A Sister's Bye-Hours (3)

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POOR MATT; OR, THE CLOUDED
INTELLECT.


I.


ON a lonely sea-coast, at some distance from any houses, a lady was wandering at the turn of the tide, and watching somewhat sadly the shadows of the clouds as they passed over and changed the colours of the tranquil sea.

    It was a a clear morning in the beginning of September, and she had walked more than three miles from her lodgings in the nearest village.  The first two miles had been under high rocky cliffs, from which tangled bugloss, thrift, and sea-lavender hung, and long trailing fern-leaves peeped, and offered somewhat to hold for the hand of the adventurous climber.  The shore under these cliffs was rugged with rocks which stood out from the soft sand, and were covered with limpets; the water washing among them made a peculiar singing noise, quite different to the deep murmur with which it recedes from a more level shore.  She listened to this cheery singing, as the crisp little waves shook the pebbles, playing with them, lifting them up and tossing them together; and she listened to the sheep bells, and watched with wonder how the adventurous lambs found food and footing on the slippery heights of the cliffs.

    The day was so sunny, the air and water so still, and the scene so quiet, that she was tempted to enter upon the third mile; and here the high cliff suddenly dipped down with a grassy sweep, and the shore changed its character altogether.

    Those who are familiar with the scene I am describing will know that I do not exaggerate in saying that after this range of cliffs, more than two hundred feet high, the last descending so steeply as not to be climbed without risk, the coast and country become so perfectly level, that, standing on the low bank of sand — a natural barrier which keeps out the sea — a spectator may discern spires and turrets more than twelve miles inland, and may carry his eye over vast fields, pastures, and warrens, undiversified by a single hill, and over which the shadows of the clouds are seen to lie, and float as distinctly as over the calmest sea.

    It is a green and peaceful district; the church bells, the sheep bells, and the skylarks make all its music; and a few fishermen's cottages are the only habitations along its coast for several miles.

    As I before mentioned, the lady had wandered for more than three miles from her temporary home; and now pausing to consider whether she should return, she observed a figure at a distance before her on the level sand.  At first she thought it was a child, and then she imagined it was a large white stone, for it was perfectly motionless, and of a dazzling white in the sunshine.

    It stood upon a vast expanse of sand, and excited her curiosity so much that she drew nearer to look at it; and then she found that it certainly was some person standing up but not moving; and upon a still closer approach, she found that it was a boy, apparently about twelve years of age, and that he was intently gazing up into the sky.

    So intent, so immovable, was his attitude, that the lady also looked up earnestly; but she could see nothing there but a flock of swallows, and they were so far up, that they only looked like little black specks moving in an open space of blue between two pure white clouds.

    She still approached, and again looked up, for the steady gaze of the boy amazed her; his arms were slightly raised towards heaven, his whole attitude spoke of the deepest abstraction; he had nothing on his head, and his white smock frock, the common dress of that country, fluttered slightly in the soft wind.

    She was close at his side, but attracting no attention, said, 'What are you looking at, boy?'

    The child made no answer.  He had a peculiar countenance; and the idea suggested itself to her mind that he was deficient in intellect.

    'Boy, boy!' she said, shaking him gently by the sleeve; 'what are you doing? what are you looking at?'

    Upon this the figure by her side seemed to wake up from his deep abstraction; he rubbed his eyes, and that painful smile came over his features which we so often see in those whose reason is beclouded.

    'Boy,' said the lady, 'what are you doing?'

    The boy sighed, and again glanced towards the space between the clouds; then he shaded his eyes, and said, with distressful earnestness, 'Matt was looking for God —Matt wants to see God.'

    Astonished and shocked at receiving such an answer, the lady started back; she now felt assured that the boy was an idiot.  She did not know how much trouble and pains it might have cost his friends only to convey to his mind the fact that there is a God; and she was not one of those who inconsiderately and unauthorized will venture to interfere with the teaching of others.  She therefore said nothing; for she could not tell that to assure him of the impossibility of his ever seeing God might not confuse him in his firm belief in the being of God.

    She looked up also, and prayed that his dim mind might be comforted, and his belief made more intelligent.  The clouds were coming together, and as they mingled and shut out the space of sky, the boy withdrew his eyes, and said to his new companion,

    'There was a great hole — Matt wanted to see God.'

    'Poor Mat,' said the lady, compassionately; 'does he often look for God in the sky?'

    The boy did not reply; but, as if to comfort himself for his disappointment, said, in a reassuring tone, 'Matt shall see God to-morrow — shall see God some day.'

    He then began to move away, but as be appeared to be rather lame, his new friend kindly led him; but when she found he did not seem to be making for any particular point, but wandered first to one side, then to the other, she said, 'Where does Matt want to go?'

    The boy looked about him, but could not tell; perhaps his long upward gazing had dazzled his eyes; perhaps the sweet sound of some church bells which was wafted towards them, now louder, now fainter, attracted his attention, for he stopped to listen, and pointing to a gray church spire, told his new friend that the bells said, 'Come to church, good people.'

    This was evidently what he had been told concerning them.  There were some cottages on the sand bank a quarter of a mile from them, and not doubting that he lived there, the lady led him towards them.  Though dressed like one of the labouring classes, the boy was perfectly neat, clean, and obviously well cared for; his light hair was bright, and his hands, by their shrunk and white appearance, showed that he was quite incapable of any kind of labour.  He yielded himself passively to her guidance, only muttering now and then in an abstracted tone, 'Matt shall find God to-morrow.'

    Very shortly a little girl came out of one of the cottages and ran towards them.  She was an active, cheerful little creature; and when she had made the lady a courtesy, she took the boy by the hand, saying to him in a slow, measured tone, 'Come home, Matt; dinner's ready.'

    'How can you think of leaving this poor boy to wander on the shore by himself?' said the lady.  'Did you know that he had left his home?'

    'He always goes out, ma'am, o' fine days,' said the child; 'and we fetch him home to his meals.'

    'But does he never get into mischief?' asked the lady.

    The child smiled, as if amused at the simplicity of the question, and said, 'He's a natural, ma'am; he doesn't know how to get into mischief like us that have sense.'

    'How grateful you ought to be to God for giving you your senses,' said the lady; 'and what a bad thing it seems that children should ever use their sense to help them to do mischief.'

    The little girl looked up shrewdly; and perhaps, suspecting some application to herself, began to evade it, as clever children will do, by applying it to another.

    'There's Rob, he's the smartest boy in the school, ma'am.  Got the prize, he did, last year.  His mother says he's the most mischievous boy in the parish.  Mr. Green gave him "Pilgrim's Progress" for his prize, but I reckon he doesn't know Rob's ways.  Rob climbs up the cliffs after the pigeons' eggs, he does; and his mother says she knows he'll break his neck some day; he climbed a good way up one day, with his little brother on his back, and his mother says she thought she should ha' died o' fright.'

    'I am sorry to hear that he is such a bad boy,' said the lady; 'I hope his little brother was not hurt.'

    'No,' said the child; 'but Rob was beat — his father beat him, he did, when he got down, all the same as if he had hurt his little brother.'  Then, as the boy at her side appeared to flag and come on with reluctance, his little guide resumed the measured tone in which she had at first spoken, and said to him, 'Matt must make haste, the dumpling's ready; make haste, Mat.'

    The kindness and care with which she led him induced the lady to say again, 'Is it safe to leave this poor boy all alone on the beach, when he does not seems to know the way home?'

    'He can't go out of sight, ma'am,' said the child, shaking back her hair from her healthy brown face; 'and our folks give a look at him now and then to see what he's about.'

    'O, then you all care for him,' said the lady; 'you are all fond of him.'

    'Yes, sure,' replied the girl; 'he never does us any harm; and he must come out; he would fret unless he might come out and look for—'

    The child hesitated; but being encouraged to proceed, continued in a lower tone,

    'He expects that some day he shall see God, ma'am.  He is always asking where God is; and when our folks tell him that God is up in heaven, he comes out and looks up.'

    'Poor fellow,' said the lady; 'does he know that we are talking about him now?'

    'No,' said the child, decidedly; 'his grandfather says he can only think about one thing at a time; and now he is thinking about his dinner.'

    By this time they had reached the nearest cottage, and a decent-looking woman came out and requested the lady to walk in and rest.  She then led the boy in, set him on a low stool, and having cut up his dinner on a plate, gave it to the little girl, who began to feed him with it.

    A chair had been set for the stranger; and as she gladly sat down to rest, she took the opportunity of looking about her.

    A very agθd man was sitting in a corner mending a net, such a one as is used for catching shrimps.  A middle-aged woman was clearing away the remains of a meal; and the other, having given the plate into the hands of the child, had turned to an ironing-board, which was covered with laces and muslins.

    It was a tolerably comfortable kitchen; and, as no one spoke for a few moments, the lady had time to remark the long strings of dried herrings that hung from the blackened beams in the roof, the brick floor which was a good deal worn away, and looked somewhat damp, the sea coats hanging on the wall, the oars lying under the chairs, and that general overcrowding of furniture, and yet neatness, which is often seen in a fisherman's cottage, and gives it a resemblance to the cabin of a ship.

    The old man at length looked up.  'I reckon you have had a long walk, ma'am,' said he; 'the visitors from D―― very seldom come over to this lone place; all the fine things they want to see lie on t'other side.'

    'Yes, it is a long walk,' she answered; 'and I do not know that I should have come quite so far if I had not met with this poor boy; he must be a great charge to you, indeed.'

    'Ah, you may say that, ma'am,' said the woman at the ironing-board; 'he is thirteen years old come Michaelmas, poor fellow, and has never done a hand's turn for himself in his life, and never will, as you may plainly see.'

    'Are both his parents dead?'

    'Yes; his poor father was lost in a gale five weeks afore he was born.  He sailed in a fine new brig, the Fanny of London; she was very heavy laden with wheat, and she went down in Boston Deeps, and all on board perished — he was mate, and a very steady man.'

    'The boy's mother was my granddaughter,' said the aged man.

    'Yes, a poor young thing,' observed the woman, and she died afore he was a year old.  As fine a child he was as you would wish to see at first; and when I took him to be baptized, for his mother didn't get over her confinement time enough to take him herself, I well remember Mr. Green saying to me, "Well, Mary Goddard, I hope this child may live to be a comfort to his mother, and you may tell her so from me."  But, poor dear, she didn't live to want comfort, but doted on the child, and never thought he would be a comfort to nobody.'

    'Not but what there was something strange about him from the first,' interrupted the old man.

    'Ay,' said the woman, 'for though he was a brave child to look at, he couldn't stand; and he had a way of sitting with his head back that was queer to see; and his mother took notice of it, for a few days afore she died.  "Aunt," she says, "I misdoubt about my boy; however, I put my trust in the Almighty."  "What do you mean by that?" says I; "the child's well enough, Sarah."  "I misdoubt about his head," says she; "and I'll warrant you if you give a crust to other folks' children, they're sharp enough to put it in their mouths by the time they are his age."  "Well," says I, for I began to be afraid myself (for what she said was true enough), "don't you be fretting, Sally, for he has friends, and he shall never want so long as they can work for him." — Becca, don't feed him so fast, my dear.'

    'I suppose this little girl is a relation,' said the visitor.

    'O, no, ma'am,' was the reply, 'none at all; but the neighbours' children take a sort of pride in waiting on Matt; this little lass in particular; and as her mother has no young children at home, she can very well spare her.'

    By this time the old man, having finished the work he was about, lighted a short pipe, and went out, and the boy with him; little Becca set a stool for him in the sun outside the cottage door, and there he sat basking and apparently enjoying himself, while his grandfather went to his work.

    'You see, ma'am,' said the woman, 'that poor boy can do nothing; but the neighbours are as kind as kind can be; and Mr. Green says sometimes, "Though this is not a common misfortune," says he, "yet your father's being able to work at his time o' life is not a common blessing,"— for father is nigh upon eighty years of age, and as hale and hearty as some men at sixty.  So the old can work for the young, and we are not burdened with both old and young.'

    'No, that is certainly a blessing,' said the visitor, who felt self-reproved when she saw the cheerfulness and industry of this family, particularly of the woman herself; 'and no doubt you have done what you can for the poor fellow; you have tried whether he is capable of being taught anything.'

    The woman was busy laying the clear-starched articles in a flat basket, and counting them over to her sister, who was about to take them home; when the latter had left the cottage, and shut the door behind her, she went on with her ironing, and answered her visitor's question, —

    'Ten years ago, ma'am, I walked over to K――; it is nigh upon thirty miles from our place, but I had heard say there was a doctor there that folks thought very highly of.  So I told him my name was Mary Goddard, and that I had come about a child that was afflicted; and he asked a vast many questions, and by what I said, he said it was easy to tell that the child was paralytic, and had what they call pressure on the brain.  But when I asked if he could do anything for him, "Mary Goddard," says he, "can he feed himself?"  "No, sir," says I, "his hands are too weak."  "Then," says he, "I am afraid it is out of my power to help him, — want of sense is less against him than want of power, — but I will come and see him."  And so he did, sure enough.  May the Almighty reward him, for he would take nothing from us!'

    'And could he do anything for the boy?' asked her visitor.

    'No, ma'am,' answered the woman, with a sigh; he shook his bead, and said all we could do was to keep him as warm as possible.  He was eight years old afore he could speak plain enough to be understood.  The neighbours' children taught him, and a vast deal o' pains they took; for, dear heart! the difficult thing is to get anything into his head; when once that's done, there's no fear of his ever forgetting it.'

    'But that is an advantage — is it not?'

    'Not so much as you would think, ma'am.  Now you see how peaceable he is, sitting in the sun as happy as can be, with his jackdaw on his knee; but there are some words that, if he was but to hear them mentioned, would put him into such a fret and a ferment as is pitiful to see.'

    'Does he go to church?' asked the visitor, who felt more and more interest in the poor child.

    'Yes, ma'am,' said the woman; 'but I reckon he has no notion of praying, and sometimes the organ frightens him a little; but we have taught him to behave very pretty, only sometimes (and that's not often, I'm sure) the poor child will give a little laugh when he sees anybody come in that he knows; and the neighbours never take any notice; but some people in the other hamlet set it about that he disturbed the congregation, and ought not to come.  So I walked over to Mr. Green, and I said, "Sir, if it is your wish, I and my sister will take it in turns to stay at home with the boy."  "Why should you, Mary Goddard?" says he, "he behaves as well as many children that have all their faculties; and I do not see why you should be kept from public worship on his account; and as for the child," said he, "I should be sorry to banish him, for who can tell whether he may not learn something, however little?  Indeed, it is my wish that he should come."

    'And do you think he has learned anything at church?' asked the visitor.

    'No, ma'am, because he never seems to understand anything, unless the person that says it stands close to him and speaks to him, and attends to nothing else; but Mr. Green said it was not for us to limit the Almighty and decide whether he could understand or no; we were to do our duty and leave the rest.'

