Page images
PDF
EPUB

noo.

" Aboot droonin' mysel'?" said the girl, care “ Service!" cried Bell, with a derisive laugh, lessly.

“service! ye're jokin'. Tak’ a look at me; am “Ay, ye didna ken what ye were sayin'. Had I like decent work, eh ?-am I?” ye nae thocht o' the world ayont the grave? Nancy did look, and mentally owned the girl nae fear o' meetin' God unprepared ?”

was right. She was indeed the most unpromising Na," returned the girl, doggedly, "I thocht of all the unpromising denizens of the High Street. o' nought but my miserable life, an' that's plenty, Not one more dirty or hopeless-looking could she I can tell ye.

have found, and yet that very fact inspired the old “ Let's hear a' aboot it."

woman's ardour and gave her courage.

“ It's Nancy laid aside her knitting, and with kindly only ane like her that wad speak to a puir auld interest written on her wrinkled face, prepared to woman,” she thought; “if she was better aff she'd listen. “Surely," she thought, “if the Lord like eneuch despise me, sae I'll e'en do what I can wad gi'e me a word o' comfort for this misguided for her an' trust the Lord to help an' prosper me.” lassie, I'd feel I wisna' jist useless in the world.” “Gin ye cared to work, an' wad leave yer

The girl caught the kindly look and was hame,” began Nancy, with a dim idea of taking softened. No one had ever looked at her in that Bell, rags and all, into her attic, but she was cut way before, no one had ever cared what became short by Bell declaring decidedly that she would of her, whether she did well or ill, died or lived. not leave her home for anything.

" It canna be onything to you,” she said, Although it's sae meeserable?” unable to understand the old woman's interest; “Ay, though it is meeserable. Look ye,” and ye're comfortable yersel', what should ye fash Bell turned her eyes from the fire and fixed them yersel' wi' me for? ”

on the old woman's face, while a gentler light “ Because I want to see you comfortable too shone in them, and the hard lines about her mouth -yer name's Bell, isn't it?"

relaxed; “ look ye, I've a little sister at hameAy, Bell Slimon; a'body kens me, an' kens the only cratur' in the world that ever cared for my mither—but tell me,” she continued, with a me—a bonnie wee thing, at least she was bonnie greedy look, “is't true what folk say—that ye’ve three months' syne, though she's white and thin plenty siller-plenty to spare for me?”

I couldna leave her; she'd break her little Nancy shook her head, “ Naething but what hairt for want o' me. I couldna leave her to be these hands work for,” she said ; “now tell me a' abused by my mither; na, na, I maun bide where your troubles, an' we'll see if aught can be dune I am,” and Bell turned away to hide the tears to mend them."

that had started to her eyes. It was not from any hope of relief, but chiefly Nancy laid her hands on the girl's shoulders as an excuse for remaining at that snug fireside, and looked into her face; she forgot the rags and that Bell entered upon the recital. The troubles the grimy, coarse features; the heart beneath was were many. Hunger, cold, a drunken mother, a not utterly cold and dead after all, there was a cruel father, and many special incidents which germ

of life in it. Her love for the child might told plainly how wretched her life must be. be the means of drawing her out of her miserable

An' ye've kenned nought else?" said Nancy, condition and awakening in her the desire to live looking at her pityingly.

an honest, useful life. “Nought else, its aye been the same, an' it aye Nancy felt her old heart drawn to her; the will be, or I dee-an' when I div dee it'll be o' task which she had taken up as a duty, seemed hunger or cauld, unless I can pluck up courage likely to prove one of lore; in it she would find to end it at ance, as I said last night; but it tak's a cure for the loneliness that had hung so heavily courage—ay, it tak's courage.

upon her heart. She folded her bare arms and looked medita An' yet, lassie,” she said, in a tone of doubt, tively into the fire.

yet ye spak' o' leavin' her for ever!” The old woman shuddered at her words, and “I meant to tak' her wi' me,” said Bell, hangat the callous look on her face. Presently she ing down her head. “I thocht it wad be better asked if she could not work for herself, if she was to tak' her oot o' the world than let her suffer in not old enough to do something.

it. Ye see," she went on, as if wishing to explain “ Auld enough!” retorted Bell, bitterly, “ l've and justify her intentions, “my mither had shifted for mysel' ever since I can mind; I've strucken her when she was drunk—the puir wee begged, an' l've gathered scraps aff the streets, innocent !- an' it made me wild, for I canna' I've gotten bawbees for carrying in folks' coals bide to see aucht touch her. Wa'd it been ill an' soopin' their doors, but the bawbees ba’e been dune to tak' her oot o' the world, think ye?” ta'en frae me, an' the claes torn aff my back, time Nancy did not answer, she was thinking of the after time, an' selled for drink.”

drunken mother and the suffering child. “But ye've never tried ony decent work, “ Bring the bairn to me, Bell,” she said eagerly; service or sic' like?” said Nancy, puzzled how to “I want to see it-bring it to me.” advise her.

