Stories Told to a Child (1)

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The Grandmother's Shoe.


WHEN I was a child at school (said a friend of mine) my father had an attack of typhus fever; he had quite recovered again, and it was near the time of the holidays, when two servants took the infection; my parents, fearful of conveying it to me, did not write, and my boxes were packed before I knew how I was to be sent home.

    My schoolfellows were gone, and in a disconsolate mood I was gazing into the square, when I was told to come into the drawing-room.  There, in place of my nurse, who generally came to fetch me, I saw a stout, comely member of the Society of Friends; she was eating cake and wine with imperturbable gravity, and, when she had set down her glass, and smoothed out her gown upon her lap, she held out her hand, and said pleasantly

    "Does thee remember me, friend?"

    I looked at the matronly cloth shawl, the bonnet, with its pure white lining, the smooth grey hair and comfortable face, but could not remember where I had seen them before, till she added, "What! doesn't thee remember Thomas W—'s housekeeper?"

    Then I instantly exclaimed in the affirmative, evidently to the great relief of "Madame," who scarcely knew what to make of her grave visitor, and did not know whether she would trust me with her.

    She was housekeeper to a rich Quaker gentleman in our neighbourhood, with whose children I had once or twice spent the day in haymaking season, and her now remembered face was connected with visions of syllabub, strawberries, and other delicacies which she had served to us among the haycocks.

    "Thee remembers; that's well;" she then added, "thy father knows I am come for thee: Friend Thomas offered to take thee home for awhile, and he gladly consented."

    Tears came into my eyes at the thought of not seeing my parents, upon which she said, "There's Lucy, thee knows, and James, and little Martin, to play with.  Thy good parents mean to let the young women be nursed in the house, as they gave what help they could when thy father had the fever; so thee sees there is trouble enough without thy trying to add to it."  With a convulsive effort I checked my sobs, and reflected that, though not going home, I was, at least, leaving school, and that was something.  The Friend saw my boxes, dressed me, and took formal possession of me and them; then she carried me off in a post-chaise, remarking that she expected I was going to be a good child, and had said so to Lucy, and James, and Martin, when she came to fetch me.

    Could I disappoint Lucy, and James, and Martin?  No, certainly not; if they were impressed with the notion that my behaviour would do me credit, they should find it so.

    This was a very good, kind Friend; she let me pay the turnpikes myself, through the window; she bought buns for me; and, by dint of questioning her, I discovered that Lucy, and James, and Martin had got a pony, a donkey, some guinea-pigs, gardens of their own, a swing, and oh, joy of joys, a little mill that would go round and grind corn.

    By the time I had been welcomed in this hospitable house, and had helped to grind corn in the marvellous mill, I was only a little sorrowful; and by the time I had laid my head on the pillow, in a tiny bedroom next to Lucy's, I felt very much reconciled to my fate, though I knew that I should probably sleep there several weeks.

    I was ten years old, and Lucy, a prim little creature, was about the same age; her brothers were quite little children; the other members of the family consisted of a grandmother—a very stern, severe person, whom I greatly dreaded—the master of the house (her son), concerning whom I only knew that he was extremely kind and benign to us, and that he was a widower; and, lastly, his eldest daughter, the child of his first marriage, a sweet girl, little more than twenty years old, but wearing already the clear, high cap in which a really pretty face looks prettier than in almost anything else, and having about her the peculiar self-possession and composure of manner so often seen among those of her society.

    Lucy and I were a source of great interest to one another; we liked to be together, because of the different manner in which we had been taught to express ourselves.  We examined each other's clothes, and when we had a convenient opportunity, tried them on.  When this amusement failed we unpacked my toys, but none of them pleased Lucy till we came to two good-sized dolls, dressed in the ordinary costume of British babies; these we no sooner found than we thought how delightful it would be to dress them up in complete suits of Friends' clothes.  It was a very rainy day, so we went to the eldest daughter—"sister," as the children called her—and asked her for some pieces of silk, and scraps of cloth.  She was very bountiful, and gave us some pieces of ribbon besides.  We took our treasures, our little red work-boxes, and the dolls, to a room in the roof—a large, partially empty place, where we were sometimes allowed to play—and there, with infinite care and pains, we made each of them a dove-coloured silk gown of the most approved shape, a muslin handkerchief, a three-cornered brown shawl, and a proper silk bonnet.  When the clothes were finished we wetted the hair of the dolls to take out the curl, and then dressed them, and took them down into the hall, where we walked about with them by way of giving them an airing.  I never saw Lucy's father laugh heartily but once, and it was on that occasion; the sight of the "Puppet Friends," as he called them, quite overcame his habitual gravity; unluckily, we presently met Lucy grandmother, who was far from regarding them with the same good-humoured indulgence, and it was a painful fact to us, at the time, that after we were gone to bed, the "Puppet Friends" mysteriously disappeared.  Where they went to we never could discover, though we shrewdly suspected that the grandmother knew; but the mystery was never cleared up till after I returned to school, when I found them among my clothes, neatly wrapped in silver paper, but divested of their Quaker clothing.

    I passed a happy week, and on Sunday was sent to spend the day at the Parsonage.  About six in the evening I was brought back, and Lucy, and James, and Martin ran out to meet and welcome me in rather a more noisy and riotous fashion than suited the day; we were pursuing one another round the flower-beds when "sister" made her appearance at the window, and calling to us, reproved us gently for our mirth, saying to me, "What would thy good mother think, if she could see thee just now?"  She then set the youngest child upon a chair, smoothed his soft hair, and said to him, with a quietness of manner which soon communicated itself to him, "Thee must not forget whose day this is; sit there, I am going to read to thee and James about little Samuel in the temple."

    She then took up two Bibles, and gave Lucy and me a parable to learn by heart, sending us up to the room in the roof, and saying, that when she thought we had had time to learn it she should come and hear us say it.

    Upstairs Lucy and I accordingly went to the room in the roof, the aspect of which is still as vividly impressed on my mind as if I had seen it only yesterday.  It was a very long room, and had a sloping roof, but there was no carpet on it, and no furniture, excepting two square stools, on which Lucy and I sat.  The casement windows, both open, for it was hot, afforded a fine view over the country; from these we could look down into the tops of some elm trees, and see a mother rook feeding her young in the nest.

    At the opposite end to this the floor was raised one step, and across this raised part was drawn a heavy red curtain, so as to enclose it and the oriel window within it, and make them almost into a distinct apartment.  We were forbidden to enter this desirable little place, because it was considered to belong especially to the grandmother; but I had peeped into it several times, when the curtain was partly undrawn, and seen a little table with a great Bible upon it, an arm-chair, and a stand of flowering balsams and geraniums.

    The circumstance that this little retreat belonged to the grandmother made me, in common with her descendants, regard it with something like awe.  I cannot quite understand why we so much feared this old lady; she did not punish us; she did not scold us; I am inclined to think that we were daunted by the general air of disapproval with which she regarded us, more than by any fear that she would manifest it in deeds or words.