    'That is the only way to avoid anxiety,' observed the visitor.

    'At one time,' continued the woman, 'we did think he was more sensible, and Mr. Green let him come to school; the neighbours' children used to wheel him there in a barrow, but they could teach him nothing; and at last Mr. Green came and told us, in a very kind way, that he could not let him stay because he disturbed the other children, and wanted so much watching.  But Mrs. Green, when she found how much we took it to heart, said she would try what she could do for him; and, sure enough, she was a clever lady, and she made him know more in three months than anybody else has taught him all his life; but she fell ill and died, dear lady; and there was an end of his learning.'

    'What did she teach him?' asked the visitor, who was beginning to consider whether she could not take up the work.

    'She made him understand that there is a God,' said the woman, 'and made him have a wonderful sort of reverence for God; and you would hardly believe, ma'am, that when that boy has done a wrong thing, such as throwing things in the fire, which he will do sometimes, or overturning the milk, which he knows he ought not to meddle with, he will go and hide himself in the closet till it gets dark, that, as he says, God may not see him; for you know it is too much to expect that poor child to understand that God can see through a door.'

    'Poor fellow,' said the lady; 'but what a proof this is of his entire belief of what he has been told.'

    'Yes, ma'am, that is what Mr. Green said when I told him. "Mary Goddard," he said, "this ought to put us to shame; how few of us have the presence of God so clearly in our minds, and are so much afraid when we know we have done amiss."  Now, Mrs. Green being dead, we cannot exactly find out what she taught Matt, for though he can turn things over in his mind, he cannot tell them to us.  However, we noticed from that time that Matt had a great habit of looking up in the sky, and I have no doubt, madam, he told you, if you asked him, what he was looking for.'

    'Yes, he did; and I felt very much surprised,' said the lady.'

    'Ah,' remarked the woman, 'I thought so, ma'am.  I saw you were surprised when you came in, and I made up my mind you should know the rights of the story, if you would stop awhile.  Well, ma'am, Matt spends the chief part of his time, on fine days, looking for God; and knowing God sees everything, seems to make more difference to him than to us that have our senses.'

    'And there he again reproves us,' observed the visitor.

    'What you say is very true, ma'am.  Now the neighbours never tell him any lies, — that would be a wicked thing, — so I know none of them ever made him expect to see what we shall never see in this world; so I reckon that Matt put two things together, and thought if the Almighty could see him, why He might be seen.'

    'And do you know whether he learned any more,' asked the visitor, 'of this kind friend?'

    'Mrs. Green told me she had tried to give him a notion of the Saviour,' said the woman; 'but she didn't think he understood her at all.  He only knows the name of Jesus Christ, I think; for one day when the sky was uncommonly clear, he told me that Jesus Christ lived up there with God.  Mrs. Green showed him pictures, and took a deal of pains, but I don't think she made any more than that out of her teaching; but she taught him to count and say the days of the week; and altogether he has taken much more notice since she instructed him.'

    The woman had evidently been so well pleased to have some one speak to her who could sympathize with her, and take a kind interest in her poor charge, that her visitor had staid much longer than she had at first intended.  She now prepared to leave the cottage; and before doing so, observed that she could not but think, in spite of the boy's deficient sense, that he might be taught to occupy himself in some slight way, such as netting or plaiting straw; and she offered to come and try to teach him.  The woman shook her head, and said, —

    'I am very much obliged to you, ma'am, I am sure; but it is not the want of sense that makes me afraid he could not learn, so much as the weakness of his hands; and in cold weather they are so numb that he is more helpless by far than you see him now.'

    Still the visitor said she should like to try, and offered to come the following day and begin; the woman thanked her, and consented with gratitude, declaring that if once the boy could be taught anything he never forgot it.  The visitor then went away, saying, as she passed the poor child, who was now basking idly in the sun, —

    'The next time I come to see Matt I shall give him a penny.'

    She said this partly to test his memory, partly to make him anxious to see her again.  His face brightened; and as she walked home over the level sands, the consideration of how great a contrast there was between his powers and her own occupied her mind, and she thought of those words of serious meaning: 'To whom much is given, of him shall much be required.'

    There was a great deal of comfort in his humble home; his grandfather seemed to be a quiet, sober man; his aunts were industrious women; a healthful breeze came in at the open door, and the two little casement windows supplied two such views as are not often to be met with.  From the front casement might be seen the grand spectacle of the open sea; some heavy clouds had come up, and their leaden gray hues were reflected on the shifting waves, while vast flocks of sea-birds were wheeling in great circles, at every turn the white of their wings flashing out; the tide was rapidly coming in, and the wind rising, every beat of the breakers on the soft sand sounding like low thunder.  The other casement looked inland, for the kitchen occupied all the lower floor of the little cottage; the clouds hanging only over the sea, there was still sunshine over the open fields and wide marsh of the brightest green; church spires stood up here and there, but the district seemed to be so thinly populated that it was wonderful how they could gather congregations.  Behind the cottage was a little garden; its walls sheltered a few rose trees, a number of scented flowers, and some apple trees, from the force of the wind; a sweet-brier was trained to climb over one of the trees, and its falling blossoms were wafted on to the ironing-table, and dropped among the delicate laces which the woman was smoothing.  But the warmth of that day and its steady sunshine were all that gave pleasure to the idiot boy — the grand sea sweeping in, the wheeling sea-birds, the luxuriant fields and towering cliffs, might all have vanished away like a dream, and taken no part of his enjoyment from him.

    The lady walked home; and some things that had been said of poor Matt recurred to her mind, especially his own strange words, 'Matt was looking for God.'  Alas, how few of us are looking for God! 'although He be not far from any of us.'  In His works how few discern Him; but can look on the glorious sun and only consider its warmth and brightness, and on the green earth and only count up the harvest it yields, without thinking of Him who ordained them.

    In the ways of His providence, also, how few look for God!  Even among those who desire to serve Him, how few 'search diligently that they may find Him,' observing and pondering on the trials and troubles as well as the mercies that he has ordained for them, and considering what effect they were intended to produce on their minds and characters; whether they have worked together for good; whether impatience has caused the more painful dispensations to be merely punishments; or whether submission has received them as discipline, and found them to be blessings in the end!



II.


    The autumn sun was bright and hot upon the sand, and Matt was basking in it under the cottage wall, when his new friend appeared before him at noon the next day.  Little Becca was seated beside him, singing, and knitting a coarse fisherman's mitten; but the boy was not noticing her; as before, his face, with its strange look of awe, was fixed on the open sky; and it was not till Becca touched him that he withdrew his eyes, and seeing the lady, said, with outstretched hands, —

    'Please, give Matt a penny!'

    The penny was ready for him; but the moment he received it, he handed it over to the little girl.

    'Does he mean to give it to you, Becca?' asked the lady.

    'O, no, ma'am,' said the child, 'he means me to go and buy apples with it; I always do when our folks give him money.  He knows how many apples you can buy for a penny; and if I was to hide one, he would find it out directly.'

    But the boy was not at all willing that his messenger should wait to give all these explanations; and he now pulled her frock impatiently, saying,

    'Becca, go — Becca, fetch apples.'

    The little girl shook back her long hair from her eyes, and laying her knitting on the sand, ran to a neighbouring cottage, from which she shortly returned, bringing five small apples, which she gave to Matt; and he laid them on his knees, and after looking at them, appeared satisfied, and began to eat.

    'And now,' said the lady, 'I shall give you a penny also, Becca, because I like to see you so kind to your poor neighbour.'

    The happy child received the penny, and again ran away to the shop, returning shortly with three apples in her hands.

    'Why, what is the reason of this?' said the donor.

    'It's a very dear apple year,' said the little creature, 'and they can't afford more than three.'

    'But they sent Matt five apples.'

    The child then explained that Matt always expected to have five apples for a penny: that if apples were only three a penny he would cry, for he would know it was less than usual; but if there were seven a penny he would give back two; so they always gave him five all the year round, and they said it made very little difference.  She continued:

    'Matt knows all about money, ma'am — he knows a deal more than you think.  Sometimes they let him have a pennyworth of apples at the shop when he has no penny; but then as soon as he gets a penny he always remembers, and takes it; he knows he must pay.  I taught him that, ma'am; and I taught him to say, "Please," and "Thank you."'

    She then shook him by the sleeve, and said, —

    'Matt, good Matt, tell the lady what they do to folks that won't pay.'

    'Put 'em in prison,' said Matt, readily.

    'What does he know about a prison, my child?' said the lady, amused at his sageness.  'You are only telling him to repeat words that he does not know the meaning of.'

    'O, no, ma'am,' answered the child, shrewdly, 'there is a prison at ―― and he sees that very often; he knows about bad men being put in there.'

    The boy nodded assent very energetically, and began to show by gestures and imperfect sentences how he had seen two men led in there at a great door; and holding out his hands, explained that their hands were tied together; at the same time he expressed evident satisfaction in their punishment, saying,

    'Bad men — bad men — shut 'em up; they eat other folks' dinner.'

    'O, yes,' said the child, 'his grandfather took him several times to see the prison, because he used to go into the cottage when the folks were at sea and take things to eat that wasn't his; and when his grandfather was out a fishing, and they set his dinner by, Matt used to get it whenever he had a chance; but he's a good boy now.'

    Matt had by this time finished his apples; and his friend had been watching him to see how much strength he possessed.  His movements were weak and uncertain; and sometimes he dropped the apple, but he always picked it up again, though not without difficulty; and she felt sure that with patience something might be taught him.

    She would not attempt to begin her lesson till he had done eating; but as soon as this business was over, she brought out her straws and began to plait them before him, holding one of his hands in hers, and making him crease the straw with his soft white fingers.

    At first he was patient and even amused, but he soon got weary; and the unusual movements for his fingers tired them.  He pulled Becca by the pinafore, and patting her hand, cried out,

    'Becca learn; Becca make haste and learn — Matt stop now.'

    'If Becca learns,' said the teacher, 'then Becca shall have a penny; but if Matt learns, then Matt shall have a penny.'

    This argument, used frequently, induced the boy to go on a little longer, as much longer, indeed, as his instructress thought desirable; and though he never once turned the straw the right way, she was not discouraged, because his attention had evidently been excited, and she knew that the process of teaching would be tedious.

    When the lesson was over, she gave him the promised penny and praised him, leaving him in a very good humour, and importunate with her to come again.

    Three more lessons were given, and no progress was made; the fourth almost discouraged her; it seemed that he dropped the straws from his listless fingers with no more understanding than at first of the places they were meant to occupy.  It was a whole week before anything beyond a little more attention had been gained; but this once done, Matt suddenly began to improve; and at his ninth lesson he began to plait very tolerably.

    His relations were now profuse in their thanks, and most urgent that these lessons should be continued; they even seemed to hope that he might one day be able to earn a little money by this simple art, and so relieve them of part of the burden of maintaining him.

    But occupation to his mind was not the only good that the boy derived from these instructions — the unusual exercise of his hands, though at first it fatigued him, made them sensibly warmer and less torpid; and when he had once mastered the lesson, he was constantly anxious to be practising it.

    Some persons may, perhaps, think it a remarkable thing that a stranger, on whom the poor boy had no claim, should have devoted so much time to his benefit, especially when she might have found soil to cultivate that would have brought her in a much more abundant harvest; but she was utterly without occupation, and had private grounds for sorrow which made her desire employment; and this boy's loneliness, and the absence of joy from his lot, drew her sympathies towards him; besides which, many around her were willing to do more attractive acts of kindness — but who would follow her in this path if she resigned it?

    In less than three weeks the boy could make an even and tolerably rapid plait, and would sit for four or five hours a day at this work, only requiring a little attention in joining the straw, and stopping him when he made mistakes.

    The weather was extremely hot, which was very much in his favour; and all his friends agreed it was several years since they had seen him so lively and so capable of exerting himself.

    This was scarcely a greater pleasure to them than to his new benefactress; for she had begun to take a warm interest in the boy, and could already understand his signs and gestures as well as his half-expressed doubts, wonders, and fears.

    One day, on entering the cottage, she found the old grandfather at home ill; he had been ill, he said, for three days, though not so bad but that he could get up and sit by the fire.  Close at his side sat poor Matt, and both, though the day was hot, seemed to relish the warmth.  Matt could attend to but one thing at a time; and as his thoughts were now occupied with his grandfather, the plaits of straw were laid aside.

    As soon as he saw her he greeted her with vehement delight, pointing to two chairs successively, and saying, 'Lady, sit here; parson, sit there.'

    She inquired if Mr. Green was coming.

    'Yes, ma'am,' said the old man. 'I was taken very bad with a kind of fit, and my daughters were frightened and went and told him; but Matt calls every gentleman he sees "parson," and, indeed, every man that is not dressed like a fisherman.  He has but three names for all men.  He calls our men "good men," at least such as have nets, for they let him lie and bask on them, which he likes; then all them that have no nets he calls "poor men;" and the rest o' the world he calls "parsons," for our parson was the first gentleman he ever knew, and very good he has always been to him.'

    The clergyman shortly after came in, and poor Matt's teacher was warmly thanked for her kindness to the boy; he was anxious to see him plait, but Matt was pleased and excited by his presence, and not willing to fix his mind on his task; he accordingly turned to the grandfather, and began to converse with him.

    The old man's illness was of a very serious nature; and at his great age it was not likely that he would get over it; yet he talked of approaching death with all that strange apathy so common among the poor, especially the agθd poor: accordingly, the clergyman's remarks were all of a nature to rouse him from this apathy; he wished to place the solemn nature of death and judgment before his eyes, and to assure him that his feeling so little afraid of dying was not in itself any proof that his soul was in a safe condition.

    The boy, who at first had sat by his grandfather, well pleased with the warmth of the fire and the presence of the parson, kept up a humming sound, expressive of comfort and contentment, till Mr. Green took a Bible from his pocket, and said, gravely, —

    'Matt must be quiet now, parson is going to read about God.'

    Upon hearing this, Matt's attention was aroused; and when he looked up and saw Mr. Green's serious face, his own assumed a look of awe; for it is a well-known fact that feelings are communicated, with perfect ease, to those who are deficient in intellect, though ideas of a complex nature are often beyond their comprehension.  Matt folded his hands and gazed fixedly at the 'parson.'  The chapter he was reading was the eighteenth of Matthew; probably he chose it as being one of the lessons for the day; and if he had intended his lesson for Matt's instruction, he would have selected something that appeared easier to understand; but so it was, that when he came to the parable of the king that would take account of his servants, Matt's attention and interest became so evident, that he read slowly and very distinctly.

    When he had finished, the boy's face, overawed and anxious, and with that look of painful perplexity so often seen in persons like himself, was turned to him with breathless earnestness, and he said, repeating the last words addressed to him, —

    'Matt, Matt, sit you still; parson is going to read about God.'

