FANNY, THE FLOWER-GIRL;
OR, HONESTY REWARDED.
TO WHICH ARE ADDED OTHER TALES.
BY SELINA BUNBURY.
FANNY, THE FLOWER-GIRL
"Come, buy my flowers; flowers fresh and fair. Come, buy my flowers. Please ma'am, buy a nice bunch of flowers, very pretty ones, ma'am. Please, sir, to have some flowers; nice, fresh ones, miss; only just gathered; please look."
Thus spoke, or sometimes sung, a little girl of perhaps eight years old, holding in her hand a neat small basket, on the top of which lay a clean white cloth, to shade from the sun the flowers which she praised so highly, and a little bunch of which she presented to almost every passer-by, in the hope of finding purchasers; while, after one had passed rudely on, another had looked at her young face and smiled, another had said, "What a nice child!" but not one had taken the flowers, and left the penny or the half-penny that was to pay for them the little girl, as if accustomed to all this, only arranged again the pretty nosegays that had been disarranged in the vain hope of selling them, and commenced anew in her pretty singing tone, "Come, buy my flowers; flowers fresh and fair."
"Your flowers are sadly withered, my little maid," said a kind, country-looking gentleman, who was buying some vegetables at a stall near her.
"Oh, sir! I have fresh ones, here, sir; please look;" and the child lifted up the cover of her basket, and drew from the very bottom a bunch of blossoms on which the dew of morning still rested.
"Please to see, sir; a pretty rose, sir, and these pinks and mignonette, and a bunch of jessamine, sir, and all for one penny."
"Bless thee! pretty dear!" said the old lame vegetable-seller, "thou'lt make a good market-woman one of these days. Your honor would do well to buy her flowers, sir, she has got no mother or father, God help her, and works for a sick grandmother."
"Poor child!" said the old gentleman. "Here, then, little one, give me three nice nosegays, and there is sixpence for you."
With delight sparkling in every feature of her face, and her color changed to crimson with joy, the little flower-girl received in one hand the unusual piece of money; and setting her basket on the ground, began hastily and tremblingly to pick out nearly half its contents as the price of the sixpence; but the gentleman stooped down, and taking up at random three bunches of the flowers, which were not the freshest, said,
"Here, these will do; keep the rest for a more difficult customer. Be a good child; pray to God, and serve Him, and you will find He is the Father of the fatherless."
And so he went away; and the flower-girl, without waiting to put her basket in order, turned to the old vegetable-seller, and cried, "Sixpence! a whole sixpence, and all at once. What will grandmother say now? See!" and opening her hand, she displayed its shining before her neighbor's eyes.
"Eh!" exclaimed the old man, as he approached his eyes nearer to it. "Eh! what is this? why thou hast twenty sixpences there; this is a half-sovereign!"
"Twenty sixpences! why the gentleman said, there is sixpence for thee," said the child.
"Because he didn't know his mistake," replied the other; "I saw him take the piece out of his waistcoat-pocket without looking."
"Oh dear! what shall I do?" cried the little girl.
"Why, thou must keep it, to be sure," replied the old man; "give it to thy grandmother, she will know what to do with it, I warrant thee."
"But I must first try to find the good gentleman, and tell him of his mistake," said the child. "I know what grandmother would say else; and he cannot be far off, I think, because he was so fat; he will go slow, I am sure, this hot morning. Here, Mr. Williams, take care of my basket, please, till I come back."
And without a word more, the flower-girl put down her little basket at the foot of the vegetable-stall, and ran away as fast as she could go.
When she turned out of the market-place, she found, early as it was, that the street before her was pretty full; but as from the passage the gentleman had taken to leave the market-place, she knew he could only have gone in one direction, she had still hopes of finding him; and she ran on and on, until she actually thought she saw the very person before her; he had just taken off his hat, and was wiping his forehead with his handkerchief.
"That is him," said the little flower-girl, "I am certain;" but just as she spoke, some persons came between her and the gentleman, and she could not see him. Still she kept running on; now passing off the foot-path into the street, and then seeing the fat gentleman still before her; and then again getting on the foot-path, and losing sight of him, until at last she came up quite close to him, as he was walking slowly, and wiping the drops of heat from his forehead.
The poor child was then quite out of breath; and when she got up to him she could not call out to him to stop, nor say one word; so she caught hold of the skirt of his coat, and gave it a strong pull.
The gentleman started, and clapped one hand on his coat-pocket, and raised up his cane in the other, for he was quite sure it was a pickpocket at his coat. But when he turned, he saw the breathless little flower-girl, and he looked rather sternly at her, and said,
"Well, what do you want; what are you about? eh!"
"Oh, sir!" said the girl; and then she began to cough, for her breath was quite spent. "See, sir; you said you gave me sixpence, and Mr. Williams says there are twenty sixpences in this little bit of money."
"Dear me!" said the gentleman; "is it possible? could I have done such a thing?" and he began to fumble in his waistcoat pocket.
"Well, really it is true enough," he added, as he drew out a sixpence. "See what it is to put gold and silver together."
"I wish he would give it to me," thought the little flower-girl; "how happy it would make poor granny; and perhaps he has got a good many more of these pretty gold pieces."
But the old gentleman put out his hand, and took it, and turned it over and over, and seemed to think a little; and then he put his hand into his pocket again, and took out his purse; and he put the half- sovereign into the purse, and took out of it another sixpence.
"Well," he said, "there is the sixpence I owe you for the flowers; you have done right to bring me back this piece of gold; and there is another sixpence for your race; it is not a reward, mind, for honesty is only our duty, and you only did what is right; but you are tired, and have left your employment, and perhaps lost a customer, so I give you the other sixpence to make you amends."
"Thank you, sir," said the flower-girl, curtseying; and taking the two sixpences into her hand with a delighted smile, was going to run back again, when the old gentleman, pulling out a pocket-book, said, "Stay a moment; you are an orphan, they tell me; what is your name?"
"Please, I don't know, sir; grandmother is Mrs. Newton, sir; but she says she is not my grandmother either, sir."
"Well, tell me where Mrs. Newton lives," said the gentleman, after looking at her a minute or so, as if trying to make out what she meant.
So Fanny told him, and he wrote it down in his pocket-book, and then read over what he had written to her, and she said it was right.
"Now, then, run away back," said he, "and sell all your flowers, if you can, before they wither, for they will not last long this warm day; flowers are like youth and beauty—do you ever think of that? even the rose withereth afore it groweth up." And this fat gentleman looked very sad, for he had lost all his children in their youth.
"O yes! sir; I know a verse which says that," replied Fanny. "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of grass—but good morning, and thank you, sir," and away Fanny ran.
And now, before going on with my story, I must go back to tell who and what Fanny, the flower-girl, was.
Mrs. Newton, whom she called her grandmother, was now a poor old woman, confined to her bed by a long and trying illness, that had nearly deprived her of the use of her limbs. But she had not been always thus afflicted. Some years before, Mrs. Newton lived in a neat cottage near the road-side, two or three miles from one of the great sea-port towns of England. Her husband had good employment, and they were both comfortable and happy.
Just eight years from this time, it happened that one warm summer's day, Mrs. Newton went to look out from her cottage door down the road, and she saw a young woman standing there, leaning against a tree, and looking very faint and weak.
She was touched with pity and asked the poor traveller to walk into her house and rest. The young woman thankfully consented, for she said she was very ill; but she added, that her husband was coming after her, having been obliged to turn back for a parcel that was left behind at the house where they had halted some time before, and therefore she would sit near the door and watch for him.
Before, however, the husband came, the poor woman was taken dreadfully ill; and when he did arrive, good Mrs. Newton could not bear to put the poor creature out of the house in such a state; she became worse and worse. In short, that poor young woman was Fanny's mother, and when little Fanny was born, that poor sick mother died, and Fanny never saw a mother's smile.
The day after the young woman's death, kind Mrs. Newton came into the room where her cold body was laid out on the bed; and there was her husband, a young, strong-looking man, sitting beside it; his elbows were on his knees, and his face was hid in his open hands.
Mrs. Newton had the baby in her arms, and she spoke to its father as she came in; he looked up to her; his own face was as pale as death; and he looked at her without saying a word. She saw he was in too much grief either to speak or weep. So she went over silently to him, and put the little baby into his arms, and then said, "May the Lord look down with pity on you both."
As soon as the unhappy young man heard these compassionate words, and saw the face of his pretty, peaceful babe, he burst into tears; they rolled in large drops down on the infant's head.
Then in a short time he was able to speak, and he told Mrs. Newton his sad little history; how he had no one in the whole world to look with pity on him, or his motherless child; and how God alone was his hope in this day of calamity. His father had been displeased with him because he had married that young woman, whom he dearly loved; and he had given him some money that was his portion, and would do nothing else for him. The young man had taken some land and a house, but as the rent was too high, he could not make enough of the land to pay it; so he had been obliged to sell all his goods, and he had only as much money left as would, with great saving, carry him to America, where he had a brother who advised him to go out there.
"And now," said he, looking over at the pale face of his dear wife, "What shall I do with the little creature she has left me? how shall I carry it over the wide ocean without a mother to care for it, and nurse it?"
"You cannot do so," said Mrs. Newton, wiping her eyes; "leave it with me; I have no children of my own, my husband would like to have one; this babe shall lie in my bosom, and be unto me as a daughter. I will nurse it for you until you are settled in America, and send or come for it."
The young man wept with gratitude; he wanted to know how he was to repay Mrs. Newton, but she said for the present she did not want payment, that it would be a pleasure to her to have the baby; and it would be time enough to talk about payment when the father was able to claim it, and take it to a home.
So the next day they buried the poor young woman, and soon after the young man went away and sailed off to America, and from that day to this Mrs. Newton had never heard anything of him.
