WELLAND was an orphan,
the child of poor but very respectable parents, who had died when
she was too young to feel their loss, and had left her to the care
of her grandmother.
Few young people of her age and rank in life are better
instructed than Emily was, for she had been educated at Aylsham
school under a certificated mistress, who was a superior woman and
respected by all. She was apprenticed as a 'pupil teacher,' at
fourteen years of age, and deemed to have a more than ordinary
chance of doing well and getting on, for she was clever, and what is
called 'sprack' in the part of the country where she lived.
Emily lived with her grandmother in a cottage just outside
the small town. It was a comfortable cottage with a garden in
front, where the old woman grew a few potatoes and cabbages.
The thatch was green with lumps of moss as soft as velvet, and there
was a flower-bed in front which all the summer was gay with stocks,
and wall-flowers, and flowering myrtles, besides low-growing plants,
such as double primroses and red daisies.
On pleasant evenings Emily would often spend an hour in
weeding and watering the flower-beds; and very contented and
cheerful she generally seemed at her work: no one, to look at her
pretty face, would have guessed how little contentment she really
felt, and how many things there were in her lot that she wished she
There was a Mechanics' Institute at the little town
― the subscription was five
shillings a year, and for that sum subscribers might take out more
books than it was easy to read, and some of them were not very well
suited for the reading of the industrious classes.
Emily subscribed to the Institute, and used to bring the
books home to read: stories, travels, poetry, history, nothing
seemed to come amiss to her: but she liked the stories best, though
she sometimes said she had a great mind to read no more of them, for
they were all about ladies and gentlemen, and made keeping school
and keeping shop, and that kind of thing, seem common and vulgar
Emily had a friend who served in a fancy shop in the little
town, and the two girls would often meet at dusk, sit on the bench
just outside the cottage, talk about their favourite characters in
books, and describe to each other the sort of people they should
like to be if they could change their station. Sometimes they
would say they wished they had been born ladies, for they were sure
they were more fit for ladies' work than for their own. Indeed
they wished they could become ladies at once, nothing but money
being wanted to make them such; but, if the old grandmother was
present, she would laugh at them in rather a mortifying way, and say
in her broad Dorset dialect:―
'Go along, Mary Best! don't talk to I. If thou was
dressed up as fine as the Queen, thou couldn't play the lady without
being found out.'
When things of this kind were said, Mary Best generally took
her leave, not without a toss of the head that in a lady would have
been highly unbecoming, and that was vulgar and uncivil in a
Though Emily liked to talk nonsense with Mary Best, and wish
herself in a higher station, she did not neglect to prepare herself
for what was likely to be her own; she expected to be a
schoolmistress, and she worked hard to qualify herself to be a good
one. A certificate is not an easy thing to be got in these
days, for the examinations are very strict: but Emily was bent on
having one of the first-class, and being both industrious and
clever, it seemed likely she would succeed.
She was within six months of being out of her apprenticeship,
and was hard at work preparing to go up to Salisbury to the Diocesan
examination there, when one evening a neighbour came in and brought
the news that a certain Mrs. Smalley had arrived in the town, and
was stopping at the 'White Hart.'
'Your own niece, Mrs. Welland,' observed the neighbour; 'and
they do say that she drove up in a fly, with a Leghorn bonnet and
feathers, quite the lady.'
'My own niece,' repeated Emily's grandmother; 'I wonder
whether she will come and see her old aunt?'
'She can easy find your place if she wants to see you,'
observed the neighbour; 'for you are not like a many, always
'I've kept myself respectable,' said the old woman, 'and
never come upon the parish; so be she lady, or be she not, she may
come and see I.'
'They do say she is very good to the poor,' remarked her
'We are not poor,' interrupted Emily, as red as a rose, 'at
least not poor enough to want anything from Mrs. Smalley.'
'Poor child,' replied the neighbour, 'I can tell you what you
are poor enough to want of her! I wish I was as near to her as
you are, and I would speak up at once for my Mary Anne.'
'So they do say she looked quite the lady,' said the
grandmother. 'What changes there be in this world! Letty
a lady, money in her pocket, and drives up to the best inn in the
'Yes, you may well be proud,' replied the neighbour; 'but I
suppose you won't call her Letty now. A first-rate London
milliner, and has ladies of title in her show-rooms, and makes
hundreds of pounds; but what do you think she is come here for, Mrs.
'Not to see her own folk, I'll be bound,' replied the
grandmother, with a shrewd smile.
'Why, no; but it is to show a respect to the family, too.
I was waiting at the Vicarage door to know whether they wanted any
fowls; I had sold all but my last pair, and while the boy was gone
into the parlour to ask whether Madam had a mind to them, who should
come up but Tom Trott, that is ostler at the White Hart: he had
brought a parcel that had just come by the coach, so I asked him if
he knew what Mrs. Smalley had come to the town for. "No less,"
says he, "as I hear, than to have a headstone put up to the memory
of old Letty Welland."'
'Bless us!' cried the grandmother; 'well, she might have done
more for her mother while the poor soul was living; but this is a
mighty respect for all that.'
'So I say,' observed the neighbour. 'It shows she is no
ways ashamed of your poor sister. Doesn't it, Emily?'
'I don't know,' said Emily; 'perhaps she does it out of
respect to herself.'
'That was all I heard,' added the neighbour. 'They
bought the fowls, and paid two-and-ninepence for them. Well,
good-night, Mrs. Welland, and Emily. I must go home, I am late
Emily went to bed that night full of thought. This
relative whom she had never expected to see, had often been talked
of by her grandmother as having acquired money enough to live in
luxury, and wear clothes as fine as any she made. 'And what
will my calling do for me?' thought the pupil teacher;
'perhaps if I get a first-class certificate and prove as good a
mistress as Miss Cooper, I may get in the end a house to live in,
and eighty pounds a year in all. That is too much to expect,
but still it is not impossible. For that I shall have to work
very hard, and what shall I be? why, nothing but a teacher of poor
folk's children, and what a common vulgar sort of trade that seems!
How hard it is that I should have to learn so much to gain so
little, while Mrs. Smalley can make her hundreds, by just fitting a
bonnet well, and snipping up silk into becoming trimmings.'
It so happened, fortunately as Emily thought, because it gave
her a chance of seeing Mrs. Smalley it so happened that the next
day was a whole holiday at the school, and when Emily came out at
the cottage door, and stood in the shade at seven o'clock the next
morning, and knew that she had nothing to do all day but to rest and
enjoy herself, she felt what a pleasure it was to be free.
Emily had dressed herself in a clean lilac and white print
gown, and had fastened up her hair more neatly than usual, half
hoping that her cousin might come and see her and her grandmother.
It was the middle of July, and the heat of the night had caused many
of the flowers to shed their leaves. The little path was
strewed with red and white rose-leaves. Emily picked them up,
and then got a duster and polished the little casement-window and
made everything about the cottage look tidy and respectable.
Then she went in and had her breakfast with her grandmother, after
which the old woman went out upon her usual market-day expedition,
which was to sell cream cheeses for the wife of a neighbouring
Emily being now left alone took up her plain work and sat
close to the pleasant little casement, enjoying the scent of the
rosemary and the sweet-briar; she half hoped that Mrs. Smalley would
call, and yet, when about ten o'clock she heard the sound of a step
on the path, she felt so shy that she could not look up.
However, she need not have minded, the gown that now
brushed against the lilies in the narrow path was not a silk one,
and the voice that spoke in the open door-way was not a strange one.
'Ellie, is Ellie at home?' asked Miss Cooper, the mistress.
'O yes, Miss Cooper, I am here, ma'am,' said Emily; 'pray
'How pleasant and quiet it seems here,' replied the
schoolmistress. 'Child, you are highly favoured to have such a
peaceable home. Well, I thought I would come and have a chat with
you, Ellie, on my way to see poor Sally Eaton.'
'Is her little girl dead?' asked Emily.
'Yes, the mother sent me word of her death last night, and
asked me to come and see her.'
'She was a good little thing,' said Emily, 'and improved
wonderfully when she had been at school a little while. She
was not like the same child.'
'So her mother said yesterday.'
'She is a grateful woman,' replied Emily, 'not like Polly
Gay's mother, for when you sent me to ask her to be more particular
to send the child in good time, and I said it was a shame she should
be so careless about the child's learning, when you took such pains
with it, she answered, that there was nothing to be thankful for,
seeing you were paid for teaching the child.'
'Yes, to be sure,' said the mistress, 'money will make us
work, but money will not make us give our hearts to the work
― nothing but love for the work, or
real good principle, can make us do that. So there was
something for her to be thankful for, poor soul, if she had but
'I can't bear to hear them say we teach because we are paid,'
said Emily, vehemently.'
'Why, child,' answered the mistress, smiling, 'you would not
teach, would you, if you were not paid?'
