"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."
BY THE AUTHORS OF "THE WIDE, WIDE WORLD," ETC. ETC.
WITH COLOURED FRONTISPIECE.
LONDON: GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS, THE BROADWAY, LUDGATE.
BY THE AUTHORS OF "THE WIDE, WIDE WORLD."
Price ONE SHILLING each, with coloured Frontispiece THE TWO SCHOOLGIRLS. THE CARPENTER'S DAUGHTER. THE PRINCE IN DISGUISE. GERTRUDE AND HER BIBLE. MARTHA AND RACHEL. THE WIDOW AND HER DAUGHTER. THE LITTLE BLACK HEN. THE ROSE IN THE DESERT.
GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS.
London: Savill, Edwards & Co., Printers, Chandos Street.
I. SATURDAY EVENING'S WORK 1
II. SUNDAY'S REST 20
III. NETTIE'S GARRET 55
IV. THE BROWN CLOAK IN NOVEMBER 69
V. THE NEW BLANKET 82
VI. THE HOUSE-RAISING 97
VII. THE WAFFLES 112
VIII. THE GOLDEN CITY 135
THE CARPENTER'S DAUGHTER.
SATURDAY EVENING'S WORK.
Down in a little hollow, with the sides grown full of wild thorn, alder bushes, and stunted cedars, ran the stream of a clear spring. It ran over a bed of pebbly stones, showing every one as if there had been no water there, so clear it was; and it ran with a sweet soft murmur or gurgle over the stones, as if singing to itself and the bushes as it ran.
On one side of the little stream a worn foot path took its course among the bushes; and down this path one summer's afternoon came a woman and a girl. They had pails to fill at the spring; the woman had a large wooden one, and the girl a light tin pail; and they drew the water with a little tin dipper, for it was not deep enough to let a pail be used for that. The pails were filled in silence, only the spring always was singing; and the woman and the girl turned and went up the path again. After getting up the bank, which was only a few feet, the path still went gently rising through a wild bit of ground, full of trees and low bushes; and not far off, through the trees, there came a gleam of bright light from the window of a house, on which the setting sun was shining. Half way to the house the girl and the woman stopped to rest; for water is heavy, and the tin pail which was so light before it was filled, had made the little girl's figure bend over to one side like a willow branch all the way from the spring. They stopped to rest, and even the woman had a very weary, jaded look.
"I feel as if I shall give up, some of these days," she exclaimed.
"O no, mother!" the little girl answered, cheerfully. She was panting, with her hand on her side, and her face had a quiet, very sober look; only at those words a little pleasant smile broke over it.
"I shall," said the woman. "One can't stand everything,—for ever."
The little girl had not got over panting yet, but standing there she struck up the sweet air and words,—
"'There is rest for the weary, There is rest for the weary, There is rest for the weary, There is rest for you.'"
"Yes, in the grave!" said the woman, bitterly. "There's no rest short of that,—for mind or body."
"O yes, mother dear. 'For we which have believed do enter into rest.' Jesus don't make us wait."
"I believe you eat the Bible and sleep on the Bible," said the woman, with a faint smile, taking at the same time a corner of her apron to wipe away a stray tear which had gathered in her eye. "I am glad it rests you, Nettie."
"And you, mother."
"Sometimes," Mrs. Mathieson answered, with a sigh. "But there's your father going to bring home a boarder, Nettie."
"A boarder, mother!—What for?"
"Heaven knows!—if it isn't to break my back, and my heart together. I thought I had enough to manage before, but here's this man coming, and I've got to get everything ready for him by to-morrow night."
"Who is it, mother?"
"It's one of your father's friends; so it's no good," said Mrs. Mathieson.
"But where can he sleep?" Nettie asked, after a moment of thinking. Her mother paused.
"There's no room but yours he can have. Barry wont be moved."
"Where shall I sleep, mother?"
"There's no place but up in the attic. I'll see what I can do to fit up a corner for you—if I ever can get time," said Mrs. Mathieson, taking up her pail. Nettie followed her example, and certainly did not smile again till they reached the house. They went round to the front door, because the back door belonged to another family. At the door, as they set down their pails again before mounting the stairs, Nettie smiled at her mother very placidly, and said—
"Don't you go to fit up the attic, mother; I'll see to it in time. I can do it just as well."
Mrs. Mathieson made no answer but groaned internally, and they went up the flight of stairs which led to their part of the house. The ground floor was occupied by somebody else. A little entry way at the top of the stairs received the wooden pail of water, and with the tin one Nettie went into the room used by the family. It was her father and mother's sleeping-room, their bed standing in one corner. It was the kitchen apparently, for a small cooking-stove was there, on which Nettie put the tea-kettle when she had filled it. And it was the common living-room also; for the next thing she did was to open a cupboard and take out cups and saucers and arrange them on a leaf table which stood toward one end of the room. The furniture was wooden and plain; the woodwork of the windows was unpainted; the cups and plates were of the commonest kind; and the floor had no covering but two strips of rag carpeting; nevertheless the whole was tidy and very clean, showing constant care. Mrs. Mathieson had sunk into a chair, as one who had no spirit to do anything; and watched her little daughter setting the table with eyes which seemed not to see her. They gazed inwardly at something she was thinking of.
"Mother, what is there for supper?"
"There is nothing. I must make some porridge." And Mrs. Mathieson got up from her chair.
"Sit you still, mother, and I'll make it. I can."
"If both our backs are to be broken," said Mrs. Mathieson, "I'd rather mine would break first." And she went on with her preparations.
"But you don't like porridge," said Nettie. "You didn't eat anything last night."
"That's nothing, child. I can bear an empty stomach, if only my brain wasn't quite so full."
Nettie drew near the stove and looked on, a little sorrowfully.
"I wish you had something you liked, mother! If only I was a little older, wouldn't it be nice? I could earn something then, and I would bring you home things that you liked out of my own money."
This was not said sorrowfully, but with a bright gleam as of some fancied and pleasant possibility. The gleam was so catching, Mrs. Mathieson turned from her porridge-pot which she was stirring, to give a very heartfelt kiss to Nettie's lips; then she stirred on, and the shadow came over her face again.
"Dear," she said, "just go in Barry's room and straighten it up a little before he comes in—will you? I haven't had a minute to do it, all day; and there wont be a bit of peace if he comes in and it isn't in order."
Nettie turned and opened another door, which let her into a small chamber used as somebody's bedroom. It was all brown, like the other; a strip of the same carpet in the middle of the floor, and a small cheap chest of drawers, and a table. The bed had not been made up, and the tossed condition of the bedclothes spoke for the strength and energy of the person that used them, whoever he was. A pair of coarse shoes were in the middle of the whole; another pair, or rather a pair of half-boots, out at the toes, were in the middle of the floor; stockings, one under the bed and one under the table. On the table was a heap of confusion; and on the little bureau were to be seen pieces of wood, half cut and uncut, with shavings, and the knife and saw that had made them. Old newspapers, and school books, and a slate, and two kites, with no end of tail, were lying over every part of the room that happened to be convenient; also an ink bottle and pens; with chalk and resin and a medley of unimaginable things beside, that only boys can collect together and find delight in. If Nettie sighed as all this hurly-burly met her eye, it was only an internal sigh. She set about patiently bringing things to order. First made the bed, which it took all her strength to do: for the coverlets were of a very heavy and coarse manufacture of cotton and woollen mixed, blue and white; and then gradually found a way to bestow the various articles in Barry's apartment, so that things looked neat and comfortable. But perhaps it was a little bit of a sign of Nettie's feeling, that she began softly to sing to herself,
"'There is rest for the weary.'"
"Hollo!" burst in a rude boy of some fifteen years, opening the door from the entry,—"who's puttin' my room to rights?"
A very gentle voice said, "I've done it, Barry."
"What have you done with that pine log?"
"Here it is,—in the corner behind the bureau."
"Don't you touch it now, to take it for your fire,—mind, Nettie! Where's my kite?"
"You wont have time to fly it now, Barry; supper will be ready in two minutes."
"What you got?"
"The same kind we had last night."
"I don't care for supper." Barry was getting the tail of his kite together.
"But please, Barry, come now; because it will make mother so much more trouble if you don't. She has the things to clear away after you're done, you know!"
"Trouble! so much talk about trouble! I don't mind trouble. I don't want any supper, I tell you."
Nettie knew well enough he would want it by and by, but there was no use in saying anything more, and she said nothing. Barry got his kite together and went off. Then came a heavier step on the stairs, which she knew; and she hastily went into the other room to see that all was ready. The tea was made, and Mrs. Mathieson put the smoking dish of porridge on the table, just as the door opened and a man came in. A tall, burly, strong man, with a face that would have been a good face enough if its expression had been different, and if its hue had not been that of a purplish-red flush. He came to the table and silently sat down as he took a survey of what was on it.
"Give me a cup of tea! Have you got no bread, Sophia?"
"Nothing but what you see. I hoped you would bring home some money, Mr. Mathieson. I have neither milk nor bread; it's a mercy there's sugar. I don't know what you expect a lodger to live on."
"Live on his board,—that'll give you enough. But you want something to begin with. I'd go out and get one or two things—but I'm so confounded tired. I can't."
Mrs. Mathieson, without a word, put on a shawl and went to the closet for her bonnet.
"I'll go, mother! Let me go, please. I want to go," exclaimed Nettie, eagerly. "I can get it. What shall I get, father?"
Slowly and weariedly the mother laid off her things, as quickly the child put hers on.
"What shall I get, father?"
