Stories Told to a Child (2)

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Two Ways of telling a Story.

WHO is this?  A careless little midshipman, idling about in a great city, with his pockets full of money.

    He is waiting for the coach: it comes up presently, and he gets on the top of it, and begins to look about him.

    They soon leave the chimney-pots behind them his eyes wander with delight over the harvest fields, he smells the honeysuckle in the hedge-row, and he wishes he was down among the hazel bushes, that he might strip them of the milky nuts; then he sees a great wain piled up with barley, and he wishes he was seated on the top of it; then they go through a little wood, and he likes to see the chequered shadows of the trees lying across the white road; and then a squirrel runs up a bough, and he cannot forbear to whoop and halloo, though he cannot chase it to its nest.

    The other passengers are delighted with his simplicity and childlike glee; and they encourage him to talk to them about the sea and ships, especially Her Majesty's ship The Asp, wherein he has the honour to sail.  In the jargon of the sea, he describes her many perfections, and enlarges on her peculiar advantages; he then confides to them how a certain middy, having been ordered to the mast-head as a punishment, had seen, while sitting on the top-mast cross-trees, something uncommonly like the sea-serpent—but, finding this hint received with incredulous smiles, he begins to tell them how he hopes that, some day, he shall be promoted to have charge of the poop.  The passengers hope he will have that honour; they have no doubt he deserves it.  His cheeks flush with pleasure to hear them say so, and he little thinks that they have no notion in what "that honour" may happen to consist.

    The coach stops: the little midshipman, with his hands in his pockets, sits rattling his money, and singing.  There is a poor woman standing by the door of the village inn; she looks careworn, and well she may, for, in the spring, her husband went up to London to seek for work.  He got work, and she was expecting soon to join him there, when, alas! a fellow-workman wrote her word how he had met with an accident, how he was very ill, and wanted his wife to come and nurse him.  But she has two young children, and is destitute; she must walk up all the way, and she is sick at heart when she thinks that perhaps he may die among strangers before she can reach him.

    She does not think of begging, but seeing the boy's eyes attracted to her, she makes him a curtsy, and he withdraws his hand and throws her down a sovereign.  She looks at it with incredulous joy, and then she looks at him.

    "It's all right," he says, and the coach starts again, while, full of gratitude, she hires a cart to again her across the country to the railway, that the next night she may sit by the bedside of her sick husband.

    The midshipman knows nothing about that; and he never will know.

    The passengers go on talking—the little midshipman has told them who he is, and where he is going; but there is one man who has never joined in the conversation; he is dark-looking and restless; he sits apart; he has seen the glitter of the falling coin, and now he watches the boy more narrowly than before.

    He is a strong man, resolute and determined the boy with the pockets full of money will be no match for him.  He has told the other passengers that his father's house is the parsonage of Y, the coach goes within five miles of it, and he means to get down at the nearest point, and walk, or rather run over to his home, through the great wood.

    The man decides to get down too, and go through the wood; he will rob the little midshipman perhaps, if he cries out or struggles, he will do worse.  The boy, he thinks, will have no chance against him; it is quite impossible that he can escape; the way is lonely, and the sun will be down.

    No.  There seems indeed little chance of escape; the half-fledged bird just fluttering down from its nest has no more chance against the keen-eyed hawk than the little light-hearted sailor boy will have against him.

    And now they reach the village where the boy is to alight.  He wishes the other passengers "good evening," and runs lightly down between the scattered houses.  The man has got down also, and is following.

    The path lies through the village churchyard; there is evening service, and the door is wide open, for it is warm.  The little midshipman steals up the porch, looks in, and listens.  The clergyman has just risen from his knees in the pulpit, and is giving out his text.  Thirteen months have passed since the boy was within a house off prayer; and a feeling of pleasure and awe induces him to stand still and listen.

    "Are not two sparrows (he hears) sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear ye not, therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."

    He hears the opening sentences of the sermon and then he remembers his home, and comes softly out of the porch, full of a calm and serious pleasure. The clergyman has reminded him of his father, and his careless heart is now filled with the echoes of his voice and of his prayers.  He thinks on what the clergyman said, of the care of our heavenly Father for us; he remembers how, when he left home, his father prayed that he might be preserved through every danger; he does not remember any particular danger that he has been exposed to, excepting in the great storm; but he is grateful that he has come home in safety, and he hopes whenever he shall be in danger—which he supposes he shall be some day—he hopes that then the providence of God will watch over him and protect him.  And so he presses onward to the entrance of the wood.

    The man is there before him. He has pushed himself into the thicket, and cut a heavy stake; he suffers the boy to go on before, and then he comes out, falls into the path and follows him.

    It is too light at present for his deed of darkness, and too near the entrance of the wood, but he knows that shortly the path will branch off into two, and the right one for the boy to take will be dark and lonely.

    But what prompts the little midshipman, when not fifty yards from the branching of the path, to break into a sudden run?  It is not fear, he never dreams of danger.  Some sudden impulse, or some wild wish for home, makes him dash off suddenly after his saunter, with a whoop and a bound.  On he goes, as if running a race; the path bends, and the man loses sight of him.  "But I shall have him yet," he thinks; "he cannot keep this pace up long."

    The boy has nearly reached the place where the path divides, when he puts up a young white owl that can scarcely fly, and it goes whirring along, close to the ground, before him.  He gains upon it; another moment, and it will be his.  Now it gets the start again; they come to the branching of the paths, and the bird goes down the wrong one.  The temptation to follow is too strong to be resisted; he knows that somewhere, deep in the wood, there is a cross track by which he can get into the path he has left; it is only to run a little faster and he shall be at home nearly as soon.

    On he rushes; the path takes a bend, and he is just out of sight when his pursuer comes where the paths divide.  The boy has turned to the right; the man takes the left, and the faster they both run the farther they are asunder.

    The white owl still leads him on; the path gets darker and narrower; at last he finds that he has missed it altogether, and his feet are on the soft ground.  He flounders about among the trees and stumps, vexed with himself, and panting after his race.  At last he hits upon another track, and pushes on as fast as he can.  The ground begins sensibly to descend—he has lost his way—but he keeps bearing to the left; and, though it is now dark, he thinks that he must reach the main path sooner or later.

    He does not know this part of the wood, but he runs on.  O little midshipman! why did you chase that owl?  If you had kept in the path with the dark man behind you, there was a chance that you might have outrun him; or, if he had overtaken some passing wayfarer might have heard your cries, and come to save you.  Now you are running on straight to your death, for the forest water is deep and black at the bottom of this hill.  O that the moon might come out and show it to you!

    The moon is under a thick canopy of heavy black clouds; and there is not a star to glitter on the water and make it visible.  The fern is soft under his feet as he runs and slips down the sloping hill.  At last he strikes his foot against a stone, stumbles and falls.  Two minutes more and he will roll into the black water.

    "Heyday!" cries the boy, "what's this?  Oh, how it tears my hands!  Oh, this thorn-bush!  Oh! my arms!  I can't get free!"  He struggles and pants.  "All this comes of leaving the path," he says; "I shouldn't have cared for rolling down if it hadn't been for this bush.  The fern was soft enough.  I'll never stray in a wood at night again.  There, free at last!  And my jacket nearly torn off my back!"

    With a good deal of patience, and a great many scratches, he gets free of the thorn which had arrested his progress, when his feet were within a yard of the water, manages to scramble up the bank, and makes the best of his way through the wood.

    And now, as the clouds move slowly onward, the moon shows her face on the black surface of the water; and the little white owl comes and hoots, and flutters over it like a wandering snowdrift.  But the boy is deep in the wood again, and knows nothing of the danger from which he has escaped.

    All this time the dark passenger follows the main track, and believes that his prey is before him.  At last he hears a crashing of dead boughs, and presently the little midshipman's voice not fifty yards before him.  Yes, it is too true; the boy is in the cross track.  He will pass the cottage in the wood directly, and after that his pursuer will come upon him.

    The boy bounds into the path; but, as he passes the cottage, he is so thirsty, and so hot, that he thinks he must ask the inhabitants if they can sell him a glass of ale.

    He enters without ceremony.  "Ale?" says the woodman, who is sitting at his supper.  "No, we have no ale; but perhaps my wife can give thee a drink of milk.  Come in."  So he comes in, and shuts the door; and, while he sits waiting for the milk, footsteps pass.  They are the footsteps of his pursuer, who goes on with the stake in his hand, and is angry and impatient that he has not yet come up with him.

    The woman goes to her little dairy for the milk, and the boy thinks she is a long time.  He drinks it, thanks her, and takes his leave.

    Fast and fast the man runs on, and, as fast as he can, the boy runs after him.  It is very dark, but there is a yellow streak in the sky, where the moon is ploughing up a furrowed mass of grey cloud, and one or two stars are blinking through the branches of the trees.

    Fast the boy follows, and fast the man runs on, with his weapon in his hand.  Suddenly he hears the joyous whoop—not before, but behind him.  He stops and listens breathlessly.  Yes, it is so.  He pushes himself into the thicket, and raises his stake to strike when the boy shall pass.

    On he comes, running lightly, with his hands in his pockets.  A sound strikes at the same instant on the ears of both; and the boy turns back from the very jaws of death to listen.  It is the sound of wheels, and it draws rapidly nearer.  A man comes up, driving a little gig.

    "Hallo!" he says, in a loud, cheerful voice.  "What! benighted, youngster?"