'No, ma'am, of course not. I could not afford to teach
'Well, but if you could afford it'
'Oh,' interrupted Emily, 'if I could afford it, ma'am, I
should be a lady, and then of course I should not teach in the way I
do now. I should not drudge myself, in a school, but I
daresay I should be just as charitable as Lady S. and Lady G. and
the great ladies that one hears of. I should pay somebody to
teach for me.'
'Bless you, child,' exclaimed the mistress, 'surely you don't
think that would be the same thing.'
'It would do as much good to the children as if I taught them
myself,' said Emily, 'and it would be a vast deal pleasanter.
I should get a great deal of praise, too, instead of being told that
I was only doing my duty because folks paid me.'
'Well, but Ellie, we can do all our duties in a selfish or in
a self-denying way.'
'Yes,' replied Emily, 'but it does not count for self-denial,
ma'am: I mean, it does not count in the opinion of other folks.
Nobody would say that you spent your life in doing good, because,
you see, you are paid.'
'Well, child, and is it not the will of God that we should
earn our bread and haven't we a right to be paid?'
'Yes,' said Emily, sighing, 'though, rather than be a poor
teacher in a school, I should like to have been a lady, and then the
good I did would have been in such a far pleasanter way, and no
trouble worth mentioning. What are you laughing at, ma'am?'
'Well,' said the worthy mistress, 'I ought to be ashamed of
myself to laugh; for to fret at the decree of God that we shall not
be ladies but working-women, is not a light fault, and, Ellie, you
should try to get grace to be contented. But child, I laughed
at your notion of doing good. Do you think I would change with
such ladies as you speak of? Haven't I kept school twenty-five
years and taught twelve hundred children to read right well, and
write pretty well, and know their duty to God and to other folks?
Not but what it was my duty; of course it was my duty, and I
have earned my bread by it. But child, only think what an
honour and an advantage it is to us, and such as us, that we can't
earn our bread without scattering blessings wherever we go.
Why, it might have been the will of Providence that we should live
by making artificial flowers, or beads to trim dresses with, or
sugar-plums for little spoiled pets of children to make their pretty
teeth ache with. We should earn our money just the same then;
but what should we give for it, compared with what we have the
blessing of giving now? Why, nothing at all. Six months
after death a few faded cambric roses would be what was left of our
work in this world; our work, I mean, that we got our bread by: but
your work and mine, Ellie? I don't expect that to perish
'I never thought of that,' said Emily, thoughtfully.
'Child,' replied the mistress, 'do not think that I am
boastful of my calling, just because I follow it. I am
grateful certainly that I have such a good one but the greater the
work the more the shortcomings show.'
'It was very good of you to come and see me, ma'am,' said
Emily, for her guest had risen and showed signs of intending to
'Will you give me a sprig of rosemary, and a handful of roses
to put in the little one's coffin!' said the mistress.
'Surely, ma'am,' Emily answered, and she came out and
gathered some of her sweetest flowers. After following Miss
Cooper with her eyes till she disappeared, she returned to her work
with a sensation of greater respect for her than she had ever felt
before. 'I am glad,' she thought, 'that I did not tell her
what a mind I had to see if Mrs. Smalley would teach me dressmaking;
and how I disliked the notion of teaching, because it seemed so
low! Why, she would only have said as she did to Amy
Price, "Low, child! wait a year or two before you presume
to give an opinion; it is too high above you to judge of it at
present." 'However,' thought Ellie, 'I am not at all sure that
I shall keep to teaching, if I have a chance of finding some better
At one o'clock Emily had some dinner, and sat quietly at work
till half-past four, when the grandmother came in hot and tired and
ready for her tea; so Emily set out the little deal table with the
tea-things, the loaf and butter, and a small piece of cold bacon.
Her grandmother put her basket on a chair, took off her bonnet, and
they sat down to enjoy their meal. Another step on the narrow
path, and a great deal of rustling, and then a tap on the open door,
and when they turned, a stout lady, all silks and gauzes and laces
and feathers stood there, and asked, 'Is this Mrs. Welland's house?'
'Yes, ma'am,' said Emily, walking to the door, 'will you come
Her grandmother had, in the meantime, brushed the crumbs from
her lap with her hard honest hands, and turning half round in her
chair was looking at her gaily dressed visitor.
'I suppose you don't remember me,' said the grand lady, in
rather a condescending manner. 'My name is Mrs. Smalley.'
'Yes, ma'am,' said Emily's grandmother, 'so I suppose, and I
take it kind'
'And this is your granddaughter, I see,' observed the lady,
sinking into a chair. 'Well, I'm sure! a very pretty young
person she is too. Your garden smells very sweet after London,
The fine lady said this word in rather a low voice, but it
gave satisfaction; and when in a tone of great condescension she
said she would take a cup of tea with them, the grandmother felt
more at her ease, and began to answer her questions and take her
meal with tolerable comfort.
'She is a very genteel-looking, pretty young person,'
repeated Mrs. Smalley, staring at Emily, and talking of her as
composedly as if she had not been present, 'and she would look very
well in my show-room.'
Emily blushed deeply at this remark, but Mrs. Smalley did not
continue the subject, presently saying that she had come to the town
partly with a view of putting up a monument to the memory of her
mother; and that she had called on the Vicar, and asked to be shown
her mother's grave, but that he did not remember which it was.
'My aunt was not buried in Aylsham churchyard,' said Emily.
'So I found,' replied the milliner; 'I got the Rev. Mr. Ward
to look into the book, and my poor mother's name was not in it.'
'She was buried in D churchyard,' proceeded Emily, 'and I
remember the place quite well, for grandmother and I followed her to
the grave. If you remember D church, ma'am, you will know
that it is but a short walk from this. You can see the spire
peeping over the wood at the back of our cottage.'
'I should wish to see the grave,' replied Mrs. Smalley.
'My feelings would be gratified by knowing the place where my poor
mother lies, and my notion is, that a child ought to honour a
parent, in death as well as in life, though ahem, though the
parent may have been in an inferior station.'
'Surely,' replied Emily, a little shocked.
'Therefore,' proceeded Mrs. Smalley, 'I shall go myself to
see the grave, for as I said to the Vicar this morning, "Sir!" I
said, "there is no disgrace in being connected with the lower
orders, provided the individuals know how to conduct themselves
respectably, for in the sight of our Maker they and I are all
equal." I shall be glad of your services to show me the way to
D church, Emily Welland.'
'Yes, ma'am,' replied Emily, but the respect with which she
had at first regarded their richly dressed and self-sufficient
visitor was rapidly melting away, and it vexed her to observe that
her grandmother sat perfectly silent, and seemed unable to look Mrs.
Smalley in the face. The good old woman was in fact in a
perplexed and troubled state of mind, for it naturally seemed to her
curious that her poor sister should have been allowed during her
life to receive parish pay, and should now be honoured with a
monument. However, she had not much time for these
speculations, for Emily at Mrs. Smalley's request put on her bonnet
to walk with her to Dchurch. The niece took an affable leave
of her worthy aunt, who gave her a sovereign which she desired her
to spend in buying a new shawl as a remembrance of this visit.
Mrs. Smalley had begun life as a lady's-maid. Her
mistress being a great invalid had interested herself, and employed
some of her leisure in teaching her, and making her read aloud to
her. After some years the butler and maid married, and then
the same good friend had helped her favourite to set up business as
a dressmaker, by which she had now become rich and prosperous.
The young pupil teacher walked across the fields with her,
listening to her discourse, every sentence of which showed that she
had money and lived in luxury. At last Emily ventured to ask
her whether she wanted a young person as an upper assistant in her
business she mentioned that she understood book-keeping, and was
also handy at her needle, and should like much to learn dressmaking.
To her delight Mrs. Smalley replied that if she wished to
learn she might enter her house on the same footing as the other
young persons, provided she did not mention her relationship to
herself, nor presume upon it. 'As to anything higher,'
continued Mrs. Smalley, 'that might possibly be in time, if you gave
satisfaction, Emily Welland.'
'I could not come till next January or February, ma'am,' said
Emily, 'but if I can manage it then, will you receive me?'
'Certainly,' was the reply. 'I am pleased with your
appearance, and with what I heard of you this morning from the
Vicar; and I have no objection to say that I will befriend you so
'If grandmother has no objection,' Emily now put in, but she
inwardly resolved that she would not tell her grandmother of the
plan till her apprenticeship was over.
The grave of the old mother was found. It was a green
mound lying in the evening sunshine near a fine yew-tree; and Emily
having pointed it out, made her curtsey and took her leave, going
home to her grandmother's cottage full of thoughts about London and
of 'bettering herself' and rising in the world, but not quite sure
that she had done right, 'though, to be sure,' she thought, 'I need
not go to Mrs. Smalley in January unless I please; if everybody is
against it, I have made no promise, I can keep school after all.
