The convict's child : or, the helmet of hope.

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









Then suddenly drawing herself back from Norah, with a

passionate gesture of anguish, the unhappy Sophy exclaimed, "Oh!

if you but knew my misery—the darkness here—everywhere; no hope!

no hope!" She threw herself down on her bed, and covered her face

with her hands.






The Helmet of Hope.




A. L. O. E.









London:                        Edinburgh:




















The Convict's Child;







"ANY one of this name live here?" asked the postman, as he held out a letter to Norah, the little maid-of-all-work, who was on her knees cleaning the door-step on a wintry morning at the close of the year.

"'Miss Peele,' why, that must mean me!" cried the young girl, with naive surprise. It was the first time in her life that Norah had ever received a letter, and it was with feelings of wonder and curiosity that she took from the postman the note so strangely addressed to herself. She looked at every part of the envelope, post-mark, address, fancy-wafer and all, to prolong the novel pleasure by guessing who could have sent it, and what the contents could be.

"It can't be from mother,—she never writes but her name at the bottom of the washing bills; and as for Dan—he's not out of round text. Could it be from Uncle Ned? It is not like a man's handwriting, and I'm sure he would, never put 'Miss' for a little servant like me. I must just peep in and see, I was never so curious in all my life!"

Norah wiped her wet cold hands on her apron, and then, taking care to save the pretty wafer, opened the envelope, and took out the note. She raised her eyebrows with surprise at the first word, "Madam," and almost burst out laughing at the notion of being thus addressed; but Norah's mirth changed to grave perplexity, as she turned hastily over to the signature at the end.

"'E. Cupper, Matron of the B— Workhouse.' It must be some mistake,—I am sure there is some mistake—this letter can never be meant for me." Norah examined the envelope again, but the address was perfectly clear. Rather awed by receiving a letter from that great prison-like building which she had passed when on a little journey with her mistress, a letter that looked so formal and neat, and actually began with "Madam," Norah set herself to read, from beginning to end, the contents, which were as follows;—

"Madam,—I have been requested by an inmate of this house of the name of Sophy Puller to inform you of her being here, and to beg that you will come as soon as possible to see her. Visitors are admitted on Fridays from two till four. The girl is almost blind from the effects of rheumatic fever, and is in great distress of mind." Here followed name and date.

The letter dropped from the little maid's hand. It might have been a study to have watched the changes in her soft round face as she read it slowly, tracing each line with her finger. At the name "Sophy Puller," an expression of interest, first mixed with pleasure, then with pain, flitted over her features—succeeded by one of shocked surprise at the terrible words "almost blind." This was the first time for almost four months that Norah had heard of one who had once been her favourite companion and friend. Norah knew that Sophy's father had been taken up for uttering false money, that he had been tried, condemned, and transported; Norah knew that on the day of his arrest Sophy had disappeared from the county town in which she had been working as a milliner's girl,—but here her information ended. Often had Norah longed and prayed to find out what had become of her hapless companion, bereft of an only parent by what was far worse than death. The name of Sophy had never been forgotten in the prayers of the little maid. But to hear of her thus,—sick, blind, and unhappy, in a parish Union, such news were more sad than ignorance; and as Norah read the note once again, the tears gushed fast from her eyes.

"Oh, Sophy, my poor, poor Sophy! You who were so lightsome and gay, so full of frolic and fun, to think of your coming to this!" And as Norah's tears dropped on the note, whose contents she could hardly believe, her mind recurred to the first day of her meeting with the milliner's girl, and a hundred little circumstances connected with their acquaintance. Norah could not help remembering how the society of Sophy Puller had been her own greatest temptation; how her companion had tried to make her think lightly of sin, had fostered the love of fine dress, had laughed at her scruples, had lent her bad books, had almost persuaded her to go out at night without the knowledge of her mistress! Norah tried to forget all this; she would gladly have felt nothing but pity and love for the afflicted Sophy, but such painful recollections would force themselves on her mind. Norah could not help thinking, "Oh! how doubly dreadful sickness and blindness must be to one who has such things to look back on! When all that Sophy once delighted in is shut out from her thus, what can she have to comfort her, and keep her poor heart from breaking?"

But young general servants have little time to give to reading letters or crying over them. The step must be cleaned, the breakfast prepared, before the clock should strike nine. Norah thrust her letter into her pocket, dried her eyes, and went on with her work. But while she was scrubbing the stone with her red little hands, she was painfully turning over in her mind the contents of the note.

"I must go and see my poor Sophy, but oh how shall I ever manage to get to the workhouse! Mistress is so much put about to let me pay my visits to my mother, who lives only three miles off while the workhouse must be full ten; and even if I get leave—how could I ever dare to go alone to that great gloomy place?"

Norah had led a very quiet life; she had never ventured by herself farther than Colme, her native village, and her longest journey had been a twenty miles' drive in a stage-coach with her mistress. Besides the difficulty of travelling so far, Norah Peele had formed a terrible idea of a workhouse. Instead of looking on it as a refuge mercifully provided for the homeless and helpless, she fancied it to be a huge prison, where miserable creatures were shut up, the doors guarded by terrible porters, whom the timid young girl felt that she would never have courage to face by herself. Norah scrubbed her step very hard indeed, clenching her teeth as she did so, as if she were trying to rub down the many difficulties which had suddenly risen in her path. The reader may smile at the fears and perplexities of the poor little maid; but let it be remembered that Norah was still little more than a child, was of a tender, timid nature, and utterly ignorant of the world. To go ten miles to visit an inmate of a workhouse seemed to her as formidable a task, as it would appear to some to push their way into the Queen's own presence, through her surrounding guards.

"Sophy can never have told the matron that I am nothing but a poor little servant; Mrs. Cupper takes me for some grand lady who will drive to the door in her carriage, or else she would never have called me 'Madam.'" So said Norah to herself as she rose from her knees and went into the house, more chilled by her fears than by the weather. "And yet I must go—oh, I will go—if I have to walk the whole way there and back! I cannot desert poor Sophy now that she is in such terrible trouble. It is a dreadful difficulty to me, but God will help me through it. I will tell all to my dear kind mistress, who is always ready to give me advice and help."







ON the evening of that day, Ned Franks, the one-armed sailor, came, as he often did after his work of teaching was over at the school, to take tea with his sister, Bessy Peele, and her son.

A blazing fire threw its red glow round the cottage kitchen, and the kettle sang merrily on the hob.

