The Project Gutenberg eBook of Too close fisted, and other stories

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Title: Too close fisted, and other stories

Author: Ruth Lamb

Release date: May 22, 2023 [eBook #70836]

Language: English

Original publication: United Kingdom: The Religious Tract Society, 1886


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














And Other Stories.





































"MR. BURTON and Mr. James are not a bit like brothers. They are as different as dark and light. Folks do say that you never find two alike in a family, however many there may be."

Mr. Duff, the baker, was very fond of talking about his neighbours, and he liked his listeners to say they agreed with him. He had a great opinion of himself, and could hardly understand that his customer, kind-hearted Mrs. Brown, could possibly have any decided ideas of her own which differed from those he thought fit to express.

If she had! Well, Mr. Duff would have said she was to be pitied; for, like most individuals who are constantly sitting in judgment on their neighbours, he felt quite certain that he was right, and whoever thought otherwise was in the wrong.

Mrs. Brown's reply was irritating. "I always think Mr. Burton and Mr. James favour one another in looks."

"Tut, tut! Looks are not of much account. People's ways are more than faces. It was their ways I was thinking of, Mrs. Brown."

"But you mentioned looks too, and it was looks I spoke about. As to ways, they are very unlike one another."

"Ay, you have it right this time. Mr. Burton is the elder brother with large means. Mr. James is the younger with far less means, though he must have a tidy income too. See how Mr. Burton uses his. Lives in such a quiet way, keeps very little company, and what he has of a sort most gentlemen wouldn't mind about. He cannot spend a quarter of his income. I say it isn't right. A man that has money ought to spend it for the good of his neighbours and to encourage business. That's what I say. His money is a talent, and it was never given him to hide away and do no good with."

"Perhaps he may have a reason for living quietly. All gentlemen do not care for great parties and a deal of show," replied Mrs. Brown. "Very likely he gives—"

Mr. Duff had not patience to hear the rest. With a look of pity for Mrs. Brown, and scorn at the idea of Mr. Burton's imaginary generosity, he exclaimed: "He give away his money! Not he, indeed. He's too close fisted for that; and it is his love of money that makes him hoard what it is his Christian duty to spend."

Mr. Duff brought his hand down on the counter with such a thump, that he made little Mrs. Brown start and colour, as she said, "Dear, how you startled me! I'm a little bit out of sorts, through losing my night's rest, and a trifle puts me about."

The baker apologised, and hoped there was nobody ill at Mrs. Brown's.

"It's only baby that is restless o' nights just now. She's about her teeth," she replied.

"I get so angry when I think of the good that man might do with his money, that I'm afraid I forget myself," said Mr. Duff. "Now I'll just give you a sample of those two gentlemen, and it was only yesterday I witnessed the whole affair. Mr. Burton was coming along in his steady, plodding way, never so much as giving a 'good-day' to anybody, when old Ann Willis hobbled towards him and asked him for a copper. He shook his head at the poor old body and went on his way.

"Just after, Mr. James came by, and old Ann never looked at him. I suppose she thought, if the rich brother had nothing to spare, the poorer one was certain not to have a penny handy. Would you believe it? Mr. James did not want to be asked, but he out with a sixpence and gave it to Ann, with as pleasant a look as I ever wish to see."

"And I dare say she took it straight to the public-house," replied Mrs. Brown, who seemed fated to take what Mr. Duff would have called "the shine" out of his remarks concerning the brothers Burton.

"That might be. Old Ann was certainly the worse for drink last night. But that doesn't say that Mr. James was not kind and generous in giving her the sixpence. She's dreadfully poor, you know."

"And I'm afraid she always will be," sighed little Mrs. Brown, without, however, saying hard words about the unfortunate woman's bad habit.

"Then there was Dick Pearson. He met Mr. James just opposite my door, but that was in the evening. He had been working at the Hall, and was on his way home. He touched his cap to Mr. James and got a pleasant, 'Good-evening, Dick. Done your work for to-day? Here's the value of a glass of beer for you. I'll be bound you got none at the Hall.'"

"That was how Mr. James spoke to him, and dropped the money for a pint into Dick's hand. Now, isn't he a generous, free-handed gentleman?"

Again Mrs. Brown gave no direct answer, but asked, "What did Dick say? Did he take the money?"

"He was going to say something, but Mr. James did not give him a chance. He just dropped the coppers into his hand, and, with a little nod to Dick, was off and out of sight round the corner without another word. He wanted no thanks, you see."

"Dick would not drink the money," said Mrs. Brown, in a tone of conviction. "He has more sense than to be enticed in that way. I dare say if Mr. James would have listened to him, Dick could have said that if Mr. Burton gave no beer at the Hall, he gave what was better. I know my husband was working up there, and they were not bound to give him anything but his bare wages, though it is the custom, and more's the pity, to send them a jug of beer now and again! Well, my Tom wants no allowance, because he doesn't drink, and those that like it got none from Mr. Burton. But more than once they were called into the kitchen, and a comfortable cup of hot coffee, with meat and bread, put before them, which did them good, for the weather was cold. When the job was finished Mr. Burton said to the men, 'I dare say you wonder that I have given you no allowance whilst you have been here, and I have my reason for it. There are some teetotallers among you, and those do not want beer. There are some drinking men among you, and I do not want to be the means of starting them on the wrong road. The gift of a glass of beer or spirits is often a present that costs him who gets it the price of many more. Sometimes it costs him his work or his place, doesn't it, my men?' They said, 'Yes, sir,' and there were those among them who hung down their heads, for the words went home, seeing the thing had happened to themselves. 'Well,' said Mr. Burton, 'I reckon that drink-giving is bad for those that like it and bad for those that don't. It leads the weak ones astray, and unless it is made up to the sober workers in some other way it puts a premium on drink. Now, you men have all worked heartily and satisfied me, so I shall divide amongst you the money I might have spent in beer for the drinkers, with a little extra, to show that I am satisfied. Only let it go to the wives, if you please.' Now, I don't call that being close fisted, Mr. Duff," continued Mrs. Brown, in her quiet way, "and I dare say Dick Pearson could tell you the same sort of tale."

The baker could not withstand such evidence, but he liked Mrs. Brown's words no better for being equally true and reasonable. He felt angry at the little woman for having proved him in the wrong, but she was a good customer, and he did not wish to offend her.

"Speak well of the bridge that carries you safe over the river," said he. "You are right to speak of Mr. Burton as you have found him. But, after all, what was a little present to a lot of workmen once in a way? I was talking of his general close fistedness. There's no mistake about this. Mr. Burton has much and spends little. He doesn't live up to his means and circulate his money as he should do. He may give a few shillings amongst a lot of workpeople, but what of that? See what he has left. I can't bear those close fisted folks. Give me a pleasant, free-spoken gentleman like Mr. James, that does not want to be asked to do a kindness."

Mrs. Brown had no time to waste in talk. Her articles were now ready and packed into the large square basket, for which two of her boys were to call on the way from school. But as she gave a civil "good-day" to Mr. Duff, and stepped into the street, she saw Mr. Burton passing the shop.

The baker saw him too, and wondered if by chance the gentleman had heard his loud-toned remarks, uttered as he followed his customer to the door. He looked disconcerted, and shrank back into his shop, whilst little Mrs. Brown, having the memory of no hard judgments on her conscience, dropped a respectful courtesy, and received a pleasant greeting from the owner of the Hall. As she walked briskly homeward she thought to herself, "Mr. James may be free-handed, as Duff says, and he may give so as to make a great show with very little money; for, after all, it was only a matter of ninepence that he gave to old Ann Willis and Dick Pearson. As to the sixpence, he might as well have thrown it into the gutter as given it to the poor old creature, who would be safe to spend it so as to do herself harm. Mr. James knows what she is. Dick Pearson is a bit proud in his way, and though Duff might think it generous of Mr. James to give him money for a pint of beer, I believe Dick would have sooner he had let it alone. Mr. Burton gives in a sensible way, both to do good and to please those he helps, and he makes no fuss about it. Duff may say what he likes, but he would never persuade me that he is one of the selfish sort, though I have only little things to go by."

Certain familiar words came into Mrs. Brown's mind as she went on her way, "When thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth."

Maybe neither of the brothers' little gifts could be called almsgiving; but, thought Mrs. Brown, "They show the spirit of the two gentlemen. One is for letting all the world see if he gives a copper; the other cares that his gifts shall be such as his Father which is in heaven will approve of."

Mrs. Brown was right. The one brother desired the good opinion of men, the other to act as in the sight of God.







CHRISTMAS was drawing near. Only a fortnight off. Winter had begun early, the ground was hard with frost, and a bitter north-east wind was making itself felt through every crevice. Old folk and little children shrank before it and cowered by the hearths, where, alas! in many a home both fire and food were scarce.

Strong men faced the cutting blast, and wandered many a mile in search of work, only to come back disappointed, footsore, weary in body and faint in heart. Wives met them at the threshold, and needed not to ask, "How have you fared?" They saw and read in their husbands' faces a tale of strength spent in vain and hope disappointed. And, poor things! many amongst them strove to smile a welcome, in spite of heavy hearts and sad forebodings. Such went hungry themselves in order to spread something like a meal for the tired wayfarer, whose only longing was for work, which he could not get, and the chance to win with his strong, willing hands, bread for wife and children.

"It will be a hard winter in-doors and out. God help us," were words uttered by many a tongue, and the thought was in many a heart that did not give it utterance, for fear of distressing still more those who were already sad enough at the prospect before them.