    "Oh, is it you, Mr. Davis?" says the boy; "no, I am not benighted; or, at any rate, I know my way out of the wood."

    The man draws farther back among the shrubs.  "Why, bless the boy," he hears the farmer say, "to think of our meeting in this way.  The parson told me he was in hopes of seeing thee some day this week.  I'll give thee a lift.  This is a lone place to be in this time o' night."

    "Lone!" says the boy, laughing.  "I don't mind that; and, if you know the way, it's as safe as the quarter-deck."

    So he gets into the farmer's gig, and is once more out of reach of the pursuer.  But the man knows that the farmer's house is a quarter of a mile nearer than the parsonage, and in that quarter of a mile there is still a chance of committing the robbery.  He determines still to make the attempt, and cuts across the wood with such rapid strides that he reaches the farmer's gate just as the gig drives up to it.

    "Well, thank you, farmer," says the midshipman, as he prepares to get down.

    "I wish you good-night, gentlemen," says the man, when he passes.

    "Good-night, friend," the farmer replies.  "I say, my boy, it's a dark night enough; but I have a mind to drive you on to the parsonage, and hear the rest of this long tale of yours about the sea-serpent."

    The little wheels go on again.  They pass the man; and he stands still in the road to listen till the sound dies away.  Then he flings his stake into the hedge, and goes back again.  His evil purposes have all been frustrated—the thoughtless boy has baffled him at every turn.

    And now the little midshipman is at home—the joyful meeting has taken place; and when they have all admired his growth, and decided whom he is like, and measured his height on the window-frame, and seen him eat his supper, they begin to question him about his adventures, more for the pleasure of hearing him talk than any curiosity.

    "Adventures!" says the boy, seated between his father and mother on a sofa.  "Why, ma, I did write you an account of the voyage, and there's nothing else to tell.  Nothing happened to-day at least nothing particular."

    "You came by the coach we told you of?" asks his father.

    "Oh yes, papa; and when we had got about twenty miles there came up a beggar, while we changed horses, and I threw down (as I thought) a shilling, but, as it fell, I saw it was a sovereign.  She was very honest, and showed me what it was, but I didn't take it back, for you know, mamma, it's a long time since I gave anything to anybody."

    "Very true, my boy," his mother answers; "but you should not be careless with your money and few beggars are worthy objects of charity."

    "I suppose you got down at the cross-roads? says his elder brother.

    "Yes, and went through the wood.  I should have been here sooner if I hadn't lost my way there."

    "Lost your way!" says his mother, alarmed.

    "My dear boy, you should not have left the path at dusk."

    "Oh, ma," says the little midshipman, with a smile, "you're always thinking we're in danger.  If you could see me sometimes sitting at the jib-boom end, or across the main-top-mast cross-trees, you would be frightened.  But what danger can there be in a wood?"

    "Well, my boy," she answers, "I don't wish to be over-anxious, and to make my children uncomfortable by my fears.  What did you stray from the path for?"

    "Only to chase a little owl, mamma: but I didn't catch her after all.  I got a roll down a bank, and caught my jacket against a thorn bush, which was rather unlucky.  Ah! three large holes I see in my sleeve.  And so I scrambled up again, and got into the path, and asked at the cottage for some beer.  What a time the woman kept me, to be sure!  I thought it would never come.  But very soon after, Mr. Davis drove up in his gig, and he brought me on to the gate."

    "And so this account of your adventures being brought to a close," his father says, "we discover that there were no adventures to tell!"

    "No, papa, nothing happened; nothing particular, I mean."

    Nothing particular!  If they could have known, they would have thought lightly in comparison of the dangers of "the jib-boom end and the maintop-mast cross-trees."  But they did not know, any more than we do, of the dangers that hourly beset us.  Some few dangers we are aware of, and we do what we can to provide against them; but for the greater portion, "our eyes are held that we cannot see."  We walk securely under His guidance, without whom "not a sparrow falleth to the ground!" and when we have had escapes that the angels have admired at, we come home and say, perhaps, that "nothing has happened; at least nothing particular."

    It is not well that our minds should be much exercised about these hidden dangers, since they are so many and so great that no human art or foresight can prevent them.  But it is very well that we should reflect constantly on that loving Providence which watches every footstep of a track always balancing between time and eternity; and that such reflections should make us both happy and afraid—afraid of trusting our souls and bodies too much to any earthly guide, or earthly security—happy from the knowledge that there is One with whom we may trust them wholly, and with whom the very hairs of our head are all numbered.  Without such trust, how can we rest or be at peace? but with it we may say with the Psalmist, "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep, for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety!"


The One-Eyed Servant.

    Do you see those two pretty cottages on opposite sides of the Common?  How bright their windows are, and how prettily the vines trail over them!  A year ago one of them was the dirtiest and most forlorn-looking place you can imagine, and its mistress the most untidy woman.

    She was once sitting at her cottage door with her arms folded, as if she were deep in thought, though, to look at her face, one would not have supposed she was doing more than idly watching the swallows as they floated about in the hot, clear air.  Her gown was torn and shabby, her shoes down at heel; the little curtain in her casement, which had once been fresh and white, had a great rent in it; and altogether she looked poor and forlorn.

    She sat some time, gazing across the common, when all on a sudden she heard a little noise, like stitching, near the ground.  She looked down, and sitting on the border, under a wall-flower bush, she saw the funniest little man possible, with a blue coat, a yellow waistcoat, and red boots; he had got a small shoe on his lap, and he was stitching away at it with all his might.

    "Good-morning, mistress!" said the little man.  "A very fine day.  Why may you be looking so earnestly across the common?"

    "I was looking at my neighbour's cottage," said the young woman.

    "What!  Tom, the gardener's wife?—little Polly, she used to be called; and a very pretty cottage it is too!  Looks thriving, doesn't it?"

    "She was always lucky," said Bella (for that was the young wife's name); "and her husband is always good to her."

    "They were both good husbands at first," interrupted the little cobbler, without stopping."  Reach me my awl, mistress, will you, for you seem to have nothing to do: it lies close by your foot."

    "Well, I can't say but they were both very good husbands at first," replied Bella, reaching the awl with a sigh; "but mine has changed for the worse, and hers for the better; and then, look how she thrives.  Only to think of our both being married on the same day; and now I've nothing, and she has two pigs, and a—"

    "And a lot of flax that she spun in the winter," interrupted the cobbler; "and a Sunday gown, as good green stuff as ever was seen, and, to my knowledge, a handsome silk handkerchief for an apron; and a red waistcoat for her good man, with three rows of blue glass buttons, and a flitch of bacon in the chimney, and a rope of onions."

    "Oh, she's a lucky woman!" exclaimed Bella.

    "Ay, and a tea-tray, with Daniel in the lion's den upon it," continued the cobbler: "and a fat baby in the cradle."

    "Oh, I'm sure I don't envy her that last," said Bella, pettishly.  "I've little enough for myself and my husband, letting alone children."

    "Why, mistress, isn't your husband in work?" asked the cobbler.

    "No; he's at the alehouse."

    "Why, how's that? he used to be very sober.  Can't he get work?"

    "His last master wouldn't keep him, because he was so shabby."

    "Humph!" said the little man.  "He's a groom, is he not?  Well, as I was saying, your neighbour opposite thrives; but no wonder!  Well, I've nothing to do with other people's secrets; but I could tell you, only I'm busy, and must go."

    "Could tell me what?" cried the young wife.  "Oh, good cobbler, don't go, for I've nothing to do.  Pray tell me why it's no wonder that she should thrive?"

    "Well," said he, "it's no business of mine, you know, but, as I said before, it's no wonder people thrive who have a servant—a hard-working one, too—who is always helping them."

    "A servant!" repeated Bella—"my neighbour has a servant!  No wonder, then, everything looks so neat about her; but I never saw this servant.  I think you must be mistaken; besides, how could she afford to pay her wages?"

    "She has a servant, I say," repeated the cobbler; "a one-eyed servant—but she pays her no wages, to my certain knowledge.  Well, good-morning, mistress, I must go."

    "Do stop one minute," cried Bella, urgently—"where did she get this servant?"

    "Oh, I don't know," said the cobbler, "servants are plentiful enough; and Polly uses hers well, I can tell you."

    "And what does she do for her?"

    "Do for her?  Why, all sorts of things—I think she's the cause of her prosperity.  To my knowledge she never refuses to do anything—keeps Tom's and Polly's clothes in beautiful order, and the baby's."

    "Dear me!" said Bella, in an envious tone, and holding up both her hands; "well, she is a lucky woman, and I always said so.  She takes good care I shall never see her servant.  What sort of a servant is she, and how came she to have only one eye?"

    "It runs in her family," replied the cobbler, stitching busily; "they are all so—one eye apiece; yet they make a very good use of it, and Polly's servant has four cousins who are blind—stone blind; no eyes at all; and they sometimes come and help her.  I've seen them in the cottage myself, and that's how Polly gets a good deal of her money.  They work for her, and she takes what they make to market, and buys all those handsome things."

    "Only think," said Bella, almost ready to cry with vexation, "and I've not got a soul to do anything for me; how hard it is!" and she took up her apron to wipe away her tears.

    The cobbler looked attentively at her.  "Well, you are to be pitied, certainly," he said, "and if I were not in such a hurry—"

    "Oh, do go on, pray—were you going to say you could help me?  I've heard that your people are fond of curds and whey, and fresh gooseberry syllabub.  Now, if you would help me, trust me that there should be the most beautiful curds and whey set every night for you on the hearth; and nobody should ever look when you went and came."

