Pansy (aka. Isabella M. Alden)
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Joel Erickson, Lisa Zeug and PG Distributed Proofreaders
[Transcriber's note: The spelling inconsistencies of the original have
been retained in this etext.]
[Illustration: SADIE HAD A GLIMMERING OF SOME STRANGE CHANGE AS SHE
EYED HER SISTER CURIOUSLY.--_Page 263_.]
AUTHOR OF "JULIA RIED," "THE KING'S DAUGHTER," "WISE AND OTHERWISE,"
"ESTER RIED YET SPEAKING," "ESTER RIED'S NAMESAKE," ETC.
_ILLUSTRATED BY ELIZABETH WITHINGTON_
BOSTON LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.
PANSY TRADE-MARK Registered in U.S. Patent Office.
Norwood Press: Berwick & Smith Co., Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
CHAPTER I. ESTER'S HOME
CHAPTER II. WHAT SADIE THOUGHT
CHAPTER III. FLORENCE VANE
CHAPTER IV. THE SUNDAY LESSON
CHAPTER V. THE POOR LITTLE FISH
CHAPTER VI. SOMETHING HAPPENS
CHAPTER VII. JOURNEYING
CHAPTER VIII. JOURNEY'S END
CHAPTER IX. COUSIN ABBIE
CHAPTER X. ESTER'S MINISTER
CHAPTER XI. THE NEW BOARDER
CHAPTER XII. THREE PEOPLE
CHAPTER XIII. THE STRANGE CHRISTIAN
CHAPTER XIV. THE LITTLE CARD
CHAPTER XV. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
CHAPTER XVI. A VICTORY
CHAPTER XVII. STEPPING BETWEEN
CHAPTER XVIII. LIGHT OUT OF DARKNESS
CHAPTER XIX. SUNDRIES
CHAPTER XX. AT HOME
CHAPTER XXI. TESTED
CHAPTER XXII. "LITTLE PLUM PIES"
CHAPTER XXIII. CROSSES
CHAPTER XXIV. GOD'S WAY
CHAPTER XXV. SADIE SURROUNDED
CHAPTER XXVI. CONFUSION--CROSS-BEARING--CONSEQUENCE
CHAPTER XXVII. THE TIME TO SLEEP
CHAPTER XXVIII. AT LAST
ASLEEP AND AWAKE
She did not look very much as if she were asleep, nor acted as though
she expected to get a chance to be very soon. There was no end to the
things which she had to do, for the kitchen was long and wide, and
took many steps to set it in order, and it was drawing toward tea-time
of a Tuesday evening, and there were fifteen boarders who were, most
of them, punctual to a minute.
Sadie, the next oldest sister, was still at the academy, as also
were Alfred and Julia, while little Minnie, the pet and darling, most
certainly was _not_. She was around in the way, putting little fingers
into every possible place where little fingers ought not to be. It
was well for her that, no matter how warm, and vexed, and out of order
Ester might be, she never reached the point in which her voice could
take other than a loving tone in speaking to Minnie; for Minnie,
besides being a precious little blessing in herself, was the child of
Ester's oldest sister, whose home was far away in a Western graveyard,
and the little girl had been with them since her early babyhood, three
So Ester hurried to and from the pantry, with quick, nervous
movements, as the sun went toward the west, saying to Maggie who was
ironing with all possible speed:
"Maggie, do _hurry_, and get ready to help me, or I shall never have
tea ready:" Saying it in a sharp fretful tone. Then: "No, no, Birdie,
don't touch!" in quite a different tone to Minnie, who laid loving
hands on a box of raisins.
"I _am_ hurrying as fast as I _can_!" Maggie made answer. "But such an
ironing as I have every week can't be finished in a minute."
"Well, well! Don't talk; that won't hurry matters any."
Sadie Ried opened the door that led from the dining-room to the
kitchen, and peeped in a thoughtless young head, covered with bright
"How are you, Ester?"
And she emerged fully into the great warm kitchen, looking like a
bright flower picked from the garden, and put out of place. Her pink
gingham dress, and white, ruffled apron--yes, and the very school
books which she swung by their strap, waking a smothered sigh in
"O, my patience!" was her greeting.
"Are _you_ home? Then school is out".
"I guess it _is_," said Sadie. "We've been down to the river since
"Sadie, won't you come and cut the beef and cake, and make the tea? I
did not know it was so late, and I'm nearly tired to death."
