The Project Gutenberg eBook of Rose Cottage

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Title: Rose Cottage

A story

Author: Eleanora H. Stooke

Release date: January 18, 2024 [eBook #72752]

Language: English

Original publication: London: Gall and Inglis, 1900


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



With what pleasure the boy presented his mother
with his first week's earnings.


A Story



Author of "Polly's Father," "Little Gem,"


















SUNLEIGH was a beautifully situated little village lying between two hills, with a rippling stream flowing close by through fertile meadow lands, now golden with daffodils. In the most sheltered hedges, white violets and primroses were peeping through beds of moss, and ferns were unfolding their tender green fronds to the welcome warmth of the kindly March sun.

Yet, it felt keenly still in the shade, and Marian Morris, the vicar's only daughter, drew her fur boa closer around her throat as she walked up the village street, pausing for a moment at the baker's, and then passing on to Mrs. Mugford's establishment, the post-office and general shop of the place.

One could buy almost anything at Mrs. Mugford's—drapery, grocery, stationery, ironmongery, and, in fact, nearly every commodity one was likely to require. Whilst making her purchases, Miss Morris was entertained by Mrs. Mugford with all the latest village news.

The owner of the village shop was a large, red-faced woman, with bright brown eyes like a robin's, and sleek, neatly banded iron-grey hair. She was a bit of a gossip, it is true, but a very kindly one. Never was there a case of distress in the parish that did not reach her ears, and receive a sympathetic hearing, and such help as she could give.

"I have new neighbours," she told Miss Morris, nodding towards a pretty thatched cottage on the opposite side of the street. "Rose Cottage has been taken by a family called Lethbridge—father, mother, and four children. They moved in only yesterday."

"Lethbridge!" said Miss Morris thoughtfully. "I don't think I know the name."

"No, miss. They come from a distance. The man was groom in some gentleman's stables, I hear."

"Has he work in the village, then?" in interested tones.

"Mr. Talbot at the Hall has engaged him as under stableman. The wife's a sickly-looking, pale-faced poor body; but there are two sturdy boys, a little girl and a baby. I went across last night to see if there was anything I could do for them, but Mrs. Lethbridge didn't ask me in," she added in slightly aggrieved accents.

"Perhaps she wants to get her new home in good order before seeing strangers," suggested Miss Morris, smiling, for she guessed Mrs. Mugford would have liked to have found out more about her neighbours.

"Yes, miss, I daresay. I'm glad to see Rose Cottage inhabited, anyway. I think an unoccupied house looks so depressing. What else can I do for you, miss?"

"That's all I want to-day, thank you, Mrs. Mugford; good afternoon."

With a nod and a smile, Miss Morris stepped into the street again, just as the door of Rose Cottage opened, and a pale-faced woman came out with a baby in her arms, and a little girl of about eight years old at her side. The woman looked weary, but as she glanced at the vicar's daughter, an expression of interest crossed her face. Acting on the impulse of the moment, Marian went across the road.

"Good morning," she said brightly. "You are Mrs. Lethbridge, are you not? I am Marian Morris, the vicar's daughter, and I have now heard that you have come to live in our village. I hope you will soon feel at home. I always think Rose Cottage so very pretty."

"Yes, miss," with a slight flush, and a somewhat timid smile.

"What a dear little girl!" Marian exclaimed in sudden admiration, as a pair of blue eyes were raised to meet hers, and a delicately-tinted face, crowned with a mass of golden curls, became suddenly illuminated with a sweet smile. "What is your name, little one?"

"Molly, please, miss."

"Will you give me a kiss, little Molly?"

No answer, except the same smile, wholly sweet, but with a certain appealing weakness in it that went straight to Marian's kind heart. She bent down and kissed the child, and then turned to the mother who was watching her earnestly.

"Our Molly is not quite like other children, miss," Mrs. Lethbridge said, with a break in her voice. "We sometimes think she is not right here," indicating her forehead with a quick motion of her hand.

Marian felt shocked. She looked again at the little girl, and was conscious of a somewhat vacant expression in the clear, blue eyes that had escaped her notice at first.

"She is not very bad," the mother continued hastily; "but she can't learn. We have to send her to school; but she doesn't remember anything. She's an affectionate, obedient child, but strange—very. It does seem hard she should be different to other children," in slightly aggrieved tones; "the only girl, too! My boys are right in mind and body; but Molly—why, she don't know more now than a child of five years old ought, and she's eight."

"God has given you a heavy trouble to bear," Marian said, sympathetically.

"He has, indeed, miss. Sometimes I wonder what will become of Molly when she grows up. If anything happened to her father or me, whatever would she do?"

"Her Father in heaven would provide for her, Mrs. Lethbridge."

The poor mother brushed the back of one work-hardened hand across her eyes, and tried to smile.

"We didn't notice anything wrong with her until a year or so ago," she said, encouraged by the kindly interest on Marian's face to continue the conversation. "We thought her backward-like; and James—that's my husband—don't like to think she isn't like other children even now, he's that fond of her."

"I can understand it. Perhaps her mind will strengthen as she grows older. She is in God's hands, and He will take care of her. You must always remember that."

Mrs. Lethbridge made no answer, but she sighed, and the tears welled up into her eyes again. She began to sway the baby to and fro on her arm. He was a bright looking child, and he crowed merrily, and laughed in his mother's face.

"Will you please step inside, miss?" Mrs. Lethbridge asked.

"Not to-day, thank you; but I will come to see you soon, when you are really settled in your new home, and make the acquaintance of your other children."

"The boys are gone to school, miss. I sent them at once to keep them out of mischief."

Marian laughed, and at that moment Molly, who had wandered a few steps down the street, returned to her mother's side, and stood looking up at her new acquaintance, with her sweet, wavering smile.

"She seems very happy!" Marian said, softly, to Mrs. Lethbridge.

"Yes, miss; there's one comfort, she's always happy. She never cries, or is cross and fretty like some children."

"That is a great blessing, is it not?"

"It is, indeed, miss."

After a little more conversation, the vicar's daughter passed on her way down the street, leaving Mrs. Lethbridge gazing after her with a look of interest and approval on her face.

Presently the boys returned from school, and their mother went in to prepare their tea, placing the baby in Molly's arms to nurse.

The little girl sat on the doorstep in the sunshine. Baby was heavy, but she held him firmly. The village children, curious at the sight of a strange face, paused outside Rose Cottage to stare at Molly, but she did not mind, only smiled at them in her usual friendly fashion.

One little girl spoke to her at length, asking—

"What's your name, eh?"

"Molly," still smiling.

"What else?" Then, receiving no answer, "Where do you come from?"

Still no answer, except a shake of the golden head.

"I believe she's silly!" cried out one sharp-looking little girl, whereupon there was a general laugh, which Mrs. Lethbridge heard. She came out, and immediately dispersed the children.