"Well, you can go down the street to Jackson's, and get what your mother wants: some milk and bread; and then you'd better fetch seven pounds of meal and a quart of treacle. And ask him to give you a nice piece of pork out of his barrel."
"She can't bring all that!" exclaimed the mother; "you'd better go yourself, Mr. Mathieson. That would be a great deal more than the child can carry, or I either."
"Then I'll go twice, mother; it isn't far; I'd like to go. I'll get it. Please give me the money, father."
He cursed and swore at her, for answer. "Go along, and do as you are bid, without all this chaffering! Go to Jackson's and tell him you want the things, and I'll give him the money to-morrow. He knows me."
Nettie knew he did, and stood her ground. Her father was just enough in liquor to be a little thick-headed and foolish.
"You know I can't go without the money, father," she said, gently; "and to-morrow is Sunday."
He cursed Sunday and swore again, but finally put his hand in his pocket and threw some money across the table to her. He was just in a state not to be careful what he did, and he threw her crown-pieces where if he had been quite himself he would have given shillings. Nettie took them without any remark, and her basket, and went out.
It was just sundown. The village lay glittering in the light, that would be gone in a few minutes; and up on the hill the white church, standing high, showed all bright in the sunbeams from its sparkling vane at the top of the spire down to the lowest step at the door. Nettie's home was in a branch-road, a few steps from the main street of the village that led up to the church at one end of it. All along that street the sunlight lay, on the grass and the roadway and the sidewalks and the tops of a few elm-trees. The street was empty; it was most people's supper-time. Nettie turned the corner and went down the village. She went slowly; her little feet were already tired with the work they had done that day, and back and arms and head all seemed tired too. But Nettie never thought it hard that her mother did not go instead of letting her go; she knew her mother could not bear to be seen in the village in the old shabby gown and shawl she wore; for Mrs. Mathieson had seen better days. And besides that, she would be busy enough as it was, and till a late hour, this Saturday night. Nettie's gown was shabby too; yes, very, compared with that almost every other child in the village wore; yet somehow Nettie was not ashamed. She did not think of it now, as her slow steps took her down the village street; she was thinking what she should do about the money. Her father had given her two or three times as much, she knew, as he meant her to spend; he was a good workman, and had just got in his week's wages. What should Nettie do? Might she keep and give to her mother what was over? it was, and would be, so much wanted! and from her father they could never get it again. He had his own ways of disposing of what he earned, and very little of it indeed went to the wants of his wife and daughter. What might Nettie do? She pondered, swinging her basket in her hand, till she reached a corner where the village street turned off again, and where the store of Mr. Jackson stood. There she found Barry bargaining for some things he at least had money for.
"O Barry, how good!" exclaimed Nettie; "you can help me carry my things home."
"I'll know the reason first, though," answered Barry. "What are you going to get?"
"Father wants a bag of corn meal and a piece of pork and some treacle; and you know I can't carry them all, Barry. I've got to get bread and milk besides."
"Hurra!" said Barry, "now we'll have fried cakes! I'll tell you what I'll do, Nettie—I'll take home the treacle, if you'll make me some to-night for supper."
"O I can't, Barry! I've got so much else to do, and it's Saturday night."
"Very good—get your things home yourself then."
Barry turned away, and Nettie made her bargains. He still stood by however and watched her. When the pork and the meal and the treacle were bestowed in the basket, it was so heavy she could not manage to carry it. How many journeys to and fro would it cost her?
"Barry," she said, "you take this home for me, and if mother says so, I'll make you the cakes."
"Be quick then," said her brother, shouldering the basket, "for I'm getting hungry."
Nettie went a few steps further on the main road of the village, which was little besides one long street and not very long either; and went in at the door of a very little dwelling, neat and tidy like all the rest. It admitted her to the tiniest morsel of a shop—at least there was a long table there which seemed to do duty as a counter; and before, not behind, it sat a spruce little woman sewing. She jumped up as Nettie entered. By the becoming smartness of her calico dress and white collar, the beautiful order of her hair, and a certain peculiarity of feature, you might know before she spoke that the little baker was a Frenchwoman. She spoke English quite well, though not so fast as she spoke her own tongue.
"I want two loaves of bread, Mrs. August; and a pint of milk, if you please."
"How will you carry them, my child? you cannot take them all at the time."
"O yes, I can," said Nettie, cheerfully. "I can manage. They are not heavy."
"No, I hope not," said the Frenchwoman; "it is not heavy, my bread! but two loaves are not one, no more. Is your mother well?"
She then set busily about wrapping the loaves in paper and measuring out the milk. Nettie answered her mother was well.
"And you?" said the little woman, looking at her sideways. "Somebody is tired this evening."
"Yes," said Nettie, brightly; "but I don't mind. One must be tired sometimes. Thank you, ma'am."
The woman had put the loaves and the milk carefully in her arms and in her hand, so that she could carry them, and looked after her as she went up the street.
"One must be tired sometimes!" said she to herself, with a turn of her capable little head. "I should like to hear her say 'One must be rested sometimes;' but I do not hear that."
So perhaps Nettie thought, as she went homeward. It would have been very natural. Now the sun was down, the bright gleam was off the village; the soft shades of evening were gathering and lights twinkled in windows. Nettie walked very slowly, her arms full of the bread. Perhaps she wished her Saturday's work was all done, like other people's. All I can tell you is, that as she went along through the quiet deserted street, all alone, she broke out softly singing to herself the words,
"No need of the sun in that day Which never is followed by night."
And that when she got home she ran up stairs quite briskly, and came in with a very placid face; and told her mother she had had a pleasant walk—which was perfectly true.
"I'm glad, dear," said her mother, with a sigh. "What made it pleasant?"
"Why, mother," said Nettie, "Jesus was with me all the way."
"God bless you, child!" said her mother; "you are the very rose of my heart!"
There was only time for this little dialogue, for which Mr. Mathieson's slumbers had given a chance. But then Barry entered, and noisily claimed Nettie's promise. And without a cloud crossing her sweet brow, she made the cakes, and baked them on the stove, and served Barry until he had enough; nor ever said how weary she was of being on her feet. There were some cakes left, and Mrs. Mathieson saw to it that Nettie sat down and ate them; and then sent her off to bed without suffering her to do anything more; though Nettie pleaded to be allowed to clear away the dishes. Mrs. Mathieson did that; and then sat down to make darns and patches on various articles of clothing, till the old clock of the church on the hill tolled out solemnly the hour of twelve all over the village.
Nettie's room was the only room on that floor besides her mother's and Barry's. It was at the back of the house, with a pleasant look-out over the trees and bushes between it and the spring. Over these the view went to distant hills and fields, that always looked pretty in all sorts of lights, Nettie thought. Besides that, it was a clean, neat little room; bare to be sure, without even Barry's strip of rag carpet; but on a little black table lay Nettie's Bible and Sunday-school books; and each window had a chair; and a chest of drawers held all her little wardrobe and a great deal of room to spare besides; and the cot-bed in one corner was nicely made up. It was a very comfortable-looking room to Nettie.
"So this is the last night I shall sleep here!" she thought as she went in. "To-morrow I must go up to the attic. Well,—I can pray there just the same; and God will be with me there just the same."
It was a comfort; but it was the only one Nettie could think of in connexion with her removal. The attic was no room, but only a little garret used as a lumber place; not boarded up, nor plastered at all; nothing but the beams and the side-boarding for the walls, and nothing but the rafters and the shingles between it and the sky. Besides which, it was full of lumber of one sort and another. How Nettie was to move up there the next day, being Sunday, she could not imagine; but she was so tired that as soon as her head touched her pillow she fell fast asleep, and forgot to think about it.
The next thing was the bright morning light rousing her, and the joyful thought that it was Sunday morning. A beautiful day it was. The eastern light was shining over upon Nettie's distant hills, with all sorts of fresh lovely colours and promise of what the coming hours would bring. Nettie looked at them lovingly, for she was very fond of them and had a great many thoughts about those hills. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people;"—that was one thing they made her think of. She thought of it now as she was dressing, and it gave her the feeling of being surrounded with a mighty and strong protection on every side. It made Nettie's heart curiously glad, and her tongue speak of joyful things; for when she knelt down to pray she was full of thanksgiving.
The next thing was, that taking her tin pail Nettie set off down to the spring to get water to boil the kettle. It was so sweet and pleasant—no other spring could supply nicer water. The dew brushed from the bushes and grass as she went by; and from every green thing there went up a fresh dewy smell that was reviving. The breath of the summer wind, moving gently, touched her cheek and fluttered her hair, and said God had given a beautiful day to the world; and Nettie thanked him in her heart and went on rejoicing. Sunday was Nettie's holiday, and Sunday-school and church were her delight. And though she went in all weathers, and nothing would keep her, yet sunshine is sunshine; and she felt so this morning. So she gaily filled her pail at the spring and trudged back with it to the house. The next thing was to tap at her mother's door.
Mrs. Mathieson opened it, in her nightgown; she was just up, and looked as if her night's sleep had been all too short for her.
"Why, Nettie!—is it late?" she said, as Nettie and the tin pail came in.
"No, mother; it's just good time. You get dressed, and I'll make the fire ready. It's beautiful out, mother."
Mrs. Mathieson made no answer, and Nettie went to work with the fire. It was an easy matter to put in some paper and kindle the light wood; and when the kettle was on, Nettie went round the room softly setting it to rights as well as she could. Then glanced at her father, still sleeping.
"I can't set the table yet, mother."