As she had said, that poor little motherless babe lay in her bosom, and was unto her as a daughter; she loved it; she loved it when it was a helpless little thing, weak and sickly; she loved it when it grew a pretty lively baby, and would set its little feet on her knees, and crow and caper before her face; she loved it when it began to play around her as she sat at work, to lisp out the word "Ganny," for she taught it to call her grandmother; she loved it when it would follow her into her nice garden, and pick a flower and carry it to her, as she sat in the little arbor; and she, holding the flower, would talk to it of God who made the flower, and made the bee that drew honey from the flower, and made the sun that caused the flower to grow, and the light that gave the flower its colors, and the rain that watered it, and the earth that nourished it. And she loved that child when it came back from the infant school, and climbed up on her lap, or stood with its hands behind its back, to repeat some pretty verses about flowers, or about the God who made them. That child was Fanny, the flower-girl; and ah! how little did good Mrs. Newton think she would be selling flowers in the streets to help to support her.
But it came to pass, that when Fanny was nearly six years old, Mrs. Newton's husband fell very ill; it was a very bad, and very expensive illness, for poor Mrs. Newton was so uneasy, she would sometimes have two doctors to see him; but all would not do; he died: and Mrs. Newton was left very poorly off.
In a short time she found she could not keep on her pretty cottage; she was obliged to leave it; and the church where she had gone every Sunday for so many years; and the church-yard where her husband was buried, and little Fanny's mother; and the infant school where Fanny learned so much; and the dear little garden, and the flowers that were Fanny's teachers and favorites. Oh! how sorry was poor Mrs. Newton. But even a little child can give comfort; and so little Fanny, perhaps without thinking to do so, did; for when Mrs. Newton for the last time sat out in her garden, and saw the setting sun go down, and told Fanny she was going to leave that pretty garden, where she had from infancy been taught to know God's works, the child looked very sad and thoughtful indeed, for some time; but afterwards coming up to her, said,
"But, grandmother, we shall not leave God, shall we? for you say God is everywhere, and He will be in London too."
And oh! how that thought consoled poor Mrs. Newton; she did not leave God,—God did not leave her.
So she left the abode of her younger years—the scene of her widowhood; and she went away to hire a poor lodging in the outlets of London; but her God was with her, and the child she had nursed in her prosperity was her comfort in adversity.
Matters, however, went no better when she lived with little Fanny in a poor lodging. She had only one friend in London, and she lived at a distance from her. Mrs. Newton fell ill; there was no one to nurse her but Fanny; she could no longer pay for her schooling, and sometimes she was not able to teach her herself.
All this seemed very hard, and very trying; and one would have been tempted to think that God was no longer with poor Mrs. Newton; that when she had left her cottage she had left the God who had been so good to her.
But this would have been a great mistake. God was with Mrs. Newton; He saw fit to try and afflict her; but He gave her strength and patience to bear her trials and afflictions.
One afternoon her friend came to pay her a visit: she was going out a little way into the country to see a relation who had a very fine nursery-garden, and she begged Mrs. Newton to let little Fanny go with her own daughter. Mrs. Newton was very glad to do so for she thought it would be a nice amusement for Fanny.
The nurseryman was very kind to her; and when she was going away gave her a fine bunch of flowers. Fanny was in great delight, for she loved flowers and knew her dear grandmother loved them too. But as she was coming back, and just as she was entering the streets, she met a lady and a little boy of about three years old, who directly held out his hands and began to beg for the flowers. His mamma stopped, and as Fanny was very poorly dressed, she thought it probable that she would sell her nosegay, and so she said,
"Will you give that bunch of flowers to my little boy, and I will pay you for it?"
"Please, ma'am, they are for grandmother," said Fanny blushing, and thinking she ought to give the flowers directly, and without money to any one who wished for them.
"But perhaps your grand-mother would rather have this sixpence?" said the lady. And Mrs. Newton's friend, who had just come up, said,
"Well, my dear, take the lady's sixpence, and let her have the flowers if she wishes for them."
So Fanny held the flowers to the lady, who took them and put the sixpence in her hand. Fanny wished much to ask for one rose, but she thought it would not be right to do so, when the lady had bought them all: and she looked at them so very longingly that the lady asked if she were sorry to part with them.
"Oh! no, ma'am," cried her friend, "she is not at all sorry—come now, don't be a fool, child," she whispered, and led Fanny on.
"That is a good bargain for you," she added as she went on; "that spoiled little master has his own way, I think; it would be well for you, and your grandmother too, if you could sell sixpenny worth of flowers every day."
"Do you think I could, ma'am?" said Fanny, opening her hand and looking at her sixpence, "this will buy something to do poor granny good; do you think Mr. Simpson would give me a nosegay every day?"
"If you were to pay him for it, he would," said her friend; "suppose you were to go every morning about five o'clock, as many others do, and buy some flowers, and then sell them at the market; you might earn something, and that would be better than being idle, when poor Mrs. Newton is not able to do for herself and you."
So when Fanny got back, she gave her dear grandmother the sixpence.
"The Lord be praised!" said Mrs. Newton, "for I scarcely knew how I was to get a loaf of bread for thee or myself to-morrow."
And then Fanny told her the plan she had formed about the flowers.
Mrs. Newton was very sorry to think her dear child should be obliged to stand in a market place, or in the public streets, to offer anything for sale; but she said, "Surely it is Providence has opened this means of gaining a little bread, while I am laid here unable to do anything; and shall I not trust that Providence with the care of my darling child?"
So from this time forth little Fanny set off every morning before five o'clock, to the nursery garden; and the nursery-man was very kind to her, and always gave her the nicest flowers; and instead of sitting down with the great girls, who went there also for flowers or vegetables, and tying them up in bunches, Fanny put them altogether in her little basket, and went away to her grandmother's room, and spread them out on the little table that poor Mrs. Newton might see them, while the sweet dew was yet sparkling on their bright leaves.
Then she would tell how beautiful the garden looked at that sweet early hour; and Mrs. Newton would listen with pleasure, for she loved a garden. She used to say, that God placed man in a garden when he was happy and holy; and when he was sinful and sorrowful, it was in a garden that the blessed Saviour wept and prayed for the sin of the world; and when his death had made atonement for that sin, it was in a garden his blessed body was laid.
Mrs. Newton taught Fanny many things from flowers; she was not a bad teacher, in her own simple way, but Jesus Christ, who was the best teacher the world ever had, instructed his disciples from vines and lilies, corn and fruit, and birds, and all natural things around them.
And while Fanny tied up her bunches of flowers, she would repeat some verses from the Holy Scriptures, such as this, "O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches." And afterwards she would repeat such pretty lines as these:—
"Not worlds on worlds, in varied form, Need we, to tell a God is here; The daisy, saved from winter's storm, Speaks of his hand in lines as clear.
"For who but He who formed the skies, And poured the day-spring's living flood, Wondrous alike in all He tries, Could rear the daisy's simple bud!
"Mould its green cup, its wiry stem, Its fringed border nicely spin; And cut the gold-embossed gem, That, shrined in silver, shines within;
"And fling it, unrestrained and free, O'er hill, and dale, and desert sod, That man, where'er he walks, may see, In every step the trace of God."
"And I, too, have had my daisy given to me," poor Mrs. Newton would say, with tearful eyes, as she gazed on her little flower-girl; "I too have my daisy, and though it may be little cared for in the world, or trodden under foot of men, yet will it ever bear, I trust, the trace of God."
But it happened the very morning that the gentleman had given Fanny the half-sovereign in mistake, Mrs. Newton's money was quite spent; and she was much troubled, thinking the child must go the next morning to the garden without money to pay for her flowers, for she did not think it likely she would sell enough to buy what they required, and pay for them also; so she told Fanny she must ask Mr. Simpson to let her owe him for a day or two until she got a little money she expected.
Fanny went therefore, and said this to the kind man at the garden; and he put his hand on her head, and said, "My pretty little girl, you may owe me as long as you please, for you are a good child, and God will prosper you."
So Fanny went back in great delight, and told this to Mrs. Newton; and to cheer her still more, she chose for her morning verse, the advice that our Lord gave to all those who were careful and troubled about the things of this life "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you that Solomon in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, oh ye of little faith?"
And then she repeated some verses which both she and Mrs. Newton liked very much.
"Lo! the lilies of the field, How their leaves instruction yield! Hark to nature's lesson, given By the blessed birds of heaven.
"Say with richer crimson glows, The kingly mantle than the rose; Say are kings more richly dressed, Than the lily's glowing vest!
"Grandmother I forget the next verse," said Fanny, interrupting herself; "I know it is something about lilies not spinning; but then comes this verse—
"Barns, nor hoarded store have we"—
"It is not the lilies, grandmother, but the blessed birds that are speaking now—
"Barns, nor hoarded store have we, Yet we carol joyously; Mortals, fly from doubt and sorrow, God provideth for the morrow."
Poor Mrs. Newton clasped her thin hands, and looked up, and prayed like the disciples, "Lord, increase our faith!"
"Eh!" said she, afterwards, "is it not strange that we can trust our Lord and Saviour with the care of our souls for eternity, and we cannot trust Him with that of our bodies for a day."
Well! this was poor Mrs. Newton's state on that day, when the gentleman gave Fanny the half-sovereign instead of sixpence, for her flowers.
When the little flower-girl came back from her race with her two sixpences, she found the old vegetable-seller had got her three or four pennies more, by merely showing her basket, and telling why it was left at his stall; and so every one left a penny for the honest child, and hoped the gentleman would reward her well. The old man at the stall said it was very shabby of him only to give her sixpence; but when she went home with three sixpences and told Mrs. Newton this story, she kissed her little girl very fondly, but said the gentleman was good to give her sixpence, for he had no right to give her anything, she had only done her duty.