And yet, whilst there was so much that was sorrowful in many a poor home, it might have made angels rejoice to see the little acts of kindness that the inmates showed one to another. Little, if looked at apart from their surroundings. Great, when one saw what they cost to the self-devoting souls who out of their penury ministered to those who were in bitterer straits than themselves. The best morsel would be taken from the lips for a neighbour's sick child; a share of a scanty meal given, where the cupboard in some other poor home was quite empty, and kindly words and deeds were never lacking.

Only God knew what some apparently small gifts cost to those who bestowed them, but how sweet to think that Our Father does know all things, even the very thoughts of our hearts!

There were many sufferers at Halesford, the little country town where Mr. Duff dispensed his loaves and his opinions to all comers alike. There were not so many customers passing in and out as in more prosperous times, and some of those who entered the shop came empty-handed to ask for credit until better times.

Mr. Duff rarely refused this. Halesford working men were none of your runagates, here to-day and gone to-morrow, but mostly steady-going folk, who spent their lives within a narrow circle and knew little of the world beyond. Duff was a man of some capital, and not unkindly in the main. He was rather proud of being able to give credit, and would say, "I can afford to wait for my money, so long as I know who I am trusting."

Many of the customers had to wait for their loaves too, whilst Duff held forth on his favourite subjects. One of these was the absence of Mr. Burton.

The owner of Halesford Hall had been from home for some weeks. "Called to furrin parts, they say, by urgent business. Very convenient at a time like this, when he could not well be amongst all this distress without putting his hand in his pocket," said Mr. Duff, bitterly. "It's a shame, a burning shame, that the biggest landowner in the neighbourhood should keep out of the way, at the time of all others when he should be doing his duty to his neighbours. I can only give a little, but I can trust you folks that want a bit o' credit, and I hope those in the meat and grocery lines will do the same."

Mr. James Burton was at home. His house was a small one in comparison with the Hall, but, if report said truly, it abounded in creature comforts.

"Mine is a little nutshell of a place," Mr. James would say in his airy fashion, "but big enough to hold an old bachelor and his few traps. 'Man wants but little here below,' you know, Mr. Duff. The 'dry morsel,' the 'dinner of herbs' and quietness are better than the 'stalled ox' under certain circumstances."

Mr. James Burton looked meaningly, and nodded as if he would express volumes by the movement of his head, and Mr. Duff felt gratified at what sounded to him like a confidential remark.

He could not quite see the drift of Mr. James's words, though he was, as the baker subsequently put it, "quoting Scripture like a parson."

Everybody who knew Mr. James was sure that "a dry morsel and a dinner of herbs" would be the last meal he would be likely to relish; for, if ever a man loved everything of the best, both for home and person, he was the one.

"And why not? I should like to know," said Mr. Duff. "Money is made round so as it may run. Isn't it better to keep it going than to lay it by where it does good to nobody? I know what Mr. James meant. The 'dinner of herbs' is just his comfortable little place where everything is as bright as a button, and the 'stalled ox' is like, in a way, to Halesford Hall with the master away, the money increasing and the servants on board wages and saving out of 'em. 'Like master like man.' They spend precious little."

Beside airing his opinions in converse with the baker and others, Mr. James Burton continued to distribute small coin broad-cast.

"Poor fellow!" he would say, as he dropped sixpence into the hand of a labourer out of work, "I wish I could give you any help worth having. But I am a small man with small means, and can only deal in trifles. If I were placed as some people are, I could do differently."

And then Mr. James would look towards the Hall, thus giving people to understand how differently he would act were he its master, and at the same moment bestow a penny on some little curly head that crossed his path, bidding her run to Mr. Duff's for a bun.

No wonder the baker sang the praises of Mr. James, and was surprised that Mrs. Brown did not agree with him in so doing.

The little woman was better off than many of her neighbours. She and her husband had been industrious, striving folks, and had started their married life with "something at their backs." They owned the cottage in which they lived and some six acres of land. These had been bequeathed to Mrs. Brown by the uncle who took her an orphan girl to keep house for him, after the death of her parents. Her husband went out to work when employment was to be had, and Mrs. Brown had her cows, which found her enough to do in addition to her household affairs.

So, when most of the neighbours were suffering, the Browns were not only far above want, but ready with warm hearts and open hands to help those who were less fortunate than themselves.

Mrs. Brown felt a little impatient when, standing once more at Mr. Duff's counter, she had to listen to his praises of generous Mr. James.

"I don't see as you do, Mr. Duff," she answered, with more decision than usual. "It seems to me that Mr. James's way of giving costs him very little. You may make a big show in sixpences and pence out of five shillings, when you take care to give every halfpenny in the streets and the market places and with all eyes upon you. Mr. James does not stint himself. He has fine out o' season fruit and vegetables sent all the way from London, and anybody knows what such-like things cost. He looks very pleasant and he talks in that humble way, as if he were boasting of being poor. But he talks like a poor man and spends on himself like a rich one."

"'Better spend than hoard,' is my motto, Mrs. Brown, and I stick to it. Maybe Mr. James might show more judgment in his spendings and his givings, but your generous people are generally just a trifle thoughtless. It's their nature so to be."

At this moment another customer entered the shop. She was pale and trembling and seemed to be terribly shocked at something.

Mr. Duff was struck with her appearance, and gave her a chair to sit down on.

"I am afraid you are ill," he said. "You look as if you had seen a ghost."

"I've seen worse," replied the woman, when she had recovered herself a little. "You knew old Ann Willis?"

The baker and Mrs. Brown assented, and the former added, "Who did not know her that knew Halesford? What is amiss with her?"

"She's dead," replied the woman, solemnly.

"Dead! Why she was here only yesterday afternoon, and standing by this very counter, Mr. James Burton gave her a shilling. He said, 'You want something to make you comfortable, Ann, this bitter weather; so here's an extra sixpence for you this time.'"

"Ay, and no doubt that shilling has been the death of her. She left the 'Black Swan' sadly the worse for drink at about eight o'clock, to go home to that miserable hut of hers, where there was not a soul to expect her, or to look for her, if she did not come. You know the short cut by the field corner where you have to cross a little bridge. Ann mostly went home that way, to save a few steps: and last night, having more than she could carry, she must have missed her footing and fallen from the bridge."

"Well! She could not drown, for the beck has been frozen hard for the last ten days," said Mr. Duff.

"No, but her head struck on the ice, and the blow knocked all the bit of sense out of her that drink had left. If she ever came to herself, she would have little chance of getting out of the bed of the stream without help, for the banks are very straight up near the bridge, but those that found her thought she had never moved after her head struck the ice."

The speaker's face was full of horror, and tears were streaming down little Mrs. Brown's cheeks as she heard the sad tale.

"How dreadful!" she exclaimed. "To think of falling down helpless and senseless, with nobody near to save or to hear if she had been able to cry for assistance. To die there, all alone. And so unfit to die. Poor old Ann! I have grieved for her many a time when she was living, but I am most sorry for her now."

Mr. Duff's looks expressed the shock the news had given him. And only just before he had been praising Mr. James Burton for his generosity to this unfortunate old woman.

"She never could resist the drink whilst she had a penny in her pocket," said the woman who had brought the news. "It's an awful curse to some folks; and those that don't feel it a temptation cannot tell what a blessing they have to thank God for. Shame on those that put it into poor old Ann's power to stupefy herself with what could do her no good. If, instead of giving her money, they had done as you have done many a time, Mrs. Brown, called her in to have a comfortable meal, or sent her nice bits by the children, or a bundle of sticks to light her fire with, that would have been showing her real kindness. It seems to me that in putting money into her hand they gave her the means of killing herself by inches. I should lay the old woman's death at the door of whoever did it yesterday."

"Come, come, Mrs. Preston, that is going a little too far," said the baker. "Nobody could foresee that old Ann would fall from the bridge. Besides, no doubt Mr. James Burton meant to be kind when he made his little presents to Ann. I think she died from the cold and the fall, not from anything she had taken."

"But the fall and the cold were caused by the drink, and she could not have had the drink but for Mr. James, and such as he who would say, 'Poor old creature! she wants something to warm and comfort her.' Comfort! I pray that I and mine may always be kept from seeking comfort in such a way. The sight of that poor dead face and the lifeless body frozen all on a heap, as one may say, will be a warning to me while I live."

"You saw her, then, and that was what turned you white and faint?" said Mrs. Brown.

"Ay, and I should like to forget that picture," replied Mrs. Preston. "Well, you have nothing to reproach yourself with," added the woman, turning to Mrs. Brown. "You were her real friend, as you have been to many besides, and may God reward you."

Good Mrs. Brown blushed at words of praise, which came straight from her neighbour's heart. She had no desire that attention should be called to her quiet good-doing, and shrank from its being made public. But it was perhaps by examining her own motives and manner of helping others according to her means, that Mrs. Brown had learned to estimate the givings of Mr. Burton and Mr. James at something like their right value.







ANN WILLIS'S terrible death caused great excitement in the quite little town, and all the miserable details in connection with it were repeated from house to house. It served to turn the people's minds from their own troubles for the moment, but the inquest was quickly succeeded by a pauper's funeral, which, however, had a large following, and then nearer anxieties drove old Ann out of mind.

It was known that the coroner had spoken sharply about those who had supplied her with drink until she was unable to take care of herself. The bridge was broad and firm, with a stout hand-rail and barrier at one side. The merest child, the weakest old lady, might have crossed it safely by day or night, and when Ann Willis fell from it the full moon was shining brightly overhead. But she had been allowed to drink herself blind and helpless, and then been turned out, as it were, to die. So Halesford people expressed a hope that Binns at the Black Swan would get his licence marked for it, and whispered amongst themselves that Mr. James had been to blame, though he might mean to be kind.