"Any news, Bessy?" asked the sailor in a cheerful tone, as he hung up his straw hat on a peg on the wall.

"News, why yes," answered Bessy, tossing a note to her brother across the deal-table at which she was cutting the loaf. "The carrier brought this to-day from the town. There's Norah all agog to go to the workhouse!"

"To the workhouse," repeated Ned, with a merry laugh. "She's not likely to go there, I hope, while she has two hands and I have one that can work to keep her out of it."

"Just read her note—oh! that's not the one—but you'd better read both; the matron's will show you the whole matter. It's the most ridiculous notion as ever I heard of in all my born days." And with an angry toss of the head, Bessy went off to the kettle to fill her black tea-pot, while Ned read to himself Norah's note.

"Dear Mother,—Mistress says I may have the time, and she will pay herself for my coach, if you, or some other respectable woman, will go to the workhouse with me on Friday, but I must not go by miself. Do, do agree, dear mother. I cannot be happy till I have seen poor Sophy. Your dutiful child, Norah." And there was added, on a blotted line below, "if you can't go with me, p'raps my dear teacher wood."

"Well, Bessy, are you going?" quietly asked Ned Franks as he laid down the note.

"Going!" repeated Bessy, in her shrillest tone. "I must come to a pretty pass indeed afore I darken the door of a workhouse. I think the girl's gone crazed. As if I could give up half-a-day to go dancing over the country, and in middle of winter too. If it had been for a summer treat, a pic-nic, or fair, or something like that, 'twould have been a different matter. But to visit a pauper in a workhouse!" Bessy banged down the kettle on the hob, and carried the steaming tea-pot to the table.

"Now to my mind," said Ned, "'tis better to visit a messmate in trouble, whether in palace or poorhouse, whether weather be fair or foul, than to go on any mere pleasure cruise. She's a true-hearted lass, little Norah, not to turn her back on a friend."

"Why, uncle," exclaimed Dan, speaking with his mouth full, and that twinkle in his small black eyes, which gave a weasel-like slyness to his face, "to think of you, of all men living, standing up for Sophy Puller. Why the very first thing that you said when you heard of her doings was, that she was no true friend to our Norah."

"A sly, deceitful, dishonest, good-for-nothing minx," exclaimed Bessy, "who would have got my girl into all sorts of mischief. A workhouse is too good for the like of her, a great deal too good say I;" and Mrs. Peele poured out the tea with an air of virtuous indignation.

Ned Franks could not help thinking of the proverb, "they who live in glass-houses should not throw stones." His half-sister's own notions of truth and honesty were little more strict than those of poor Sophy, while she had not had the excuse of having been brought up by a worthless parent. How far more easy it is to condemn sin in others, than to subdue it in ourselves! Ned Franks was very silent during the meal. The idea of a young, misguided creature, suffering and blind in a workhouse, filled his kindly heart with such compassion as the good Samaritan felt for the wounded man by the way-side. Franks wished with all his soul that he could carry comfort to the poor girl, but felt that the task was not a suitable one for a young man like himself.

"Uncle Ned, what are you thinking of? you're as dumb as a fish," cried Dan at last, missing the usual lively flow of the sailor's conversation.

Ned took no notice of the remark, but said, turning towards Bessy Peele; "who is the teacher whom Norah mentions in her note?"

"Oh! don't you know?" cried Dan; "'tis Persis Meade, who goes every Sunday to teach the Bible-class of girls."

"I know her by name and sight," said the sailor, "but I do not know where she lives."

"In the little dell, near the mill-stream," cried Dan, "taking care of her silly old grand-dad, the old man who goes tottering to church with a crutch, and who has lived so long that he's lost all his hair, his teeth, and his wits." Dan laughed, as if the infirmities of age were any subject for laughter, till silenced by the stern glance of his uncle's reproving eye.

"Persis Meade was nursery governess at Mrs. Lane's," said Bessy, "and a deal they thought of her there; I wonder she ever left them to slave away as sick-nurse to a doited old man, as had never been partic'lar kind to her. But when her aunt Lizzy married, and old Meade was left all alone, Persis came to his cottage, and set up as needlewoman, though I don't know as how she had any special turn that way. The gentry about here employ her. She makes all the dresses for the Lanes; but if I'd been she, I'd have stayed where I was, and let the silly old man go to the workhouse. He needs as much looking after as a baby, and his childish babble is worse than the clack of a mill. Persis Meade was a deal better off at the Lanes; I say 'twas folly to leave them."

"Maybe 'twill not prove so in the end," observed Franks; "there's a blessing in the wake of the command, honour thy father and mother. Do you think," he added, "that Miss Meade would take care of our Norah on Friday?"

"I'll not ask her," cried Bessy, with something like a snort.

"If you don't mind it, I will," said the sailor. "I'll walk over early before school opens, and send Norah a line by post; she'll get it on Friday morning in time to walk over and join Miss Meade at the end of the lane, where the coach would pick them both up."

"'Tis not very likely that a woman as has two mouths to feed with her needle will give up half-a-day, and take a coach to B— to go hunting out a blind pauper."

"I'll make the coach easy for the matter of that," observed Franks, with a smile. "Norah shall have enough of ready rhino to pay for both."

"I'm sure that you might do something better with your money," exclaimed Bessy, who always thought that she had first claim to whatever her brother could spare.

"I hope you remember, uncle, that to-morrow is New-year's day," cried Dan, with a knowing wink of the eye.

"That there awkward boy broke my clothes' horse yesterday," sighed Bessy, "and I'm sure I don't know which way to turn for money to buy a new one."

"If Dan broke it yesterday, let him mend it to-day," laughed Ned, who understood the hint well, but did not choose to take it, "He and I, we can muster three hands between us. No need of money when a little labour will serve the turn. I'll give you a lesson, Dan, in the carpentering line; take that as a New-year's gift if you will."







THE sun had scarcely shown his red globe over the hill when Ned Franks, whistling as he went, walked down the path into the little wooded dell where Persis Meade resided. The January air was keen and sharp, the snow felt crisp under the sailor's tread. Every branch in the trees, every twig in the hedges, was cased in silvery frost; the prickly leaves of the holly, the withered fern by the path, every blade of grass was edged, as if by fairy art, with glittering crystals. Franks looked around with admiring eyes, doubting whether winter, in such a garb, were not as fair as the spring.