"But, grandmother," said Fanny, "when I saw that pretty half- sovereign dropping down to his purse, I could not help wishing he would give it to me."
"And what commandment did you break then, my child?"
"Not the eighth—if I had kept the half-sovereign I should have broken it," said Fanny, "for that says, thou shalt not steal—what commandment did I break, grandmother; for I did not steal?"
"When we desire to have what is not ours Fanny, what do we do? we covet; do we not?"
"Oh! yes—thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods," cried Fanny, "that is the tenth commandment; and that half-sovereign was my neighbor's goods, and that fat gentleman was my neighbor. But, grandmother, it is very easy to break the tenth commandment."
"Very easy indeed, my dear," said Mrs. Newton, with first a faint smile, and then a deep sigh, "therefore," she added, "we ought always to pray like David, 'Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.'"
There is a very common saying, that when things are at the worst they mend. It is hard to say when matters are at the worst; poor Mrs. Newton knew they might yet be worse with her; but certainly, they were very bad; and a few days after this, as Fanny was tying up her flowers as usual, she lay on her bed thinking what she was to do, and praying that God would direct her to some way of providing for the poor child.
While she was thinking and praying, tears stole down her face; Fanny saw them, and stopped her work, and looked sorrowfully at her—
"Now you are crying again, grandmother, she said," and that's what makes me break the tenth commandment, for I can't help wishing the gentleman had given me that half-sovereign. But I will say the verses again to-day about the lilies and birds; for you know I said that morning—
'Mortals fly from doubt and sorrow, God provideth for the morrow,'
and when I came back with my three sixpences, you said God had provided for the morrow, for you had only two or three pennies in the house when I went out."
"And how many pennies, pray, have you in the house to-day?" said a rather gruff voice at the door.
Mrs. Newton and Fanny started; but there, standing at the door, Fanny saw the fat gentleman who had given her the half-sovereign.
"So you have been wishing for my gold, you little rogue," he said, looking as if he meant to frighten her. "Never mind," he added, smiling, "you are a good child, and did what was right; and I always meant to bring it back to you, but I have been kept rather busy these few days past. There it is for you, and try not to break the tenth commandment again." Then turning to Mrs. Newton, he said, "We should not expect rewards, ma'am, for doing our duty, but if children do not meet with approbation when they do right, they may be discouraged, and perhaps think there is no use in being good: for they are silly little creatures, you know, and do not always recollect that God will reward the just one day if men do not."
"Oh! sir!" said poor Mrs. Newton, but the tears streamed down, and she could not say a word more. And there Fanny sat gazing on the half- sovereign, as if she was half stupefied.
"Well, take up that bit of gold, and do what you like with it," said the fat gentleman; "and then run off to sell your flowers, for we must not be idle because we have got enough for to-day. But do what you like with that money."
Fanny rose up from her seat, and looking very much as if she was moving in her sleep, with her wondering eyes fixed on the shining piece that lay in her hand, she walked slowly over to Mrs. Newton, and putting it into hers, said,—
"May I go to the grocer's now, grandmother, and get you the tea for your breakfast?"
"Yes, my love," said Mrs. Newton, kissing her, "and take care of this, and bring back the change carefully." Then turning to the gentleman, she said, "I am not young, sir, and I am very, very poorly; I find it hard to go without my tea, but it is a luxury I have been obliged latterly to forego."
"But could you not get tea on credit, from the grocer?" said the gentleman.
"Oh! yes, I believe so; but there would be no use in getting credit;" said Mrs. Newton, "for I am not certain of being better able to pay next week than I am this week; and when I have not the money to pay for what I wish to get, it is better to do without it, than to add to one's anxieties by running in debt. Do you not think so, sir?"
"Ma'am," said the old gentleman, sitting down, and resting his large silver-topped stick between his knees, "it is of very little consequence what I think; but if you wish to know this, I will tell you that I think very well both of you and your little girl, who, as I have heard, for I have made inquiries about you both, is a dependant on your bounty. You have trained her up well, though I wouldn't praise the child to her face; and so take as much tea as you like till you hear from me again, and your grocer need be in no trouble about his bill."
So after the fat gentleman had made this rather bluff, but honest- hearted speech, and poor Mrs. Newton had wept, and thanked him in language that sounded more polite, the good old gentleman told her his whole history.
He began the world very poor, and without relations able to assist him; he was at last taken into the employment of a young merchant in the city; he had a turn for business, and having been able to render some important services to this young man, he was finally, to his own surprise, and that of every one else, taken into partnership.
"During all this time," said he, "I was attached from my boyhood to the daughter of the poor schoolmaster who first taught me to read; I would not marry her while I was poor, for I thought that would be to make her wretched instead of happy; but when I was taken into partnership I thought my way was clear; I went off to Bethnal Green, and told Mary, and our wedding-day was settled at once. Well, we were glad enough, to be sure; but a very few days after, my partner called me into the private room, and said he wanted to consult me. He seemed in high spirits, and he told me he had just heard of a famous speculation, by which we could both make our fortunes at once. He explained what it was, and I saw with shame and regret, that no really honest man could join in it: I told him so; I told him plainly I would have nothing to do with it. You may think what followed; the deeds of partnership were not yet signed, and in short, in two or three days more I found myself poor Jack Walton again—indeed, poorer than I was before I was made one of the firm of Charters and Walton, for I had lost my employment.
"Often and often I used to think that David said, he had never seen the righteous forsaken; yet I was suffering while the unrighteous were prospering. It was a sinful, and a self-righteous thought, and I was obliged to renounce it; when, after some time of trial, a gentleman sent for me—a man of wealth, and told me his son was going into business on his own account; that he had heard of my character, and of the cause of my leaving Mr. Charters; that he thought I would be just such a steady person as he wished his son to be with. In short, I began with him on a handsome salary; was soon made his partner; married Mary, and had my snug house in the country. Mr. Charters succeeded in that speculation; entered into several others, some of which were of a more fraudulent nature, failed, and was ruined. He ran off to America, and no one knows what became of him. I have left business some years. I purchased a nice property in the country, built a Church upon it, and have ever thanked God, who never forsakes those who wish to act righteously.
"It pleased God to take all my sweet children from me—every state has its trials—the youngest was just like your little flower-girl."
Mrs. Newton was much pleased with this story; she then told her own, and little Fanny's. The fat gentleman's eyes were full of tears when she ended; when he was going away he put another half-sovereign into her hand, and saying, "The first was for the child," walked out of the house.
A short time afterwards, a clergyman came to see Mrs. Newton—she was surprised; he sat and talked with her some time, and seemed greatly pleased with her sentiments, and all she told him of herself and Fanny. He then told her that he was the clergyman whom Mr. Walton, on the recommendation of the bishop of the diocese, had appointed to the church he had built; that Mr. Walton had sent him to see her, and had told him, if he was satisfied with all he saw and heard, to invite Mrs. Newton and the little flower-girl to leave London, and go and live in one of the nice widows' houses, which good Mr. Walton had built, near the pretty village where he lived.
Then there was great joy in poor Mrs. Newton's humble abode; Mrs. Newton was glad for Fanny's sake, and Fanny was glad for Mrs. Newton's sake, so both were glad, and both said—
"Mortals fly from doubt and sorrow, God provideth for the morrow."
But the only difference was, that Mrs. Newton said it with watery eyes and clasped hands, lying on her bed and looking up to heaven; and Fanny—merry little thing!—said it frisking and jumping about the room, clapping her hands together, and laughing her joy aloud.
Well, there was an inside place taken in the B—— coach, for Mrs. Newton and Fanny; and not only that, but kind Mrs. Walton sent up her own maid to London, to see that everything was carefully done, as the poor woman was ill, and help to pack up all her little goods; and, with her, she sent an entire new suit of clothes for the flower-girl.
They set off, and when they got near to the village the coachman stopped, and called out to know if it were the first, or the last of the red cottages he was to stop at; and Mrs. Walton's maid said, "The last,—the cottage in the garden." So they stopped at such a pretty cottage, with a little garden before and behind it. Mr. Walton had known what it was to be poor, and so, when he grew rich, he had built these neat houses, for those who had been rich and become poor. They were intended chiefly for the widows of men of business, whose character had been good, but who had died without being able to provide for their families. He had made an exception in Mrs. Newton's case, and gave her one of the best houses, because it had a pretty garden, which he thought others might not care for so much.
They went inside, and there was such a neat kitchen, with tiles as red as tiles could be; a little dresser, with all sorts of useful things; a nice clock ticking opposite the fire-place, and a grate as bright as blacklead could make it. And then there was such a pretty little room at one side, with a rose tree against the window; and a little shelf for books against the wall; and a round table, and some chairs, and an easy couch. And there were two nice bedrooms overhead; and, better than all these, was a pretty garden. Oh! how happy was the little flower-girl; and how thankful was poor Mrs. Newton! The first thing she did was to go down on her knees and thank God.
Then Fanny was to go to the school, for Mrs. Walton had her own school, as well as the national school; but Fanny did not know enough to go to it, so she was sent to the national school first, and afterwards she went to the other, where about a dozen girls were instructed in all things that would be useful to them through life— whether they were to earn their bread at service, or to live in their own homes as daughters, wives, or mothers.
But every morning, before she went out, she did everything for her dear, good grandmother. She made her breakfast; she arranged her room; and she gathered some fresh flowers in the garden, and put them on the table in the little parlor. Oh! how happy was Fanny when she looked back, and saw how nice everything looked, and then went out singing to her school—
"Barns, nor hoarded store have we, Yet we carol joyously; Mortals flee from doubt and sorrow, God provideth for the morrow."
But God will not provide for the morrow, where people will do nothing to provide for themselves; and so Fanny, the flower-girl, knew, for surely God had blessed the labor of her childish hands.
