A MISSIONARY TWIG.
EMMA L. BURNETT.
American Tract Society, 150 Nassau Street, New York.
Copyright, 1890, American Tract Society.
CHAPTER I. Edith Tries to Explain 5
CHAPTER II. What Mrs. Howell told them 14
CHAPTER III. Marty Gets Started 21
CHAPTER IV. Wholes instead of Tenths 29
CHAPTER V. The Ebony Chair 39
CHAPTER VI. The Empty Box 46
CHAPTER VII. How Missions Helped the Home Folks 54
CHAPTER VIII. "Not in the Good Times" 61
CHAPTER IX. Jennie 72
CHAPTER X. Laura Amelia 82
CHAPTER XI. The Good Shepherd 91
CHAPTER XII. "Now Don't Forget!" 99
CHAPTER XIII. Off to the Mountains 108
CHAPTER XIV. A Plan and a Talk 115
CHAPTER XV. The Mountain Mission-Band 126
CHAPTER XVI. A Flower Sale 135
CHAPTER XVII. Weeding 144
CHAPTER XVIII. The Hotel Missionary Meeting 156
CHAPTER XIX. The Garden Missionary Meeting 166
CHAPTER XX. Cousin Alice's Zenana Work 177
CHAPTER XXI. Rosa Stevenson's Sister 189
A MISSIONARY TWIG.
EDITH TRIES TO EXPLAIN.
"I do think Edith is the queerest girl I ever saw in all my life!" said Marty Ashford.
"Don't jump up and down behind my chair that way, Marty," said her mother; "you shake me so that I can scarcely hold my needle. What does Edith do that is so queer?"
"Oh, she's always putting ten into things."
"Putting ten into things?"
"Yes'm. I mean when she gets any money she always says ten will go into it so many times, and then she takes a tenth of it—you know we learn about tenths in fractions at school—and goes and puts it in a blue box she has."
"I should call that taking ten out of things."
"Well, whatever it is, that's what she does. Every time she gets ten cents she puts one cent in her blue box."
"What does she do if she only gets five cents?"
"Oh, she keeps it very carefully till she gets another five, and then she takes her tenth out of it. And would you believe it, when we were all at Asbury Park last summer—"
"Marty," interrupted her mother, "can't you tell me just as well sitting still? You fidget so that you make me dreadfully nervous. Can't you sit still?"
"I don't believe I can, but I'll try real hard," said Marty, crowding herself into Freddie's little rocking-chair and clasping her arms around her knees, as if to hold herself still.
"Well, what about Asbury Park?" Mrs. Ashford asked.
"Why, when we were at Asbury Park and Edith's father was going to New York, he gave her a whole dollar to do what she pleased with. Now you know it would be the easiest thing in the world to spend a dollar there. I could spend it just as easy as anything."
"I dare say you could," said Mrs. Ashford, laughing.
"And any way you know it was vacation, and even if you save tenths other times you oughtn't to feel as if you must do it in vacation. But Edith had to go and get her dollar changed and put ten cents of it in the old blue box."
"So she would not take a vacation from her tenths?"
"No, indeed. And the other day when her uncle from Baltimore was here, he gave her fifty cents, and it would just pay for a perfectly lovely paintbox that she wants; but she couldn't buy it because five cents of the fifty was tenths; and now she'll have to wait till she gets some more money."
"What does she do with all the money in the blue box?" Mrs. Ashford inquired.
"Oh, she gives it to some mission-band!" replied Marty in a tone of disgust.
"Is that the mission-band Miss Agnes Walsh wanted you to join?"
"Yes, ma'am; but I didn't want to take up my Saturdays going to a thing like that, I'd rather play."
"Let me see," said Mrs. Ashford, "what is the name of that band?"
"Missionary Twigs," replied Marty. "Funny kind of a name, isn't it?"
Then presently she said, "I don't think Edith always takes the tenths out fair; for when her grandma was away lately for six days she paid Edith three cents a day for watering her plants, and of course that was eighteen cents. So the tenth was a good deal over one cent and not quite two, and yet Edith put two cents of it away."
"I think that was more than fair."
"Well, I suppose it was," Marty admitted. She actually sat quite still for two or three minutes thinking, and then asked,
"Mamma—I never thought of this before but what do you suppose is the reason she saves tenths? Why doesn't she save ninths or elevenths or something else?"
"Why don't you ask her?" suggested Mrs. Ashford.
"I will," exclaimed Marty. "I'll ask her the very next time I go over there."
Which was in about five minutes, for Edith lived in the same block and the little girls were constantly visiting each other. This being Saturday, of course there was no school. Marty ran in at the side gate and through the kitchen with a "How do, Mary?" to the cook. Edith heard her coming and called over the stairs,
"O Marty, come right up! I was just wishing you would come over and help me."
Marty flew up stairs and into the nursery. Edith's dolls were sitting in a row on the little bureau, some dressed and some undressed, and Edith was standing in front of them looking very much perplexed.
"Oh! I'm so glad you've come," she said. "Now you can help me with these troublesome dolls."
"What's the matter with them?"
"Why, we've just heard that Aunt Julia and Fanny are coming to tea this evening, and of course I want the dolls to look decent. I wouldn't have Fanny see them in their everyday clothes for anything; and they don't seem to have enough good clothes to go around."
"Let's see what they've got," said Marty, plunging into business with her usual energy.
"Well," said Edith, "Queenie has her new white Swiss, so she's all right, and she can have Virginia's surah sash. Louisa Alcott can wear her black silk skirt and borrow Queenie's blue cashmere waist. But Harriet has nothing fit for an evening."
"Let her wear the sailor suit she came in, and say she's just home from the seaside," suggested Marty, after a moment's meditation.
"Yes, that will do," replied Edith. "But what about Virginia? Her white dress is soiled, her red gauze is badly torn, and she can't borrow from the others because she's so much larger. To be sure she has this pale blue tea-gown I made myself. Do you think it would be good enough?" and she held it up doubtfully.
"No," said Marty candidly, "I don't think it would. It isn't made very well. It's kind of baggy. Hasn't she anything else?"
"Nothing but a brown woollen walking dress and a Mother Hubbard wrapper."
"Neither of those will do," Marty decided.
Then she put her finger to her lip and thought.
A bright idea occurred to her presently.
"Put her to bed and make believe she's sick. She can wear the best nightdress, trimmed with lace, and we can put on the ruffled pillow-cases and fix up the bed real nice."
"That will be splendid!" cried Edith. "I knew you'd think of something!"
They went to work on the plans proposed, and soon had the whole family in presentable condition. So busy were they with the dolls that Marty would have forgotten the errand she came on, had she not happened to catch a glimpse of the blue box when Edith opened a drawer. Then she exclaimed,
"Oh! Edie, what I came over for was to ask you why you save tenths."
"Why I do what?" said Edith, wondering.
"Why you put tenths away in your box. Why don't you save eighths or ninths or something else?"
"Because the Bible says tenths," Edith replied.
"The Bible!" cried Marty. "Does the Bible say anything about saving tenths for a mission-band?"
"No, not just that; but it says—wait, I'll get my Bible and show you what it does say."
She ran into her room, and bringing her Bible, sat down on a low chair and eagerly turned the leaves. Marty knelt close beside her, bending over the book also, so that her brown curls pressed against Edith's wavy golden hair.
"Here's one of the verses," said Edith. "Leviticus twenty-seventh chapter and thirtieth verse: 'And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's; it is holy unto the Lord.'"
"There's nothing about tenths in that," said Marty.
"Tithes means tenths—the tenth part," Edith explained.
"Oh! does it? Well, you see, I didn't know."
"Yes; here it is in the thirty-second verse: 'And concerning the tithe of the herd or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.'"
"But there's nothing in all that about money," Marty objected. "It's all fruit and flocks and herds."
"I know," Edith replied, "but mamma says that flocks and herds and money are all different kinds of property. The Jews hadn't much money; their property was flocks and herds and such things. Giving tenths of what they had for the Lord's service was a very important part of their religion."
"Yes, but you are not a Jew," said Marty. "Besides, you give your tenths to a mission-band."
"But the mission-band sends the money to a big society that uses it to send people to tell the heathen about God."
"Is that what mission-bands are for—to send people to teach the heathen?" asked Marty.
"Yes, and to tell us about the heathen, so that we shall want to send the gospel to them," said Edith. "Giving to help teach people about God is giving to him, isn't it?"
"And does the Bible say that everybody must give tenths?" asked Marty.