    However good we might be, still we were ONLY children.  We actually felt ashamed of ourselves in her presence to think that we were children!  We knew we could not help it, it was an inevitable dispensation, but she did not appear to think so; she sometimes had the appearance of thinking that we could help it if we liked, and were children on purpose!

    Children are inferior beings; we felt that, and were humble.  We are beings whose nature it is to crumple tucks, make finger-marks on doors, run instead of walking, to be troublesome and want looking after, to play with toys and break them.  In fact, if one only considers this subject, children take more nursing, more looking after, than one supposes; one generation is almost entirely occupied in teaching, bringing up, and providing for the next.  Children, in some way or other, make the talk, the care, and the work of their elders; and if such a thing as an elder is now and then found who does not like children, what an unlucky thing it is for both parties.

    But to leave these speculations.  The sun was shining in at the oriel window when Lucy and I entered the long whitewashed room on that memorable Sunday evening.  The red curtain was half drawn, and it cast a delightful glow over the wall; we could not see the window, but we knew it was open, because a slight waft of air from it now and then swayed the curtain up and down, and floated the fallen leaves of geraniums across the bare floor.

    We sat down at a distance from the curtain, each on one of the low stools.  Lucy smoothed out her clean frock over her knees, set her little feet together, folded her arms, and counted her verses; there were ten.  She produced from her pocket a Tonquin bean, two slate pencils, and seven ivory buttons; these she laid out on the floor beside her, taking up one and returning it to her pocket for each verse that she knew; this, she said, made it much easier to learn them.  Not to be behind-hand with her, and having some faith in the plan, I gathered up ten geranium leaves for the same purpose, and we both set to work to learn our verses with great diligence and gravity.

    For some time we persevered, but it was a very warm evening, which, in addition to our being children, was, perhaps, the reason why, at last, we began to yawn, and to fidget, and then to compare notes as to how much we had each learned.

    Lucy's bean and pencils had gone back into her pocket, but her buttons lay still in a shining row.  We bent our eyes again upon our books—one button went into Lucy's pocket.  Then we took a rest, and watched how far the little wafts of wind were floating in the leaves; a great red leaf was following two delicate white ones; it seemed to pursue them; it was a lion running after two lambs; now they lay still, and the lion was watching his prey; now they were borne a little further; now the lion was just upon them, in another instant they would be overtaken.  Lucy could not bear to see the catastrophe that her own imagination had suggested, and darted across the room to rescue the two white lambs; then I related to her Mrs. Cameron's story of "The Two Lambs," and by the time it was finished we had so far forgotten ourselves that we went on talking and chattering as if the Bibles had not been lying open on our knees, and as if it had not been Sunday evening, and as if we had neither of us been taught any better.

    Oblivious also that there was such a person as a grandmother in the world, we had been talking about my blue sash, and Lucy wished she had one like it.  We talked about Lucy's lessons, and I wished I was a Friend that I might escape from learning music.  We talked about the two dolls, about Lucy's sister, and my mamma, which was the most indulgent, and which was the prettiest.  We talked about what we intended to do when we were grown up.  Last of all, as I well remember, we talked about the grandmother herself, her best gown—her walking-stick, how upright she sat, what a trouble she thought us, whether there was any chance of her going to Ireland to visit her other son; how she often said to father, "Thomas, thy children ought to be kept stricter—stricter, Thomas; "how, once, when she had said it, father had smiled, and then grandmother had said, "Thomas, I fear thou art a light man."  "And we saw father smile," said Lucy, shrewdly; but the words were scarcely uttered when the smile died out from her own face, and a sudden blush mounted to her forehead.  "What is it, Lucy? what's the matter?" I exclaimed.  Lucy sat as still as if she scarcely dared to breathe; she seized my arm to check me, and pointed towards the curtain.  Alas! shame and fear soon flushed my face as red as her own, for the terrible conviction struck us that the grandmother was behind it; the curtain had been blown a little backorder than before by the summer wind, and peering beyond it in the sunshine, was the toe of a shoe that could belong only to the grandmother!



    Never shall I forget the sensations of the next few minutes, nor the sudden silence that succeeded to our childish and profitless talk.  We did not expect to sit there long; every moment we looked for a summons from her to come into her presence and receive the lecture which we knew we so richly deserved; but when that imperturbable shoe had kept its position a little longer, we almost wished she would break the silence, that this fearful suspense might be ended.  But no, she neither stirred nor spoke; the most perfect quiet reigned; there was only a slight rustle now and then, which might be the turning over of a page, and which we had heard before, supposing it to be only the curtain.

    We did not know what to do, we were so miserable.  We gazed intently through the red folds of the drapery, and could see, by a dark shadow, that the chair was occupied.  Oh that we had but been wise enough to notice this before!  We withdrew our eyes, and, with one tearful look of condolence at one another, dropped them again upon our verses, and began to learn them with extreme diligence and humility.  But still the inexorable grandmother never spoke.  Oh how startling would be her voice when it came!

    Not a word either of us said for a long time.  At length Lucy observed, in a humble, saddened voice, "I know my parable, Sophia, dost thou?"

    I had learnt mine perfectly for some time, but neither of us rose.  We had an idea that the first attempt on our part at leaving the room would be met by the dreaded summons; we were already enduring punishment of a very severe nature; our cheeks were dyed with shame, and our hearts beating with apprehension.  At length we heard a distant step sedately and steadily mounting the stairs, now it was coming along the uncarpeted passage, then a hand was on the door, and "sister entered, asking us, with her usual sweet gravity, whether we knew the parable she had set us.  She paused for a moment, evidently surprised by our troubled, shamefaced expression; but she asked no question, and, to our utter confusion, advanced straight to the curtain, as if to pull it back.  "Sister, sister!" exclaimed Lucy, springing forward, but not in time to prevent what she was doing; she flung aside the curtain, and oh, inexpressible relief and astonishment, no grandmother was there!

    We had both risen; and now the full sunshine streamed up over the ceiling and rested on sister's ceiling quiet forehead; it did not fall low enough to reach us; we were left in shadow, but the shadow had passed away from our hearts.  She said to Lucy, "Why didst thou check me, child?"

    Lucy replied with a sigh of relief, "I thought grandmother was there."

    We entered the little sanctum, saw how the grandmother's garden shawl and bonnet were thrown over the chair, remarked her garden-overshoes, which had frightened us, the scissors with which she had dressed her plants, and the gloves lying beside her Bible; then we looked at one another with feelings of gratitude, and followed sister to the grandmother's chair, where she sat down while we stood before her and repeated our parable.  As she sat there, her tall figure lightly bending forward, the open Bible lying upon her knee, her serene eyes fixed on ours, and the sweet sunshine touching her soft hair and tranquil forehead, she presented a picture which is indelibly impressed upon my memory, together with a sense that I had of the contrast between her peace and my own consciousness of misdoing.  She returned the Bibles when we had finished, saying to me with serious sweetness, "I am pleased with thee; thou hast learnt thy verses well, and said them, reverently."