Thus passed time away; and Fanny, under the instruction that she had at church, at school, and at home, "grew in grace, and in the knowledge and love of God, and of Jesus Christ our Lord."
Good Mrs. Newton was much better in health, and used to walk about sometimes without any support but Fanny's arm, and so time went on till Fanny came to be about fifteen; and then Mrs. Newton, who was not always free from "doubt and sorrow," began to think what was to become of her if she were to die.
So one day, when kind Mr. Walton, whom Fanny used once to call the fat gentleman, came in to see her, Mrs. Newton told him that she was beginning to feel anxious that Fanny should be put in a way of earning her own bread, in case she should be taken from her.
Mr. Walton listened to her, and then he said,—
"You are very right and prudent, Mrs. Newton, but never mind that; I have not forgotten my little flower-girl, and her race after me that hot morning; if you were dead, I would take care of her; and if we both were dead, Mrs. Walton would take care of her; and if Mrs. Walton were dead, God would take care of her. I see you cannot yet learn the little lines she is so fond of—
"'Mortals flee from doubt and sorrow, God provideth for the morrow.'"
Well, not very long after this conversation came a very warm day, and in all the heat of the sun came Mr. Walton, scarcely able to breathe, into Mrs. Newton's cottage; he was carrying his hat in one hand, and a newspaper in the other, and his face was very red and hot.
"Well, Mrs. Newton," said he, "what is all this about?—I can't make it out; here is your name in the paper!"
"My name, sir!" said Mrs. Newton, staring at the paper.
"Aye, indeed is it," said Mr. Walton, putting on his spectacles, and opening the paper at the advertisement side,—"see here!"
And he began to read,—
"If Mrs. Newton, who lived about fifteen years ago near the turnpike on the P— road, will apply to Messrs. Long and Black, she will hear of something to her advantage. Or should she be dead, any person who can give information respecting her and her family, will be rewarded."
Mrs. Newton sat without the power of speech—so much was she surprised; at last she said, "It is Fanny's father!—I know, I am sure it can be no one else!"
Mr. Walton looked surprised, for he had never thought of this; he was almost sorry to think his little flower-girl should have another protector. At length he said it must be as Mrs. Newton thought, and he would go up to London himself next day, and see Mr. Long and Mr. Black. So he went; and two days afterwards, when Fanny had returned from Mrs. Walton's school, and was sitting with Mrs. Newton in the little shady arbor they had made in the garden, and talking over early days, when they used to sit in another arbor, and Fanny used to learn her first lessons from flowers, then came Mr. Walton walking up the path towards them, and with him was a fine-looking man, of about forty-five years of age.
Mrs. Newton trembled, for when she looked in his face she remembered the features; and she said to herself, "Now, if he takes my Fanny from me?—and if he should be a bad man?" But when this man came nearer, he stepped hastily beyond Mr. Walton, and catching Mrs. Newton's hands, he was just going to drop on his knees before her, when he saw Fanny staring at him; and a father's feelings overcame every other, and with a cry of joy he extended his arms, and exclaiming "my child!'—my child!" caught her to his breast.
Then there followed so much talk, while no one knew scarcely what was saying; and it was Mr. Walton, chiefly, that told how Fanny's father had had so much to struggle against, and so much hardship to go through, but how he had succeeded at last, and got on very well; now he had tried then to find out Mrs. Newton and his dear little Fanny, but could not, because Mrs. Newton had changed her abode; how, at last, he had met with a good opportunity to sell his land, and had now come over with the money he had earned, to find his child, and repay her kind benefactor.
Oh, what a happy evening was that in the widow's cottage! the widow's heart sang for joy. The widow, and she that had always thought herself an orphan, were ready to sing together—
"Mortals flee from doubt and sorrow, God provideth for the morrow."
Mrs. Newton found that Mr. Marsden, that was the name of Fanny's father, was all that she could desire Fanny's father to be:—a Christian in deed and in truth; one thankful to God and to her, for the preservation and care of his child; and who would not willingly separate Fanny from her, or let her leave Fanny.
As he found Mrs. Newton did not wish to leave kind Mr. Walton's neighborhood, and that his daughter was attached to it also, Mr. Marsden took some land and a nice farm-house, not far from the Manor House, where Mr. Walton lived. He had heard all about the half- sovereign, and loved his little flower-girl before he saw her.
So Mrs. Newton had to leave her widow's house; and she shed tears of joy, and regret, and thankfulness, as she did so; she had been happy there, and had had God's blessing upon her and her dear girl.
But Fanny was glad to receive her dear, dear grandmother into her own father's house; her own house too; and she threw her arms round the old lady's neck, when they got there, and kissed her over and over again, and said, "Ah! grandmother, do you recollect when I was a little girl tying up my flowers while you lay sick in bed, I used to say so often—
"'Mortals flee from doubt and sorrow, God provideth for the morrow.'"
They had a large garden at the farm-house, and Fanny and Mrs. Newton improved it; and Mrs. Newton would walk out, leaning on Fanny's arm, and look at the lilies and roses, and jessamine, and mignonette, and talk of past times, and of their first garden, and their first flowers, and of their first knowledge of the God who made them; who watches the opening bud, and the infant head; who sends his rain upon the plant, and the dew of his blessing upon the child who is taught to know and love Him. And Fanny's father, when he joined them, talked over his trials and dangers from the day that his poor wife lay dead, and his helpless baby lay in his arms, and then he blessed the God who had led him all his life long, and crowned him with loving- kindness.
Three years passed, and Fanny, the little flower-girl, was a fine young woman. A farmer's son in the neighborhood wished to get her for his wife; but her father was very sorry to think of her leaving him so soon for another home.
He spoke to Fanny about it, and said,—"My dear girl, I have no right to expect you should wish to stay with me, for I never was able to watch over your childhood or to act a father's part by you."
And Fanny answered, with a blush and smile, "And I, father, was never able to act a daughter's part by you until now, and therefore I think you have every right to expect I should do so for some time longer. I have no objections to be Charles Brierley's wife, and I have told him so; but we are both young, and at all events I will not leave you."
"Now," said Mrs. Newton, who was sitting by, "instead of that young man taking more land, which is very dear about here, would it not be a good plan if he were to come and live with you, Mr. Marsden, and help you with the farm."
And Mr. Marsden said, "That is the very thing; I will go and speak to him about it; and Fanny and her husband can have the house, and farm, and all, as much as they please now, and entirely at my death."
So it was all settled; and Fanny was married at the village church, and Mr. and Mrs. Walton were at the wedding. Good Mrs. Newton lived on at the farm-house, and when Fanny's first child was born, it was put into her arms. Then she thought of the time when Fanny herself was laid in the same arms; and she blessed God in her heart, who had enabled her to be of use to one human creature, and to one immortal soul and mind, while she passed through this life to the life everlasting.
Joy and sorrow are always mingled on this earth; so it came to pass that before Fanny's first child could walk alone, good, kind Mrs. Newton died, and was buried. As a shock of corn cometh in, in its season, so she sank to rest, and was gathered into the garner of her Lord. But—
"The memory of the just Is blessed, though they sleep in dust;"
and Fanny's children, and children's children, will learn to love that memory.
Many a day, sitting at work in her garden, with her little ones around her, Fanny let them gather some flowers, and talk to her about them; and then they would beg, as a reward for good conduct, that she would tell them about her dear grandmother and her own childish days; and much as children love to hear stories, never did any more delight in a story, than did these children, in the story of Fanny, the Flower-Girl.
Little Frances was crying; her sister Mary hearing her sobs, ran in haste to inquire what had happened; and saw her sitting in a corner of the nursery, looking rather sulky, as if she had recently received some disappointment.
"What is the matter, dear little Frances? why do you cry so?"
Frances pouted, and would make no reply.
"Tell me, dear Frances; perhaps I can do something for you."
"Nothing, Mary," she sobbed, "only"—
"Only what, little Frances? It cannot be nothing that makes you cry so bitterly."
"Only mamma would not give—" she looked a little ashamed, and did not finish her sentence.
"What would she not give?"
"Nothing!" Frances shook her elbows, as if troubled by Mary's inquiries, but the tears continued flowing down her cheeks.
Just at that moment their sister Anne came into the room, singing in the joy of her heart, with a piece of plum-cake in her hand, holding it up, and turning it about before her sisters to exhibit her newly-acquired possession, on which Frances fixed her eyes with eager gaze, and the tears flowed still faster, accompanied with a kind of angry sob.
"Frances! what is the matter that you are crying so? see what I have got! you will spoil all the happiness of our feast."
At the word feast, Frances' tears seemed arrested, and her mouth looked as if she were going to smile. She left the corner, and immediately prepared to do her part for the feast, setting a little square table, and then, drawing her own little stool, seated herself in readiness as a guest.
"Stay," said Anne, "we will make some little paper dishes and plates, and divide the cake;" so saying, she began the operation, and laying down the paper dishes, "there at the top, see! there shall be two chickens, at the bottom a piece of beef, at one side some potatoes, and at the other some cauliflower;" breaking her cake into small pieces to correspond to her imagined provision.
Frances looked very impatient at the long preparation, and as Anne seated herself, inviting Mary to partake, Frances stretched out her hand to take the beef for her own portion.
"No, no, Frances, you must not help yourself, you know; wait until we all begin in order."
Frances very reluctantly withdrew her hand, and, whilst she waited, betrayed her impatience by a little jerking motion of the body, that threw her breast against the table, as if she would beat time into quicker motion.
"O we must not forget William!" Anne exclaimed; "where is he? he must taste our feast; stay here, Mary, with Frances, and I will go and find him."
Away she ran, and left poor Frances in a fret at this additional delay, but she began to amuse herself by picking up the small crumbs that had been scattered on the stool, and at last proceeded to touch the beef and chickens.