The girl looked at her wonderingly.

“ Div ye like bairns ? ” she asked. “I thocht fender, and the child stared at the bright fireside auld folk couldna be bothered wi' them.”

and her sister's face alternately. Yes, I like them. I had bairns o' my ain " I'm but a puir woman," began Nancy timidly, ance; bring her to me.”

for she felt it necessary to explain her plans, yet “ I'll hae twae to care for instead o' ane,” feared to spoil them by unwise words, "an' gin murmured Nancy, as the girl ran away.

6. The

ye thocht to get wealth frae me ye're mista'en, Lord has sent comfort to me in my loneliness. but I may be able to help ye some way. Ye'd Young feet are easy guided. l'll try an' lead wish to work, an' earn something for this dear the bairn to Him, au' Bell, through her love for her, bairn's sake, wad ye no?” will follow. I've whiles seen a shepherd guide an “Ay, if it was to make her hairty again.” auld sheep to a better pasture jist by carrying her " It wad help," said Nancy. “Onyway, she lamb.”

might be made comfortable, an' if ye tried to get It seemed scarcely a minute before Bell's workrough head appeared at the door again. She held “ What's the sense of biddin' me try if ye dinna the child in her arms a tiny creature, about two tell me the way?” interrupted Bell, impatiently; years old, with a face

"a braw leddy the that looked as if it had

other day bade me seen through all the

work, but she never misery and hollow

telled me hoo or ness of the world, and

where, an' a' the time was appalied by it.

she spak' she turned Nancy, her mind

her face awa', as if the running on that

very sight o' me was thought of the shep

gruesome. herd and the lamb,

Nancy thought it said to herself, “ the

was very likely, but Good Shepherd will

did not say so. carry this ane Hissel;

“ I've a plan i' my iťll no be left lang

heid,” said Nancy, to my guidin', but my

presently. “ There's wark 'll be to let the

twa or three hooses sister see how

where I've wroucht follow.”

[graphic]

to

-cleanin', an sic like, “ She was bonnie

for mony year. I'm three months sin',”

no' just sae able as I said Bell, watching

was. Noo, if the Nancy as she took the

leddies wad let, I'd child in her arms and

tak' ye wi' me tae fondled it, “for my

help, an' ye'd lairn, grannie had her awa'

an' by-and-by fa' into in the country, an'

the same wark for she cam' back plump

yersel." And the old an' rosy, but she's

woman proceeded to pined ilka day since.

unfold the only plan I try what I can, but

she could think of. I canna get richt meat for her, an' my mither It would involve the sacrifice of part of her own doesna care."

earnings, but what of that? "She's aiblins hungry enow,” said Nancy,

" What's the loss o'a shillin' or twae a-week looking pityingly at the wan, pinched little face. to the gainin' o' the lassie's hairt, an' makin' a

“ Like eneugh; at ony rate I am,” said Bell guid woman o' her,” thought Nancy. candidly, “ for I've had naething since the morn “ Weel, I'll think aboot it,” said Bell, as she ing.”

rose to her feet, after the old woman had had her Nancy went to her cupboard. Her store was

“May I come back the morn?” small, only what she had set aside for her own " Ay; I'll be blythe to see ye." tea and supper, but she brought it out unbesita “I would hae tell’t her to wash herself tingly, though perhaps with something of the before she cam'," murmured Nancy, as she widow's feelings when the prophet asked her for set about restoring her room to its accustomed a share of the meal in the barrel. When the last neatness, “but I feared she might tak' offence crumb had been devoured, and the old woman had an'never come back, but gin she come the returned thanks to the Giver, they drew round morn I'll let her see hoo to mak' hersel' winthe fire again. Bell sat with her bare feet on the some; dacent claes maun be gotten if she's tae

say out.

[ocr errors]

“ Did ye

sorrow

was

get dacent wark—but where are they to come ness an’ wanderin' in a crooked way. I'd fain frae?

lead ye to God—ay, that's what I want." Involuntarily her eyes wandered to one of the “God!” said the girl, cowering. boxes. A look of anguish passed over her aged speak o' God? Him that they tell’t me puts folk face, but she said resolutely, “Shall I keep back in torment for no' doin' a' he bids them? Hoo what the Lord has need of ? Na, na ; let Him can ye bide to think o' Him?” tak' what He will."