"No, child; go off, and I'll see to the rest. If I can get folks up, at least," said Mrs. Mathieson, somewhat despondingly. Sunday morning that was a doubtful business, she and Nettie knew. Nettie went to her own room to carry out a plan she had. If she could manage to get her things conveyed up to the attic without her mother knowing it, just so much labour and trouble would be spared her, and her mother might have a better chance of some rest that day. Little enough, with a lodger coming that evening! To get her things up there,—that was all Nettie would do to-day; but that must be done. The steep stairs to the attic went up from the entry way, just outside of Nettie's door. She went up the first time to see what place there was to bestow anything.
The little garret was strewn all over with things carelessly thrown in, merely to get them out of the way. There was a small shutter window in each gable. One was open, just revealing the utter confusion; but half-showing the dust that lay on everything. The other window, the back one, was fairly shut up by a great heap of boxes and barrels piled against it. In no part was there a clear space, or a hopeful opening. Nettie stood aghast for some moments, not knowing what to do. "But if I don't, mother will have to," she thought. It nerved her little arm, and one thought of her invisible protection nerved her heart, which had sunk at first coming up. Softly she moved and began her operations, lest her mother down stairs should hear and find out what she was about before it was done. Sunday too! But there was no help for it.
Notwithstanding the pile of boxes, she resolved to begin at the end with the closed window; for near the other there were things she could not move: an old stove, a wheelbarrow, a box of heavy iron tools, and some bags of charcoal and other matters. By a little pushing and coaxing, Nettie made a place for the boxes, and then began her task of removing them. One by one, painfully, for some were unwieldy and some were weighty, they travelled across in Nettie's arms, or were shoved, or turned over and over across the floor, from the window to a snug position under the eaves where she stowed them. Barry would have been a good hand at this business, not to speak of his father: but Nettie knew there was no help to be had from either of them; and the very thought of them did not come into her head. Mr. Mathieson, provided he worked at his trade, thought the "women-folks" might look after the house; Barry considered that when he had got through the heavy labours of school, he had done his part of the world's work. So Nettie toiled on with her boxes and barrels. They scratched her arms; they covered her clean face with dust; they tried her strength; but every effort saved one to her mother, and Nettie never stopped except to gather breath and rest.
The last thing of all under the window was a great old chest. Nettie could not move it, and she concluded it might stay there very conveniently for a seat. All the rest of the pile she cleared away, and then opened the window. There was no sash; nothing but a wooden shutter fastened with a hook. Nettie threw it open. There, to her great joy, behold she had the very same view of her hills, all shining in the sun now. Only this window was higher than her old one, and lifted her up more above the tops of the trees, and gave a better and clearer and wider view of the distant open country she liked so much. Nettie was greatly delighted, and refreshed herself with a good look out and a breath of fresh air before she began her labours again. That gave the dust a little chance to settle, too.
There was a good deal to do yet before she could have a place clear for her bed, not to speak of anything more. However, it was done at last; the floor brushed up, all ready, and the top of the chest wiped clean; and next Nettie set about bringing all her things up the stairs and setting them here, where she could. Her clothes, her little bit of a looking-glass, her Bible and books and slate, even her little washstand, she managed to lug up to the attic; with many a journey and much pains. But it was about done, before her mother called her to breakfast. The two lagging members of the family had been roused at last, and were seated at the table.
"Why, what have you been doing, child? how you look!" said Mrs. Mathieson.
"How do I look?" said Nettie.
"Queer enough," said her father.
Nettie laughed, and hastened to another subject; she knew if they got upon this there would be some disagreeable words before it was over. She had made up her mind what to do, and now handed her father the money remaining from her purchases. "You gave me too much, father, last night," she said, simply; "here is the rest." Mr. Mathieson took it and looked at it.
"Did I give you all this?"
"Did you pay for what you got, besides?"
He muttered something which was very like an oath in his throat, and looked at his little daughter, who was quietly eating her breakfast. Something touched him unwontedly.
"You're an honest little girl!" he said. "There! you may have that for yourself;" and he tossed her a shilling.
You could see, by a little streak of pink colour down each of Nettie's cheeks, that some great thought of pleasure had started into her mind. "For myself, father?" she repeated.
"All for yourself," said Mr. Mathieson, buttoning up his money with a very satisfied air. Nettie said no more, only ate her breakfast a little quicker after that. It was time, too; for the late hours of some of the family always made her in a hurry about getting to Sunday-school; and the minute Nettie had done, she got her bonnet, her Sunday bonnet—the best she had to wear—and set off. Mrs. Mathieson never let her wait for anything at home that morning.
This was Nettie's happy time. It never troubled her, that she had nothing but a sun-bonnet of white muslin, nicely starched and ironed, while almost all the other girls that came to the school had little straw bonnets trimmed with blue and pink and yellow and green ribbons; and some of them wore silk bonnets. Nettie did not even think of it; she loved her Sunday lesson, and her Bible, and her teacher, so much; and it was such a good time when she went to enjoy them all together. There was only a little way she had to go; for the road where Mrs. Mathieson lived, after running down a little further from the village, met another road which turned right up the hill to the church; or Nettie could take the other way, to the main village street, and straight up that. Generally she chose the forked way, because it was the emptiest.
Nettie's class in the Sunday-school was of ten little girls about her own age; and their teacher was a very pleasant and kind gentleman, named Mr. Folke. Nettie loved him dearly; she would do anything that Mr. Folke told her to do. Their teacher was very apt to give the children a question to answer from the Bible; for which they had to look out texts during the week. This week the question was, "Who are happy?" and Nettie was very eager to know what answers the other girls would bring. She was in good time, and sat resting and watching the boys and girls and teachers as they came in, before the school began. She was first there of all her class; and watching so eagerly to see those who were coming, that she did not know Mr. Folke was near till he spoke to her. Nettie started and turned.
"How do you do?" said her teacher, kindly. "Are you quite well, Nettie, this morning?" For he thought she looked pale and tired. But her face coloured with pleasure and a smile shone all over it, as she told him she was very well.
"Have you found out who are the happy people, Nettie?"
"Yes, Mr. Folke; I have found a verse. But I knew before."
"I thought you did. Who are they, Nettie?"
"Those that love Jesus, sir."
"Ay. In the Christian armour, you know, the feet are 'shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace.' With the love of Jesus in our hearts, our feet can go over very rough ways and hardly feel that they are rough. Do you find it so?"
"O yes, sir!"
He said no more, for others of the class now came up; and Nettie wondered how he knew, or if he knew, that she had a rough way to go over. But his words were a help and comfort to her. So was the whole lesson that day. The verses about the happy people were beautiful. The seven girls who sat on one side of Nettie repeated the blessings told of in the fifth chapter of Matthew, about the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those that hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers. Then came Nettie's verse. It was this:
"Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God."
The next girl gave the words of Jesus, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."
The last gave, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered."
Then came Mr. Folke's verse, and Nettie thought it was the most beautiful of all. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city."
Then Mr. Folke talked about that city; its streets of gold, and the gates of pearl, through which nothing that defileth can by any means enter. He told how Jesus will make his people happy there; how they will be with him, and all their tears wiped away. And Jesus will be their Shepherd; his sheep will not wander from him anymore; "and they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads." Nettie could hardly keep from crying as Mr. Folke went on; she felt as if she was half in heaven already, and it seemed very odd to cry for gladness; but she could not help it. Then the school closed with singing the hymn,
"O how happy are they Who the Saviour obey, And have laid up their treasures above."
From school they went to church, of course. A strange minister preached that day, and Nettie could not understand him always; but the words of the hymn and Mr. Folke's words ran in her head then, and she was very happy all church time. And as she was walking home, still the tune and the words ran in her ears,
"Jesus all the day long Is my joy and my song; O that all his salvation might see!"
So, thinking busily, Nettie got home and ran up stairs. What a change! It looked like a place very, very far from those gates of pearl.
Her mother sat on one side of the stove, not dressed for church, and leaning her head on her hand. Mr. Mathieson was on the other side, talking and angry. Barry stood back, playing ball by himself by throwing it up and catching it again. The talk stopped at Nettie's entrance. She threw off her bonnet and began to set the table, hoping that would bring peace.
"Your father don't want any dinner," said Mrs. Mathieson.
"Yes I do!"—thundered her husband; "but I tell you I'll take anything now; so leave your cooking till supper—when Lumber will be here. Go on, child! and get your work done."
There were no preparations for dinner, and Nettie was at a loss; and did not like to say anything for fear of bringing on a storm. Her mother looked both weary and out of temper. The kettle was boiling,—the only thing about the room that had a pleasant seeming.
"Will you have a cup of tea, father?" said Nettie.
"Anything you like—yes, a cup of tea will do; and hark'ye, child, I want a good stout supper got this afternoon. Your mother don't choose to hear me. Mr. Lumber is coming, and I want a good supper to make him think he's got to the right place. Do you hear, Nettie?"
Nettie went on to do the best she could. She warmed the remains of last night's porridge and gave it to Barry with treacle, to keep him quiet. Meanwhile she had made the tea, and toasted a slice of bread very nicely, though with great pains, for the fire wasn't good; and the toast and a cup of tea she gave to her father. He eat it with an eagerness which let Nettie know she must make another slice as fast as possible.
"Hollo! Nettie—I say, give us some of that, will you?" said Barry, finding his porridge poor in taste.
"Barry, there isn't bread enough—I can't," whispered Nettie. "We've got to keep a loaf for supper."
"Eat what you've got, or let it alone!" thundered Mr. Mathieson, in the way he had when he was out of patience, and which always tried Nettie exceedingly.
"She's got more," said Barry. "She's toasting two pieces this minute. I want one."