"Do not do so, Frances," Mary said, in a reproving voice.
"Do not sit looking on, if you are so impatient; employ yourself, and get a seat ready for William."
"You may get it, Mary."
"Very well; only do not meddle with Anne's feast."
Mary had to go into another room for the seat, and whilst she was away, Frances quickly helped herself to half of the pieces which were on the dishes, and, when Mary returned, resumed her position as if nothing had happened. Mary was so busy in arranging the seats, that she did not observe what had been done.
Presently Anne came back, accompanied by her brother William; hastening to her place, and looking on her table, she started with surprise, and seemed to say to herself, as she gazed, How came I to make a mistake, an think my pieces of cake were larger? but the expression of her face called Mary's attention, who at once said,
"Anne, I am sure you placed larger pieces on your dishes."
"Indeed, I thought so, Mary; who has taken any?"
"I do not know."
"O you are only pretending, and you have been hiding some."
"No, Anne; I would not have said I do not know, if I had hid it."
"No, no more you would, dear Mary. Never mind," she said, glancing a look at Frances, not altogether without suspicion, "it is only to play with, it does not signify whether it is much or little.
"William, shall I help you to a little chicken?"
"O no, Anne, you have forgot, help the ladies first; and beside, you ought to have placed me at the bottom of the table to carve this dish. What is it?"
"O beef, very well. Come, Miss Frances, let me sit there, and you come to the side of the table."
In haste to begin the eating part of the play, she rose immediately to change places, when, to her disgrace, a quantity of crumbs, which had lodged unobserved in a fold of her frock, fell out, and disordered the neatness of the table.
"There!" said William, "we have no question to ask who took the liberty to lessen the dishes."
"For shame, William, I—"
"O Frances, take care what you say, tell no falsehoods; I will tell one truth, and say you are a greedy girl."
Frances began to cry again, "For shame, William, to call me names."
"I call no names, I only say what I think, and how can I help it, when it is only just now you cried so, because you said mamma had given me a larger piece of cake than yourself; for you must know," he continued, turning to Mary, "we have both had one piece before, and she half of mine to make her quiet; and then she cried again because a piece was put by for you and Anne, and she cannot be contented now, though Anne shares hers amongst us. If this is not being greedy, I do not know what greedy means. It is no names, it is only saying what a thing is."
"Now I know another thing," said Anne; "when mamma called me to receive my piece of cake, she said, 'And you shall take a piece also to Mary,' but when she unfolded the paper, there was only one piece; mamma did not say anything, but I think she thought something."
At this remark, Frances redoubled her crying, but, for the sake of a share of the present feast, did not attempt to leave the party. No more was said, and the feast was concluded in good humor by all except the conscious greedy girl, and they then all went into the garden together to finish their hour's recreation before they were called again to their lessons.
There was a little plantation of young fir-trees at one corner of the garden, intended to grow there for shelter from the north-west wind: the grass was so high amongst them, that the gardener had orders to go and carefully mow it down. He was engaged in the business when the children ran out to see him work.
"Hush! hush!" he exclaimed, as they approached, "I have just cleared a bough from the grass, and see what's there!"
All curiosity, they went forward on tip-toe, and were directed to something lodged on the spreading branch of a young larch.
"A bird's nest!" said William.
"A bird's nest!" they all repeated. "But what is in it, I cannot tell."
"Look steadily," said the gardener, "and you will find out."
It was difficult to trace what it was; something all in a heap, brown naked skin; alive, as might be known by the heaving breathing. William putting his finger to touch them, immediately four wide mouths stretched open, with little tongues raised, and the opening of their throats extended to the utmost.
"Look at the little things," said William; "they thought their mother was come when I touched the branch, and they have opened their mouths to be ready to receive what she would put in.
"They are blind!" said William.
"Yes, they cannot have been hatched more than two days."
"Will they take what the mother gives them?" asked William.
"Yes," said the man, "they trust her, and swallow down what she puts into their mouths."
"I wish the mother would come," said Anne.
"But she will not whilst we are here," William replied.
"Touch it again, William," said Frances.
William touched the edge of the nest "See!" said he, "they think the mother is come, they stretch, their months still wider."
"Hark!" said Mary, "what an impatient noise they make: they look ready to stretch themselves out of their nest, and as if their little mouths would tear."
"Poor little things! do not disappoint them, give them something," said Anne.
"We have not proper food for them," said William.
"I will run and fetch some crumbs," said Mary.
Mary soon returned with a piece of bread, and giving it to her brother as the most experienced, he broke it into extremely small crumbs, and, again touching the nest, awakened the expectation of the young birds: they opened their mouths wide, and as he dropped a small crumb into each, they moved their tongues, trying to make it pass down into their throat. "Poor little things, they cannot swallow well, they want the mother to put it gently down their throat with her beak."
"See! see!" said all the girls, "they want more, give them more."
William dropped his crumbs again.
"More, more, William; see! they are not satisfied."
"I dare not give them more for fear of killing them, we cannot feed them like the mother. We will stand still at a little distance, and you will see them go to sleep." When all was quiet, the little nestlings shut their mouths, and dropped their heads.
"I should like to see the mother feed them."
"You would see how much better she would do it than we can; perhaps, if we could conceal ourselves behind that laurel, she would come, but she will be very frightened, because all is so altered now the grass is cut down, and her nest is exposed; but I dare say she is not for off, she will be watching somewhere."
They took William's hint, and retreated behind the laurel; they had not waited ten minutes, before the hen bird flitted past, and, darting over the larch, as if to inspect whether her little brood was safe, she disappeared again. In a few minutes more, she returned, skimming round to reconnoitre that all was safe, she perched upon the nest. Instantly the little nestlings were awake to the summons of her touch and chirp, and, opening their mouths wide, were ready for what she would give. She dropt a small fly into the mouth of one of them, and, having no more, flew away to provide for the other hungry mouths as fast as she could. As soon as she was gone, they again shut their mouths, and dropt their heads in silence.
"What a little bit she gave them," said Frances.
"Yes," answered William, "but she knows it is plenty."
"How contented the others seem to wait till she comes again!"
"Yes, Mary," William again answered, unable to resist the comparison which had come to his mind, "they did not take the little bit away from the other. Shall we wait till she comes again?"
"Very well, I want to see whether the one that was fed first will take away the bit the others got."
The allusion made a little laugh, but, seeing that Frances understood and felt that it applied to her, Anne said, "Do not let us tease Frances; it is better to tell her at once what her fault is, than to seem to like to hurt her."
"Indeed, dear Anne, I have not spared to tell her, her fault, as she knows very well, for she has often given me reason, but I cannot make her ashamed of such things; and I know mamma is very uneasy to see it in her."
Frances looked grave, but did not cry; turning pale, however, she said, "O Mary take me out of this laurel—I am so sick!"
Mary hastened to take her into the freer air, but all in vain. The sisters were alarmed, and took her in to their mamma; who received her gravely, without expressing any concern for her indisposition.
"What can we do for Frances, mamma? Will you let her have your smelling bottle, or shall I run and get some sal volatile?"
"Neither, my dear Mary; it is an indisposition caused by her own selfish appetite, and probably the relief may be obtained by her stomach rejecting what she so improperly forced upon it. We will wait a short time, and if not, I will give her something less palatable, perhaps, than plum-cake, but necessary to remove it."
Frances was too ill to make any remark; she became paler still, and then quickly flushed almost a crimson color, her eyes were oppressed, and her eyebrows contracted, and she impatiently complained,
"O my head! how it beats! What shall I do, mamma?"
"Bear the consequences of your own inordinate appetite, Frances, and learn to subject it to the wholesome rules of temperance."
"O the nasty plum-cake! I wish you had not given me any, mamma."
"You once thought the plum-cake nice, and you would not be contented with the small portion I knew to be sufficient and safe for you."
"O my head! I think it is very cruel, mamma, that you do not pity me."
"I do pity you, Frances, and will take care of you now that I see you require help, as I perceive that you will not have any relief without medicine."
Frances began again to cry, "O, I am so sick! I cannot take medicine. I am sure I cannot."
"Come to your room, Frances; I shall give you something proper, and you had better lie down after you have taken it; you will, perhaps, drop into a sleep, and be well when you awake again." Her mamma took her hand and led her up stairs, and Frances knew very well it was in vain to make any objection, as her mamma always made a point of obedience. The medicine was administered, although for some time Frances refused to look at it. When she laid down, her mamma placed the pillow high under her head, and, drawing the curtain to shade the light, left the room that she might be perfectly quiet. And when she returned to the drawing-room, she inquired of the other children what they had been doing, and received a full account of the feast, and the bird's nest, and all the little circumstances of each.
It was time to resume their studies, and, except that Frances was not in her usual place, all things proceeded as before. When the lessons were finished, they entreated their mamma to go with them, and see the bird's nest."
"It is so pretty, mamma!" said Anne; "and they know when the mother comes, and they take what she puts into their mouths."
"We will first inquire after Frances," she answered; "if she is well enough, she can accompany us."
"I will run up, if you will be putting on your bonnet and shawl, mamma."
"Very well, I hope you will find her recovered, we will wait your return."
Anne soon returned,—"She is gone! I do not see her anywhere!"
"Gone! In perhaps we shall find her at play in the garden."
In this expectation they all went out, and as they drew near the spot where the nest was, they saw Frances looking very eagerly into the nest, and seeming to be in some agitation, then she threw something out of her hand, and ran away as if wanting not to be seen.
"She is about some mischief," William said, and ran forward to the nest. But what was his grief to see one of the little birds dead on the ground, two others in the nest with pieces of bread sticking in their mouths, gasping, unable to swallow or reject it, and the fourth with its crop gorged, and slowly moving its little unfledged head from side to side, struggling in death.