Sadie looked sober. "I would in a minute, Ester, only I've brought
Florence Vane home with me, and I should not know what to do with her
in the meantime. Besides, Mr. Hammond said he would show me about my
algebra if I'd go out on the piazza this minute."
"Well, _go_ then, and tell Mr. Hammond to wait for his tea until he
gets it!" Ester answered, crossly.
"Here, Julia"--to the ten-year old newcomer--"Go away from that
raisin-box, this minute. Go up stairs out of my way, and Alfred too.
Sadie, take Minnie with you; I can't have her here another instant.
You can afford to do that much, perhaps."
"O, Ester, you're cross!" said Sadie, in a good-humored tone, coming
forward after the little girl.
"Come, Birdie, Auntie Essie's cross, isn't she? Come with Aunt Sadie.
We'll go to the piazza and make Mr. Hammond tell us a story."
And Minnie--Ester's darling, who never received other than loving
words from her--went gleefully off, leaving another heartburn to the
weary girl. They _stung_ her, those words: "Auntie Essie's cross,
Back and forth, from dining-room to pantry, from pantry to
dining-room, went the quick feet At last she spoke:
"Maggie, leave the ironing and help me; it is time tea was ready."
"I'm just ironing Mr. Holland's shirt," objected Maggie.
"Well, I don't care if Mr. Holland _never_ has another shirt ironed.
I want you to go to the spring for water and fill the table-pitchers,
and do a dozen other things."
The tall clock in the dining-room struck five, and the dining-bell
pealed out its prompt summons through the house. The family gathered
promptly and noisily--school-girls, half a dozen or more, Mr. Hammond,
the principal of the academy, Miss Molten, the preceptress, Mrs.
Brookley, the music-teacher, Dr. Van Anden, the new physician, Mr.
and Mrs. Holland, and Mr. Arnett, Mr. Holland's clerk. There was a
moment's hush while Mr. Hammond asked a blessing on the food; then the
merry talk went on. For them all Maggie poured cups of tea, and
Ester passed bread and butter, and beef and cheese, and Sadie gave
overflowing dishes of blackberries, and chattered like a magpie, which
last she did everywhere and always.
"This has been one of the scorching days," Mr. Holland said. "It was
as much as I could do to keep cool in the store, and we generally ARE
well off for a breeze there."
"It has been more than _I_ could do to keep cool anywhere," Mrs.
Holland answered. "I gave it up long ago in despair."
Ester's lip curled a little. Mrs. Holland had nothing in the world to
do, from morning until night, but to keep herself cool. She wondered
what the lady would have said to the glowing kitchen, where _she_ had
passed most of the day.
"Miss Ester looks as though the heat had been too much for her
cheeks," Mrs. Brookley said, laughing. "What _have_ you been doing?"
"Something besides keeping cool," Ester answered soberly.
"Which is a difficult thing to do, however," Dr. Van Anden said,
speaking soberly too.
"I don't know, sir; if I had nothing to do but that, I think I could
"I have found trouble sometimes in keeping myself at the right
temperature even in January."
Ester's cheeks glowed yet more. She understood Dr. Van Anden, and she
knew her face did not look very self-controlled. No one knows what
prompted Minnie to speak just then.
"Aunt Sadie said Auntie Essie was cross. Were you, Auntie Essie?"
The household laughed, and Sadie came to the rescue.
"Why, Minnie! you must not tell what Aunt Sadie says. It is just as
sure to be nonsense as it is that you are a chatter-box."
Ester thought that they would _never_ all finish their supper and
depart; but the latest comer strolled away at last, and she hurried to
toast a slice of bread, make a fresh cup of tea, and send Julia after
Sadie hovered around the pale, sad-faced woman while she ate.
"Are you _truly_ better, mother? I've been worried half to pieces
about you all day."
"O, yes; I'm better. Ester, you look dreadfully tired. Have you much
more to do?"
"Only to trim the lamps, and make three beds that I had not time for
this morning, and get things ready for breakfast, and finish Sadie's
"Can't Maggie do any of these things?"
"Maggie is ironing."
Mrs. Ried sighed. "It is a good thing that I don't have the sick
headache very often," she said sadly; "or you would soon wear yourself
out. Sadie, are you going to the lyceum tonight?"
"Yes, ma'am. Your worthy daughter has the honor of being editress, you
know, to-night. Ester, can't you go down? Never mind that dress; let
it go to Guinea."