I wonder what John Mills would think, if he knew that I was thinking
of going to London.'
IN a cottage very
near Emily, John Mills lived with his father and mother and three
little sisters. His father was a stone-cutter, and John had
been brought up to the same trade, but he had taught himself also to
cut in wood, and had carved a beautiful little model of a monument,
which he had given to the Vicar of A., who had befriended him.
The consequence was that when Mrs. Smalley consulted the
Vicar as to who she should employ to make her sister's monument, he
named John Mills, saying that he was a very young man, but one who
had great talent, and would take more than common pains. At
the same time he showed her the model, together with some drawings
which had been made by Mills, and Mrs. Smalley admired them so much
that she resolved to employ him.
Now John Mills had not had so many advantages of education as
Emily, but she had without knowing it been of great use to him, for
from his earliest youth he had wished for nothing so much as to
obtain her for a wife. And though she did not seem at present
to return his regard, and he felt that he had little reasonable hope
of succeeding, he yet continued to make the best use of every
opportunity for improving himself in order that he might as he
thought, be more worthy of her. But John, modest as he was, and
humble in his thoughts of himself, was actuated by higher principle
than that which governed Emily. Emily thought first of
advancing herself, and secondly of her duty; John thought first of
his duty, and did it, and secondly, he strove to advance himself,
both in knowledge and in his calling.
John had early shown such a taste for carving, that a
gentlemen in the neighbourhood who had seen his work proposed to
place him with a sculptor in London, and also to have him taught to
draw. But when the boy, who at first was delighted at the
prospect, found that for a long time he should be maintained at his
benefactor's expense and earn nothing, he shrank back and decided to
stay with his parents, whom he could help by his weekly earnings.
His father, though a clever workman, was often laid up with
rheumatic gout in the hands, and could earn nothing during the
winter months and John rightly thought he ought not to go away even
for the sake of improving himself, if he should thereby put it out
of his power to help to maintain his parents, and put his little
sisters to school.
'It would only be for five years,' said his patron, 'and at
the end of that time, John, you would doubtless be able to earn very
excellent wages indeed.'
'Only you see, sir,' replied the boy respectfully, 'I might
not live to the end of the five years, and then what would father
and mother do?''
'Well, well,' said the patron, 'I have offered to help you,
and in the end no doubt it would be to the advantage of your
parents, but if they cannot spare you, I have no more to say.'
'I shall be very thankful to go,' replied the boy, with tears
in his eyes, 'please God my father's hands get better.'
But his father's hands did not get better, and John worked on
from year to year. Yet though he could not have the advantage
of good instruction, he did not, as many would have done, content
himself with entire ignorance; on the contrary, he studied all the
books which threw any light on his art that he could procure from
the Mechanic's Institute or borrow from those who befriended him.
He also read and did all he could to improve his mind, but he had
very little time, and he sometimes felt that if it had not been for
the fear lest Emily Welland should think him an ignorant fellow, he
must have given up striving, for it was dry work, with no one to
direct him or share in his labour.
The Vicar was his kindest friend, and when he had spoken to
Mrs. Smalley, and induced her to employ him, he walked out to the
cottage where John Mills lived to tell him of it.
The young man was at his wood-carving in a small workshop or
shed that he had made for himself at the side of his father's
cottage. It was a pleasant place overhung by two apple-trees,
into one of which a clematis plant had climbed, and a white
'Ah, John,' said the clergyman, 'I see where you got the copy
for that screen that you carved for Lady G; here are the very
leaves hanging down before your shed that you have wreathed round
'Yes, sir,' said John, 'and the lilies came out of Mrs.
The business that the Vicar had come about was then
mentioned, and very glad was the industrious young man to undertake
it; but his friend noticed that he seemed tired and looked
overworked, and he said to him before taking his leave, 'I am afraid
you work too long at a time, John, and your father tells me you sit
up at night to cipher and read.'
'Ah,' said John, 'but a young fellow had need work hard with
his learning, sir, if he wants to marry a schoolmistress.'
'Oh that's it, is it?' replied the Vicar, kindly.
'But she,' proceeded John, 'she keeps so far ahead of me,
that I reckon I have very little chance; as fast as I learn one
thing, I find she knows another.'
'And yet you do contrive to improve yourself, John; and there
are your wood carvings, too; you should show them to Emily Welland,
man: if she excels in one thing, you do in another.'
The young man smiled. 'I have shown 'em to her,
sometimes, sir,' he replied; 'but she calls carving "whittling."'
'Well, well,' answered the clergyman, smiling in his turn,
'but that is for want of knowing better, John, and the best wives
are often not easily obtained: Emily Welland is a very superior
'Superior, sir!' replied John, warmly. 'Ah, you may
well say that; there's nobody like her.'
That same afternoon, as Emily and her grandmother were
sitting at their tea about half-past four o'clock, the latter told
her granddaughter that she had heard a report in the town respecting
the monument which Mrs. Smalley meant to put up to her mother's
memory. 'It is to be a grand thing, not, in the churchyard,
but in the church, as I hear,' said the old woman, 'and they do say
that John Mills is to make it.'
Great was Emily's surprise, and so great her curiosity to
know what sort of work John Mills could bestow on the monument
that when her grandmother proposed that she should step into the
cottage where Mills lived, and ask the particulars about this
matter, she made no objection, but put on her bonnet and took her
Passing through his mother's garden she reached the sunny
little shed where John Mills worked, and found him with a sharp tool
in his hand carving a leaf on the lid of a small box. John
wiped a little bench for her to sit on, but Emily preferred to
stand, leaning against the side-post of the shed looking about her.
She had not entered the place for some time; and though she did not
understand much about the work he was engaged in, she observed at
once that some of it was very different from the common articles
which she had seen produced by workmen, or even those which she had
seen John Mills' father carve when she was a little child, and loved
to watch him when he was cutting the angel faces for the church.
John soon told Emily what she wished to know, and added, 'I
was to wait on Mrs. Smalley at the White Hart before she left the
town, and hear what her notions were about the stone. She
wished to have an urn on it I said I could carve that very easy,
but I should like better to do a wreath of leaves.'
'And why not the urn?' said Emily.
'Why, because that is only an imitation sort of thing, that
we should never have thought of putting up, only that there were
nations who used to burn their dead, and they collected the ashes in
urns, and when they carved a marble urn, it was a natural way of
reminding them of the dead.'
'I like to see folks represented on their tombs, lying with
their hands up praying,' said Emily.
'Yes, but that would be too expensive, too grand for what I
am to do: this is to be what they call a mural tablet, and very
small, just the name and age, and one text. So I proposed to
carve a garland of leaves, and twist them with a ribbon, on which I
could cut the words "We all do fade as a leaf."'
'Poor old Aunt,' said Emily; 'and when folks see it, they
will think she was a lady, and no one will doubt that she had plenty
of good clothes and lay warm and comfortable at night, and yet,
John, it seems very respectable to have a monument, doesn't it?
I think I should like one myself.'
'Mr. Ward said once in his sermon,' observed John, '"Why
should we regret that the remembrance of us should perish from the
earth, if our names are written in heaven?"'
'How you remember the sermons, John,' said Emily; 'it must be
that you think of them more than I do; but when I hear that sort of
thing said, I cannot help wishing that I was great enough to be
remembered here, or good enough, or wise enough.'
'We all wish, you see, to be the upper and not the under,'
observed John; 'now for my part, I always keep wishing that I could
carve stone as well as carving can possibly be done, even as well as
Gibbons carved wood: if I could but carve like him, I think I
should be happy.'
John rose as he spoke, and waded among the delicate
wood-shavings to a rough table. 'Look,' said he. 'Mr.
Clements, the gentleman that was so kind as to wish to put me to
school, came here six weeks ago, and said if I could carve him a
figure, he would take it to London and have it valued, and whatever
it was said to be worth he would give me for it.' John lifted
up some coarse wet cloths as he spoke, and exposed to view a
kneeling figure moulded in clay.
'An angel!' exclaimed Emily.
'No,' said John; 'I mean it for a figure of Hope. You
see it looks up, and has wings to fly upwards with; but I have made
it kneeling, to show that it is a humble Hope. It keeps
looking on and upwards; but though its wings are spread ready for
flying, you are to think that it does not see the way yet to what it
wishes to reach, and indeed expects to reach when the time comes.'
'You should have put an anchor beside her,' said Emily, 'and
then everybody would have seen what she was; however, she has a
beautiful face, John, and she makes me see what a different sort of
thing your hope is to mine. Do you know, I believe if you had
been sent to school as you wished, you would never have made the
figure waiting to fly because she does not see the way.'
'I did not mean to put anything about myself in the figure,'
said John, colouring.