This was a fortnight before Christmas and still the frost held; the men were idle and their families were straitened for bread.

Next, Halesford folk were startled with the news that Mr. James Burton was gone away and no one knew when he would return. Mr. Duff was, as usual, ready with a reason for his departure.

"Mr. James was terribly cut up about old Ann," he said, "and it grieved him to hear of so much distress. If I had but a fall purse, or even one half full,' says he to me, 'I would stay and help while I had a sixpence left. But I have neither, Duff, and I must go away for a while. I cannot stop to see trouble which I am powerless to remove.' He borrowed a shilling from me to give to a poor woman that came begging into the shop, and he went away with his handkerchief to his eyes. He is a very feeling gentleman. I'm afraid he was often imposed on, but he means well, and he has a good heart at the bottom."

Scarcely, however, had Mr. James taken his departure when a couple of strangers came and dismantled the pretty little house hitherto occupied by him, and carried away the whole of its contents. As they had been seen in communication with Lawyer Smart, it was plain they knew what they were about, so the neighbours could only wonder and gaze inquiringly at the closed shutters of the empty house.

It seemed as if Mr. James might be gone for good, but, though he might set up housekeeping elsewhere, he would certainly come to the Hall, from time to time, when Mr. Burton returned. Duff would not see his shilling back again at present, but there was comfort in remembering that the woman to whom it was given promptly exchanged it for bread, which diminished the possible loss.

But the baker and others besides him blamed Mr. Burton more than they did his brother for keeping away from Halesford during these hard times.

"Mr. James said he would have helped us if he could. Mr. Burton might help us, if he would," were oft-repeated sayings. Then, when things seemed at the worst, relief came. The Rector of Halesford and the minister of its one place of worship, beside the gray old church, both received communications from some unknown friend, and food and warm clothing were soon forthcoming for the sustenance and comfort of all who were really in need. Relief was given wisely, for the two good men who were entrusted with the pleasant task well knew the circumstances and characters of those with whom they had to do. Joy and thankfulness took the place of heaviness and gloomy fears. The people thanked God for sending them this timely aid, and, grateful to the unknown, earthly benefactor, would fain have expressed their feelings to him also, but they were kept in ignorance of his name.

Of course, Duff had decided opinions on the subject.

"I am confident that Mr. James is at the bottom of it. Seeing that he could not find money himself, he has stirred up some of his great friends in London to make a collection for Halesford poor. It was next best to giving, and one man cannot do everything," he said.

A few agreed with the baker, but their faith was rudely shaken by a report that Mr. James's furniture had been seized under a bill of sale, and that, if he had not gone away when he did, he might not have had the chance of going at all.

Little Mrs. Brown, whose bright, kind face told of the gladness in her heart, said she was sure that whoever had sent money for the suffering people had been moved to do it by Him without whose knowledge not a sparrow falls to the ground.

"We can thank God," she said, "and ask Him to bless the kind earthly friend who has been His instrument in sending plenty and comfort to poverty-stricken homes."

"You say 'We,'" replied one of her neighbours. "You have no call to join, because you wanted nothing, and have been able to do something for those that did."

"Well, then, haven't I more cause still to be thankful?" she answered. "And if I had not, I should have a poor, narrow, selfish spirit in me if I could not rejoice when good comes to my neighbours."

Truly the dear little woman realised that God's children are members one of another. She was as full of thankfulness as if she had been the most needy amongst those relieved, and she sent up her hymn of praise to God with heart and voice.

Christmas was a week nearer them when Mr. James turned his back on Halesford. To the astonishment of the inhabitants, large furniture vans were seen in front of "The Nest," as the pretty house, lately inhabited by him, was called. The vans looked like those into which Mr. James's household goods had lately been packed. Could they be the same conveyances bringing back the furniture?

Doubts were soon set at rest. Mr. Burton's steward set several women to work to prepare the rooms, and in an astonishingly short time the Nest had all its pretty furniture replaced. Except that it had a rather formal, unused look, and the smell of cigar smoke was entirely absent, it presented its old appearance.

There was a stir at the Hall too, which indicated that Mr. Burton must be coming to keep Christmas there, and Duff said it was just as well, for the big pew had been empty long enough on Sundays.

As Mr. James, when at Halesford, was supposed to share the pew with his brother, Duff did not compliment him by his allusion to its emptiness; perhaps he thought of the implied censure on his favourite, for he added, "I've often heard Mr. James say that people oughtn't to be judged merely by their church-going, and that he believed in a man both praying and doing good in secret, for which he had the Scripture to back him, you know."

It was very annoying, but Duff never could get over Mrs. Brown. The little woman listened on this occasion with her usual patience. But she shook her head when Duff paused, and, though she did not contradict him, she spoiled the effect of his speech by replying, "It is quite right and according to the Bible, that those who love God should like to get away, even from their nearest of kin, and in a quiet place open their whole hearts to Him. There are times when you cannot take wife or husband, child or friend along with you, except in your hearts and words. And Jesus Himself set the example of going away on to the mountain side, or the desert places, for prayer of this kind. But I never can believe that those who love to pray in secret will not love to pray in God's house also, and with His people. To use one blessed privilege and neglect another is like taking breakfast and leaving dinner. You'll not find a healthy, hungry stomach do that. Neither will you find the soul that has an appetite for heavenly things neglect to seek for food when it's there for the having."

Duff found it hard to answer Mrs. Brown. Besides, in his own mind, he was beginning to doubt whether he had after all formed a correct judgment of Mr. James Burton's character. But he had upheld him so long that it would be very humiliating to own that he was mistaken. It was certain that Mr. James had shown little reverence either for God's house or His day, and that he seldom spent the Sabbath as a season of refreshment for soul or body. On the contrary, there was certain to be bachelor visitors at the Nest, and the servants there were kept at work ministering to their many wants. They had complained of this state of things, standing before Mr. Duff's counter, and wished they were at the Hall, where servants had a chance of a quiet Sunday, instead of at the Nest.

The baker was not sorry that a little rush of customers prevented him from answering Mrs. Brown, especially as conscience told him that her sober judgment came nearer the truth than his own.

Halesford people looked for Mr. James back again. Christmas fell on the Wednesday that year, and on the Saturday evening the carriage from the Hall was at the station, doubtless to meet Mr. Burton.

He arrived, but not alone. He was accompanied by a lady, young and fair, though very sad and worn-looking, and a beautiful sunny-haired child, whose face bore a strong likeness to that of Mr. James. They drove straight to the Nest, where they all got out. Then the luggage-cart came up, and left the greater part of its contents there, before conveying the remainder to the Hall.

Some one overheard Mr. Burton say to the lady, "Welcome home, Agnes. I trust you will be very happy with your dear child. You will be quite safe here, and none can disturb or molest you. The servants are trustworthy, and personally known to me. And now, my dear sister, try to forget the sorrows of the past, and look forward hopefully to a brighter future."

The young lady could hardly speak her thanks, but she took Mr. Burton's hand in hers, and prayed that God would bless and reward him. And she lifted her little one, and bade the child kiss her uncle, which she did, clasping her chubby arms round his neck, and then patting his cheek in such a pretty truthful way that Mr. Burton seemed as if he could hardly bear to part with her.

He dined at the Nest, and then went home to the Hall, whilst Halesford folk, as was natural, were longing to know who these new arrivals might be, for Mr. Burton had no sister of his own, though he had been heard to call the lady by that name.







MR. BURTON, the lady, and child were all at church and in the same pew on Sunday morning. The pretty little one stood on the seat beside Mr. Burton and gazed soberly down at the large prayer book, whilst the psalms were being chanted, in imitation of the older people, though she could not read a letter. Sometimes she would nestle more closely to him, and turn to look up at his kind face, as if she were happy to feel his arm encircling her.

The sight of that trustful morsel of a child, clinging in a way to the gentleman who had for several years lived such a lonely life, brought tears to many eyes.

No secret was made about these newcomers. They were the wife and child of Mr. James Burton, whom he had kept hidden away in a poor home at a distance, under the pretence that he should lose his income if his brother were made acquainted with his marriage.

Bit by bit it came out that Mr. James's life had been a miserable sham. He had long ago spent his own handsome fortune in riotous living and gambling, and was terribly in debt, when he threw himself on his brother's mercy and asked for help. In the hope of inducing him to give up his evil ways, Mr. Burton had furnished the Nest for him, and allowed him a sufficient income to keep him in comfort, but on condition that he never touched a card, or gambled in any way for the future.

Mr. James was ready to promise anything, and professed to be very penitent, and willing to settle down quietly at Halesford. He did spend most of his time there, and was so smiling, pleasant-spoken, and free in giving trifling sums, that some people, Duff for one, were quite deceived by him.

All the while he was spending his ready money in the old way, going on credit for everything, though not at Halesford, but for luxuries not to be had in the little town, and he had even given a bill of sale on the furniture which was none of his, but had been put into the Nest, for his use only, by Mr. Burton.

The dear kind gentleman whom Duff and a few like him were fond of calling "close fisted" had been living quietly and on less than became his position, that he might pay off his brother's debts.

"For the sake of the old name, those who have trusted my brother shall be paid at any cost of denial to myself," said Mr. Burton; and he kept his word. Only he drew a line at gambling debts, and Mr. James found that nothing could move him from his determination not to pay one penny of what his brother called his "debts of honour."

"They are the most dishonourable debts any person can have," he said; "for if men win when they gamble, they most likely help to ruin their neighbours, and if they lose, to ruin themselves. In your case, James, having nothing of your own to lose, and having promised that you would never run the risk of incurring such debts again, they are doubly dishonourable, and I will not break my word, though you have broken yours."