"I'll knock you over, if you say another word," said his father. Nettie was frightened, for she saw he meant to have the whole, and she had destined a bit for her mother. However, when she gave her father his second slice, she ventured, and took the other with a cup of tea to the forlorn figure on the other side of the stove. Mrs. Mathieson took only the tea. But Mr. Mathieson's ire was roused afresh. Perhaps toast and tea didn't agree with him.
"Have you got all ready for Mr. Lumber?" he said, in a tone of voice very unwilling to be pleased.
"No," said his wife,—"I have had no chance. I have been cooking and clearing up all the morning. His room isn't ready."
"Well, you had better get it ready pretty quick. What's to do?"
"Everything's to do," said Mrs. Mathieson.
He swore at her. "Why can't you answer a plain question? I say, what's to do?"
"There's all Nettie's things in the room at present. They are all to move up stairs, and the red bedstead to bring down."
"No, mother," said Nettie, gently,—"all my things are up stairs already;—there's only the cot and the bed, that I couldn't move."
Mrs. Mathieson gave no outward sign of the mixed feeling of pain and pleasure that shot through her heart. Pleasure at her child's thoughtful love, pain that she should have to show it in such a way.
"When did you do it, Nettie?"
"This morning before breakfast, mother. It's all ready, father, if you or Barry would take up my cot and the bed, and bring down the other bedstead. It's too heavy for me."
"That's what I call doing business and having some spirit," said her father. "Not sitting and letting your work come to you. Here, Nettie—I'll do the rest for you."
Nettie ran with him to show him what was wanted; and Mr. Mathieson's strong arms had it all done very quickly. Nettie eagerly thanked him; and then seeing him in good-humour with her, she ventured something more.
"Mother's very tired to-day, father," she whispered; "she'll feel better by and by if she has a little rest. Do you think you would mind helping me put up this bedstead?"
"Well, here goes!" said Mr. Mathieson. "Which piece belongs here, to begin with?"
Nettie did not know much better than he; but putting not only her whole mind but also her whole heart into it, she managed to find out and direct him successfully. Her part was hard work; she had to stand holding up the heavy end of the bedstead while her father fitted in the long pieces; and then she helped him to lace the cords, which had to be drawn very tight; and precious time was running away fast, and Nettie had had no dinner. But she stood patiently, with a thought in her heart which kept her in peace all the while. When it was done, Mr. Mathieson went out; and Nettie returned to her mother. She was sitting where she had left her. Barry was gone.
"Mother, wont you have something to eat?"
"I can't eat, child. Have you had anything yourself?"
Nettie had seized a remnant of her father's toast, and was munching it hastily.
"Mother, wont you put on your gown and come to church this afternoon? Do! It will rest you. Do, mother!"
"You forget I've got to get supper, child. Your father doesn't think it necessary that anybody should rest, or go to church, or do anything except work. What he is thinking of, I am sure I don't know. There is no place to eat in but this room, and he is going to bring a stranger into it; and if I was dying I should have to get up for every meal that is wanted. I never thought I should come to live so! And I cannot dress myself, or prepare the victuals, or have a moment to myself, but I have the chance of Mr. Lumber and your father in here to look on! It is worse than a dog's life!"
It looked pretty bad, Nettie thought. She did not know what to say. She began clearing away the things on the table.
"And what sort of a man this Mr. Lumber is, I don't know. I dare say he is like his name—one of your father's cronies—a drinker and a swearer. And Mr. Mathieson will bring him here, to be on my hands! It will kill me before spring, if it lasts."
"Couldn't there be a bed made somewhere else for Barry, mother? and then we could eat in there."
"Where would you make it? I could curtain off a corner of this room, but Barry wouldn't have it, nor your father; and they'd all want to be close to the fire the minute the weather grows the least bit cool. No—there is nothing for me, but to live on till Death calls for me!"
"Mother—Jesus said, 'He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die.'"
"O yes!" said Mrs. Mathieson, with a kind of long-drawn groan, "I don't know how it will be about that! I get so put about, now in these times, that it seems to me I don't know my own soul!"
"Mother, come to church this afternoon."
"I can't, child. I've got to put up that man's bed and make it."
"That is all done, mother, and the floor brushed up. Do come!"
"Why, who put it up?"
"Father and I."
"Well! you do beat all, Nettie. But I can't, child; I haven't time."
"Yes, mother, plenty. There's all the hour of Sunday-school before church begins. Now do, mother!"
"Well—you go off to school; and if I can, maybe I will. You go right off, Nettie."
Nettie went, feeling weary and empty by dint of hard work and a dinner of a small bit of dry toast. But she thought little about that. She wanted to ask Mr. Folke a question.
The lesson that afternoon was upon the peacemakers; and Mr. Folke asked the children what ways they knew of being a peacemaker? The answer somehow was not very ready.
"Isn't it to stop people from quarrelling?" one child asked.
"How can you do that, Kizzy?"
Kizzy seemed doubtful. "I could ask them to stop," she said.
"Well, suppose you did. Would angry people mind your asking?"
"I don't know, sir. If they were very angry, I suppose they wouldn't."
"Perhaps not. One thing is certain, Kizzy; you must have peace in your own heart, to give you the least chance."
"How, Mr. Folke?"
"If you want to put out a fire, you must not stick into it something that will catch?"
"That would make the fire worse," said one of the girls.
"Certainly. So if you want to touch quarrelsome spirits with the least hope of softening them, you must be so full of the love of Jesus yourself that nothing but love can come out of your own spirit. You see it means a good deal, to be a peacemaker."
"I always thought that must be one of the easiest things of the whole lot," said one of the class.
"You wont find it so, I think; or rather you will find they are all parts of the same character, and the blessing is one. But there are more ways of being a peacemaker. What do you do when the hinge of a door creaks?"
One said "she didn't know;" another said "Nothing." "I stop my ears," said a third. Mr. Folke laughed.
"That would not do for a peacemaker," he said. "Don't you know what makes machinery work smoothly?"
"Oil!" cried Kizzy.
"Oil to be sure. One little drop of oil will stop ever so much creaking and groaning and complaining, of hinges and wheels and all sorts of machines. Now, peoples' tempers are like wheels and hinges—but what sort of oil shall we use?"
The girls looked at each other, and then one of them said, "Kindness."
"To be sure! A gentle word, a look of love, a little bit of kindness, will smooth down a roughened temper or a wry face, and soften a hard piece of work, and make all go easily. And so of reproving sinners. The Psalmist says, 'Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head.' But you see the peacemaker must be righteous himself, or he hasn't the oil. Love is the oil; the love of Jesus."
"Mr. Folke," said Nettie, timidly, "wasn't Jesus a peacemaker?"
"The greatest that ever lived!" said Mr. Folke, his eyes lighting up with pleasure at her question. "He made all the peace there is in the world, for he bought it, when he died on the cross to reconcile man with God. All our drops of oil were bought with drops of blood."
"And," said Nettie, hesitatingly, "Mr. Folke, isn't that one way of being a peacemaker?"
"I mean, to persuade people to be at peace with him?"
"That is the way above all others, my child; that is truly to be the 'children of God.' Jesus came and preached peace; and that is what his servants are doing, and will do, till he comes. And 'they shall be called the children of God.' 'Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.'"
Mr. Folke paused, with a face so full of thought, of eagerness, and of love, that none of the children spoke and some of them wondered. And before Mr. Folke spoke again the superintendent's little bell rang; and they all stood up to sing. But Nettie Mathieson hardly could sing; it seemed to her so glorious a thing to be that sort of a peacemaker. Could she be one? But the Lord blessed the peacemakers; then it must be his will that all his children should be such; then he would enable her to be one! It was a great thought. Nettie's heart swelled, with hope and joy and prayer. She knew whose peace she longed for, first of all.
Her mother had now come to church; so Nettie enjoyed all the services with nothing to hinder. Then they walked home together, not speaking much to each other, but every step of the way pleasant in the Sunday afternoon light, till they got to their own door. Nettie knew what her mother's sigh meant, as they mounted the stairs. Happily, nobody was at home yet but themselves.
"Now, mother," said Nettie, when she had changed her dress and come to the common room,—"what's to be for supper? I'll get it. You sit still and read, if you want to, while it's quiet. What must we have?"
"There is not a great deal to do," said Mrs. Mathieson. "I boiled the pork this morning, and that was what set your father up so; that's ready; and he says there must be cakes. The potatoes are all ready to put down—I was going to boil 'em this morning, and he stopped me."
Nettie looked grave about the cakes. "However, mother," she said, "I don't believe that little loaf of bread would last, even if you and I didn't touch it; it is not very big."
Mrs. Mathieson wearily sat down and took her Testament, as Nettie begged her; and Nettie put on the kettle and the pot of potatoes, and made the cakes ready to bake. The table was set, and the treacle and everything on it, except the hot things, when Barry burst in.
"Hollo, cakes!—hollo, treacle!" he shouted. "Pork and treacle—that's the right sort of thing. Now we're going to live something like."
"Hush, Barry, don't make such a noise," said his sister. "You know it's Sunday evening."
"Sunday! well, what about Sunday? What's Sunday good for, except to eat, I should like to know?"
"O Barry!" said he, mimicking her. "Come, shut up, and fry your cake. Father and Lumber will be here just now."
Nettie hushed, as she was bade; and as soon as her father's step was heard below, she went to frying cakes with all her might. She just turned her head to give one look at Mr. Lumber as he came in. He appeared to her very like her father, but without the recommendation which her affection gave to Mr. Mathieson. A big, strong, burly fellow, with the same tinges of red about his face, that the summer sun had never brought there. Nettie did not want to look again.