'But,' continued Emily, 'you say this Hope expects to reach
whatever it is looking for, when the time comes.'
'She would not be Hope if she did not,' said John.
'And yet if I had made this face, I should not have let it
look so calm,' said Emily. 'Folks are only calm when they
expect and wish for nothing better than they have got. Now, I
wish and expect and hope for a great deal that I have not got; and
the more I do so, the less quiet I am, and the more restless I grow.
John, I think if I had been you, I must have gone to learn drawing
and all those fine things that Mr. Clements offered to have you
taught. I can see that it was your duty to stay; but if I had
been you, I am sure I could not have seen it.'
'They must have gone into the workhouse if I had left them,'
'But then you would have come back quite a different person,'
proceeded Emily; 'and by this time it would have all been over, and
you would have taken them to live with you, and you would have been
quite a grand man! we should all have been looking up to you.'
John started on hearing this thoughtless speech, and said,
'Should you have looked up to me? ―
should you have liked me better then?'
Emily blushed; but she was too conscientious to let her
careless words do harm, and she forced herself to say: 'I should not
have respected you so much as I do now and as for liking, I like you
very well as you are we are very good friends. And, John,'
she added, frankly, 'if you think I do not care more for you than I
do, just because you are not better off, and not getting on, you are
mistaken; for, to tell you the truth, I really expect that you will
get on far better than I shall in the end.'
John looked up surprised; but he shook his head and laughed
at her remark, and said she must be making sport of him. Still
he was pleased, and ventured to ask her if she would let him copy
her hands as models for his figure. 'I have only pictures to
copy from,' he observed, 'and they will not do. Mother's hand
has got rough with hard work, so I have been obliged to leave the
hands till I could get some to copy; and if you would hold up yours
in this way, it would be such a help to me.'
Emily said she would, and promised to come and sit to him the
next half-holiday; and then she went home feeling far more respect
than she had ever done before for poor John, and wishing she could
follow his good example; for she had sense enough to perceive his
simplicity, his strong feeling of duty, and his industry, while at
the same time she felt and acknowledged to herself that she could
not make up her mind to be so straightforward in the pursuit of what
was right at all risks. 'I am sure I could not do it,' she
thought; 'and what a good thing it is that I have no call to give up
an advantage for the sake of relations and parents!'
On the appointed evening Emily took her work and went to
John's cottage to have her hands copied for the figure. She
knocked at his mother's door about five o'clock in the afternoon,
but John, whom she had expected to find waiting for her, was not at
home: he had gone to the town to fetch some medicine for his father,
who was suffering much from pain in his lame hand.
Emily found that she was in the way, for the sick man was
very fretful and restless: she therefore withdrew to the shed, and
sat down on a bench just within its wide door, taking out her
knitting to occupy the time. There were strange things in this
shed grim old stone heads with features broken and defaced, quaint
carvings which had been brought from a neighbouring church to be
copied; and, standing on a settle, several large jugs full of field
flowers, apple boughs with fruit on them, delicate trailing tendrils
of ivy and hedge creepers, which John had collected to copy his
The floor was strewed thickly with dust, yet the shed looked
comfortable, and even neat; and the kneeling figure, which John had
set ready for Emily's visit, seemed to her to have grown more
beautiful since she had seen it last.
'It is all very fine,' thought Emily, to be able to make such
beautiful things, but poor John will not earn much by this, I should
think; let me see, I should say that, if I was kneeling down in
that position, my foot could not be seen by any one standing facing
me I'll just try.'
Emily accordingly knelt down, arranged herself and her dress
as nearly as she could in the attitude of the figure, put up her
hands, and found that it was as she had thought, the foot, unless
a little twisted, could not be seen. Before she rose, a sudden
diminution of light made her look up to a hole in the back of the
shed which was roughly fitted with one pane of glass. She saw
a face looking in. It was not John's face, and she started up,
and hastily took her work and sat down again on a stool, while the
owner of the face walked round the shed and presented himself at the
Emily looked up and saw an elderly gentleman with a pleasant
countenance: in fact he was smiling.
'Good evening,' said the gentleman, 'are you John Mills'
'No, sir,' replied Emily, 'only a neighbour.'
'I am come to see the figure he is to model for me. Ah!
very good; did the boy do this entirely himself, I wonder?
Very good, very good indeed, poor fellow.'
'Yes, sir,' said Emily, who supposed that she was expected to
'You take an interest in it, I see,' said the gentleman,
'I promised John that I would sit to him for the hands,' said
Emily, a little vexed; 'but I knelt down just now to see whether the
foot was right, sir, for I thought it was not.'
'How should it be, poor fellow, when he has had no
education?' replied the elderly gentleman. 'No, I will do what
I can for him; but his is a case of genius wasted, talent obscured
for want of knowledge. The foot is wrong decidedly, as you
say, but the face is exquisite.'
'Yes, sir,' repeated Emily.
'I am sorry the poor fellow is such a fool,' continued the
gentleman, to Emily's surprise; 'talk of duty! a man's first duty is
to himself. Charity begins at home; that is to say, with
number one. Don't you think so, young woman?'
'No, sir,' replied Emily.
'Well, well,' said the gentleman, 'no more do I; but really
it is such a shame to think of genius like this lost and wasted for
want of training, that it makes one talk at random, and puts one out
of temper. He'll never be anything but a superior sort of
cabinetmaker all his life; he does not understand the first
principles of art.'
Emily had no answer to make to this: she went on with her
work, and was considering whether she could withdraw, when the
gentleman, who had been scanning John's model with great attention,
turned to her and said:
'Have you got a gown made of any kind of heavy woollen
material that is not stiff?'
'Yes, sir,' said Emily, very much surprised.
'Well,' he answered, 'if you would do me the favour to put it
on and come here, I would show John how to make these folds more
Emily was very good-natured, and therefore, though she would
rather some one else had been found to perform the kind office for
John, she did not hesitate to go home and take out her winter gown,
which, though neither bright-coloured nor new, certainly was just
what the gentleman had required: it was very heavy, and had no
stiffness in it.
She put it on, and came back to the shed, where she found
John as well as his patron.
'Thank you, I am much obliged to you,' said the gentleman,
'that is exactly what I wanted; now will you be good enough to place
yourself in the attitude of the figure?'
Emily did so, and the heavy clothing fell about her, as she
could herself see, in larger and more simple folds than those which
John had chosen; she continued to kneel while John stood at a
distance with his patron, who pointed out to him very openly the
defects in his drapery, and desired that he would remark the effect
of the evening sunlight upon it. 'But this,' said he, 'is such
a little place, that you really cannot retire far enough, either
from your model or your work, to see how they look: yours is indeed
the pursuit of art amid difficulties however, if your young
neighbour will sit to you frequently, and if you study what books
you can get, it is just possible you may do something worth
mentioning, just possible. Well, I am pleased with the
figure on the whole, John. If your young neighbour will allow
you to sketch these folds before she rises, she will confer a
So saying, he nodded to John, made a little bow to Emily, and
'Now, John,' said Emily, 'if you wish to draw my gown the
worst and ugliest gown I have got please to be quick and begin.'
John did not look like himself; he was very grave and
serious; even Emily's presence did not seem to cheer him, for he
heaved a deep sigh as he went to fetch a coarse sheet of paper and a
carpenter's red pencil.
'John,' said Emily, 'what are you thinking of '
John repeated Mr. Clements' words: '"It is just possible you
may do something worth mentioning, just possible," that was what I
was thinking of,' he said.
'He did not say so because he thought you wanted wits,' said
Emily, 'but only because you had not had schooling to teach you how
to do this sort of thing. So you need not be so desponding;
you may be able to get good instruction after all.'
'I don't expect it,' replied John; 'father's hand has been
very bad all day and very full of pain, and I went to the doctor for
his medicine, and asked what he thought of the case. Says he,
"I am afraid he will never be any better; indeed I see nothing else
for him but being crippled in his hands altogether."'
'I am sure I am heartily sorry,' said Emily.
'Mr. Clements is very good in ordering things of me,'
observed John; 'but I hardly know how it is; he makes me feel
miserable after he is gone, at least till I have had time to come to
myself: he has a way of putting things that makes the things I wish
for most seem to be a duty, when I know that they would be sins.
He said to-day: "Well, young man, sometimes I think I must give you
up, for you have neither the real good of your family nor your own
good at heart. You won't be at the trouble of learning."'
'What did you say to that?' asked Emily.
'I said I could not see that it would be for the real good of
my family to go to the workhouse. "Yes," says Mr. Clements,
"it would, if you could raise yourself in the meantime, so that in a
few years you could take them out and make them a handsome
'There seems something in that, John,' said Emily; 'it does
not sound so unkind when he puts it in that way.'
'He said to-night, "You have no ambition,"' observed John.