"No," said Edith, "there is another plan in the New Testament. Mamma says that it is good for older people, but for little children who haven't good judgment, the Jewish plan of giving tenths is better."
"It must be pretty hard to have to give some of your money away, whether you want to or not," said Marty.
"Oh! but I always want to," Edith declared. "The longer I do this way the better I like it."
"Well," remarked Marty consolingly, "a tenth isn't much any way; you'd hardly miss it. Neither would the Jews, for I guess they were pretty rich."
"Oh! the tenth wasn't all they gave, and it isn't all I give. For me it is just the—the—beginning, the sure thing. The Jews had other ways of giving—first-fruits and thank-offerings and praise-offerings and free-will-offerings. And sometimes I give thank-offerings and praise-offerings too, but they are extra; the tenths I give always."
"It's all dreadfully mixed up," said poor Marty.
"I suppose it is, the way I tell it," Edith candidly admitted. "Let us go and get mamma to tell you, the way she told me."
Marty willingly agreed, and they went into the sitting-room where Mrs. Howell was sewing.
WHAT MRS. HOWELL TOLD THEM.
"Mamma," cried Edith, "I've been trying to tell Marty about tenths and offerings, and why I give my money that way, but I can't do it so that she can understand. Wont you tell her, and show her some of the verses you showed me?"
"Good-morning, Marty," said Mrs. Howell pleasantly to the little girl who ran to kiss her. "What is it you don't understand?"
"I don't quite understand why the Jews gave tenths, nor why Edith has to do what the Jews did."
"Well, bring your Bible, Edith, and give Marty mine, and I will show you some of the passages about giving. The first mention in the Bible of giving tithes to the Lord is when Jacob was at Bethel."
"Wasn't that when he slept on a stone pillow, and had the beautiful dream of angels going up and down a ladder that reached to heaven?" Edith asked.
"Yes; and you remember the Lord appeared to him in the dream, and promised to be with him wherever he went. And Jacob made a vow to the Lord, in which he said, 'And of all that thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto thee.' You will find it all in the twenty-eighth chapter of Genesis."
"Yes," said Marty, after turning the leaves a few minutes. "Here it is: I never noticed it before."
"Then," Mrs. Howell went on, "you know when God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt into the promised land, he gave them a great many laws, for they were just like children, and had to be told exactly what to do on every occasion. Among other things he told them how to give. Edith, find the eighteenth chapter of Numbers and the twenty-first verse."
Edith found the place and read, "And behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for the service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation."
"Why should the children of Levi have it?" asked Marty.
"Because the tribe of Levi was set apart for the service of God in the tabernacle, and afterward the temple, and had no 'inheritance' of land to till and pasture flocks upon like the other tribes; so the rest of the nation was instructed to provide for them. So you see these tithes were for what we should call the support of the gospel; and Levi was the ministering tribe."
Then Mrs. Howell showed the children passages in Second Chronicles and Nehemiah where bringing tithes is spoken of, and in Malachi where the people are rebuked for not bringing them. Then she bade them turn to places in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke where our Saviour commends the giving of tithes, though he says that there are "weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith."
"But tithes were not all the Israelites gave," Mrs. Howell resumed, after the little girls had read the verses. "They gave in many other ways. Let me take that Bible a moment, Marty. Here in Deuteronomy, twelfth chapter and sixth verse, you see that many things are mentioned besides tithes—vows and free-will-offerings and the firstlings of the herds and of the flocks. Then at their feast times, three times in the year, they were told, in the sixteenth chapter of the same book, the sixteenth and seventeenth verses, that every man was to give as he was able."
"Seems to me they must have been giving all the time," observed Marty.
"Yes, it has been estimated that a truly devout Jew gave away about a third of his income. That is more than three-tenths, you know. Giving freely to the Lord's service and to the poor was part of a Jew's religion."
"That's what Edith says," Marty remarked. "'Tisn't part of ours, is it?"
"Oh, yes it is," said Mrs. Howell, smiling a little; "though perhaps not as much as it should be. All through the Bible we are taught the duty of giving, and though, of course, those particular directions in the Old Testament were intended especially for the Jews, we may learn from them that the best way of giving is to give systematically."
"What do you mean by systematically?" asked Marty.
"I mean not giving just when we happen to feel particularly interested in some object, or when we don't want the money for something else, but having some plan about it and giving regularly, intelligently, and, above all, prayerfully."
"Tell Marty the New Testament plan for giving, mamma," Edith requested.
"St. Paul tells the Corinthians in the sixteenth chapter and second verse of the first epistle: 'Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him.' You see that is somewhat different from tenths. No particular portion is mentioned, but we are to regularly set aside for religious purposes as much as we can afford, and the amount is to be increased as our means increase."
"Why doesn't Edith do that way?" Marty inquired.
"When she is older and better able to judge how much she ought to give, she may adopt that plan. But it is simpler and easier just to give a tenth, and it is well for little people who are learning to have a plain and easy rule to go by."
"And why does Edith give her tenths to foreign missionary work instead of to something else?" asked Marty.
This led to a long talk about the duty of obeying Christ's last command to carry the gospel to all nations; and Mrs. Howell explained how missionary societies are trying to obey this command, and how important it is that Christians should be very prompt and regular with their contributions, so that the good work may not be hindered.
"You see," said Mrs. Howell, "in order to send the gospel to these far-away people, we must send missionaries to them. There is no other way, while there are a good many ways in which even children may help people near by. For instance, they can persuade other children to go to church and Sunday-school. And then they can be kind to the poor, and can help them in other ways beside giving money to them. Edith mends her old toys for poor children. She keeps her bright cards and picture books as nice as possible, and when done with them carries them to the Children's Hospital or to the Almshouse; and she is very careful of her clothes, so that when she has outgrown them they will do for poor little girls. There are children now down town going to Sunday-school in her clothes. So you see that even if your money goes to the missionary work, you need not neglect other ways of doing good."
"I think it's grand!" said Marty with long-drawn breath. "I've a great mind to begin trying to do somebody some good, and not keep everything myself. I have a dime every week to do what I please with, and sometimes I get other money besides."
"I am sure you would find a great deal of satisfaction in helping others," said Mrs. Howell.
"Mrs. Howell," asked Marty, after studying the verse in First Corinthians for some time, "what does it mean about laying by in store the first day of the week?"
"The first day of the week is the Sabbath, and that is a fitting time to consider how God has prospered you and to lay aside your offering."
"I think if I had a box and saved tenths I'd like to do that way," said Marty. "I suppose papa could give me my dime just as well Saturday as Monday. I do believe I'd like to belong to that band and give some money to send Bibles and teachers to the heathen."
"Oh! do, do join our mission-band," urged Edith. "You'll like it ever so much," and she went on so enthusiastically telling how delightful it was, that Marty at once decided, if her mamma approved, she would "join" at the very next meeting. Of course she could not have been so constantly with Edith without already having heard much about the band, but she had never been so interested in it as this morning, and was now very anxious to go to the meeting the coming Saturday.
"I'll run right home and ask mamma," she said.
MARTY GETS STARTED.
"O Mamma!" cried Marty, bursting into her mother's room, "may I have—"
Then she stopped suddenly, for she saw her mother was sitting in the rocking-chair with Freddie in her arms, evidently trying to put him to sleep. He looked around when Marty came in so noisily, and Mrs. Ashford said, in a vexed tone,
"O Marty! why do you rush in that way? I have been trying for half an hour to put Freddie to sleep, and have just got him to lay his head down."
"Now I will lay my head up," Freddie announced, and sat up with his eyes as wide open as if he never meant to go to sleep in his life.
"I'm so sorry, mamma," said Marty, "but I didn't know he'd be going to sleep at this time."
"It is sooner than usual, but he seemed so sleepy and was so fretful, I thought I would just give him his dinner early, and put him to sleep before our lunch."
"Maybe he will lie on the bed with me, and go to sleep that way, as he did the other day," suggested Marty, who was always very ready to make amends for any mischief she had caused. "Wont Freddie come and lie down beside sister?"
"No, no, no!" said Freddie, shaking his curly head and pushing Marty away with his foot.
"I'll tell you a pretty story," said Marty coaxingly.
"No, no," said the little boy.
"Pretty story about the three bears."
At this mention of his favorite story Freddie began to relent, and presently stretched out his arms to Marty. Mrs. Ashford put him on the bed, and he cuddled up to Marty while she told him the thrilling story of the Great Huge Bear, the Middle-sized Bear, and the Little Small Wee Bear; but long before she came to the place where little Silver Hair was found, Freddie was fast asleep.