    She again looked at us as if puzzled by our faces, and then she rose and would have left the room, when we stopped her, for her praise was not to be received when we knew we did not deserve it.  We asked her to sit down again, and then half-laughing, half-crying, related the whole of our adventure; we concealed northing; we told over all our conversation, how we had been chattering and playing, what we had said about the grandmother, our terror and shame when we thought we were in her presence, and our indescribable relief when we found she was not there

    Much as we respected sister, we so wanted her to sympathise, that, though we knew she would disapprove of our behaviour, and perhaps reprove us, we by no means softened our tale in the relation, but described how every rustle of the curtain had disturbed our guilty consciences; how we had sat upright on our seats, not daring to look about us, so conscious were we of the grandmother's presence, even though we knew she could not see us.

    Sister looked from one to the other with an expression of regret, but not the least tendency to a smile.  "I thought grandmother would never forgive us, and she would tell father," said Lucy, "how we had played and laughed, and talked about her, and all on First-day evening.  I was so ashamed I wouldn't have had her know for anything.  I thought I should never be happy again."

    "And, after all," I added, "there was no harm done."

    "No harm!" said sister, quietly, "what dost thou mean?"

    "Why, you know," said I, carelessly, "the grandmother was not there."

    "Thou heedless child," she answered, with that look of pity and regret, "art thou really so much afraid of my grandmother, and dost thou wholly forget the ear that did listen to thy talking, and the eye that was upon thee all the time?"

    We both looked about us, at the curtain, at the places where we had been sitting, and in sister's face, with a sudden sense of the presence and nearness of God, that I believe we had never felt before.  When she added, "What wouldst thou have done if, when I drew back the curtain, thou hadst seen the Redeemer standing there?  Shouldst thou have said then there is no harm done?"  We neither of us answered a word, so completely were we surprised into awe by the aptness of this word in season.

    "Years have passed since then," said my friend, "but I believe the effects of that gentle rebuke have not altogether passed away with them; it made a greater impression upon us than even the grandmother's anger could have done, however great that might have been."

    When "sister" had left us, we went to one of the open casements, and I well remember the sensation of repose with which we congratulated one another on the grandmother's not having been present; and though the consciousness of a far higher presence was strong in our hearts, we experienced also somewhat of that feeling which made King David say, "Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord, and let us not fall into the hand of man."

    In our childish fashion we began to speculate as to how we should behave if we always believed and remembered that the Great God was observing us; and then, as I suppose most children have done at some time or other, we suddenly formed a resolution, that from that day forward we would behave quite differently; that we would reform all our faults, never be idle over our lessons; nor play at improper tunes, nor conceal any mischief that we might have done; nor tease the little ones, nor hide ourselves in the shrubberies when we knew the nurse was looking for us to call us in to bed.

    In short, we passed in review all our childish faults as far as we knew them, and made a set of rules for future good behaviour.

    We had a fashion at the school where I was for writing sets of rules; one would have thought the rule under which we lived was stringent and inflexible enough; but no, we copied Madame's favourite phrase, "I shall make a rule, Mes Demoiselles," and we made more rules than even our rulers.

    We often spent part of one half-holiday in writing rules for the spending of the next—elaborate rules, as to how long we would play with our dolls, how long we would spend over our home letters, how long in reading our story-books, how long in feeding our birds; in short, we had scarcely one half-hour which we could call our own that we did not hamper with rules containing as many additions and subtractions as a long division sum.  I had imparted this fashion to Lucy, and we had already made, and altered, and broken several sets of these rules, but, on that delightful Sunday evening, while the sun was sinking into the distant sea, and reddening the sky, the water, the walls, our white frocks, and the fluttering leaves of our Bibles, we made one set more.  The particulars of them I have forgotten, but the intention formed, in all childish simplicity, was to help us to keep the presence of God always in our recollection.

    There was a little picture in one of my books which represented Hagar in the parched wilderness sitting apart from the fainting Ishmael; underneath it were the words, "Thou, God, seest me."  This, we said, we would hang on the wall opposite to our two stools, where every afternoon we sat learning our lessons for the next day, or doing our playwork, as we called it.

    How little, for all the sympathy of love, a child is known to his elders!  How little during the ensuing week our childish troubles, our wavering endeavours to do right, our surprise at our own failures, were suspected in that orderly household!  The days, however, went and came, and our rules it appeared must have had some real influence over us, for I well remember that the nurse and housekeeper commended us to "sister" as "excellent good children, as toward, friend, as thee would wish to see."  The restrictions which we had laid upon ourselves were not light ones for children to observe, and, though they only bound us to do our duty, it was not wonderful that we sometimes broke through them, and sometimes lightly forgot them, considering that the red curtain did not always hang in our sight, and considering that childhood and youth are vanity.

    Another Sunday evening came; we learnt our lessons in the upper room, and were so quiet and diligent that the presence of no grandmother in the world could have frightened us.

    The next morning we were awakened early by the rooks in the trees, close by our windows, and we rose and went out for a ramble before breakfast.

    Within the grounds, which were laid out partly in grass and flowers, and partly in shrubbery, there was a walled fruit garden; and this we were only permitted to enter on the express understanding that we were on no pretence to gather, or to pick up, or to touch any of the fruit; "not so much" (so "sister" phrased it) "as a fallen gooseberry."

    Fruit was always given to us once during the day, but the father of the family was extremely particular about his trees, and suffered no fruit to be gathered but by his own hand.

    I was told of this regulation at once by the children, and when Lucy said to her sister, "Did thee know that Sophia had leave to gather fruit at home?" and I exclaimed, that I did not wish to do it here, and was very happy; she answered with her usual sweet composure, "Thee need not blush so much, I know thou art in general a reasonable child."

    "I don't wish for anything," I explained, "that Lucy does not have."

    "That's well," she replied; "we desire to see thee happy and satisfied; but thou knowest that my father considers thee under his authority while thou art here, and will not alter his rule for thy sake; but as thou hast been used to gather fruit for thyself, I advise thee not to go into the fruit garden, if thou art tempted to transgress.  There are other walks where thou canst bowl thy hoop."

    "I wonder you should suppose such a thing," I interrupted, quite vexed at her plain speaking, and the implied supposition that I could be tempted to such a greedy and disobedient act.

    She smiled at my speech, but there was nothing sarcastic in the smile; and she answered, "I do not suppose thee to be any better than thy first mother; yet she was tempted with an apple."

    "And apples are not half so good as plums," observed one of the little brothers, sagely nodding his head.