So it seemed Mr. James managed to raise money on the furniture which was not his, and went right away out of the country. His poor wife was in sore straits, as he neither wrote nor sent her money, so at last she sent a letter to Mr. Burton. Then everything came out, and Mrs. James discovered that she had been deserted by a worthless, selfish husband, but had found a true friend and brother in Mr. Burton, who provided such a home for her as she had never had in her life before since she was quite a child.

Mr. Burton could have got the furniture of the Nest back again, at very little cost, for he had taken care to have proof that it was his own property. But he found that the person who had advanced the money upon it had been deceived and, believed that Mr. James had a right to dispose of it. The sum advanced was not very large; for Mr. James had been too anxious to get hold of it, and too much afraid of being found out, to make very good terms, so Mr. Burton gave the lender his own back again, and had the furniture replaced in the Nest.

It turned out that Mrs. James was the orphan daughter of an old friend of the family, and was earning her bread as governess, in a home where she was loved and respected, when Mr. James met with her again. He had known her as a child, and his pleasant ways and pretence of affection induced the young lady to become his wife.

Very likely, he did love her after his fashion, for there are a great many people who deceive themselves on such matters.

They call that "love" which induces them to win a good girl's heart and take her from a happy home where she is useful, and contented, when they have nothing half so good to give her—not even as true a heart in exchange. There often seems to be a very narrow step between what people call "love" and downright selfishness. Sometimes, indeed, there is no step at all, as in Mr. James's case, though most likely his poor young wife, much as she has suffered, does not blame him as he deserves.

It is a beautiful and blessed thing to think of, that the better and more unselfish a good woman is, the more unwilling she is to think evil of others, and especially of the man she calls husband, and who is the father of her children. No doubt Mrs. James Burton, who is a sweet Christian gentlewoman, if ever there was one, blames bad companions for having drawn her husband aside from the right way. She will hope and pray and teach her little one to lisp out a petition to "Our Father" for that other father who has given her so little of a parent's love, though it pleased him to see how pretty she was, and, during his rare visits, to make her a toy and a plaything. Well, who knows but some day the prayers will have an answer, and Mrs. James will see her husband a true penitent, and little Mabel have a father of whom she will not be ashamed?

We have to go on praying, trusting, hoping, waiting, and leave results and times to God.

Though Halesford people had to find out Mr. James's character by degrees, they knew before Christmas Day came who had been their friend in need. All who still required help were invited to go to the schools on Christmas Eve, but early in the morning, where they were met by Mr. Phillips, the rector, and Mr. Henderson, the minister of the chapel.

It was only needful to look at these two friends' faces to know that there was some pleasure in store, and so it proved. Neatly laid out on benches were rows of joints of excellent beef and piles of groceries—plums for to-morrow's pudding not being forgotten. The size of joint or parcel was determined by the number of mouths to be filled in each home. And there was a little sum of money in addition, to provide such odds and ends as fuel, vegetables, and matters that could not well be purchased for the people by the kind friend who had resolved that there should be plenty in every Halesford cottage on Christmas Day.

Whilst the things were being distributed one man cried out, "We should like to know who we have to thank for all these things? We do know that God has stirred his heart, whoever he may be; but we want you to tell us his name, though I fancy some of us have not been far wrong in a guess we have made."

Mr. Phillips smiled, and answered that if the people would wait a few minutes they would perhaps see him, for he was no stranger to Halesford.

Just then Mr. Burton's face appeared in the doorway, looking the picture of happiness, and the sight was greeted with such a shout of welcome that, if Mr. Phillips and Mr. Henderson had not fairly taken possession of him, he would have been ready to run away again.

The master of Halesford Hall was as modest as he was kind—and that is saying a great deal. The mere act of good-doing, and the knowledge that others were made happier and less anxious by what he was able to do for them, abundantly rewarded Mr. Burton.

There was a large congregation in the old church on Christmas Day morning, for at Halesford there was a custom which has not died out in many country places yet. Christian folk put aside for the time all religious differences, and met under the one roof to worship, and to take up with heart and voice the angels' song, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men."

Duff was there, and so were little Mrs. Brown and her husband, the old mother who was spending Christmas with them, having undertaken to see to the cookery, assisted by the eldest girl.

Duff was feeling not a little ashamed of himself, and he even owned to Mrs. Brown that he had been mistaken in his judgment of Mr. Burton and his brother.

"You see," he said, "it is not always easy to tell the difference between real gold and plated articles; and sometimes the imitations are so fair on the outside that people are deceived by looks, and take them for solid metal. It is so with human beings too, and I am afraid we are only too ready to judge people by outsides as well as plate. I'm free to own that I gave Mr. James credit for the good that was not in him, and where the good actually was I could not see it. I do feel as if coals of fire had been heaped on my head when I think that I have had the order for all the flour and bread that has been given away."

There was not much merit in owning that he had been mistaken now that the truth was made plain to everybody. Still, even this acknowledgment was the first step in the right direction from Mr. Duff. He got an answer from Mrs. Brown which gave him food for thought, and, it is to be hoped, assisted him to form a more correct judgment in future.

"It is easy enough to tell real silver from plated, if you look at the marks," she said. "The silver always has the King's stamp on it, and I take it that the life of the true disciple of Jesus has his King's stamp on it too. The man who has taken his sins to Jesus and found peace through His precious cleansing blood, and who is under the influence of God's Holy Spirit, cannot help showing the marks and signs in his daily life. It is a pity that we are not as anxious to look for them, and as ready to discern them, as we might be. Any way, seeing it is so easy to make mistakes in judging our neighbours, it would be well for us to remember what Jesus said, 'Judge not that ye be not judged.'"

"I was wrong about Mr. Burton," replied Duff. "Even in the matter of old Ann Willis, I said hard things about him. I know now that he wished to be her real friend; and, whilst I blamed him for not putting temptation in her way, he was actually trying to persuade her to give up the bad habit that was her ruin, to leave the miserable hut she called 'home' and accept a comfortable one where she would be properly cared for. I've got a lesson," added the baker, "and now my eyes are opened, maybe I shall keep my mouth shut oftener than I have done. To think I should have called Mr. Burton 'close fisted!' I feel as if I could not forgive myself. Well, may God bless him, say I, to-day. And may the poor lady at the Nest and the pretty little one be the means of brightening the Hall for its master, till he brings a mistress to the big house itself. Here's 'a happy Christmas to them and to everybody,'" to which farewell words Mrs. Brown, now arrived at her own door, responded by a hearty "Amen."











MR. POWELL'S grasp was on the door handle, when his wife laid a detaining hand on his arm.

"Be sure and call at Ann Crompton's on your way to the office, dear," she said. "She may know 'of a suitable person to take Elizabeth's place, and whoever she recommends is certain to be trustworthy."

Mr. Powell promised, and went his way, feeling less bright than usual. The breakfast hour was generally one of the pleasantest of the day. His wife, of barely a year's standing, attended to his wants with a smiling face, and the food had a better relish, because seasoned by cheery conversation.

This morning there had been no such seasoning. Mrs. Powell's face was clouded over, and she did nothing but grumble and tell tales of her housekeeping troubles.

"Nobody is so worried as I am," she said. "Elizabeth suits to perfection, and may be trusted with untold gold. Mamma parted with her that she might come to me, knowing what such a servant would be to a young housekeeper. I have never given her a cross word, and now, after five years' service in the family, she has determined to leave, and at the worst possible time for me. Elizabeth says her mother cannot do without her, and she must go. Just as if a month or two could matter, when she has been ailing for years. I cannot leave Sarah in charge, she is too giddy; so everything will be upset. Your sisters must not count on our going to the seaside when they do; and most likely by the time I get suited with a servant in Elizabeth's place, the fine weather will be over, and our summer holiday lost. It is horribly selfish of Elizabeth."

Mr. Powell was sorry to see the clouds on his wife's pretty face, and to hear such a change in the tone of her voice. Besides, he could not agree with her. He would not, however, tell her so, or say that Elizabeth could hardly be called selfish for leaving an excellent place, where she had good wages and no anxiety, to go and nurse an ailing mother and take care of her father and the younger children in a cottage home.

He resolved to wait until the first feeling of annoyance was past, before attempting to reason with his wife, and in the meanwhile to send Ann Crompton to consult with her about a successor to Elizabeth.

"Old Ann," as everybody called her, was a cheerful body, much inclined to look at the best side of things and to help her neighbours to do likewise. She lived in a single room, in which was nothing that could well be spared, for the floor was bare, there were no hangings to the bed, only two wood-bottomed chairs, on one of which was placed a cushion, a tiny table, and a very small supply of hardware and crockery.

It might have been a palace, by the way Ann prized it and extolled its conveniences.

Somebody remarked that the bedstead was a poor one. Ann pointed out that it was better than it looked, having a sacking bottom, which was preferable to laths, being more elastic.

"The floor is bare, and must be cold to your feet," said another.

"I have a stool to put them on," said Ann, "and having nothing on it makes the floor easy to clean."

"You've only two chairs."

"There's always one for a visitor, and if two friends should come in at the same time, which doesn't often happen, there's the side of the bed for me to sit on."

"You have not two cups and saucers alike," said another neighbour.

"The tea tastes no worse for that, so long as the crockery is clean," replied Ann.

"You have not many pots and pans to scour," remarked a caller, who might have spent more time on her own with advantage to herself and them.

"I have enough for all the cooking that has to be done here," she answered. Then fearing that the words might sound like grumbling, she added: "And, thank God, I have never been without something. My bread has been given me, my water has been sure. And if my bits of things do not take me long to clean, I have all the more time to spend on the work that earns the bread."