    "Why, you see," said the cobbler, hesitating, "my people are extremely particular about—in short, about—cleanliness, mistress; and your house is not what one would call very clean.  No offence, I hope?"

    Bella blushed deeply—"Well, but it should be always clean if you would—every day of my life I would wash the floor, and sand it, and the hearth should be whitewashed as white as snow, and the windows cleaned."

    "Well," said the cobbler, seeming to consider, "well, then, I should not wonder if I could meet with a one-eyed servant for you, like your neighbour's; but it may be several days before I can and mind, mistress, I'm to have a dish of curds."

    "Yes, and some whipped cream, too," replied Bella, full of joy.

    The cobbler then took up his tools, wrapped them in his leather apron, walked behind the wallflower, and disappeared.

    Bella was so delighted, she could not sleep that night for joy.  Her husband scarcely knew the house, she had made it so bright and clean; and by night she had washed the curtain, cleaned the window, rubbed the fire-irons, sanded the floor, and set a great jug of hawthorn in blossom on the hearth.

    The next morning Bella kept a sharp look-out both for the tiny cobbler and on her neighbour's house, to see whether she could possibly catch a glimpse of the one-eyed servant.  But, no—nothing could she see but her neighbour sitting on her rocking-chair, with her baby on her knee, working.

    At last, when she was quite tired, she heard the voice of the cobbler outside.  She ran to the door, and cried out

    "Oh do, pray, come in, sir, only look at my house!"

    "Really," said the cobbler, looking round, "I declare I should hardly have known it—the sun can shine brightly now through the clear glass and what a sweet smell of hawthorn!"

    "Well, and my one-eyed servant?" asked Bella—"you remember, I hope, that I can't pay her any wages—have you met with one that will come?"

    "All's right," replied the little man, nodding.  "I've got her with me."

    "Got her with you?" repeated Bella, looking round, "I see nobody."

    "Look, here she is!" said the cobbler, holding up something in his hand.

    Would you believe it? the one-eyed servant was nothing but a Needle.


The Lonely Rock.

THREE summers ago I had a severe illness, and on recovering from it, my father took me for change of air, not to one of our pretty townish watering-places, but up to the very North of Scotland, to a place which he had himself delighted in when a boy, a lonely farmhouse, standing on the shore of a rocky bay in one of the Orkneys.

    My father is a Highlander, and though he has lived in England from his early youth, he retains, not only a strong love for his own country, but a belief in its healthfulness; he is fond of indulging the fancy that scenery which the fathers have delighted in, will not strike on the senses of the children as something new and strange, but they will enter the hereditary region with a half-formed notion that they must have seen it before, and it will possess a soothing power over them which is better than familiarity itself.

    I had often heard my father express this idea, but had neither understood nor believed in it.  The listlessness of illness made me indifferent as to what became of me, and during our steam voyage I cared neither to move nor to look about me.  But the result proved that my father was right.  It was dark when we reached our destination, but I no sooner opened my eyes the next morning than a delightful home-feeling came over me; I could not look about me enough, and yet nothing was sufficiently unexpected to cause me the least surprise.

    It was August, the finest part of the northern summer; and as I lay on pillows, looking out across the bay, I enjoyed that perfect quietude and peace so grateful to those who have lately suffered from the turmoil and restlessness of fever.  I had imagined myself always surrounded by shifting, hurrying crowds, always oppressed by the gaze of unbidden guests; how complete and welcome was this change, this seclusion!  No one but my father and the young servant whom we had brought with us could speak a word that I understood, and I could fall asleep and wake again, quite secure from the slightest interruption.

    By the first blush of dawn I used to wake up, and lie watching that quiet bay; there would be the shady crags, dark and rocky, lifting and stretching themselves as if to protect and embrace the water, which, perhaps, would be lying utterly still, or just lapping against them, and softly swaying to and fro the long banners of sea-weed which floated out from them.

    Or, perhaps, a thin mist would be hanging across the entrance of the bay, like a curtain drawn from cliff to cliff; presently this snowy curtain would turn of an amber colour, and glow towards the centre; once I wondered if that sudden glow could be a ship on fire, and watched it in fear, but I soon saw the gigantic sun thrust himself up, so near, as it seemed, that the farthest cliffs as they melted into the mist appeared farther off than he—so near, that it was surprising to count the number of little fishing-boats that crossed between me and his great disc; still more surprising to watch how fast he receded, growing so refulgent that he dazzled my eyes, while the mist began to waver up and down, curl itself, and roll away to sea, till on a sudden up sprang a little breeze, and the water, which had been white, streaked here and there with a line of yellow, was blue almost before I could mark the change, and covered with brisk little ripples, and the mist had melted back into some half-dozen caverns, within which it soon receded and was lost.

    I used to lie and learn that beautiful bay by heart.  In the afternoon the water was often of a pale sea-green, and the precipitous cliffs were speckled with multitudes of sea-birds, and bright in the sunshine I loved to watch at a distance the small mountain goats climbing from point to point; wherever there was a strip of grass I was sure to see their white breasts; but above all things, I love to watch the long wavy reflection of a tall black rock which was perfectly isolated, and stood out to sea in the very centre of the bay.  I was the more occupied in fancy with this rock, because, unlike the other features of the landscape, it never changed.

    The sea was white, it was yellow, it was green, it was blue; the sea was gone a long way off, and the sands were bare; the sea was come back again, was rushing up between every little rock, and powdering the tops of them with spray; the sea was clear as a mirror, and white gulls were swimming on it by thousands; the sea was restless, and the rocking boats were tossing up and down on it.  And the cliffs?  In moonlight they were castles and they were ships; in sunshine they were black, brown, blue, green, and ruddy, according to the clouds and the height of the sun.  Their shadows, too, now a narrow strip at their bases, now an overshadowing mass, gave endless variety to the scene.

    But this one black rock out at sea never seemed to change. In appearance at that distance it was a massive column, square and bending inward at the centre, so as to make it lean towards the northern shore.  Considering this changeless character, it was rather strange that in my dreams, still vivid from recent illness, this column always assumed the likeness of a man.  A stern man it seemed to be, with head sunk on his breast, and arms gathered under the folds of a dark heavy mantle; yet when I awoke and looked out over the bay, the blue moonbeams would not drop on my rock, or its reflection, in such a way as to make it any other than the bare, bleak, bending thing that I always saw it.

    In a week I was able to come out of doors, and wander by the help of my father's arm along the strip of yellow sand by the sea.  How delightful was the feeling of leaf, pebble, sand, or sea-weed to my hand, which so long had been used to nothing but the soft linen of my pillow!  How beautiful and fresh everything looked out of doors; how delicious was the sound of the little inch-deep waves as they ran and spread briskly out over the flat green floors of the caverns; how still more delicious the crisp rustling of the displaced pebbles, when these capricious waves receded!

    And the caverns!  How I stood looking into them, sunny and warm as they were at the entrance, and gloomily grand within.  What a pleasure it was to think that the world should be so full of beautiful places, even where few had cared to look at them; how wonderful to think that the self-same echo, which answered my voice when I sang to it, was always dying there, ready to be spoken with, though rarely invoked but by the winds and the waves; that ever since the Deluge, perhaps, it had possessed this power to mock human utterance, but unless it had caught up and repeated the cries of some drowning fisher-boy, or shipwrecked mariner, and sent them back again more wild than before, its mocking syllables and marvellous cadences had never been tested but by me

    And the first sail in a boat was a pleasure which can never be forgotten.

    It was a still afternoon when we stepped into that boat, so still that we had oars as well as the flapping sail; I had wished to row out to sea as far as the rock, and now I was to have my wish.  On and on we went, looking by turns into the various clefts and caverns; at last we stood out into the middle of the bay, and very soon we had left the cliffs altogether behind.  We were out in the open sea, but still the rock was far before us; it became taller, larger, and more important, but yet it presented the same outline, and precisely the same aspect, when, after another half-hour's rowing, we drew near it, and I could hear the water lapping against its inhospitable sides.

    The men rested on their oars, and allowed the boat to drift down towards it.  There it stood, high, lonely, inaccessible.  I looked up; there was scarcely a crevice where a sea-fowl could have built, not a level slip large enough for human foot to stand upon, nor projection for hand or drowning man to seize on.

    Shipwreck and death it had often caused, it was the dread and scourge of the bay, but it yielded no shelter nor food for beast or bird, not a blade of grass waved there—nothing stood there.

    We rowed several times round it, and every moment I became more impressed with its peculiar character and situation, so completely aloof from everything else—even another rock as hard and black as itself, standing near it, would have been apparent companionship.  If one goat had fed there, if one sea-bird had nestled there, if one rope of tangled sea-weed had rooted there, and floated out on the surging water to meet the swimmer's hand—but no; I looked, and there was not one.  The water washed up against it, and it flung back the water; the wind blew against it, and it would not echo the wind; its very shadow was useless, for it dropped upon nothing that wanted shade.  By day the fisherman looked at it only to steer clear of it, and by night, if he struck against it, he went down.  Hard, dreary, bleak!  I looked at it as we floated slowly towards home; there it stood rearing up its desolate head, a forcible image, and a true one, of a thoroughly selfish, a thoroughly unfeeling and isolated human heart.