"How strange it is to look back on one year," reflected Ned, "when we're just stepping on board another, and the old hulk, with all the hopes and fears that freighted it, is sinking down into the ocean of the past! Last New-year's day I spent on the blue waters, amongst my jovial messmates, little dreaming then what a twelvemonth's cruise was before me. 'Twould not have mended my mirth to have known that I should have a terrible fall, smash my arm, have it taken off by the surgeon, lie for weeks in my hammock, and then leave the service maimed and disabled, come to a comfortless home, and find Bessy—well, I won't be hard on her, but she was not just what I had expected her to be. Here was a cargo of troubles indeed. And yet at the end of that year's cruise I can say, 'surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life!' God has given me a home of my own, pleasant work in the school, kind friends to help me on; He has restored my health, and made me again able to enjoy the blessings of life. And better things are behind. What are earthly comforts compared to 'the means of grace and the hope of glory'?"

"Ay," said the sailor half aloud, as he gazed on the red rising sun, "as we look for each day now to be longer and brighter, till we bask in the full beams of summer, so is it with the Christian! With him the best is ever to come; he has heavenly hope to crown every earthly joy. This is the 'helmet, the hope of salvation,'* which the Christian soldier is to wear. A glittering helmet it is," pursued Franks, whose fancy delighted in following out the Scriptural image, "and the crest upon it is joy! In life's hard struggle that plume may be reft away, even the faithful in this world cannot always rejoice; but the helmet of hope remains, never to be parted with but with life, and only put off in death to make way for the conqueror's crown! Hope, glorious hope, will be changed for happiness then!"

* I Thess. v. 8.

Such thoughts as these made the heart of Ned Franks bound with a sense of enjoyment such as monarchs might have envied. And yet he was a poor man, a maimed man, one who had been cut off in his prime from a profession that he loved! Save his niece, little Norah, of whom he was very fond, there was not one of his family living who sympathised with Ned Franks, or gave him any real pleasure. Many would have said that the teacher at Colme had not much to render him happy; and yet no stranger could have looked on that buoyant step and beaming eye without seeing that something within was throwing a charm over life, like the hoar frost encrusting with beauty the dull twig and the leafless tree!

The cottage of Persis Meade looked very pretty, with its gable-end overhung with frosted ivy, and sparkling icicles drooping from the eaves. It was so retired in its little dell, that to the sailor it suggested the idea of a bird's nest hidden in a bush. The door stood open, for Persis had just been fetching water from the well, so Franks could see into the cottage as he strode up the narrow path. An old man, very feeble and almost bent double, clad in a thick white flannel wrapper, was tottering towards an arm-chair placed for him by the fire, tenderly supported by a young woman of very pleasing appearance. Persis was so intent on her dutiful office, that she did not hear Ned's tap at the door, and was a little surprised at seeing him enter. The teacher was no stranger to her, however, as Franks' name and character were known through the village; and though somewhat wondering at so early a visit, Persis received the maimed sailor kindly.

"Who's he? What has he done with his hand?" said the old man in a feeble, quavering voice, pointing with his trembling finger to the book which appeared from under the sailor's almost empty sleeve.

"It is Mr. Franks, the teacher at the school, dear grandfather," said Persis, raising her voice and bending towards the deaf man's ear.

"What has he done with his hand?" repeated old Meade.

"I lost it in a lubberly way—had a tumble in the dark," replied Ned, who never liked the question, both because it reminded him of what he was tempted to think a provoking accident, and because he knew that slander had reported that he must have been drunk at the time.

"Will you not take a seat, Sir?" said Persis.

Franks had taken off his hat on coming in, with the same respect that he would have shown on entering a lady's drawing-room. Before he sat down he assisted Persis in arranging pillows behind her grandfather's head, and in changing the position of his chair, for old Meade was fidgety and restless, and it did not seem easy to please him.

"What have you done with your hand?" he asked again, as Ned Franks at last took a seat.

The sailor glanced at Persis, and her gentle eye seemed to ask indulgence for the infirmities of age, the failing memory which could retain no new thing for two minutes. Ned replied in a loud, cheerful tone to the question, and then without further delay drew out the two notes, and told in few words the errand on which he had come. He was encouraged by watching the sympathizing expression on the face of Persis as she read.

"Dear Norah! I should so much like to go with her to-morrow!" said Persis.

"I'm afraid, though, that you could not be spared," observed Franks, glancing at the old man, who, restless at having been silent for nearly five minutes, broke out again with his tiresome question, this time addressed to his grand-daughter.

"Mr. Franks had a sad fall," she replied, without giving the slightest sign of impatience; and then, turning to Ned, she said, speaking fast, because certain to be soon interrupted, "I think that I could manage to go, indeed I'm certain that I could. We have at present two quiet lodgers, Mr. Isaacs, a working jeweller, and Benoni, his dear little boy; one or both of them, I am sure, would kindly watch my grandfather during the few hours of—"

"What have you done with your hand?" asked the poor old man, who would have interrupted the conversation had it been one of life-or-death importance.

Taking example by Persis, Ned answered at once, without suffering either a smile to rise to his lips, or a frown of impatience to his brow. Persis felt obliged by the sailor's forbearance, and seeing his eyes rest for a moment on an old-fashioned drawing hung over the fire-place, representing a tall young farmer in top-boots, she said, "that is a likeness of my grandfather."

Nothing could have presented a greater contrast to the shrivelled, wrinkled old man in the arm-chair, than the picture of the jovial rosy-cheeked swain. It seemed to preach this lesson to youth, "show indulgence to imbecile age; for if you are now strong and hearty as he was once, as he is now you may be." Such at least was the thought which arose in the mind of Ned Franks; but he had to pay for his lesson. Old Meade, seeing them looking at the picture, began at once a mumbled story which promised to be endless, of something that had happened at the time that picture was taken, rambling into an account of all that he had done or could have done when he was a gay young fellow, till Franks was obliged to rise, fearing to be late for the opening of school. The sailor could scarcely manage to get in a few hurried words of arrangements for the following day, and had scarcely time to thank Persis for her ready compliance with Norah's wish.

"Well," thought Franks, as he rapidly strode up the dell, "the life that maiden has chosen for herself is one that requires the patience of a saint! Chosen for herself! Is it not rather that which she deems appointed for her by God? What she does, she does unto Him, and this doubtless makes her able to bear and forbear, and watch with such tender care over one who, as Bessy said, had never shown her particular kindness. It does seem to me that it would be easier to be martyred at once, than to have for ever to take in tow such a water-logged old barge as that! I do believe that God counts as martyrs those who, for His sake, lead a life of quiet, patient self-denial, seeking not to do their own will, but the will of their Heavenly Master. Persis Meade looks like one who has God's sunshine around her!"