    "No one asked for thy opinion," said my champion Lucy, in a low voice; "does thee wish Sophia to be kept out of the garden?"

    Sister cut the conference short, by giving us each a piece of seed-cake, and sending us out with general directions to be good, and not get into mischief; and there was such ample space to play in, and we had so many means of amusing ourselves, that we should have been more culpable than most children, if we had disobeyed them.

    The garden, with all its walks, the orchard, where we sometimes sauntered early in the morning, and saw the greengages which had fallen in the night lying among the dewy grass; the rough trunks of the plum trees all grey with lichen, and blue above with partly ripe fruit, are vividly impressed upon my recollection; as well as the frames on which, in the middle of the day, we sometimes laid our hands to feel how hot the glass was; peeping through at the long cucumbers and plump melons, as they lay basking in the moist heat; or following the gardener when he walked round with his tiles, and laid them carefully under those which he wished to ripen first.

    I also remember, as if it had happened but yesterday, how we used to run to meet Lucy's placid father, as he came leisurely down the grass walk, to have his daily colloquy with the gardener, how he gathered and stored the ripe pears from the espaliers, and lifted up the leaves from the wall fruit to see how it was coming on, how he would lament that birds should be such arrant thieves, and turn a deaf car to the old gardener, when he muttered that there was but one way to cure them of it.

    Then I remember the cool fruit-house, into which we sometimes helped him to carry summer apples; and what the gardener called the 'kippen peers;' but above all, I remember a certain fine young apricot tree, a moor-park, in its first year of bearing, and how every day we went to count and admire upon it six beautiful apricots, and no more.

    Few things in a garden are more beautiful than ripening apricots; the downy surface, the rich golden colour, speckled, as in this sort, with clear red spots, and surrounded by pointed leaves of most glossy green, and broad sunshine that bathed them, the careful training; all combined to make us take a peculiar interest in this young tree, which had been the only survivor among several of the same sort that had been planted along with it.

    When we had walked all round with Lucy's father, he used to take up a flat straw basket, lay some leaves of curly brocoli in it, and go with us to the orchard, where he would gather some ripe greengages, purple plums, jargonel-pears, with, perhaps, a few late white-heart cherries, and some little red apples, red to the very core.  In the south wall of the garden there was a door, leading into a place they called the wilderness; it was an uncommonly well-ordered wilderness, like everything about the premises.  Through this door father used to proceed to a bench under the trees, where he caused us to sit down in a row, while he divided the fruit equally among us.

    There was no underwood in this delightful retreat, the trees composing it were elms, thickly boughed plants to shelter us from the sun, but not to prevent the elastic mossy grass from flourishing underneath, nor to prevent the growth of numerous groups of large white lilies.

    All the lilies in the garden had done flowering, but these, more pure and more luxuriant, through shade and shelter, were then in their full perfection, and filled the air with their delightful fragrance.

    The children called them sister's lilies, because when she was a child she had planted them.

    We generally brought pieces of bread with us to eat with our fruit, and the wilderness being our favourite retreat, we played there at all times in the day.

    The lilies were taller than the younger children, who would stand on tip-toe to push their little fingers into the higher flowers, and bring them down covered with yellow pollen.

    Unchanged, themselves, in their white purity, they were yet susceptible of apparent change from difference in the light cast upon them.  When the full glare of high noon was upon the tops of the elms, then was cast, through their leaves, upon the lilies, a faint tinge of most delicate green; but at sunset, we, who lived so much among them, sometimes saw a pure glow of crimson reflected through the white petals, when the setting sun sent his level beams between the trunks of the trees.  But I have said enough of these fragrant lilies; they are dead now, and the hand that planted them.

    As I before mentioned, after that successful Sunday, Lucy and I walked out in the garden early in the morning, and congratulated one another on our good behaviour, which we intended always to last, and firmly believed it always would; but we were growing careless and confident, and though the thought of the red curtain never failed to bring salutary feelings with it, there were times when we did not think of it at all, and in one of those times temptation came.

    It was fine weather, and we expected some cousins of Lucy's to spend the day with us, and, as we walked, we planned how we would pass the time.  Lucy confided to me that they would most likely be very noisy, and perhaps rude; but this, like two little self-righteous Pharisees, as we were on that particular day, we decided to prevent if possible; certainly not to participate in, as Lucy said she often had done hitherto.

    I believe we had not the least idea that our strength might fail us, and we made our arrangements with as much composure as if we ourselves were quite above the ordinary temptations of humanity.

    The cousins arrived soon after breakfast, and the very first sight of them dissipated some of our ideas; they were older, had more assurance of manner than ourselves; but children understand each other so well that I perceived, even during the first half hour, that they were amusing themselves at my expense; and taking notice of every word I uttered, as was evident by the glances which passed between them, though to outward appearance they were remarkably grave.  I also observed that Lucy, though so accustomed to see them, and though she talked of them so freely in their absence, was very much awed by them, and very silent now.

    When they escaped from the presence of their elders, their manner suddenly changed; they had evidently not been brought up like ourselves, and their gravity and over-submissiveness in the company of their uncle, and their riotous behaviour in his absence had a very bad effect upon us all.

    At first, Lucy and I were all blushes and deference, but they soon laughed us out of that, and by means of a little well-applied ridicule brought us into such complete thraldom, that, though we neither liked them, nor enjoyed playing with them, we wished nothing so much as to stand well in their eyes, and to be and to do whatever they chose to dictate.

    It is astonishing what mischief can be done in a day!  Two rough boys, and one prim little girl, so upset our ideas of right and wrong, and frightened us out of propriety, that we were nearly as rude as themselves through false shame at appearing otherwise.  We heard the father laughed at in his absence, and ridiculed for his peculiarity about the fruit, and we had nothing to say; we saw sister seeking for us in the shrubbery, and eluded her, and had lost courage against their orders to come out of our hiding-place and show ourselves.  Yet these cousins kept us in high spirits, or rather in a state of considerable excitement; we spent the whole day with them in games of play, and went to bed at night thoroughly tired, and not at all inclined to talk together as usual.

    At six o'clock the next morning we got up and went out into the garden; the excitement of the past day was still upon us; we were not at all like the children who had walked there previous to this visit.

    It was a very sultry morning, the air was still, the dew was dried already from the grass.  It wanted an hour yet to breakfast time, and as Lucy and I sauntered leisurely through the wilderness, we discussed her cousins, blaming them very freely in their absence, though we had wanted courage to do it at the proper time.

    We passed into the walled garden, and there the heat, for the time of day, was quite remarkable; we got under the shade of the wall, and took off our bonnets to use by way of fans.  Apples, pears, plums, lay thickly under the trees, the neighbourhood of the frames was fragrant with the scent of the melons, which seemed as if it might have been collecting there all night, for there was not the least waft of air to carry it away.  We came to the little apricot tree, and stopped before it as usual; the six apricots were now quite ripe.  Lucy was quite sure her father would gather them that day, and hoped he would give one to us.