    Now let us go back a long time, and talk about things which happened before we were born.  I do not mean centuries ago, when the sea-kings, in their voyages plundering that coast, drove by night upon the rock and went down.  That is not the long time ago of which I want to speak; nor of that other long time ago, when two whaling vessels, large and deeply laden, bounded against it in a storm, and beat up against it till the raging waves tore them to pieces, and splitting and grinding every beam and spar, scarcely threw one piece of wreck on the shore which was as long as the bodies of the mariners.  I am not going to tell of the many fishing-boats which went out and were seen no more—of the many brave men that hard by that fatal place went under the surging water—of the many toiling rowers that made, as they thought, straight for home, and struck, and had only time for one cry—"The Rock! the Rock!"  The long time ago of which I mean to tell was a wild night in March, during which, in a fisherman's hut ashore, sat a young girl at her spinning-wheel, and looked out on the dark driving clouds, and listened, trembling, to the wind and the sea.

    The morning light dawned at last.  One boat that should have been riding on the troubled waves was missing—her father's boat! and half a mile from his cottage, her father's body was washed up on the shore.

    This happened fifty years ago, and fifty years is a long time in the life of a human being; fifty years is a long time to go on in such a course, as the woman did of whom I am speaking.  She watched her father's body, according to the custom of her people, till he was laid in the grave.  Then she lay down on her bed and slept, and by night got up and set a candle in her casement, as a beacon to the fishermen and a guide.  She sat by the candle all night, and trimmed it, and span; then when day dawned she went to bed and slept in the sunshine.

    So many hanks as she had spun before for her daily bread, she span still, and one over, to buy her nightly candle; and from that time to this, for fifty years, through youth, maturity, and old age, she has turned night into day, and in the snowstorms of winter, through driving mists, deceptive moonlight, and solemn darkness, that northern harbour has never once been without the light of her candle.

    How many lives she saved by this candle, or how many a meal she won by it for the starving families of the boatmen, it is impossible to say; how many a dark night the fisherman, depending on it, went fearlessly forth, cannot now be told.  There it stood, regular as a lighthouse, steady as constant care could make it.  Always brighter when daylight waned, they had only to keep it constantly in view and they were safe; there was but one thing that could intercept it, and that was the rock.  However far they might have stretched out to sea, they had only to bear down straight for that lighted window, and they were sure of a safe entrance into the harbour.

    Fifty years of life and labour—fifty years of sleeping in the sunshine—fifty years of watching and self-denial, and all to feed the flame and trim the wick of that one candle!  But if we look upon the recorded lives of great men, and just men, and wise men, few of them can show fifty years of worthier, certainly not of more successful labour.  Little, indeed, of the "midnight oil" consumed during the last half century so worthily deserved the trimming.  Happy woman—and but for the dreaded rock her great charity might never have been called into exercise!

    But what do the boatmen and the boatmen's wives think of this?  Do they pay the woman?

    No, they are very poor; but poor or rich, they know better than that.

    Do they thank her?

    No.  Perhaps they feel that thanks of theirs would be inadequate to express their obligations, or, perhaps, long years have made the lighted casement so familiar, that they look on it as a matter of course.

    Sometimes the fishermen lay fish on her threshold, and set a child to watch it for her till she wakes; sometimes their wives steal into her cottage, now she is getting old, and spin a hank or two of thread for her while she slumbers; and they teach their children to pass her hut quietly, and not to sing and shout before her door, lest they should disturb her.  That is all.  Their thanks are not looked for—scarcely supposed to be due.  Their grateful deeds are more than she expects, and as much as she desires.

    How often in the far distance of my English home I have awoke in a wild winter night, and, while the wind and storm were rising, have thought of that northern bay, with the waves dashing against the rock, and have pictured to myself the casement, and the candle nursed by that bending, aged figure!  How delightful to know that through her untiring charity the rock had long lost more than half its terrors, and to consider that, curse though it may be to all besides, it has most surely proved a blessing to her!

    You, too, may perhaps think with advantage on the character of this woman, and contrast it with the mission of the rock.  There are many degrees between them.  Few, like the rock, stand up wholly to work ruin and destruction; few, like the woman, "let their light shine" so brightly for good.  But to one of the many degrees between them we must all most certainly belong—we all lean towards the woman or the rock.  On such characters you do well to speculate with me, for you have not been cheated into sympathy with ideal shipwreck or imaginary kindness.  There is many a rock elsewhere as perilous as the one I have told you of—perhaps there are many such women; but for this one, whose story is before you, pray that her candle may burn a little longer, since this record of her charity is true.


The Minnows with Silver Tails.

THERE was a cuckoo-clock hanging in Tom Turner's cottage.  When it struck One, Tom's wife laid the baby in the cradle, and took a saucepan off the fire, from which came a very savoury smell.

    Her two little children, who had been playing in the open doorway, ran to the table, and began softly to drum upon it with their pewter spoons, looking eagerly at their mother as she turned a nice little piece of pork into a dish, and set greens and potatoes round it.  They fetched the salt; then they set a chair for their father; brought their own stools; and pulled their mother's rocking-chair close to the table.

    "Run to the door, Billy," said the mother, "and see if father's coming."  Billy ran to the door; and, after the fashion of little children, looked first the right way, and then the wrong way, but no father was to be seen.

    Presently the mother followed him, and shaded her eyes with her hand, for the sun was hot.  "If father doesn't come soon," she observed, "the apple-dumpling will be too much done, by a deal."

    "There he is!" cried the little boy, "he is coming round by the wood; and now he's going over the bridge.  O father! make haste, and have some apple-dumpling."

    "Tom," said his wife, as he came near, "art tired to-day?"

    "Uncommon tired," said Tom, and he threw himself on the bench, in the shadow of the thatch.

    "Has anything gone wrong?" asked his wife "what's the matter?"

    "Matter?" repeated Tom, "is anything the matter?  The matter is this, mother, that I'm a miserable hard-worked slave; and he clapped his hands upon his knees, and muttered in a deep voice, which frightened the children—"a miserable slave!"

    "Bless us!" said his wife, and could not make out what he meant.

    "A miserable, ill-used slave," continued Tom, "and always have been."

    "Always have been?" said his wife, "why, father, I thought thou used to say, at the election time, that thou wast a free-born Briton?"

    "Women have no business with politics," said Tom, getting up rather sulkily.  And whether it was the force of habit, or the smell of the dinner, that made him do it, has not been ascertained, but it is certain that he walked into the house, ate plenty of pork and greens, and then took a tolerable share in demolishing the apple-dumpling.

    When the little children were gone out to play, his wife said to him, "Tom, I hope thou and master haven't had words to-day?"

    "Master," said Tom, "yes, a pretty master he has been; and a pretty slave I've been.  Don't talk to me of masters."

    "O Tom, Tom," cried his wife, "but he's been a good master to you; fourteen shillings a week, regular wages—that's not a thing to make a sneer at; and think how warm the children are lapped up o' winter nights, and you with as good shoes to your feet as ever keep him out of the mud."

    "What of that?" said Tom, "isn't my labour worth the money?  I'm not beholden to my employer.  He gets as good from me as he gives."

    "Very like, Tom.  There's not a man for miles round that can match you at a graft; and as to early peas—but if master can't do without you, I'm sure you can't do without him.  Oh dear, to think that you and he should have had words!"

    "We've had no words," said Tom, impatiently; "but I'm sick of being at another man's beck and call.  It's Tom do this,' and 'Tom do that,' and nothing but work, work, work, from Monday morning till Saturday night; and I was thinking, as I walked over to Squire Morton's to ask for the turnip seed for master— I was thinking, Sally, that I am nothing but a poor working man after all.  In short, I'm a slave, and my spirit won't stand it."

    So saying, Tom flung himself out at the cottage door, and his wife thought he was going back to his work as usual.  But she was mistaken; he walked to the wood, and there, when he came to the border of a little tinkling stream, he sat down, and began to brood over his grievances.  It was a very hot day.

    "Now, I'll tell you what," said Tom to himself, "it's a great deal pleasanter sitting here in the shade than broiling over celery trenches; and then thinning of wall fruit, with a baking sun at one's back, and a hot wall before one's eyes.  But I'm a miserable slave.  I must either work or see 'em starve; a very hard lot it is to be a working-man.  But it is not only the work that I complain of, but being obliged to work just as he pleases.  It's enough to spoil any man's temper to be told to dig up those asparagus beds just when they were getting to be the very pride of the parish.  And what for?  Why, to make room for Madam's new gravel walk, that she mayn't wet her feet going over the grass.  Now, I ask you," continued Tom, still talking to himself, "whether that isn't enough to spoil any man's temper?"

    "Ahem!" said a voice close to him.

    Tom started, and to his great surprise, saw a small man, about the size of his own baby, sitting composedly at his elbow.  He was dressed in green—green hat, green coat, and green shoes.  He had very bright black eyes, and they twinkled very much as he looked at Tom and smiled.

    "Servant, sir!" said Tom, edging himself a little further off.

    "Miserable slave," said the small man, "art thou so far lost to the noble sense of freedom that thy very salutation acknowledges a mere stranger as thy master?"

    "Who are you," said Tom, "and how dare you call me a slave?"

    "Tom," said the small man, with a knowing look, "don't speak roughly.  Keep your rough words for your wife, my man, she is bound to bear them—what else is she for, in fact?"

    "I'll thank you to let my affairs alone," interrupted Tom, shortly.