    'Goddard,' said the clergyman, 'this poor boy's eager attention ought to be a very affecting thing to you, and, indeed, to us all.  If he to whom so little sense has been given, desires to know all he can, and to hear more than he can understand of his Maker, surely we ought not to treat the subject with indifference, but rather with interest and reverence.'

    'Ay, ay, sir,' said the old sailor, respectfully, but with no appearance of particular interest.

    'Parson, read some more,' said Matt.

    'So I will, my boy,' replied the clergyman; and partly commenting on the text, partly changing the words for others that he thought would be better understood, he began to relate the parable thus:

    'A great King said' — and in speaking he pointed upwards — 'a great King said, Bring my servants to me, and I will make them pay me all the pounds that they owe me.

    'And they brought one servant that owed a thousand pence, — a great many, a great many, a great many.  And he had no pence to pay.

    'And the King said, He shall be put in prison, and never come out any more till he has paid all this money.'

    He had got so far when he observed that tears were trickling down the boy's cheeks, and that his countenance showed great alarm.  He stopped at once and patted him on the head, saying to his grandfather that he had not intended to distress him.

    'Parson did not go for to make Matt cry,' said the old man; meaning, did not do it on purpose.

    But Matt was not to be comforted; he refused to listen; and presently he broke away from his friends and hobbled out on to the beach, where he threw himself down under the shelter of a fishing boat, and continued to weep piteously; but whether he had been merely frightened by the solemn tone, whether his tears were shed from pity to the man who owed so much money, or whether, having been told that parson was going to read about God, he had, more by impression than by reason, set himself in the place of the debtor, it was quite beyond the power of any person to discover.  But it was evident, as in former cases, that so much as he had understood had become perfectly real and true to him; and whether what had cost him so many tears was a right or a false idea, it would not easily be eradicated.

    Poor Matt! they were obliged to leave him; and as he refused to listen to his new friend when she spoke to him, all that could be done was to desire little Becca to sit by him and try to divert him from his grief.

    The wind was rising when his friend reached her lodging, and by nightfall it blew a gale.  She looked out and saw the driving clouds swept away from before the moon, leaving her alone in the bare heavens till again they were hurried up from the sea and piled before her face, blotting out the bright path she had laid across the waters.  The thundering noise of the waves, as they flung themselves down hissing and foaming among the rocks, and the roaring of the wind, kept her waking, and trembling for the mariners out on that dangerous coast; and the thought of that poor afflicted boy was present to her mind; for she had been told that he was always restless in a storm, and that at night, while the family sat by the light of their one candle, he would stand, with his eager face pressed against the little casement, muttering that God was angry.

    In the morning, gusts of wind and rain detained her in doors; but towards afternoon, though the wind did not abate, it became clear overhead, and she put on her bonnet and prepared to go out.  Sea sand in heaps lay against the houses in the village street; it had been blown up during the night.  The poor were busy collecting drift wood from the shore, as well as the vast heaps of dulse and other weeds which the tide had brought in.  She passed on till the cliffs afforded her some shelter, and then crept into a cave and rested awhile; for she intended to go on and see Matt that day, and discover, if possible, the cause of his trouble.

    Though the wind was now beginning to abate, it was not very easy to stand against it, and the noise in the cave was like the sharp, incessant report of guns.  But she rose and determined to go on, being encouraged by the rapid subsiding of the wind, which seemed likely to go down in a deluge of rain; for black clouds were gathering over the troubled sea, which, excepting where a line of foam marked its breaking on the beach, was almost as black as themselves.

    She pressed on; and shortly, as she had expected, she saw the motionless figure of the boy, his white clothing fluttering in the Wind, his face intent on the gloomy sky.

    She called to him several times as she drew near, but the noise of the wind and waves drowned her voice; it was not till she came close and touched him, that he looked at her.  His countenance was full of awe and fear.

    'What is Matt doing?' she asked, in a soothing voice.

    'Matt was talking to God,' said the boy.

    'What did poor Matt say?' she inquired, compassionately.

    The boy joined his hands, and looking up with a piteous expression of submission and fear, said, 'God, God — Matt has no money to pay.'

    And then shaking his head, he told her, with a reality of fear most strange to see, that was going to be put in prison; God was going to put Matt in prison.

    He was standing in the shelter of a fishing vessel which had been drawn up above high-water mark; and as she turned away from him, not knowing what to say, he again looked up and began his piteous prayer.

    The lady stood awhile considering; it was evident that, whether from the parable or the clergyman's words, or both together, acting on what previous knowledge he had, he must have derived some consciousness that punishment would follow his misdoings.   He had long known right from wrong; he knew that he had often done wrong; now he had begun to look upon God as a judge.   Now he knew 'that he had nothing to pay.'   In other words, he knew, however dimly, that he could not make satisfaction for his misdoings.   What did it matter that he had derived this dim and distorted knowledge in a figurative way, — something now must be done to quiet and comfort him.   She resolved to venture on taking up the figure; and when the boy again muttered, 'God, God, Matt has no money to pay,' she turned towards him, and taking both his hands, said, in a clear, cheerful voice, 'Jesus Christ has paid for poor Matt.'

    The boy looked helplessly at her; and pointing upwards with a smile, she repeated slowly, 'God will not put Matt in prison now.  Jesus Christ has paid for poor Matt.'

    The child repeated these words after her; and as their meaning, helped by her reassuring face, gradually unfolded itself to his mind, an expression of wonder and contentment overspread his features.  He sat down and wished again and again to hear these good tidings, and as he conned them over he gradually became calm and happy.

    He sat so long silent in the shelter of the boat that his kind friend thought it possible that now his fears were removed he might have forgotten their cause.

    But it was not so: he arose at length, and walking a few paces, lifted up his arms and face to heaven, and cried out, in a loud, clear voice, 'Man that paid, man that paid, Matt says, thank you, thank you.'

    A strange sight this, and strange words to hear!  Many times the lady seemed to hear their echo during the silence that followed; and the boy repeated them over again with the deepest reverence, before she could decide whether to attempt any further enlightening of his mind.  That by means of some picture, or the remembrance of something taught him by his first benefactress, he had become aware that He whom he thus addressed was Man, became evident from his words; but the reverence and awe of his manner were such that she could not venture to undertake the hopeless task of instructing him in a mystery so far beyond his comprehension.  It was sufficient, she thought, that he should pay to his Redeemer the reverence due to God, while in the act of addressing Him as Man.



III.


    Matt came back under the shelter of the boat, and lay down, and drew part of a sail over him, and fell into-a sound sleep; perhaps he had slept little during the past night, and now that his gloom and terror were melted away in the sunshine of hope and peace, he could no longer sit waking under the cloudy sky.

    The lady sat by him, partly sheltered also by the boat.  She looked out over the purple sea, still troubled, heaving and bare, for not a boat rode at anchor near the dangerous rocky beach; not a vessel ventured near enough to be seen from its sandy reaches.

    At length the clouds broke; it began to rain hard; and not without a great effort did she succeed in waking the boy.  He opened his eyes at last with a smile.  The pouring rain and the gloomy sky were nothing to him; the high but warm wind did not trouble him; his thoughts, whatever they may have been, could not be related to his benefactress; he was comforted, but be only showed it by his face and by his tranquil movements.

    They reached the cottage.  There was trouble and sorrow within; quite enough of both to account for the boy's having been left to wander out by himself on that stormy day.  The poor old grandfather was worse; and Mary Goddard, the boy's aunt, came to the door, her eyes red and her face disfigured with weeping.  The lady could not stay then; but in less than a week she came again and inquired after the old man.

    'Ah, dear heart! it seems hard to lose poor father! exclaimed Mary, when her visitor was seated, and had asked a sympathizing question as to the old man's health.

    'Is he so very ill that there is no hope?' asked the lady.

    'The doctor does not say,' replied the daughter, 'but when a man is past eighty what can one expect?  Would you like to see him, ma'am?'

    The visitor assented, and was taken up a ladder into a comfortable room in the roof.

    The agθd fisherman, with his rugged face and hard hands, lay helplessly on his clean bed; but his eyes were still bright, and his voice strong.

    'Put a chair, Polly,' he said to his daughter.  'I take this kind, ma'am.  Here I am, you see, a disabled old hulk.  I have made a many voyages in my time, when I was in the king's service.'  Here a fit of coughing forced him to stop.

    When he had ceased to cough, the visitor said, 'Yes, you have passed a busy life, my friend; and what a mercy it is that God gives you a few days of quiet and leisure at the end of it, to think of the last voyage, — the entrance, we may hope, into an eternal haven.  Do you think of that last voyage?  Do you pray to God to have mercy on you for Christ's sake, and grant you an entrance to that haven of rest?'

    The old man assented reverently and heartily, and then said, 'Mary, the lady has never a chair; I told you to set the chair for her.  A good daughter she has always been to me, ma'am!  Her poor mother died when I was in the Atalante, Captain Hickey; you've heard of him, ma'am?  The discipline he maintained!  He was the finest captain in the service.'

    'I never heard of him,' replied the visitor.

    'He lost his ship in a sea fog off Halifax harbour.  He had despatches aboard, and he made up his mind they should be delivered.  He fired a fog-signal gun in hopes it would be answered from the lighthouse on Cape Sambro, but by a sad mischance it happened that the Barossa, that was likewise lost in this fog, answered it; and the unfortunate Atalante was steered according to that gun.  She struck; and in less than a quarter of an hour we was all out of her, every officer, man, and boy, many on us not half clothed; and there wasn't a mast, nor a beam, nor a bit of broken spar, to be seen of her.  She filled and heeled over; and almost before we could cut the pinnace from the boom, she parted in two between the main and mizzen masts, and the swell sucked her in, guns, and stores, and all.'

    'That must have been an awful scene,' observed the visitor.  'It is a great mercy that you were preserved in such a danger.  Shall I read you a chapter in the Bible, now I am here?'

    'I should take it kind if you would, ma'am, very kind indeed; for Mr. Green said he would not be able to come to-day, and my daughter has no time.  I could spell a bit over myself, but my eyes fail, and I feel strange and weak.  There was a time when I could "hand, reef, and steer" with the best of them.  I was rated "able seaman" in the Atalante, and for upwards of two years I was "captain of the fore-top." '

    The visitor sat down and read several chapters.  The old man listened with pleasure; his face, seamed and brown with long exposure to the weather, showed no pallor, but there was a look about his eyes that told of a great change, — they were dim, and sometimes wandering.

    'I take this visit very kind of you,' he repeated, when she had done; 'and I like what you read, it did me good; and ma'am, I'm much obliged to you, and thank you kindly for being so good to my poor boy.'

    'How do you think he seems, ma'am?' asked Mary Goddard, when they came down together.

    'I think he is very much altered, Mary.  He does not look to me as if he would live many days.'

    'Ah, dear heart!' said the daughter, 'I was afraid you would say so; and though he be so old, it seems hard to lose him; for a cheerfuller and honester man never walked this world!'

    'He seems in a thankful frame of mind now, Mary, and was very attentive while I was reading.'

    'O yes, he is always pleased with whatever I do for him, and says it is a great mercy he has time to think of his end; he is vastly pleased now when Mr. Green comes to talk with him, though at first he did not seem to care for it.'

    The visitor went away.  The rain came down all that night and the next day.  On the third day she went again to the old fisherman's cottage, and found the old chintz curtain drawn across the window in token of mourning.  A neighbour came out of the next cottage and told her that the old man had died that morning at daybreak, and that his daughter had walked over to a village some miles inland to tell her brother and his wife.

    'Was the old man sensible to the last?' asked the lady.

    'As sensible as you are now, ma'am; and often seemed to me to be praying.  Would you like to see Matt, ma'am? he is in my house.'

    'Yes, I wish to see him.  What does he know about his great-grandfather?'

    'Why, ma'am, when his aunt woke him and dressed him this morning, she told him that he would not see his grandfather any more, for that God had sent to fetch him.'

    'He was not frightened, I hope?'

    'O no, ma'am — pleased, wonderfully pleased, and said he wanted to go too.  He is a very strange child.'

    'Very strange, indeed! but in some respects I wish we were more like him.'

    When Matt saw his friend, it reminded him of the great news about his grandfather; and he told her that God had sent for him, adding, 'Matt wants to go too.'

    'Matt shall go some day,' she answered, soothingly.

    'Matt wants to go now,' replied the boy.

    His friend took him out on to the sands, and sat down with him.  She tried to explain that some day God would certainly send for him; for she could only convey to him the notion of a change of place, not of death.  When Matt was once convinced that he should be sent for some day, he was very urgent to know what day; and when, after a great deal of trouble, his friend made him understand that she did not know what day, but that it might be any day, he sat long silent on the sand as if pondering, and then got up and began to move towards the cottage.

    'What does Matt want?' asked his friend.

    The boy looked at his hands, and replied with calm and touching simplicity, 'Matt must have his hands washed.'  Why? the lady wondered why; but she said nothing — she only rose and followed him.  He had found the woman of the house when she entered, the mother of little Becca, and was explaining to her that his hands must be washed; that God would send for Matt some day, perhaps it would be that day, and that Matt must be ready.

    The woman no sooner understood what he meant than she sat down, threw her apron over her head, and began to cry bitterly; but little Becca was willing to indulge the boy's fancy; she, accordingly, fetched some water and some soap, and carefully washed his hands.  But that done, he yet stood still, as if expecting something more, till she asked him what he wanted; then he answered, with a kind of glad but solemn expectancy, 'Matt must have his new cap on — Matt wants his fur cap.'

    'No, Matt must not have his best cap,' answered the child, 'except on Sundays to go to church in.'  But Matt entreated in his piteous way, and the tears rolled down his cheeks, till at last the lady begged that his new cap might be fetched; and when it appeared he was contented, and went gently out at the door, and looked up between the clouds, softly repeating that God would send for Matt some day; perhaps it would be to-day, and Matt must be ready — Matt must always be ready.

    'His poor aunt should have managed better,' said Becca's mother, who had followed them out of doors; 'she mighty have known if she said God had sent for his grandfather that Matt would take her exactly at her word.  Howsoever, it's of no use trying to explain it to him; and least of all trying to make out that it was not that but something different.  The boy must not be contradicted; that would only confuse him more; but,' she added, 'it does seem a gloomy thing that he should always be expecting his death, and always keeping himself ready for it.'

    'Does it seem a gloomy thing?' asked the lady.

    'Why, yes, ma'am, I'm sure it would quite mope me to be so frequently thinking about death.'

    'Not if you felt that you were ready, and were always desirous to keep yourself ready.'

    'But why should one, ma'am,' answered the woman, thoughtlessly, 'so long before the time?'

    'Ah, Mrs. Letts, we cannot tell that it is long before the time.  Are we not told, "Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh?"

    'Yes, ma'am; and Mr. Green a very little time ago preached a discourse on that text, a very beautiful discourse it was; but I never thought people had to get ready for death just as they get ready for paying their rent, or, as one may say, to lay up wood to be ready for the winter.'