Did somebody say, "How lonely it must be for you, living all by yourself!" Ann would answer, "There are folks within sound if not within sight. I have only to knock at the wall and somebody comes directly. My neighbours know that I never trouble them without a needs-be, and they're real kind. At nights, if I wake with my rheumatics and what not, I think to myself, 'I'm getting old and I cannot expect to be free from the infirmities that belong to age. But they will not be for long. There will be no aches nor pains, nor tired bones, nor sleepless nights in heaven. Nothing to cry for, except it be for gladness, and "God shall wipe away all tears."'"

"I cannot be lonely, for I remember that Jesus said, 'Lo I am with you alway,' and I feel sure those words were said to comfort an old disciple like me, as well as those others that saw Him in the flesh and heard His voice."

Old Ann was independent in her way. She knitted coarse stockings and did rough mending, and run odd lengths of print together for coverlets! She earned but little, and she suited her wants to her means, taking from others only what she could by no amount of industry earn for herself. Yet in time of sickness Ann never lacked a nurse, for her kindly loving nature had won her many friends, and children were ready to run for her and the elders to wait upon her, when the need arose for such neighbourly ministry.

Mrs. Powell's mother had often employed the old woman, and more than once Ann had recommended servants, who had turned out well, so it was not surprising that the young wife thought she might help her in this present difficulty.

Perhaps Mr. Powell thought she might do more good than in the matter of a servant, and he very willingly sent old Ann to have a talk with his wife.

"My husband has told you why I wished to see you, Ann, I suppose," said Mrs. Powell, when the old woman was shown into the breakfast-room.

"Not a word, ma'am. He said you would tell me," replied Ann, and then waited patiently for the story.

It ran rapidly from Mrs. Powell's lips, and the listener never interrupted her until she finished with the question, "Don't you think it is very selfish of Elizabeth?"

"Well, I can't say yes, ma'am," was the honest answer. "The girl has all to lose in the way of money, home, rest and comfort by leaving your service. But she will gain in another way. Her conscience will say she has done right in going to her sick mother, for God puts 'Honour the father and mother' next to the commandments that teach us our special duty to Himself."

"I thought you would like to help me, Ann; but you seem to think I am wrong, and you take Elizabeth's' side," said Mrs. Powell, rather sharply.

"I will help you if I can, ma'am. Nothing would please me better, though I cannot at this minute think of the right girl for you. And I can feel for you about going to the seaside, for I have just been disappointed of my own summer outing."

Mrs. Powell was interested at once, and reminded of her own want of consideration for Ann. She had missed the old woman for three weeks past, yet had never sent to ask after her until her own perplexity made her wish to see her. Since Ann's arrival she had been too full of her own concerns to inquire the reason why she had seen nothing of her for so long. She felt a hot blush rise to her cheeks as she said, "Have you been ill?"

"I'll tell you all about it, ma'am," replied Ann. "I belong to a Mothers' Class, and once a year we have a day's trip to the seaside. We reckon on it very much, for to most of us it is the only chance we have of feeling the sea breeze and seeing the waves come rolling in. We mostly have wonderful weather, and that day serves us to talk about till summer comes round again.

"This year I had my ticket and was as full of my coming holiday as a child thinking of a school feast. Would you believe it? The very night before, I slipped and sprained my ankle. My foot swelled up as big as two, and I couldn't put it on the ground. Then lumbago came on, and I couldn't turn myself in bed. I lay as helpless as a baby.

"It was a disappointment. I can't deny that, and I had very little money and not much in the way of victuals; no claim on anybody, and I was unable to wait on myself. Yes, I had a claim on God's promises, because I believed in Jesus, and I knew for His sake He would not fail to keep them. So I just put Him in mind of a few, and asked Him to help me, for He knew I couldn't help myself. I couldn't call my neighbour, for she was gone out washing very early. I was not quite sure that anybody would miss me till night, because the rest of the class members would go on by train, whether I was there or no. Some of them would be asking after me when they came back, but that would not be till half-past nine at night, because there was a two-hours' railway ride to be done before they arrived at the station, and then they would have to walk home."

"What did you do?" asked Mrs. Powell, for the moment forgetting her own worries in sympathy for her poor friend.

"Just nothing, ma'am, as I said before, and for the best of reasons. I couldn't turn over, or point a foot to the ground. I waited, feeling sure there would be something done for me, though I did not know what. I said to myself that if I could only see one or two folks and ways by whom help would come, the Lord could see plenty that I knew nothing about. I had not so much pain while I lay quite still. It was only when I moved that it was real bad, and you see I had nothing the matter with me in other ways, and I began to be hungry. For a good while I had to grin and abide by the hunger, as I had been forced to bear the pain, but at about twelve o'clock I heard some one knocking at the door.

"It was of no use to call out 'Come in,' because the door was locked, but I shouted, 'Please listen; I am fast in bed and cannot get up to let you in.' A voice, I knew whose it was, said back again, 'I am listening. Tell me how I can help you.' It was one of the ladies that conducted the class. She was not very strong, so did not go by the train, though she saw it start, and she had heard some of the neighbours wondering what had become of old Ann Crompton, for most of them knew how I had looked forward to my summer outing.

"The lady could not come my way at once after seeing the merry party off, for she had some shopping to do, and so she took my little place on her road home. I told her that if she would slide the window back she would find the door key on the sill, inside. I always put it there, so that if it happened I was ill my neighbour could find it and let herself in. I had no fear of robbers, and that's one of the advantages of being poor. Folks that have nothing worth stealing need not be afraid of thieves. The lady opened the window, for it slides easy. I take care of that, for it's no use giving needless trouble, and then she unlocked the door and found how I was fixed.

"With her own hands she lit the fire and got my breakfast ready. She gave me water and things to wash with, for I could manage that, and then she sent somebody else to tidy up and see to me until my next neighbour came home. Well, to cut a long story short, it is just wonderful to think how everything was managed for me. That lady had never called at my place before, and yet she was sent just when I was in the greatest need of help. When she could stay no longer, she took care that somebody else came. Before she left, she said to me, You know, Ann, that when any of our members are prevented from joining in the trip because of illness, we try to add to their comfort at home. So I will leave the price of your ticket with you. The money will not be lost, for we only pay for those who actually go.' She took the ticket and gave me half-a-crown at once, so there was I provided for and feeling quite rich directly. Now, wasn't that wonderful, ma'am? And yet it hardly seems right to call it so, because we ought to be looking for God's help in our time of need, if we really believe in Him."

Mrs. Powell's face showed the interest she felt in Ann's story. Its expression was entirely changed. The fretful, irritable look and manner were gone, and in place of them were words of sympathy, and the remark, "I wish you had sent to me, Ann. I would have come to see you and given you further help."

"I'm sure you would, ma'am; but the real truth is that all I wanted came without my asking anybody but my Father in heaven. The members of the class were very kind. First one, then another, would drop in and tidy up for me, and not a neighbour had a bit of anything nice for dinner but a portion would be sent for me. The lady that keeps the corner shop actually sent a wing of fowl and a slice of bacon one day. Another brought a drop of broth; then came some nice floury potatoes, and a sup of milk, and after that a morsel of cow-heel."

"What! all in one day?" asked Mrs. Powell, looking very much amused.

"Bless you, no, ma'am. One at once, and that was the wonderful part. These kind neighbours said nothing to each other, but day by day, just as I was getting to the end of my store, came something fresh from another hand. So I never wanted, and I never felt anxious. It would have been a shame if I had. I ought to tell you that, being able to use my hands, I kept on with my knitting and mending as well as I could, and was able to earn a trifle every day. By degrees I got to sit up, with my foot on the stool, but that was not very comfortable, because I got stiff; so a lady, the one that called first, lent me a proper rest,' and that was very nice. Now I can go about again, and I feel as if I couldn't be thankful enough to God for all His goodness, and to the friends He sent me for theirs. When I look back I think I was a bit like the widow that Elijah went to. She had only enough for one cake at the time they met, yet the barrel of meal did not waste through all the season of famine, and she and her son, and the visitor sent from God, never wanted bread. So I, though I never knew what hand would bring the next, finished the food that came on one day, and slept without fear that I should be left to hunger for more before a supply was sent. Now, ma'am, I have told you this long tale, and I'm afraid it has been very selfish of me taking up so much of your time when you have matters of your own to think of. But, if you believe me, it was the thought of all these mercies that filled my mind, so that it seemed as if I must tell you how good God has been to me, and how faithfully He keeps His word to the poorest old body that puts her trust in Him. I could not tell about Him and my kind neighbours without bringing in myself."

"I am very glad you have told me all this," said Mrs. Powell. "You have done me good. Now I shall ask you just to think over this matter of mine, and see if you can find a servant for me before Elizabeth's month is up. If I should have to give up my summer's outing, I hope I may brave the disappointment as bravely as you have done. You must stay and have a bit of dinner downstairs. Elizabeth you know already, and I should like Sarah to know you."

Ann thanked Mrs. Powell for her invitation, and, having dined with the servants, went home to think how she could help the lady out of her present difficulty.







"WHAT a dear old woman that is," exclaimed Mrs. Powell's younger servant, Sarah, when Ann Crompton had left the house. "It is nice to hear her talk. She makes one want to be good. If my mother had been more of her sort I should have been a better girl to-day."

"I thought you had a good mother," said Elizabeth.