    "Tom, I'm your friend; I think I can help you out of your difficulty.  I admire your spirit.  Would I demean myself to work for a master, and attend to all his whims?"  As he said this the small man stooped and looked very earnestly into the stream.  Drip, drip, drip, went the water over a little fall in the stones, and wetted the watercresses till they shone in the light, while the leaves fluttered overhead and chequered the moss with glittering spots of sunshine.  Tom watched the small man with earnest attention as he turned over the leaves of the tresses.  At last he saw him snatch something, which looked like a little fish, out of the water, and put it in his pocket.

    "It's my belief, Tom," he said, resuming the conversation, "that you have been puzzling your head with what people call Political Economy."

    "Never heard of such a thing," said Tom.  "But I've been thinking that I don't see why I'm to work any more than those that employ me."

    "Why, you see, Tom, you must have money.  Now it seems to me that there are but four ways of getting money: there's Stealing—"

    "Which won't suit me," interrupted Tom.

    "Very good.  Then there's Borrowing—"

    "Which I don't want to do."

    "And there's Begging—"

    "No, thank you," said Tom, stoutly.

    "And there's giving money's worth for the money; that is to say, Work, Labour."

    "Your words are as fine as a sermon," said Tom.

    "But look here, Tom," proceeded the man in green, drawing his hand out of his pocket, and showing a little dripping fish in his palm, "what do you call this?"

    "I call it a very small minnow," said Tom.

    "And do you see anything special about its tail?"

    "It looks uncommon bright," answered Tom, stooping to look at it.

    "It does," said the man in green, "and now I'll tell you a secret, for I'm resolved to be your friend.  Every minnow in this stream—they are very scarce, mind you—but every one of them has a silver tail."

    "You don't say so," exclaimed Tom, opening his eyes very wide; "fishing for minnows, and being one's own master, would be a great deal pleasanter than the sort of life I have been leading this many a day."

    "Well, keep the secret as to where you get them; and much good may it do you," said the man in green.  "Farewell, I wish you joy of your freedom."  So saying he walked away, leaving Tom on the brink of the stream, full of joy and pride.

    He went to his master, and told him that he had an opportunity for bettering himself, and should not work for him any longer.  The next day he rose with the dawn, and went to work to search for minnows.  But of all the minnows in the world never were any so nimble as those with silver tails.  They were very shy too, and had as many turns and doubles as a hare; what a life they led him!  They made him troll up the stream for miles; then, just as he thought his chase was at an end, and he was sure of them, they would leap quite out of the water, and dart down the stream again like little silver arrows.  Miles and miles he went, tired, and wet, and hungry.  He came home late in the evening completely wearied and footsore, with only three minnows in his pocket, each with a silver tail.

    "But at any rate," he said to himself, as he lay down in his bed, "though they lead me a pretty life, and I have to work harder than ever, yet I certainly am free; no man can order me about now."

    This went on for a whole week; he worked very hard; but on Saturday afternoon he had only caught fourteen minnows.

    "If it wasn't for the pride of the thing," he said to himself, "I'd have no more to do with fishing for minnows.  This is the hardest work I ever did.  I am quite a slave to them.  I rush up and down, I dodge in and out, I splash myself, and fret myself, and broil myself in the sun, and all for the sake of a dumb thing, that gets the better of me with a wag of its fins.  But it's no use standing here talking; I must set off to the town and sell them, or Sally will wonder why I don't bring her the week's money."  So he walked to the town, and offered his fish for sale as great curiosities.

    "Very pretty," said the first people he showed them to; but "they never bought anything that was not useful."

    "Were they good to eat?" asked the woman at the next house.  "No!  Then they would not have them."

    "Much too dear," said a third.

    "And not so very curious," said a fourth; "but they hoped he had come by them honestly."  At the fifth house they said, "O! pooh!" when he exhibited them.  "No, no, they were not quite so silly as to believe there were fish in the world with silver tails; if there had been, they should often have heard of them before."

    At the sixth house they were such a very long time turning over his fish, pinching their tails, bargaining and discussing them, that he ventured to remonstrate, and request that they would make more haste.  Thereupon they said that if he did not choose to wait their pleasure, they would not purchase at all.  So they shut the door upon him, and as this soured his temper, he spoke rather roughly at the next two houses, and was dismissed at once as a very rude, uncivil person.

    But, after all, his fish were really great curiosities; and when he had exhibited them all over the town, set them out in all lights, praised their perfections, and taken immense pains to conceal his impatience and ill temper, he at length contrived to sell them all, and got exactly fourteen shillings for them, and no more.

    "Now, I'll tell you what, Tom Turner," he said to himself, "in my opinion you've been making a great fool of yourself, and I only hope Sally will not find it out.  You was tired of being a workingman, and that man in green has cheated you into doing the hardest week's work you ever did in your life by making you believe it was more free-like and easier.  Well, you said you didn't mind it, because you had no master; but I've found out this afternoon, Tom, and I don't mind your knowing it, that every one of those customers of yours was your master just the same.  Why! you were at the beck of every man, woman, and child that came near you—obliged to be in a good temper, too, which was very aggravating."

    "True, Tom," said the man in green, starting up in his path, "I knew you were a man of sense; look you, you're all working-men, and you must all please your customers.  Your master was your customer; what he bought of you was your work.  Well, you must let the work be such as will please the customer."

    "All working-men; how do you make that out?" said Tom, chinking the fourteen shillings in his hand.  "Is my master a working-man? and has he got a master of his own?  Nonsense!"

    "No nonsense at all;—he works with his head, keeps his books, and manages his great works.  He has many masters, else why was he nearly ruined last year?"

    "He was nearly ruined because he made some new-fangled kind of patterns at his works, and people would not buy them," said Tom.  "Well, in a way of speaking, then, he works to please his masters, poor fellow!  He is, as one may say, a fellow-servant, and plagued with very awkward masters!  So I should not mind his being my master, and I think I'll go and tell him so."

    "I would, Tom," said the man in green.  "Tell him you have not been able to better yourself, and you have no objection now to dig up the asparagus bed."

    So Tom trudged home to his wife, gave her the money he had earned, got his old master to take him back, and kept secret his adventures with the man in green, and the fish with the silver tails.


The Golden Opportunity.

NOT many things have happened to me in the course of my life which can be called events.  One great event, as I then thought it, happened when I was eight years old.  On that birthday I first possessed a piece of gold.

    How well I remember the occasion!  I had a holiday, and was reading aloud to my mother.  The book was the "Life of Howard, the philanthropist."  I was interested in it, though the style was considerably above my comprehension; at last I came to the following sentence, which I could make nothing of: "He could not let slip such a golden opportunity for doing good."

    "What is a golden opportunity?" I inquired.

    "It means a very good opportunity."

    "But, mamma, why do they call it golden?"

    My mamma smiled, and said it was a figurative expression; "Gold is very valuable and very uncommon; this opportunity was a very valuable and uncommon one; we can express that in one word, by calling it a golden opportunity."

    I pondered upon the information for some time, and then made a reply to the effect, that all the golden opportunities seemed to happen to very rich people, or people who lived a long time ago, or else to great men, whose lives we can read in books—very great men, such as Wilberforce and Howard; but they never happened to real people, whom we could see every day, nor to children.

    "To children like you, Orris?" said my mother; "why, what kind of a golden opportunity are you wishing for just now?"

    My reply was childish enough.

    "If I were a great man I should like to sail after the slave ships, fight them, and take back the poor slaves to their own country.  Or I should like to do something like what Quintus Curtius did.  Not exactly like that; because you know, mamma, if I were to jump into a gulf, that would not really make it close."

    "No," said my mother, "it would not."

    "And, besides," I reasoned, "if it had closed, I should never have known of the good I had done, because I should have been killed."

    "Certainly," said my mother; I saw her smile, and thinking it was at the folly of my last wish, hastened to bring forward a wiser one.

    "I think I should like to be a great lady, and then if there had been a bad harvest, and all the poor people on my lord's land were nearly starving, I should like to come down to them with a purse full of money, and divide it among them.  But you see, mamma, I have no golden opportunities."

    "My dear, we all have some opportunities for doing good, and they are golden, or not, according to the use we make of them."

    "But, mamma, we cannot get people released out of prison, as Howard did."

    "No, but sometimes, by instructing them in their duty, by providing them with work, so that they shall earn bread enough, and not be tempted, and driven by hunger to steal, we can prevent some people from being ever put in prison."

    My mother continued to explain that those who really desired to do good never wanted opportunities, and that the difference between Howard and other people was more in perseverance and earnestness than in circumstances.  But I do not profess to remember much of what she said; I only know that, very shortly, she took me into my grandfather's study, and sitting down, began busily to mend a heap of pens which lay beside him on the table.

    He was correcting proof-sheets, and, knowing that I must not talk, I stood awhile very quietly watching him.

    Presently I saw him mark out a letter in the page, make a long stroke in the margin, and write a letter d beside it.

    Curiosity was too much for my prudence; I could not help saying

    "Grandpapa, what did you write that letter d for?"

    "There was a letter too much in the word, child," he replied; I spell 'potatoes' with only one p, and I want the printer to put out the second."

    "Then d stands for don't, I suppose," was my next observation; "it means don't put it in."

    "Yes, child, yes; something like that."

    If it had not been my birthday I should not have had courage to interrupt him again.  "But, grandpapa, 'do' begins with d, so how is the printer to know whether you mean 'do' or 'don't'?"

    My grandfather said "Pshaw!" turned short round upon my mother, and asked her if she had heard what I said?