"What were you going to ask me, Marty?" inquired her mamma, when they were seated at lunch.
"Oh, yes!" said Marty, in her excitement laying down her fork and twisting her napkin. "I was going to ask you if I might have a box to put tenths in, and if I mayn't belong to the mission-band."
"I thought you didn't want to belong to the band."
"Well, I didn't before, but I do now. I didn't know till this morning how nice it is. Mrs. Howell and Edith have been telling me all about giving money systematically, and showing me verses in the Bible; and so I thought I'd like to give some of my money, and go with Edith to the mission meeting next Saturday, if you will let me."
"Of course you may go if you wish."
"And may I have a box to put my money in?"
"Where shall I get it?"
"I'll give you one," said Mrs. Ashford, laughing. "Will that cardinal and gilt one of mine be suitable for the purpose?"
"Will you give me that beauty? Thank you ever so much," and Marty flew around the table to kiss her mother.
When they went up stairs Mrs. Ashford got out the pretty box, and, at Marty's desire, wrote on the bottom of it, "Martha Ashford," and the date. Marty, after excessively admiring and rejoicing over it, made a place for it in the corner of one of her drawers. Then she consulted her mother how to begin with the tenths.
"I haven't any of this week's money left," she said—in fact she seldom had any of her weekly allowance over—"but I have twenty-seven cents of my Christmas money yet. Had I better take a tenth of that, or wait and begin with my next ten cents?"
Her mother thought it would be best, perhaps, to keep the twenty-seven cents for "emergencies," and begin the tenths with the next week's money.
"But one penny will be very little to take to the meeting," said Marty. "How would it do to put in two more as a thank-offering for something or other?"
"That is a very good idea."
In the evening her father came in for his share of the requests.
"Papa," she asked, "would you just as soon give me my ten cents this evening as Monday?"
"Certainly," he replied, taking a dime out of his pocket. "What's going on this evening?"
"Oh, nothing's going on, but I've begun to have a box for missionary money—that lovely cardinal one of mamma's with gilt spots on it—and I'm going to put tenths and offerings in it and take them to the mission-band to help send missionaries to the heathen."
"Well, that's good. But what are you going to do about candy and such things?"
"Oh, I don't put all my money in the box; just some of it. I'm going to learn to give—what was it I told you mamma?"
"Yes, ma'am, that's it. You know, papa, that means giving just so much of your money and giving it at a certain time and never forgetting to give it. That's the reason I wanted my ten cents now, so that I can put some of it in the box to-morrow morning. And, O papa! would it trouble you to give it to me all in pennies?"
"Not at all," said her father gravely, and he counted out ten pennies, taking back the dime. "Now how much of that goes in the cardinal box?"
"One penny for tenths and two as a thank-offering, because I'm thankful that I've got started. So to-morrow morning three pennies will rattle into the box."
"Because it's the first day of the week. That's the New Testament plan, 'lay by in store on the first day of the week.'"
Then she climbed on her father's knee and told him all her day's experience. He approved of her plans and said he hoped she would be able to carry them out.
"I think," he said, "it is a very good thing for small folks to learn to spend their money wisely, and a better thing to learn to be willing to share the good they have with those not so well off. But you will have to watch yourself very carefully, for it wont be so easy to do all this when the novelty wears off as it is now."
"Oh! I'm always going to do this way," said Marty very determinedly, "all my life."
She always entered with heart and soul into whatever interested her, and all that week she could hardly think of anything but the mission-band and the money she was saving for it. By Wednesday she had dropped two more pennies into the box—a free-will-offering she told her mother—and did not spend a cent for anything, though one of her dolls was really suffering for a pink sash.
She was a great deal of the time with Edith, who gave her the most glowing accounts of what they did at the band—how they had recitations and dialogues and items, how they made aprons and kettle-holders and sold them, and how Miss Agnes read most interesting missionary stories to them while they sewed. She also told of a beautiful letter the secretary, Mary Cresswell, had written to the lady missionary in the school in Lahore, India, which the Twigs supported, and how they were anxiously looking for a reply. Miss Agnes said they must not expect a reply very soon, for missionaries were very busy people and had not much time for letter-writing. But the girls thought that Mrs. C——, the missionary, would be so pleased with Mary's letter she would certainly make time to write, at least a tiny answer.
"Does the band support a whole school?" Marty inquired in surprise. "It must take a lot of money."
"What we do is to pay the teacher's salary, and that's only about twenty or twenty-five dollars a year," Edith replied. "You see it's this kind of a school: the missionary ladies rent a little room for a school and hire a native teacher, somebody perhaps who attends one of the mission churches."
"But how can any one afford to teach for so little money?"
"Oh, that's a good deal for them, for the natives of those countries can live on very little, Miss Agnes says. So the missionaries sometimes have a good many of these schools in different parts of the city, and they visit each one every two or three days to see how the children are getting on and to give them religious instruction. Miss Agnes says in that way the missionaries can do something for a great many children, and the more money we bands send to pay teachers the more of these little schools there may be."
Marty could hardly wait for Saturday to come. She asked her mother to select a verse for her to say at the meeting.
"For Edith says they all repeat verses when their names are called."
Her mother chose this one for her: "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts."
WHOLES INSTEAD OF TENTHS.
When Marty came home from the meeting the next Saturday evening, and entered the sitting-room in her usual whirlwind style, she found her father there having a romp with Freddie.
"Why, here is little sister! Well, missy, where have you been?" he asked.
"Why, papa!" exclaimed Marty reproachfully. "To the mission meeting, of course. I told you this morning I was going."
"So you did; and you have told me every morning this week that this was the important day. I don't know how I came to forget it. Well, how did you like the meeting?"
"Oh, ever so much! I heard a great many sad things."
"That's a new reason for liking a thing," said her father.
"I mean," replied Marty, "I liked it because it was so nice and interesting, but I did hear some sad things. Don't you think it's sad to hear of a little school in one of those big, bad Chinese cities, where the children were beginning to learn about Jesus, being broken up because the folks in this country don't send money enough to pay a teacher? And it would only take a little money, too."
"That is certainly very sad."
"Yes; and Miss Agnes told us of other schools that have to send the girls and boys away because there isn't possibly room for them, and there is no money to make the buildings larger. I asked her why the big society in this country—the one where the money from all the bands is sent, you know—didn't just take hold and build plenty of schools, so that all the heathen children might be taught; and she said that the Board—that's the big society—has no money to send but what the churches and Sunday-schools give them, and lately they haven't been giving enough to build all the schools that are wanted. Isn't it awful!"
"A very sad state of affairs," said Mr. Ashford, but he could hardly help smiling a little at Marty's profound indignation.
"I should think the people in this country couldn't sit still and see things going on in such a way," she said. "Why, do you know, Miss Agnes says there are places where the poor people are asking for missionaries, and there are none to send, because there's not money enough to support them. I should think that people would just go and take all their money out of the banks and send it to the Board. Then there would be so much money pouring in that the Board would have to sit up nights to count it."
"No, no; that wouldn't do," said her father. "Little girls don't understand these matters."
"Well, but, papa," she said, coming close to him, dragging her coat after her by one sleeve, "don't you think if everybody were to give as the Lord has prospered them, there would be nearly enough money to do the right thing by the heathen?"
"Yes, there's something in that," answered Mr. Ashford, looking with a queer kind of a smile at his wife, over Marty's head. "But you can't compel every one to do what is right. All you can do is to attend to your own contributions."
"Well," said Marty, half crying in her earnestness, "I started out to give tenths; but as long as there are so many heathen, and so few missionaries, I'm going to give halves or wholes. I can't stand tenths."
And she marched off and put every cent she had in the red box. When she got her weekly allowance, that also went in. Her mother suggested that she would better not give all her money away at once.
"I think," she said, "it would be much better to do as you started to do, and not give in that impulsive way."
But Marty was sure she should not regret it, and declared she was going to give every bit of money she ever should have to send missionaries to the heathen. She was very full of ardor for about two days, though on Monday something occurred that made her feel very bad. She was playing with Freddie in the morning, and when schooltime came he began to whimper, and holding her dress, pleaded,
"Don't go, Marty; play wis me."
She was very fond of her little brother, and proud that he seemed to think more of her than he did of any one else, so she was usually quite gentle with him. She now petted him and coaxed him to let her go, saying when she came home she would bring him a pretty little sponge cake. She often brought these tasty little cakes to Freddie, and he considered them a great treat. The prospect of one quite satisfied him, and after many last kisses he let her go peaceably.