She had a good specimen this evening of what they might expect in future. Mrs. Mathieson poured out the tea, and Nettie baked the cakes; and perhaps because she was almost faint for want of something to eat, she thought no three people ever ate so many griddle cakes before at one meal. In vain plateful after plateful went upon the board, and Nettie baked them as fast as she could; they were eaten just as fast; and when finally the chairs were pushed back, and the men went down stairs, Nettie and her mother looked at each other.
"There's only one left, mother," said Nettie.
"And he has eaten certainly half the piece of pork," said Mrs. Mathieson. "Come, child, take something yourself; you're ready to drop. I'll clear away."
But it is beyond the power of any disturbance to take away the gladness of a heart where Jesus is. Nettie's bread was sweet to her, even that evening. Before she had well finished her supper, her father and his lodger came back. They sat down on either side the fire and began to talk,—of politics, and of their work on which they were then engaged, with their employers and their fellow-workmen; of the state of business in the village, and profits and losses, and the success of particular men in making money. They talked loudly and eagerly; and Nettie had to go round and round them, to get to the fire for hot water and back to the table to wash up the cups and plates. Her mother was helping at the table, but to get round Mr. Lumber to the pot of hot water on the fire every now and then, fell to Nettie's share. It was not a very nice ending of her sweet Sabbath day, she thought. The dishes were done and put away, and still the talk went on as hard as ever. It was sometimes a pleasure to Nettie's father to hear her sing hymns of a Sunday evening. Nettie watched for a chance, and the first time there was a lull of the voices of the two men, she asked, softly, "Shall I sing, father?" Mr. Mathieson hesitated, and then answered, "No, better not, Nettie; Mr. Lumber might not find it amusing;" and the talk began again. Nettie waited a little longer, feeling exceedingly tired; then she rose and lit a candle.
"What are you doing, Nettie?" her mother said.
"I am going to bed, mother."
"You can't take a candle up there, child! the attic's all full of things, and you'd certainly set us on fire."
"I'll take great care, mother."
"But you can't, child! The wind might blow the snuff of your candle right into something that would be all a flame by the time you're asleep. You must manage without a light somehow."
"But I can't see to find my way," said Nettie, who was secretly trembling with fear.
"I'll light you then, for once, and you'll soon learn the way. Give me the candle."
Nettie hushed the words that came crowding into her mouth, and clambered up the steep stairs to the attic. Mrs. Mathieson followed her with the candle till she got to the top, and there she held it till Nettie had found her way to the other end where her bed was. Then she said good-night and went down.
The little square shutter of the window was open, and a ray of moonlight streamed in upon the bed. It was nicely made up; Nettie saw that her mother had been there and had done that for her and wrought a little more space and order among the things around the bed. But the moonlight did not get in far enough to show much more. Just a little of this thing and of that could be seen; a corner of a chest, or a gleam on the side of a meal bag; the half light showed nothing clearly except the confused fulness of the little attic. Nettie had given her head a blow against a piece of timber as she came through it; and she sat down upon her little bed, feeling rather miserable. Her fear was that the rats might visit her up there. She did not certainly know that there were rats in the attic, but she had been fearing to think of them and did not dare to ask; as well as unwilling to give trouble to her mother; for if they did come there, Nettie did not see how the matter could be mended. She sat down on her little bed, so much frightened that she forgot how tired she was. Her ears were as sharp as needles, listening to hear the scrape of a rat's tooth upon a timber or the patter of his feet over the floor.
For a few minutes Nettie almost thought she could not sleep up there alone, and must go down and implore her mother to let her spread her bed in a corner of her room. But what a bustle that would make. Her mother would be troubled, and her father would be angry, and the lodger would be disturbed, and there was no telling how much harm would come of it. No; the peacemaker of the family must not do that. And then the words floated into Nettie's mind again, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Like a strain of the sweetest music it floated in; and if an angel had come and brought the words straight to Nettie, she could not have been more comforted. She felt the rats could not hurt her while she was within hearing of that music; and she got up and kneeled down upon the chest under the little window and looked out.
It was like the day that had passed; not like the evening. So purely and softly the moonbeams lay on all the fields and trees and hills, there was no sign of anything but peace and purity to be seen. No noise of men's work or voices; no clangour of the iron foundry which on weekdays might be heard; no sight of anything unlovely; but the wide beauty which God had made, and the still peace and light which he had spread over it. Every little flapping leaf seemed to Nettie to tell of its Maker; and the music of those words seemed to be all through the still air—"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Tears of gladness and hope slowly gathered in Nettie's eyes. The children of God will enter in, by and by, through those pearly gates, into that city of gold,—"where they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light." "So he can give me light here—or what's better than light," thought Nettie. "God isn't only out there, in all that beautiful moonlight world—he is here in my poor little attic too; and he will take just as good care of me as he does of the birds, and better, for I am his child, and they are only his beautiful little servants."
Nettie's fear was gone. She prayed her evening prayer; she trusted herself to the Lord Jesus to take care of her; and then she undressed herself and lay down and went to sleep, just as quietly as any sparrow of them all with its head under its wing.
Nettie's attic grew to be a good place to her. She never heard the least sound of rats; and it was so nicely out of the way. Barry never came up there, and there she could not even hear the voices of her father and Mr. Lumber. She had a tired time of it down stairs.
That first afternoon was a good specimen of the way things went on. Nettie's mornings were always spent at school; Mrs. Mathieson would have that, as she said, whether she could get along without Nettie or no. From the time Nettie got home till she went to bed, she was as busy as she could be. There was so much bread to make, and so much beef and pork to boil, and so much washing of pots and kettles; and at meal times there were very often cakes to fry, besides all the other preparations. Mr. Mathieson seemed to have made up his mind that his lodger's rent should all go to the table and be eaten up immediately; but the difficulty was to make as much as he expected of it in that line; for now he brought none of his own earnings home, and Mrs. Mathieson had more than a sad guess where they went. By degrees he came to be very little at home in the evenings, and he carried off Barry with him. Nettie saw her mother burdened with a great outward and inward care at once, and stood in the breach all she could. She worked to the extent of her strength, and beyond it, in the endless getting and clearing away of meals; and watching every chance, when the men were out of the way, she would coax her mother to sit down and read a chapter in her Testament. "It will rest you so, mother," Nettie would say; "and I will make the bread just as soon as I get the dishes done. Do let me! I like to do it."
Sometimes Mrs. Mathieson could not be persuaded; sometimes she would yield, in a despondent kind of way, and sit down with her Testament and look at it as if neither there nor anywhere else in the universe could she find rest or comfort any more.
"It don't signify, child," she said, one afternoon when Nettie had been urging her to sit down and read. "I haven't the heart to do anything. We're all driving to rack and ruin just as fast as we can go."
"Oh no, mother!" said Nettie. "I don't think we are."
"I am sure of it. I see it coming every day. Every day it is a little worse; and Barry is going along with your father; and they are destroying me among them, body and soul too."
"No, mother," said Nettie, "I don't think that. I have prayed the Lord Jesus, and you know he has promised to hear prayer; and I know we are not going to ruin."
"You are not, child, I believe; but you are the only one of us that isn't. I wish I was dead, to be out of my misery!"
"Sit down, mother, and read a little bit; and don't talk so. Do, mother! It will be an hour and more yet to supper, and I'll get it ready. You sit down and read, and I'll make the shortcakes. Do, mother! and you'll feel better."
It was half despair and half persuasion that made her do it; but Mrs. Mathieson did sit down by the open window and take her Testament; and Nettie flew quietly about, making her shortcakes and making up the fire and setting the table, and through it all casting many a loving glance over to the open book in her mother's hand and the weary, stony face that was bent over it. Nettie had not said how her own back was aching, and she forgot it almost in her business and her thoughts; though by the time her work was done her head was aching wearily too. But cakes and table and fire and everything else were in readiness; and Nettie stole up behind her mother and leaned over her shoulder; leaned a little heavily.
 "Don't that chapter comfort you, mother?" she whispered.
 See Frontispiece.
"No. It don't seem to me as I've got any feeling left," said Mrs. Mathieson. It was the fourth chapter of John at which they were both looking.
"Don't it comfort you to read of Jesus being wearied?" Nettie went on, her head lying on her mother's shoulder.
"Why should it, child?"
"I like to read it," said Nettie. "Then I know he knows how I feel sometimes."
"God knows everything, Nettie."
"Yes, mother; but then Jesus felt it. 'He took our infirmities.' And oh, mother, don't you love that tenth verse?—and the thirteenth and fourteenth?"
Mrs. Mathieson looked at it, silently; then she said, "I don't rightly understand it, Nettie. I suppose I ought to do so,—but I don't."
"Why, mother! I understand it. It means, that if Jesus makes you happy, you'll never be unhappy again. 'Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst,'—don't you see, mother? 'Shall never thirst,'—he will have enough, and be satisfied."
"How do you know it, Nettie?" her mother asked, in a puzzled kind of way.
"I know it, mother, because Jesus has given that living water to me."
"He never gave it to me," said Mrs. Mathieson, in the same tone.
"But he will, mother. Look up there—oh, how I love that tenth verse!—'If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.' See, mother,—he will give, if we ask."
"And do you feel so, Nettie?—that you have enough, and are satisfied with your life every day?"
"Yes, mother," Nettie said, quietly; "I am very happy. I am happy all the time; because I think that Jesus is with me everywhere; when I'm upstairs, and when I'm busy here, and when I'm at school, and when I go to the spring; and all times. And that makes me very happy."