But the sharp young eyes had noticed something unusual about Molly, and when, a few days later, she appeared at the village school, the children, with the thoughtlessness of youth, were ready to tease her unmercifully. They called her "crazy Molly," but they soon found she was not resentful in the least, and to all their laughs and taunts she listened in silence, only sometimes her sweet, weak smile faded into an expression of astonishment and pain.



"I AM ashamed of you all!"

It was Marian Morris' clear voice, raised in accents of indignation as she came upon a group of children in the street, surrounding Molly Lethbridge, who was on her way home from school.

The vicar's daughter had arrived upon the scene in time to see one pull Molly's hair, another hustle her roughly, whilst the others were laughing with great enjoyment. In one moment Marian had pushed her way to Molly's side, and had taken her hand in a protecting clasp, whilst the child looked up at her with troubled, wistful eyes.

"Shame on you to tease and worry one who cannot protect herself; to take delight in tormenting one whom God has made weaker than yourselves! Do you forget that He sees you, that He hears every jeering laugh, every mocking word?"

The children scuttled away hastily, leaving Molly alone with her friend. Still holding the child by the hand Marian took her home.

Rose Cottage looked as pretty as usual outside, but inside, everything was poverty-stricken. Marian was not surprised, for she had learnt that the money James Lethbridge should have given to his wife was spent mostly at the "White Hart," as the village inn was named. He had lost his former situation through his drunken habits, and seemed in the way of losing his new post if he continued the life he was leading.

The baby was asleep in the cradle, and Mrs. Lethbridge was engaged in ironing. She dusted a chair, and offered it to her visitor, who begged her to continue her occupation.

"I have brought Molly home," Marian explained, as she sat down. "The children were teasing her. I fear they make her unhappy."

The mother glanced sadly at her little daughter, who had gone to the cradle, and was now imprinting a tender kiss on the baby's rosy cheek.

"It seems a pity you are bound to send her to school," Marian continued, "for she learns but little, I think you told me?"

"Almost nothing, miss; she knows her letters, and that's about all. But, of course, she must go to school. I should be glad enough to keep her at home to mind baby. I expect the children will leave off teasing her when they find she doesn't mind."

"I think she does mind, but she is evidently not resentful. You don't send her to Sunday-school, Mrs. Lethbridge, do you?"

"No, miss; I'm not bound to send her there, you see."

"I think it is a pity she should not go. But perhaps you teach her on Sundays at home?"

The mother shook her head, and looked a trifle ashamed as she said, hastily—

"I've no time to spare, and it's so difficult to make her understand, and she asks such questions! Of course, I make her say her prayers every night."

Molly was still standing by the cradle, rocking it gently.

Marian spoke to her—

"Molly, will you come here, dear?"

The child moved to her side, and stood looking up into her face, expectantly.

"You love baby very much, do you not, Molly?"

A nod in response.

"And who else do you love?"

"Father," after a moment's anxious thought.

"Anyone else, my dear?"

"Mother and the boys," the blue eyes glancing at the figure at the table busily plying the iron.

"There is someone else surely, Molly?"

"You, miss."

Marian bent down, and impulsively kissed the little upturned face as she whispered—

"Don't you love Jesus, darling? Don't you?"

"No, miss."

"She doesn't understand," Mrs. Lethbridge put in hastily.

"I see she does not, but I think one could teach her. Will you let her come to Sunday-school, Mrs. Lethbridge, if I manage to take her in my class? I will call for her every Sunday."

"Oh, miss, how truly good of you to think of it! I should be that glad." Mrs. Lethbridge put down her iron, and, sinking into a chair, burst into tears.

Marian went to her side, and laid her hand sympathetically on the poor woman's heaving shoulder.

"What is it?" she asked, gently. "I fear something is wrong. I think it helps one to bear a trouble if one can speak of it, and perhaps I could assist you in some way."

"I am very foolish," Mrs. Lethbridge said, as she hastily dried her eyes, "but I have a lot to try me, and a deal to put up with. I know I've not taught Molly all she ought to know; but after she was born, things went very wrong with us. My husband took to drink, and neglected his home for bad companions; and that has made me feel wicked and bitter; and many has been the time that I've thought God has forsaken us!"

"Oh, dear," Marian cried, "just when you want Him for your friend so much! You know, Jesus promised never to forsake His people!"

"Yes, miss; but sometimes I haven't been able to think it."

"It is God's own promise, Mrs. Lethbridge. If we ask Him, He will help us to bear our troubles; you must cast yours all on Him, for He careth for you."

"When I hear you speak, miss, I seem to feel it is all true; but when you're gone and my husband returns the worse for drink, and swears at the children and me, maybe I shall doubt again. He is not a bad man when he's sober; but that isn't often towards the end of the day," she said bitterly.

"You must ask God to show him his sin. Pray for him."

"I don't believe it would be any good, miss."

"Try," earnestly, "do try. Will you promise me?"

"Yes, I will," in brighter tones.

"And I'll call for Molly next Sunday. Please let her be ready by two o'clock."

"Thank you, miss. I do feel very grateful to you for taking such an interest in her. Oh, here come the boys."

They were fine, healthy little fellows, and their mother's eyes rested on them with loving pride. The elder was Jim, and the younger Dick, she explained.

Marian discovered two pennies in her pocket, which she presented to them to spend as they thought fit, and a further search found another penny for Molly. Mrs. Lethbridge smiled her gratitude, and Marian laughed as the children ran out of the cottage, and across the road to the shop to invest their money in sweets.

"I never mind so long as Molly is with the boys," the mother explained; "they think a deal of their sister."

"That is as it should be," Marian responded. "Well, Mrs. Lethbridge, I must be going now. I'm afraid I've been hindering you in your work."

"I'm glad you should, miss. I was that miserable when you came in; and now, I declare, what with your kind thought for my little maid, and all you've said to me, I feel a different woman!"

As she left the cottage Marian glanced across to Mrs. Mugford's shop, and saw Molly and her brothers making their purchases, the boys holding an animated conversation with Mrs. Mugford herself. Marian smiled, knowing well that the kind woman would give the children good worth for their pennies.

On her way home she encountered some of the children she had surprised teasing Molly an hour before, and stopped to speak a few words of remonstrance about their behaviour. She saw by their flushed cheeks and bowed heads that they were ashamed of themselves; and when she told them how they ought to protect one whom God had made unable to protect herself, instead of mocking her, a bright little girl, who had been one of the ringleaders of Molly's tormentors, said, with real penitence in her voice:—

"We didn't mean to be unkind, Miss Morris. It was only fun, and we didn't think. I'll stand up for crazy Molly, and never laugh at her again!"