    We were just about to pass on, when, O sad mischance! a ripe one fell heavily from the highest branch at our feet, and broke nearly in half with the force of the fall.  It was not one of the six—we counted them, and all were in their places; a tuft of spleenwort grew out of the wall just where it fell from; behind that and some leaves this apricot must have ripened, and been entirely concealed.

    Before we knew what we were about, Lucy had picked it up and divided it.  "Look," she said, "father does not know of this, and the wasps would spoil it before he came out; eat thy half, and I will eat mine."  She put it into my hand, and I immediately tasted it and ate it.

    I cannot say that even in eating, that apricot was nice to the taste; it was embittered by conscience and hot as the morning was, it did not refresh me.

    A short silence followed, we remained standing before the apricot tree, then, without looking each other in the face, we moved slowly to the door into the wilderness.

    Broken rules and regulations began to rush back into my recollection, with shame, and repentance, and regret, till Lucy, suddenly bursting into tears, and exclaiming, "Oh, I am so sorry, Sophia!  I am so sorry I gave it thee."  I turned to look at her, and saw in her hand the other half of the apricot.  Her face was crimsoned through agitation; the cause of it was evident, when she added, that if I wished it she would now eat the other half, for, as she had tempted me, I should not be alone in the punishment.

    I was far from having any such wish; she had hesitated at the right moment.  Unhappy as I was, it would have been no relief to know she had as much cause for sorrow as myself.  I asked her to give me the other half of the apricot, and we found a little space bare of grass at the foot of a lily, where we made a small hole and buried it, and covered it down.

    When we had done this, Lucy appeared relieved, but as for me, every moment increased my uneasiness; I wondered, I was astonished to think, that for such a very paltry gratification I should have put my neck under such a yoke; either I must conceal this fault, and be always in fear lest it should be discovered, or I must confess it—confess to greediness, a fault children feel peculiar shame in—and not to my own father, but to a gentleman whose hospitality I was enjoying, who gave me as much of his fruit as he thought good for me every day, and who allowed me to play in his garden, only on the express promise on my part that I never would take any without his leave.  All this, and much more, passed through my mind, as we walked slowly in to breakfast.  I thought not only of my fault with reference to man, but having such slight experience as yet in the frailty of my nature, I wondered how it was that when it most behoved me to remember it, I should have forgotten our resolution when we found ourselves free from the consequences we deserved at the drawing back of the red curtain, and wondered more than all that I should have forgotten the saying that hung so often in my sight, "Thou, God, seest me."

    We entered the house and found breakfast ready; the heat was wonderful, and the stillness in the air was complete.  A singular glow was diffused over everything, though the sun was not shining, and through the open window came multitudes of minute flies like morsels of black thread.

    Sister said there was going to be a storm; we all felt oppressed.  Lucy was quiet, but a restless feeling of apprehension hung over me.  My mind was busy with the young apricot tree, and in every face I fancied I saw a reflection of my thought.

    It was impossible to keep the flies off the bread; the tea was sprinkled with them, as well as the tablecloth and our clothes.  The grandmother presently began to tell how such a swarm had preceded a great storm which took place in her youth, when a house was struck, and a bed driven into the middle of a room, while two children who were sleeping in it remained uninjured.

    The wearisome meal at length was over, the poor little children were quite overpowered; the youngest came up to his sister, and leaning his head against her, said, "I want to sit on thy knee."  As she took him up, James and Lucy brought their stools to her side, and looked in her face apprehensively.

    "What art thou afraid of?" she said composedly to Lucy; "GOD IS IN THE STORM, He can take care of thee."

    The father and grandmother went out of the room to give some orders, and the next instant several vivid flashes of lightning seemed to dash across our faces.  "There," she said, when the thunder which followed them ceased, "dost thou see how quiet Sophia is?—She is not afraid."

    "I am not afraid of the storm," I replied; and I asked her if I might go up to my own room.

    She gave me leave, and I moved upstairs to the little chamber.  I remember something of the terrible dimness which seemed to have gathered in an instant; and of the glowing heat that appeared to strike against me as from the door of an oven.  But sister's remark that God was in the storm was paramount to everything else, and before the thought of safety came the necessity to ask forgiveness.

    Let no one say my fault was a trifling one; it was the same which had cost my first mother her place in Paradise.  I had eaten forbidden fruit; and as I knelt at the foot of the bed and hid my face, I remembered what sister had said on this subject, and how I had despised her advice to keep away from temptation.

    Again there rushed over my heart the sudden comprehension of the nearness of God.  In my childish thought I felt His presence so close to me, that I did not need to pray aloud; but as well as I could I entreated forgiveness, though the deafening peals of thunder seemed to drown my words, and confuse my very thoughts and senses.  The floor shook under me, and I heard the furniture rattle and reel; but God, I knew, was in the storm, and gradually, as I prayed to Him, His near presence, which had been so terrible to me, became, to my apprehension, a source of rest, and brought a consciousness of protection.

    There was nothing else to trust in during that great danger; but it was enough.  I was quite alone, and though sometimes a little stunned by the noise, was able to distinguish the strange sounds, the creaking and crashing of boughs of trees, the lowing of the frightened cattle, the distressed cries of the rooks.  The very house itself seemed endowed with power to complain, and groaned and trembled to its foundation.

    One other incident I remember of that half-hour: Something soft had brushed across my hands; I lifted up my face, and saw two trembling, dripping swallows sitting on my pillow!

    And now the sound of drenching rain was added to the tumult of the thunder.  I remained kneeling, but was no longer afraid.  Then came a short pause, and I thought I would get up and look for Lucy's father.  I did not doubt that my fault was forgiven, but my head was still a little confused with the noise, and I wished to tell him my fault without considering whether this was a convenient season.

    I wandered about, but could find no one; I opened several doors; at length I came to the upper room so often mentioned, advanced to the red curtain, and looked in.  There I saw him and the grandmother sitting side by side, perfectly composed, but with somewhat awe-struck faces; the son was holding his mother by the hand, and they were quite silent.  I came in and stood beside him for a few minutes; the storm was clearing off with magical celerity, and two minutes after the last tremendous clap of thunder, the rain ceased, and the sun shone out over the sodden grass and the ruined garden, all strewed with broken branches, fallen fruit, and dead nestlings flung from the nests, and over which the mother rooks were piteously lamenting.  The great fear of God, so lately suffered, had taken away for a time all fear of man; and though the grandmother was present, I did not feel afraid when I asked Lucy's father if he would hear something that I wanted to tell him.

    Some few things in our childhood make such a deep impression on the mind that they are never forgotten.  I still remember how I told my story to Lucy's father, and almost the very words in which I told him.