    My mother admitted that it was a childish observation.

    "Childish!" repeated my grandfather, "childish! she'll never be anything but a child—never; she has no reasoning faculties at all."  When my grandfather was displeased with me, he never scolded me for the fault of the moment, but inveighed against me in the peice, as a draper would say.

    "Did you ever talk nonsense at her age—ever play with a penny doll, and sing to a kitten?  I should think not."

    "I was of a different disposition," said my mother, gently.

    "Ay," said the old man, "that you were.  Why, I wouldn't trust this child, as I trusted you, for the world; you were quite a little woman, could pay bills, or take charge of keys; but this child has no discretion—no head-piece.  She says things that are wide of the mark.  She's—well, my dear, I didn't mean to vex you—she's a nice child enough, but, bless me, she never thinks, and never reasons about anything."

    He was mistaken.  I was thinking and reasoning at that moment.  I was thinking how delightful it would be if I might have the cellar keys, and all the other keys hanging to my side, so that everyone might see that I was trusted with them; and I was reasoning, that perhaps my mother had behaved like a little woman, because she was treated like one.

    "My dear, I did not mean that she was worse than many other children," repeated my grandfather; "come here, child, and I'll kiss you."

    My mother pleaded, by way of apology for me, "She has a very good memory."

    "Memory! ay, there's another disadvantage.  She remembers everything; she's a mere parrot.  Why, when you, at her age, wanted a punishment, if I set you twenty lines of poetry, they'd keep you quiet for an hour.  Set this child eighty—knows 'em directly, and there's time wasted in hearing her say 'em into the bargain."

    "I hope she will become more thoughtful as she grows older," said my mother gently.

    "I hope she will; there's room for improvement.  Come and sit on my knee, child.  So this is your birthday.  Well, I suppose I must give you some present or other.  Leave the child with me, my dear.  I'll take care of her.  But I won't detain you, for the proofs are all ready.  Open the door for your mother, Orris.  Ah! you'll never be anything like her—never."

    I did as he desired, and then my grandfather, looking at me with comical gravity, took out a leathern purse, and dived with his fingers among the contents.  "When I was a little boy, as old as you are, nobody gave me any money."

    Encouraged by his returning good-humour, I drew closer and peeped into the purse.  There were as many as six or eight sovereigns in it.  I thought what a rich man my grandfather was, and when he took out a small coin and laid it on my palm, I could scarcely believe it was for me.

    "Do you know what that is, child?"

    "A half-sovereign, grandpapa."

    "Well, do you think you could spend it?"

    "Oh yes, grandpapa."

    "'Oh yes!' and she opens her eyes!  Ah, child, child! that money was worth ten shillings when it was in my purse, and I wouldn't give sixpence for anything it will buy, now it has once touched your little fingers."

    "Did you give it me to spend exactly as I like, grandpapa?"

    "To be sure, child—there, take it—it's worth nothing to you, my dear."

    "Nothing to me!  The half-sovereign worth nothing to me! why, grandpapa?"

    "Nothing worth mentioning; you have no real wants; you have clothes, food, and shelter, without this half-sovereign."

    "Oh yes; but, grandpapa, I think it must be worth ten times as much to me as to you; I have only this one, and you have quantities; I shouldn't wonder if you have thirty or forty half-sovereigns, and a great many shillings and half-crowns besides, to spend every year."

    "I shouldn't wonder!"

    "And I have only one.  I can't think, grand-papa, what you do with all your money; if I had it I would buy so many delightful things with it."

    "No doubt! kaleidoscopes and magic lanterns, and all sorts of trash.  But, unfortunately, you have not got it; you have only one half-sovereign to throw away."

    "But perhaps I shall not throw it away; perhaps I shall try and do some good with it."

    "Do some good with it!  Bless you, my dear, if you do but try to do some good with it, I shall not call it thrown away."

    I then related what I had been reading, and had nearly concluded when the housemaid came in.  She laid a crumbled piece of paper by his desk, and with it a shilling and a penny, saying, "There's the change, sir, out of your shoemaker's bill."

    My grandfather took it up, looked at it, and remarked that the shilling was a new one.  Then, with a generosity which I really am at a loss to account for, he actually, and on the spot, gave me both the shilling and the penny.

    There they lay in the palm of my hand, gold, silver, and copper.  He then gave me another kiss and abruptly dismissed me, saying that he had more writing to do; and I walked along the little passage with an exultation of heart that a queen might have envied, to show this unheard-of wealth to my mother.

    I remember laying the three coins upon a little table, and dancing round it, singing, "There's a golden opportunity! and there's a silver opportunity! and there's a copper opportunity!" and having continued this exercise till I was quite tired, I spent the rest of the morning in making three little silk bags, one for each of them, previously rubbing the penny with sand-paper, to make it bright and clean.

    Visions and dreams floated through my brain as to the good I was to do with this property.  They were vain-glorious, but not selfish; but they were none of them fulfilled, and need not be recorded.  The next day, just as my lessons were finished, papa came in with his hat and stick in his hand; he was going to walk to the town, and offered to take me with him.

    It was always a treat to walk out with my father, especially when he went to the town.  I liked to look in at the shop-windows and admire their various contents.

    To the town therefore we went.  My father was going to the Mechanics' Institute, and could not take me in with him, but there was a certain basket maker, with whose wife I was often left on these occasions.  To this good woman he brought me, and went away, promising not to be long.

    And now, dear reader, whoever you may be, I beseech you judge not too harshly of me; remember I was but a child, and it is certain that if you are not a child yourself, there was a time when you were one.  Next door to the basket-maker's there was a toy-shop, and in its window I espied several new and very handsome toys.

    "Mr. Miller's window looks uncommon gay," said the old basket-maker, observing the direction of my eyes.

    "Uncommon," repeated his wife those new gimcracks from London is handsome surely."

    "Wife," said the old man, "there's no harm in missy's just taking a look at 'em—eh?"

    "Not a bit in the world, bless her," said the old woman; "I know she'll go no further, and come back here when she's looked 'em over."

    "Oh yes, indeed I will.  Mrs. Stebbs, may I go?"  The old woman nodded assent, and I was soon before the window.

    Splendid visions!  Oh, the enviable position of Mr. Miller!  How wonderful that he was not always playing with his toys, showing himself his magic lanterns, setting out his puzzles, and winding up his musical boxes.  Still more wonderful, that he could bear to part with them for mere money!

    I was lost in admiration when Mr. Miller's voice made me start—"Wouldn't you like to step inside, miss?"

    He said this so affably that I felt myself quite welcome, and was beguiled into entering.  In an instant he was behind the counter.  "What is the little article I can have the pleasure, miss—"

    "Oh!" I replied, blushing deeply, "I do not want to buy anything this morning, Mr. Miller."

    "Indeed, miss, that's rather a pity.  I'm sorry, miss, I confess, on your account.  I should like to have served you, while I have goods about me that I'm proud of.  In a week or two," and he looked pompously about him, "I should say in less time than that, they'll all be cleared out."

    "What! will they all be gone—all sold?" I exclaimed in dismay.

    "Just so, miss, such is the appreciation of the public;" and he carelessly took up a little cedar stick and played "The Blue Bells of Scotland" on the glass keys of a plaything piano.

    "This," he observed, coolly throwing down the stick and taking up an accordion, "this delightful little instrument is half-a-guinea—equal to the finest notes of the hautboy."  He drew it out, and in his skilful hands it "discoursed" music, which I thought the most excellent I had ever heard.

    But what is the use of minutely describing my temptation?  In ten minutes the accordion was folded up in silver paper, and I had parted with my cherished half-sovereign.

    As we walked home, I enlarged on the delight I should have in playing on my accordion.  "It is so easy, papa; you have only to draw it in and out; I can even play it at dinner-time, if you like, between the meat and the puddings.  You know the queen has a band, papa, to play while she dines, and so can you."

    My father abruptly declined this liberal offer so did my grandfather, when I repeated it to him, but I was relieved to find that he was not in the least surprised at the way in which I had spent his present.  This, however, did not prevent my feeling sundry twinges of regret when I remembered all my good intentions.  But, alas! my accordion soon cost me tears of bitter disappointment.  Whether from its faults, or my own, I could not tell, but draw it out, and twist it about as I might, it would not play "The Blue Bells of Scotland," or any other of my favourite tunes.  It was just like the piano, every tune must be learned; there was no music inside which only wanted winding out of it, as you wind the tunes out of barrel organs.

    My mother coming in some time during that melancholy afternoon, found me sitting at the foot of my little bed holding my accordion, and shedding over it some of the most bitter tears that shame and repentance had yet wrung from me.

    She looked astonished, and asked, "What is the matter, my child?"

    "Oh, mamma," I replied, as well as my sobs would let me, "I have bought this thing which won't play, and I have given Mr. Miller my golden opportunity."

    "What, have you spent your half-sovereign?  I thought you were going to put poor little Patty Morgan to school with it, and give her a new frock and tippet."

    My tears fell afresh at this, and I thought how pretty little Patty would have looked in the new frock, and that I should have put it on for her myself.  My mother sat down by me, took away the toy, and dried my eyes.  "Now, you see, my child," she observed, "one great difference between those who are earnestly desirous to do good, and those who only wish it lightly.  You had what you were wishing for—a good opportunity; for a child like you, an unusual opportunity for doing good.  You had the means of putting a poor little orphan to school for one whole year—think of that, Orris!  In one whole year she might have learned a great deal about the God who made her, and who gave His Son to die for her, and His Spirit to make her holy.  One whole year would have gone a great way towards teaching her to read the Bible; in one year she might have learned a great many hymns, and a great many useful things, which would have been of service to her when she was old enough to get her own living.  And for what have you thrown all this good from you and from her?"