On the way home from school she stopped at the bakery, and it was not until the cake was selected and wrapped up that she remembered she had no money. It was all in her missionary box.
"Oh! I can't take it after all," she said regretfully. "I forgot I have no money."
"That makes no difference at all," said the kindly German woman, who knew Marty, as Mrs. Ashford generally dealt at the shop: "you take it all the same, and bring the penny to-morrow—any day."
"No, thank you, mamma wouldn't like me to do that," answered Marty, hastening out to hide her tears. She was so sorry for Freddie's disappointment; and disappointed he was, for he had a good memory and immediately asked for his cake. Then there was a great crying scene, for Marty cried as heartily as he did, and their mamma had to comfort them both.
"I think, mamma," said Marty, when Freddie had condescended to eat a piece of another kind of cake and quiet was restored, "I think, after all, I'll not put every cent of my money in the box, but will keep a little to buy things for dear little Freddie—and you," giving her mother a squeeze.
"That will be best," said Mrs. Ashford. "I know you enjoy bringing us things sometimes."
This was quite true. Marty was very generous, and nothing pleased her more than to bring home some modest dainty, such as her small purse would buy, and share it with everybody in the house, not forgetting Katie in the kitchen.
But her penniless condition brought her a harder time yet. The next day in school a sudden recollection flashed upon her that nearly took her breath away. She could hardly wait until school was dismissed to race home to her mother, to whom she managed to gasp,
"Oh, mamma! next Friday is Cousin Alice's birthday!"
"Is it?" said Mrs. Ashford calmly. "What then?"
"Why, you know that letter-rack of silver cardboard that I have been making for her birthday, and counted so on giving her, isn't finished."
"It is all ready but the ribbon, isn't it? It wont take long to finish. I will make the bows for you."
"But the ribbon isn't bought yet, and I haven't got a cent!" exclaimed Marty despairingly.
There were two very strict rules in connection with the money Marty received each week. One was she was never to ask for it in advance, and the other that she was not to borrow from any one, expecting to pay when she got her dime. If she spent all her money the first of the week, she had to do without things, no matter how badly she wanted them, till the next allowance came in. This was to teach her foresight and carefulness, her father said. Now she had no money and no expectation of any until Saturday, when the birthday would be over. Of course there was all the money in the red box, but she did not dream of touching that. It was just as much missionary money as if it was already in the hands of the Board that Miss Agnes talked about.
"If I had any ribbon that would suit," said Mrs. Ashford, "I would give it to you; but I haven't. Besides, for a present it would be better to have new ribbon. How much would it cost?"
"Rosa Stevenson paid eight cents a yard for hers, and it takes a yard and a half—narrow ribbon, you know."
"Then you will want twelve cents. I am sorry I cannot lend you the money, but it is against the rule, you know."
"Yes, ma'am, I know," Marty replied sorrowfully.
She was sadly disappointed, as she had been looking forward for several weeks to the time when she should have the pleasure of presenting the nicely-made letter-rack to her cousin. She did not grudge the money she had devoted to missions; she would like to have given much more if she could; but she began to see that Edith's way of giving according to system was the best. She was still very much interested in the heathen, but they seemed a little farther off than on Saturday, while Cousin Alice and the letter-rack now absorbed most of her thoughts. She stood dolefully gazing out the window, not paying any attention to Freddie's invitation to come and play cable cars.
"Well, cheer up!" said her mother. "We will find some way out of the difficulty. You try to think of some plan to get twelve cents, and so will I. Between us we ought to devise something."
Marty brightened up instantly and looked eagerly at her mother, sure that relief was coming immediately. "What is your plan, mamma?" she asked.
"Oh! I didn't say I had one yet," said Mrs. Ashford, laughing. "You must give me time to think; and you must think yourself."
That was all she would say then, and Marty spent a very restless afternoon and evening trying to think of some way to earn or save that money, but could think of nothing that would bring it in time for Friday. At bedtime her mother inquired, "Have you got a plan yet?"
"No, indeed. I can't think of a thing," answered Marty, nearly as doleful as ever.
"How do you like this plan?" said Mrs. Ashford. "I have some rags up in the storeroom that I want picked over, the white separated from the colored, and if you will do it to-morrow afternoon, I will give you fifteen cents."
"Oh, I'll do it! I'll do it!" cried Marty in delight, kissing her mother. "You're the best mamma that ever was!"
"It is not pleasant work, and will probably take all your playtime," cautioned her mother.
"Oh! I don't mind that," said Marty.
So, although the next afternoon was remarkably pleasant, and it would have been delightful to be playing with her sled in the snow-heaped little park near by, where the other girls were, she very cheerfully spent it in the dull storeroom with an old calico wrapper over her dress, sorting rags. There were a good many to do—though she candidly said she didn't think there was more than fifteen cents' worth—and she got pretty tired. Katie offered to help, but Marty heroically refused, and earned her money fairly.
The letter-rack was completed in good time, and presented. Cousin Alice said it was the very prettiest of all her gifts, besides being extremely useful.
"Mamma," said Marty that evening, "I believe after all I'll go back to Edith's plan of giving 'tenths' and 'offerings' to missions."
"I think that would be the better way," said her mother.
"Not that I'm tired of the heathen or the mission-band, or of giving, you know, but just because—"
"Yes, I understand," said her mother, as she hesitated; "you are just as much interested in the matter as ever, but you now see that there are more ways than one of doing good with money, and that it is better to give systematically, as Mrs. Howell says. Then you know what you are doing, and I dare say, taking it all in all, you will give more that way than by giving a good deal one time and nothing at all another."
"Oh! I'll never come to the time when I wont give anything," Marty declared emphatically.
And she then truly believed she never should.
THE EBONY CHAIR.
For a few weeks everything went smoothly. Marty attended the meetings of the band, in which she took great interest, and put two or three pennies in her box every Sunday morning. But there came a time when she began to find it hard to give even that much. There seemed to be so many little things she wanted, and it was just the season of the year when she had very few presents of money. She generally got some on her birthday, in August, and again at Christmas; but as she could not keep money very well, that was soon spent, and during the latter part of the winter she was very poor. Once or twice nothing went in the box but the strict tenth, and once she had a hard struggle with herself before even that went in; in fact, she had a very bad time altogether. It was all owing to a tiny chair.
"O girls!" exclaimed Hattie Green, one day at recess, "have you seen those lovely chairs in Harrison's window?"
"What chairs?" inquired the girls.
"Oh, such lovely little dolls' chairs! Carved, you know, and with beautiful red cushions. I came by there this morning, and that's the reason I was late at school, I stopped so long to look at those cunning chairs."
"Let's all go home that way," suggested Marty, "and then we can see them."
"All right," said Hattie.
So after school quite a crowd went around by Harrison's toy-store to see the wonderful chairs.
There they were, rather small, to be sure, but ebony—at least they looked like ebony—and crimson satin. The girls were in raptures with them.
"They are beauties!" cried Edith.
"How I should love to have one!" said Marty.
"I wonder how much they are," said Rosa Stevenson.
"You go in and ask, Rosa," said Edith.
"Yes, do, do," urged the others.
Rosa went, and came back with the information that they were twelve cents apiece.
"Well, that isn't so much," said Edith. "I think I can afford to get one. I'll see when I go home."
"I know I have enough money to buy one," said Rosa, "but I never buy anything without asking mamma about it first."
"She'll let you get it," said Edith.
"Oh, you girls always have some money saved up, and I never have," sighed Marty. "And I do want one of those chairs so badly."
"So do I," said Hattie, "and I haven't any money either, but I'm going to tease mamma night and day till she gives me twelve cents."
"It's no use to tease my mamma," said Marty. "If she wont let me do a thing, she wont, and that's the end of it. But of course I'll tell her about the chairs, and see what she says. Maybe she'll let me have one."
As soon as she reached home Marty gave her mother a glowing description of the chairs, winding up with,
"And, O mamma! I do want one awfully."
"But you have so many playthings already, Marty," objected her mother. "Just look at those closet shelves! Besides, you got a complete set of dolls' furniture Christmas."
"Oh, I know I don't need another chair at all, but those red ones are so cunning, and one would look so well mixed in among my blue ones. I should love to have one."
"I am sorry your mind is so set on it," said Mrs. Ashford, "for I dislike to have you disappointed, but when you have so many playthings, I really don't feel like giving you money, even if it is only a trifle."