'"Oh yes, I have, sir," says I; and I thought to myself, though I
would not say it to a gentleman that does not seem to think much
about religion, I thought that perhaps he would give me up
altogether if he knew how many times a day I said over to myself the
prayer in the Litany:
'From all blindness of heart, from pride, vainglory, and
hypocrisy, Good Lord, deliver us.'
Emily did not answer. John went on diligently drawing
the folds of her gown, and presently added: 'That prayer seems to me
sometimes as if it was made on purpose for me. Blindness of
heart is just the thing that comes over me when I want to go to that
school; everything seems to change, and I can't see that it's my
duty to maintain father and mother, nor to stop and finish father's
work that he has promised and cannot do; it all seems as if it
really was my duty to go, till I pray that I may be delivered from
the blindness; and then I can see that, if any other young fellow
was in my place, I should think his duty was plain enough; but I did
not mean to preach to you, Emily.'
The evening sun was now going down, and its rays lighted up
the shed and the jugs of flowers, and the figure and face of Emily
Welland, as she knelt quietly with her hands folded while John
sketched the folds of her gown. She was very silent, and her
face became serious and thoughtful; indeed she was thinking much,
and those thoughts were important to her and to John.
She had felt, while he last spoke, how far more upright and
earnest was his mind than her own; she had also felt that, while she
was with him, her worldly and ambitious views and wishes for herself
often faded into the background. She always felt herself to be
his superior as far as knowledge went, she had received such a good
education; but in good principle and a desire to do her duty, she
was so sensible that he was her superior, that she could not be with
him for an hour without seeing fresh proofs of it. 'I do not
know such a good young man,' she thought; 'and as for liking him, I
really think I shall never find another that will come up to him.
Didn't he say the other day that he had never wished in his life to
marry any other woman, but that he could not believe there was such
a happy lot in this world as his would be if he could win me?
Well, I like him very much, and if I did marry him I feel sure he
would make me better; but then there would be an end to all my
hopes of rising. I could not go to London; I should be a poor
working man's wife. No, I must not do it: I will not come here
often, or he will make me respect him and like him so much that it
will end in my promising to marry him. I am sorry he is only a
working man; really I am very sorry for him, poor John!'
'Emily,' said John, with a sigh, it is finished now; I am
very much obliged to you. I never had such a pleasant half
hour before; it quite made me forget Mr. Clements and all my
troubles; but the drawing is finished. What have you been
thinking of this long while, Emily? I wish I knew.'
'I have not been thinking of anything that would please you,'
replied Emily, rising and gently shaking the saw-dust and shavings
from her gown. 'Well, as you have done, John, I must go, for
grandmother will be waiting for her supper.'
The sun was now getting low, and just as the last sunbeam
disappeared from her face, and ceased to light up the shed, his
mother came to the open door, and told him his father's hand was so
painful that he must go again to the doctor and see if he would come
and try to relieve it.
So John went away: and as Emily stepped out into the quiet
evening air talking with John's poor careworn mother, she felt that
it was a hard thing to be a poor man's wife, and see him disabled
and not capable of doing anything for her and his children, while at
the same time so much of her time was occupied in nursing him that
she could not go out herself to work and earn something towards
The next day poor Mills was very ill, and from that time for
five weeks he lay in bed suffering with rheumatic fever, and unable
to feed himself or turn his feeble head on the pillow. His
wife and his son spared no pains to nurse him, and denied themselves
many comforts in order to pay for his medicines and medical
attendance. At first all looked as neat and comfortable as
usual about them, but as time wore on and he got no better, the
garden became full of weeds, and the vegetables were left to run to
seed; the little girls, instead of going to school so clean and
tidy, began to look ragged and forlorn; John's mother became haggard
and pale with watching and fatigue, and John himself grew thin, his
cheeks hollow, and his eyes dim.
EMILY did not see
Mrs. Smalley any more before she left the town; and as she had to
teach in the daytime, and very often to go to Miss Cooper also in
the evening to receive lessons from her, she had not very much time
to spend in thinking about leaving her present occupation and taking
to dressmaking; but the more she did think, the less she liked that
a situation such as Miss Cooper filled was to be her ultimate
position in life, when her relation, lived in luxury, and had so
many advantages and pleasures.
Poor Emily! she did not know, or she forgot, that while one
dressmaker rises to riches and lives in luxury, five hundred
struggle with poverty, and barely earn a maintenance.
She forgot that health as well as skill, and patrons as well
as industry, were wanted, and she constantly said to herself, 'Let
me only get to London to Mrs. Smalley, who has no child to leave her
business to, and I will engage to be a good workwoman; and then, if
I make myself useful to her, she may get fond of me, and I may be
her successor, and live in that fine house of hers, who knows?'
By frequently thinking thus, she brought herself to believe
at last that, let her only find her way to Mrs. Smalley, and her
fortune was made; and she began to dislike the work that she now had
to do, and to think that, as she had made up her mind not to be a
schoolmistress, there was no need for her to prepare so
industriously for the examination.
She was teaching a class one afternoon, and it seemed to her
that they did not read so well as usual. The little ones
spelled the words and lingered over them till she became quite tired
of their sounds. It was part of her duty to question the
children on the texts they read. When the one 'And having
food and raiment, let us be therewith content,' had been finished,
she proceeded as usual to ascertain whether they understood it;
while, at the same time, her own thoughts continually strayed to the
subject that now so constantly occupied them.
'What does food mean, children?'
'What we eat, ma'am.'
'What does raiment mean?'
'What we have to wear Sunday clothes and work-a-day
'What does content mean?'
Silence in the class.
'Come, you know very well; you had it explained to you in the
gallery this morning.'
'It's what we all ought to be,' said one.
'It's very wicked not to be contented,' remarked another.
'Very true,' thought Emily but she added aloud, 'Tell me the
texts that you were taught; perhaps they may help you to explain
what it is to be content.'
'"Be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I
will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." It means that they
were to be satisfied, ma'am.'
'To be sure; I knew you could tell me if you would give your
mind to it. Now tell me the other text.'
'For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to
'Who said that?'
'St. Paul did, ma'am.'
'Ought we to be contented, then, as he was?' 'Dear me,'
thought Emily, 'how strange that I should have to teach them this,
when I feel so differently!' 'Ought we to be contented, children?'
'Why should we be? Who is it that orders how much money
and how much food we shall have, and whether we shall be labouring
folks or gentle-folks?'
'God does. Everything belongs to God.'
'Then, God could easily give us a great deal more than we
have if he chose, and if it was good for us?'
'And does God love us?'
'How do we know that?'
'Because He gave his Son to die for us.'
'Then, if it was good for us, we may be quite sure that He
would give us more; and so we ought to be content, because God knows
best, and He has only given us a little.'
Emily sighed as she finished her lesson, for the reasoning
did not content her. She had spoken to her grandmother
respecting her wish to go to London, and had told her what Mrs.
Smalley had said. Rather to her surprise, the promise given
that she should be received and taught dressmaking had delighted her
grandmother, who had said at once that she should like it to be
accepted as soon as she was out of her apprenticeship.
Emily therefore walked to the Vicarage when school was over,
to tell the Vicar her determination; and as she went she thought of
her own lesson, specially of the last words, 'because God knows
best, and He has only given us a little.' 'I am not so
sure of that,' thought Emily; 'I do not believe one of those
children ever wanted a meal, or a decent suit of clothes; they are
at school, too, and have tolerably comfortable homes so, while they
are children, they are almost as well off as children can be.
I have only a little, for I know of so much more; but that
has nothing to do with the duty of being contented; for St. Paul was
contented even when he suffered want, which I have never done.'
Emily reached the Vicarage, and asked if she might see Mr.
Ward. Her heart beat a little when she was shown into his
study, but she managed to explain her errand, and added, that she
had thought it her duty to speak thus early, that there might be
time to select a person to fill her place.
Mr. Ward looked very much vexed, but he said not a word; and
Emily, feeling more doubtful as to whether she was doing rightly
than she had ever felt before, went on explaining her reasons, till
she began to see that they were not very satisfactory, nor very
creditable to herself. At last Mr. Ward spoke:
'You have quite made up your mind to this, Emily Welland?'
'Because,' he added, 'this dressmaking affair seems to me to
be a sad descent in life for you; what people would call a
'Sir!' exclaimed Emily, astonished at this view of the case.
'It may be your duty to go,' continued the Vicar, 'and I
suppose you consider that it is, as you are so decided about it; if
so, I could not conscientiously oppose it; but if not, it really
seems to me to be throwing away all your present advantages, and
lowering yourself for nothing.'
'I never thought it was a duty, sir; nothing of the sort,'
'What do you think it, then?' replied the Vicar.
'An advantage, sir,' said Emily.
'What! to be a needlewoman?'