    "I am very, very sorry.  I did not mean to buy the accordion; I forgot, when I heard Mr. Miller playing upon it, that I had better not listen; and I never remembered what I had done till it was mine, and folded up in paper."

    "You forgot till it was too late?"

    "Yes, mamma; but, oh, I am so sorry.  I am sure I shall never do so any more."

    "Do not say so, my child; I fear it will happen again, many, many times."

    "Many times?  Oh, mamma!  I will never go into Mr. Miller's shop again."

    "My dear child, do you think there is nothing in the world that can tempt you but Mr. Miller's shop?"

    "Even if I go there," I sobbed, in the bitterness of my sorrow, "it will not matter now, for I have now no half-sovereign left to spend; but if I had another, and he were to show me the most beautiful toys in the world, I would not buy them after this, not if they would play of themselves."

    "My dear, that may be true; you, perhaps, would not be tempted again when you were on your guard; but you know, Orris, you do not wish for another toy of that kind.  Are there no temptations against which you are not on your guard?"

    I thought my mother spoke in a tone of sorrow.  I knew she lamented my volatile disposition; and crying afresh, I said to her, "Oh, mamma, do you think that all my life I shall never do any good at all?"

    "If you try in your own strength I scarcely think you will.  Certainly you will do no good which will be acceptable to God."

    "Did I try in my own strength to-day?"

    "What do you think, Orris?  I leave it to you to decide."

    "I am afraid I did."

    "I am afraid so too: but you must not cry and sob in this way.  Let this morning's experience show you how open you are to temptation.  To let it make you think you shall never yield to such temptation again is the worst thing you can do you need help from above; seek it, my dear child, otherwise all your good resolutions will come to nothing."

    "And if I do seek it, mamma?"

    "Then, weak as you are, you will certainly be able to accomplish something.  It is impossible for me to take away your volatile disposition, and make you thoughtful and steady, but 'width God all things are possible.'"

    "It is a great pity that at the very moment when I want to think about right things, and good things, all sorts of nonsense comes into my head.  Grandpa says I am just like a whirlgig; and, besides, that I can never help laughing when I ought not, and I am always having lessons set me for running about and making such a noise when baby is asleep."

    "My dear child, you must not be discontented, these are certainly disadvantages; they will give you a great deal of trouble, and myself too; but you have one advantage that all children are not blessed with."

    "What is that, mamma?"

    "There are times when you sincerely wish to do good."

    "Yes, I think I really do, mamma; I had better fold up this thing, and put it away, for it only vexes me to see it.  I am sorry I have lost my golden opportunity."

    And so, not without tears, the toy was put away.  The silver and the copper remained, but there was an end of my golden opportunity.

    My birthday had been gone by a week, and still the shilling and the penny lay folded in their silken shrines.

    I had quite recovered my spirits, and was beginning to think how I should spend them, particularly the shilling, for I scarcely thought any good could be done with such a small sum as a penny.  Now there was a poor Irish boy in our neighbourhood, who had come with the reapers, and been left behind with a hurt in his leg.

    My mother had often been to see him.  While he was confined to his bed, she went regularly to read with him, and sometimes she sent me with our nursemaid to take him a dinner.

    He was now much better, and could get about a little.  To my mother's surprise she found that he could read perfectly well.  One day, when she met him, he "thanked her honour for all favours," and said he should soon be well enough to return to old Ireland.

    As we walked home one day my mother said to me, "Orris, if you like, I will tell you of a good way to spend your shilling.  You may buy poor Tim a Testament."

    I was delighted, and gave my immediate assent.

    "Well, then," said my mother, "that is settled.  I should have given one myself to Tim, if you had wished to spend your shilling in something else.  And now, remember, you must not change your mind; papa is going to the town to-morrow, you may go with him and get one then."

    To-morrow came, and with it a note to me from my two cousins, saying that they were coming over to spend the afternoon with me, and see my Indian corn, and my tobacco plants, which I had planted myself.

    I was very proud of my corn, and still more proud that my cousins should think it worth while to come and see it, for they were three or four years older than myself, and did not often take part in my amusements.

    By dint of great industry I finished my lessons an hour earlier than usual, and ran into the garden to see how my corn looked.  Old Gardener himself admitted that it was beautiful; the glossy, green leaves fell back like silken streamers, and displayed the grain with its many shades of green, gold, and brown.

    I thought how delightful it would be if I could build a kind of bower over against it, in which my cousins could sit and admire it at their leisure.  There were some hop plants growing just in the right place, I had only to untwist them; and there was a clematis that could easily be pressed into the service.

    I set to work, and, with a little help from Gardener, soon made two or three low arches, over which I carefully trained the flowering hops, and mingled them with the festoons of clematis.  The bower seemed to be worthy of a queen at the least; and no doubt it was really pretty.

    I was just carrying some pots of balsams in flower to set at the entrance, when my father came up.  "Well, Orris," he said, "mamma tells me you want to go to the town.  Be quick if you do, for I am just ready to start."

    "Just ready!  Oh, papa, surely it is not one o'clock?  If I go this bower will never be finished by three."

    "Certainly not, we shall scarcely be home by three; but why need it be finished?"

    "Don't you remember, papa, that Elsy and Anne are coming?"

    "Oh, I had forgotten that important fact.  Well, then, if they are to sit in this bower, I think you must stay at home and finish it; you can go with me some other day."

    Now my father knew nothing about the Testament, or he would doubtless have given different advice.  While I hesitated, anxious to stay, and yet afraid not to go, my mother drew near, and I thought I would leave it to her to decide.

    "The child wants to finish her bower, my dear," said my father, "therefore, as it is not particularly convenient to me to have her to-day, she may stay at home if she likes, for, I presume, her errand is of no great consequence."

    My mother made no answer; in another moment he was gone, and I was left with a long hop tendril in my hand, and a face flushed with heat and agitation.

    I thought my mother would speak, and advise me to run after my father, but she did not; and I went on with my work, conscious that her eyes were upon me.

    Presently, to my great relief, Gardener came up, and asked her some questions about the flower-beds.  She went away with him, and I breathed more freely, comforting myself with the thought that I could easily buy the Testament another day.

    I worked faster than ever, partly to drive away reproachful thoughts.  The little bower was lovely; it was scarcely high enough for me to stand upright in, but it would be delightful, I knew, for us to sit under.  Gardener had been mowing, and when I had brought a quantity of sun-dried grass, and spread it thickly over the floor, I thought my bower an eighth wonder of the world.  My cousins came shortly, and confirmed me in this opinion; they spent a very happy afternoon, seated under it, and, but for remembering the Irish boy, I might have been happy also.  We were very quiet till after tea, and then I am sorry to say that our high spirits quite carried us away; we got into mischief, and my share of it was throwing an apple into the greenhouse, and breaking two panes of glass.  This was on a Saturday.

    On Sunday no one mentioned either this or the Irish boy; but on Monday, just as I had finished my lessons, I saw my father pass the window, and ventured to ask mamma if he was going to the town, and whether I might walk with him.

    "Why do you wish to go, Orris?" she inquired.

    "To buy the Testament, mamma, for poor Tim."

    "He is gone," said my mother; "he went away early this morning."

    I put on my garden bonnet, and went out, with a curious sensation, as if, when I did wrong, all circumstances conspired to punish me.  I turned the corner of the greenhouse, and there stood my father, looking at the broken panes.

    "Orris," he said, "did you do this mischief?"

    "Yes, papa."

    "This is the third time it has happened.  I have repeatedly forbidden you to play in this part of the garden."

    "I am very sorry, papa."

    "Your sorrow will not mend the glass, and I am afraid it will not make you more obedient another time."

    He spoke so gravely that I knew he really was displeased.  After a pause, he said

    "Have you got any money?"

    "I have a shilling, papa, and a penny."

    "It will cost me more than that to repair this damage; I shall be obliged to claim forfeit of the shilling."

    I wiped away two or three tears, and produced my little silk bag; he turned it over, and bit his lips; perhaps its elaborate workmanship made him understand that a shilling was much more for me to give up than for him to receive.

    "Is this all you have got?" he inquired.

    "Excepting the penny, papa," I replied; and, child as I was, I perfectly understood his vexation at having to take it from me.  He remained so long looking at it as it lay in his palm, that I even hoped he would return it, and say he would excuse me that once.  But no, he was too wise; he put it at last into his waistcoat pocket, and walked away, saying, "I hope this will make you more careful another time."

    He went towards the house, and I watched him till he entered.  Then I ran to my bower, sat down upon the dried grass, and began to cry as if my heart would break.

    Repentance and regret, though they may be keenly felt by a child, are not reasoned on very distinctly.  I had often been very sorry before, but whether from the fault, as distinct from the punishment, I had scarcely inquired.  I was heartily sorry now, not only for my disobedience, and because my father had forfeited the shilling, but because I saw it had vexed and hurt him to do it—not only because I had preferred pleasure to duty, neglected the opportunity for doing good, and lost it —but because the feeling, if not the words, of St. Paul pressed heavily upon my heart: "When I would do good, evil is present with me."