"Well, she was good, in a way. She taught us to clean and scrub, she made us keep ourselves neat and mend our clothes, and such-like, and she scolded and slapped us into the bargain, with no light hand, if we wanted twice telling. We had to mind what she said, I can tell you. But she was very sharp in her words and ways. We got plenty of threats and not many promises, plenty of vinegar and little sugar. She took care we went to Sunday-school too, and, if we were a bit late, she sent us to bed again and kept us there all day. It was being driven to school and punished over it that made me determine I would never go another day after I got away from home. I should have been fond of it but for mother, and I liked my teacher, only I gave up because I liked having my own way better than anything else. It seemed nice to show mother that I was too old to be driven here and there, whether I wanted to go or not. I wish old Ann Crompton was coming to stop here. I believe she would make a better girl of me. She's so kind."

Truly kindness is a wonderful power. This wilful girl, whom her mistress could not trust, though she was cleanly, clever, and keen-witted, well able to do her work, and yet ready to evade orders just because, after a long course of driving, she found it pleasant to rebel—this girl felt that she could place herself like wax in the hands of the old, loving-hearted Christian, to be moulded into something better. She had not been used to think that she needed changing, but it was the seeing Ann Crompton as she was that first put into her mind the notion that her own ways might be improved.

And Mrs. Powell had not heard Ann's story in vain. The first to feel the effects of it on her mistress's mind was Elizabeth.

The girl had been a faithful servant. She was most unwilling to cause her mistress any trouble, but what could she do when the father wrote and begged that she would come to the suffering mother and neglected home?

Elizabeth half hoped that by telling Mrs. Powell why she felt bound to leave her service, the lady would be moved to dispense with the usual notice, and bid her go at once to those who had the first claim upon her. But no; instead of this, Mrs. Powell was annoyed at her wanting to go at all, and spoke little to Elizabeth, who now found it hard to please her.

The mistress was cold and curt; the maid sorrowful at heart, and full of anxious thoughts about her parents. Her looks showed that, for the first time, she found her work a burden, because of the heavy heart she carried as she went about it.

Whilst Ann Crompton was in the kitchen, she managed to speak some encouraging words to poor Elizabeth, and even to turn Sarah's saucy ways and ready jokes to some account.

"Bless you, child," she said, with a benevolent look at the girl's laughing face; "it's a good thing to enjoy a laugh now and then. I'm glad I haven't forgotten how to laugh yet, though I'm an old woman. Still 'Merry and wise' is a good motto. Folks sometimes laugh at wrong things. Mind, my dear, never you laugh if anybody tries to turn God's Word into a joke: put that sort of thing down, and have no friendship with those that do it. And don't you laugh at any joke that makes you feel 'shamed of having listened to it, and sends the hot colour into your cheeks, and forces you to turn away your head. We have to mind what sort of jokes we enjoy."

The warning words were said so pleasantly that they went home to Sarah's heart. Instead of "flying up," as she was wont to do at a sharp word from her mother, or the milder fault-finding of Mrs. Powell, the girl nodded her head assentingly, thanked Ann for her advice, and said, "I'll try to remember your rule. I have often felt vexed at myself for laughing at speeches that were not so very nice, when one came to look into them. I'm only a giddy thing, not like Elizabeth here, but I can bear to be spoken to when folks speak in the right way as you do."

The effect of Ann's story on Mrs. Powell was this: whilst the old woman was letting her humble light shine in the kitchen, the mistress of the house was on her knees seeking light and guidance from God.

She was feeling very much ashamed of herself. She had been calling her faithful servant "selfish," when the girl was giving up her own worldly interests at the call of filial duty. She had been fancying herself a very ill-used person, with more than her share of worries, just because there was a chance that her trip to the seaside might be deferred. She had made the morning meal uncomfortable to her good husband by her frowning face, her fretful words, her magnifying of a little molehill of trouble into a mountain. She had sent him away to meet his business cares, and the work belonging thereto, with the added weight of all her household difficulties as an extra burden.

Until she heard Ann's story she never thought of taking her domestic worries amongst the "all things" to the Throne of Grace. Never thought of asking that one of God's servants might be sent to fill the place that Elizabeth was about to leave.

Now, Mrs. Powell felt a longing to tell out her requests unto God, and the first prayer she offered was that her murmurings, fretful tempers, hasty judgments, and needless fault-finding might be forgiven. Next she prayed for grace to put away the spirit of selfishness that had made her consider only her own convenience, and that she might have a tender heart and the desire to bear the burdens of those around her, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

A little later Elizabeth was summoned by her mistress. She entered the room in some fear, for of late, no matter how much she tried, she had often failed to give satisfaction. But the kind look on Mrs. Powell's face encouraged her, and she could hardly believe her ears when her mistress said, "Elizabeth, I have been thinking about your wish to go home. I can understand how anxious you must be about your mother. Tell me plainly. Do you want to go to her at once?"

The girl burst into tears.

"O ma'am," she said, "you cannot think how grateful I should be if you could set me at liberty. I have been so miserable about poor mother, thinking that she is not getting the care and attention she needs. If she were to die I should never—"

The girl's voice was choked by sobs, and she was unable to finish the sentence, but Mrs. Powell guessed her meaning.

"Dry your tears, Elizabeth," she said, kindly. "You have been a faithful servant, and I do not wish to prove a hard mistress. You shall go home to-morrow."

"I shall be so glad!" cried the girl, her face brightening at the prospect. "Thank you so much, ma'am, for putting yourself to inconvenience for me. I do wish I could see some way whereby I could go without you having any trouble or being obliged to put off your journey; nothing but illness at home would make me think of leaving at such a time. And if I should be free to take a place again, and you could take me back without hurting any one else, I should be thankful to come."

"And I should be glad to have you, Elizabeth. Now I feel it would be wrong for me to stand in your way. Besides, I shall not be left without any one, and I can easily obtain daily assistance. We may have to put off our visit to the seaside, but never mind this. Go and pack your boxes. I hope you may find your mother better than you expect to do."

Elizabeth went quietly out of the room, but she hurried to the kitchen in order to tell her good news.

"I shall be sorry to lose you," said Sarah. "I'm not sure whether I shall—"

"Don't say you mean to give notice," interrupted Elizabeth. "Now don't. This is just the time when you might show what you can do, and be a comfort in the house. You are strong and able, and you know how work should be done, and I have heard the mistress say that if only—"

"If only you could have had patience to hear me out, you would have found that giving notice was one of the things farthest from my thoughts," said Sarah, in her independent way. "I know well enough what mistress has said. I've heard it often, and I don't want it over again. She has astonished me to-day. I had begun to think that she was one of those ladies who fancied servants ought to have no human feelings, no love nor longing after those they have left behind, and that love them, such as your poor mother. I had been saying to myself, 'If it had been the mistress's mother no train would have been quick enough to carry her to her old home. But as it is Elizabeth's, she must wait a month before she goes, get nothing but cross looks, and maybe find her mother dead or given up, when she gets there.'"

"Now don't you say another word," for Elizabeth seemed on the point of speaking. "You have interrupted me once, and I have done the same by you, so we are straight. But taking the words out of one another's mouths isn't good manners, for all that. Mark what I say now, and then go and pack up your things. The mistress has astonished me, and I'm going to astonish her. There! Mind if I don't find a way out of this seaside business that will make all straight." Sarah gave Elizabeth no chance of replying, but whisked out of the kitchen with a merry laugh.

"She might do so well, if only she would always keep right side out," thought Elizabeth, as she went upstairs to prepare for her journey on the morrow.

She understood Sarah better than most did, and felt hopeful about the girl, knowing that beneath her rough and ready manner and careless words, she hid deeper feelings, and might be influenced for good, by the kindness of which as a child she had experienced so small a share.

When Mr. Powell returned home he was agreeably surprised to notice the change that had taken place in his wife's looks during his absence.

No cloud upon the sweet bright face uplifted to his with a welcoming kiss. No trace of the fretful tone which had embittered her morning farewell.

She might know nothing of the little daily troubles which beset the paths both of young and old housekeepers, for she made no allusion to her own.

All through the dinner it was the same. As if to make up for the gloom which had hung over the breakfast-table, Mrs. Powell gave her husband a double portion of sunshine.

Instead of airing household matters, she asked questions about her husband's doings, and listened to all he had to tell with affectionate interest.

It was only when the meal was over, and the two were seated side by side, that Mr. Powell said:

"By the way, did old Ann come to see you? I did not forget your commission."

"Yes, dear, she came, and, without knowing it, taught me a lesson which I trust I shall never forget."

Mrs. Powell then repeated the old woman's story to her husband, and when she came to the end of it added, "I think I never saw myself in the same light before, as I did whilst Ann was speaking. The dear old woman's cheerful submission to what must have been a great disappointment; her patient waiting for the help which she felt sure God would send in answer to her prayer; her simple, childlike faith in His promises, as day by day she looked with confidence for daily bread; her contentment with the little portion of this world's goods which He had been pleased to allot to her; the finding good in whatever He chose to ordain for her, and her gratitude to the earthly friends who had ministered to her wants out of their little means;—all these things showed me how selfish, hard, and unkind I was towards my neighbours, as well as unthankful for the abounding blessings I enjoy. I had been cross and fretful because Elizabeth wanted to go to her sick mother, and had accused her of being selfish, when all the while I deserved the blame and she the praise. She preferred duty to ease and comfort without anxiety. Instead of cheering and encouraging her, I made the poor girl's task harder by my cold looks and fault-finding. Yet Elizabeth really cares for me, and is now grieving at the thought of causing me inconvenience.

"I grumbled because our seaside trip might be put off, and settled in my own mind that if it were we should have no fine weather later on. Thus I met sorrow half way.

"Ann Crompton bore the loss of her one day's trip—think, Edward, the only day's outing in all the year—without a murmur. Yet the morning which should have seen her on her way to the seaside, found her lying alone, helpless and in great pain, with an almost empty purse and cupboard, and with no claim of relationship on any human being near her. Yet in that little bare room she sunned herself in the light of God's presence and faithfulness, and waited for what He should send.