IT had been March when the Lethbridge family arrived at Rose Cottage. And by the time the June roses bloomed around its walls, the villagers had lost all curiosity about the new-comers, for the simple reason that they knew all there was to know about them. The mother was a quiet, hardworking woman everyone agreed, and did the best she possibly could for her home; whereas the father was a drinker, and it was a wonder, everyone said, that Mr. Talbot retained him in his service. Then people began to whisper that James Lethbridge did a little night poaching by setting wires for rabbits—but that was only a whisper as yet.

Scantily clothed and fed though they were, the Lethbridge children flourished. The boys were nice little fellows, and when Mrs. Mugford engaged Jim to deliver her customers' purchases out of school hours, everyone said his good fortune was no more than he deserved.

With what pleasure the boy presented his mother with his first week's earnings, and with what pride she received the money!

"Why, Jim," she said, quite brightly, a happy smile lighting up her thin, worn face, "you'll soon be a man. Fancy you able to help me like this!"

"When I'm a man, mother," the boy answered fondly, "I'll work for you so that you won't need to slave like you do now. I mean to save my money, and grow rich. It must be grand to be rich, I think."

"Money doesn't always bring happiness, Jim. When I was in service as a girl, I lived with some very rich people, and they were most miserable—never helped others, or gave to the poor. Of course, all rich folks ain't like that."

"Miss Morris, for instance, mother?"

"Oh, I don't think she's at all well off, Jim. I've heard tell that the vicar has as much as he can do to make both ends meet."

"Why, mother, I thought he must be rich! And Miss Morris somehow looks rich, don't you think?"

Mrs. Lethbridge smiled at her little son's astonishment, and, after a few moment's thought, she said—

"Well, Jim, perhaps you're right in one way. I think, somehow, Miss Morris does look rich, and I'll tell you why I believe it is. She is rich in love, for where is there one in the parish who doesn't bless her for her sweet ways, and love her dearly? I think she's one of those the vicar preached about last Sunday, who lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, and that's what gives her that happy, contented look that makes one think she's got everything she wants."

"Maybe that's it," Jim agreed.

The other children had gone to bed, and Mrs. Lethbridge and her elder son were alone. They had their frugal supper, and, glancing at the clock, the mother saw it was nearly ten.

"I think you had better go to bed, my boy," she remarked, "for you must be very tired, I know."

"Shan't I wait up with you till father comes, mother?"

"No; it will be more than an hour before then. He is sure to be late," she added with a sigh.

"It's a shame," Jim grumbled, "that father should keep you waiting for him like this, when he's only amusing himself at the 'White Hart,' and he'll stay there till they turn him out at eleven o'clock. He's always the last to go. Do let me sit up with you for company, mother."

"No, Jim," with decision in her tones, "I shall be a great deal happier to know you're in bed resting. Remember, one hour's sleep before twelve, is better than two after, and boys like you should have long nights."

"Ain't you very tired, mother?"

"Well, a little, my dear. Kiss me now, like a good lad, and be off to bed."

Jim complied, somewhat reluctantly, and then stole softly upstairs, so as not to awaken the sleeping children, and into the little room he shared with his brother.

He really was more tired than he had ever been in his short life before. He was but a small boy, and Mrs. Mugford's baskets of groceries and other commodities had weighed heavily. His arms and shoulders ached, but there was an exultant feeling in his brave young heart that he had had his start in life, and that he must work hard to help his mother. He was not long undressing, then he knelt down by the side of his bed to say his prayers, to ask God to bless all those he loved, and make him a good boy. He could hardly keep his eyes open, and scarcely a moment after his head touched the pillow, he was asleep.

The next morning he awoke rather later than usual, to find his brother had already arisen. His arms were stiff, and he felt still tired, but after a good wash, he was considerably refreshed, and, quickly dressing, went downstairs.

Breakfast was ready, and the children gathered around the table to partake of weak tea, and bread and dripping. Mrs. Lethbridge looked heavy-eyed, and was somewhat silent, but the boys were in excellent spirits, and kept the conversation going, whilst Molly, smiling as usual, put in a word now and again in her hesitating fashion. The father had not appeared; and the children knew well enough that he was upstairs, sleeping off the effects of last night's dissipation, and asked no questions.

The boys were the only inmates of Rose Cottage who went to church that Sunday morning, so whilst the sweet church bells were ringing their invitation to come and worship and praise God in His house of prayer, Molly took the baby in her arms, and seated herself on the doorstep in the warm June sunshine. She made a pretty picture, her fair face bent over her infant brother; and the roses that twined around the porch formed a lovely setting of colour, and filled the air with the fragrance of their scent.

At first baby was lively, and his sister played with him, but presently he became drowsy, and lay quietly with his blue eyes staring up at the roses. People passing nodded at Molly, and she nodded back at them.

Presently she heard her father's heavy footsteps on the stairs, and he came and placed a chair just inside the open door and sat down. He would be at home all day, for it was so arranged by Mr. Talbot that he should have every alternate Sunday free from work at the Hall, and this was one of the Sundays on which he was his own master, to do as he pleased.

"Well, Molly," he said, with a yawn, "don't you find it too hot out there in the sunshine?"

"Oh, no, father."

"How my head does ache, to be sure," he continued; "the sound of those bells makes it worse!"

Molly was silent for a moment, then she said:

"Do you know what they say, father?"

"They don't say anything, child, but just keep on that incessant chiming."

"Oh, yes, they do!" the child insisted. "Miss Morris told me what they said."

"What is it, dearie?" her mother asked, coming to the door, and taking the baby out of Molly's arms as she spoke. "Is it the bells you're speaking of?"

"Yes, mother; don't you hear what they are saying?"

Mrs. Lethbridge listened a moment, to satisfy the child, and shook her head.

"Father, don't you hear?" appealing to him again.

"No, I'm sure I don't!" he said, laughing.

Molly lifted up her finger, and with her head on one side, as though the better to hear the chiming of the bells, she chanted: "Will—you—come—and—sing—and—pra-ay!" softly, several times, her voice rising and falling with the notes of the bells. "Mother, don't you hear it now?"

Husband and wife glanced at each other quickly, and the latter made answer: "Yes, Molly, I think I do."



MOLLY had grown to look forward, to Sunday afternoons, for, true to her promise, the vicar's daughter always called for the little girl on her way to the Sunday-school, and the two were firm friends. Molly learned slowly, indeed, but once she grasped an idea she retained it. She had come to know that Jesus was her Saviour, and that He loved, and watched over her. Praying was talking to Jesus, and she might tell Him anything; she might speak to Him anywhere, and He would always hear and understand. When she went to church, it was to sing His praises, and join with others who loved Him in worshipping in His house of prayer.

So much had Marian Morris succeeded in teaching Molly, when the child surprised her parents by repeating to them the message of the bells.