"And don't you wish for anything you haven't got?" said her mother.
"Yes, one thing," said Nettie. "I just wish that you and father and Barry may be so happy too; and I believe that's coming; for I've prayed the Lord, and I believe he will give it to me. I want it for other people too. I often think, when I am looking at somebody, of those words—'If thou knewest the gift of God, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.'"
With that, Mrs. Mathieson cast down her book and burst into such a passion of weeping that Nettie was frightened. It was like the breaking up of an icy winter. She flung her apron over her head and sobbed aloud; till hearing the steps of the men upon the staircase she rushed off to Barry's room, and presently got quiet, for she came out to supper as if nothing had happened.
From that time there was a gentler mood upon her mother, Nettie saw; though she looked weary and careworn as ever, there was not now often the hard, dogged look which had been wont to be there for months past. Nettie had no difficulty to get her to read the Testament; and of all things, what she liked was to get a quiet hour of an evening alone with Nettie and hear her sing hymns. But both Nettie and she had a great deal, as Mrs. Mathieson said, "to put up with."
As weeks went on, the father of the family was more and more out at nights, and less and less agreeable when he was at home. He and his friend Lumber helped each other in mischief: they went together to Jackson's shop and spent time in lounging and gossiping and talking politics there; and what was worse, they made the time and the politics go down with draughts of liquor. Less and less money came to Mrs. Mathieson's hand; but her husband always required what he called a good meal to be ready for him and his lodger whenever he came home, and made no difference in his expectations whether he had provided the means or not. The lodger's rent and board had been at first given for the household daily expenses; but then Mr. Mathieson began to pay over a smaller sum, saying that it was all that was due; and Mrs. Mathieson suspected that the rest had been paid away already for brandy. Then Mr. Mathieson told her to trade at Jackson's on account, and he would settle the bill. Mrs. Mathieson held off from this as long as it was possible. She and Nettie did their very best to make the little that was given them go a good way; they wasted not a crumb nor a penny, and did not spend on themselves what they really wanted; that they might not have the fearful storm of anger which was sure to come if the dinner was not plentiful and the supper did not please the taste of Mr. Mathieson and his lodger. By degrees it came to be very customary for Mrs. Mathieson and Nettie to make their meal of porridge and bread, after all the more savoury food had been devoured by the others; and many a weary patch and darn filled the night hours because they had not money to buy a cheap dress or two. Nettie bore it very patiently. Mrs. Mathieson was sometimes impatient.
"This wont last me through the week, to get the things you want," she said one Saturday to her husband, when he gave her what he said was Lumber's payment to him.
"You'll have to make it last," said he, gruffly.
"Will you tell me how I'm going to do that? Here isn't more than half what you gave me at first."
"Send to Jackson's for what you want!" he roared at her; "didn't I tell you so? and don't come bothering me with your noise."
"When will you pay Jackson?"
"I'll pay you first!" he said, with an oath, and very violently. It was a ruder word than he had ever said to her before, and Mrs. Mathieson was staggered for a moment by it; but there was another word she was determined to say.
"You may do what you like to me," she said, doggedly; "but I should think you would see for yourself that Nettie has too much to get along with. She is getting just as thin and pale as she can be."
"That's just your fool's nonsense!" said Mr. Mathieson; but he spoke it more quietly. Nettie just then entered the room.
"Here, Nettie, what ails you? Come here. Let's look at you. Aint you as strong as ever you was? Here's your mother says you're getting puny."
Nettie's smile and answer were so placid and untroubled, and the little colour that rose in her cheeks at her father's question made her look so fresh and well, that he was quieted. He drew her to his arms, for his gentle dutiful little daughter had a place in his respect and affection both, though he did not often show it very broadly; but now he kissed her.
"There!" said he; "don't you go to growing thin and weak without telling me, for I don't like such doings. You tell me when you want anything." But with that, Mr. Mathieson got up and went off, out of the house; and Nettie had small chance to tell him if she wanted anything. However, this little word and kiss were a great comfort and pleasure to her. It was the last she had from him in a good while.
Nettie, however, was not working for praise or kisses, and very little of either she got. Generally her father was rough, imperious, impatient, speaking fast enough if anything went wrong, but very sparing in expressions of pleasure. Sometimes a blessing did come upon her from the very depth of Mrs. Mathieson's heart, and went straight to Nettie's; but it was for another blessing she laboured, and prayed, and waited.
So weeks went by. So her patient little feet went up and down the stairs with pails of water from the spring; and her hands made bread and baked cakes, and set rooms in order; and it was Nettie always who went to Mr. Jackson's for meal and treacle, and to Mrs. Auguste's, the little Frenchwoman's, as she was called, for a loaf when they were now and then out of bread. And with her mornings spent at school, Nettie's days were very busy ones; and the feet that at night mounted the steps to her attic room were aching and tired enough. All the more that now Nettie and her mother lived half the time on porridge; all the provision they dared make of other things being quite consumed by the three hearty appetites that were before them at the meal. And Nettie's appetite was not at all hearty, and sometimes she could hardly eat at all.
As the summer passed away it began to grow cold, too, up in her garret. Nettie had never thought of that. As long as the summer sun warmed the roof well in the day, and only the soft summer wind played in and out of her window at night, it was all very well; and Nettie thought her sleeping-chamber was the best in the whole house, for it was nearest the sky. But August departed with its sunny days, and September grew cool at evening; and October brought still sunny days, it is true, but the nights had a clear sharp frost in them; and Nettie was obliged to cover herself up warm in bed and look at the moonlight and the stars as she could see them through the little square opening left by the shutter. The stars looked very lovely to Nettie, when they peeped at her so, in her bed, out of their high heaven; and she was very content.
Then came November; and the winds began to come into the garret, not only through the open window, but through every crack between two boards. The whole garret was filled with the winds, Nettie thought. It was hard managing then. Shutting the shutter would bar out the stars, but not the wind, she found; and to keep from being quite chilled through at her times of prayer morning and evening, Nettie used to take the blanket and coverlets from the bed and wrap herself in them. It was all she could do. Still, she forgot the inconveniences; and her little garret chamber seemed to Nettie very near heaven, as well as near the sky.
But all this way of life did not make her grow strong, nor rosy; and though Nettie never told her father that she wanted anything, her mother's heart measured the times when it ought to be told.
THE BROWN CLOAK IN NOVEMBER.
November days drew toward an end; December was near. One afternoon Mrs. Mathieson, wanting Nettie, went to the foot of the garret stairs to call her, and stopped, hearing Nettie's voice singing. It was a clear, bird-like voice, and Mrs. Mathieson listened; at first she could not distinguish the words, but then came a refrain which was plain enough.
"Glory, glory, glory, glory, Glory be to God on high, Glory, glory, glory, glory, Sing his praises through the sky; Glory, glory, glory, glory, Glory to the Father give, Glory, glory, glory, glory, Sing his praises all that live."
Mrs. Mathieson's heart gave way. She sat down on the lowest step and cried, for very soreness of heart. But work must be done; and when the song had ceased, for it went on some time, Mrs. Mathieson wiped her tears with her apron and called, "Nettie!"
"Yes, mother. Coming."
"Fetch down your school-cloak, child."
She went back to her room, and presently Nettie came in with the cloak, looking placid as usual, but very pale.
"Are you singing up there to keep yourself warm, child?"
"Well, mother, I don't know but it does," Nettie answered, smiling. "My garret did seem to me full of glory just now; and it often does, mother."
"The Lord save us!" exclaimed Mrs. Mathieson, bursting into tears again. "I believe you're in a way to be going above, before my face!"
"Now, mother, what sort of a way is that of talking?" said Nettie, looking troubled. "You know I can't die till Jesus bids me; and I don't think he is going to take me now. What did you want me to do?"
"Nothing. You aint fit. I must go and do it myself."
"Yes I am fit. I like to do it," said Nettie. "What is it, mother?"
"Somebody's got to go to Mr. Jackson's—but you aint fit, child; you eat next to none at noon. You can't live on porridge."
"I like it, mother; but I wasn't hungry. What's wanting from Jackson's?"
Nettie put on her cloak, and took her basket and went out. It was after sundown already, and a keen wind swept through the village street, and swept through Nettie's brown cloak too, tight as she wrapped it about her. But though she was cold and blue, and the wind seemed to go through her as well as the cloak, Nettie was thinking of something else. She knew that her mother had eaten a very scanty, poor sort of dinner, as well as herself, and that she often looked pale and wan; and Nettie was almost ready to wish she had not given the last penny of her shilling, on Sunday, to the missionary-box. When her father had given her the coin, she had meant then to keep it to buy something now and then for her mother; but it was not immediately needed, and one by one the pennies had gone to buy tracts, or as a mite to the fund for sending Bibles or missionaries to those who did not know how to sing Nettie's song of "glory."
She wondered to herself now if she had done quite right; she could not help thinking that if she had one penny she could buy a smoked herring, which, with a bit of bread and tea, would make a comfortable supper for her mother, which she could relish. Had she done right? But one more thought of the children and grown people who have not the Bible,—who know nothing of the golden city with its gates of pearl, and are nowise fit to enter by those pure entrances where "nothing that defileth" can go in,—and Nettie wished no more for a penny back that she had given to bring them there. She hugged herself in her cloak, and as she went quick along the darkening ways, the light from that city seemed to shine in her heart and make warmth through the cold. She was almost sorry to go to Mr. Jackson's shop; it had grown rather a disagreeable place to her lately. It was half full of people, as usual at that hour.