"May I buy a chair if I have money enough of my own?" Marty asked.
"Oh, yes—if you wish to spend your money that way; but I would rather save it for something else if I were you."
Marty had no very clear idea where "money of her own" was to come from just at that time, but thought it possible the necessary amount might appear before the chairs were all sold.
The next morning Rosa and Edith came to school with money to buy chairs, and at recess all their special friends went with them to Harrison's to make the purchase. When Marty had a nearer view of the chairs and handled them, she was more anxious than ever to possess one. This anxiety increased as the days passed and the chairs gradually disappeared.
Nobody gave her any money and her mother did not offer her any more "paid" work. She was very, very sorry that she had spent all of her allowance on Monday morning—at least all but two cents and the one in the red box. That, of course, she took with her to the meeting Saturday afternoon.
Saturday evening she received her next week's supply, and that, with the two cents she had over, was exactly enough to get the longed-for toy. But one cent was tenths.
"That just spoils the whole thing," she said to herself. "I might as well have none at all as only eleven cents."
Then she wondered if it would not do to borrow that tenth. She had not thought of taking out any of the money when she was in such straits about Cousin Alice's ribbon, but this seemed different. It was only one penny, and she was sure of being able to replace it.
But borrowing was against the rule, and it must be especially wrong to borrow missionary money. She felt ashamed and her cheeks burned when the thought came to her.
"I s'pose I'll have to give up the chair," she sighed; "at least unless I get a little more money somehow. I wish papa wasn't so strict about borrowing. A penny wouldn't be much to borrow."
Sunday morning she took out her money and counted it over again very carefully. Yes, there was exactly twelve cents. Then she slowly took up one cent to drop in the box. As she did so the temptation to borrow it came again.
"No, I wont do that," she said resolutely, but after looking at the penny for a while, concluded not to put it in the box until after she came from Sunday-school.
After Sunday-school she tried it again, but still hesitated.
"I'll wait till bedtime," she thought.
By bedtime she had decided not to put it in at all.
"I b'lieve I'll borrow it. It wont do any harm to let the box go empty for one week. I'll get the chair to-morrow, and make the tenth all right next Sunday."
So she got into bed and covered herself up, but she could not go to sleep. She tossed and tumbled for what seemed to her a long time. "It's all because that penny isn't in the box," she thought. Finally she could stand it no longer. She got up, and feeling around in the drawer, found the penny and put it in the box. Then she went to bed, and was soon asleep.
Having decided she could not have what she so ardently desired, Marty should have kept out of the way of temptation, but every day she went to look at the chairs, and seeing them, she continued to want one. By Thursday they were all gone but two, and Hattie triumphantly announced that at last her mamma had given her money to buy one. Then Marty felt that she must have the other.
When she had her wraps on that afternoon ready to go out to play, she went to the missionary box, and, with hands trembling in her excitement, took out the solitary penny. Then without stopping to think she ran down stairs. Just as she was opening the street-door she repented, and after meditating a while in the vestibule, standing first on one foot and then on the other, she slowly retraced her steps and put the penny back.
"Now it's safe," she said. "I'll just dash out without it, and of course when I haven't got it, I can't spend it."
She dashed about half way, when all at once the vision of the lovely chair rose up before her, and the desire to possess it was greater than ever. She stopped again to think, and the result was, she returned and got the penny—it was not quite so hard to take it out the second time as it was the first—and started for the street once more.
Perhaps she might have repented and gone back again, had not her mother, who was entertaining some ladies in the parlor, called to her, "Marty, don't race up and down stairs so," and then Marty went out with the penny in her hand.
THE EMPTY BOX.
So the chair was bought and Marty tried to think she was perfectly satisfied, but it was strange how little she cared for it after all. She showed her purchase to her mother, who said it was quite pretty, but not very substantial; that she feared it would not last long.
Marty put it in her dolls' house and played with it, trying hard to enjoy it, but her conscience was so ill at ease that she soon began to hate the sight of the chair, and by Friday evening she had pushed it away back on the shelf behind everything. The sight of the red box, too, was more than she could stand, it seemed to look so reproachfully at her; even after she had laid one of her white aprons over it she disliked to open the drawer.
There was a special meeting of the band that Saturday, as they were getting ready for their anniversary. No contributions were expected, so that it did not matter about Marty having no money; but she was feeling so low-spirited and ashamed that she simply could not go among the others nor take part in missionary exercises.
"Are you going for Edith this afternoon or is she coming for you?" inquired Mrs. Ashford.
"I'm not going to the meeting," replied Marty in a low voice. "I told Edith I wasn't going."
"Not going!" exclaimed Mrs. Ashford in surprise. "Why, you are not tired of it already, are you?"
"No, ma'am," Marty answered, "but I don't want to go to-day."
Mrs. Ashford thought perhaps Marty and Edith had had a little falling out, though it must be said they very seldom quarreled; or that Marty was beginning to tire a little of her new enterprise, for she was rather in the habit of taking things up with great energy and soon becoming weary of them. Mrs. Ashford had not expected her missionary enthusiasm to last very long; and as she herself was not at that time much interested in such matters, she was not prepared to keep up Marty's zeal, but was inclined to allow her to go on with the work or give it up, just as she chose, as she did in matters of less importance.
However, Mrs. Ashford knew that, whatever the trouble was, it would all come out sooner or later, for Marty always told her everything. So she merely said,
"Well, as it is so bleak to-day and you have a cold, perhaps it would be just as well for you not to go out."
Marty, disinclined to play, took one of her "Bessie Books" and sat down by the window. Though so cheerless out-doors, with the wind whistling among the leafless trees and blowing the dust about, that sitting room was certainly very cosey and pleasant.
Marty's "pretty mamma," as she often called her, in her becoming afternoon gown of soft, dark red stuff, sat in a low rocker in front of the bright fire busy with her embroidery and softly singing as she worked. Freddie, on the rug at her feet, played quietly with a string of buttons. The only sounds in the room were Mrs. Ashford's murmured song and an occasional chirp from the canary. But all at once this cheerful quietness was broken by loud sobbing.
Poor Marty had been so unhappy the last two days, and now added to what she felt to be the meanness of appropriating that missionary penny, was the disappointment of not being at the meeting, for she was longing to be there, though not feeling fit to go. Besides, it was a great load on her mind that she had not told her mamma how she got the chair, nor what was the reason she did not want to go to the meeting. And now she could endure her wretchedness no longer.
"What's the matter, Marty?" exclaimed Mrs. Ashford, much startled. "Are you ill? Is your throat sore? Come here and tell me what ails you?"
"Oh, mamma, I'm very, very wicked," sobbed Marty, and running to her mother's arms she tried to tell her troubles, but cried so that she could not be understood.
"Never mind, never mind," said her mother soothingly. "Wait until you can stop crying and then tell me all about it."
Freddie was dreadfully distressed to see his sister in such a state and did all he could to comfort her, bringing her his horse-reins and a whole lapful of building-blocks, and was rather surprised that they did not have the desired effect.
When Marty became quieter she told the whole story of the dolls' chair and the missionary penny. "That's the reason I didn't want to go to the meeting," she said. "I don't feel fit to 'sociate with good missionary children. I'm so sorry and so ashamed. I wish I had let the penny stay in the box and the chair stay in the store."
"We cannot undo what is done," said her mother gravely. "We can only make all possible amends and try to do better in future. You can replace the penny this evening, and this lesson you have had may teach you to be more self-denying. You know you cannot spend all your money for trifles and yet have some to give away. If you want to give you must learn to do without some things. But, Marty, if it is going to be so difficult to devote some of your money to missions, you had better just give up the attempt and go back to your old way of doing."
"Oh, no, no!" exclaimed Marty earnestly. "Please let me try again. I know I'll do better now, and I do want to help in missionary work."
"Well," said Mrs. Ashford, "just as you wish. I don't like to see you beginning things and giving them up so soon, but at the same time I don't think you need feel obliged to give to these things whether you want to or not."
"Oh, but I do want to ever so much," Marty protested.
She felt better after telling her mother all about the matter, and now was quite ready to brighten up and start afresh. The next morning besides dropping in two pennies for tenths she put in another, which she said was a "sorry" offering, but did not know the Bible name for it. She would have liked to make amends by putting in the whole ten cents, but her mother would not allow it.
"Things would soon be as bad as ever," were her warning words, "if that's the way you are going to do. The next thing you will want to take some of it out, as you did the penny for the chair."
"No, no, mamma! I don't b'lieve I ever could be so mean again," Marty declared.