Full of sympathy with the little sufferer, and indignant with Frances, he exclaimed, "Provoking girl! she has stuffed the little creatures as she would like to stuff herself; and I believe she has killed them all."
The lively interest the other children had in the nest, impelled them to hasten to the spot, and their lamentations, and even tears, soon flowed.
"William, William, cannot you do anything for them? do try."
"Well, stand still and do not shake my arm—so saying, he began the attempt, and drew the bread carefully out of the distended mouths of the two.
"Now the other! the other, William!"
"That I cannot help," he answered: "see! she has forced it down, and we cannot get it back again; it is dying now."
Anne picked up the dead one from off the ground, and stroking it with her forefinger, "Poor little thing!" she said, "was she so cruel to you!"
It was not long before they heard a rustling in the tree near the place, and then a chirp of fright and distress. "Ah!" said their mamma, "there is the mother! poor things, we will go a little distance to let her come to the nest; perhaps she will be able to save the two."
They all withdrew, and the little parent bird was soon on her nest, fluttering and chirping to awaken the dead and dying little ones, till at length she sorrowfully brooded down on her nest, and spread her wings over them, occasionally chirping as if to solicit an answer from her little brood.
"Oh!" said Mary, bursting into tears, "I cannot bear it! cruel Frances, to be so unkind to the little birds!"
"Go and find Frances," said their mamma, "and bring her to me."
"I will go," William answered, "I think I know where she will hide herself."
It was not long before William returned, leading Frances, who very reluctantly yielded to accompany him.
"Come here," said her mamma, stopping the accusations she saw were ready to overwhelm the offending little girl; "come here, and let me talk to you about this sad thing you have done to the little birds. Do you see what you have done by your ill-judged kindness?"
"Kindness! mamma," they all exclaimed.
"Yes, dear children, she has been very faulty, but I believe she meant to be kind, and through ignorance did this thing which proves the death of the birds. You would not have done it, William, because you have already learnt there is such a thing as a necessary prudence to deal out your morsels with wisdom, and in a measure suited to the age and the capacity of the birds, and also that their food should be of a wholesome kind suitable to their nature. Nothing of this did Frances know, and it seems she had not learnt wisdom from the circumstances she had herself so lately fallen into.
"It reminds me of the scripture, which teaches us to profit: 'Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.' These little birds first attracted your attention by their open mouths, which they had stretched to receive what their poor mother was preparing to put into them. As one lighted on the edge of their nest, they instinctively opened their little yellow-edged beaks; she delighted to see them do so; and they, taking with content what she had provided for them, with the utmost confidence swallowed it down. She had a bit for every one of them in turn and they waited patiently until it was given them. All was well whilst they were nourished with parental tenderness and prudence, and none other meddled with them, or ventured to give them other things, which they, being blind, received and knew not the hand that gave, nor the consequences of eating food not such as their parent would have provided.
"Here you see Frances, neither prudent nor aware of consequences, has stuffed these little birds with improper food, both in quality and quantity. The consequences are fatal; one is dead, another is dying, and it is very uncertain whether the others also will not die. She fed them without measure, and their crops and throats were gorged so as to stop their breathing. They took it greedily, because they knew not the fatal consequences.
"Frances, you are a greedy girl. You had been suffering for this offence, and had not the wisdom to leave it to me to apportion your food. You opened your mouth wide, but you must remember it is not written that you are to fill it according to your own desires. 'I will fill it,' saith the Lord. He knows what is good for us, and he will measure his bounty according to his own wisdom."
Frances began to look ashamed and sorrowful.
"I was to you," her mamma continued, "in the affair of the cake, endeavoring to fulfil this my duty, but you rebelled against my discretion, and would covet more than was right. You helped yourself, you gorged your stomach. You were cross and peevish, and ill, and when the medicine had relieved you, as it was designed, you, without reflection, sallied forth and suffocated the little birds. You could not feed them as the mother would. You could not find in the air and on the ground the little insects, and small worms and little grains which were their proper food, and you should have left it to their own mother to fill their opened mouths. She would have made no mistake either in the quality or quantity convenient for them."
"O," Mary said, "how that reminds me of the scripture in Proverbs xxx. 8: 'Feed me with food convenient for me.'"
"Yes, my dear girl, it's a scripture of great importance and often does it impress my mind in combination with the other I mentioned, Ps. lxxxi. 10: 'Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it,' in their spiritual application, when I am providing for you, and dividing out your portions, and considering what diet is most suited to your constitution, and limiting the quantity of dainty or rich luxuries not convenient for you. I am also frequently led to apply it to myself, and to offer my petition to the Lord that he will graciously judge for me, both temporally and spiritually to fill my mouth, and feed me with food convenient for me."
"I think too, mamma, that there is some meaning belonging to this in our Lord's teaching us to pray, 'Give us this day our daily bread,' Matt. vi. 11."
"Assuredly, my dear child, and I am rejoiced to find you are led by this subject to compare spiritual things with spiritual.
"You see how the word of God interprets itself, and we are taught to go direct to the bounteous hand who giveth liberally, but never wastefully Our daily bread is sufficient for the day, and we must wait on him still for the daily bread of the succeeding day; so we are instructed to open our mouths wide to ask the Lord to fulfil his promise and to fill them, and to be contented with convenient food."
"O Mamma, you cannot think how many scriptures seem to come to my mind, and to give me a clearer understanding. You know the manna which was given in the wilderness, was convenient food when it was gathered daily as the Lord commanded, but when they laid it up, you know it was no longer convenient, for it stunk and bred worms. Does not this teach us to trust God as well as not to disobey him?"
"May this ready application of the word of God proceedeth from that grace, my child, which teaches you, like Job, to esteem the word of God more than your necessary food, for you will also remember what our Lord said to the tempter, 'It is written, Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God.' But we are too apt to forget this, and to imagine that we can provide well for ourselves by fulfilling the desires and lusts of the flesh, and by so doing, we are likely to be brought to forget God, the bountiful and wise Supplier of all our wants."
"I remember the text, mamma, which has in it, 'Feed me with food convenient for me; and in another part, 'lest I be full and deny thee,' Prov. xxx. 9; and this little bird's nest has helped me to understand it better."
"May the Holy Spirit engrave it on your heart, for it will often remind you of the thankful contentedness with which you ought to wait on the Lord."
"Yes, mamma," William said, "but there is no harm, you know, in opening the mouth wide."
"No, William, certainly no harm, for it is a duty. 'Open thy mouth wide,' is an injunction of God, but it is immediately subjoined and strictly said, 'and I will fill it.' Therefore bear in mind the double instruction. Neither take the filling on yourself, nor be ready to swallow every crude and unwholesome morsel which the ignorant or the wicked would present to you. Do you remember a certain day last week when something happened?"
William looked anxious to recollect what his mamma alluded to, and in less than a minute he shook his head, and said, "Ah, mamma, that is too bad, you mean when Mrs. Arnot called, and you were out."
"Yes I do, William; you all opened your mouths wide, and she filled them. Her sweet things did not prove convenient food. You see, therefore, we should learn to discriminate between a heavenly Father's provision, and that of a stranger, whose busy interference may cost you your life. I was not many minutes away from my little nest, when a stranger came, and, by mistaken kindness made you all ill.
"Frances, have you never read that scripture: 'Put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.'"
Frances cried, and, sobbing, said, "I do not know what it means?"
"What can it mean, my dear Frances, but parallel with those, 'If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off. It is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, than, having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire,' Matt. xvvi. 29, 30. ii. 8, 9. It means that spirit which will sacrifice the lust of the heart, and deny itself, though it should be a present mortification. The throat of an inordinate or diseased appetite is to be cut, and its carnal desires crucified."
"Was it not something of this kind that Isaac fell into when he sent Esau to hunt venison, and make him savory meat, such as his soul loved? Gen. xxvii. 4."
"Yes, William, and this very thing he desired presented the temptation by which he was deceived. And you might have mentioned, too, how Esau himself yielded to his appetite, and sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, Gen. xxv. 29. When we yield to these propensities of the flesh, we lay a snare for our own souls, and expose our weakness to an adversary, ever ready to take advantage of our infirmity. It is a common fault in children to desire with greedy appetite such food as is pernicious, and to wish for more than even a mouth opened wide requires—till at length they learn to lust after forbidden things. And what does it lead to? Frances, you began to pick and steal, and your own iniquity chastised you:—you were sick and ill."
Frances hid her face in her frock.
"Ah mamma," said Anne, "I shall be afraid of wanting anything, as I used to do; and I hope I shall remember how much better you can feed me, than I can feed myself."
"I wish I may too," said William. "If Eve had but waited for the Lord only to fill her mouth, she would not have eaten that which brought sin and death."
"Tell me, Frances, if you feel the force of all we have learnt from the little birds, and your own mistaken idea of what would be good for them?"
Frances did not answer.
"But you know, my child, you were guilty of another fault; when the medicine was offered, which was likely to do you good,—you refused to open your mouth, and was long before you would let me fill it, so you see we must leave it all to the Lord to give us much or little, bitter or sweet, just as he knows to be convenient for us."
"Yes," Mary said, "these poor little birds will long teach us a lesson. We may imitate them to open our mouth wide, but we must be warned by what happened to them, to let the Lord only fill them."
"Let us look again at the nest." They approached, and frightened the mother so, that she flew off.
"See, see! William," said Anne, "the two little things are opening their mouths again. O how beautiful! let us never meddle with them any more. Only remember, 'Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.' Now, Frances, do not cry any more: come, we will bury these little dead birds."
Frances wiped her eyes, and Anne giving her a kiss, they went away to do as she proposed. After they had made a little coffin, they put the two little dead birds into it Then William got a spade, and dug a grave just large enough to hold the little coffin: and, as he lowered it into the grave, Mary wiped away the tears which gathered in her eyes. When William had filled up the grave, they all returned to their mamma, who said—
"My dear children, do not let us dismiss this interesting subject without a closer application. My dear Frances, come near to me, and hear what I have to say."