Ned Franks often repeated his visits to the ivy-covered cottage in the dell; but for weeks he never saw old Meade, without having to shout out an answer to the question, "What have you done with your hand?"







"Oh! I am so glad, so thankful to have you with me!" cried Norah, as, after leaving the coach, she walked with Persis Meade up the road which led to the workhouse of B—. "It is not only that I should have been afraid, that I could not have come without a companion, but you know—" Norah dropped her voice, and spoke in a hesitating tone—"you know poor Sophy may want some one to give comfort to her, religious comfort I mean, and to tell her all the things that you used to tell me on Sunday before I went into service. I never could speak of religion to Sophy. I am often so grieved and ashamed when I think how much we were together, and there was never, never a word said that could help her to Heaven! All such foolish talk!" sighed Norah. "Once I had resolved to say something, it was after my Uncle Ned had shown me how dishonest it was for us to feast together in the kitchen at my mistress's expense. Oh how I had turned the matter over and over in my mind, and thought of reasons to give, and found texts! But as soon as I saw Sophy's laughing eyes, and heard her merry voice, all that I had prepared seemed at once to go out of my head, I could scarcely utter a word! I find it so dreadfully hard to speak about religion to those who don't feel as I do!"

"Yes, it is very hard indeed," said Persis.

"Do you think it so?" exclaimed Norah with surprise and something like pleasure; "I fancied that was only the case with stupid little cowards like me!"

"To speak of the Blessed Saviour to one of my own age and position, who is not likely to feel on such a subject like myself, is to me an effort which I dare never undertake without secret prayer. It is very different," continued Persis Meade, "from teaching a Bible-class on Sundays, where one sees one's self surrounded by dear little pupils. I have often, like you, dear Norah, bitterly reproached myself for silence, from the fear of man that bringeth a snare." *

* Prov. xxix. 25.

By this time Persis and Norah had reached the door of that great brick building, which to the younger, perhaps to both, appeared such a formidable place! Norah's heart beat faster as the stout porter gave them admittance, and she followed Persis into a paved courtyard, surrounded by buildings, in which, in their pauper dresses, several of the inmates were lounging about in the sunshine, talking to the friends who at that special time had permission to come and see them. Persis courteously addressed an old woman, and asked her if she happened to know where they could find Sophy Puller.

"Sophy Puller!" echoed the woman; "that's the girl as has cried herself blind! Why, she's of our ward, No. 5—you can see the number there on yon door;" and she pointed across the courtyard.

"Let's come to her quickly," said Norah, drawing on her companion with nervous haste. The little maid was relieved at having found her friend with so much less difficulty than she had expected, and was anxious to escape out of the yard, where there were too many strangers to let her feel at her ease, especially as some of them stared at her as she passed. Persis tapped softly at the dark green door on which was painted the No. 5, then lifted the latch and entered for the first time a ward in a workhouse.

The room was whitewashed, perfectly clean and neat, and a fire that burned brightly gave to it a certain look of comfort. There were six beds, perfectly alike, three on the right hand, three on the left, a deal-table between, with some medicine bottles upon it. There were but two inmates in the ward when the visitors entered; an old bed-ridden woman lying asleep in the farthest corner, and Sophy Puller, who, dressed in the workhouse garb of striped white and blue print, was seated on a bed near the door.

Norah Peele was shocked to see the change which a few months had wrought in her once gay young companion. Could this be she who used to walk down the street with so jaunty a step, and so flaunting an air, with pink roses in her bonnet, and flounces on her wide-spreading dress? Could this pale drooping girl, with her thin fingers clenched together, and her pinched features rigid with unutterable woe, be the gay giddy creature who had laughed at care, and only lived for pleasure? Could this blind, sickly pauper, be the same as the milliner's lively young girl, whose ambition was to be thought a lady, to attract notice, and win admiration?

"Oh, Sophy! my poor Sophy!" exclaimed Norah, bursting into tears, as she ran up to her unhappy friend, and threw her arms around her.

Sophy Puller shed no tear, though her bosom heaved with sob-like gasps as she returned Norah's embrace. The poor girl could not speak for several moments, and then she faultered forth in a broken voice, "It is so kind—so like you, Norah, to come and see me here!" Then suddenly drawing herself back from Norah, with a passionate gesture of anguish, the unhappy Sophy exclaimed, "Oh, if you but knew my misery—the darkness here—everywhere—no hope! no hope!" She threw herself down on her bed, and covered her face with her hands.

Norah could not reply, she was weeping; but soft and low sounded the voice of Persis, repeating one verse from the Psalm, "Why art thou cast down, Oh, my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God!" *

* Psalm xlii. 11.

"Who is that speaking?" asked Sophy, hastily, but without withdrawing her hands.

"My friend, Miss Meade—I have spoken to you of her—she was my Sunday-class teacher," replied Norah.

"She need not come here, speaking of hope to me; I've none—never will have!" cried Sophy, speaking rapidly, and in a tone of despair. "I know all she can say—I was at school once—I was confirmed—I cared nothing for that at the time; but I remember well enough now what was said to me then; such thoughts come, I can't keep them out, to make me more wretched in the darkness!" Sophy started up again to her former position, and her dimmed eyes seemed staring wildly into vacancy as she went on, rather as if muttering to herself than as if addressing her companions. "I was told of two paths, one narrow, and leading to Heaven, the other broad, and leading to destruction; I took the broad, and now 'tis too late to return! I chose mirth and folly, I chose selfishness and sin, I turned my back upon all that I knew to be right, I led others astray, I forgot my God, and now there's but one text in all the Bible that I can recall to mind, and it haunts me night and day;" and in a tone that thrilled through the listeners, Sophy repeated the Saviour's most solemn question—"What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul, or what shall a man gave in exchange for his soul?" *

* Matt. xvi. 26.

Persis saw that the miserable Sophy was at that moment in too excited a state to receive religious instruction; the gentle, sympathising woman could only silently pray for wisdom to be given to herself, that she might direct the sufferer to the one Hope provided for sinners, and that grace might be given to Sophy, so that her bitter remorse might be changed into true repentance. Norah was the first to break silence; seating herself on the bed close to Sophy, and taking her hand tenderly between both of her own, she said, "Tell me, if it will not make you more sad, something of what has happened since you and I last saw each other on that night in September."