"I don't believe either that you would do it again. But you will certainly save yourself a great deal of worry, and will be likely to do more good in the work you have begun, by following Mrs. Howell's advice of having a plan of giving and keeping to it."
"Well, I'm going to try that way in real earnest now," said Marty; "but I wish it was as easy for me to be steady about things as it is for Edith. She never seems to get into trouble over her tenths."
A few days after this, when she was spending the afternoon with Edith, Marty told Mrs. Howell what a time she had had, and added,
"Doesn't it seem strange that I can't give my money regularly?"
"Perhaps," suggested Mrs. Howell, "you have not asked God to help you in your new enterprise."
"Why, no, I haven't," replied Marty. "I never thought of it."
"My dear child, we are nothing in our own strength. We should always ask God to help us, in what we attempt, and ask for his blessing. Unless he blesses our work, it cannot prosper."
"But I don't know how to ask him," said Marty, speaking softly. "The prayers I say every night are 'Our Father,' and 'Now I lay me,' and there's nothing in them about mission work. I should have to say another prayer, shouldn't I?"
"If you more fully understood the Lord's Prayer, you would know that exactly what you want is included in it. But why cannot you ask for what you desire in your own words? Just go to God as trustingly as you would to your mother, when you want something you know she will let you have, if it is good for you to have it. And that would be really praying, for, Marty, don't you know there's a great difference between saying prayers and praying? You may say a dozen prayers and not pray at all."
"Don't I pray when I kneel beside the bed and say those two prayers?"
"You do if you make the petitions your own, and really desire what you ask for, and if you ask in the right spirit. But if you just say the words over without thinking what you are saying, or whom you are speaking to, it is not praying at all. It is mocking God."
"I'm sure I wouldn't do that," said Marty, looking frightened.
"I know you would not willfully, my dear, but I just want to show you that saying over certain words is not praying. We don't realize what a blessed privilege it is to pray. God's ear is open night and day to any of us, even the smallest child. He is as ready to hear anything you may have to say as he is to hear Dr. Edgar when he gets up in his pulpit and prays."
"Then it wouldn't be wrong to ask God to help me give missionary money regularly, would it?"
"It would be very right."
That night when Marty knelt beside her bed she really prayed. She felt that God was listening to her, and when she came to the words, "Now I lay me down to sleep," she realized that she was committing herself to his care, and was sure that in that care she was safe. After her usual prayers she paused a moment and then added, "And, O Lord, please help me to be steady in giving missionary money."
HOW MISSIONS HELPED THE HOME FOLKS.
The mission work that Marty had entered upon was teaching her to pray.
She really wished to be a mission worker in her small way and she tried hard to be faithful, but owing to her forgetfulness or impatience or selfishness, things sometimes went wrong. Once or twice she forgot to learn a verse to say at the meeting, and was much mortified. Once she got very impatient with a piece of sewing and spoiled it, and then was angry because some of the girls laughed at her. And she still found it hard to give her money regularly; some weeks she wanted it so much for something else.
But all these little trials she carried to God and was helped. This led to the habit of bringing all her little troubles to him.
One day Miss Agnes remarked that we don't put enough thanks in our prayers. We ask that such and such things may be done, but we don't thank God half enough for what he has done and is constantly doing for us. We come to him with all the miseries of our lives, but don't tell him about the happy and joyous things. Afterward Marty put more thanks in her prayers, and she told Miss Agnes that it was astonishing how many thankful things there were to say.
Marty also used her Bible a great deal more after she joined the band than before.
Besides the verse they were expected to repeat at roll-call, Miss Agnes sometimes asked them to bring all the texts they could find bearing upon a certain subject. The golden text for Sunday-school might be learned from the lesson-paper, but it was necessary to search the Bible for these other verses. At first Marty did not know how to begin to find them and appealed to her mother for help. Mrs. Ashford gave all the assistance in her power, though saying with a half-sigh,
"I'm afraid I don't know much about these things, Marty."
One day Mrs. Ashford had been out shopping and in the evening several parcels were sent home. These she opened in the sitting-room. As she unwrapped quite a large one Mr. Ashford inquired,
"What is that huge book?"
When his wife handed it to him he whistled and exclaimed,
"A concordance! What in the world do you want with this? Are you going to study theology?"
"No," replied Mrs. Ashford, laughing, "but Marty comes to me with so many questions that I found I could not get on any longer without that."
"What's a concordance, mamma?" asked Marty, "and has it anything to do with me?"
"It is a book to help us find all those verses in the Bible you have been asking me about. You see I'm not as good and wise as your friend Mrs. Howell, and don't know as much about the Bible as she does."
"You're every bit as good," declared Marty, who by this time had got both arms around her mother's waist as she stood on the rug, and was looking up in her face lovingly, "and you will be as wise when you are as old, for she is a great deal older than you."
Her father and mother both laughed at Marty's earnestness, and Mr. Ashford said,
"That's right, Marty. Stand up for your mother."
They found the concordance very useful, and from time to time spent many happy hours searching the Scriptures with its aid, comparing passages and talking them over. Not only did they find texts for the band, but other subjects were traced through the sacred pages. Occasionally Marty saw her mother busy with the concordance and Bible when she had not asked her assistance about verses.
It was while Marty was giving wholes instead of tenths and the red box was so well filled, that it met with an accident that disfigured it for life. Though the occurrence was a sad and humiliating one for Marty, it led to good results.
She had the box out one day and was counting the money, although she knew precisely how much there was. As a good deal of it was in pennies it made quite a noise, so that Freddie, attracted by the bright outside and noisy inside, thought he would like to have the box to play with. He asked Marty to give it to him, but she, busy with her counting, answered rather sharply,
"No, indeed; you can't have it. Go away, now. Don't touch!"
But Freddie was very quick in his movements, and before she could get it out of his reach he had seized it and shaken the contents all over the floor. Marty, very angry at having her beautiful box treated so roughly, and seeing the money rolling about in all directions, cried in loud tones,
"Let go, you naughty boy! You'll break it!"
Freddie, now angry also, and determined to have what he wanted, held on manfully, screaming, "Dive it to me! dive it to me!" and in the struggle a small piece was broken off the lid.
Mrs. Ashford, hearing the loud tones, hurried into the room, and arrived in time to see Marty strike Freddie with one hand while she held the box high above her head with the other. Freddie was pounding her with all his little strength and crying uproariously.
"Marty, Marty!" called Mrs. Ashford, "don't strike your little brother. What is the matter? Come here, Freddie."
But Freddie stamped his foot and screamed, "Will have it! Will have pretty box!" and Marty wailed, "Oh! he's broken my lovely box and spilled all my money."
It was some time before peace was fully restored, though Marty was soon very repentant for what she had done and Freddie's ill-temper never lasted very long. After standing a while with his face to the wall, as was his custom on such occasions, crying loudly, the little tempest was all over. He turned around, and putting up his hands to wipe his eyes said pitifully,
"My teeks are so wet, and I have no hamititch to dry them."
"Come here and I'll dry them," said his mother, taking him on her knee.
"My chin is all wet," he said.
"So it is, but we'll dry all your face."
"And my hands are all wet."
"What a poor little wet boy!" said his mother tenderly, but cheerfully too.
After making him comfortable she said,
"Now are you sorry you were such a naughty boy?"
He nodded his head, and turning to Marty, who was crawling around gathering up her money, he said, "Sorry, Marty."
Marty crept up to him, and kissing over and over the little arm she had struck, said with eyes full of tears,
"You dear little darling, you don't know how awfully sorry Marty is for being so bad to you!"
Then they rubbed their curly heads together until Freddie began to laugh, and in a few moments he was playing with his tin horse as merrily as if nothing had happened, while Marty gathered up and put away her treasures.
"Now, Marty," said her mother, "you must keep that out of Freddie's sight. He is nothing but a baby, and doesn't know that it is any different from any other box. Let me see where it is broken. Perhaps I can mend it."
"No, mamma," said Marty, "I don't want it mended. I am going to let it be this way to remind me of how naughty I was to my dear little brother, and maybe it will keep me from getting so angry with him again. It does seem dreadful, too, to think that just when I'm trying to be good to children away over the sea, I should be partic'lerly bad to my own little brother, doesn't it?"
"I sha'n't say a word," replied her mother, "for I see you can rebuke yourself."
So the broken missionary box was a constant reminder to Marty that her work for those far away should make her all the more loving to the dear ones at home.
"NOT IN THE GOOD TIMES."