Frances drew near with some timidity. Conscious of her faults, and expecting the word of truth to be directed to her heart, she had at that moment rather have escaped from it. But her mamma, taking her hands into hers, and sitting down on a garden stool that was nigh, she felt that the words would be words of love, aid her heart beginning to soften, the tears were ready to flow, for she knew that her mamma would speak to her of Jesus and of his blood, which was shed for sinners.
"Do you know quite well, my child, that among the fruits of the Spirit enumerated, Gal. v., there is one called TEMPERANCE?"
"Yes, mamma," she replied.
"Are you not also conscious, my dear child, that your desire of indulging your appetite is quite contrary to this holy fruit?"
"Then what are you to do in order to overcome the one, and to obtain the other?"
"I must ask the Lord Jesus to give me the Holy Spirit."
"Yes, my child, to him must you come for all help, and he will not send you empty away. Here is a subject on which you must indeed open your mouth wide, in earnest prayer, and wait on the Lord for his gracious answer. 'Ask, and ye shall receive,' he says, and after showing how an earthly father will act towards his child that asks for bread, how does he conclude?"
"He says, 'How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him!'"
"Will you then, my dear Frances, profit by this gracious instruction, and will you ask for the Holy Spirit?"
"Yes, mamma, I will try."
"Do you believe the Lord will give you the Holy Spirit when you ask?"
"He says He will, mamma."
"That is enough, my child; what the Lord says is yea and amen. It is written, 'Hath he said, and will he not do it?'"
"Yes, mamma, I know God is Truth, He cannot lie."
"But you know also, my dear Frances, when the Holy Spirit is given, he takes up his abode in the heart, and he acts in the soul, and will not dwell there without producing his holy fruit; and tell me now what is the fruit you particularly want to overcome this sinful desire of appetite which prevails in your heart."
"Is it not temperance, mamma?"
"Yes, and if He comes into your heart, he will give it you, and moreover teach you to repent of your sins; for consider, my Frances, sin is an offence against him, and needs to be repented of. Do you repent?"
"I am very sorry, mamma."
"But repentance is more than sorrow; it will make you ashamed before God, and make you feel yourself vile; and it will also make you carefully watchful against the temptation; it will make you anxious to quit the sin, and clear your soul from its power; it will make you indignant against it, and urge you to seek that strength from the Spirit, which will resist the sin, and overcome it. When, therefore, you ask for the Holy Spirit, be willing that the Lord should fill you. Be ready to exercise the mighty gift for all his offices, to convict you of sin, to lead you to true expectations, and to strengthen you to overcome your sin, giving you that grace which is specially opposed to the leading sin of your heart."
"I wish I had this gift; for my sin makes me very unhappy: I know it is wrong."
"Do not stop in wishes, dear child, go and pray; 'Ask, and ye shall receive.' 'Open your mouth wide' in the full utterance of all your distress, and of all you desire; pray for what you want, name it; pray for repentance, and for temperance. Pray that the lust of your appetite may be crucified, and pray that the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who taketh away sin, may be sprinkled upon your guilty soul, and cleanse it from all sin. He giveth liberally, and upbraideth not. He is angry only when we neglect his promises and his gifts.
"It is not long since, dear Mary, that you and I conversed on this text, 'My people would not hearken to my voice, Israel would none of me: so I gave them up to their own heart's lusts,' Psa. lxxxi. A dreadful judgment! what would become of you, dear Frances, if you were given up to the dominion of your appetite?"
"But, my dear mamma," Mary said, "do you not remember the end of that psalm, what a sweet verse there is?"
"Repeat it, dear girl, and let little Frances hear it!"
"'Had they hearkened and obeyed, then should he have fed them with the finest of the wheat, and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied them.'"
"O my children," said their mamma, "here is spiritual food for the spiritual appetite! You know who is the Bread of Life, and who is the Rock of our salvation. Turn unto him your whole heart, and though you feel the burden of the body of this death, you shall soon be able to thank God, who, through Jesus Christ our Lord, will deliver you."
"Poor Esau repented too late, That once he his birth-right despis'd, And sold for a morsel of meat, What could not too highly be priz'd. How great was his anguish when told, The blessing he sought to obtain Was gone with the birth-right he sold, And none could recall it again!
He stands as a warning to all, Wherever the gospel shall come! O hasten and yield to the call, While yet for repentance there's room! Your season will quickly be past; Then hear and obey it to-day, Lest when you seek mercy at last, The Saviour should frown you away.
What is it the world can propose? A morsel of meat at the best! For this are you willing to lose A share in the joys of the blest? Its pleasures will speedily end, Its favor and praise are but breath; And what can its profits befriend Your soul in the moments of death?
If Jesus, for these, you despise, And sin to the Saviour prefer, In vain your entreaties and cries, When summon'd to stand at his bar: How will you his presence abide? What anguish will torture your heart, The saints all enthron'd by his side, And you be compelled to depart.
Too often, dear Saviour, have I Preferr'd some poor trifle to thee; How is it thou dost not deny The blessing and birth-right to me? No better than Esau I am, Though pardon and heaven be mine To me belongs nothing but shame, The praise and the glory be thine."
The Little Pavior.
"Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right,"—PROVERBS, xx. 11.
Happy the child who is active, intelligent and obliging, and who takes pleasure in serving those that are about him! Happy above all is the child, who, fearing and loving the Lord, shows himself thus zealous and obliging, from a feeling of piety, and a desire to please God.
Such was Francis, and this we shall soon see, from the following narrative:
Francis, who was about eight years old, was spending the month of June with his Grandpapa in the country.
His Grandpapa lived in a pretty house, roofed with slates, and surrounded with a verandah, in which were seats, and between each seat, some flower-pots. Jessamine and roses entwined themselves around the verandah, and adorned it with elegant festoons of flowers.
Behind the house was a yard, where chickens, turkeys, and guinea- fowls, were kept; and in the front, looking towards the west, was laid out a fine garden, well provided with evergreens, such as holly, yew, and pine-trees, and amongst these, also, many birch and ash- trees flourished.
At the bottom of the garden, which sloped a little, flowed a pure, but shallow stream, which was crossed by means of a wooden bridge, surrounded with elders and large hazels.
This was a delightful dwelling-place, but those who inhabited it, were still more delightful than the beautiful garden or the smiling groves. For it was the beauty of piety which was found in them, united with that gentleness and amiability of character, that humble spirit of cordiality, which our Saviour enjoins upon all his true disciples.
These inhabitants, so good and so amiable, were the Grandpapa and Grandmamma of Francis, and their domestics, who, with them served the Lord, and lived in that peace, which His Spirit gives to such as delight in His Word.
This dear Grandpapa then, since he was pious, was charitable, and took particular pleasure in visiting his aged neighbors, especially the poor peasants, to whom he always carried comfort and encouragement from that gracious God, with whom he himself daily endeavored more and more to live. He used generally to pay these charitable visits in the middle of the day; after having read the Holy Bible for the second time, in a retired summer-house in the garden, near which a little gate opened upon a footpath, which, passing through the orchard, led to the village.
Francis, who was already acquainted with his Grandpapa's habits, never came to disturb him while he was in the summer-house, and whenever he saw his Grandpapa going out of the little gate he took good care not to follow him.
But in about an hour or two, he would go to meet him, sometimes towards the road, at others, as far as the bridge over the stream;— his Grandmamma was never uneasy, because she knew that Francis was a prudent boy, and that God watched over him, as one of the lambs of the good shepherd.
Grandpapa then, had just finished reading; he had put on his hat and taken his cane, and had gone out through the gate.
Francis, who was sitting before the house, under the pretty green verandah, saw him pass behind the garden hedge, and was already thinking of going to meet him at the end of an hour, when to his great surprise he saw his Grandpapa pass again behind the hedge, and then enter the garden through the little gate, walking apparently with much difficulty.
"What is the matter, dear Grandpapa?" cried Francis, springing towards the garden.—"Oh! how you are covered with mud! It must be that rude Driver who wanted to fawn upon you. He has always such dirty paws."
"You must not scold Driver, but me," mildly replied his Grandpapa, "for I incautiously, and most imprudently, walked upon that part of the path which has been inundated by the water from the fountain."
"Grandpapa, did you fall?" asked Francis, quite alarmed.
"Yes my boy, your Grandfather fell like a heedless man.... But thanks to our gracious God, who ever takes care of us! it was nothing; I was only a little frightened. You see, Francis, you must not forget that we only stand, because God supports us."
So saying, his Grandfather entered the house, and with the same serenity related his accident to his wife, who bestowed every attention upon him.
Whilst his Grandfather was resting himself, and Francis had ascertained that he had not suffered much, he hastened to look at the spot where his kind Grandpapa had slipped and fallen. It was a little bit of the path, perhaps about three paces long, covered with the water which was issuing from the fountain, and which being of clay, had become very slippery.
The trench round the fountain had been already deepened more than once, in order to turn its course from that part of the orchard, but as the ground was rather low, the water always returned.
Francis examined all this, and tried to find out what could be done to remedy the evil, in a more durable manner.
"I know!" he cried at last. "I must make a pavement here, a little higher than the path is at present!"
"Come! cheer up! 'Where there's a will,' says Grandpapa, 'with God's help there's a way.' To work, to work! 'For he who does nothing makes little progress,' says also, my dear Grandpapa."
It may be here well asked, how a little child, eight years of age, could even conceive such a project, and much more how he could have had sufficient strength to accomplish it.
But Francis was not a thoughtless or inattentive child; on the contrary he observed on his way to, and from School, and when he walked out with his Papa, everything that workmen did.