"You wouldn't think so by to-morrow evening," Ester said, shortly.
"No, I can't go."
The work was all done at last, and Ester betook herself to her room.
How tired she was! Every nerve seemed to quiver with weariness.
It was a pleasant little room, this one which she entered, with its
low windows looking out toward the river, and its cosy furniture all
neatly arranged by Sadie's tasteful fingers.
Ester seated herself by the open window, and looked down on the group
who lingered on the piazza below--looked _down_ on them with her eyes
and with her heart; yet envied while she looked, envied their free
and easy life, without a care to harass them, so _she_ thought; envied
Sadie her daily attendance at the academy, a matter which she _so_
early in life had been obliged to have done with; envied Mrs. Holland
the very ribbons and laces which fluttered in the evening air. It had
grown cooler now, a strong breeze blew up from the river and freshened
the air; and, as they sat below there enjoying it, the sound of their
gay voices came up to her.
"What do they know about heat, or care, or trouble?" she said
scornfully, thinking over all the weight of _her_ eighteen years of
life; she hated it, this life of hers, _just_ hated it--the sweeping,
dusting, making beds, trimming lamps, _working_ from morning till
night; no time for reading, or study, or pleasure. Sadie had said she
was cross, and Sadie had told the truth; she _was_ cross most of the
time, fretted with her every-day petty cares and fatigues.
"O!" she said, over and over, "if something would _only_ happen; if I
could have one day, just _one_ day, different from the others; but
no, it's the same old thing--sweep and dust, and clear up, and eat and
sleep. I _hate_ it all."
Yet, had Ester nothing for which to be thankful that the group on the
piazza had not?
If she had but thought, she had a robe, and a crown, and a harp, and
a place waiting for her, up before the throne of God; and all they had
Ester did not think of this; so much asleep was she, that she did not
even know that none of those gay hearts down there below her had been
given up to Christ. Not one of them; for the academy teachers and Dr.
Van Anden were not among them. O, Ester was asleep! She went to church
on the Sabbath, and to preparatory lecture on a week day; she read a
few verses in her Bible, _frequently_, not every day; she knelt at her
bedside every night, and said a few words of prayer--and this was all!
She lay at night side by side with a young sister, who had no claim
to a home in heaven, and never spoke to her of Jesus. She worked
daily side by side with a mother who, through many trials and
discouragements, was living a Christian life, and never talked with
her of their future rest. She met daily, sometimes almost hourly, a
large household, and never so much as thought of asking them if they,
too, were going, some day, home to God. She helped her young brother
and sister with their geography lessons, and never mentioned to them
the heavenly country whither they themselves might journey. She took
the darling of the family often in her arms, and told her stories of
"Bo Peep," and the "Babes in the Wood," and "Robin Redbreast," and
never one of Jesus and his call for the tender lambs!
This was Ester, and this was Ester's home.
WHAT SADIE THOUGHT.
Sadie Ried was the merriest, most thoughtless young creature of
sixteen years that ever brightened and bothered a home. Merry from
morning until night, with scarcely ever a pause in her constant flow
of fun; thoughtless, nearly always selfish too, as the constantly
thoughtless always are. Not sullenly and crossly selfish by any means,
only so used to think of self, so taught to consider herself utterly
useless as regarded home, and home cares and duties, that she opened
her bright brown eyes in wonder whenever she was called upon for help.
It was a very bright and very busy Saturday morning.
"Sadie!" Mrs. Ried called, "can't you come and wash up these baking
dishes? Maggie is mopping, and Ester has her hands full with the
"Yes, ma'am," said Sadie, appearing promptly from the dining-room,
with Minnie perched triumphantly on her shoulder. "Here I am, at your
service. Where are they?"
Ester glanced up. "I'd go and put on my white dress first, if I were
you," she said significantly.
And Sadie looked down on her pink gingham, ruffled apron, shining
cuffs, and laughed.
"O, I'll take off my cuffs, and put on this distressingly big apron of
yours, which hangs behind the door; then I'll do."
"That's my clean apron; I don't wash dishes in it."
"O, bless your careful heart! I won't hurt it the least speck in the
world. Will I, Birdie?"
And she proceeded to wrap her tiny self in the long, wide apron.
"Not _that_ pan, child!" exclaimed her mother "That's a milk-pan."
"O," said Sadie, "I thought it was pretty shiny. My! what a great pan.