One Saturday afternoon as Edith and Marty entered the room where the meetings of the band were held, half a dozen girls rushed to them, exclaiming,
"Oh, what do you think! Mary Cresswell has a letter from Mrs. C——!"
How eager they all were to hear that letter! As soon as the opening exercises were over, Miss Walsh told Mary she might read it. The young secretary looked quite proud and important as she unfolded the letter, very tenderly, indeed, for it was written on thin paper, as foreign letters are, and she was afraid of tearing it.
After speaking very nicely of the letter she had received from them, Mrs. C—— went on to tell them something about Lahore and about the school they were interested in. She said:
"You must not imagine a well-arranged schoolroom with desks, maps, black-boards, and so on. We cannot afford anything like that, and in any case it would be useless to the kind of pupils we have. We pay a woman a little for the use of part of the room in which she lives, and while the school is in session she goes on with her work in one corner. This room is quite dark, as, having no windows, all the light it receives is from the door. It has no furniture to speak of. The teacher and pupils sit on the earth floor."
She then described the dress of the little girls, which certainly did not appear to be very comfortable for the cool weather they sometimes have in North India, and said, "No matter how poor and scanty the clothing, they must have some kind of jewelry, even if it is only glass or brass bangles. They are anything but cleanly, as they are not taught in their own homes to be so; besides, some of their customs are considerably against cleanliness. For instance, they must not wash themselves at all for a certain length of time after the death of relatives. So it sometimes happens the children come to school in a very dirty condition."
These children, Mrs. C—— said, were bright and learned quite readily. She mentioned some of the hymns and Scripture verses they knew, and some of the answers they had given to questions she put to them.
"But the great difficulty is," she wrote, "they are taken away from school so young to be married and thus lost to us. Still it is good to think that they receive some religious instruction, and matters in regard to girls and women in India are gradually improving. Not quite so much stress is laid on child-marriage; indeed, some native societies are being formed for the purpose of opposing this custom, and many more girls are allowed to attend school than used to be the case.
"But there is room yet for great improvement. You, my young friends, in your happy childhood and girlhood, cannot conceive the miseries of these poor little creatures. Thank God your lot is cast in a Christian land, and oh! do all you can to send the gospel light into these dark places of the earth."
The girls had a great deal to say about this letter, and as it was sewing afternoon, Miss Walsh allowed them to talk over their work instead of having any reading.
"Somebody told me," said little Daisy Roberts, "that in India they don't care as much about girls as boys, and sometimes they kill the girl babies. Is that so?"
"Yes," replied Miss Walsh. "It used to be a very common custom, and is still so to some extent, though the British Government has done much to stop it."
"They must be very cruel to want to kill their own dear little babies. Why, if anybody should hurt our little Nellie, we'd all fly at him and nearly tear him to pieces," and Daisy's face got very red and she doubled up her little fist at the very thought of such a thing.
"It isn't always, nor perhaps often, done in a spirit of cruelty. Sometimes it is because the parents are poor and cannot afford to marry their daughters, for weddings cost a great deal, and according to the notions of the country everybody must be married. Often it ruins a man to get his daughters married, and he lives in poverty all the rest of his life. Then very ignorant and superstitious parents sometimes sacrifice their children to please their gods, and as girls are not as much thought of as boys, it is frequently the girls who are killed. But, as I told you, the Government does not allow such doings, and when people are found breaking the law they are punished. Besides, as Christianity spreads these wicked things cease."
"I think that way they have of making little girls get married is awful," said Edith. "Just think of being dragged off to be married when you're only a little mite of a thing, and having to leave your own mamma and live with a cross old mother-in-law who abuses you!"
"Don't their fathers and mothers love them at all, Miss Agnes, that they send them off that way and allow them to be miserable?" asked Marty, who was ready to cry over the miseries of the poor little India girl.
"Of course there are many cruel parents—heathenism, you know, does not teach people to be kind and loving—but many love their children as much as your parents love you. In fact they are over-indulgent to them, and let them do just what they please when they are small. And you may imagine that the mother especially has a very sore heart when her little daughter is taken from her and when she hears of her being ill-treated in her new home. But it is considered a disgrace if girls are not married when mere children; and a loving mother wishes to keep her daughters from disgrace."
"And how if the little girl's husband dies?" Rosa Stevenson inquired.
"Oh, then the poor little widow leads a miserable life."
"Why, how?" Marty asked. "Can't she go back home then?"
"No," Miss Walsh answered. "She has to live on in the father-in-law's house, where she is treated shamefully, made to do hard work, is half starved, and not allowed clothes enough to keep her comfortable. She is not taken care of when sick, and is treated worse in every way than you have any idea of or ever can have."
"It's perfectly dreadful!" declared one of the girls.
"Didn't they use to burn the widows on their husbands' funeral pile?" asked another.
"Yes, but the British Government put a stop to that."
"I believe I'd rather be burnt up and done with it than have to lead such a miserable life," said Mary Cresswell.
"Oh, no, it would be dreadful to be burnt," said Rosa.
"Seems to me it's dreadful all around," said Marty, sighing.
"You may be thankful you don't have to make the choice," said Miss Walsh.
"Then the poor children are not even made comfortable when they go to school," Rosa went on, "so dirty and forlorn!"
"How queerly they're dressed," said Hannah Morton.
"They seem to be dressed principally in earrings and bracelets," remarked Marty.
"Miss Agnes," inquired Mary, "aren't there other kinds of schools besides these little day-schools?"
"Oh, yes. One of the first things that the missionaries try to do is to establish boarding-schools, so as to get the boys and girls altogether away from the influence of their heathen homes. This is the way many converts are made. There are now many such schools and much good has been done by them. You remember we sent the extra ten dollars we had last year to help build an addition to a boarding-school in China."
"Are Chinese little girls treated as badly as the ones in India?" Marty asked.
"Why, yes," said Hannah, before Miss Walsh could reply. "Don't you remember the 'Chinese Slave Girl,' that Miss Agnes read to us?—at least read some of it. And don't you know how they are tortured by binding their feet?"
"That isn't done on purpose to torture them," said Mary. "That's a custom of the country."
"Most of their customs appear to be tortures," said Marty.
"Yes," said Miss Walsh, "the customs of barbarous and half-civilized nations are very hard on the women and girls."
"Well, it all makes me feel very sorrowful," Marty declared. "I never thought before, when I've had such good times all my life, that there are so many little girls who are not—a—"
"Not in the good times?" said Miss Walsh, helping her out.
"Yes, ma'am; and I do wish I could do something for some of them."
"So do I," said several of the others.
"I suppose," suggested Edith, "the faster we send the gospel to those countries the better it will be for the girls and everybody."
"Couldn't we raise more money this year, enough to support another school, or to pay for a girl or boy in a boarding-school somewhere?" Rosa proposed.
"In that case we should have to double, or more than double, our usual amount," said Miss Walsh. "The question is, can we do that?"
"Oh, do let us try!" exclaimed several of the girls.
Then they began forthwith to make plans for raising more money.
"Of course the more members we have, the more money we'll raise," said Mary Cresswell, "so I think we'd better try again to get others to join our band. I have asked the Patterson girls two or three times, but I'm going to ask them again."
"Better not ask them plump to join," suggested Bertie Lee. "Just get them somehow to come to one meeting, and then they'll be sure to want to belong."
"There's some wisdom in that," said Miss Walsh, laughing.
"Yes'm," said Bertie, "and I believe I'll try that way with Annie Kelley."
"I'm going to ask that new girl in our Sunday-school class," said Hannah.
"I'm going to try to get somebody to come," said Marty.
"So am I," "And I," cried the others.
"That's right," said Miss Walsh. "We want to get as many people as possible interested in missionary work, and, as Mary says, the more that are interested and belong to societies, the more money will be raised, and, of course, the more good will be done. So, don't you see, you are aiding the cause very much when you try to make our meetings attractive, and so induce others to join the band."
"I've thought of a way to make some missionary money, if it would be right to do it," said Edith.
"What is it?" asked Miss Walsh.
"Well—you know those prizes Dr. Edgar and Mr. Stevenson give at the Sunday-school anniversary for learning the Psalms and chapters—would it do to ask them to give us money instead of books or anything else, so that we might have it for missions?"
"We certainly might ask our pastor and superintendent what they think of the plan. I have no doubt they would be willing to adopt it when they know what the money is to be used for. I think myself, your idea is a very good one."
"Yes," said Rosa, "we should not only be studying the Bible for our own sakes, but be helping missions at the same time."