That same afternoon, as the little girl tripped along by Marian's side, she continually chanted to herself—

"Will—you—come—and—sing—and—pra-ay?" in a monotonous undertone.

Till her companion remarked—"I did not see you at church this morning, my dear."

"No, miss," the child answered. "Mother could not leave, 'cause of baby."

"Who generally looks after baby when mother and you go to church?"

"Father, miss."

"That is kind of your father."

Molly nodded, and in a minute abruptly volunteered a startling piece of information.

"Father was drunk last night," she said.

Marian was silent, grieved at the news; shocked that Molly should know her father's weakness, and filled with pity for poor Mrs. Lethbridge.

"Mother cries when father gets drunk," the child continued, with a somewhat wistful look on her pretty face; "and Jim is cross."

"I hear Jim is Mrs. Mugford's errand-boy, now," Marian interposed hastily, feeling she could not discuss the father's sin and its consequences with the child, and desiring to change the conversation; "that is a very good thing for him, I should think."

"He carries big baskets," Molly said, eagerly; "such big baskets! And Mrs. Mugford gives him pennies—lots of pennies!"

"I expect Jim works hard for his pennies, and well deserves them, my dear."

"Jim will soon be a man," the little girl remarked, quaintly repeating a remark she had heard from her mother's lips.

Marian, as she thought of Jim, and his short life of eleven years, laughed.

Meeting the blue eyes of her little companion at that moment, she wondered if Molly's smile was really less weak and vacant than usual, or if she was merely becoming accustomed to the expression. Although Mrs. Lethbridge had intimated that Molly was not right in her mind, the vicar's daughter had come to the conclusion that she had more understanding than she was accredited with. Slow and backward she undoubtedly was; shy at first with strangers, and reserved with other children. To teach her anything one had first to win her heart, and appeal to her affections, for all learning was laborious to her, and fraught with great difficulty. But she would do anything for one she loved, and for Marian Morris, Molly did her best. The vicar's daughter was often surprised to find how much the child was learning, and thus encouraged, she exerted herself still more to teach her.

After the children had all gone to Sunday-school that same afternoon, and Mrs. Lethbridge had washed up the dinner things, she sat down by the open window to take a little rest. Opposite, her husband was asleep in his chair, and as her eyes rested on his face, she could not help noticing the marks that his drinking habits were leaving on his once good-looking countenance. For nearly an hour she sat thus, brooding over the difficulties of her life; but presently her thoughts turned to her children. They were such obedient, good children, and she had great hopes for them—even for little Molly! The dear child had improved so much of late!

By-and-bye, James Lethbridge awoke, and looked surprised to see his wife seated quietly at the other side of the window.

"Why, Jenny," he said, "it's not often I see you idle, even on a Sunday!"

"I was thinking, James," she answered. "I wonder if you have noticed how our little maid has altered—and for the better, too! I think it's Miss Morris' doing; she's been doing her utmost to teach her, I know. I do think the child is sharper than she used to be."

"Perhaps she is; but I haven't been noticing her much. You know I never would allow that she wasn't all right."

"No, but you know she's not quite like other children of her age. Weren't you struck by what she said about the bells this morning? I was. It set me thinking, James, and looking back on our courting days, when we used to go to church regular."

The husband made no response, only cast a surprised look at his wife. But at that moment Miss Morris was saying good-bye to Molly outside the door, and the brief conversation was at an end.

Molly came in with glowing cheeks and shining eyes. She ran up to her mother, and kissed her pale, tired face.

"Haven't you a kiss for your poor old father, too, Molly?"

The little girl turned towards him, and, springing upon his knee, put her arms around his neck with a loving embrace.

"And what have you been learning at Sunday-school to-day, my dear?" her mother enquired.

"About the Good Shepherd," Molly answered promptly.

"Tell us about Him, dearie."

Molly sat on her father's knee, with his arm around her, whilst she tried to collect her thoughts. It was an effort, and for a moment her face was clouded, then a glimmer of brightness drove away the gloom.

"He is the King of love," she said, nodding her head and smiling.

"Who?" Mrs. Lethbridge asked gently.

"The Good Shepherd—Jesus, you know. He had a lot of sheep, no one can count how many; and He loved them very much. Some did as they were told, and were good. But there was one—I think it was a lamb—because of the picture."

Molly paused, glancing from one listener's face to the other, but meeting her mother's encouraging smile, continued more fluently—

"There was one little lamb that wouldn't listen to the Good Shepherd, and was very naughty, and was lost!"

A troubled look crossed the child's face; the ready tears welled up into her blue eyes, but in a moment the shadow had fled again, and she continued in quick, glad tones, "But Jesus found him at last, after a long, long while, and brought him home quite safe—the naughty little lamb! Father, did you ever hear about it all before?"

"Seems to me I have, Molly, years and years ago."

"Do you know how the Good Shepherd found the little lamb, father?"

"No, my dear, I don't."

"He went about calling the little lamb's name, and at last the little lamb heard. I 'spect he came running when he heard the Good Shepherd's voice. There's a picture of Jesus with the little lamb on His shoulder in Mrs. Mugford's shop, father. That's how I know 'twas such a weeny, weeny lamb."

"Is there?" said her father.

"Why, so there is, Molly," Mrs. Lethbridge said smiling. "I saw it in the window yesterday."

"I 'spect it would cost a lot of pennies to buy it; wouldn't it, mother?"

"I don't know, my dear. I daresay it would."

"I hope Mrs. Mugford will keep it there for a long, long time!"

"Why, my dear?" asked her mother.

"So that I can look at it every day."

"Bless me, child, what an idea!" her mother exclaimed. "Mrs. Mugford will sell the picture as soon as she possibly can, you may depend upon that. But there, look at it as much as you like, if it pleases you, and I don't suppose Mrs. Mugford will mind your looking."

"No, she's a good soul," Mr. Lethbridge said in grateful tones; "and she's so kind to Jim, too!"

"We sang such a pretty hymn this afternoon," Molly continued eagerly. "That was about the Good Shepherd too."

"Couldn't you sing it to us now, Molly?" the mother asked.

"I can't remember all," with a shake of the golden head; "I only know a little bit."

"Sing us the little bit, my dear. Your father and I would like to hear, eh father?"

James Lethbridge assented readily; so Molly complied with their request, her sweet, fresh voice singing the first verse of the hymn.

"The King of love my Shepherd is,
     Whose goodness faileth never;
 I nothing lack if I am his,
     And He is mine for ever."

"I forget the rest, mother, but it's all about the Good Shepherd, and I'm going to learn every word some day. Miss Morris is going to teach me."

When Molly had gone upstairs to take off her hat, and put a pinafore over her best frock, Mrs. Lethbridge turned eagerly to her husband.

