God be praised, who hath prepared for His children pleasures that abide, and glory that never shall end!" So thought Harry on the following Sunday, when, for the first time since his departure ten years before, the pastor's family, as an unbroken family, met in the House of Prayer.

It was deep joy to the sailor to pass once more down the well-remembered aisle, with kind familiar faces around him, to occupy once more the very seat where so often, when a boy, he had listened with reverence to the voice of his father proclaiming the message of God. It was deep joy to join again in worship with the friends of his youth in that church, to which memory so often had turned during long years of absence.

Harry did not leave it after the sermon was ended, he and his family all remained to join in the service of obedience, the service of hope, the service of love. There, indeed, they could enjoy the sense of communion, not only with their Heavenly Father, but with all His family in heaven and earth—there they could realise that all true Christians are one in Christ, united with the angels above, and the spirits of the just made perfect.

If anything could have added to Harry's happiness at that sweet and solemn hour, it was to know that the Garths were worshipping near him. There were the grey-haired labourer and his wife, and their young grandson beside them, sharing for the first time, but not for the last, the privilege and blessing of drawing nigh to the Lord at His Table. As with meek reverence and love they obeyed their Master's command, faith raised their thoughts to the great Feast above, to which all God's servants are bidden. "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." * "Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb." †

* Luke xiv. 15.    † Rev. xix. 9.

My reader, this is a solemn subject, and should it be one to which you have not yet given much thought, most earnestly would I commend it to your prayerful attention. May we duly prize the privilege of Christian Communion while yet we remain upon earth, nor refuse the loving invitation so graciously given to penitent sinners—"Come, for all things are now ready." * And when this life is over, and earth itself shall have passed away, may we, through our Saviour's merits, be received at the heavenly feast above, as rejoicing and thankful guests!

* Luke xiv. 17.


OBEYING Christ's command, oh! Lord,
   I come, a thankful guest,
In no polluted tattered robe
   Of human merits dressed,
But in my Saviour's righteousness,
   The spotless wedding-vest.

Unworthy as I own I am,
   Thy feast of love to share,
For His sake hear my humble cry,
   For His sake grant my prayer;
And let Thy mercy cleanse my soul.
   And shed Thy Spirit there!

Oh! Make me one with Thy dear Son,
   To Him my soul unite,
A branch of the Eternal Vine,
   Not fruitless in Thy sight:
Thine own on earth—Thine own in heaven.
   Through ages infinite!