    I remember his benign face, which, to my great surprise, never once became in the least displeased all through the broken narrative.  I remember the grandmother's manner, which, stranger still, never reproached me as it did at other times.  I remember the touch of her agčd hand, as once or twice she passed it softly over my hair; and, more than all, I remember the quiet kindness of Lucia's father, and how gently he said, when I had finished, and he had reflected for a few moments on my tale, "Well, well, let him that is without sin among us first cast a stone at thee."

    From that day forward the grandmother was particularly kind to me.


――――♦――――


 
Little Rie and the Rosebuds.


THE last house before you come to the open heath, is a grey, cheerless looking place in winter, though in summer it looks pleasant and gay, for it is nearly covered with china roses.

    There are a good many trees in the front garden, and some thick laurestinus shrubs.  On one side of the porch is the kitchen casement; on the other side the parlour windows.  All through the summer, rose leaves drift in whenever these are open, and, even as late as November, rosebuds tap against the glass whenever the blustering gale comes round from the heath, as if appealing to the inmates to take them in and shelter them from the wind and the rain.

    The inmates are a mistress and a maid.  The former is a widow; but her late husband saved money in his trade, and has left her a comfortable annuity.  The latter is not very fair, nor very wise, but, as her mistress says, her honesty makes up for want of wit, and she has a kind heart though it be a foolish one.

    One dreary November afternoon, when the sky was piled up with cold, white clouds, and the gusty wind shook every pool in the gravel walk into ripples, the mistress came into the kitchen and sat at a table stoning raisins for a cake, while the maid kneaded dough for the said cake in a pan on the window seat.

    Suddenly a shadow darkened the window, and mistress and maid, raising their eyes, saw a dark, determined-looking woman standing outside offering matches for sale; she held a tiny child, about five years of age, by the hand.  The little creature peered with childish interest into the kitchen, and she also pushed forward her bundle of matches; but they were perfectly wet, and so was the dimpled hand that held them, for rain was streaming from every portion of her tattered garments.

    "No; go away, we don't want any matches," said the mistress; but the woman still stood before the window with a forbidding, not to say menacing aspect.

    "The woman's boots and clothes are very good," said Sally, the maid; "but it's pitiful to see the poor child's bare feet and rags; she looks hungry, too."

    "Well, Sally, you may give her something to eat, then," said the mistress.

    Sally rose with alacrity, and rubbing the flour from her arms, ran hastily to a little pantry, from which she presently returned with a piece of cold pudding.  She opened the casement, and held it out to the child, who took it with evident delight and began to eat it at once.  Then the dripping pair moved away, and the mistress and maid thought no more of them, but went on with their occupation, while the short day began to close in the sooner, for the driving clouds and pouring rain, and the windows in the little stone house began to glow with the cheerful light of the fires.

    In the pauses of the wind and rain, Sally once thought she heard a light footfall, but she did not see anyone in the garden, though if anyone did come in then and wander round the laurestinus bushes, and sit down in the little porch, that person must have seen all that went on that rainy night in the cheerful little parlour and kitchen; must have seen the whitewashed walls of the kitchen glowing with a more and more ruddy reflection from the flames; must have seen the little door open in the face of the cuckoo clock, and the cuckoo start briskly out and sing, and dart in again; and must have seen Sally bustling about, cutting bread and butter, setting out tea-things, and putting on her clean apron; then the person, by simply turning, could have seen the mistress, in her afternoon gown and cap, sitting in her pretty parlour, the walls all covered with roses, and the carpet gay with bright flowers.

    It grew quite dark.  Sally sat making a round of toast at the fire, and just as she turned the toast upon the fork, a little child stole as silently as a shadow from the porch, and pressed her cheek against the glass, and wondered whether there was any more of that nice cold pudding in the cupboard, and looked at the lazy cat as she came and rubbed herself against Sally's gown.  But presently the wind came round again, and dashed the rosebuds so hard against the casement, that she was frightened.  It seemed as if they rapped on purpose to let people know she was there; and she crept back to the porch, and once more cowered down in its most sheltered corner.

    She was very wet, but she did not mind that so much as might have been expected; she did not mind being out in the dark either, for she was well accustomed to it; but she was very tired, they had walked so far that day; and every minute she looked out into the garden and listened, and wondered why her mammy did not come, for she was alone.  After they had left that house in the afternoon, they had walked far out on to the great heath, and had sat down, and then her mammy had said to her, "Now, child, you may go back, do you hear?" and she had risen and said, "Yes, mammy, where am I to go back to?" "It don't much signify," her mammy had answered; "you may go back to that little house where they gave us the pudding, and I shall be sure to come soon; I'm a-coming directly."  "And shall you be sure to find me, mammy?" she had asked; and then her mammy was angry, and said, "Set off directly, when I bid you; I shall find you fast enough when I want you."

    So she had set off as fast as she could; but it was a long way, and a long while before she reached the porch, and then she was so tired she thought she should have cried if there had not been a little bench to sit down on.

    She called this woman her mammy, but she had a real mother a long way off, of whom this one had hired her, because when they went out begging, her little appealing face made peopled charitable.  What wonder, since the real mother could so give her up, that the pretended one should desert her if she no longer needed her!

    But she did not know her desolate condition.  She only thought what a long, long time her mammy was in coming, and she crept out of the porch again to see the mistress sitting at work, and stooping now and then to pat a dog that lay basking on the rug at her feet.  What a soft rug it was!  The beggar child wished she was a pet dog, that she might lie there in the light and warmth; but once more the wind swung a branch or rosebud against the glass, and she withdrew to her comfortless shelter, longing for the time when her mammy was to fetch her.

    And then two more dreary hours passed over her head; sometimes she cried a little, and sometimes she dozed, and woke up chilled and trembling; sometimes she took courage and wandered about among the laurestinus bushes, so fearful was she lest her mammy should miss her; then she went back again and cried, and was so tired she did not know what she should do if she had to wait much longer.  At last her little head sunk quietly down upon her knees, and the wind and the rain and the darkness were forgotten.

    She was sound asleep; but after a long time she dreamt that someone shook her and spoke to her, but she could not open her eyes, and then that little dog began to bark at her, and she was so frightened that she cried bitterly in her sleep.  Someone (not her mammy) was lifting her up and carrying her away, and giving her something so hot and so nice to drink, that she was amazed, and could open her eyes and sit up; there was the cuckoo clock, and the little dog—he really was barking at her; but the warm fire was shining on her, and Sally the maid was pulling off her wet clothes, and telling her not to be frightened and she should have some supper.

    Poor little outcast!  They dried her trembling limbs and wrapped her in a blanket, but she was so faint and sleepy that she could hardly hold up her head, even while they gave her some supper, but presently fell asleep on Sally's knee over the comfortable fire.

    "Well, Sally," said the mistress, "I can only say that this is the strangest thing I ever heard talk on."

    "And so it is, ma'am.  Please what am I to do now with the little dear?" said Sally, simpering.