    'Why not?  Must we not all die, as surely as we must pay our rent?  Is not death as certain to come as winter?'

    'Yes, sure, ma'am.'

    'Then the only difference in our preparing should be, that death being more important than those other things which you mentioned, we should prepare for it much more earnestly, seriously, and constantly.'

    'Yes, ma'am, that's what I meant.  We should prepare at proper solemn times, on Sundays, when we have time to think of these solemn things, and not be mixing it up with our work every day.'

    'Mrs. Letts, if you had earned no money as yet to pay your rent, and knew it must be paid on a certain day, should you say to yourself, "This is a very serious matter; I must not think of it now that I am busy with my work, I must wait till I have a quiet hour; for it is a very important thing, and not to be thought of excepting at particular times?"'

    'Why, no, ma'am; of course I should think of it early and late!  Well, ma'am, perhaps you are right; in short, I am sure you are: but it is not very easy for poor folks to think about religion and death, as much as those who have nothing to do.  However, poor Matt has few enough things to think about, and if it pleases him to think of being fetched to a better world, why, let him do it.'

    'O yes, let him do it,' replied Matt's friend; 'I believe he is ready whenever it may please the Almighty to summon him; and the time may not be so long that he will become impatient.'

    'I'm sure a long life is not to be desired for him,' observed the woman; 'for he suffers a great deal in the cold weather.'  So saying, she brought the boy into her cottage, and the lady took her leave.

    The sun was shining pleasantly across the level sands as she walked homewards, and each cliff cast a clear reflection of its figure at her feet, the soft and shining waves broke gently on the shore, and the sky was peaceful and cloudless, only a flock of white gulls were wheeling about in it, serving thus to increase its resemblance to its 'twin deep,' the blue sea, that was adorned, not far from the horizon, with a fleet of small fishing vessels, whose white sails were lovely in the sunshine.

    The lady walked till she came to a large cave in the cliff, about half a mile from the poor old fisherman's cottage: here she had sometimes sat with Matt, teaching him his plaiting; and here she now entered and sat down to rest after her long walk.

    It was a strange place, more a cleft in the rock than an ordinary cave, for it narrowed up above to a mere crack, which crack was strangely and beautifully festooned with hanging ferns of the brightest green; for they were constantly kept moist by the drops of water that filtered through the stone.

    The sun was now low enough to shine into the dark cavern and make it warm and cheerful, and to show with clear distinctness the limpets that stuck to the rocks which here and there protruded from the soft sand which floored it, and the little pools of sea-water that lay about in stony basins.  These basins were rugged, and covered without with green weeds, and within fringed with red and brown dulse and sea-weeds, and the tiny little fish were impatiently swimming about in them, and small crabs of the hermit tribe were dragging their bright shell houses along the slippery margins.

    She sat down beside one of these little rocky reservoirs and enjoyed the sunshine and shelter, thinking, meanwhile, how she could further help and teach the poor child who had now so large a share of her sympathy.  She decided that it was as well he should be out of the way of his relations on the day of the funeral, both for their sake and his own; and she accordingly resolved to ascertain when it was to take place, and bring him there to sit with her till it should be over.

    Accordingly, she made her appearance at the cottage on the morning of the funeral, and took away the boy.

    She found him still 'ready,' still prepared and expectant, still occupied with the belief that God would fetch him, and that perhaps it might be 'today.'

    She took him to the cave, that he might not see the mournful cavalcade proceed from the cottage door; and when he was tired of plaiting straw and of looking at the little imprisoned fishes swimming about in their brown basins of rock, she opened her basket and gave him a nice dinner, such as she knew he would like.  Matt was very happy; and when he had done eating, he sat basking in the entrance of the cavern, pleased with watching the numerous rock-pigeons that flew about among the cliffs and brushed past with their opalized wings and glossy necks, to peck at the seed-corn which his friend threw out to them.

    He made her wash his hands when be had finished his meal, and he had put on his cap, his best cap, and was sitting ready.  In spite of all his amusement in watching the blue pigeons, he was still ready, still conscious of an expected summons; and when the last grain of corn had been carried up to the young birds in the nest, and all the sand was imprinted with the feet of the pretty parents, he withdrew his eyes from the place where they had fluttered and striven, and fixed them once more on the open heavens.

    'Is Matt sorry that his grandfather is gone?' asked his friend.

    Matt answered; 'No;' and said he wanted to go too; and then in his imperfect way, partly in words and partly by signs, he inquired what kind of a place it was where God lives.

    'It was never cold,' she replied; 'always warm and pleasant.  Matt would never cry when he got there.'

    'Would nobody beat Matt there?' asked the child, wistfully; 'wouldn't Rob beat him?'

    'No; when Matt went to be with God, nobody would beat him any more.'

    A gleam of joy stole over the boy's face as he sat pondering over these good tidings; then, with a sorrowful sigh, he said, 'Rob often beats Matt now.'  But at that moment the soft sound of a tolling bell was heard in the cave, and he turned his head to listen.  It was the bell for his grandfather's funeral; and it was touching to see him amused and pleased with it, unconscious what it portended.

    They staid a long time in the cave: the boy being amused and diverted by the various things his friend found for him to look at, and by a grotto that she had made for him with loose scallop shells; but in the midst of his pleasure that gleam of joy would often return to his face, and he would exultingly repeat that 'some day he should go to God, and nobody should beat him any more.'

    At last, when the sound of the bell had long ceased, and the sun was shining full in at the mouth of the cavern, his friend took him home again; and finding the mourners already returned, left him with them, and took her leave — little thinking, as she walked across the cliffs to her residence, that in this life she was to behold him no more.



IV.


    Matt got up the next morning, and felt for the first time the difference made in the cottage by the absence of his grandfather.  Every change affected his imperfect mind, and made him restless.  He was curious to know why his grandfather had not taken his oars and his fishing-tackle with him; and when his aunt told him there was no sea where he was gone, the boy was at first greatly surprised, and then said it must be a very good place, 'No sea, no storms!'

    'Ay,' said his aunt, 'no high winds such as frighten Matt in the winter.'  So the boy was satisfied for the present, and went out to the beach to wait for his friend, but she did not come; and after a while her absence and that of his grandfather made Matt restless and uneasy.

    Becca was sure she would come; the lady had said she would come; and, accordingly, the careful little girl led Matt to the cavern; and then the sight of the grotto and the place where they had sat the day before, reminded the poor boy of the conversation held there, and for a while he was contented; but the lady did not come that day, nor for many days; and at last, though Matt went to the cave every day to look for her, he scarcely expected to find her, though always satisfied with little Becca's assurance that she would 'be sure to come to-morrow.'

    At length, wondering at her protracted absence, Mary Goddard walked to the little watering-place where she had been staying; and then the people of the house told her that their lodger was gone.  She had been sent for suddenly the same night that the old fisherman was buried.  A near relation, living more than fifty miles away, was taken extremely ill, likely to die, and he had sent for her.  The woman added, when she saw Mary Goddard's look of disappointment, 'but she has left what ought to reconcile you to losing her; she is a good friend of the boy's, certainly.  She told me to give you this the first time I saw you; and if I had not been so busy you should have had it before, for I would have walked over with it.'  So saying, she put into Mary Goddard's hand a sovereign; and very gratefully was it received: for the expenses of the old fisherman's illness and funeral had pressed heavily on his industrious daughter, and she now hardly knew how she could earn enough money to maintain herself and the boy.

    Poor Matt! when his aunt came home she did not conceal from him the truth that he had lost his friend, but told him abruptly that she was gone, and was not coming back any more.

    He did not take the news so well as she had expected; for though he said little at the time, he evidently pined and moped after 'his lady,' and it seemed as if in departing she had taken all the sunshine with her; for no sooner was she gone than the sweet warm days of October gave way to a succession of raw, boisterous weather, when the foam from the rough troubled sea was blown into the cottage door, and when the gusty winds shook the frail little tenement, waving its ineffectual curtains, blowing its smoke down the chimney, and making it difficult to keep the candle lighted on the table.

    Matt could only sit and shiver.  His pale hands, cramped with cold, forgot the art that had beguiled so many listless hours; his feeble feet, chilblained and benumbed, could no longer support him to the sands; his mysterious searchings of the heavens took place no more.  He sat from day to day asking for 'his lady;' sometimes crying with the cold, and sometimes from a sharper evil; for the lonely child was often left with the neighbour's boy, Rob, whom he so much dreaded; and then, when he peevishly cried, he was beaten.  But he seldom had sense to tell this to his aunt when she returned, though sometimes he made her wonder at the fervency with which he would repeat, 'Matt shall go to God some day, and Matt shall never be beaten any more.'

    She did not understand half the significance of those words.  She was obliged often to go out washing and charing; and during her absence this Rob was most frequently left with Matt; and at her return received a penny having given him his dinner and taken care of him.  Sometimes Becca had this charge instead of Rob, and then the day went cheerily.  If the sun shone, Becca would lead him, sadly lame and helpless now, to the cave; and there the two children would talk together on the one subject that Matt could understand; and every day came the never-wearying assurance, that when Matt went to God he should never be cold, and he should never be beaten any more.

    And now came a time of great trouble and distress to the inhabitants of the little fishing hamlet.  There was very bad weather; the men could not go out with the boats, and unwholesome food and over-hard work brought the fever, and Becca's mother and poor Mary Goddard both sickened at the same time.  The neighbours in the two other cottages did what they could for them; and Rob's mother a kind-hearted, bustling woman, who had many children of her own to attend to, and a sickly, bed-ridden mother to nurse, constantly came in to keep Mary's fire, and to give her drink and make her bed for her.  Many a time did this poor creature spare a crust for the poor idiot boy from her own miserable store; for she had compassion on his helplessness, and could not bear to see his blue lips and trembling limbs, as he sat on his little wooden stool by the small fire, within hearing of his aunt's delirious moaning.

    The weather grew colder and colder, till the very sea-water was half solid with spongy ice, and broke crisply on the frozen shore; the north wind howled in the rents and crevices of the lofty cliffs; and them poverty of the hamlet was so great that there was little fire inside to keep its force from being felt.  The fishermen said the fever would surely be starved out soon; but it seized on Rob's father next; and the same day that he sickened, the doctor said Mary Goddard was past hope.  Mary Goddard had lived alone with the poor boy almost ever since her father's death; for her sister had taken a service, and gone with her master's family to London, and the married brother and his wife did not act a friendly part by her.

    Mr. Green was frequently in and out of the cottages during this time of disaster, but he could not effectually relieve the distress; it was too deep and complete.  The poor people had been improvident in their times of prosperity, and now all their misfortunes seemed to have come at once — fearfully cold weather, illness, and a bad fishing season.

    He walked down to the little hamlet about an hour after the doctor had paid his visit.  There was now one person ill in each of the four cottages; but, cold as it was, smoke was only rising from the chimney of one.  He opened Mary Goddard's door; she, unconscious of the cold, lay quietly on her bed, her bright eyes open and glazed with the glitter of approaching death; little Becca stood over her, fanning her, and feebly crying from sheer hunger and fatigue.  And Matt sat by the empty grate, too much overpowered with cold to observe his presence.

    'My poor child,' he asked of Becca, 'is there no fire-wood?'

    Becca shook her head, and sobbed out, that the doctor had said 'it was of no consequence; the cold could not hurt Mary now.'

    'No, she will die; but don't cry so, my dear; she was a good woman, and I believe God will take her to himself.  Is there nobody to attend on her but you?'

    'Mother's too weak to come out yet,' said the poor little girl; 'and father, he came in, and he said I was to stop, and be sure and not to leave her till he came back; but I'm so frightened, and Matt and me, we haven't had anything to eat.'

    'Well, I have brought something that you and Matt shall have; here, open my basket, and sit down by Matt, and eat while I fan poor Mary.'

    Little Becca did as she was bidden; and she and Matt tasted food for the first time that day.  In the mean time Rob's mother came in; and seeing Mary's state, went away, and presently returned with her grown-up daughter.

    'It is not much that can be done for her now, poor soul,' she remarked to the clergyman; 'but she must not be left alone, and my husband being a trifle better this morning, I can leave him for a while.'

    Matt and Becca were then sent out of the cottage to Becca's house; and there, a bright fire being alight on the hearth, the boy revived, and little Becca had an hour or two of quiet rest.

    Becca's mother was getting better; but she was still lying in her bed up stairs, with one of her daughters attending on her.  It was now snowing hard, but the wind had somewhat abated, and the sea was calmer than it had been for some days.

    Accordingly, the fishermen were preparing to go out in their boats, and everything looked more cheerful than usual; the hope of something being earned revived the spirits of the women; and the men, once occupied, forgot their gloomy fears of the fever.

    The two children, thus left alone, sat quietly by the fire; Matt, cowering over the bright flames, recovered his spirits, and began to crow the same inarticulate song that he had often sung when he was comfortable and had eaten a good dinner.  And Becca, who had been roused before daybreak to wait on her mother, and then to go to Mary Goddard, fell quietly asleep before the fire, after watching the thickly-falling flakes of snow.

    The little girl, when questioned afterwards, said that she thought she might have slept an hour, when awaking she found the fire slowly gone out, and Matt earnestly gazing out of the window.  The snow was falling faster than ever, and the tide rapidly coming in washed it away at the edge of the waves as fast as it reached the ground.  Matt had been told that morning that God would soon send for his aunt also, but at the time he took little notice, his always torpid faculties being rendered more than ever dull by the cold; but now the warmth of the cottage had done him good, and as Becca mended the fire, he inquired whether his aunt was gone.

    Becca did not know.  The boy, still gazing upwards, said he wanted to go out of doors, and ask the great God to take him too; Matt wanted to go away.  Becca tried to calm him; but he was urgent in his desire to go out, and at last she was obliged to lock the door.  Matt upon this wept, and begged to be allowed to go out.  'Would God never send for poor Mat?' he piteously inquired.  'Would not God send for Matt, if Matt begged him very hard?  Matt did not wish to stay if his aunt was going away.'

    Becca could say nothing to all this: but in the midst of her attempts to quiet the boy, some one tried the door, and she opened it.  It was Rob's mother; she was come to tell Becca that she must go into the town to fetch a nurse; and when she had given the message, she turned to Matt, and gently and slowly told him that his aunt was gone.

    Matt said nothing; he was looking at the flakes of snow as they fell from the gloomy heaven so thickly, and were whirled about by the winds, and heaved against the frozen threshold, or swallowed up in the gloomy sea.

    'Matt, your poor aunt is gone to God,' said the woman kindly, and she brought him near to the fire and chafed his cold hands; then, having left a good fire, she went away with little Becca, charging her boy, whom she left behind, to stay with Matt, and be good to him.