'Oh no, sir; not a common needlewoman. I should be with
'But you would have to begin at the beginning, would you
'Of course I should have to learn the business, sir.'
'And, as you have already learned one business, to begin
another would be throwing yourself back, especially if the second
business was inferior to the first.'
'But, sir,' said Emily, 'if the second did not suit, I could
return to the first.'
'I do not understand much about feminine occupations,'
replied Mr. Ward, 'and therefore I cannot tell whether dressmaking
would unfit you for teaching: but it seems strange that you should
wish to try.'
'I might rise to be like Mrs. Smalley,' replied Emily.
'The person who called on me about a gravestone?'
Mr. Ward did not intend to speak slightingly, but his
unintentional mention of her as the 'person' vexed Emily, for it
made her see that he had not been deceived for a moment into
supposing that she was a lady.
'Yes, sir,' said Emily; 'she is my cousin, and has made a
good property by dressmaking.'
'I suppose she has made you some promise of taking you into
partnership, or leaving you her business, as you seem so anxious to
throw up a certainty for the sake of joining her.'
'O no, sir; she only said she would teach me the business.'
'Well, Emily Welland, you must do as you please.'
'Then you do not approve, sir? I thought, as it seemed
a rise in life for me, you would think it my duty to close with it.'
'We differ as to whether it is a rise; and if it was, that
would by no means make me think it your duty to accept it. It
is, as you know, a duty to fit ourselves for the station in which it
has pleased God to place us. It may be natural, it may be
allowable, it may be advantageous, to try to rise from it; but in
this case I cannot see the duty. You are placed where you are
by Providence, that is to say, your present position has arisen out
of circumstances which took place without your will or ordering.
As a little child you were put to school; you were quick, and rose
to be a monitor; then, as you were not strong enough for hard work,
and showed an aptitude for learning, you were made a pupil-teacher;
then, as you proved apt at teaching, you became a teacher, and
looked forward to being a schoolmistress. You now wish to
break away from your place and station and step into a different
sphere. I will not say any thing about rising or sinking, for
that has really nothing to do with the matter. You wish to
change your occupation; then you should first have reason to think
that you are not throwing aside work which Providence has assigned
to you, and are not rashly making work for yourself which it was
never intended you should do.'
Emily sat silent a few moments, and then answered rather
'I do not see how any one is ever to rise, or to change, sir,
if it is not right to do it without being sure beforehand that he is
not leaving work assigned to him by Providence.'
'I will show you what I mean. If teaching had not
suited your health; if you had found that you had no natural power
to manage children, and could not acquire it; moreover, if you had
felt that you had not aptitude for learning the things required of
you, and I, feeling it too, had asked you to look out for another
situation: then, if Mrs. Smalley, coming here, had said, "Emily
Welland, I will teach you dressmaking," I should have said, "By all
means go with her; here is a provision offered to you in the course
Again Emily pondered; but teaching had become distasteful to
her now that she had some definite prospect in view to take its
place, and she therefore replied that she would think of what Mr.
Ward had said, and took her leave.
She walked home in no very pleasant frame of mind, and felt
especially vexed at Mr. Ward's remark as to dressmaking being no
rise for her. 'Does he mean to compare Mrs. Smalley,' she
thought, 'who dresses in the handsomest silks and lace, has a
handsome house and a footman, and such plenty of money that she even
talks of retiring and living on her means, does he mean to compare
her with Miss Cooper, who has but one silk gown, has scarcely saved
a hundred pounds, and works as hard as a servant? Surely Mr.
Ward must be joking, or perhaps, as he has taken a good deal of
pains with me, he does not like me to leave the school just as I am
beginning to be useful, and so said what he could to make me dislike
She walked up to her grandmother's cottage-door and was met
by the old woman, who asked her whether she had been to inquire how
their poor neighbour was. 'I hear he was worse yesterday,' she
observed, 'and Mr. Ward came to read with him.'
Emily turned and walked up her neighbour's garden to the
cottage: the onion-beds were overgrown with weeds, and the
cabbage-leaves reduced to mere skeletons by the multitudes of green
caterpillars that now fed on them undisturbed; everything told of
neglect and poverty, and the dirty blinds and uncleaned windows
added to the desolate appearance of the place. 'Poor folks!'
thought Emily, 'it is not their fault. John has hardly time to
get his work done and run errands for the things his poor father
wants, and in the evenings he has other things to do than to weed
the garden. As to Mrs. Mills, I wonder how she contrives to
sit up night after night. It is plain that this long illness
is a terrible misfortune to them.'
Emily tapped at the door, and John's mother answered it, and
coming out and shutting it behind her, stood outside a few minutes
to talk to her young neighbour. She said John had been up all
the previous night, and was now asleep; and her forlorn appearance
and weary air touched Emily's heart, but at the same time she
thought, 'Should I look like this in the course of years if I
married John? for, strange to say, though she had made up her mind
not to marry him, she constantly reasoned with herself as to the
propriety of thus rejecting him in a manner which showed how much
she really respected and liked him. His mother, without
intending it, strengthened Emily's resolution that evening by
remarking that her son had been obliged to pawn his best clothes,
and sell some of their furniture, in order to pay the rent and the
Emily was sincerely sorry for them, and as she went home
again, and saw the three little girls bickering together under the
walnut-tree, and one of them fretting and crying, she turned aside
to ask what was the matter.
'Sally would make her hands all black with pricking the green
walnuts,' observed the elder child, 'and mother had said she was not
to do it,' so they had taken them from her.
Sally, a stout ruddy little girl of seven years old, was very
sulky, and sat shaking her shoulders and crying; her hair was all
tangled, her frock torn, and her pinafore dirty.
'If I were you, instead of quarrelling out here,' said Emily
to the children, 'I should ask mother to lend the little tub, and I
should wash out these dirty pinafores.'
'Father won't let us be in the house,' said the elder child;
'he can't abide any noise.'
'You might set the tub out of doors,' replied Emily.
'Mother has no soap,' was the quick answer; 'she used up the
last bit washing out a shirt for John.'
'Well, at any rate, you might mend Sally's frock; look what a
state it is in; a great girl nearly eleven years old ought to be
able to mend all the younger children's clothes.'
'Mother said she would see to them herself one day,' drawled
out the little girl; and a squabble beginning again about the
walnuts, Emily withdrew, for she found she could not make any
impression, and was shocked to see what a change a few weeks'
neglect had made in these once orderly and cleanly children.
The next day was Sunday, and John when he got up dressed
himself for the first time in his life in his threadbare working
clothes: his father, when he came into the living-room, was asleep
in his settle-bed. His mother, who had been up all night, was
also sleeping with her weary head resting on her arms. John
sat down and looked about him; he felt wretched, and so low in his
spirits that when the eight o'clock chime began to ring he could
hardly refrain from tears, and he wished it was not Sunday. 'I
got on pretty well through the week,' he thought, 'but to wear these
old fustian clothes to-day is very hard. What shall I do all
day? Go to church I cannot of course; and as to books, I've
none that I have not read over and over again, now that I have
left off subscribing to the Institute.' So saying he got up,
and went softly out of the room to his shed, where he sat wearily,
looking about him for half-an-hour, when his three little sisters
came in, one with part of a loaf under her arm, and a second with a
teapot in her hand.
'Mother said they must have their breakfast in the shed,'
they told him, 'for father was then asleep. John cut some
bread for them, and reached down a mug in which were some branches
that he had been drawing from, washed it, and gave each child a mug
of the cold tea from the teapot; he then took some himself; and
there was something so desolate and sad in his appearance, that the
children were made silent by it, and sat quietly before him waiting
till he should speak. At last John looked up, and his face
cleared. 'I have been a long time thinking, but I have made up
my mind now, children,' said he. 'It is too late for the
Sunday school, but Polly do you go upstairs and get your Sunday
bonnets, and bring a comb to make your hair smooth, and I shall take
you all to church.'
Great was the surprise of the children. John go to
church in his working clothes? they could not have thought it! but
they could easily go, for mother had not pawned their best tippets,
and there was one clean pinafore yet for each of them at the bottom
of the box; so they went to the pump in the garden and washed their
bands and faces, that their father might not be disturbed by any
noise in the house , and then their clean pinafores and tippets and
their decent little bonnets were brought, and they were ready.
When John saw them he thought they looked better than could
have been expected; but all the brushing that he could give to his
clothes did not make him look like anything different to a working
man in a very shabby suit of working clothes.
'Giving up the clothes I pawned, seemed nothing,' thought
poor John; 'that was a duty to father, and I did not grudge it; but
to go to church and show myself to everybody just as I am now, seems
the hardest duty that ever I had to perform. Come, children,'
said John aloud. 'It's time we were off; but there's no harm
in our going the back way.'