    "I suppose we must keep her for the night; make up a little bed on three chairs; and I must go upstairs and look out some clothes for her out of the bundle I made up to give away at Christmas."

    So the mistress went upstairs; and then Sally made the little bed, and prepared a warm bath to refresh the aching limbs of the poor little wanderer; and then she combed her pretty hair, and carried her, already asleep, to the little bed on three chairs.

    The next morning, when the mistress came down into the kitchen, she saw her baby-guest sitting on a low wooden stool, nursing the cat; her dark hair was neatly brushed, and her face was as clean as Sally's care could make it; her eyes watched with inquisitive interest the various preparations for a comfortable breakfast.  Her features expressed a kind of innocent shrewdness; but she was evidently in great awe both of mistress and maid, though, when unobserved, she was never tired of admiring her new checked pinafore, and smoothing out her spotted print frock with her hands.

    "Shall I give her some bread and milk, ma'am?" asked Sally.

    "Certainly," said the mistress; "and after breakfast I shall consider what is to be done with her."

    So the little thing had a good breakfast: and all the morning the mistress sat considering; but at dinner-time it appeared that she had not considered to much purpose, for when Sally came into the parlour to lay the cloth, and asked, "Am I to give the little dear some dinner, ma'am!" she answered again, "Certainly, Sally, and I must consider what is to be done; I've not been able to make up my mind.  How has she behaved?"

    "Been as good as gold," answered Sally, with a somewhat silly smile; "she saw me dusting about, and I gave her a duster, and she dusted too, and then stood on the stool and see me making the pie, and never touched a thing.  Oh, she's a toward little thing."

    After dinner it began to rain, and then the wind got up, and the rosebuds rattled and knocked again at the casement.  A little before tea-time the mistress felt so lonely that she came into the kitchen for company, and there she saw Sally sitting before the fire, making toast, and the child on a chair beside her, with a small piece of bread on a fork.

    "She's toasting herself a bit of bread for her tea," said Sally, "leastways, if you mean to give her her tea, ma'am."

    "Certainly," said the mistress once more.  "Dear me, how cheerful it looks, doesn't it, Sally? a child seems always to make a place cheerful.  Yes, I shall give her her tea, if she is good."

    If to be quiet is to be good, never was a better child; and certainly never was a happier one.

    "Have you considered anything yet, ma'am?" asked Sally.

    "Why, no, I can't, Sally, just yet; it's so wet, she must sleep here to-night," replied the mistress. "I'll think of it to-morrow."

    But to-morrow the mistress still said, "I'll think of it to-morrow;" and so it came to pass that at the end of a month the child was still there.  She had grown plump and rosy, though still extremely shy and quiet, which was in her favour; for mistress and maid, finding so little trouble and such a constant source of amusement and occupation, had gradually dropped all consideration as to what they were to do with her, and thought of nothing less than letting her go away at all.

    She called herself little Rie, and said she came from a big place; but that was all that questioning could draw from her, excepting the repeated declaration that she did not want to go back to her mammy.

    How happy she was in the pretty kitchen, with Sally, nursing the cat, listening to the tapping rose-buds, sitting on the little stool to eat her simple fare, going to the shop with Sally, and creeping softly into the parlour to peep at the dog, or carry a message or a plate of biscuits to the mistress.  She was very happy, indeed, at first, but soon there began to mingle a great deal of fear with her reverence for the mistress.  She had been brought up with no habits of order, with no schooling, and now she was to be taught and trained and every day, when she was sent into the parlour, with a nicely washed face and smooth hair, to say her lesson, and hem a duster, she became more and more shy.

    "The poor child's been used to such a roving life," said Sally, "that she don't take as kindly as might be to her books.  She doesn't learn as easy as other children."

    "And that's the very reason why I'm so particular," replied the mistress.  "I wonder, Sally, to hear you talk as if you wished her to be excused."

    "I don't know as I do wish that," said Sally, humbly, for she had a great idea of her mistress's good sense; "but, ma'am, she's such a little one, and you see we often wants excusing ourselves."

    The mistress was a severe person; and though she heartily loved little Rie, and did not mind what trouble she took with her, she could not bear that the child should see any fondness in her manner, lest, as she said, "she should take advantage."  What she had told her once she expected her to remember; and, above all, she could not beat deception, for she was very upright herself, and expected others to be so too.

    But poor little Rie had been used to hard usage, and it was some time before she could be taught that she must speak the truth and confess her faults, whatever might be the consequences.  Deceit, once taught to a young child by fear, is not easily eradicated, and Sally thought nothing but kindness could do it; but then Sally had such a foolish way with her, and was all for kindness and making excuses for people, not sufficiently considering what was just, and not being willing to condemn anybody without such a deal of consideration, that the mistress felt she could not take her opinion at all.

    "Please, ma'am, she will speak out if she's not afraid," Sally would say when little Rie had cried herself to sleep, after being punished for some childish deceit.

    "Not afraid!" the mistress would repeat.  "How you talk, Sally; I punish her to make her afraid of doing anything else but speak out."

    "But, ma'am, consider her bringing up," said Sally, "and don't look for too much at first."

    "Too much!" repeated the mistress; "don't I give her everything, and haven't I a right to look for obedience and truth in return?"

    "Surely," said Sally, "and I hope you'll have them, ma'am."

    "I hope so," replied the mistress; but the very next day little Rie got into trouble again, for she was told to hold out her pinafore while the mistress counted apples into it for a pudding; the pinafore was not half full when the mistress was called away, and then little Rie, left alone, looking at all the bright, rosy apples, lying in rows on the low shelf, found the temptation too great for her, and bit one of them, which she hastily returned to its place.  When the mistress came back and found the little culprit, with cheeks suffused with crimson and head hanging down, she easily discovered what had happened; and then, in spite of her promises that she would be good, she was summarily punished, and put to bed.

    "She is but a child," said Sally.

    "She's a naughty child," said the mistress, "and it is just she should be punished."

    "Yes, ma'am," Sally ventured to say, "only somehow if you're angry when you do it, won't she think you don't love her?"

    "Dear me, Sally, how foolish you are!  I don't want her to think I love her when she's naughty, but only when she's good."

    "Oh, don't you, ma'am?" replied Sally, doubtfully.  "Well, ma'am, no doubt but you know best."

    "I must be just," continued the mistress; "she shall be indulged when she's good, but I shall never overlook it when she's naughty."

    The mistress was as good as her word; and as little Rie was often naughty in her childish way, it followed that she was often punished; till once seeing her dear Sally crying, after the mistress had been more than usually angry, she climbed up her knee, and made many protestations that she would never be naughty any more and make Sally cry.

    Poor little Rie, she had her troubles; but she loved Sally dearly; and perhaps, child as she was, she had sometimes, when the rain was pouring down, and the wind howling outside, a dim perception that she had been saved from a dreary, toilsome, and evil life, and it was strangely better to sit with Sally in the cheerful kitchen, and hear the rosebuds tapping, than to wander down and down those ever lengthening roads, cold, and hungry, and neglected.