"James," she said, in more hopeful tones than he had heard from her lips for many a year, "don't you see now how the child is improving?"

He agreed with a short nod, but there was a look on his face that told of unspeakable thankfulness, and she was satisfied.



IN Mrs. Mugford's shop window, in the midst of several other prints, in cheap wooden frames, was the one that had made such an impression on Molly's mind. The prints were all of little value, but to Molly they appeared grand pictures, and several times a day, she would pause to have another admiring gaze at the Good Shepherd.

At length, one afternoon, she took courage and ventured into the shop, where with her heart beating wildly, and her cheeks flushed with the thought of her boldness, she found herself face to face with Mrs. Mugford. The good woman smiled kindly as she leaned her hands on the counter, and surveyed the little girl out of her sharp brown eyes.

"Well, my dear," she remarked, in her brisk, business-like way, "has your mother sent you to do her shopping for her?"

"No, please, ma'am," Molly answered, shyly.

"No? Then what is it, Molly?"

"If you please, ma'am, would you tell me how many pennies it would cost to buy a picture?"

"A picture! What picture? One of the prints in the window, I suppose?"

"Yes, ma'am. I mean the Good Shepherd."

"Oh!" exclaimed Mrs. Mugford, in great astonishment. "It's eighteen pence, and very cheap at that!"

"Eighteen pence!" said Molly, doubtfully. "Please, how many pennies is that?"

"Eighteen," Mrs. Mugford replied, with difficulty concealing an amused smile; then noticing the expression of dismay on the child's face, "Were you thinking of buying it?"

Molly nodded gravely. Mrs. Mugford surveyed her for a few minutes in puzzled silence.

"Now, I wonder what makes you want that picture?" she said at last, enquiringly.

"It is so beautiful! The Good Shepherd looking so glad 'cause He's found the little lamb!"

"Oh, you know all about it, I see," Mrs. Mugford said aloud, whilst inwardly she was saying, "This is the child folks say is not right. It strikes me she's right enough!"

"I go to Sunday-school," Molly continued, encouraged by the kindly look in the eyes that were watching her so sharply, "and Miss Morris told me all about Him. He is the King of love; the hymn says so."

"What hymn, my dear? Ah, I remember. Well, now, about this picture; how many pennies have you?"

"Only two, ma'am—one the vicar gave me last week, and one Jim gave me on Saturday."

"Ah! I'm afraid I can't sell it for that! Do you think you will ever be able to save eighteen pennies?"

"I don't know, ma'am."

"I think you'd better ask your father about it. I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll keep that print in the window along with the others, but if anyone wants to buy it, I'll say it's bespoken. I'll keep it there a month, and by that time you'll know if there's any chance of your buying it."

"Oh, thank you, ma'am. You will let it stay in the window where I can see it?"

"Yes, I will."

"Oh, thank you, thank you," said Molly with great earnestness.

Molly's smile was like sunshine at that moment. Mrs. Mugford put a few mixed sweets into a screw of paper, and slipped the little packet into the child's hand, bidding her run along home, and was rewarded with a look full of deep gratitude.

That evening, when her father returned from his day's work at the Hall, Molly told him about what had taken place between her and Mrs. Mugford. He listened in silence. He would have much liked to give his little daughter the money for the picture, more especially as she rarely expressed a desire for anything she did not possess; and his conscience told him that if he would only deny himself a few drinks at the "White Hart," he could easily spare the eighteen pence; but at the same time, he was too selfish to make a sacrifice for even his dearly loved child.

"Why couldn't Mrs. Mugford give her the picture?" he said to his wife, later on, after the children had gone to bed.

"Why should she, James?" Mrs. Lethbridge replied, indignantly. "She's always giving Molly sweets, and sending across things to me. You know how good and kind she is. I expect," getting angry at her husband's ingratitude, "that she thinks you might give Molly this picture if you liked; no doubt she knows well enough how you spend your evenings, and what you throw away on drink!"

"That will do, Jenny! I'm not going to be talked to by you. If you're going to begin nagging, I'll go! Do you think I care what Mrs. Mugford thinks about me?"

"No, you don't care—"

Alas! It was the beginning of a domestic storm. In a few minutes, husband and wife were exchanging angry, bitter words, and ere long, James Lethbridge strode out of the cottage and betook himself to the "White Hart," there to remain till he should be told to go, at eleven o'clock.

Of course, the children heard the high words, but they were quite accustomed to hear their parents wrangling, and took little notice. The boys were sleepy, and after listening to their father slam the door, and walk away, they shut their eyes, and were soon blissfully unconscious of everything; whilst Molly lay in her little bed, repeating in a whisper her favourite evening prayer:

"Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me,
     Bless thy little lamb to-night.
 Through the darkness be Thou near me,
     Bless my sleep till morning light."

It had been the first prayer she had ever learned; but it was only lately that she had come to understand the meaning of the words. To-night, she thought of the Good Shepherd, dwelling upon His love for the little lost lamb, and seeing in her imagination the gentle face of Him who gave His life for His sheep.

Meanwhile, in the cosy parlour behind her shop, Mrs. Mugford was spending the one hour of the day she had to herself. Her Bible lay upon the table at her side, for she had been reading in the Gospel of St. John the story of the Good Shepherd, constrained to do so, doubtless, on account of her conversation with Molly. Now, one could see by the dreamy look on her face, that she was in deep thought.

The truth was, as she had been closing up her shop, she had seen James Lethbridge fling himself out of his cottage door, and it had only needed one glance at his enraged countenance to tell her something had gone wrong in his home. Now, as she sat thinking of her interview with Molly, she thought pitifully of the child's father. She had not given him many thoughts hitherto, except to despise him as a drunkard, and blame him as a neglectful husband and parent; but to-night her reflections of him were softened by the memory of the beautiful words she had just finished reading: "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: Them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice."

Mrs. Mugford got up from her chair, and after carefully putting away her Bible in its place, upon the shelf which contained her greatest treasures, she left the house, and crossed the road to Rose Cottage.

"Mrs. Lethbridge will likely be lonely to-night," she said to herself, "and maybe she'll be glad of my company for a while."

She tapped gently at the closed door, and receiving no answer stepped into the dimly-lit kitchen. Mrs. Lethbridge was seated with her hands covering her face, and she was weeping in a hopeless fashion. She looked up with a start as her neighbour entered, and a shamed look crossed her face when she saw who it was.

"I've run in for a few minutes' talk with you," Mrs. Mugford said kindly. "You know I'm all alone of an evening, and sometimes the time hangs heavy."

"I'm all alone, too," Mrs. Lethbridge replied bitterly.

"The children are in bed, and fast asleep, I suppose?" asked Mrs. Mugford.

"Yes," replied Mrs. Lethbridge; "and my husband's gone to the public-house as usual!"