The sudden turn in the conversation roused Sophy from her despair. Painful as were her recollections, it was a relief to her to pour out her sorrows into a sympathising ear, and even the past, sad, as it was, appeared less gloomy than the present, less terrible than the future! Persis quietly seated herself on the bed next to Sophy's and it is probable that the poor girl altogether forgot the presence of the stranger, as, leaning her head on Norah's shoulder, she began her tale of woe.







"You remember that night, I can never forget it, when you refused to go with me to the entertainment, as I had tempted you to do? When you closed your mistress's door, and I found myself alone in the street, oh! How angry I felt, how I vowed to make you repent having dared to think of your duty instead of my pleasure and your own! I hastily joined my other companions, and we went together to the conjuror's show. We were very merry, I remember, we were full of joking and nonsense; only my father—he too was there—looked more fidgety and uneasy than I had ever seen him before. I thought that maybe he was not well; I did not guess what cause he had to be restless. Presently my father rose from his seat,—we were closely packed on the benches, and I was sitting beside him. He muttered something about the heat; and indeed what with the gas and the crowding, I didn't wonder if he felt a bit faint. He pushed his way out as well as he could, and as I looked after him I caught sight, just at the door, of a man who'd come from London, and who had had business with my father, what business I could not tell, but you know it all came out at the trial. He'd led my poor father into the trouble which, which—" The convict's daughter could not finish the sentence, a hot flush overspread her face, and Norah felt almost as uncomfortable as if the shame had been her own.

"I believe," continued Sophy, "that that man had made some sign to my father that the police were on the scent, and that was the reason why he left the place in such haste. You know," she lowered her voice, "that my poor father was taken up that night, and I never saw him again!"

"And you?" asked Norah, anxious to break the painful pause which followed.

"I went home when all was over, quite merry and jolly, to the lodging where you know that we used to live, my father and I; for though I worked for Miss Cobb, I never slept at her house. I went to sleep as light-hearted as could be, never dreaming what a terrible waking was a-coming. Wasn't I startled and frightened when Mrs. Smith—she was our landlady you know—burst suddenly into my little room in the morning, all full of excitement, and talking so loud and fast, that I could hardly make out her meaning at first. 'Twas a shameful thing, she cried, a disgraceful thing, that a respectable house like hers should be a harbour for thieves and forgers; the like had never happened afore, and she'd take precious care, she would, that it never should happen again. To think of the police a-coming to her door, and searching for false money on her premises! She bade me get up and dress, as she might have spoken to a dog, and set me all in a tremble by what she told me had happened to my father. Then there was a search—oh, dear! oh, dear!" Sophy shuddered at the recollection; "my boxes turned inside out, and the drawers—"

"But there was nothing against you?" interrupted Norah.

"Not bad money, but—but—lots of scraps of silk that I had cribbed from Miss Cobb; I always took such trifles as I could lay hands on, bits of gimp, and ribbon, and lace, and there were two pocket handkerchiefs of Mrs. Smith's—oh! wasn't she in a rage when she saw them; she called me such names—I can't repeat them—and threatened to give me over to the police!"

"How dreadful, how very dreadful!" exclaimed Norah, remembering with shame and remorse the time when she herself had hardly thought it wrong to take such trifles as she hoped would never be missed.

"I wonder I didn't go mad!" cried Sophy; "I think I was almost crazy, Mrs. Smith frightened me so! I didn't know what to do, or where to go, when I was left at last to myself. My father he was in prison; I'd not another relation in the town who could help me. I dared not go to Miss Cobb's, after what had been found in my box, I'd rather have died than go there! And I could not stay where I was, Mrs. Smith had said plain enough that she'd turn me out into the street!"

"Oh! Why did you not come to me?" cried Norah.

"As if your mistress would have let you have anything to do with—with one like me!" exclaimed Sophy. "'No,' thinks I, as soon as I could think at all, for my brain was whirling, 'I'll make a little bundle of my clothes, and I'll be off afore the whole town is astir, I can't bear to meet any faces I know!' So I made up my bundle, and crept down the stairs, and I was glad—oh, so glad—not to meet Mrs. Smith on the way. I opened the street-door and went out; I felt as if I were making an escape, I hurried down the street as fast as I could walk; I met none that I knew but the baker's boy, and I brushed past him without speaking a word. It seemed as if I could not breathe freely till I'd left the town behind, and got right out into the country."

"But where were you going?" asked Norah.

"I thought I would go to London. I knew that I had an aunt there in service, who lived somewhere in Portman Square; I fancied that I might find her out. Then I said to myself, 'how many make their fortunes in London, why should not I have luck too? And then there are such crowds of people in London, and they lead such bustling lives, that my father's troubles won't be the talk of the place, as they are here in a country town.'"

"But London is forty miles off!" cried Norah.

"I thought that I could walk the distance in two or three days," said Sophy, "or perhaps sell some of my pretty things, and get a lift on the way. It was a worry to me that I had no money; I had spent the last half-sovereign which my father had given me on a pair of new ear-rings. I walked on, and on, and on, passing one mile-stone after another, sitting down sometimes to rest myself by the way-side, till I was both hungry and tired. I had had no breakfast or dinner, you know. I stopped at last at a village. 'Here they won't know me,' thought I. I went up to a little inn; I'd opened my bundle and taken out something—I forget what—that I thought to exchange for food. There were two men by the door talking together, and they talked so loud that I could not help catching my poor father's name. They were talking of the two who had been taken up that morning for passing false coin, and were laughing over the dodges by which they had tried to escape the police! Oh," cried Sophy, clenching her hands, "I could not bear to hear more of that; I hurried out of the village as if the pavement burnt my feet! And then a dreadful fear shot into my mind; I had twice bought things with gold given to me by my father; I might have passed bad money unawares, and the police might be hunting after me. I had no peace after I thought of that danger! I was afraid of every man that I met, lest he should be a policeman in disguise! So I went on till the sun was beginning to set."

"Oh! Sophy," exclaimed Norah, "had you eaten nothing all that long time?"

"There were blackberries on the hedges, and I drank from a brook that I passed, but still I was very hungry and faint, and a chill drizzle was beginning to fall; I had determined that when I got into any place large enough to have a pawnbroker's shop in it, I'd sell or pledge my ear-rings, and get food and shelter for the night. Just as dusk was coming on, I got into a county town, and glad enough was I to see the three gilt balls hanging over a shop. I walked in with as bold an air as I could, but my knees were trembling under me, and I could not help a burning flush of shame spreading over my face, I was so dreadfully tired, you know. The pawnbroker looked hard at me, as he held the ear-rings in his hand. 'Where did you get these?' said he. I thought that he somehow knew me, and was going to give me up to justice. I was beginning to stammer out something, when another customer came in in a hurry, and took off his attention for a minute. Would you believe it, Norah? as soon as the pawnbroker's head was turned, I took the opportunity of slipping out of the shop, and hastening away as if for my life!"