    Poor Matt! some dreamy hours passed between him and his rough guardian; but we do not know how they passed; we only know that the snow fell faster than ever, and the wind roared in the chimney, and the waves rose and thundered upon the dreary beach; and that when after several hours the brief winter day began to close, and poor little Becca came in again, tired and almost exhausted with the force of the wind, Matt had evidently been crying very bitterly, and Becca felt very sure that Rob had beaten him.

    Rob, as soon as Becca came in, got up, and said he supposed he need not stay there any more.  If it had not been for his mother's telling him to stop with Matt, he might have gone out with his father in the boat, he said; and he now left the cottage in a very surly humour.

    Becca crept up stairs to hear how her mother was, and saw her lying still, and evidently better; her sister, who was exhausted with many nights of watching, was sound asleep at the foot of the bed, and she and her patient had both slept through all the noise of the storm and of Matt's crying.  Becca's mother woke as the child entered, and asked for a drink of cold tea, telling Becca to step quietly that she might not wake her sister.  The little girl held the cup to her mother's lips; the fever had subsided, but the poor woman was very weak; and when a rush-candle had been lighted, and her medicine given to her, she said she wished to be left alone again that she might sleep.

    So Becca went down and gave Matt his supper, and ate her own.  It was now quite dark, and Becca strained her eyes in looking out to sea to try and discover whether the boats were coming home.  The children had no candle, and the fire gave but little light; so Becca sat down and Matt beside her; and the little girl was so weary that at length she sunk on the floor, gathered the thin cloak about her that she had worn on her walk to the town, and fell into a weary sleep.

    A glowing log, in its fall upon the hearth, suddenly roused her after a short slumber, and she started up.  Matt was still sitting beside her, but frightened and trembling, for the noise of the wind and waves was fearful.  She tried and every time a louder gust than usual shook the cottage, he would start up and hurry to the door, trying the lock, and begging that he might go out 'and talk to God.'  Becca gave him another piece of bread, and brought him back to the fire; but at length finding that he could not rest, and feeling sure that the door was securely bolted, she lay down again and stink into a deep sleep, forgetting her troubles and fatigue, and dreaming that the wind went down, and that she saw her father stepping ashore from the boat, and telling her he had brought in a fine haul of mackerel.

    From hour to hour the child slept on, and the roaring winds moaned without, and the clouds raced across the dreary heavens, and the desolate sea was rough with foam, and the snow fell and fell, and the wind blew it away from the cliff's, and swept it into the tumbling waves.  But poor little Becca did not dream of any of these things; she slept sweetly in the warmth and glow of the drift-wood fire, with her little weary head upon a furled-up sail, which she was reclining on by way of a pillow; and she dreamed that she and Matt were walking in a field, a large field full of yellow buttercups, that the sun was shining pleasantly, and she was gathering handfuls of the buttercups for Matt to play with.

    It was a very pretty field, she thought; and even in her dream she knew that she had been sadly tired, and that sitting in this quiet field was a very welcome rest.

    What a long, sweet dream that was — the sweetest perhaps, that little Becca had ever known, because came after such great sorrow and such long wakefulness.  At last, in the very dead of the night, she awoke, and the embers were just dying out on the hearth, and the room above was very still, and through the uncurtained casement the large white moon was shining above the edge of a black cloud; it shone upon the brick floor and upon the little stool upon which Matt had been sitting, but Matt was not there!  Becca was alone.

    The little girl started up in a fright.  Who could have taken Matt away?  No one; for she remembered that she had bolted the door.  She slipped off her shoes and stole softly up the stairs, to see if he might have found his way to her mother's chamber.  No — he was not to be seen; her mother and sister were soundly sleeping, and the dim rush-candle was giving light enough to show that no Matt was there.  She went down again and tried the door, full of a vague terror.  O, if Matt, by long trying, had found out how to open it, and had wandered out in the snow to look up on that bitter night between the clouds, what would become of him!  She laid her hand upon the bolt — it was drawn back; then Matt had opened the door and pulled it after him.

    Becca was but a little girl; and when she found that Matt was gone, and that the men had none of them returned from fishing, and that her mother and sister were asleep, she sat down on the floor and cried there a long time before she could make up her mind what was to be done; and then she put on her shoes again, and tied on her shawl and bonnet, and opened the door softly, resolving to follow him.

    It was very dark, but it had ceased to snow.  Becca waited a few minutes, hoping the moon would soon come out; and when it did so, she saw distinctly the print of footsteps; they led away from the other cottages, and seemed to wander towards the direction of the cave.

    But still Becca could not rest till she had run on to the cottage where Matt had lived.  She tried the door; it was locked; and peeping in, she was sure that no one was inside; so she turned away, and, as well as she could in the sweeping storm and raging wind, she made her way towards the cave, which she knew was the likeliest place for Matt to go to.

    Sometimes running, sometimes groping in the darkness, sometimes wading through deep snowdrifts, and again cowering under a rock till the force of a stronger gust than usual had spent itself, the child went on, now full of hope that she should find Matt safe in the shelter of the cavern, now sick at heart for fear of what might have happened.

    She felt the rocks with her hands, and went slowly on; she surely must be near the place; impatience to reach it made her too hasty, and she struck her face against a projecting ledge, and was compelled to wait for the coming out of the moon.  A heavy wall of cloud was moving on — all the heavens behind it were quite bare; Becca watched them; the moon drew near its edges, and turned them of a silvery whiteness, then shone out cold and clear, and Becca found she was not far from the cavern; she ran and stumbled on; she was very near; the voice she was longing for arrested her on her way: 'God! God!' it said, 'O send for poor Matt! let Matt go away!'

    In the entrance of the cavern, with the moon shining on his white face, and the bitter wind blowing about his thin clothing and uncovered hair, and driving the frozen snow over his feet, stood the boy.  Great must have been the efforts that he had used to get there, and now he did not see Becca nor answer; his woe-begone voice and awe-struck face were directed only to the now cloudless sky, and all his thoughts were given to that great Being whom in the midst of darkness he was seeking after.

    The little girl touched him; he was as a stone; she shook his sleeves, but could not rouse him from his deep abstraction.  'God! God!' he uttered more perfectly still, 'and Man that paid, O take poor Matt away!'

    The little girl, trembling and shivering with the cold, and faint with running against the wind, sank down upon the snow; and still Matt stood upright, and held up his beseeching hands, till exerting all her strength, she pulled him away, and got him to lie down farther in where the snow had not yet penetrated, and where the cavern floor was dry.  Then she took off the shawl that formed her own scanty covering; and as she lapped it over him, he said, faintly, 'Matt shall see God some day, and Matt shall never be cold any more.'

    She heaped some drift-wood between him and the entrance of the cave to keep the wind away, and then she set off to run home again for help; but before her exhausted feet, in the gray of the winter morning, had reached the cottage threshold, the fishermen, after their perilous voyage, landed a mile or two higher up, and going into the cavern for rest and shelter, found Matt on his frozen bed.  They took him up and chafed his stiffened limbs with their rough hands; they said he was frozen to death, and they laid him down again on his desolate bed, and mourned and lamented over him.  Happy Matt! the summons had been sent to him to go, and join that God whom he had sought so long.  The days of his darkness and feebleness are over, — he will never be cold any more.

    Matt was buried in the village churchyard, and on his gravestone was written — 'They that seek me early shall find me.'

    If any of us, knowing God better, have loved Him less, and needing God's grace as much, have turned from His face, instead of seeking it, let us think on the history of this simple, poor child — 'Let us seek the Lord while He may be found, let us call upon Him while He is near.'

――――♦――――


 
WIDOW MACLEAN; OR, LENDING
TO THE LORD.


I.


IN a little two-roomed cottage, which stood in a dingle apart from other habitations, an old woman lay fast asleep one Sunday morning.

    There was a brook a little below the cottage; a wooden bridge crossed it, and a great many elm and ash trees grew near, giving shelter to a colony of rooks; but their cheerful clamour, and the beams of the sun, which shot athwart the dingle and came in between the openings of her window-curtain, did not rouse her, for she was daily accustomed to waken when her cuckoo clock struck six (and even in sleep we wait for a sound habitually heard); but that morning the old woman slept out her sleep till she was satisfied, and woke of her own accord, for her clock had run down.  When she had risen and had made her fire, she said, "How bright the sun is this morning!  It seems almost as if it hung higher than usual!"  And when, after leisurely preparation, she had eaten her breakfast, washed her cup and put it by, and shaken out her best Sunday shawl from its folds, she opened her door and said, "Lucky is it that the walk to church is such a shady one, for I never knew a hotter day at nine o'clock in the morning."

    So she put on her decent black bonnet and her other Sunday apparel, and set forth to church across the wooden bridge over the brook.

    The dingle was a long one, and when she emerged from it she came out on a common; but she did not hear the distant church bells.  So the walk being long, she took it leisurely, for she thought herself early.  What then was her surprise when she at last entered the open church door, to find the sermon just over, and the clergyman about to give the blessing.

    She went to her seat notwithstanding, for she was tired and bewildered; she hardly knew indeed at first whether she had overslept herself, or the rest of the world had risen at cockcrow.  As the people rose from their knees, however, she observed the clean white cloth on the communion-table, and thought to herself that she had not come for nothing, for she could stay for the sacrament, though she had not been in time for the service.

    Just as she had quite decided this point, and the children and all those persons who did not intend to receive the sacrament had withdrawn from the church, it suddenly flashed into her mind that she had but one piece of money in her pocket, and that was a two- shilling piece.

    "And two shillings is a vast deal of money for such as I am to lay in the plate for charity to the poor," she thought; "I am but a poor woman myself, though, to be sure, I have no more to save for since I lost my Pamela."

    She felt uncomfortable about this money.  There were several improvident, dirty, and idle families in the parish, and Mr. Dixon, the clergyman, sometimes let the sacrament money go their way, because they were so importunate in begging, and yet the sickness and want that they complained of were often the result of their own faults, and when that was not the case, thought the widow, "their sickness and want are no worse to bear than what is borne silently by honester and more decent folk."  The widow on this looked round to see if there was any neighbour close at hand who would change her two-shilling piece into lesser coins; but, before she could make up her mind to ask this favour, the clergyman had begun to read, and shortly her wandering attention was arrested by the beautiful words:

    "He that hath pity on the poor, lendeth to the Lord."

    The widow put her hand into her pocket.

    "The Lord is welcome to it," she thought.  "I am willing to give it to Him, let alone lending."

    "And look," proceeded the reader, "What he layeth out it shall be paid him again."

    "In heaven," thought the old woman, and put it in the plate.  "I ought to have been ashamed to grudge it,  ―  I, that have money in the savings bank, and that have nobody to save for, now my poor Pamela's gone.  Ah, dear child! the Lord forgive her, and bless her, if she's living yet; for I shall never see her more!"

    The widow had lived nearly twelve years in the little cottage in the dingle, and when first she had come to it she was bowed down with sickness and sorrow.

    None of the farmers' wives knew much of her, and the labourers' wives did not presume to be familiar, for Widow Maclean "held herself rather high," — that is, she hated dirt, disorder, and all manner of improvidence; she always kept herself neat and her cottage tidy.  Moreover, she could live without going out to work; and, though she added to her small means by knitting stockings for sale, she had an annuity which her husband had left her, and which was more than half enough to support her.  Out of this and her earnings (being of a saving turn, and anxious to make things go as far as possible) she had laid up no less a sum than eleven pounds in a neighbouring savings bank.  This was well known in the neighbourhood, for Mr. Dixon's housekeeper was often entrusted by the widow to convey her book and a few extra shillings to be added to her credit, when she went shopping for her master to the market town and she, being pleased with the commission, took care that her friends should know of it, and boasted of the widow's money with almost as much complaisance as if it had been her own.

    Now it chanced that, the day following this long morning slumber, Mrs. Anderson, the housekeeper, stepped in about tea-time to say that she was going to the town the next morning.  "And if I can do anything for you, ma'am," she proceeded, "it will be with the greatest pleasure; for Mr. Dixon is gone out, and has left orders that the lad shall drive me over in the gig.  I am going to see about a new drugget that is wanted for his study, so I shall have plenty of time on my hands, if I suit myself at Higgins's; and I suppose it's no use going elsewhere, for he always has the best patterns."

    "Thank you kindly, ma'am," said Mrs. Maclean; but I never like to trouble the gentleman at the savings bank with less than five shillings at a time; and I have not as much as that to spare, just now.  And so Mr. Dixon wants a new drugget?  Dear, dear," she continued; "it seems but a few days since I went over the house with you, when he came to us, and everything was fresh and new."

    "True enough, ma'am," replied the housekeeper; "but druggets are awful wear.  It's the cheap things that empties one's pockets in the end.  Then, I think that gentlemen wear thicker boots than they used to do.  In my young days, Mr. Dixon's father never wore nails in his shoes — never thought of such a thing, unless he was going out shooting; and then he knew what was expected of him, and kept out of the drawing-room till he had changed them.  Carpets were thicker then, and boots were thinner.  Put these two things together, and you'll not be surprised at the bad wearing of our study drugget.  In short, the hob-nails that are marched about over all the carpets are enough to beat them down into felt, though the pile might have been an inch thick."

    Mrs. Anderson appeared hurt, as if it had been hinted that the wearing out of Mr. Dixon's carpets lay at her door.  The widow, therefore, observed that it was lucky he had somebody to look after his furniture, and that, being a rich man's son, he could afford whatever he wanted.  She also pressed her visitor to take tea, and proceeded to make it.

    "Yes, ma'am," replied the housekeeper; "a rich man, 'tis true; but, Mrs. Maclean, I may say, a saving, careful gentleman, with a wife who never let so much as a candle-end be wasted in the house, if she knew it."

    "It's not young Mr. Dixon's bringing up, then," observed the widow, "that makes him extravagant."

    "It's not exactly that he's extravagant," said the housekeeper; "but young people don't think enough, sometimes, about the future.  I'm not the woman to take liberties; but I first came into the family as his nurse, and in one place or another I've been with them ever since.  I don't say but that, sometimes, when he's ordering out bottles of his best port wine for such of the bedridden old pauper-men as would be better in the workhouse by half, or when he's sending out dinner after dinner (soup, and jelly, and slices off the best end of a loin of veal, yesterday, and almost half a fowl, the day before) to snuffy old crones, that are no better than they should be, — I don't say but that, now and then, I observe, 'Sir, you'll not be able to afford all this when you're married, and have a family of your own to think about.'  'That's a good reason,' said he, the last time I named it, — 'that's a good reason why I should do it now.  Beside,' said he, 'Nurse, (for he sometimes forgets, and calls me Nurse still,) I don't intend to marry.  I'm very comfortable as I am.  I don't want a lady here.",

    "Ah," said the widow, shaking her head, "they're so confident, young men are; but his time will come, Mrs. Anderson, his time will come."

    Mrs. Anderson passed her cup for more tea.