"What do you want?" said Mr. Jackson, rather curtly, when Nettie's turn came and she had told her errand. "What!" he exclaimed, "seven pounds of meal and a pound of butter, and two pounds of sugar! Well, you tell your father that I should like to have my bill settled; it's all drawn up, you see, and I don't like to open a new account till it's all square."
He turned away immediately to another customer, and Nettie felt she had got her answer. She stood a moment, very disappointed, and a little mortified, and somewhat downhearted. What should they do for supper? and what a storm there would be when her father heard about all this and found nothing but bread and tea on the table. Slowly Nettie turned away, and slowly made the few steps from the door to the corner. She felt very blue indeed; coming out of the warm store the chill wind made her shiver. Just at the corner somebody stopped her.
"Nettie!" said the voice of the little French baker, "what ails you? you look not well."
Nettie gave her a grateful smile, and said she was well.
"You look not like it," said Mme. Auguste; "you look as if the wind might carry you off before you get home. Come to my house—I want to see you in the light."
"I haven't time; I must go home to mother, Mrs. August."
"Yes, I know! You will go home all the faster for coming this way first. You have not been to see me in these three or four weeks."
She carried Nettie along with her; it was but a step, and Nettie did not feel capable of resisting anything. The little Frenchwoman put her into the shop before her, made her sit down, and lighted a candle. The shop was nice and warm and full of the savoury smell of fresh baking.
"We have made our own bread lately," said Nettie, in answer to the charge of not coming there.
"Do you make it good?" said Mme. Auguste.
"It isn't like yours, Mrs. August," said Nettie, smiling.
"If you will come and live with me next summer, I will teach you how to do some things; and you shall not look so blue neither. Have you had your supper?"
"No, and I am just going home to get supper. I must go, Mrs. August."
"You come in here," said the Frenchwoman; "you are my prisoner. I am all alone, and I want somebody for company. You take off your cloak, Nettie, and I shall give you something to keep the wind out. You do what I bid you!"
Nettie felt too cold and weak to make any ado about complying, unless duty had forbade; and she thought there was time enough yet. She let her cloak drop, and took off her hood. The little back room to which Mme. Auguste had brought her was only a trifle bigger than the bit of a shop; but it was as cozy as it was little. A tiny stove warmed it, and kept warm, too, a tiny iron pot and tea-kettle which were steaming away. The bed was at one end, draped nicely with red curtains; there was a little looking-glass, and some prints in frames round the walls; there was Madame's little table covered with a purple cloth, and with her work and a small clock and various pretty things on it. Mme. Auguste had gone to a cupboard in the wall, and taken out a couple of plates and little bowls, which she set on a little round stand; and then lifting the cover of the pot on the stove, she ladled out a bowlful of what was in it, and gave it to Nettie with one of her own nice crisp rolls.
"Eat that!" she said. "I shan't let you go home till you have swallowed that to keep the cold out. It makes me all freeze to look at you."
So she filled her own bowl, and made good play with her spoon, while between spoonfuls she looked at Nettie; and the good little woman smiled in her heart to see how easy it was for Nettie to obey her. The savoury, simple, comforting broth she had set before her was the best thing to the child's delicate stomach that she had tasted for many a day.
"Is it good?" said the Frenchwoman when Nettie's bowl was half empty.
"It's so good!" said Nettie. "I didn't know I was so hungry."
"Now you will not feel the cold so," said the Frenchwoman, "and you will go back quicker. Do you like my riz-au-gras?"
"What is it, ma'am?" said Nettie.
The Frenchwoman laughed, and made Nettie say it over till she could pronounce the words. "Now you like it," she said; "that is a French dish. Do you think Mrs. Mat'ieson would like it?"
"I am sure she would!" said Nettie. "But I don't know how to make it."
"You shall come here and I will teach it to you. And now you shall carry a little home to your mother and ask her if she will do the honour to a French dish to approve it. It do not cost anything. I cannot sell much bread the winters; I live on what cost me nothing."
While saying this, Mme. Auguste had filled a little pail with the riz-au-gras, and put a couple of her rolls along with it. "It must have the French bread," she said; and she gave it to Nettie, who looked quite cheered up, and very grateful.
"You are a good little girl!" she said. "How keep you always your face looking so happy? There is always one little streak of sunshine here"—drawing her finger across above Nettie's eyebrows—"and another here,"—and her finger passed over the line of Nettie's lips.
"That's because I am happy, Mrs. August."
"What makes you so happy always? you was just the same in the cold winter out there, as when you was eating my riz-au-gras. Now me, I am cross in the cold, and not happy."
But the Frenchwoman saw a deeper light come into Nettie's eyes as she answered, "It is because I love the Lord Jesus, Mrs. August, and he makes me happy."
"You?" said Madame. "My child!—What do you say, Nettie? I think not I have heard you right."
"Yes, Mrs. August, I am happy because I love the Lord Jesus. I know he loves me, and he will take me to be with him."
"Not just yet," said the Frenchwoman, "I hope! Well, I wish I was so happy as you, Nettie. Good-bye!"
Nettie ran home, more comforted by her good supper, and more thankful to the goodness of God in giving it, and happy in the feeling of his goodness than can be told. And very, very glad she was of that little tin pail in her hand she knew her mother needed. Mrs. Mathieson had time to eat the rice broth before her husband came in.
"She said she would show me how to make it," said Nettie, "and it don't cost anything."
"Why, it's just rice and—what is it? I don't see," said Mrs. Mathieson. "It isn't rice and milk."
Nettie laughed at her mother. "Mrs. August didn't tell. She called it reeso—— I forget what she called it!"
"It's the best thing I ever saw," said Mrs. Mathieson. "There—put the pail away. Your father's coming."
He was in a terrible humour, as they expected; and Nettie and her mother had a sad evening of it. And the same sort of thing lasted for several days. Mrs. Mathieson hoped that perhaps Mr. Lumber would take into his head to seek lodgings somewhere else; or at least that Mathieson would have been shamed into paying Jackson's bill; but neither thing happened. Mr. Lumber found his quarters too comfortable; and Mr. Mathieson spent too much of his earnings on drink to find the amount necessary to clear off the scores at the grocer's shop.
From that time, as they could run up no new account, the family were obliged to live on what they could immediately pay for. That was seldom a sufficient supply; and so, in dread of the storms that came whenever their wants touched Mr. Mathieson's own comfort, Nettie and her mother denied themselves constantly what they very much needed. The old can sometimes bear this better than the young. Nettie grew more delicate, more thin, and more feeble, every day. It troubled her mother sadly. Mr. Mathieson could not be made to see it. Indeed he was little at home except when he was eating.
THE NEW BLANKET.
Nettie had been in Barry's room one evening, putting it to rights; through the busy day it had somehow been neglected. Mrs. Mathieson's heart was so heavy that her work dragged; and when Nettie came out and sat down to her Sunday-school lesson, her mother kept watching her for a long time with a dull, listless face, quite still and idle. The child's face was busy over her Bible, and Mrs. Mathieson did not disturb her, till Nettie lifted her head to glance at the clock. Then the bitterness of her mother's heart broke out.
"He's a ruined man!" she exclaimed, in her despair. "He's a ruined man! he's taking to drinking more and more. It's all over with him—and with us."
"No, mother," said Nettie, gently,—"I hope not. There's better times coming, mother. God never forsakes those that trust in him. He has promised to hear prayer; and I have prayed to him, and I feel sure he will save us."
Mrs. Mathieson was weeping bitterly.
"So don't you cry, mother. Trust! 'Only believe'—don't you remember Jesus said that? Just believe him, mother. I do."
And proving how true she spoke—how steadfast and firm was the faith she professed, with that, as Nettie got up to put away her books, her lips burst forth into song; and never more clear nor more sweet than she sung then, sounded the wild sweet notes that belong to the words—favourites with her. There was no doubt in her voice at all.
"Great spoils I shall win, from death, hell, and sin, 'Midst outward afflictions shall feel Christ within; And when I'm to die, Receive me, I'll cry; For Jesus hath loved me, I cannot tell why."
Mrs. Mathieson sobbed at first; but there came a great quietness over her; and as the clear beautiful strain came to an end, she rose up, threw her apron over her face, and knelt quietly down by the side of her bed; putting her face in her hands. Nettie stood and looked at her; then turned and went up the stair to her own praying-place; feeling in her heart as if instead of two weary feet she had had "wings as angels," to mount up literally. She knew that part of her prayer was getting its answer. She knew by the manner of her mother, that it was in no bitterness and despair but in the humbleness of a bowed heart that she had knelt down; and Nettie's slow little feet kept company with a most bounding spirit. She went to bed and covered herself up, not to sleep, but because it was too cold to be in the garret a moment uncovered; and lay there broad awake, "making melody in her heart to the Lord."
It was very cold up in Nettie's garret now; the winter had moved on into the latter part of December, and the frosts were very keen; and the winter winds seem to come in at one end of the attic and to just sweep through to the other, bringing all except the snow with them. Even the snow often drifted in through the cracks of the rough wainscot board, or under the shutter, and lay in little white streaks or heaps on the floor, and never melted. To-night there was no wind, and Nettie had left her shutter open that she might see the stars as she lay in bed. It did not make much difference in the feeling of the place, for it was about as cold inside as out; and the stars were great friends of Nettie. To-night she lay and watched them, blinking down at her through her garret window with their quiet eyes; they were always silent witnesses to her of the beauty and purity of heaven, and reminders too of that eye that never sleeps and that hand that planted and upholds all. How bright they looked down to-night! It was very cold, and lying awake made Nettie colder; she shivered sometimes under all her coverings; still she lay looking at the stars in that square patch of sky that her shutter opening gave her to see, and thinking of the golden city. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." "There shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall serve him."