"What? leaving the ear-rings!" cried Norah.

"I scarcely knew what I was doing, there was such a dizziness in my head, and such a ringing sound in my ears. I felt like a hunted creature, sure that some one must be in pursuit. Now that the sun had gone down," continued Sophy, "I grew more frightened than ever at the thought of being out alone in the dark. I saw large iron gates wide open, and a beautiful shrubbery beyond, surrounding a splendid white house, that looked to me like a palace. There were many lights in the windows, and I heard the gay sound of music from within. 'I'll go and ask shelter there,' thought I, 'for the rain is coming on heavy, and if I stay out on a wet night like this, I'll never live till the morning.' So I crept in at the gate, and along the shrubbery drive; but my heart failed me when I thought of going up to the large grand door, up the flight of broad steps, that had an awning over them. I sat, or rather sank down, under the shelter of a large laurel bush, and watched carriage after carriage driving up, and bright, merry children getting out, hurrying up the steps lest the rain should spoil their white muslin dresses. I had such strange, strange thoughts, like dreams, as I looked on the happy little creatures going into the palace, to the light, and the warmth, and the music, and the joy, while I crouched there, hungry, wet, and wretched, shut out from them all. The noise in my ears grew louder, it dulled the sound of the music; my eyes were heavy, my brain confused; I don't know whether I slept or fainted.

"I was roused by the sound of voices, kind voices, that spoke in a pitying tone. 'Help me to raise the poor girl,' said a gentleman, who, as I afterwards found, was the master of the grand house. I was so cramped and stiff that I could not have walked a step had my life depended upon it. The gentleman himself helped to lift me up, and carry me gently into the house, for motion hurt me so that I could not help crying out with the pain. I was taken to a nice warm room, where I was put into a bed, and food and drink were brought. I had no power to eat, but I drank with feverish thirst. I scarcely know what happened after that. I believe that a doctor saw me, and felt my pulse, and said that I was in for a long illness, and had better be taken to a hospital at once. I know that I was removed there, and had every comfort that I needed during a terrible attack of rheumatic fever. Oh, Norah! What I suffered. But all the pain was not so bad as the dreadful after-effects. My eyes, oh! My poor eyes. When I was dismissed from the hospital as cured, though so weak that I scarcely could stand, where was I, poor blind creature, to go? There was no place but the workhouse for me. And here I am, for life, the most wretched being on earth, with nothing to cheer me, nothing to hope for, either in this world, or the next."







"ALAS!" sighed Norah, "what a grievous pity it was that you had not gone up to the house at once. The good, kind gentleman would have helped you; you might never have had your fever, never have lost your sight."

"Don't you think that has come to my mind a thousand times?" cried Sophy, with a passionate burst of grief. "There was something which that gentleman said as he carried me into the house, that, whenever I think of it now, is like vinegar poured on a wound. 'Why did you not come to me?' he asked. I could not answer him then, I can't now answer that question even to myself. I must have been mad to have stayed out there in the darkness and rain, without so much as trying whether there might not be some one who would have mercy even on me."

Persis could keep silence no longer. "Oh, my poor young friend!" she exclaimed, "are you not doing the same thing now?—are you not remaining broken-hearted in the outer gloom of despair, when there is One waiting to be gracious—One stretching out His pierced hands with the invitation of love, 'Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'" *

* Matthew xi. 28.

"It is too late to come," replied Sophy; "I had my day of hope, and it is past."

"Oh, say not so!" cried Persis, with trembling earnestness, while Norah wept in silence. "It is Satan who, having led you into evil, would now drive you to despair; it is Satan who first bids us put off repentance, and then tells us that repentance is too late. Was it too late for the thief who hung beside our Lord on the cross? Conscience upbraided him, man despised him, his own fellow-creatures judged him unfit to live; he had lost his character, he had forfeited his life, he was suffering the agonies of the cross; but even amid those agonies the dying thief turned towards the Saviour, whose 'blood cleanseth from all sin,' * he threw himself on the mercy of Christ; he confessed his own utter vileness; he believed, repented, and was saved. The gates of a blessed paradise, which opened for the Lord of Glory, received also the penitent thief. If he found mercy, who shall despair? Oh come, come to the Saviour!"

* 2 Cor. vi. 17, 18. 1 John i. 7.

"Will He take me from this hateful place?" said Sophy, bitterly; "will He give me back my sight and my father?"

"The Lord will do far more," replied Persis, "for those who love and trust Him. He will take them 'from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God'; * He will open their eyes to see His love, and will fulfil to them His gracious promise—'I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.'" †

"That promise is not for me," said Sophy Puller, with a sigh of despair.

"And why not for you?" cried Persis, in her earnestness pressing the hand of the miserable girl between both her own. "You have tried the broad path, you have found it to be a path of disappointment and anguish; the Lord is pleading with you now, 'turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?'‡ You have served Satan, and found him to be a hard master; the Lord is able, willing to redeem you, and set you free! 'The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God'—Oh! Mark the word, the GIFT, not purchased, not earned, not deserved—'the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.'" §

* Rom. viii. 2, 21.      † 2 Cor. vi. 17, 18.

‡ Ezekiel xxxiii. 11.    § Rom. vi. 23.

"Do you mean to say," asked Sophy, abruptly, "that the good and the bad all go to Heaven alike?"

"Who are 'the good?'" asked Persis; "'there is none good but One, that is God.' * If our 'hope of salvation' rested on any merit of our own, it would be a hope indeed built on a trembling quicksand."

"Then what is our hope?" cried Sophy.

"Our hope is simply this," answered Persis; "'Christ died for the ungodly' † The greatest saint has no other plea, the greatest sinner may use it. Salvation is the purchase of Christ's blood; it is freely offered to all; they alone perish who reject it, and choose to continue in sin, rather than cast themselves, in humble faith, on the mercy of a pardoning Saviour!"

Sophy's bosom heaved convulsively; large drops rose in her dim eyes; she did not speak for some moments, and then it was between broken gasps, most painful to hear.