    "That's just my opinion," she observed; "and therefore I have done my best, ma'am, to keep things handsome about him, that I may not be blamed, nor the family put to expense, when he brings a wife home.  In short, it's more than a year ago now that I wrote to Mrs. Dixon about the drawing-room carpet, and she sent me their second-best linen floor-cloth.  I made one up out of the best parts of it, and boiled it in hay-tea, to make it a good brown-holland colour.  Very neat it looked, and I got it laid down when he was out of the way.  I hoped that, being used to the ways of his mother, it might come natural to him to see it.  Instead of that, 'What's this?' said he, coming in; 'I hate to see rooms with pinafores on.'  'It's to save the carpet, sir,' said I; 'it won't last much longer at this rate.'  'Won't it?' said he, considering.  'No, sir,' said I, very firmly, 'it won't.'  'Then,' says he, 'take the pinafore off; let it last as long as it will, and after that I'll walk on the boards.'"

    "I call that rather aggravating," said the widow.

    "He does not mean it," replied the housekeeper; but I may say that it all comes from not caring enough about outsides, and the way of putting things.  If I had a handsome shawl, and carried it with me to church tied up in an old duster, instead of on my shoulders, who would believe I had it?  We ought to put the best on the outside, that is the way to be true to ourselves.  And yet, dear me, Mrs. Maclean, there is nothing like living with a real good, religious, and, as one may say, innocent young man, to make an old woman feel wicked."

    "We're all sinners, Mrs. Anderson," observed the widow, as if she would convey to her friend her own conviction, that beyond her being a partaker in this universal fault of our nature, there was no call for her to appropriate special wickedness to herself.

    "And that's Bible truth, ma'am," said the housekeeper; "but a straight stick may shame a crooked one, that never knew how crooked it was till the other was laid beside it.  I have wished to be a manager, Mrs. Maclean, to — as one may say — to go to heaven, doing a little business for myself by the way.  That's what puts me out now."

    "Indeed, ma'am," said the widow, doubtfully; for though she felt it to be a compliment to herself that her friend should thus make confession to her of her faults, she did not see the whole drift of these remarks.

    "I am as I was made," proceeded the housekeeper, and I am not to quarrel with the Almighty, and say, 'Why hast Thou made me thus?'  I've got a managing head, and why am I not to manage?  Why, because Mr. Dixon won't let me.  I've no encouragement to labour: he wastes all.  Fruit was very plentiful last year, as you know.  I made a quantity of jam, and my jams are never a discredit to me.  Now, I thought, there'll be plenty of preserves in the house for puddings, and to appear at breakfast, and what not, when his college friends come to stay with him.  If you'll believe me, ma'am, not half a dozen pots out of the sixty have I had the pride of seeing on his table.  The measles broke out among those families by the gravel pits, and then there were fevers down by the mere; and between the two my jams were all taken from me, pots and all, — they might have given me back the pots.  I don't deny that black currant drink is a comfort to the sick; but that they want the best of preserves, made with loaf sugar, to take their powders in, I never will believe; treacle would do just as well, and many of them never heard of preserve; therefore they would not have thought they wanted it, unless he had put it into their heads that such things were good for them."

    By this time the widow had begun to think that her friend was hardly treated, and she remarked that Mr. Dixon did not seem to know his own interest.

    "Ma'am," remarked the housekeeper, significantly, "fruit is not so plentiful this year, and if I make but little jam it will be partly because I have so few pots to put it in.  I am not complaining — far be it from me — but I ask this, does not the Scripture declare that we are to be wise as serpents?  It does.  It says in another place, 'He that hath two coats let him impart to him that hath none.'  Well, if I took that text literally, which I don't, I would use the wisdom of the serpent, as I am told to do, and I would take care to give away that coat which was of least use to me.  But what Mr. Dixon does is the clean contrary.  If it was put before him that he must give away one of two coats, and if one of the two was threadbare and shabby, and the other was handsome and a good fit, ten to one that he would put the shabby one on his own back; and I should not be in a proper mind to receive the sacrament the next time it was given in consequence of not being in charity with the man that was wearing out the better one.  I never did approve of selling old clothes, Mrs. Maclean.  I consider that they are the rights of the poor when we are done with them; but to wear the shabby and give away the good is to turn everything upside down and that, so to speak, is my Mr. Dixon's fashion."

    "Perhaps," said the widow humbly, for this allusion to the sacrament had reminded her of the two-shilling piece; "perhaps he considers that in giving to the poor he is lending to the Lord."

    "No doubt, no doubt," said the housekeeper "those words are often in his mouth; but, Mrs. Maclean, I put it to you as to a sincere woman who does as others do, and has no reason to be ashamed of it, — don't you, when you feel that you ought to give away something in charity, — don't you consider what you can best spare?"

    "To be sure, to be sure," replied the poor woman, it is not much that I have to give; but when I give it is chiefly what I have done with, what I don't want, or anything that won't keep, such as a drink of milk to a beggar's child, or windfall apples that I cannot sell."

    "And very right too, and very prudent.  Prudence is a virtue, isn't it?"

    "Yes," said the widow doubtfully, "and yet if I really felt that it was giving to the Lord, I should wish to give of the best."

    "Ah, but that is only a figure, ma'am; we are not to take the Scriptures too literally.  I've often heard so in sermons, and yet," proceeded the housekeeper, "and yet, as I said before, to live with a man like Mr. Dixon, often makes me feel that I am a wicked old woman.  Not but what there is a natural carelessness about him, too, which makes it easier for him than for many others to give away his things.  Now, that which I told you about the carpet had nothing to do with his religion, but it has to do with his not caring how things look, which is such a trouble to me.  When he has a shabby dinner, and folks come in and see him at it, he feels nothing, and I feel a great deal."'

    "Well, Mrs. Anderson," said her hostess, "you should consider that whatever folks may think about his furniture and his dinners, any one may see with half a eye that he is a perfect gentleman, and they may perhaps think that it's his way to go on as he does; just a singularity, you know, and not a notion that it's his duty.  They may think he does it to save money."

    "They may," replied the housekeeper, much comforted by this speech.  "Well, well, I hope they do!  For I've noticed that people don't think the worse of those that are a little singular, if they see that they are studying their own advantage in what they do.  It's singularity that is not for advantage, but that comes, from an over religious mind, or an over tender conscience, that people dislike.  There was old Sir Henry Lofton, when he had the misfortune to turn teetotaller, — how everybody laughed at him, and said he did it to save his wine, and said he need not have troubled himself, for it was none of the best.  There is ten times as much said about him as about Squire Hillary of Castle Casey, who is so mean with his wine.  The worst I've heard of him was, that his son would inherit a fine cellar full when he came into the property, and that he had the finest taste in old port of any one in the county."

    "But," said the widow, "Mr. Hillary is a very hard man to the poor.  I don't think, Mrs. Anderson, that the Almighty has much money of his to pay him again.  He hasn't lent much to the Lord."

    "Well, ma'am, we must not judge him," replied the housekeeper; "he has had a very expensive family.  They do say that his son, who ran away for a sailor, has cost him a great deal; and you know a man that has an old property to keep up, and several sons to put out, in the world, cannot spend as an old bachelor might."

    "You are best off to be with Mr. Dixon, ma'am," said the widow.  "It will all come back to him one way or another.  I've heard of a man of whom it was said that he transported his goods into heaven before him, and was sent for there to enjoy them.  Perhaps Mr. Dixon is one of this sort."

    "No doubt, ma'am," replied the housekeeper; but there are many good Christians that are every bit as fit for this world as they are for the next.  And I wish he was one of them.  I must be going now; and I thank you kindly for a good cup of tea."

    "Don't mention it," said the widow; "I thank you kindly for your good company.  It's a great thing for a lone woman to have a friend now and then to speak to."

    "Ay, indeed.  So, you have nothing for me to do at the savings bank?"

    "Well, no, I thank you," said Mrs. Maclean; and she felt the colour rise in her face, for she thought of the two-shilling piece.  This money having been lent to the Lord, she could not at present send any to the savings bank; but, though she was glad it was where it was, she hoped Mrs. Anderson would not find out anything about it, or she might think her less fit for this world than even the young vicar.

    So, Mrs. Anderson, having hurried on her shawl and taken leave of her friend, pursued her way through the dingle alone.  Her mind was full of love for the young clergyman, whom she had nursed and tended in his childhood; but she gave way to a little feeling of wrath also against him, when she reflected how he stood, as she thought, in his own light, and neglected his own interest.

    She was a little, stout body, with a determined month and a keen, shining eye.  All the people in the parish feared her, — she was so quick at finding out imposture.

    If the united desires of most of the poor could have prevailed to turn her out from among them, Mrs. Anderson would not have held her own in the hamlet for a day; as it was, she ruled and reigned in a certain sense, because she had Mr. Dixon's ear.  It was she, when Mr. Dixon had visited a poor woman for some weeks, and had been much touched by her habit of shedding tears when he read to her — it was she who, coming in once with a pudding that he had desired her to make, had looked about her with significant shrewdness, and finally had put her hand under the pillow and drawn out a bottle of gin; then, while the patient scolded, had remarked to her that tears sometimes came of drinking, and that she had better not deceive herself into thinking them a proof of piety.  She was much too discreet at the time to say any more; but while Mr. Dixon sat by, discomfited, she fed the old woman, and setting the gin bottle on a table, went her way.

    Afterwards, while Mr. Dixon dined, and she waited on him, he said to her, "How came you, Anderson, to think of feeling under the pillow?"

    "I smelt gin, sir, as plain as possible," she answered; "and I knew Molly was bedridden; so, where could it be but close to her hand?"

    "You smelt it?"

    "Bless you, sir, yes.  Those sprigs of mint that lay on her bed could not disguise it."

    "Well," said the parson, with a sigh, "I really did think the old soul was a sincere penitent."

    Charity believeth all things — Mrs. Anderson knew that; yet, she was a little astonished when he added, "Perhaps she takes it as a medicine."

    "Perhaps she does," answered the housekeeper, after a pause; for, with the quick instinct of affection, she was willing to spare her sometime nursling the pain of thinking that he had been ignominiously cheated by an ignorant, vicious old woman, — taking her drunken sobs for the blessed tears of repentance.  "But, sir, might I inquire whether you are in the habit of giving her money?"

    "Yes; I often give her a shilling or two," was his answer; "and I generally see that she has her share of all the parish charities."

    "I should think, on the whole, sir," said the housekeeper, with such an air of cogitation, as if she would have had him think that her forthcoming remark had that moment entered her mind, — "I should think, on the whole, sir, that if you could get in the habit of spending the money for her, — say in bread, or in tea, or rice, — it might be a good thing; for, if she requires gin as a medicine, the parish doctor is bound to provide it.  What is he paid for, indeed, but for attending to her, and to such as she is?"

    "I will not give her any more money," said the young clergyman.  "I should not like her to learn any bad habits through me."

    When Mrs. Anderson heard the words, "learn any bad habits through me," she cast up her eyes to the ceiling behind his back, as one who was taken with a mild fit of despair.  But she contented herself for the present with this little demonstration, for she knew that her time would come, and Mr. Dixon did not take kindly to a lesson of distrust, unless it was administered with a candid, dispassionate air, and without any apparent desire to make a deep impression.

    He was a very sincere person.  Hypocrisy seemed to him one of the most unbearable of sins.  He could recognize it in certain glaring cases; but he was not prepared to find a little spice of it flavouring the discourse of most people who had anything to gain by it.

    "She seems always very glad to see you, when you call, sir," said the artful housekeeper.

    "Yes, yes," replied Mr. Dixon; "she is certainly very much impressed.  Her tears cannot always be result of gin."

    This last part of the sentence was said rather severely.

    "Certainly not, sir," answered Mrs. Anderson.  "Of course, it's ridiculous to think that you would mistake the sort of foolish, maudlin way she had, this morning, for her usual manner that I suppose she has when she's crying over her past life."

    Mr. Dixon coughed rather doubtfully.  He had not observed any great difference between that day and former days, as regarded the tears.  The old woman had said she was crying about her sins, and he had believed her.

    "It seems a pity she goes on telling fortunes so," observed Mrs. Anderson, with an indifferent air; "but then, it's a temptation, no doubt, — and, dear me, we're all weak when temptation comes."

    "Does she?" cried Mr. Dixon.

    "Dear me, yes, sir; of course she does.  But should you think that a proof she was not a sincere penitent?"

    "I should, indeed!"

    "She told our own housemaid's fortune, this day week; but then, the girl went to her and asked her.  And besides, how else is she to live, sir? for she won't take the parish pay, for fear of having to go into the house."

    "There, you evil old hypocrite," she thought, as she quietly cleared away the dinner; "I don't think your light pudding will be baked in our oven again for some time."

    She then retired, cheerful at heart; and presently, looking up from her sewing as she sat by the clean kitchen window, she saw Mr. Dixon thoughtfully walking about in the garden, and frowning as if his cogitations were not agreeable.

    "If I have made him uncomfortable," she thought, "it's all for his good, and for hers too, for the matter of that!  Not that I would have interfered just now, if new laid eggs were not so difficult to get, and our fowls had not left off laying.  There is nothing that suits him so well as new laid eggs for his breakfast, and it aggravates me past bearing (when I've taken the trouble to walk miles to get them at the farm) — it does aggravate me past bearing, to be told to make them into puddings for that drunken old hypocrite.  Some folks are fond of saying, 'What a blessing it will be to recognize one another in heaven!'  For my part, if I ever get there, I wish none of the paupers here may recognize me.  What tales they'll have to tell him!  It's not in nature that they can like me.  But we must take the bad with the good.  I should not like to know him in heaven, so I must make up my mind to shut my eyes to their doings here, or to his knowing of my ways up there."



II.


THIS tale, which concerns a chosen friend of mine, has to be so told that if she still lived she would not disapprove — that is, the places, the names, and circumstances have some of them been veiled and disguised.

    How I came to know the Widow Maclean so well I will not avow, nor how it was that almost to me alone she gave so complete a confidence; but I have now come to a point in my narration which must be carefully and distinctly told, though it is the only part that many people would hesitate to tell, or would be desirous to explain away.

    On the night following that evening during which she had entertained the housekeeper at tea, she could not make up her mind to go to bed; she felt as if she was waiting for something; but she was in very good spirits and very wakeful, so she lighted a fresh candle about ten o'clock, and far into the night she sat up, knitting.

    Such an unwillingness to go to bed had never happened to her before; there was nothing in that, perhaps, but by degrees there came into her mind an impression that she ought to sit up, and — whatever we may think as to its nature or reality — hearing of it afterwards, it is at least certain that she was still awake, and still burning the candle after two o'clock in the morning.

    At that time, the very dead time of the night, and when the moon had gone down, she heard footsteps, and then she heard a sound as of some one feeling in the dark for the handle of her door.  She got up without hesitation, flung it open, and there walked, or rather staggered in, a sailor.