"His servants shall serve him"—thought Nettie; "and mother will be there,—and father will be there, and Barry,—and I shall be there! and then I shall be happy. And I am happy now. 'Blessed be the Lord, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me!'"—And if that verse went through Nettie's head once, it did fifty times. So did this one, which the quiet stars seemed to repeat and whisper to her, "The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants, and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate." And though now and then a shiver passed over Nettie's shoulders, with the cold, she was ready to sing for very gladness and fulness of heart.
But lying awake and shivering did not do Nettie's little body any good; she looked so very white the next day, that it caught even Mr. Mathieson's attention. He reached out his arm and drew Nettie toward him, as she was passing between the cupboard and the table. Then he looked at her, but he did not say how she looked.
"Do you know day after to-morrow is Christmas day?" said he.
"Yes, I know. It's the day when Christ was born," said Nettie.
"Well, I don't know anything about that," said her father; "but what I mean is, that a week after is New Year. What would you like me to give you, Nettie,—hey?"
Nettie stood still for a moment, then her eyes lighted up.
"Will you give it to me, father, if I tell you?"
"I don't know. If it is not extravagant, perhaps I will."
"It will not cost much," said Nettie, earnestly. "Will you give me what I choose, father, if it does not cost too much?"
"I suppose I will. What is it?"
"Father, you wont be displeased?"
"Not I!" said Mr. Mathieson, drawing Nettie's little form tighter in his grasp; he thought he had never felt it so slight and thin before.
"Father, I am going to ask you a great thing!—to go to church with me New Year's day."
"To church!" said her father, frowning; but he remembered his promise, and he felt Nettie in his arms yet. "What on earth good will that do you?"
"A great deal of good. It would please me so much, father."
"What do you want me to go to church for?" said Mr. Mathieson, not sure yet what humour he was going to be in.
"To thank God, father, that there was a Christmas; when Jesus came, that we might have a New Year."
"What? what?" said Mr. Mathieson. "What are you talking about?"
"Because, father," said Nettie, trembling, and seizing her chance, "since Jesus loved us and came and died for us, we all may have a New Year of glory. I shall, father; and I want you too. Oh do, father!" and Nettie burst into tears. Mr. Mathieson held her fast, and his face showed a succession of changes for a minute or so. But she presently raised her head from his shoulder, where it had sunk, and kissed him, and said—
"May I have what I want, father?"
"Yes—go along," said Mr. Mathieson. "I should like to know how to refuse you, though. But, Nettie, don't you want me to give you anything else?"
"Nothing else!" she told him, with her face all shining with joy. Mr. Mathieson looked at her and seemed very thoughtful all supper time.
"Can't you strengthen that child up a bit?" he said to his wife afterwards. "She does too much."
"She does as little as I can help," said Mrs. Mathieson; "but she is always at something. I am afraid her room is too cold o' nights. She aint fit to bear it. It's bitter up there."
"Give her another blanket or quilt, then," said her husband. "I should think you would see to that. Does she say she is cold?"
"No,—never except sometimes when I see her looking blue, and ask her."
"And what does she say then?"
"She says sometimes she is a little cold."
"Well, do put something more over her, and have no more of it!" said her husband, violently. "Sit still and let the child be cold, when another covering would make it all right!" And he ended with swearing at her.
Mrs. Mathieson did not dare to tell him that Nettie's food was not of a sufficiently nourishing and relishing kind; she knew what the answer to that would be; and she feared that a word more about Nettie's sleeping-room would be thought an attack upon Mr. Lumber's being in the house. So she was silent.
But there came home something for Nettie in the course of the Christmas week, which comforted her a little, and perhaps quieted Mr. Mathieson too. He brought with him, on coming home to supper one evening, a great thick roll of a bundle, and put it in Nettie's arms, telling her that was for her New Year.
"For me!" said Nettie, the colour starting a little into her cheeks.
"Yes, for you. Open it, and see."
So Nettie did, with some trouble, and there tumbled out upon the floor a great heavy warm blanket, new from the shop. Mr. Mathieson thought the pink in her cheeks was the prettiest thing he had seen in a long while.
"Is this for me, father?"
"I mean it to be so. See if it will go on that bed of yours and keep you warm."
Nettie gave her father some very hearty thanks, which he took in a silent, pleased way; and then she hastened off with her blanket upstairs. How thick and warm it was! and how nicely it would keep her comfortable when she knelt, all wrapped up in it, on that cold floor. For a little while it would; not even a warm blanket would keep her from the cold more than a little while at a time up there. But Nettie tried its powers the first thing she did.
Did Mr. Mathieson mean the blanket to take the place of his promise? Nettie thought of that, but like a wise child she said nothing at all till the Sunday morning came. Then, before she set off for Sunday-school, she came to her father's elbow.
"Father, I'll be home a quarter after ten; will you be ready then?"
"Ready for what?" said Mr. Mathieson.
"For my New Year's," said Nettie. "You know you promised I should go to church with you."
"Did I? And aint you going to take the blanket for your New Year's, and let me off, Nettie?"
"No, father, to be sure not. I'll be home at a quarter past; please don't forget." And Nettie went off to school very thankful and happy, for her father's tone was not unkind. How glad she was New Year's day had come on Sunday.
Mr. Mathieson was as good as his word. He was ready at the time, and they walked to the church together. That was a great day to Nettie. Her father and mother going to church in company with her and with each other. But nobody that saw her sober sweet little face would have guessed how very full her heart was of prayer, even as they walked along the street among the rest of the people. And when they got to church, it seemed as if every word of the prayers and of the reading and of the hymns and of the sermon, struck on all Nettie's nerves of hearing and feeling. Would her father understand any of those sweet words? would he feel them? would they reach him? Nettie little thought that what he felt most, what did reach him, though he did not thoroughly understand it, was the look of her own face; though she never but once dared turn it toward him. There was a little colour in it more than usual; her eye was deep in its earnestness; and the grave set of her little mouth was broken up now and then in a way that Mr. Mathieson wanted to watch better than the straight sides of her sun-bonnet would let him. Once he thought he saw something more.
He walked home very soberly, and was a good deal on the silent order during the rest of the day. He did not go to church in the afternoon. But in the evening, as her mother was busy in and out getting supper ready, and Mr. Lumber had not come in, Mr. Mathieson called Nettie to his side.
"What was you crying for in church this forenoon?" he said, low.
"Crying!" said Nettie, surprised. "Was I crying?"
"If it wasn't tears I saw dropping from under your hands on to the floor, it must have been some drops of rain that had got there, and I don't see how they could very well. There warn't no rain outside. What was it for, hey?"
There came a great flush all over Nettie's face, and she did not at once speak.
"Hey?—what was it for?"—repeated Mr. Mathieson.
The flush passed away. Nettie spoke very low and with lips all of a quiver. "I remember. I was thinking, father, how 'all things are ready'—and I couldn't help wishing that you were ready too."
"Ready for what?" said Mr. Mathieson, somewhat roughly. "All things ready for what?"
"Ready for you," said Nettie. "Jesus is ready to love you, and calls you—and the angels are ready to rejoice for you—and I——"
"Go on! What of you?"
Nettie lifted her eyes to him. "I am ready to rejoice too, father." But the time of rejoicing was not yet. Nettie burst into tears.
Mr. Mathieson was not angry, yet he flung away from her with a rude "Pshaw!" and that was all the answer she got. But the truth was, that there was something in Nettie's look, of tenderness, and purity, and trembling hope, that her father's heart could not bear to meet; and what is more, that he was never able to forget.
Nettie went about her evening business helping her mother, and keeping back the tears which were very near again; and Mr. Mathieson began to talk with Mr. Lumber, and everything was to all appearance just as it had been hitherto. And so it went on after that.
 A festival common in America on the completion of a house.
It grew colder and colder in Nettie's garret—or else she grew thinner and felt it more. She certainly thought it was colder. The snow came, and piled a thick covering on the roof and stopped up some of the chinks in the clapboarding with its white caulking; and that made the place a little better; then the winds from off the snow-covered country were keen and bitter.
Nettie's whole day was so busy that she had little time to think, except when she went upstairs at night; covered up there under her blankets and quilts, and looking up at the stars, she used to feel sadly that things were in a very bad way. Her father was out constantly o' nights, and they knew too surely where he spent them. He was not a confirmed drunkard yet; but how long would it take, at this rate? And that man Lumber leading him on, with a thicker head himself, and Barry following after! No seeming thought nor care for his wife and daughter and their comfort; it was with great difficulty they could get from him enough money for their daily needs; and to make that do, Nettie and her mother pinched and starved themselves. Often and often Nettie went to bed with an empty stomach, because she was not hearty enough to eat porridge or pork, and the men had not left enough of other viands for herself and her mother. And neither of them would pretend to want that little there was, for fear the other wanted it more.
Her mother was patient and quiet now; not despairing, as a few months ago; and that was such joy to Nettie that she felt often much more like giving thanks than complaining. Yet she saw her mother toiling and insufficiently cared for, and she went to bed feeling very poor and thin herself; then Nettie used to look at the stars and remember the Lord's promises and the golden city, till at last she would go to sleep upon her pillow feeling the very richest little child in all the country. "They shall not be ashamed that wait for me"—was one word which was very often the last in her thoughts. Nettie had no comfort from her father in all the time between New Year and spring. Except one word.