'Lass,' exclaimed old Mrs. Welland, as she was taking off her
neat black bonnet and her new shawl after the morning service;
'Emily lass, come here, there's John coming up the garden with his
work-day suit on.'
'Yes, grandmother,' said Emily, 'he has been to church.'
'Church; go to church like a pauper!'
'I suppose it was his duty to go, grandmother, and his mother
told me they had made away with their best clothes.'
'Duty, duty!' repeated her grandmother; 'don't talk to I,
Ellie. If folks can't go respectable and decent, they'd better
not go at all.'
'No, grandmother, you don't think that; if you had to pawn
your best things you might feel that you would not go to church; but
surely you respect them that will.'
'The girl talks like a good book,' replied Mrs. Welland,
shaking out her shawl and folding it carefully; 'she always does;
but wait till thy Sunday things be at pawnshop, and '
'And see what I shall do,' interrupted Emily. 'Why,
grandmother, I don't think my pride would let me go and show myself
as John did this morning; but for all that, I know he did right.'
John did not know that as he walked up the little garden his
neighbours had observed him through their casement. The fact
was, John was much more comfortable than he had felt for some time;
he had gone to church as a painful duty, and in its performance his
obedience to the demand of conscience had been rewarded by a feeling
of peace and comfort that made him wonder he had been so much cast
down. There was no change in his circumstances: his father was
still very ill, his mother weary, his house and garden going to
wrack, and poverty creeping upon those whom he had long worked for;
but his heart was lightened, and as the prayers went on, often texts
came into his mind which soothed and quieted it, and specially one
which was still consoling him as he walked up to his cottage home
'Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.'
His father, when he entered, was rather more free from pain
than usual, and was pleased when his dutiful son gave him an account
of the sermon, and read a chapter to him while his wife prepared
This, though not what they had been accustomed to in their
better days, was more ample than they could afford on ordinary
occasions; and when the sick man saw it, and saw his little girls
neat and clean as of old, it revived his spirits, and he said he
would sit up, and try if he could eat a little with them.
In the afternoon, John sent the children to the Sunday
school, and sat with his father, while his mother went and lay down
to sleep on the children's bed.
It was well that John had that quiet Sunday, and that he made
up his mind early to go to church in spite of his shabby clothes, or
in spite of his fear lest Emily and her grandmother should look upon
him as sinking in life and losing his respectability. If he
had yielded to temptation on that first Sunday, the same reason
would have existed for his absence the next, and the next, and he
would have lost his peace of mind, and all the comfort that he
derived from worshipping God in the clothes that it was now his duty
For the next two months no contrast could be greater than
that between the circumstances of these two families. Comfort,
cleanliness, order, and competence in that of the Wellands'.
Misery and sickness, poverty and disorder, in that of the Mills'.
The poor suffering father became fretful and hard to please;
he knew that his illness was wearing out his wife's health, and he
saw his son grow thinner and paler every day, while he was often
disturbed by the noise made in the garden by his neglected children,
whom he could no longer afford to keep at school, and who became
daily more fretful and unruly for want of something to do, and some
one to look after them.
Emily all this time went daily to the school, and came back
in the evening fresh and cheerful, very often with a parcel in her
hand; for she had saved a few pounds, and was now spending them in
buying for herself a handsome assortment of new clothes, such as she
thought would do her credit with Mrs. Smalley.
Often and often, as Emily sat at work in the now short
evenings, John Welland saw her from his shed. He used to work
there with a common lamp, and its light shining through the one pane
of glass before mentioned, served to remind Emily of how hard he
worked, and how late, for she often went to bed long before this
light was withdrawn. He was still busy on his figure of Hope.
But it was Emily whose heart was full of hope; his heart sank lower
daily at the prospect before him and his parents, and he often
worked far into the night with a trembling hand and a stomach faint
from want of food.
One night in November, after dark, some one rapped at Mrs.
Welland's door, and John entered, his eyes sparkling, his cheeks
flushed, and his whole appearance excited and eager. Emily was
standing up holding a pretty pink muslin dress, almost too light and
gay to be serviceable to one in her rank of life. She had just
finished it, and as John came in she was saying to her grandmother,
'That is a good thing done: I am so glad I have finished all these
flounces.' John thought he had never seen Emily look so pretty
before, for she too was flushed, and her eyes sparkled with pleasure
as she looked at the dress.
'She will look just like a lady in it,' he thought, and he
glanced down at his own threadbare garments and shabby shoes.
'You are quite a stranger, John,' said the grandmother
John could not answer; he had not wished Emily to see him
with unmended shoes and patched coat, and had therefore absented
himself from her lately; but now a sudden feeling of triumph had
made him forget his shyness for the time, and it was not till he
opened the door and saw the comfort that reigned within, the cosy
fire, the pretty Emily with her new dress, and the grandmother
frying bacon for supper, that a sense of his inferior
circumstances and the poverty and distress of his home made him feel
more strongly than he had ever done before, how much his wished-for
wife was out of his reach. 'I have finished my figure,' he at
length stammered out, 'and though she is not as pretty a thing to
look at as your pink dress, I thought perhaps I wished you would
come and look at her, Emily.'
'I will to-morrow, John,' replied Emily.
'Not to-night?' asked John, 'do come to-night; I have stuck
up two candles to light the shed, and she looks much better by
candlelight than by day-light.'
'Go, Emmy,' said the grandmother, 'and John, lad, do thou
come back to supper with us.'
In the days when John was more prosperous and Emily less
ambitious, she would not have been so willing to comply with his
wishes; but there was something so sad in his gaunt face and so
humble in his manner, that she had not the heart to refuse, and she
laid aside her delicate muslin gown, and put a shawl over her head.
It was a very mild, calm night, and Emily stepped through the
little garden over a carpet of poplar leaves with which the paths
were covered, greatly to their advantage, as she thought, for they
served to hide the weeds. John had borrowed a lantern of old
Mrs. Welland, and he held it low as Emily walked that she might not
tread on the borders.
John had gone without his dinner that day, and spent the
twopence that it would have cost him in buying four candles to light
up the shed, for he had a great wish to see how his figure would
look by candlelight. Two of these candles were set in rude
blocks of wood, and the others were held by two of his little
sisters, who, when Emily entered, were standing solemnly just where
he had placed them, throwing the light full on to the figure of
Hope, which was set in its usual place on the rough wooden table.
Emily had intended to say something kind and sympathizing to
John about his work that had cost him so much trouble and care, but
when she saw it, everything she had thought of went out of her head,
and she stood gazing at it as silent and motionless as the children
with the lights.
What a wonderful circumstance, that out of all his misery,
poverty, and care, should have come that snowy white thing with a
rapturous face, hands so devoutly folded, a smile so calm and holy,
and wings that seemed to Emily so buoyant and ready to fly, that
every time the children's stirring altered the shadows on them, they
seemed to waver and move, as if ready to spread themselves and bear
John's beautiful Hope away!
While Emily stood fixed in surprise and admiration, John's
mother came in and said, 'If Mr. Clements does not give him two
pounds for that, I shall say it is a shame.'
'Oh, at the very least it ought to be two pounds,' echoed
Emily; and she looked at John, who smiled.
Emily caught the meaning of the look, and said, 'You expect
'I would take less,' answered John, 'but I am sure it is
'That's the first conceited thing ever I heard thee say,
lad,' observed his mother, with a sigh.
'I did not say I expected more than two pounds,
mother,' replied John, 'so you need not be uneasy. I shall let
Mr. Clements have it if he only gives me five-and-twenty shillings,
for whatever I get for it will be extra. I have not spent one
regular working hour upon it yet, when I had work to do.'
'When is Mr. Clements coming to see it?' asked Emily.
'He has seen it,' said the mother; 'he came this afternoon
just afore dark, when John was out.'
'And what did he say?'
'Said nothing good nor bad, but sat on the block staring at
it and whistling to himself, till my poor legs ached with standing
'Strange man,' said Emily; 'didn't he even say he liked it?'
'Not he, but sat till it got so dusk he couldn't see it well;
then got up and walked out. "The lad has done it," says he,
"and I'm no prophet. Good evening, good woman," and off he
'Then it is better than he expected,' said Emily, 'I am sure
'He did not expect that he would be so quick in the carving
of it,' continued the mother; 'he has only had the alabaster three
'I should have been a vast deal longer upon it, you know,
mother,' said John, 'if I had not been unfortunately out of work the
last five weeks.'
'That,' thought Emily, 'is no doubt the reason why they have
been obliged to pawn so many of their things,' but she did not say
John continued. 'It has been in hand for six months,
and I may say it has been in my mind for two years, and I have drawn
something like it over and over again, but could not get it to my
fancy; at last I took to modelling it, and then I was ignorant
enough to be pretty well pleased, till Mr. Clements showed me so
'And after all this thinking and toiling you will let it go
for two pounds,' interrupted Emily; 'why John, that is little more
than two weeks' wages.'