    He seemed dazzled with the light, though it was but of one candle, and reeled with difficulty into a chair, where he sat down and gazed about him.

    "Boy;" said the widow, — for he was but a youth,—"what did you come into my garden for?"

    He answered, naturally enough, "Because I saw the light in your window."

    "What is your business?" she next inquired; and while still speaking she recognized him.

    "I've no business," he replied, spreading out his hands forlornly; "I've no place, and I've no home."

    Upon this, he laid his head against the wall as he sat, and burst into tears, crying out and weeping most passionately.

    "Sir," said the widow, "why should you make such ado!  What is the matter with you?  I know who you are.  You'll soon be at home; you are going to Castle Casey."

    "No," said the youth, shuddering; " I'm coming from it."

    "Coming from it?" exclaimed the widow, aghast; "coming from it?  Why, arn't you the young gentleman that ran away for a sailor?"

    "I thought he would take me in again," said the youth, sobbing like a child.  "I thought he would forgive me."

    "Your father, do you mean?" said the widow, in a low voice; for she was awe-struck at the terrible notion that the youth had been disowned.

    In reply, he made a sign of assent, and seemed to be relating something, but his whispers were so faint and low that she came and leaned over him, when she was shocked to hear the words, "He said I was dirty."

    After this he said, "Let me lie down on the floor;" which he did, and fainted.

    The widow was a good deal alarmed, but she soon found her vinegar bottle, and wetting his forehead and the palms of his hands, fanned him with her apron till he recovered his consciousness, when he stared about him, saying drearily, "It's quite true what he said.  I've made my own bed, and I must lie on it."

    "Did the old Squire say that?" thought Widow Maclean.  "Ah, my poor Pamela! my dearest dear!  I wish I might have such a chance of taking you home again."

    She then lighted a fire, and bestirred herself to get something hot to eat and drink for her poor guest; but it was not till everything was ready, and a chair set by the decently spread table, that the youth would lift his head from the floor.  When, however, he did so, he opened his hungry eyes, and sat down thankfully to eat what she had provided.  He was so eager over the meal that she could not help feeling surprised, for there was that in his whole manner which seemed to tell of extreme need.

    "You're hungry, sir," she observed, and then went to her cupboard and brought out some cheese to add to the meal.

    "How should I be otherwise?" he replied, bitterly.  "I had only threepence in my pocket, and it's two hundred miles."

    The widow would like to have asked a few questions — when had the poor youth landed, and how came he to be so destitute.  "One thing seems certain," she thought, "that wicked old man gave him not even a crust."

    "Well, sir," she said, cheerfully, "you're kindly welcome, I am sure, to what you see before you."

    "Thank you very much," he answered; and then the hysterical feeling coming again, he sobbed, and exclaimed, "I was always working, and toiling, and starving myself to get home.  I thought if I could only get home I should be all right; but I wasn't — I wasn't."

    "Don't fret yourself, just now," said the poor widow, "we must see what can be done in the morning perhaps it was a mistake."

    "It's not a mistake," he replied, passionately; "I tell you he said I was a disgrace, and so I am; but since I got out of that prison I have tried to do well, — indeed I have, — and I worked my way home before the mast."

    "Sir, I have heard nothing against you, excepting that you ran away from home, and I don't want to hear anything.  You're young, you have most of your time before you, and if you repent and do well, you will be forgiven, and folks about you will forget; but," said the widow, "when I talked of a mistake, I meant that I thought your father had made one in thinking he was best without you when you had asked to be forgiven; depend on it, that by this time he wishes he had not sent you away."

    "I can't go to him again," said the young man.

    "But I can, sir; I shall set off as soon as it's broad day, and I'll warrant he will be glad to find that he can have you home after all.  Parents have very tender feelings.  Your father was in a passion at first, no doubt."

    "If he means to insult me again as he did this evening ―" began the youth —

    "Sir, sir," said the widow, "do you mean to say that you could not forgive his anger, if he could forgive what you did to provoke him?"

    The youth hung his head.  "You may try him if you will, and say that I hope he will take me in.  I did ask his pardon."

    "Of course I shall try him, and don't you be afraid.  Its now nearly four o'clock.  I am strong and hearty enough for my age.  I shall be over at Castle Casey by nine, for I shall set off as soon as I have had something to eat."

    "You are a good friend to me," said the young sailor, "and I think you are right.  He cannot well help forgiving me if you go to him, and he is asked the second time; but when I asked him what I was to do, he said I could work my way to Australia, and take to sheep farming, — anything, he said, so that he never saw me again."

    "Well, we must not think of that, sir," interrupted the widow.  "What we have to think of, you and me, is, that he spoke hastily."

    "I said I was so destitute," continued the youth, "that I could not do even that unless he would help me with a few pounds.  I have no clothes whatever but these that you see me in, and they are almost in rags."

    The first early sunbeams were beginning to shine into the casement as the youth spoke, and the widow sat down to eat, saying to him: "Keep up your spirits, sir, and believe nothing but good, unless I come and tell it to you myself, — which I shall not do, please God.  I know what the feelings of parents are."

    "Ten pounds," continued the poor fellow, in a desponding tone, "even ten pounds, if you could get it for me, would be enough to enable me to earn my living.  It would get me a good outfit, and I could work my way before the mast, as he said."

    The widow paused in her meal when she heard him say this; "Perhaps he knows his father better than I do," she thought.  "What if he should deny to have any compassion, after all?  But I must not think of it — it's enough to take away my strength; and I shall want all I've got left after being up all night, and the fright of seeing him faint before my eyes with misery and hunger.  I'll think, instead, of my poor Pamela, and that will make me sure that this hard-hearted squire will feel as if he had a knife in the only soft part of his heart, by the time I reach him.  He'll be glad enough I'll warrant, to forgive."

    "You'll try to get me the ten pounds, anyhow," said the young man, with wistful earnestness.

    "La bless you, my dear," answered the widow, impatiently, — "for you talk so like a child that I must answer according, — of course I'll get you the ten pounds, if I get you nothing better.  I PROMISE YOU THAT."

    She then finished her meal, dressed for her walk, and directed the young sailor to go to bed and rest till her return, which she thought might be about one o'clock in the day.  "If I am not in by that time," she said, "you can get up, sir, and eat what you find in the cupboard."  So saying, she shut the door behind her, and stepped out into the sunshine of the early morning.

    "It is a very strange thing," she thought, as she walked, "that I should have felt that sort of wish to sit up; and there cannot be a bit of doubt in the world, that it was in order that I might go and ask the old squire to forgive Master Roger.  I feel as sure as possible that he will relent.  And I wonder where he would have been by this time, poor fellow, if he had not seen by the candle that somebody was up."

    So she walked on, brave and excited, and got over half the distance before she sat down to rest.  Then, after a short pause, she proceeded again, cheerful, full of hope, and conning over to herself the speech she intended to make to the father.

    She rang at the bell of the back entrance, and was admitted.  What occurred in the house, however, she never told: she did not even make it known whether she ever obtained an audience with the old squire.  All I know is, that about one o'clock she found herself again on the outside of that door — hungry, weary, and utterly dispirited.

    Failure, complete and final, she had never anticipated; she had been prepared for anger, for argument, for delay; she had even made up her mind that the poor youth might have to endure a period of probation before he was received and forgiven; but to have to go back to him and confirm his own belief — to tell him that he had been right and she had been wrong — was as surprising to her as it was terrible.  And why was it so surprising?  Why, because she had persuaded herself that she was sure to succeed, in consequence of the impression which kept her waking, and kept the candle alight that had drawn him to her door.

    She had a tender conscience; and now, as she plodded on in the noonday heat, a fear that she had been presumptuous, and had mistaken her own wish and will for the leading of Providence, took possession of her heart.  She sat down in the shade of a tree, spent with fatigue, and shed a few tears, and trembled a little, wondering whether the young outcast was expecting her by that time, and considering how she should break these evil tidings to him, and what she should do.

    As she rested she became calm, and considered within herself, "Why do I make this ado?  I've had a blessing bestowed on me.  I've been let to take in this poor boy, and do him good; perhaps I've kept him from harm, or from going back into those bad ways that I think he must have walked in.  Is not that enough for me?  Why am I so shocked and disappointed, because God had not bestowed this other blessing that I wanted for him?

    "He never promised that Mr. Roger should be taken home at my request.  Perhaps to go back into that wicked house would not be really a blessing for him; but how strange that his own flesh and blood can turn from him, when my heart bleeds so for him for my poor Pamela's sake."

    After resting about half an hour, and during that time deciding what to do, she got up and walked to the railway station, which was a quarter of a mile from that place, and which would put her down in the town about three miles beyond her cottage.  In this town was the savings bank.  She always carried her book about with her, and she meant to go to the bank and draw out her money.

    Her heart beat with agitation as she walked to the little station.  "The way to look at this is, that I'm going to lend it to the Lord," she said; and as she walked, she repeated over and over again, "to lend it to the Lord."

    Her spirits rose as she reached the station, and during the short journey she felt excited, but happy.  Her only fear was, lest Mrs. Anderson might be in the town, and meet with her.  She felt a cowardly dread lest Mrs. Anderson should find out, somehow, what she was going to do with the money; and though she reflected within herself that it was her own, and she had a right to do as she pleased with it, yet the light in which such an act would appear to her friend — the imprudence, as most people would consider it, of giving away all she possessed, stared her in the face.  She longed, she desired, above all things, to do it; but, "Oh," she thought, "that it was but done, and that no one but the Lord might know of it!"

    With stealthy steps and anxious looking about her, she went through the streets of the town.  It was market-day.  She met one or two acquaintances, and among others a farmer's wife, who offered her a seat home in her cart.  This she gladly accepted, for she was to the last degree tired, and so hungry that she stepped into a baker's shop which was opposite to the savings bank, and spent one of the few pence she had left in buying a penny roll.  Then she walked a few minutes, eating the bread, and watching up and down the street, till she could slip into the bank unperceived.  She accomplished this feat.  She came out with ten pounds in her pocket, and sought her friend, the farmer's wife, who was just ready to start homewards.  The slow drive home, under the shade of wayside trees, was very pleasant.  She felt as light-hearted as if some great good had happened to her.

    "I've got something in my pocket that I'm going to lend to the Lord," she thought.  "I hope He'll accept of it.  I hope I shall not find, when I get home, that it is not wanted."



III.


WHEN Mrs. Maclean entered her door she found that something more was wanted of her besides the ten pounds that she had so generously brought for the poor young sailor.  The fire was out, the curtain was drawn as she had left it in the dawn of the morning, and he was lying on the bed she had prepared for him in her little inner room, with dry lips, glazed eyes, and a burning face.

    She tried to rouse him to attention by talking of what a long walk she had had, and then she hinted at disappointment, and want of success; but he took scarcely any notice of her, and as soon as she had eaten a little food, she was obliged to step out again to her nearest neighbour for help.  "He is a poor, destitute young man, if ever there was one, and friendless, excepting that I am willing to stand by him.  So, I shall not tell my neighbour whose son he is.  It would make a great deal of talk, and might get me into trouble."  Such thoughts as these passed through her mind as she walked; and when the neighbour had undertaken to let her lad apply to the parish doctor on behalf of the poor wayfarer, and also to sit up with him that night for the sake of a good supper, the widow came home again, with no thought of doing otherwise than nursing him through the illness that was coming on, however severe it might be.

    It was not very long nor very severe; yet, by the time he was able to sit up again, and had sufficiently recovered his strength to talk over his affairs with her, she had drawn out all that had remained to her in the savings bank, for the ten pounds reserved for his outfit and expenses she was determined not to touch.

    When a man who is utterly destitute meets with a friend, it is hard for him to reject the help that stands between him and ruin.  This young sailor, with all his faults, was not ungrateful; and he sorely felt, also, that the poor widow, in taking him, and nursing him, and proposing to him that he should take her earnings, was laying him under an obligation such as he never might be able to repay.  She was old; and, even if he lived to reach his destination, could he hope that she would live till he had scraped together ten pounds?

    The affair, however, ended as might have been expected.  The money was accepted; and, one dark, rainy morning, the young man, decently clad, and fed, and recovered from his illness, took leave of his benefactress, with deep gratitude and many promises that he would try to do well.

    After he was gone the widow cleaned her little house, gathered her apples and sold them, and took her knitted stockings home to the farmer's wife who had bespoken them.  She had a sort of fear in her mind, which she did not wish to turn into a certainty; and as she did the work of her house and garden, she kept saying to herself, "There, I can see well enough to do this thing and that, and the other; what ails me, that I should fancy I can't see to work?"  At last, when all was done, she dressed hastily, one sunny afternoon, and took up her little red work-box, intending to darn her stockings.

    "Somehow, I can't help thinking that there's a mistiness," she thought, while looking for her needles, — "a sort of fog before my eyes; but if I can thread my needle, I shall know that it's all right."

    She had put on her spectacles.  They did not seem to make matters much better.

    "Why, there are no needles in the book!" she exclaimed aloud.  "I could have declared that I had plenty.  No needles!  But I know I had some; for Mr. Roger asked me for a few, and I got out my old 'housewife' for him, and he took four."

    As she spoke she moved her hand over the flannel in the needle-book, and the points of needles pricked her.  There were several needles there, but she could not see them.

    "It's rather sudden," she said gravely, to herself.  "A fortnight ago, when Mr. Roger first came, I'd only just begun to remark that my eyesight was bad;" and she began slowly to roll up her needle-case and put her little matters away in the box.

    A few days after this, while Mrs. Anderson was waiting at table, she said to Mr. Dixon, "Did you know, sir, that Mrs. Maclean was in trouble about her eyes?  She got a lift last market-day into the town, and spoke to Dr. W., and he says she is likely to be dark altogether, and he can do nothing for her at present."

    "That looks as if she was threatened with cataract," observed the young clergyman.

    "I don't know, sir; but, though it's a misfortune, she is not like many, — she has saved money; and the young man who lodged with her lately, and was ill, paid her well, no doubt, for her trouble.  He must be well off, for several people met him as he was going away, and they said he was in excellent good clothes, and looked almost like a gentleman."

    "She spoke to me of him, when he was ill, as if he were a poor, destitute young fellow," observed Mr. Dixon.  "I fancied that she had taken him in for charity."

    "Charity!" exclaimed the housekeeper; "a lone widow, and a poor woman, — one that works for her bread in great measure, — how could she afford such a thing, sir?"

    "She did not say that she got nothing for her trouble," answered the clergyman; "but I certainly acquired the notion somehow."

    "I assure you, sir, that Mrs. Maclean is a very prudent, saving woman," observed the housekeeper, warmly.

    "Very," he replied; "I am sure of it.  I sometimes think, from what I have noticed, that she is one of those who are prudent enough to lay up treasure in heaven."

    "But, sir, you would not commend a person, surely, for spending money in charity, and then coming upon charity herself."