"I, who have so much, murmured and fretted and sent my dear kind husband away with the memory of my complaining words and clouded brow. She lay repeating to herself words of hope and encouragement, and willing to welcome with a smile the first friend who should enter for her relief.

"What do you think of these two pictures, Edward? Do you wonder that I feel ashamed of myself when I contrast my conduct with poor Ann Crompton's?"

"My darling," replied Mr. Powell, "I think I am a very happy husband, for I have a dear wife, who, though she does make mistakes, is not ashamed to learn wise lessons from a very humble teacher. Not ashamed either to own where she has done wrong, but thankful she may carry all her cares to One who careth for her, and will give her pardon, peace, strength, and guidance according to her need. And I think, too, that though I gave the message from you which brought old Ann to talk with you, surely God's Holy Spirit enabled her to speak and you to receive a message which has been as good seed, and has already brought forth good fruit."

Mr. Powell's loving arm had drawn his wife's head to his breast, and he bent and kissed her tenderly. After a little pause he asked what she had done about Elizabeth, and heard, with true pleasure, that the girl was to leave on the following morning.

"Then have you heard of some one to take her place?" asked Mr. Powell.

"Not yet, Edward. If I do not, or whether or no, I must follow Ann's example—pray for the right person and trust. Sarah is capable enough to fill a temporary gap, and I can get help in the daytime. Perhaps I may manage Sarah better if I try."

Mrs. Powell did not know what effect her kindness to Elizabeth had already produced on the more headstrong younger girl, and was a little surprised to notice with what energy she worked on the following morning.

She gave her an encouraging smile, and said, "I think you are trying to do double work, Sarah. I like to see this, because Elizabeth has many little matters to do before she goes, and I should not like her to be harassed and hurried."

"She has been very pleasant to live with, ma'am," replied Sarah, "and I can do anything for those that are kind to me."

Mrs. Powell smiled at the girl's earnestness, and did not forget her words. They were brought home to her mind still more by what Elizabeth said when she came to bid her mistress good-bye.

"If you will excuse me, ma'am, I should like to speak a word for Sarah. I do believe she wants to do right, and has made up her mind to keep her best side out, and deserve to be trusted. But she is a girl that has been too much driven and too seldom led, and she cannot do with driving. I think if you would encourage her and seem as if you trusted her, it would go a great way towards making her deserve your confidence."

"Thank you for the hint. I will not forget it. Now, good-bye, and I do hope you will be able to send me better news of your mother. I shall look for a line to tell me of your safe arrival."

Elizabeth's eyes were full of tears, but they were not all sorrowful ones. She was sorry to leave, but truly glad of the manner of parting with her mistress, for she said to herself, "It would have grieved me to see her look anything but kind and friendly." So cheered by encouraging words and pleasant looks, Sarah did wonders, and deserved the praise which Mrs. Powell was not slow to give.

Elizabeth's place was not filled, as it was most important that a reliable person should be left as joint-housekeeper with Sarah, and the right one had not been found. In three days the Powells ought to go to the seaside, or all their plans would need to be changed.

"You have been such a good trustworthy girl since Elizabeth left that I have no fear of leaving you, but you must have some person in the house with you," said Mrs. Powell to Sarah.

"I could do the work well enough," replied the girl; "and if there was just somebody in the house for company, perhaps we might have Elizabeth back by the time you and master want to come home."

"It is the 'somebody' I wish to find, Sarah," said Mrs. Powell.

"Do you think Ann Crompton would come herself, ma'am?" asked the girl.

There was a wistful look in Sarah's face which surprised her mistress. "Should you like to have Ann? I never thought of asking her, though I should be glad for her to come, because I scarcely thought you and she would get on together."

"I would rather have her than anybody else," said Sarah; and moved by something in Mrs. Powell's manner, the girl told her how she had been impressed by the words and ways of the cheerful old Christian, during the short time she spent in the kitchen.

"I have always thought since that day I should be better for hearing and seeing her, so if it will suit you, ma'am, please let her come."

Sarah little knew that the influence which had been felt by her in the kitchen had produced still greater effect upon her mistress in the parlour.

Ann, however, did come to be Sarah's companion for a month, and with the best results to all concerned. The change did her good, for Mrs. Powell's house being outside the town, the air in its neighbourhood was very different from that which Ann breathed in the little court where she usually passed her days. A month spent within hearing of the song of birds and the sight of fields, trees and flowers! Why, it seemed like heaven to old Ann Crompton.

"I lost a day's outing, and God has given me a whole month instead," she said, as, hour by hour, she thanked Him for His goodness to her.

She and the girl, so unlike her to begin with, became fast friends. Sarah learned her need of a Saviour by God's blessing on this old disciple's teaching, and having found Him in Jesus Christ, she is striving to follow the example of His most holy life. She has to fight many a battle with her headstrong temper and wilful habits, but she is cheered and encouraged by the friend who, though weak in body, is "strong in the Lord and in the power of His might."

And Sarah's hopes about Elizabeth have been fulfilled. The mother has been raised from her sick bed, and is once more able to attend to her family, and Mrs. Powell receives more devoted service than ever from the girl whom she joyfully welcomed back again, when, filial duty done, she could return to her place with a quiet conscience.










"IF you please, ma'am, you did not tell me how I was to set the table, so I did it mother's way."

The speaker was Mrs. Glover's new servant, a tidy-looking little maid, whose youth would have led any mistress to suppose that she had nearly everything to learn. But as Mrs. Glover glanced at the neatly-arranged breakfast-table she had a pleasant surprise. The most experienced waiting damsel could not have laid it more to her satisfaction.

She was going to praise the new servant in warm terms, but she paused before uttering the words which first came to mind, and only said, "It will do very nicely, Mary. Now bring in the kettle. Your master will be down directly."

Mrs. Glover, though a wife of not quite a year's standing, had already changed her one servant three times. She was beginning to talk as older mistresses do, about their domestics being the "plague of one's life," "necessary evils," and so on, and wishing she could do without altogether.

Ellen Dixon, the new girl, had entered on her duties the night before, and Mrs. Glover's was her first place. The lady had told her that she should be down early enough to show her how to lay the table for the eight o'clock breakfast. But she was not, and so the little maid had done her best, and her mistress was fain to own that the best was very neat indeed. She glanced round the room and thought how orderly it looked, and was going to say so. She paused, and instead of uttering further encouraging words, she bethought herself of past experiences, and of "new brooms," and only wished the present state of things might last.

Much to her surprise, things went on better as the little maid became more used to her place, and instead of having to teach, Mrs. Glover found herself a learner.

"Please, ma'am, where shall I find the dust-covers?" was Ellen's question when she was going to clean the grate in the best sitting-room.

"What do you mean, Ellen?"

Ellen blushed as if she had done wrong. "We had some old sheets like at home to put over our parlour things when the floor was swept and the grate raked. Mother said the things got more spoiled with brushing dust off than with using; so she patched some pieces of old stuff together to throw over them. They kept the dust off nicely. But we are forced to take care of our things. It was just mother's way."

"And a very good way, Ellen. We will have dust-sheets too," said Mrs. Glover, and the covers were soon ready.

Again the mistress noticed the care with which the fire was laid so as to last, and Ellen's economy in the matter of cinders. The girl looked pleased when her mistress said, "Ellen, you are the first servant I have had who took any trouble about making a fire to suit the weather. Often I have come down when it was bitterly cold, and there was scarcely a spark to be seen. Then, when the morning was warm, I have found a fire large enough to cook a family's dinner; and I always before found cinders thrown on the dust-heap; I am glad you have learned to take care of them."

"We had to be careful at home," said Ellen. "Mother used to make the coals last as long as she could, and she taught us to see if it was warm or cold before we made fire up. We learned to do it her way."

"That girl never has to go hunting about the house for things," said Mr. Glover, as he noticed the new girl's movements with much satisfaction. "Ask for what you may, if Ellen has had the handling of it, she never needs to seek it or keep any one waiting."

Mrs. Glover thought she might now safely say words of encouragement to Ellen, so she repeated her husband's commendation.

The girl's face brightened as she answered, "I am so glad master is pleased, and so will mother be when I tell her. She always told me if I put a thing in its place when I had done with it, I should find it there when it was wanted; that nothing wasted so much time as seeking for what ought not to have been lost."

"I am sure you must have a good mother, Ellen."

"Oh, dear yes, ma'am! But she was never good to us by letting us have all our own way, but by learning us her way. She said she could not give us any money, but she must try and make us servants that would be worth keeping. We didn't always like mother's way best," added Ellen, frankly, "because if we did not do our work according to her showing, we had to do it over again. But we learned in time, and it seems as if I couldn't get out of mother's way now."

"I would not try if I were you, Ellen," said. Mrs. Glover, with a kindly smile. "You are a fortunate girl in having had such a teacher in your mother."

Quarter-day came, and the little maid received her first wages. She looked at the two golden sovereigns with all the delight natural to one who has honestly earned what has been cheerfully paid.

"Let me see," she said, thinking aloud in her mistress's hearing. "One must go to mother. She did not want me to send her any of my wages, but I know she ought to have this and more, because it cost her a good bit to fit me out when I was coming."

"Can you spare so much, Ellen?" asked Mrs. Glover.

"Oh yes, ma'am. My things are not a bit worse; mother taught me to mend a hole when it is little. She says nothing grows faster than holes. Then there will be ten shillings to go in the savings bank," she continued, as if her calculations had not been interrupted.

"Why, Ellen, have you begun to save already?"