“Eh, Bell, if ye kenned aucht o' Him ye'd no' Whether it was the hope of another meal or speak like that. Dinna think o' Him as a stern the prospect of a seat at the fire, or the real judge, think o' Him as a kind Faither.” desire to begin a useful life, it is impossible to But, alas, under that name Bell's conceptions say, but Bell appeared again the next afternoon, were not more pleasing ; " father” to her was but and with her little sister in her arms.

another name for tyrant and oppressor, and she The old woman coaxed the child to her side, said something to that effect. and saying she would feel fresher and look “A Friend, then, Bell; think of Him as a Friend, bonnier if she were cleaned up a bit, proceeded the kindest an' the best; ane that pities ye in yer to wash her face and

an' grieves comb out her tangled

ow'r yer sin; ane hair; then when the

that'll bless ye if ye great improvement

ask His blessin', an' was made and com

help ye when ye're in mented on, it

need — Ay, think o' easy to suggest that

Him as a Friend.” Bell should do the

" Ye're liker a same thing for herself.

freend than onybody Oh, Nancy had

I've seen yet," said wondrous wisdom and

Bell ; “ye're the first tact ! She knew a

ane that ever spak'a person might be led

kind word to me.” who would rebel at

“If I differ frae the the mere suspicion of

lave its the Lord's being driven.

daein'," said Nancy, “Is it to be wark,

simply, ever willing to then ?” asked the old

give all the glory to woman, when Bell,

the God she served. with her face free

"He has brought us from its stains, and

thegither, an' gin it be looking wholesome, if

His will we'll help ilk not beautiful, re

ither tae the end. I've sumed her sea t.

naebody tae care for “ What sae ye to my

noo, husband and plan noo?

bairns are a' deid, an' “ I canna be waur

my hairt is hungry, off than I am, sae I'll

an' if ye're mither

wants quit o' you an' It was not a very

the bairn, an' ye're satisfactory assent, but Nancy was content. willin' to work an' be guided by me, an' wad

“ Then we'll begin the morn. But, mind care to bide here—then—" ye, lassie,” she said seriously, “I'll be held Are ye wantin' me to live wi' you ?” interanswerable for yer guid behaviour, an' if ye rupted Bell, hastily, thinking she must have heard do aucht wrang ye 'll baith ruin yersel' an' ruin wrong, “ here, in this clean, comfortable room ?” me.”

Nancy nodded. “ I'm sure I wadna ruin ye for the world,” Bell was silent a minute. said Bell, with more feeling than she had yet “ Are ye no feared for me rindin' aff wi' a' ye shown, “for ye're the first that's been kind to hae?" she asked presently. me. Div ye like me?”

“Na.” She put the question with a puzzled look, as The smile with which the word was accomif she could not believe it possible, yet could not panied showed that Nancy had indeed no fear, otberwise account for her interest.

perhaps, too, she was conscious of having nothing “ Lassie, my hairt is drawn to a' God's to lose. children,” said the old woman, looking kindly at “We'll tak’ oor tea thegither,” said the old her, “mair especially to them that are in dark- woman, beginning to put down the cups, "an' the

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

try it.”

morn ye'll begin to work; for, look ye, if ye'd be the lassie has a gratefu' hairt, an' wants to dae honest an' weel daein' ye mauna eat the breed o' richt." idleness. God gi'es me my portion ilka day as I She sat down and thought again, ber mind work for it, an' I've nae mair i’ the hoose than once more going back to the past. There was a what ye see, but when the morn comes He'll help struggle going on in her aged breast. She felt me to work for mair.—It's richt to let her ken my called on to do something that would give her poverty,” said Nancy to herself.

pain; she needed strength for the sacrifice she Beli took her tea in silence, and, when they had was going to make. finished, lifted up the child and went away, almost She lighted the candle, took down the Bible without a word.

from the shelf, put on her spectacles, and read. "I doot the thocht o' workin' has gliffed her," She had many and many a time found strength sighed the old woman, as she put away the cups and comfort there, and she found it now. and took up her knitting. “I'd fain had the task When Nancy closed the book she went to a o' leadin' her tae a better life, but if it canna be, box and took from it, calmly and unhesitatingly, it canna, an' I maun submit."

a gown, a little shawl, and a bonnet. She worked away, as she had worked many "My poor lassie's," she said, with a quivering an evening before, knitting row after row, row lip, as she laid them on the chair and knelt down after row; her mind ever on the past, her old beside them. “ l've naething mair left that was heart lingering lovingly upon bygone scenes, her er's. I've keepit them lang, an'at many a time ear trying to catch voices that were for ever when the siller they'd hae brocht was sair hushed. A new task, a new care would have needed, but I gi’e them up now. I gi'e them helped to fill the void in her heart, but if that freely for the Lord hath need o' them.” were not given her, she must submit. " As the Little did Bell guess with what a pang Nancy Lord will,” she said meekly.

saw her don the garments the next morning, nor The light had faded. Nancy rolled up her what a sacrifice the giving of them cost; but she knitting, and looked out of her high window down wondered a little when the old woman, pressing upon the long rows of lamps, and the innumerable her withered face against her shoulder, said in lights that sparkled and shone everywhere. A trembling tonesyoung moon threw a faint light over Princes - The lassie who wore this gown was pure

an Street gardens, and touched with silver the guid, an' I couldna bear to see you aucht else, monuments and spires : it was a fair scene. while ye have it on.” Nancy looked at it and up at the sky above, and thought of the God who watches and rules over all.