Don't you come near me, Birdie, or you'll tumble in and drown yourself
before I could fish you out with the dish-cloth. Where is that
article? Ester, it needs a patch on it; there's a great hole in the
middle, and it twists every way."
"Patch it, then," said Ester, dryly.
"Well, now I'm ready, here goes. Do you want _these_ washed?" And she
seized upon a stack of tins which stood on Ester's table.
"_Do_ let things alone!" said Ester. "Those are my baking-tins, ready
for use; now you've got them wet, and I shall have to go all over them
"How will you go, Ester? On foot? They look pretty greasy; you'll
"I wish you would go up stairs. I'd rather wash dishes all the
forenoon than have you in the way."
"Birdie," said Sadie gravely, "you and I musn't go near Auntie Essie
again. She's a 'bowwow,' and I'm afraid she'll bite."
Mrs. Ried laughed. She had no idea how sharply Ester had been tried
with petty vexations all that morning, nor how bitter those words
sounded to her.
"Come, Sadie," she said; "what a silly child you are. Can't you do
_any thing_ soberly?"
"I should think I might, ma'am, when I have such a sober and solemn
employment on hand as dish-washing. Does it require a great deal
of gravity, mother? Here, Robin Redbreast, keep your beak out of my
Minnie, in the mean time, had been seated on the table, directly in
front of the dish-pan.
Mrs. Ried looked around. "O Sadie! what _possessed_ you to put her up
"To keep her out of mischief, mother. She's Jack Horner's little
sister, and would have had every plum in your pie down her throat,
by this time, if she could have got to them. See here, pussy, if you
don't keep your feet still, I'll tie them fast to the pan with this
long towel, when you'll have to go around all the days of your life
with a dish-pan clattering after you."
But Minnie was bent on a frolic. This time the tiny feet kicked a
little too hard; and the pan being drawn too near the edge, in order
to be out of her reach, lost its balance--over it went.
"O, my patience!" screamed Sadie, as the water splashed over her, even
down to the white stockings and daintily slippered feet.
Minnie lifted up her voice, and added to the general uproar. Ester
left the eggs she was beating, and picked up broken dishes. Mrs.
Ried's voice arose above the din:
"Sadie, take Minnie and go up stairs. You're too full of play to be in
"Mother, I'm _real_ sorry," said Sadie, shaking herself out of the
great wet apron, laughing even then at the plight she was in.
"Pet, don't cry. We didn't drown after all."
"_Well_! Miss Sadie," Mr. Hammond said, as he met them in the hall.
"What have you been up to now?"
"Why, Mr. Hammond, there's been another deluge; this time of
dish-water, and Birdie and I are escaping for our lives."
"If there is one class of people in this world more disagreeable than
all the rest, it is people who call themselves Christians."
This remark Mr. Harry Arnett made that same Saturday evening, as he
stood on the piazza waiting for Mrs. Holland's letters. And he made it
to Sadie Ried.
"Why, Harry!" she answered, in a shocked tone.
"It's a _fact_, Sadie. You just think a bit, and you'll see it is.
They're no better nor pleasanter than other people, and all the while
they think they're about right."
"What has put you into that state of mind, Harry?"
"O, some things which happened at the store to-day suggested this
matter to me. Never mind that part. Isn't it so?"
"There's my mother," Sadie said thoughtfully. "She is good."
"Not because she's a Christian though; it's because she's your mother.
You'd have to look till you were gray to find a better mother than
I've got, and she isn't a Christian either."
"Well, I'm sure Mr. Hammond is a good man."
"Not a whit better or pleasanter than Mr. Holland, as far as I can
see. _I_ don't like him half so well. And Holland don't pretend to be
any better than the rest of us."
"Well," said Sadie, gleefully, "_I_ dont know many good people.
Miss Molton is a Christian, but I guess she is no better than Mrs.
Brookley, and _she_ isn't. There's Ester; she's a member of the
"And do you see as she gets on any better with her religion, than you
do without it? For _my_ part, I think you are considerably pleasanter
to deal with."
Sadie laughed. "We're no more alike than a bee and a butterfly, or any
other useless little thing," she said, brightly. "But you're very much
mistaken if you think I'm the best. Mother would lie down in despair
and die, and this house would come to naught at once, if it were not
Mr. Arnett shrugged his shoulders. "I _always_ liked butterflies
better than bees," he said. "Bees _sting_."