"I cannot believe that heaven can ever be opened to me! No—I shall be shut out, when those who love God pass in; when Norah and those I have known pass in to the light, and the glory, and the joy, I shall be lying in outer darkness, as I did by that rich man's door!"

* Matt. xix. 17.        † Rom. v. 6.

"Oh! No, no!" exclaimed Norah, in a voice broken by sobs, "you will knock now—now—it is not too late! Did not the Lord Himself say—'Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out?'" *

"Yes, knock by prayer," joined in Persis, "cry, 'God be merciful to me—a sinner!' Lay yourself with all your sins and your sorrows at the foot of the cross, 'looking unto Jesus' † in whom alone we can have forgiveness, who is our Salvation and our only Hope!"

Sophy Puller could not reply, but she sank on her knees and sobbed while her friends prayed beside her. The first faint dawn of comfort had risen upon her deep darkness. Persis hoped that she was weeping as the penitent wept who washed our Lord's feet with her tears. But who can look into the heart of another? How often are we deceived even by our own! It is only the after-life that shows whether repentance has been really deep and sincere, or whether it has been like the morning cloud, and the dew that passes away.

* John vi. 37.          † Heb. xii. 2.

Persis and Norah remained with Sophy as long as the rules of the workhouse permitted, and the short winter's day was already ending before they took their departure.

As Norah bade her poor friend farewell, she whispered, pressing Sophy's hand as she spoke, "You will not despair now, dear one? You have hope, oh! Say that you have hope! It is not all darkness now?"

Sophy drew a deep sigh. "If I had only you beside me to teach me to pray—"

"There is One who can teach you better, far better than any mortal can," said Persis, whose ear had caught the last words; "say, as the disciples said—'Lord, teach me to pray;' and with David, 'create in me a clean heart, oh God! and renew a right spirit within me!' * It is the Holy Spirit who guides back our wandering feet, who leads us to the merciful Saviour, who bids us look up to Him who was wounded for our transgressions, and in the thought of His perfect sacrifice, His boundless pity and love, find rest for our aching hearts, hope for our trembling souls."

* Psalm li.10.







"I am very thankful that I have seen my poor Sophy," said Norah Peele, as she stood with Persis by the high road, waiting for the coach which would take them back to the village. "But oh! Miss Meade, even if Sophy have the comfort of religion, if she have hope in the forgiveness and loving-kindness of God, what a dreary, dreary look out she has as regards this life! Why," continued Norah, quite appalled at the prospect, "she may have forty, fifty, sixty years of blindness in the workhouse before her, she who was so blithe and so busy. How dreadfully dull she will be! How heavily time will hang on her hands!"

"I have been thinking of that," replied Persis, while the two walked briskly up and down to keep themselves warm. "I remember that Mrs. Lane (I taught her children, you know), took great interest in a London asylum for the blind. In this asylum they are taught many useful arts by which they can earn an honest livelihood, notwithstanding their sad affliction."

"Oh! If we could but get Sophy there!" cried Norah. "She is so quick, so clever, so neat-fingered, she would learn if any one could!"

"I will go to Mrs. Lane to-morrow," said Persis, "and see if she be able to help us. I believe that Mr. Lane is a liberal subscriber, and I can answer for the kindness of his lady."

"How delightful it would be!" exclaimed Norah. "Why, why did you not cheer poor Sophy with the hope?"

"Because it is a very uncertain one," replied Persis, "and I feared to cause disappointment. Do you sleep at your mother's cottage to-night, dear Norah?"

"Oh, no! I never sleep away from Mrs. Martin's; I must be back to-night without fail."

"But the coach does not go on to your town, you'll have a three miles' walk in the dark."

"Oh! Uncle has arranged all so nicely. He is to meet us at the turn of the lane where the coach sets us down, first see you home, it is but a step, and then walk with me back to my mistress's house. I am afraid of nothing when he is beside me; he is a sailor you know, and has fought for the Queen."

"I hope that he will not fail you," said Persis, with a little anxiety for her youthful companion; "there is no moon, and the nights are so dark."

"Uncle Ned fail me!" repeated Norah, with indignant surprise. "Why, he promised to come, and he never breaks his word; I would not doubt him for a moment!"

"Would that we," thought Persis, "had the same perfect, fearless confidence in a Heavenly Friend that this dear girl has in an earthly! Her mind is at rest, for she trusts his promise; she has no fear, for she is sure that he will not fail her; while we, alas! are too apt to receive God's promises in a faithless, doubting spirit, as if He who is the Truth could deceive, or He who is Love could forsake!"

The tramping of horses feet was now heard, and two coach lamps, which to Norah looked like great red eyes in the darkness, came towards them along the high road. Persis and Norah were soon in the vehicle, which landed them at the end of the lane leading down to the wooded little dell.

"There's Uncle Ned—don't you see him by the light of the lamp? I knew he would be waiting for us!" cried Norah.

"Glad to hail you back from your cruise Norah," said the sailor, as the young girl with the help of his hand, sprang lightly down from the coach. "And hearty thanks to you for your kindness in convoying her," he added, holding out his arm to assist Persis Meade to alight.

The home of Persis was not many yards distant; Ned and his niece escorted her to the porch, where they parted, after Norah had expressed her grateful thanks to her friend.

"You will come to your mother's now, my girl," said Franks, "and warm yourself with a good cup of tea before we start on our walk to the town?"

"I should be so glad," replied Norah, whose feet and hands were numbed with the cold, and who dearly loved a visit to her own humble home; "but is not our cottage out of the way?"

"Ay, it lies a good bit to the south," answered Ned, "'twill take us nigh a mile round."

"Then I don't know—I'm not sure whether I ought to go there," said the hesitating girl. "Mistress only gave me leave to visit the workhouse, she bade me be back as soon as possible; and though Mrs. Cobb (she's the charwoman, you know), can make the tea, and clear away, she cannot read in the evening, and my lady will be all alone."

"That's right, Norah, think first of duty; always show yourself worthy of your mistress's trust."

"But if my mother should expect me—"

"You gave her no reason to do so," said Ned, "and three days will bring round the first Monday in the month, when you always get leave to come home. So let's sheer off at once, my girl, and try if brisk walking will not warm you as well as a cup of hot tea."

"I may look out for squalls for this, when next I see Bessy," thought the sailor; "but no matter, all will have blown over before Norah comes home on Monday."

Notwithstanding the darkness and the cold, North did not find her walk tedious as she tripped by her uncle's side. Her heart was very full of the sorrows of Sophy, and she was glad to speak of her to one who listened with interest, and who did not break out into abuse of the miserable girl, as it was more than probable that Bessy and Dan would have done. It was not in the nature of Franks to spurn the fallen; and he knew the evil of his nature too well to cast the first stone at others.