"Ah, that's bad! Don't cry;" for Mrs. Lethbridge was beginning to shed tears again. "Crying never does any good, and it'll only make you ill. I'm sorry for your husband, Mrs. Lethbridge."

"Sorry!" she exclaimed, looking up in surprise, for many expressed blame, but few sorrow, for him who was the cause of all her heart-break. "Sorry!"

"Yes, indeed I am," said Mrs. Mugford.

"He used to be so different before he took to drink. You wouldn't think now he was the same man I married."

"He's wandered away from Christ's fold, but the Good Shepherd—Him your little maid talks about—He won't forget him; and one day I hope your husband will hear His voice," Mrs. Mugford said solemnly. "You must pray for him."

"Oh, I do, I do! But I can't help complaining, and I've no patience, and life does seem so hard!"

Mrs. Mugford nodded sympathetically, and then the neighbours sat down side by side, and indulged in a long, confidential chat; and by-and-bye Mrs. Lethbridge dried her eyes, and was comforted.

When Mrs. Mugford said good-night, it was after promising to "run in again one evening soon," and she went home with the knowledge that she had been allowed to help and cheer one heavy heart.



THERE was great excitement in the little village of Sunleigh one day towards the end of June, and many an anxious glance was cast at the sky to see if the weather was likely to remain fair. But not one fleck of cloud was visible in the broad expanse of blue overhead, and the good folks of Sunleigh had every reason to be confident that it would be fine for the Sunday-school treat.

Punctually at two o'clock, the children assembled at the school-house, and marched to the Vicarage grounds, where they spent the afternoon and evening in playing games and running races, with an interval for the all-important tea. Besides the children, many of their parents were present, not to speak of the teachers, who worked hard for the enjoyment of their little pupils.

The vicar, of course, was at the head of everything. He was a grey-haired, elderly man, with a kind, sympathetic heart and manner, and a face that won one's confidence and trust. He had had much care and sorrow, for he had been many years a widower, and out of four children only Marian was left, the rest having died in early youth. Yet the vicar was always bright and cheerful, and never more so than when in the presence of young folks.

It was a perfect day, every one agreed, and not too hot; for though the sun shone in a cloudless sky, there was a fresh, invigorating breeze, and it was delightfully cool under the tall elm trees that flanked the Vicarage lawn. It was in that sheltered spot that the mothers congregated, and discussed the behaviour of their children.

"What a pretty little maid yours is," said one kindly soul to Mrs. Lethbridge, who was present with the baby in her arms. "I never did see such blue eyes before, and such golden curls!"

Mrs. Lethbridge smiled, and turned a pleased look on the speaker, as she answered, "Molly's a good child, and that's better than her pretty looks, I take it. She's so sweet-tempered, too, and always as happy as the day is long."

"And your boys are fine little chaps. How does the elder take to work, Mrs. Lethbridge?"

"Oh, very well indeed; and Mrs. Mugford says he's trustworthy, and she's quite satisfied with him."

"That's a great thing, ain't it? You can't trust some boys out of your sight, hardly. Mrs. Mugford will stand his friend, you'll see, if she's taken to him—she's like that. She and I were girls together, so I know her ways. She's got on in the world. Married a steady, hardworking man, and when he died, he left her well provided for, and without any one to share with!" As though to be alone in the world had its advantages. But Mrs. Lethbridge did not see it in that light.

"I've heard her say she wished she had children," she said; "and she's real good to mine."

At that moment the conversation was interrupted by Jim, who rushed up in great excitement to his mother, and whispered eagerly in her ear—

"Mother, I've won sixpence for coming in second in the last race! The vicar gave it to me! Look here!"

The boy's face was shining with pleasure, and his smile was reflected on the mother's countenance.

"Do you know what I am going to do with it, mother?" Then, as she shook her head, "I'm going to save it towards buying that picture of the Good Shepherd for our Molly. Will you please keep it for me?"

Mrs. Lethbridge willingly consented, and took charge of the bright, new sixpence, tying it up carefully in a corner of her pocket handkerchief. She was deeply touched at the boy's unselfishness and love for his sister, and felt she might be justly proud of her elder son.

Meanwhile, Molly was enjoying the day most thoroughly. She kept close to Miss Morris at first, but after a little while, she ventured to play with some other children about her own age, and soon lost all her shyness and reserve.

But now the summer evening was drawing to a close; the sun was setting in a rosy glow of colour, and the children's happy day was nearly over.

James Lethbridge returned home before his family, and after getting his own tea, stood outside the cottage door, looking disconsolately up and down the deserted street. The silence indoors was oppressive, and he felt quite glad when he saw Mrs. Mugford's portly figure step outside her shop, and he immediately crossed the road to speak to her.

"Good evening, ma'am. So you haven't gone to the school treat, along with every one else."

"No," she replied, with a smiling nod of greeting. "I couldn't leave, you know. I should have shut up my shop if it hadn't been for the post-office. You see I'm a public servant, and not my own mistress. But I've not had a single person inside my doors since two o'clock to-day, and I can tell you it's been the longest afternoon I've spent since—the school treat last year."

"I've had to get my own tea," James Lethbridge remarked, "for the missus has gone with the youngsters. She left everything ready for me, and the door-key under a stone where I should know where to find it. It's quite an event for my wife to go pleasuring!"

"Yes, I know she is a home bird," Mrs. Mugford answered. "This half-day's holiday will do her good, I'm sure. Everyone enjoys the Sunday-school treat—old and young alike!"

"I just stepped across to ask you a favour," James Lethbridge explained.

"Now, I hope it's something I can do!" Mrs. Mugford said pleasantly.

"'Tis only this. I want you to tell Jenny, when she comes home, that I shall be up at the Hall all night. We've a horse took dreadful bad with inflammation—a favourite horse of Mr. Talbot's—and he wants someone to sit up with the poor creature, and attend to it. He asked me if I would stay with old Burt to-night; he's the head groom, you know. Burt's getting up in years, and the master thinks it would be too much for him to be up all night alone."

"Mr. Talbot's very thoughtful for other folk's comfort," Mrs. Mugford remarked. "I hope the poor horse will recover; I can't bear to see an animal suffer. Yes, I'll give Mrs. Lethbridge your message; but, surely you're not going to the Hall yet?"

"No, I shan't be expected till ten. I'm just going down the street for a stroll, and maybe I shan't come back again."

Mrs. Mugford guessed he was going to the "White Hart," but she did not like to offer a word of remonstrance.

At that moment, her companion happened to glance at the shop window, and the first object that met his eyes was the picture of the Good Shepherd, that his little daughter so longed to possess. He drew near, and looked at it with interest.

"'Tis strange what a fancy our Molly's taken to that picture," he said. "I've thought I should like to make her a present of it one of these days!"

