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