    But discipline, though it may be harsh, does not fail to produce a certain good result.  Little Rie understood very soon that she was never to be punished unless she was naughty; that was, at least, something learned, as it had been by no means the experience of her infantine life.  It was a great thing to know that she was never to be punished excepting when she had done wrong, and this, once learned, she did wrong much seldomer, and, as they hoped, had also learned to speak the truth.

    And now she had been very good for a long time; and, by consequence, she was very happy, and the time passed rapidly, till all the snow had melted away and the garden was full of crocuses and snowdrops; it seemed only a few days and they were over; and she could watch the rosebuds coming out; and then it seemed a very little time longer before Sally was constantly telling her to pick the rose leaves up and throw them out, when they drifted in at the window.

    At last, one day, one sorrowful day, the mistress came into the kitchen to make a raisin pudding, while she sent Sally and little Rie to the shop, and during their absence she twisted up some few raisins in a paper and laid them on the dresser, intending to give them to the child when she came in.  But Sally came in very late; and when she laid a rabbit, and a plate of butter, and papers of sugar, rice, and tea on the table, and then proceeded to count out eggs, and produce apples and other good things, the mistress forgot the raisins, and pushed back her flour, and all her apparatus, to make room for the groceries.  Sally was not a good accountant, and she had scarcely made out the price of each article and produced the change, when some friends came to see the mistress, and she washed her hands and went into the parlour.

    When they were gone, she remembered her intended present and came back into the kitchen; she moved every parcel and every dish, searched the dresser, and looked on the floor, but the paper of raisins was not to be found—it was gone.

    "Come here, little Rie," she said gravely; "did you see a paper of raisins on the table when you came home?"

    "Yes, ma'am," said the child, whose two small hands were tightly clasped behind her.

    "And do you know what has become of them?"

    "No, I don't, I sure I don't," replied the child, and her delicate neck and face became suffused with crimson.

    "Oh, my dear!" exclaimed Sally, "if she'll speak the truth, I know missis won't be so angry with her.  Oh, she will speak the truth, I know."

    "I did, I did," cried the child, with an outbreak of passionate tears.

    Sally upon this searched the floor and tables, and nothing could be more clear than that the raisins were not there.  Alas! they could not doubt that she had eaten them, for she had been left alone in the kitchen for a few minutes, and Sally herself admitted that they could not have gone without hands.

    "Now, if you will speak the truth," said the mistress, gravely, "and confess that you took those raisins—"

    "I didn't," repeated the child, now too much in a passion to care what she said; "I don't want the nasty raisins, and I won't have them."

    "Oh, this will never do," said the mistress; "Sally, I really must correct her!"

    "Will she tell it all?" said Sally, once more stooping over the child, for she had flung herself on the floor, and was sobbing and screaming.  But no, little Rie would only struggle and fight her away, till at another bidding she went with a sorrowful heart to fetch the rod, and when she came back she found the child in such a passion, that she ventured no remonstrance, though she still hurriedly looked about with the vague hope that she might have spoken the truth after all.

    Poor little Rie, she was very naughty.  Sally was the more grieved, because lately she had always spoken the truth; but now when, an hour after her punishment, the mistress came in again, and offered to forgive her on condition of her speaking the truth, she sullenly walked into the corner, and sobbed, and would not say a word.

    "Then, Sally, you must go these errands by yourself," said the mistress; "I meant to have let her go with you, but now she must stay here by herself.  Little Rie looked up as she went away, and saw that she was very stern and angry.  Oh, how little either of them thought that they should never look one another in the face again!

    Sally went away.  It was a lovely afternoon, and the kitchen door leading into the back garden was open.  Little Rie at first was very disconsolate, but soon the light spirits of childhood began to assert themselves, and she began to play, though very quietly, and with an occasional sob, till at last, O woeful mischance, she knocked down a cheese-plate!  It fell clattering upon the floor, and broke into fifty pieces; one moment she stood aghast! then her terrified fancy feigned a step upon the stairs; she darted through the open door and rushed down the garden.  Where she should go to escape the anger of the mistress she scarcely knew, but she came to the garden wicket—it led into a lane; she opened it, shut it behind her, and with it shut the door upon home and hope; shut the door upon all that had kept her from beggary and wretchedness, from a vagrant life, from contact with everything that is evil and vicious, and from ignorance of everything that is good.

    She ran away, and no one knew what became of her.  There was a man who said, some time afterwards, that he had met her that night about sundown, wandering over the moor, but that he had asked her no questions, for he thought some of her friends must be near at hand.  In the course of time many rumours got about respecting her, but nothing was ever known.  Little Rie "was not;" she had vanished from her place like a dream.

    Oh, weary nights, when Sally was alone by the fire, and thought of her pretty companion, and cried, and then started up and opened the door, to find for the fiftieth time that it was only the tapping rosebud that she had heard against the casement.  Oh, weary nights, when the mistress lamented over her, and forgave all her childish faults, and wondered to find how much she had loved her, and could not rest in the wind for thinking of her shelterless head; and could not rest in the rain for thinking of the night when first she took her in; and could not rest in her bed for dreaming of a desolate child wandering up and down, with no one to take her by the hand, or lead her towards heaven.

    And yet the mistress did not reproach herself.  She had done well to take the child; few would have done as much; and she had done well to punish her; it was just and right that she should suffer for her faults.

    But weeks after, when poor Sally's simple heart was getting used to miss the child, the mistress came into the kitchen and took down a little covered jar full of carraway seeds, from a shelf over the dresser; she looked in, and a mist seemed to rise and shut out the sunshine without and within, for there lay the paper of raisins; in an instant, she knew it again, and knew that, in her hurry and confusion, she herself must have thrown it in.  Yes, that little jar had been standing beside her.  Then into it she must have pushed or dropped the raisins, and afterwards, with her own hand, she must have set the jar upon the shelf above, to be out of her way.

    Miserable, aching pain!  How hard it was to have it so often in her heart, and by slow degrees to grow into the knowledge, that even a just punishment may become unjust, unless it is administered in the spirit of love.  But hers had not been a just punishment.—Alas! she had not possessed herself of any certain knowledge of the fault; she, herself, had outraged that sense of truth and justice which she had been at so much pains to implant; and now there was no means of making restitution.

    But let us not judge her; for in this world of uncertain knowledge and concealed motives, how few of us there are not equally at fault!  It is not the effect of one particular act of injustice that should impress us with so much regret, as the habit of too great suddenness or harshness in judging.  How difficult it is for us to estimate the many ways in which we may be mistaken.  When shall we learn to keep the knowledge always present with us, that often kindness is our best uprightness, and our truest justice is mercy?

――――♦――――


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