    I was still crying, when on a sudden, looking up, I saw my father standing before me, and watching me with evident regret.  My first impulse was to say, "Oh, papa, I was not crying about the shilling."

    He beckoned to me to rise out of my bower, and said, "Then what were you crying about, my little darling?"

    I tried not to sob; he led me to a garden seat and took me on his knee; then, with a great many tears, I told him all that I have now been telling you, and ended with a passion of crying.  "Oh, papa, do teach me to be different, and to wish the same thing when I am tempted, that I do when no pleasure tempts me.  Pray teach me to do good."

    "My dear child, God is teaching you now."

    "What, papa? when my golden opportunity is gone, and my silver opportunity has come to nothing?"

    "Quite true; but then you are doubly sure now, you know by ample experience, do you not—that of yourself you can do nothing."

    I was so convinced of it, that I was verging on an opposite fault of self-confidence.  I was almost doubting whether any assistance that I could hope to have would make me proof against temptation.

    But now was my father's "golden opportunity," and he availed himself of it.  Although I cannot remember his words, their influence remains to this day.  Certain sensations and impressions connected with that wise and fatherly conversation return upon me often, even now.  It conveyed to my mind the idea that this weakness itself was to be my strength, if it made me depend upon a stronger than myself; that this changeable disposition would make more precious to me the knowledge that "with God is no variableness, neither shadow of changing."

    When he ceased to speak, I said, with a sorrowful sigh, "And now, papa, there is only one penny left of all my opportunities!"

    "Well, my darling," he replied, "it is possible that you may do acceptable good even with that.  Remember what our Saviour said about the cup of cold water."

    "Yes," I said, "but the person who gave the cold water had nothing better to give; he had not a cup of milk, or a cup of wine, which he first wasted and threw away."

    "My dear, you need not inquire into that; you might have done better; but as there is still something to be done, 'do it with thy might.'"

    When I was quite calm again, and almost happy, he sent me into the house to play at ball.  As I passed the kitchen door, a poor old woman whom my mother used sometimes to help, turned from it, and I heard the housemaid say, "Mistress has just walked out, and I cannot say when she will be at home."

    She was hobbling away when I bethought me of my penny, took it out of its bag, and pulling her by the cloak, offered it to her.

    At first she did not seem to understand me, but when she saw my copper opportunity, which was as bright as sand-paper could render it, she gave me just the shadow of a smile, and taking it in her skinny hand, said, "I thank you kindly, my pretty."

    "Poor old creature," said the housemaid that will buy her a trifle, mayhap; she and her husband are going into the workhouse to-morrow."

    I passed into the house penniless, but in a subdued and humble state of mind.  The lessons I had had were not without good effect; but it cannot be expected that I can remember much of the working of my mind.  I only know that time did pass; that I went to bed, got up, said my lessons, and had my play for a long time, perhaps a fortnight.  At the end of about that time my little sister Sophy and I went out one day for a long walk with Matilda, our nurse, and took a basket with us to put flowers in, and blackberries, if we should be so fortunate as to find any.

    We walked a long way till Sophy was tired, and became clamorous to sit down; so Matilda led us to the entrance of a wood, and there we sat and rested on the steps of a stile.  There was a cottage near at hand; presently an old woman came out with a kettle in her hand, and I recognised her as the woman to whom I had given my penny.  She hobbled to the edge of a little stream which flowed close to our seat, and dipped her kettle in, but did not notice us till Matilda called to her.

    "How are you, Mrs. Grattan, and how's your old gentleman?"

    "Thank you kindly, girl, we be pretty moderate," was the reply.  "He," and she pointed with her stick to a field opposite, where several men were at work; "he be among them picking up stones—ha! ha!  He be as blithe as a boy."

    "We was all very glad up at the Grange to hear of your good luck," said Matilda, in the loudest tones of her cheerful voice, for the old woman was rather deaf.  "Our mistress was main glad, I'll assure you."

    "Ah! very kind on you all.  How be the old gentleman?"

    "Quite hearty."

    By this time she had reached us, set down her kettle, and taken her place beside Matilda.  I was busily plaiting straw, but I listened carelessly to their conversation.

    "And so you got your rent paid and all," said Matilda, turning her eager black eyes on the old woman, "What a good son Joe is to you!"

    "Ah, that he be, dear," was the reply; "that he be; wrote he did, so pretty, 'My dear mother,' he says, 'don't you go for to think I shall ever forget how good you was to me always, for I shall not,' he says—"

    Matilda's eyes flashed and glistened; she took a particular interest in this young man, though I did not know that till long afterwards.

    "Tell us how it all was?" she said, quickly.

    "Why, you see, dear, he was not my own, but I did as well as I could by him; and he be as fond of me like, ay, fonder, than he be of his father."

    "Yes, I know," said Matilda.

    "Well, dear, I went to Mr. T.'s house" (my father's), "and I was very down at heart—very, I was; for Mr. Ball, he'd been that morning, and says he, 'It signifies nothing that you've lived here so long,' he says, 'if you can't pay the rent.'  I says, 'Mr. Ball, will you please to consider these weeks and weeks that my poor old man has been laid up wi' rheumatize.'  'But,' he says, 'I can put in younger and stronger than him; and besides that,' he says, 'I know you owe money at the shop, over all you owe to my employer.'"

    "He was always a hard man," said Matilda.

    "Well, dear, he says, 'It ain't no use my deceiving of you, Mrs. Grattan, but I must sell you up, for,' says he, 'the money I must have, and you must go into the workhouse; it's the best place by half for such as you.'  And, dear, it seemed hard, for, I'll assure you, we hadn't a half-ounce of tea, nor a lump of coal in the house, for we was willing, my old man and me, to strive to the last to pay our owings, and we was living very hard."

    "How much did you owe?" asked Matilda.

    "Over three pounds, dear; and then the rent was four.  I hadn't one halfpenny in the house; I paid the baker Thursday was a week; t'other four was for the doctor, and we was hungry and cold, we was; but the Lord be praised, we ain't now."

    "Ah! Joe's a good son."

    "As good as ever breathed, dear; but we hadn't heard from him of a long while, by reason his regiment was up the country, but you'll understand I didn't know that till I got his letter.  And so we was to be sold up, and go into the house.  I fretted a deal, and then I thought I'd go and tell your missis—she be a good friend.  But decry me!  I owed such a world o' money; only, thinks I, she'll be main sorry to hear we must go, and a body likes somebody to be sorry."

    "Ah! to be sure they do," said Matilda.

    "But she was out, and so I got nothing, only this child, bless her! she runs up and gives me a penny; but, deary me, thinks I, what's a penny to them as owes £7 2s.  But, thinks I, my old man and me, we won't cry together in the dark this last night; so I walked on to the town with it to buy a halfpenny candle of Mr. Sims, at the post-office.  I was half way there from my place, and when I got into the shop, 'Sit you down, Mrs. Grattan,' he, for he saw I was main tired; 'I haven't seen you of a long time.'

    "'And that's true, Mr. Sims,' says I, 'for it's little enough I have to lay out, and the shop t'other side of the turnpike be nigher.'

    "Well, I sat me down; maybe a quarter of an hour after I'd bought my candle, and just as I was agoing, in comes Mrs. Sims, and, says she, 'Is that Grattan's wife?'

    "'Ay,' says he."

    "'Well,' says she, 'I reckon you remembered to give her that letter.'

    "'A good thing you spoke, my dear,' says he, 'I should have forgot it—that I should.'

    "If you'll believe me, I trembled like a leaf, to think I should so near have missed it.  'Be it a letter from the Indies?' says I.

    "'Ay,' says he, that it is, and nothing to pay on it; and it's marked,' "To be left at the post-office till called for.'

    "Well, dear, I took it home, and waited for my old man to come home, by reason I can't read, and about dusk he comes in, and we lights the candle, and my old man he read it right out, for he's a fine scholar.  And there was two five-pound notes inside, bless him; and he says, 'Mother, I've got made sergeant, and now I shall send to you regular."'

    "Well, I've heard no better news this many a day!" said Matilda.

    "It was good, dear.  Well, I paid the doctor, and when Mr. Ball came next day, says I, 'There's the money, sir,' and he stared.  'Indeed,' he says; 'I am surprised, but them that pay can stay.'  So, you see, there's money to spend, more money, dear, when we be laid up with the rheumatic."  Upon this she laughed with genuine joy, and, taking up her kettle, wished Matilda good afternoon, and hobbled away.

    And I knew, though it had never occurred to the old woman, that all this happiness was owing to my penny!  If she had not had it to spend, she would not have walked to the post-office, she would not have got her son's letter, that precious letter which had saved her from misery and the workhouse.

    How happy I was as we walked home; I seemed to tread on air, and yet I knew of how little value the penny really was; it was only my having been permitted to give it under such peculiar circumstances that had made it such a worthy and important coin.

    The lesson taught me by these little events I did not easily forget, and I think their moral is too obvious to need elaborate enforcing.  It may, however, be summed up in a few words.

    First,—Do not expect that in your own strength you can make use of even the best opportunity for doing good.

    Second,—Do not put off till another day any good which it is in the power of your hand to do at once.

    And thirdly,—Do not despond because your means of doing good appear trifling and insignificant, for though one soweth and another reapeth, yet it is God that giveth the increase; and who can tell whether He will not cause that which is sown to bear fruit an hundredfold; who can tell whether to have even a penny to give under certain circumstances may not be to have no Copper—but a Golden Opportunity.


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