In a few weeks Bell and the little one took up “A' things in His hands," she murmured. their abode in Nancy's attic, for their home was “ Goodness and, mercy hae followed me a' my broken up, the father having fled the country, days, an' will to the end."

and the mother being in jail. Bell clung to the The door opened quickly and noisily. She humble friend she had found, and strove her looked round; there stood Bell, breathless and utmost to please her, and in some measure repay excited.

her for all she had done. “I've gotten sixpence for carryin' a parcel,” The child brightened and bloomed for a time, she cried, “an' there it's; keep it to yersel', it'll' and then faded and died; but Bell remained get ye're breakfast; ye said ye had nae meat an always with Nancy, and when the old woman nae siller left, an' ye shared ye'r last bite wi' me. was no longer able to earn her daily bread, the I'll be back in the mornin', an' I'll dae what ye girl's strong young arm came between her and bid me, for ye're better than ither folk,” and Bell want, and Nancy felt that the “ bread she had laid down the sixpence on the little round table cast upon the waters was found after many days." and vanished.

“I gave but the widow's mite," said the old "Truly I am fed as Elijah was fed,” murmured woman many a time, “and the Lord paid me the old woman, as she took the coin in her back a hunderfold. He sent ane that baith cheers trembling hand. “I had naething left, an' here my hairt and provides for my wants. Ay, He's I am provided for again. An' this is the bonniest a guid Maister, an' nane that put their trust in sixpence I ever got, for it comes as a sign that Him will ever come to want."

[graphic]

mouth, your chest-where is it not ?-dense and dark, noxious and nasty as ever a fog can be. Not a cheering framework in which to encase the squalid pictures you have been compelled to see — pictures which live, and which hundreds of those who will grow sentimental over a

distressing scene in the next MADEIRA

Academy could see if they choose to do so, and, what is more, could relieve the misery which is there. I have often heard of the proverbial “pallet of straw,” on which lay the dying form of some human creature like one's

self. But to-day I have seen ON wings! There is it-seen it in all its ghastly reality and in all its something delightful in terrible horror. In a room which had absolutely not the mere phrase. It is one particle of furniture in it, four bricks serving for

suggestive of freedom, the chair of the only occupant who could use it, in of buoyancy, of an upward a bed in a wall—a box-bed I think you call it-on soaring, of a far-awayness, a heap of straw, with, besides the scanty clothing the leaving of something be- she had on, only a man's coat to cover her—the coat hind that is charming. It is of the man who, in trousers and shirt, watches her, a phrase not to be said but and sits and sleeps on these four bricks—lay a to be sung—to be sung aloud poor woman dying-dying not by inches, but for all the world to hear if by great gallops of consumption. Two years it may; and in joy and ex ago she was married. She fell into bad health. pectation I sing it aloud to- Her husband tired of her and her long illness. night. All afternoon I have She was in the poorhouse, and, thinking she was been working and working getting a little better, she came out, She went

hard, visiting amongst the to an uncle who was in lodgings, and who was poor and the sick, the aged and out of employment.

out of employment. Together they came to this the dying, seeing sights and hear- room, and here it was I found them, with not ing sighs that perhaps can only money enough to get food, not money enough to

be seen and heard in a large city get the small bottle of chlorodyne—not from the such as that in which I live and now druggist, but from the store, where it is cheaperwrite. And I have been doing this on which she depends for any sleep she gets. amid surely the most depressing Well, I must not linger over the picture, save to of all surroundings and influences say that everything was done that could be done

-in the midst of a fog so dense -in vain, of course, as far as the saving of life that you cannot see the point of your um was concerned, but not in vain as far as soothing brella when you stretch it out straight in front its last moments went. of you ; in which the gas-lamps are only recog And here I am now at home in my workshop. nised by a feeble-looking rushlight, you scarce One can't go on thinking of such scenes : it would can tell how high up or how low down—a fog in kill you to do so. I deliberately, because I which you don't see the passer-by until he and think it is a duty to do so for a time, shut you jostle each other ; in which cabbies have to them out as I have shut out the fog. I get off their cabs and lead their horses.

It is a shut the doors—I draw the curtains 1 pile fog you can cut as you could cut a cheese. It on the logs. There will be time enough yet gathers you into its coils, and almost carries you to-night to think of them—perhaps to see some na captive in its wreaths. It is in your nose, your

them again ; and I go-on wings ! on wingo

« PreviousContinue »