"We'd be working for our missionary money then, shouldn't we?" remarked one of the girls.
"Yes, indeed!" replied another, with a laugh and shrug. She was not fond of committing to memory.
"It's a good way, though," said Marty, standing up for Edith's suggestion, "and I'm going to start right in and learn something. Miss Agnes, I wonder how much they'd give for the 119th Psalm?"
Marty asked this in real earnest, and although Miss Walsh felt like smiling, she answered gravely,
"I don't think it is quite the right spirit in which to study the Bible, Marty—doing it only for the sake of the money, even if the money is for missions."
"Oh! I shouldn't do it just for the money, but I thought if I could get more for a long Psalm than for a short one, I'd rather learn the long one, and have more missionary money. But I shouldn't want to do it if it was wrong, you know," Marty added, looking distressed.
"I know you would not," said Miss Walsh kindly. "I have no doubt your motives are all right, though you can hardly explain them. I can understand that you would be willing to do considerable hard work for missions, and I am glad of your willingness and enthusiasm. They help me."
Then Marty looked radiant.
There were other plans proposed, and every one had so much to say that Miss Walsh had some trouble in getting the meeting to break up.
"I do b'lieve," said Marty one day, after she had been a member of the mission-band for several months, "I do b'lieve that hearing so much about the poor little children in India and China and those places, and trying to do something to help them, makes me feel far more like helping poor children here at home. Now, there's Jennie—I know I shouldn't have thought much about her if I hadn't been thinking of those far-away children."
This was after she had made some sacrifices for the benefit of poor little Jennie, and this is the way she first came to know of her.
When the spring house-cleaning was going on, Mrs. Ashford's regular helper one day could not come and sent another woman. In the evening when Mrs. Ashford went into the kitchen to pay this Mrs. Scott for her day's work, Marty, who had a great habit of following her mother around the house, went also. Mrs. Scott had just finished her supper, and after receiving her money and replying to Mrs. Ashford's pleasant remarks, she said hesitatingly, pointing to a saucer of very fine canned peaches which was part of her supper, but which she had apparently only tasted, "Please, mem, may I take them splendid peaches home to my sick little girl? She can't eat nothin' at all hardly, and she would relish them, I know. If you'd jist give me the loan of an old bowl or somethin—"
"Oh! have you a sick child?" said Mrs. Ashford sympathizingly. "She shall certainly have some peaches, but you must eat those yourself. Katie, get—"
"Oh! no, mem," protested Mrs. Scott, "that's too much like beggin'. I jist wanted to take mine to her."
"No, it isn't begging at all," said Mrs. Ashford. "I'm very glad you told me about your little girl. Katie, fill one of those small jars with peaches."
Then Mrs. Ashford went into the pantry, and returning with two large oranges and some Albert biscuit, asked,
"Can you carry these also?"
Mrs. Scott was full of thanks, and said she knew such nice things would do Jennie a world of good.
"I can make enough to keep her warm in winter and get her plain vittles, but it isn't at all what she ought to have now, I know," she said sorrowfully.
Mrs. Ashford asked what was the matter with Jennie and how long she had been ill. Mrs. Scott replied that she had hurt her back more than a year ago; and though she had been "doctored" then and appeared to get a little better, since they moved to their present abode—for they came from a distant town—she had become worse and was now not able to walk at all, but was obliged to lie in bed, sometimes suffering much pain.
"How was she hurt?" Mrs. Ashford inquired.
"She fell down the stair," was all the reply given, but Katie said afterward that she had heard that Jennie was thrown or pushed down stairs by her drunken father. She said poor Mrs. Scott had had a very hard life with this shiftless, drunken husband, who abused her and the children. All the children were dead now except Jennie, who was about a year older than Marty, and early in the winter "old Scott," as Katie called him, died himself from the effects of a hurt received in a fight while "on a spree." As Mrs. Scott had been ill part of the winter and unable to work much, she had got behind with her rent, and altogether had been having a very hard time.
Marty was very much interested in what Mrs. Scott said, and asked a question or two on her own account.
"Who stays with your little girl when you are away?"
"Bless your sweet eyes! nobody stays with her. She just lies there her lone self, unless some of the other children in the house run in and out, but mostly she doesn't want their noise."
"How long has she been in bed?"
"Most of the time for eight months, miss," replied the poor mother with a sigh.
"Doesn't she ever sit up in the rocking-chair?"
"We have no rocking-chair, but sometimes when I go home from work, or the days I have no work, I hold her in my arms a bit to rest her."
"Has she got anything to amuse her?"
"Yes, she has a picture-book I got her last Christmas."
"Mamma!" exclaimed Marty, as soon as the door closed behind Mrs. Scott, "just think of lying in bed since Christmas, and now it's the first of May, with nothing but one picture-book!"
"Ah! Marty," said her mother, "there are many people in the world who have very hard times."
"Well, I don't know them all, and I couldn't help them all if I did; but I feel that I know Jennie real well, and mayn't I give her some of my books and playthings? a whole lot, so that she wont be so lonesome when her mother's away."
"I was thinking of going to see her soon, and if you wish you may go too and carry her a picture-book or something of the sort."
Marty in her usual wholesale way would have carried half her possessions to Jennie, but Mrs. Ashford prevailed upon her to limit her gift to a small book and a few bright cards.
"You would better see Jennie first," she said. "She may not care for books and may be too miserable to care much for playthings."
It happened the day they fixed upon to go Mrs. Ashford brought home from market a small measure of strawberries, though they were yet somewhat expensive. Marty, seeing them on the lunch-table, nearly went wild over them, being very fond of the fruit, but her mother noticed that after she was served she barely tasted them, and then sat with the spoon in her hand gravely thinking.
"Don't you like them after all, Marty?"
"O mamma, they're perfectly delicious! I was just thinking how good they would taste to Jennie. Can't we take her some of them?"
"I am afraid there are none to spare. You know Katie must have some, and I want to save a few for your papa."
"I might take her mine," said Marty slowly. "I've only eaten one." But she looked at the berries longingly.
"That would be too much of a sacrifice, I fear," said Mrs. Ashford, "but I'll tell you what we will do if you are willing. You set yours aside for Jennie and I will give you half of mine, and then we will all have some."
Marty was afraid it would not be fair to have her mother make a sacrifice also, but Mrs. Ashford declared she should like it of all things, and was very glad Marty had thought of taking some berries to Jennie.
So the strawberries were put in a basket with two glasses of jelly, some nice rusks that Katie was famous for making, and a closely-covered dish of chicken broth. Marty had her parcel ready, and they set out on their expedition.
When they reached the house and knocked at the door of the room Mrs. Scott had directed them to, a weak but shrill voice cried out, "Come!"
They entered a neat but poorly furnished room, of which the only occupant was a pale, thin girl, lying in what appeared to be a very uncomfortable position in bed.
"I suppose you are Jennie," said Mrs. Ashford, with her pleasant smile.
"Yes, ma'am," answered the girl, staring.
"I am Mrs. Ashford. My little girl and I have come to see you."
Jennie probably had few visitors, and she certainly did not know how to treat them. She did not ask her present ones to be seated, and merely continued to stare at them as well as she could stare in the doubled-up way she was lying.
"Your mother is out to-day, is she?" said Mrs. Ashford.
"Yes, but she's only gone for half a day. She ought to be home now," and then the poor child broke into a whining cry, saying,
"I wish she'd come and fix me, for I'm all slid down, and give me some dinner."
It is very hard to be polite and pleasant when you are faint, sick, and generally miserable.
"Wont you let me fix you?" asked Mrs. Ashford. She put the basket on the table, and taking off her gloves, approached the bed.
"Now, Marty," she said, "as I raise Jennie, you beat up the pillows."
Marty beat them with a will, and the sick girl was soon comfortably placed. She appeared greatly relieved and sighed from satisfaction. Mrs. Ashford, seeing a tin plate on the shelf, covered it with one of the napkins from her basket, and placing on it the small glass saucer of strawberries and a rusk, gave it to Marty to carry to Jennie. The wan face of the invalid flushed with pleasure when she saw the dainty food.
"For me!" she exclaimed.
"Of course it's for you," replied Marty, settling the plate on the bed.
Just then Mrs. Scott entered, almost breathless from her hurried walk, having been detained, and knowing Jennie would need her. She was exceedingly grateful when she found Mrs. Ashford and Marty ministering to her sick child.
"O mother!" cried the latter. "The lady lifted me up in bed; and see the strawberries! Some are for you."