It was thus that he had often noticed how the Paviors first laid down the stones, and then pressed them together, and as we shall soon see, he found no difficulty in what he was going to attempt.
"First and foremost," said he, "the tools!" and immediately he ran off to look for a little wheel-barrow which his Grandpapa had made for him; with the spade, the trowel, and the iron rake, which were at his disposal.
When the tools were collected, Francis, having taken off his jacket, traced out the portion to be paved.
"Now," said he, "I must take away two or three inches of earth, that the stones may fit in."
He then took away the earth, and piled it up on the upper side of the path, in order to compel the water to pass by the drain.
"Now," he said, "I must find some sand; where is there any? Oh! behind the hen-house; the masons, who plastered the walls of the yard over again, have left a large heap of it there"—and then he quickly ran with his wheelbarrow, once, twice, and even three times, and soon had as much as was necessary. He spread it out, and arranged it, and then pronounced the great word of all his work, "Stones! No stones, no pavement! I must have at least fifty of them!" He ran about, searched and gathered, near the fountain, round the house, and along the wall of the yard, and soon brought back four wheelbarrows full of nice stones, well shaped, and not too large.
But there were not enough, for he was obliged to put five or six abreast. Where are there any more to be found?
"In the brook," cried he! "It is rather far off, but I shall soon be there!" And indeed in about a quarter of an hour, he had collected all the proper materials.
Then should he have been seen at work! The trowel in his right hand, a stone in his left; the sand which he placed between each stone, and the blows which forced it down, these things succeeded each other rapidly, and were often repeated; till at length, at the end of the third hour, the slippery bit of foot-path was no longer in existence, but in its stead was to be seen a pavement slightly raised, which could never be wetted by the overflowing of the fountain.
"That will not do well," said Francis, when he had finished, and was walking over the pavement; "it is uneven, Grandpapa will hurt his feet upon it." And so saying, he ran to the woodhouse in the yard, and returned, bending under the weight of the mallet, with which Thomas used to strike the axe and wedges, when he split the large pieces of oak.
"Here is my rammer," said Francis, laughing, as he thought of those used by the paviors; and holding the mallet perpendicularly, he struck with the butt-end, first one stone, and then another, until at length the pavement was completed! It was solid, even and clean, and Francis, repeating in truth, "Where there's a will, with God's help, there's a way," gave thanks in his heart to that good heavenly Father, who gave him both the idea and the will to do this act of filial love, and enabled him to accomplish it.
Some sand and a few stones remained; Francis took them up and carried them back near to the house. Then he cleared away the rubbish, and having put on his coat again, returned joyfully to replace his tools in the green-house.
All this was done after dinner, between the hours of three and six. The evening passed quietly away. Grandpapa had not received any bruises, and he could not sufficiently thank the Good shepherd, the Lord Jesus, who had, as it were, "carried him in his arms," and "kept all his bones."
Grandmamma joined in his praises and thanksgivings, and these two faithful servants blessed the Lord together, whose mercies are over all his works.
"To-morrow, please God," said Grandpapa to Francis, "I shall go and see old George. He must have expected me to-day! But be assured, my dear Francis, that your Grandpapa will walk no more like a giddy child; and if the path is still slippery, I shall place my foot prudently upon it."
Francis said he hoped the path would be better; and however that might be, that the Lord would preserve him thenceforth from slipping, and above all, from falling.
Grandpapa made Francis read the Bible as usual to the whole household. He spoke piously of God's paternal care for our bodies as well as for our souls, and in his prayer he gave abundant thanks to the Saviour who had so graciously preserved him.
The morrow came. Grandpapa had quite recovered his accident of the preceding day, and after reading in the summer-house, he got up to go and see old George.
Francis, who was observing him from beneath the verandah, no sooner saw him come near the little gate, than he ran round the house to hide himself behind a hazel bush, a short distance from the pavement, in order to see what his Grandpapa would do.
Grandpapa walked on towards the orchard, and as soon as he set his foot on the path, he prepared to proceed very carefully. He took three or four steps, and then suddenly stopped, and raising his hands, exclaimed, a "pavement! a pavement here already! How does this happen? Who could have done this? It must be my faithful Thomas!"—he continued—"I must thank him for it;" and he called out loudly, "Thomas! Thomas!" Thomas, who was in the cow-house, heard his voice, and ran to him in alarm.
"Have you tumbled again, sir," he asked anxiously?
"On the contrary," said Grandpapa, "thanks to you, Thomas, for having made this good substantial pavement so quickly and so well; it is really excellent," said he, stamping upon it with his foot, and walking over it in every direction. "It is solid, and even, and slopes on either side! I am very much obliged to you, Thomas."
"Alas! sir," said the man, "it is not I who did it—how vexed I am that I did not think of it what stupidity!"...
"Who is it then?" asked Grandpapa, "for this has been done since yesterday, and surely these stones are not mushrooms! Who could have thought of this?"
"I think I know who it is, sir," answered Thomas, "for yesterday in the afternoon I saw master Francis going down to the brook with his wheelbarrow. I could not think what it was for, but now I understand."
"Francis! did you say," exclaimed Grandpapa; "how could that child have done it even if he had wished? Are these stones only nuts, that that dear boy's little hands could have been able to knock them into the ground?"
"Do you wish, sir, that I should look for him and bring him here?" asked Thomas.
Francis could no longer remain concealed. He ran from behind the bush, and threw himself into his Grandpapa's arms; saying, "Dear Grandpapa, how happy I am to have been able to succeed."
"It is you then, indeed, my son!" cried Grandpapa, as he shed tears of joy. "God bless your filial piety towards me! May He return you two-fold all the good you have done my heart. But how did you manage?"
"You have often told me, dear Grandpapa, that 'Where there's a will, with the help of God, there's a way,' and I prayed to God, and was able to do it."
"Well then, dear Francis," said Grandpapa, solemnly, "I promise you, that every day of my life, as long as I shall walk here below, when I pass over this pavement, which your affection has made for me, I will say to God 'O Lord, prevent Francis from falling in his way! May thy goodness pave for him the path of life, whenever it becomes slippery.'"
Francis understood, and respectfully received this blessing; and whilst his Grand father paid his visit, the little pavior went and told his Grandmamma, what he had been able to do, and how God had already blessed him for it.
The Silver Knife.
"Then said Jesus unto him: Go and do thou likewise."—LUKE, x. 37.
Mary.—(After having searched about the dining-room,) "Who has seen my silver knife? William, John, Lucy, you who are amusing yourselves in the garden, have you seen my silver knife?"
William.—(Going up to the window, and in a sententious tone of voice,) "'Disorder,' says an ancient writer, 'occasions sorrow, and negligence, blame.'"
Mary.—"Admirable! But that does not apply to me, for it is scarcely an hour since I laid my knife on this very table, which certainly belongs to us."
Lucy.—"Are you quite sure of it, Mary!"
Mary—"Yes, indeed, there is no doubt of it, for Sophy asked me to give her a pretty little red apple, as usual, before going to school. I went immediately to the fruit-room for it, and as it was a little spoiled, I cleaned it with my silver knife, which I laid on this table, whilst I was kissing her. I am therefore quite sure of it."
John.—(Frowning,)—"For my part, I confess, I don't like all these strangers who come about the house. For instance, that little Jane, who sells lilies of the valley, and strawberries, and so on—I very much distrust her sullen look; and who knows, if perhaps...?"
Lucy—"Fie, fie, brother, to suspect that poor little modest gentle child, who supports her sick mother by her own industry! Oh! it is very wrong, John!"
"What is the matter?" said their Father, who had heard this dispute from the garden, where he was reading under the shade of a tree.
Mary related her story, and finished by saying,—"Well, if it be God's will, So-be-it! My beautiful knife is lost!"
"Yes, my dear girl," answered her father, "What God wills, is always best. But it is His will that I should watch over, my household. I must therefore know what has become of your knife. Did you ask Elizabeth if she had taken care of it, when she cleaned the room?"
Mary ran to the kitchen, and enquired of Elizabeth.
"Your silver knife! Miss," said the servant, coloring. "Have you lost that beautiful knife, which was given you on your birthday?"
"I ask you, if you have taken care of it," answered Mary. "I laid it this morning upon the table in the dining-room, near the window."
Elizabeth.—(with astonishment,)—Near the window! Oh!—I know where it is, now. About half an hour ago, when I went into the dining-room, to ... put ... down ... some plates, I saw the great magpie, which builds its nest up in the large elm-tree, at the end of the garden, sitting on the window-ledge. It flew away as soon as it saw me; but it had something white and shining in its beak. Oh! yes, I remember now! it was the silver knife!"
"The magpie," exclaimed Mary, "with my knife in its beak!"
"Oh! Miss," replied Elizabeth, "there is no thief like a magpie. When I was at home, one of their nests was once pulled down, and nine pieces of silver were found in it, and a whole necklace of pearls! Oh! magpies are terrible birds, and you may be sure that your knife is in their nest."
Mary returned to her father in the garden, and related to him all that Elizabeth had said, but added, "For my part, I don't believe a word of it!"
"And why not?" exclaimed John, sharply, "Elizabeth is quite right! Nothing steals like a magpie. Everybody says so. Come! let us to work! A ladder, a cord, and a long stick! Down with the nest!—Papa, will you allow me to climb the tree!"
Lucy.—(Holding John by the arm.)—"Brother, how can you think of it? The elm is more than eighty feet high! Papa, I beg of you, not to allow it."
Father.—(Calmly.)—"No one shall get up the tree and risk his life, for a thing which certainly is not there."
"There is no thief like a magpie," repeated John, looking at the nest, which might be seen through the higher branches of the tree; "but I confess it would not be easy to reach it. These branches are very long and very slender!"