"I wish you would!" Mrs. Mugford answered impulsively.

"I can't well afford it—not just now; perhaps on Saturday when I get my wages I'll buy it."

"I don't feel justified in giving it to her. You see if one keeps a shop, it doesn't do to make presents of one's goods," said Mrs. Mugford.

"No, it wouldn't do to begin that sort of thing," James Lethbridge said hastily; "and you've been too generous to my family as it is. I've never thanked you, but—"

"Oh, please don't. Any little thing I can do for your wife, I'm only too glad to do. And I love the children—I never had any of my own. Your Jim's a fine, honest lad. I believe he'll make a good man some day; and Dick's a dear, little fellow; and as for Molly—well there, I can't tell you how fond I am of Molly! I wish you'd manage to give her this picture. Save the money in some way!"

Mrs. Mugford paused abruptly, rather alarmed at the thought of how her companion would take her last remark; but he was not offended, as she half thought he might be. The kindly interest in Mrs. Mugford's sharp, brown eyes disarmed his first feeling of resentment. He knew well enough, if he refrained from going to the "White Hart" for a few evenings that he would save the price of the picture, and he guessed that was what Mrs. Mugford meant.

"Well, I've a notion I know what you mean," he said in rather a shame-faced fashion; "and I don't know that I mayn't do as you say. I must wish you good evening now, Mrs. Mugford," and he turned away, and strolled down the street.

Mrs. Mugford watched his retreating figure out of sight, then she went into her shop, and began making preparations for closing for the night.

Meanwhile James Lethbridge was halting outside the "White Hart," hesitating whether he should enter or not; but for once he allowed his conscience to guide him, and put the temptation aside.



IT was the morning after the school treat, and although only a little after six o'clock, the Lethbridge boys were already up, helping to put things in order for the day.

"I wonder what time father will be home," Dick said, as he coaxed the fire into a blaze, to boil the kettle.

"I don't know, my dear; early I expect," Mrs. Lethbridge answered in unusually cheerful tones—evidently the Sunday-school treat had done her good.

"I hope the poor horse is better," Dick continued. "Do you think father will be home to breakfast, mother? If I knew what time he was coming, I'd go to meet him."

"Why, here he comes!" Jim exclaimed. "I know that's his footstep."

He came in looking wonderfully brisk, seeing he had been awake all night, and answered their questions willingly. The horse was better; he and old Burt had done the best they could for it.

"Mr. Talbot's so pleased his favourite's likely to recover, that he says he'll increase my wages at the end of the week. Now, isn't that good news?"

The boys assented eagerly, and Mrs. Lethbridge smiled; though she could not help wondering if her husband would allow her a little more towards the housekeeping, or if he would spend the extra money in drink.

"Father," said Jim, presently, "I have sixpence—or rather, mother is keeping it for me. I won it for coming in second in a race yesterday. Guess what I'm going to do with it!"

The father shook his head, smiling as he met the boy's eager glance.

"I'm going to put it towards buying that picture of the Good Shepherd for our Molly. Isn't it a splendid idea?"

"Well done, Jim; and I'll give you the rest of the money on Saturday."

"Oh, father, do you mean it? Oh, thank you, thank you!"

"Of course I mean it. I intended to give Molly the picture anyway."

"How pleased the child will be!" Mrs. Lethbridge exclaimed. "I wonder where she'll hang it."

"She is not up yet, I suppose?" the father enquired.

"No; I expect she's very tired. You should have seen her running about and playing with the other children, yesterday! It did my heart good to watch her! She did have a good time, and no mistake!"

Molly slept on till nearly eight o'clock, and when she came down, found her father fast asleep in their one easy-chair. Her mother motioned to her not to disturb him, so she took her breakfast in silence.

Then the children went to school, and Mrs. Lethbridge was busy for a while, washing and dressing the baby. When her husband at last awoke, it was ten o'clock. He got up immediately, and putting his hand into the deep outer pocket of his coat, drew out a fine rabbit.

"There, Jenny," he said, "that'll make us a good dinner to-day!"

But instead of looking pleased, the poor wife's face clouded over, and she exclaimed, "Oh, James, you've been poaching again!"

"And what if I have? I set the wire as I went up to the Hall last evening, and this morning there was our dinner caught for us. Come, Jenny, don't look so black. Where's the harm?"

"There is harm," she said, vehemently, "and you must know it, James. You took good care not to show the rabbit when the children were here, because you thought they might wonder how you got it! It's stealing, for the rabbit don't belong to us; and if you were found out, you'd be sent to prison, and then what would become of your family?"

"I'll take care not to be found out. I don't call trapping a rabbit stealing, if you do. The farmers complain dreadfully that the rabbits are a perfect plague, and eat up all their crops."

"Mr. Talbot would discharge you if he knew!"

"I daresay he would; but he won't know."

"He may get to hear. I really believe people are suspicious about you, James."

"I'll promise you to be careful."

"I wish you'd promise me never to poach a rabbit, or anything else, again!"

"Not likely. What an aggravating woman you are, Jenny!"

"James, it's not honest. I never thought when I married you, you'd come to this."

But James Lethbridge only laughed. He was in too good spirits to be easily made angry, and would not take his wife's remarks seriously.

Mrs. Lethbridge cooked the rabbit for dinner, but she felt very unhappy; and after the mid-day meal was over, and she was washing up the plates, a few hot tears coursed down her cheeks. Molly, who was playing with the baby, noticed her mother's sorrow, and ran to her side.

"Mother!" she cried. "What is it?"

"Nothing I can tell you, my dear."

Molly was sadly distressed. She stood looking up into her mother's face with wistful, blue eyes. Her father and brothers had gone out, so, but for the baby, Mrs. Lethbridge and her little girl were alone.

"Don't you worry, my Molly. When you are older you shall know everything that troubles me. You'll be my right-hand. I know you will."

"But, mother, why do you cry? Does your head ache?"

"No, my dear; it's my heart."

"Poor mother! Won't Jesus take the pain away?"

"I don't know; perhaps He will some day."

"We'll ask Him now! Miss Morris says we must tell Him everything!"

"Well, you ask Him, Molly."

So the child knelt down on the kitchen floor, and covering her face with her hands, prayed earnestly—

"Please, dear Jesus, take mother's pain away, and not make her heart ache any more."

Then arising from her knees, she looked around with a radiant countenance, and was met by her mother's smile—a smile that seemed to drive away all thoughts of sorrow, so full was it of tender love.

The next moment, the cottage door was flung open, and Dick rushed in, out of breath, and pale with fright.

"Mother! Oh, mother!" he cried, half sobbing.

"What is it?" she asked anxiously. "What is wrong?"

"Father's had an accident, and they're bringing him home! There was a runaway horse coming down the street, and he tried to stop it, and oh," with a shudder, "it trod upon him!"