"Mother begun for us when we were very little," replied Ellen. "Not with much, but then it was a start. She could not lay by more than a copper or two at a time, but it got us in the way of taking care of pence. I always promised her that I would save something whenever I got my wages, and I would never buy a penn'orth unless I had a penny to pay for it with. 'Do that and you'll be rich,' mother said. 'Spend less than you earn, and pay for what you get, and you'll keep out of money troubles.'"

"Anything else in the business way?" asked Mrs. Glover, who was equally amused and interested in Ellen's doings, and who, to say the truth, was learning some important lessons from what the girl told about "mother's way."

Ellen blushed and hesitated, then said slowly, "Mother told me never to forget what I owed to God, and I promised that, besides saving a bit, I would always give a bit out of my wages, whether they were little or much."

Mrs. Glover did not ask what part was to be thus devoted, but she was well assured that it would be in fair proportion to the girl's means. She said a few encouraging words to her, promised to write and let Ellen's mother know how well her daughter practised the lessons she had taught her, and then she asked, "Is there anything you have to say to me? Are you quite satisfied in your place?"

There was plainly something that Ellen wished to say, for her cheeks turned first red, then white, and her eyes filled with tears. At last it came out—

"Oh, please, ma'am, at home father used to read a chapter and pray before we went to bed at nights. Mother did in the morning, because he had to go to work so soon. And we learned verses and hymns, and mother heard us say them; but now no one hears me, or talks about these things as mother did."

The girl stopped, afraid to say more. There was no need, for the lesson went home, and it was not the first on that particular quarter-day.

Mrs. Glover had not been very particular about paying for things as she got them. Love of pretty bonnets and dresses had induced her to spend just a trifle more than her income, and she found herself a little in debt. She had never considered that a portion of her means should be devoted to God's service; and as to family prayer, with just three or sometimes only two in the house, she had never dreamed of such a thing.

She began to ponder the words of her little maid. Then she went to her room, and though no human eye followed her, there was One who both saw and heard her tearful face and the prayer for pardon and guidance.

When her husband came home Mrs. Glover told him all that was in her heart, and how the new desires and resolutions had come there. He clasped her lovingly to his own, kissed away her tears, forgave the little extravagances into which she had been tempted, and said, "We will turn over a new leaf, darling, and we will do it at once."

So Ellen was called in to listen whilst the master read from God's Word and then prayed, pleading that they might have the blessing promised to the two or three gathered in His name. From that night master, mistress, and servant knelt together. Years passed on. Children were born in the house. Mr. Glover's means increased, and more servants were needed; but the one most trusted of all was Ellen Dixon.

"We should like you to have charge of the children next to ourselves," said Mr. and Mrs. Glover. "We know you will not teach them anything but what is right."

"They are our most precious treasures," said the mother, as she looked on her sleeping baby, and smiled as Ellen used the old familiar words.

"I have not had much to do with children lately, but I will do my best for the dear little things. I shall try and remember mother's way of managing them—" with which Mrs. Glover was quite content.


Mothers! you cannot tell how much good you may do by teaching your children wise lessons and leading them in the right way whilst they are young and willing to be guided by you.

Take care that in after-life, when they go out into the world, or are at the head of home of their own, they may never be able to say of any wrong habits, "I learned it of mother, it was mother's way;" but may your names be ever joined to happy memories of wise words, pious training, and a good example.










"SHE'S as good as she is pretty, and as pretty as she is good." This was the opinion of Oakvale people respecting the minister's youngest daughter, Amy Fleming. Very bright and lovable she must have been, or the cottage children would not have thrown down toys, abandoned games, and rushed in her direction as soon as the flutter of Miss Amy's garment could be discerned in the distance.

When on a visiting expedition she was sure to be surrounded by a motley bodyguard, each member of which was desirous that the dwelling of his or her parents should have the honour of a first call from their favourite.

It was sometimes rather inconvenient to be so much liked, for the owners of dirty little faces insisted on being kissed, and small hands, equally removed from cleanliness, stroked down Miss Amy's dresses without the previous ceremony of washing the sticky fingers.

Amongst all her acquaintance, however, Bob Marsh was perhaps the most devoted, and in many ways the most unfortunate. His doings and misdoings were the cause of more talk, censure, and head-shakings than those of all the other Oakvale boys put together.

Bob was the only son of a widowed mother, and the only brother of four small girls, all much younger than himself. A fine, well-grown, handsome lad, who ought to have been the comfort of his parent, but unfortunately he was always in some scrape or other. If he took up a stone and threw it, he was sure to break a window. If he climbed a tree he came down at one step and hurt himself, or else tore his garments to ribbons, and had to retire into private life—namely, to bed—until they were mended.

But who can go through the list? Other lads seemed to do the same thing, play the same pranks, and come off scot-free, while Bob was always in trouble. Mother watered Bob's rags with nightly tears, as she sat up to mend them for the morrow. Granny said lads were never like that in her young days, and was sure he would come to a bad end. The village gossips talked at him as he slunk home wet, out of the ditch he had jumped into instead of over, and pitied his poor mother for having such a son.

To tell a person, young or old, that he is on the high road to ruin, hopelessly bad, a plague to everybody, and of no use or comfort to anybody, is not the way to mend him. On the contrary, it is pretty sure to give him a push in the wrong direction.

Bob had heard such remarks dinned into his ears at every turn for a good while, but one evening an event happened which made matters worse than ever. He was not given to crying, but his cheeks were wet with tears, and as he entered the cottage he looked the picture of misery. He had been turned away from his situation as pig-tender by Farmer Oliver.

Neither mother nor granny waited to ask any questions, but took it for granted that Bob was to blame, and scolded accordingly. They only knew one fact: a little pig, one of his charges, had lost its life— a thing that happens to most pigs sooner or later, only this was sooner, and altogether at the wrong time, and in the wrong way; so Farmer Oliver, sharing the bad opinion of the villagers generally, had first cuffed Bob soundly, and then sent him off with a warning not to show his face on his premises again.

The poorest and most miserable of human beings is rarely quite friendless. Bob had one friend in Miss Amy, and, fortunately for him, she was on her way to his mother's cottage when he entered it in disgrace after his dismissal. If he had but known this! Had he not been in her class at the Sunday-school, and so loth to leave it for a higher, that he had purposely bungled over his lessons and played the dunce so as to stay amongst the little ones and with his beloved teacher?

Miss Amy had found him out, of course, and brought him then and there to tears and penitence. But though he had gone to another class and among the elder boys, he always felt that he belonged to Miss Amy, and she was the one being who ever encouraged and comforted poor Bob.

It was like sunshine to see her enter the cottage now. First she softened mother by telling her that Bob, though rash, thoughtless, and consequently always in hot water, was not such a bad fellow at the bottom. "He was in my class for four years, and no person ever knew Bob tell a lie, say a bad word, or ill-use or tease a child younger than himself," she said.

Then she made granny happy by presenting her with some flannel and a packet of tea, and insisted afterwards that some day she would be proud of her grandson Bob. "He has the making of a fine fellow in him," she continued, "only there's a great deal of smoothing and shaping to be done before the material can be seen to advantage."

However much mothers may scold their own lads, or grandmothers predict evil, the former do not like others to grumble at their offspring any more than do the latter wish their prophecies to come true. Mrs. Marsh's forehead lost its frown as she listened to Miss Amy; and granny for once gave the lad a more kindly look, and hoped the young lady would turn out right in the long run. "Now come with me," said Miss Amy to Bob; "I must try and get Farmer Oliver to take you on again."

"He won't, miss; it's no good," said Bob, hanging back. But he had to go, for there was no resisting Miss Amy. She could not, however, succeed in taking him into the farmer's presence, for Bob had such a lively recollection of the cuffing he had received, that he ran away and hid behind a hedge.

How Miss Amy managed to persuade the farmer—whom she met driving home his own pigs, and very angry at having to do it—to take back Bob and give him one more chance, would take too long to tell. But she did it, and more, for she proved to him that on this particular occasion Bob had really done his best for his unruly flock, only a ferocious dog had proved too much for the young drover, and the one little pig had been the sacrifice.

"I'm afraid, Miss Amy, I was too hasty," replied Farmer Oliver; "but everybody gives that Bob a bad name, and when I saw the pig worried I took it for granted it was his fault. Pigs are not the easiest things to manage, and you know that old saying, 'Give a dog a bad name.' I'm afraid I acted on it in turning off Bob. He may come in the morning, and we'll say no more about it."

Miss Amy thought the farmer ought to say something more, but she shook hands with him, thanked him heartily, and ran off to tell Bob the good news.

"I can't do any good. Everybody says so—mother, and granny, and the neighbours. They don't listen to me, and when I tell the truth they don't believe me. There's only you, Miss Amy, that does not think I am bad on purpose. They all say I am good for nothing. I can't do right," sobbed the lad.

"Not of yourself, Bob—I know that well enough. No more can I. But you can pray, Bob, and you can try. You surely have not forgotten all your old Sunday-school lessons. Don't you remember that the Saviour who says, 'ask,' promises that we shall have? The best people in the world will tell you that they get their strength and comfort through going to Jesus. They always say, 'I can't,' until He shows them how to do right, and then they are like St. Paul, full of joy, and cry, 'I can do all things through Christ.' So can you, Bob, and you must begin from this very minute."

And Bob did begin. His dear old yet young teacher, cheered him on, prayed with him, talked with him, and to other people about him, until at last the village folk began to discover that there was good in Bob Marsh after all.

He has lost his bad name now, but he always says that he turned the right corner, and started on the new and happier road, on the night that Miss Amy persuaded him to say, "I'll try," instead of "I can't."