"Oh! Uncle, it made my heart bleed to see Sophy sitting there so wretched, so hopeless; she who had always been so full of bright expectations! She used to build such castles in the air when she and I sat gossipping together. Oh I to think of those days!" sighed Norah. "Poor Sophy seemed really to hope that she would be a lady at last; she delighted to fancy what she would do, and how she would dress, and where she would go, and what grand friends she would have! It was so amusing to hear her, and she talked of such things till I almost think that she began to believe that all would really come true. Alas! What an end to her hopes!"

"A very common end to such hopes," observed Franks; "they are like the garlands which such young lasses twine for their heads in May; gay enough in the morning, withered and dying in the evening, flung away at night. We need something stronger and more lasting, Norah, to cover the head in the long, hard battle of life. We want 'a hope' that 'maketh not ashamed.' * It is only religion that can give it; it is the Christian alone that can wear 'for a helmet the hope of salvation.'"

* Rom. v. 5.







Norah was surprised on answering the door-bell on the morning of the following Sunday to find her uncle standing without.

"Why, uncle, who would have thought to have seen you so early? and your face looks so bright, as if you were bringing good news!" cried the girl.

"Maybe my face speaks the truth," answered the sailor, gaily, stamping to free his boots from the snow which had gathered upon them. "I thought that my little lass would go to church with a lighter heart, if I stepped over early to tell her what I heard yesterday evening when I looked in at old Meade's."

"Something about Sophy," cried the eager Norah.

"Ay, ay; what your friend Miss Persis told me, as well as she could spin her yarn between the good old gentleman's kind inquiries about my hand," replied Ned Franks with a laugh: "She kept her promise of speaking to Mrs. Lane about poor blind Sophy, and the lady took quite an interest in the story which, I'll be bound, was not marred in the telling. The long and short of it is, that the lady is able to put your poor young friend into the asylum, and she took Persis, I mean Miss Meade, in her own carriage to the workhouse, that she might carry the good news to Sophy herself."

"Oh, I am so glad! I wish I could have been there," cried Norah, clapping her hands.

"It was all along of you that Miss Persis ever knew Sophy Puller," said Franks, looking fondly at his young niece; "'twas you that fixed the end of the cable, whoever else may tow her along."

"Was not Sophy charmed with the news? Tell me all about it," cried Norah.

"You shall hear all to-morrow," replied Franks, "when you come home to see your mother. I must not keep you long now, lest your lady's breakfast should suffer. Persis said that poor Sophy's eyes filled with tears when she heard that she might be taken from the workhouse next week, and given a chance in London of earning some honest trade. She didn't say much in the way of thanks, but, I take it, she felt none the less grateful, because tears would come in the place of words. But when the lady was speaking to the matron at the other end of the room, the poor girl got a little quiet talk with your friend. Sophy squeezed her hand very tightly, and whispered, 'Tell my dear Norah that I have been praying, I have been knocking, and I do hope that God has heard me, and that His door of mercy will be opened even to me.'"

"Did she send me that message?" exclaimed Norah, her blue eyes sparkling with joy.

"Ay, ay, word for word, as I took them down from the lips of your friend. She seemed as glad to repeat as you are to hear them, Norah; I take it that Persis Meade is one as shares the joy of the angels when a sinner's poor broken heart first feels the comfort of heavenly hope."

"Persis is more like an angel herself than any one else that I know," cried Norah. "I can't think how I did not profit more by all that she told me when I went to her Bible-class on Sundays."

"She sowed in hope," observed Franks, "and God gives the increase at last. No doubt she trusted in the word, 'let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.' * And now, goodbye, and God bless you, Norah;" Ned wrung his niece's hand as he spoke. "I'll be sure to drop in at your mother's and see you to-morrow, and walk back with you in the evening. You've done a kind act, my girl; you and your friend have made a good beginning to the year; may it be full of blessings to you and to her, both as regards heavenly things and earthly."

* Gal. vi. 9.

With a sweet sense of peace and joy, Norah Peele went to church on that first Sunday of the New-year. She was a very different girl from what she had been when the last year had opened upon her. Then, her first thought had been her own pleasure; Norah had been almost as apt as poor Sophy herself to build up fanciful hopes that must crumble at last into dust; but since she had come under the influence of her uncle, new feelings, new wishes, new hopes had arisen in Norah's soul. She had begun to realise that she was a redeemed, an immortal being, bound to glorify God in her body and her soul; and looking forward to the blessed time when she should inherit a crown of life, Norah was learning, in weal or woe, to "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." *

* Rom. v. 2.

Further results were to arise from Norah's wish to visit her poor friend at the workhouse, of which she had never dreamed when she had pondered over Mrs. Cupper's note with such perplexity and pain. Ned Franks, after his first visit to Persis Meade, very often found his way to the little cottage in the dell. As it was scarcely to be supposed that the magnet which drew him there was either the Jew who lodged in the upper room, or the poor old man who lived below, it was soon rumoured in the village that the teacher in Colme school was likely soon to bring home a bride.

"Is all true what folk say about your brother, eh?" asked Ben Stone, the jovial carpenter, of Bessy, who, with Norah at her side, had come to his workshop one bright day in the early spring to speak about the broken leg of a table.

"How can I tell what nonsense folk may say?" answered Bessy, peevishly.

"I guess yon little maid is in the secret," laughed Stone, as he looked at Norah's bright conscious face; "I guess she could tell us when her uncle's going to be married, and who's to be bridesmaid, and who's to be bride? I've only this to say," added the carpenter, bringing down his hammer with force on a nail, as if to give emphasis to his words, "Ned Franks, take him as he is, wooden arm and all, is the finest fellow in these parts, and the only one that I know of who would be a fit partner for such a woman as Persis."

"Well," said Bessy, shrugging her shoulders, "I don't see, for my part, what there's in her to take his fancy. I suppose that he thinks that her quick needle will serve as a portion, and that she'll earn something with that to help to keep the pot boiling."

"She has a right pretty face," observed Stone; "that goes a good way, I guess."

"Oh, it is not that!" exclaimed Norah; "Uncle Ned does not care for money, and values something better than beauty. He told me himself that he has long felt that it is the good Christian that makes the good wife, and that a marriage can be truly happy only when they who are to share an earthly home, also share heavenly hopes together."