    "I don't see that it is such a very dreadful thing to come upon charity," said the young clergyman carelessly.  "People risk it for all sorts of things; why not, then, in order that they may be charitable themselves?  Many people seem rather to like it.  No, I do not see that it is to be so much dreaded."

    "Not when a woman has kept herself so respectable, sir, as Mrs. Maclean has done, and her husband, a gentleman's butler, left her thirteen pounds a year?"

    "Not even then."

    "Well, sir, you would if you were she, and you would if you were me."

    Mr. Dixon perhaps found this reply unanswerable, for he said nothing

    "People that take charity, sir, can never get it by itself.  They always have to take something else with it.  They are like the young man that borrowed a hundred pounds of a Jew, and the Jew made him take thirty of it out in a four-post bed, and a second-hand light-cart, and a mangle.  Sometimes, what they have with the charity is scolding, and sometimes good advice; but they never get it neat.  I've known a woman have to take such a quantity of good advice with sixpence, that she said, 'Oh, if it were but greens and potatoes, I could open shop again with it.'  I've seen advice given to that extent, with twopenny worth of oatmeal, that the water cooled in the wash-tub before the woman had done listening to it; but she was a religious woman, and she had that control over herself, that she used no bad language, even when the visitor was gone."

    Mr. Dixon, on hearing this speech, laughed, and replied pointedly, that he had never met with anything yet that, being worth the having, could be had for nothing; and Mrs. Anderson was so keen and quick of apprehension, that she instantly perceived some reference to herself.

    "Ay, indeed he is right," she thought afterwards, when she had time to reflect on the matter.  "Look at myself, now I give him all my time, I scheme for his housekeeping, and look after his interest, but I give him a world of clack besides, and I make him put up with an amount of cleaning that is anything but pleasant to him.  No he doesn't get me for nothing, let alone my wages."

    Sometimes a long period passes over us and we can scarcely recall it afterwards; no events have marked it, and no changes have divided it off into portions.

    But no such period was in store for Mrs. Maclean.  On the contrary, she passed (during the ten months following the departure of young Hillary), through several changes, both of mind and estate; yet there were times when she felt both peaceful and happy, though, at the end of those months, she could not distinguish night from day, and was the inmate of a hospital.

    There may have been moments during those dark months when she half regretted having "lent" that would have made her comfortable, and money, which enabled her to have a doctor at home to perform the operation on her eyes, instead of taking a long journey, that she might get aid at this hospital; but if there were, they must have been few.  Charity is truly its own reward, and Faith is quite as much a joy as a duty.  She felt as if the constant hope that she had saved her young sailor from ruin was in itself a precious return for what she had done.  The last action which she had done, and the last face she had seen clearly had been his, and she said afterwards that her thoughts dwelt on those days continually.  Daylight and candle-light had become remote and exquisite things; she remembered them best as she last saw them.  She thought how the candles burnt on that eventful night; how she drew back her thin curtain and saw the new day; how she used to sit by young Roger, knitting when he was ill; and how he used to watch the falling of her ripe apples when he got better, and persuade her to go out and pick them up for him from among the yellow leaves.

    To those who looked on she seemed much to be pitied, for, as she could do very little for herself, she was obliged to have a girl to come in and cook her simple meals, and clean her cottage.  In order to meet this expense, she parted, first with all her furniture excepting her bed and two chairs, and then with nearly all her clothing.  She could not see the change this produced in her once well-plenished house, that was one comfort; and she found a true friend in Mr. Dixon, that was another; for he came regularly to see her three times a week, and many a pleasant discourse she had with him.  But Widow Maclean was now not so much respected as she had been.  It was discovered that she had no money.  This was all drawn out, and it did not appear how she had spent it.  She was silent on that point, which looked bad.  Her best things were all either sold or in the pawn-shop.  Mrs. Anderson herself, who had been one of her most constant friends and champions, did not now know what to think of her.  She bought the widow's Sunday shawl of her, and made a better bargain for herself on the occasion than she would have thought of doing if she had not felt that she must have been deceived, somehow, as to the former circumstances of her friend.  She also administered charity to her from Mr. Dixon, and likewise from herself.  It is noticeable that she bestowed largely with it the advice and the insinuations which she had spoken of as being so unpleasant.  She even exceeded her own description, for she bestowed much with Mr. Dixon's charity also.  This she could hardly have regarded as her duty.  We must, therefore, consider that she looked on it as a pleasure.

    As for Mrs. Maclean, she took all meekly; and strange to say, however worn and pinched her poor face looked, the easiest way to call a look of contentment and peace into it was to make some allusion to her savings.

    So from comfort she came down to poverty, and then to charity, and then she came down to the asking for it, and finally a subscription had to be made to pay for her journey to the hospital.

    At first, when she reached this dreaded place, having had to part with Mr. Dixon, who had encouraged her, read with her, and prayed with her, she was very low and apprehensive; but as the day approached which was to decide whether she would ever see daylight again, she became calm, and was able to put her trust in God.

    The surgeons had done their best, but for several days no light was to be admitted to the eyes; the case was still doubtful, and they let her have so little food, and kept her so cold, that she was very faint and feeble.

    There was often a lady in the ward, a visitor, who spoke very kindly to her, and to the other patients.  She liked to hear her voice, and learned to recognize her step.  Sometimes a gentleman came with her, whom she did not like so well, but she could hardly tell why.  He was extremely kind to the patients, reading to them, and comforting them.  He often sat by the widow, and repeated to her any little piece of news concerning her fellow sufferers that he thought might encourage her.  By degrees, therefore, she lost the first feeling of dislike that she had felt towards him, and was sorry one day to hear him remark that his fortnight for visiting the hospital was over, and that he should not come again for some time.

    While he still sat by her bed that day, and she felt very weak and low, some one came in, who said in a clear voice, "Is there any one in this room of the name of Maclean?"

    "Yes," she answered faintly, "that is my name."

    "Why, your name is written on your card M. Lane, widow," said the nurse, examining the card at the head of the bed; "why have you let yourself be called Mrs. Lane?"

    "What did it signify?" she answered.  "I noticed that they called me so, but I did not know why."

    Then followed a discussion between the gentleman who had spoken and the nurse.  They said hers was a Scotch name, and she wondered why they troubled themselves about it; they looked again at her card, and said that perhaps the subscriber who had recommended her had written it M'Lane, "for that," said one, "is how she pronounces it, and it is very commonly spelt so in Scotland."

    "I pronounce it as my husband did, of course," said the widow, a little fretfully.

    "Well, Mrs. Lane — Mrs. Maclean, I mean — a foreign letter has been sent on here from some village; if it is for you, you will know the name of the post town."

    The widow mentioned it.

    "You have come a long way for advice," said the gentleman; "yes, the letter is certainly yours; so you lived seventy miles off.  Well, I hope it will prove that you have not come for nothing."  Saying this he took up one of her thin hands and put the letter into it.  "Perhaps you have a son at sea," he observed; "this is a ship letter."

    "No, sir, I have not," said the widow; "but true it is that there is a lad at sea who is very dear to me."  She took the letter in her hand and felt it all over with eager interest.  She had heard that other gentleman, the visiting gentleman, who still sat by her bed, reading letters in a low voice for the patients, and her desire to know what was in this one overcame her wish to keep its contents to herself; so she asked him to read it.

    The nurse withdrew; he took the letter from her hand; she noticed that his trembled and was very cold, and when he began to read his voice was so husky that for the moment she thought more of that than of the reading.  But she soon gathered that a misfortune had occurred, for the letter was from a shipmate of poor Roger Hillary, and was to tell her that he was dead.  She was too much agitated to notice how the brief story was told, but the manner in which the letter was read it was impossible not to notice, for the reader had the greatest difficulty possible in getting through with his task.

    Yes, the young man was dead; there was no doubt of that; but his shipmate in a rough way gave an excellent account of him, and said that his only sorrow was that he was not to live to repay her, for she had been the saving of him, and he owed her everything.  Some simple expressions concerning his faith and hope then followed, and finally the exact latitude and longitude of the spot in which his body had been committed to the deep.

    A long, dead silence followed, then the nurse came near and said, "If you're in trouble, ma'am, give it words: I have had losses myself, and can feel for you."

    "I want my letter," said the poor woman; and the cold trembling hand put it into hers — it was so very cold and it trembled so much, that even in the moment of her sorrow her observation was attracted.  The gentleman got up silently and went away, and when she became calmer she asked the nurse his name.

    The nurse's sympathy had become slight now she knew that this young sailor was no relation to her patient, only an acquaintance whom she had nursed when he was ill.  "Well, to be sure," she answered; "you seem to take as little notice what other people are called, as of what you're called yourself.  Why, that's Mr. Smith, to be sure, — our Mr. Smith; he's a life governor; he gave fifty pounds this spring to the hospital.  It's seldom, indeed, that he goes away without paying some sort of a compliment to the nurses on the place being so clean, and the patients being well nursed; but to-day he looked ill, and he is ill, I'm sure, or something has put him out."

    "I wish I could see him," thought the widow; "he showed as much feeling about Mr. Roger as if he'd been his brother."

    And then she got the nurse to read over again the precious letter, and though she was sad, it did seem such a blessed thing that she should have been instrumental in saving the young man from going back to evil ways, as she was then told was the case; such a blessed thing that her poor advice should have been taken, and her humble prayers answered for him, that though this world was then quite dark to her, a light seemed to break in her heart.  "It's true enough," she thought; "I lent to the Lord, and in what a blessed way I am paid it, and over-paid it again."

    "Mrs. Maclean," said the nurse, the next day, "Mr Smith has sent to know how you feel yourself, and he would have come himself, only he's ill, and he's sent you these grapes."

    The nurse spoke with a certain respect of manner, and the patient listened with surprise.  A suitable message was returned, and the next day Mr. Smith came himself.

    "How do you feel to-day?" he inquired.

    The widow expressed herself much better, said the doctors gave a very good account of her, and returned him may thanks for his kindness.

    "Don't mention it," he replied, with some perturbation.  "My wife has sent you some new-laid eggs.  She would have come herself, but she is ill; in short, she was confined three days ago.  We have a large family; this is our eighth, our eighth living, I mean."

    He said this rather hurriedly, and the widow listened with such surprise that she could not keep her thoughts to herself.  "Sir," she exclaimed, "did you know young Mr. Roger Hillary?"

    He paused for a moment, then he answered, "I did not know him."

    "Then what does it all mean?" thought the widow; but she did not venture to ask any more questions, though she remained perfectly certain that somehow or other this Mr. Smith must be connected with the Hillary family.  "I only wish I could see him," she thought.  And one day, one happy day, she did see him.  The operation was declared to be successful; light came again to her eyes, and with one of them she could see as well as ever.  To describe her rapture would be impossible.  She quite forgot Mr. Smith; she even forgot for several days to observe that he did not come to see her; and she forgot how much she had been surprised at his kindness, when one day a tall dark man came and stood before her, and the nurse said it was Mr. Smith.

    "I'm told that you are to leave the hospital tomorrow," he said, "and I'm going — I'm thinking of taking you to-day for a short drive."

    "He doesn't look more than forty," thought Mrs. Maclean, "or I should think he might be a brother of poor Mrs. Hillary's; he is dark, and not so very unlike what she was."

    She put on her bonnet, and he took her down stairs and got into a fly, and drove away with her.

    It was not till after they had reached a pretty house some way out of the town, and he had taken her into a well furnished room and shut the door, that she found the continued silence intolerable, and broke it by saying:

    "Well, sir, what is it that you have to say to me?"

    "In the first place," he answered, "I ask your pardon."  And, as he spoke, he took off his hat and came nearer.

    "Richard!" exclaimed the widow; "is this you?"

    "Some men," said he, "would think that having done all they could to make reparation to the woman they had injured, and having brought her to a good home where nobody knew, or could know anything against her, and having been true to her these fifteen years, there was no occasion to ask forgiveness; that is not my feeling.  I humbly ask forgiveness of you."

    "Oh, my Pamela!" exclaimed the widow; "Oh my dear, dear child!"  And in the confusion of the moment, she knew not what to think or what to do.

    "My wife," proceeded the visiting gentleman, "my wife, mind, is very anxious to see you.  I did not know you till I heard your name, and then I recognized you directly."

    The widow trembled, put her hands before her eyes, and there flashed into her mind a never-forgotten scene of misery that had chastened her for many long years.  She saw again her beautiful child at her feet, and heard the poor father making moan over her.

    "I don't understand," she said, pitifully.  "Shall I see my poor child again?  Oh, I cannot understand."

    "I was a coward," said the visiting gentleman, bitterly; "that is what you have to understand.  I was afraid of my uncle; he wanted me to marry above me, as he was so rich, and she was beneath me in some measure, though you had educated her well.

    "I thought he would never forgive me; but when she ran away, poor child, and hid herself from us, I was to the full as much to be pitied as she was.  I had never meant that it should come to that.  I got into a melancholy way, as you know, and after your poor husband's death and your going away I told my uncle all.  I said I must find her and marry her, and he was in a great rage, and desired me to choose between him and her, and I did.  I felt that I cared very little, with that thorn in my heart, about his money, or the shop, or the grocery business, and I went off, and he told me I should see him no more.  It does not matter now to tell you how and where I found her.  I did find her, thank God, at last; she was in the very depths of poverty; and if any man or woman in this world ever repented, it was ourselves.  We had made a bad beginning, and spoilt our lives for nothing at all; but we met over a little coffin, and I took her to church before it was laid in the ground.  It was a miserable wedding for me, and she cried all the time.  I had lost my best friend, she had lost all hers, what more could have happened if I had married like better men.

    "We struggled on for three years and then went to Canada; but I was barely maintaining my family when I got a letter to say that my uncle was dead and had left me everything.  I sold the business and came here, far from any one that ever knew us; we have been settled five years, and you are not to think that we have made no efforts to find you, for we have."

    "Only let me see my child," said the widow, "and I thankfully forgive all."

    "He that hath pity on the poor lendeth to the Lord, and that which he heath given will he pay to him again."  Here we have a direct assertion, and a most singular challenge to the world.

    I wonder whether we believe that assertion.  Let us consider.  We certainly believe that a loving, charitable spirit is pleasing to God, and that upon those who cultivate it He bestows a blessing.  Is that enough?

    It is not enough if we have a right to believe and expect something more.  Let us consider further.  It would not be right to bestow one's goods as loans to the Lord, and expect to have them paid back in kind — that is agreed.

    It would not be right to expect in every case to know how the loan was returned, and whether it was to be returned in this world or in the next.  That is also agreed

    But are we agreed as to whether this woman's case was exceptional, or what might naturally have been expected under the circumstances?  This question is less easy to answer; we have not many recorded instances of such joyful, conscious lending by one who all the time was perfectly content to make the loan a gift.  And we have no experience of our own to go by.  We cannot say what the GREAT ACCEPTOR of the loan would do in such a case, for we never tried.  I never tried, and you never tried.



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