Molly began to cry, and at the sound Mrs. Lethbridge, with a mighty effort, collected her startled wits.

"Dick," she said quickly and imperatively, "do you take baby and Molly upstairs into your own room, and shut the door. Mind and remain there, all of you, till I say you may come out."

Taking the baby in his arms, Dick led the way upstairs, and carried out his mother's instructions. Molly's frightened sobs soon ceased, and the children strained their ears to catch every sound.

"They are carrying him upstairs," Dick whispered; "and that's Dr. Bly's voice. Oh, I hope poor father isn't dead."

The time seemed endless, but it was actually only half-an-hour before Jim softly opened the door, and joined them.

"Oh, Jim!" cried Molly, flinging herself into his arms. "He's not dead—say he's not dead."

"No, he's not dead. They have put him to bed, but I'm afraid the doctor thinks he's badly hurt. Mother said I was to come and take you all downstairs."

"Will father die?" Molly questioned. "Oh, Jim, do say!"

"I don't know, Molly; but I hope he won't. Perhaps the doctor will be able to tell us presently."

"Jesus can make him well, can't He?"

"Yes, of course He can. We'll ask Him, Molly."

So the children crept noiselessly downstairs, and, in the kitchen, they huddled together in a corner, whilst Jim, in faltering accents, prayed for their father's recovery.

By-and-bye the doctor's footsteps were heard descending the stairs. He was a kindhearted man, with little ones of his own, and he cast a pitying look at the children.

"Will my father live, sir?" Jim enquired.

"I cannot tell, my boy. He has broken his right leg, and has other injuries besides, but he may pull through. We must hope for the best. Well, little girl," patting Molly's golden head, "what have you been doing to your eyes? Crying, eh?"

"Yes, sir." Molly answered shyly.

"Oh, you mustn't cry. That won't mend matters. You'll be wanted to help nurse your poor father; and I can't have tears in a sick-room, you know. That won't do."

"No, sir," said Molly.

"That's well said. I fancy you'll make a capital little nurse, anyway; we'll see!" and the kindly doctor went on his way, having cheered the children considerably.

"We must hope for the best," Jim said, repeating Dr. Bly's words, "and perhaps God will let poor father live after all!"



JAMES LETHBRIDGE did not die, though it was several days before the doctor declared his life to be out of danger.

It was September before he was well enough, with great difficulty, to come downstairs. It was a painful journey, but Dr. Bly said he must now try to use his leg more and more daily. A cheerful little party took tea together in the kitchen that afternoon. The father, pale and thin after his illness, and still feeling very weak, was somewhat silent.

During the weary time he had been laid up, he had had ample opportunity for serious thought, and had determined never, with God's help, to neglect his family for the sake of drink again. Perhaps his talks with the vicar, who had been one of his constant visitors, had had something to do with this determination; and, certainly, the long nights of wakefulness and pain he had endured, during which his conscience had spoken to him plainly, and he had seemed alone with God, had taught him much, and influenced him aright.

"How strange it seems to have father down with us again," remarked Mrs. Lethbridge. "I feel so glad and thankful!"

"Father!" cried Molly. "You haven't noticed my picture! Look!"

The father followed the direction of the child's pointing finger, and then gave a start of surprise as he saw the picture of the Good Shepherd hanging on the wall.

"Why, Molly!" he exclaimed. "How did you come by it?"

Molly clapped her hands, and laughed. "You'll never guess who gave it to me, father!"

"It was Mr. Talbot," Mrs. Lethbridge explained; "he's Molly's latest friend, you know. It was like this. When you were at your worst, Mr. Talbot called to enquire how you were getting on. He only saw Molly and baby, and it seems she got talking to him; wasn't that it, Molly?"

"Yes, mother. He asked lots of questions, and I told him how I went to Sunday-school with Miss Morris. And then I told him about the Good Shepherd, and that he could see the picture in Mrs. Mugford's window. He went across to Mrs. Mugford's, but she said he couldn't have it, until he said it was for me, then she let him buy it. I found a nail, and he nailed it up there!"

"I never was more surprised about anything than when I came down and saw it," Mrs. Lethbridge declared; "and that was only the beginning of Mr. Talbot's kindness. Every Saturday, as you know, James, he has brought me a sovereign. God must have put it into his heart to be so generous!"

The husband was silent, but only because he could find no words to express his sense of gratitude. He knew his master had acted thus for the sake of his helpless wife and family, and he felt deeply thankful.

The next day Mr. Talbot called, and had a long interview with James Lethbridge; and afterwards Mrs. Lethbridge found her husband in such excellent spirits that she looked at him in surprise.

"I told Mr. Talbot about the poaching, Jenny," he explained in answer to her look of enquiry. "I thought I ought. He was surprised, I could see; but he was so kind, and says when I'm well enough I'm to come back to the Hall, and let bygones be bygones. I mean to start life afresh!"

And James Lethbridge kept his word. He did start life afresh; and though at first, he found it a hard matter to pass by the "White Hart," yet he was true to his determination to abstain from drink.

"Molly, my dear," Mrs. Lethbridge said one day, "do you remember how, on the day, of your father's accident, you prayed to Jesus to take the pain from my heart?"

"Yes, mother," the little girl answered; "has it quite, quite gone?"

"Yes, I think, quite gone. It didn't seem an answer to your prayer when we saw your poor father brought home almost dead, but even then God was ordering all for the best! I've been ungrateful and unbelieving, but I'll try not to doubt Him any more. He has been so good to us all."

Molly smiled her sweet smile, that seemed to have lost its weakness. To all who knew her, it was very plain that the child's mind was gradually, but surely, strengthening. Tasks that it had been almost impossible for her to grasp a year ago, were now retained with only moderate difficulty; and, during her father's illness, she had learned to read. No one ever dreamed of calling her "Crazy Molly" now.

Sharp and clever she would never be, but there was in Molly a truthfulness and desire to do right which nothing could overcome. The love of Jesus, first implanted in her heart by means of Marian Morris' gentle teaching, had fallen upon fertile ground, and was bringing forth abundant fruit. It seemed that because Molly had the one thing needful, a firm trust in her Saviour, she wanted nothing else.

And now we must take leave of the family at Rose Cottage. Mr. Talbot speaks of pensioning old Burt, because he's getting old, and of putting James Lethbridge in his place. Evidently, he can trust him now!

Mrs. Mugford, too, feels that she is getting up in years. She is saying that by the time Jim is ready to leave school, she will be wanting help in the shop, and that he will be the very boy for her assistant.

Molly still keeps her picture of the Good Shepherd in the same place.

"We mean to keep it there always," she says, as she shows it to visitors. "Isn't it beautiful? And doesn't the Good Shepherd seem to be looking at us now?"