'Two pounds would pay our bread bill,' said John, 'and Mr.
Clements will show the figure, and try to get me orders for more; of
course I would not do another for the same sum of money, but while
this first one stops here nobody sees it, and no good comes of it.'
'To be sure,' said the mother, 'whatever Mr. Clements will
give, that John should take, say I; for he has now got the promise
of some common work, and that's regular wages, much better than
toiling and wearing out his strength with making fine things for
gentle-folks; but now he has had his way, and a very handsome thing
he has made, I will say, poor boy, though I was always against his
meddling with those fiddle-faddle things; I would a deal better see
him cutting common mouldings as his father did before him.'
'But you see, mother,' remarked John, 'I am very ambitious; I
am not content to do common work; I want to do the best kind of work
that there is to be done in my calling, and I want to do it in the
best kind of way.'
'Well, lad,' retorted the mother, 'I wish thou wasn't
ambitious; as far as I can see, ambition after this fine work makes
thee often go with a hungry stomach.'
As John had never neglected any common work for the sake of
the finer sort, and had walked many a weary mile lately in search of
it, he felt the injustice of his mother's speech; and when his
little sister said, 'I know John's clemmed ['Clemmed'―pinched
with hunger] to-night, for he had no dinner, and that's all
along of the figure,' he felt extremely angry, and would perhaps
have answered sharply, if his mother had not added, 'I must go to
the father, he will be wanting me; and John, lad, don't keep the
candles lighted long, they will last us a week in the house.'
John put out three of the candles as she spoke, and took the
fourth in his hand to the door.
'Good-bye, Mrs. Mills,' said Emily; 'John, goodnight, and
thank you for a sight of the figure. Oh, I forgot, you are
coming in to supper with us.'
'No, thank you,' said John; and he coloured and looked so
thoroughly vexed and ashamed, that Emily could not press him; she
knew he was too proud to come and satisfy his hunger at their table,
now that his little sister had said he was clemmed.
'Poor lad!' thought Emily, as she reached her comfortable
bower, and turning her head, saw John still standing in the open
doorway of the shed, with the candle in his hand; 'poor lad! he
looks very thin and pale. What is he doing now, I wonder?'
The night was so perfectly calm that the candle burned in
John's hand quite steadily, and its light enabled Emily to see him
distinctly, though he could not see her; and she watched him going
with rather an eager face along the little path that was strewed
with poplar leaves, and picking up leaf after leaf till he had
collected a handful.
'What does he want with them?' she thought; 'he cannot make a
supper of them; I wish he could; going to carve them, I reckon.
As the candle shines on them they look as yellow as gold.' She
went in and ate her supper; then, before going to bed, went out of
doors again to shut the cottage-shutters, and then saw John in the
shed with the candle, and the door wide open; he had a large sheet
of paper stretched before him on his rough easel, and she saw that
he was intently drawing upon it, and that he still held the leaves
in his left hand.
As long as the candle afforded him light, and till it was
burned down into the socket, and his hands were chilled with the
night air, John went on with his drawing, and when he at length
crept into the cottage he felt glad and elated, though very hungry;
and he fell asleep pleased to think that one thing he had worked at
was finished as well as he knew how to do it, and that another was
begun which promised to be better.
'I quite forgot to ask how John was getting on with poor old
aunt's monument,' said Emily the next morning to her grandmother.
'Not getting on at all,' was the reply. And then Emily heard,
to her surprise, that John, having told Mrs. Smalley he could not
afford to buy the stone for the work, she had said that when he was
ready to begin carving she would advance the money for it.
Accordingly John had written some time before this to say that he
was ready to begin, and that a letter had, after a long delay, been
sent back, written by one of the assistants in the business, and
that it declared Mrs. Smalley to be far too much engaged to attend
to the matter at present, but that she would write when she was at
'His mother told me so yesterday,' observed Mrs. Welland.
'It shows what a power of business she has.'
'Yes; but it shows that she forgets what consequence it is to
poor folks to be paid at the proper time,' said Emily. 'Now,
all the time that John has been out of work he might have been
finishing the monument.' As Emily was soon about to place
herself with Mrs. Smalley, she was particularly sorry to find that
she was careless and inconsiderate in fulfilling her promises, and
she several times made inquiries as to whether the money had
arrived, but always with the same result.
There is no need for me to describe all that took place in
these two families till Christmas-time; it is enough to say that
Emily worked hard, both at her examination papers and her clothes;
and when the Christmas holidays began, she was spoken of by Miss
Cooper as the most promising and clever, as well as the
best-informed pupil-teacher that she had ever had under her care.
'She would be sure of a first-class certificate if she would keep to
her present employment,' said Miss Cooper; 'indeed, she is quite fit
to take my place even now.'
But no; Emily had done her duty by her scholars, and had
completed the course of instruction appointed for her. She did
not intend to do anything further, and when the examiner commended
her, and paid over to her what she had earned, she thanked him, and
went home resolved never to enter the schoolroom any more.
It cost her some pain to take leave of Miss Cooper and of
those children whom she had brought on in their learning; but she
did it, shut the schoolhouse door after her, came home with the
money in her pocket, and began with her grandmother to calculate
what it would cost her to go up to London.
The same night a letter was written to Mrs Smalley, who had
said that she could receive Emily at any time, but should require
two days' notice; and now all seemed to smile on the industrious
girl. All her new clothes were ready; her books were in
excellent order; 'And no doubt,' thought Emily, 'I shall have time
for reading and improving myself; all I have to do is to buy myself
two boxes, pack up my things, and take leave of my friends.'
But it so happened that the next day, when old Mrs. Welland
went to the farmer's wife for whom she sold butter, she sat down in
the kitchen, and related Emily's intention of leaving the town for
London; and the farmer's wife observed that it was a long long
journey for a young girl to take alone.
'Oh, she is a steady girl,' said the farmer. 'But it is
a mighty long way, and she will get in just at night, and London is
full of sharpers and thieves, as we all know. I would not let
her all alone if she was mine; she may be robbed at the station, she
may get her pocket picked, and nobody knows what mischief.'
'What you do say, sir, be terrible true,' replied the
'There 's Mr. Glover the ironmonger going up the day after
to-morrow,' observed the wife; 'why shouldn't she go with him?
I'll engage to say he would see her into a cab with her boxes.'
'Is it so far that she cannot walk to Mrs. Smalley's?' asked
old Mrs. Welland.
'Bless you,' said the farmer, 'she can't walk five or six
miles in London as she might do hereabouts; and what is to be done
with her luggage, if she did? No, no; depend on it she ought
to go with somebody that knows London; do you speak to Mr. Glover,
and it will be all right.'
So the grandmother did speak to Mr. Glover, who seemed to
think it was highly necessary that a young country girl like Emily
should have somebody to look after and protect her, and, though he
made a great favour of it, he said he would see her safe to London,
and put her and her boxes into a cab, if requested.
When Emily heard of this she was very sorry, for she wished
to have an answer from Mrs. Smalley before she set off, and she did
not like to start from home in such a hurry; however, her
grandmother drew such a picture of the terrors of London, as
represented both by the farmer and the ironmonger, that she
consented to go with the latter, and began to pack up her things in
haste, and not without a little sinking at heart.
Old Mrs. Welland could not read, and as she was too proud to
ask her neighbours to read letters to her, she desired Emily every
fortnight to send her an old newspaper, or a little tract, or
anything of the sort that she had by her that would come for a
penny, and as Mr. Glover was only going to remain in Loudon a week,
she calculated on hearing of Emily's safe arrival from him.
If Emily could have stayed till nine o'clock on the third day
after she had written to Mrs. Smalley, she might have had an answer;
but unfortunately the cheap train by which she and Mr. Glover were
going started at seven. It was quite dark when she came out of
the cottage door, after giving her good old grandmother a hearty
hug, and ran down the cottage garden to wait for the omnibus.
John Mills was standing there; he had carried her boxes down for
her, and was now waiting to help in putting them on the omnibus when
it should arrive. A third box was standing beside them, and
that, John told her, contained his figure. It was going up to
London, by Mr. Clements' orders, by that morning's train.
Emily, in her large comfortable shawl, her neat merino dress,
and nice bonnet with its little net veil, looked the picture of
health and youthful beauty as she stood out there in the early
daylight; but John, in his threadbare clothes, and with his thin
face, looked hardly fit to be her companion. Notwithstanding
this, he could not help saying to her: 'Would there be any chance of
your liking me, Emily, if I got on, and we got over these troubles?'
But Emily shook hands with him and said: 'John, I hope you won't
talk in that way; I do like you, but I shall never be anything but a
friend to you.' As she said this the omnibus drove up, the
boxes were put on the roof, Emily set off for London, and John went
back to his shed.