"Harry," said Sadie, speaking more gravely, "I'm afraid you're almost
"If I'm not, I can tell you one thing--it's not the fault of
Mrs. Holland tossed her letters down to him from the piazza above, and
Mr. Arnett went away.
Florence Vane came over from the cottage across the way--came with
slow, feeble steps, and sat down in the door beside her friend.
Presently Ester came out to them:
"Sadie, can't you go to the office for me? I forgot to send this
letter with the rest."
"Yes," said Sadie. "That is if you think you can go that little bit,
"I shall think for her," Dr. Van Anden said, coming down the stairs.
"Florence out here to-night, with the dew falling, and not even any
thing to protect your head. I am surprised!"
"Oh, Doctor, do let me enjoy this soft air for a few minutes."
"_Positively_, no. Either come in the house, or go home _directly_.
You are very imprudent. Miss Ester, _I'll_ mail your letters for you."
"What does Dr. Van Anden want to act like a simpleton about Florence
Vane for?" Ester asked this question late in the evening, when the
sisters were alone in their room.
Sadie paused in her merry chatter. "Why, Ester, what do you mean?
About her being out to-night? Why, you know, she ought to be very
careful; and I'm afraid she isn't. The doctor told her father this
morning he was afraid she would not live through the season, unless
she was more careful."
"Fudge!" said Ester. "He thinks he is a wise man; he wants to make her
out very sick, so that he may have the honor of helping her. I don't
see as she looks any worse than she did a year ago."
Sadie turned slowly around toward her sister. "Ester, I don't know
what is the matter with you to-night. You know that Florence Vane has
the consumption, and you know that she is my _dear_ friend."
Ester did not know what was the matter with herself, save that this
had been the hardest day, from first to last, that she had ever known,
and she was rasped until there was no good feeling left in her heart
to touch. Little Minnie had given her the last hardening touch of the
day, by exclaiming, as she was being hugged and kissed with eager,
"Oh, Auntie Essie! You've cried tears on my white apron, and put out
all the starch."
Ester set her down hastily, and went away.
Certainly Ester was cross and miserable. Dr. Van Anden was one of her
thorns. He crossed her path quite often, either with close, searching
words about self-control, or grave silence. She disliked him.
Sadie, as from her pillow she watched her sister in the moonlight
kneel down hastily, and knew that she was repeating a few words of
prayer, thought of Mr. Arnett's words spoken that evening, and, with
her heart throbbing still under the sharp tones concerning Florence,
sighed a little, and said within herself:
"I should not wonder if Harry were right." And Ester was so much
asleep, that she did not know, at least did not realize, that she had
dishonored her Master all that day.
Of the same opinion concerning Florence was Ester, a few weeks later,
when, one evening as she was hurrying past him, Dr. Van Anden detained
"I want to see you a moment, Miss Ester."
During these weeks Ester had been roused. Sadie was sick; had been
sick enough to awaken many anxious fears; sick enough for Ester to
discover what a desolate house theirs would have been, supposing her
merry music had been hushed forever. She discovered, too, how very
much she loved her bright young sister.
She had been very kind and attentive; but the fever was gone now, and
Sadie was well enough to rove around the house again; and Ester
began to think that it couldn't be so very hard to have loving hands
ministering to one's simplest want, to be cared for, and watched over,
and petted every hour in the day. She was returning to her impatient,
irritable life. She forgot how high the fever had been at night, and
how the young head had ached; and only remembered how thoroughly tired
she was, watching and ministering day and night. So, when she followed
Dr. Van Anden to the sitting-room, in answer to his "I want to see
you, Miss Ester," it was a very sober, not altogether pleasant face
which listened to his words.
"Florence Vane is very sick to-night. Some one should be with her
besides the housekeeper. I thought of you. Will you watch with her?"
If any reasonable excuse could have been found, Ester would surely
have said "No," so foolish did this seem to her. Why, only yesterday
she had seen Florence sitting beside the open window, looking very
well; but then, she was Sadie's friend, and it had been more than two
weeks since Sadie had needed watching with at night. So Ester could
not plead fatigue.
"I suppose so," she answered, slowly, to the waiting doctor, hearing
which, he wheeled and left her, turning back, though, to say:
"Do not mention this to Sadie in her present state of body. I don't
care to have her excited."
"Very careful you are of everybody," muttered Ester, as he hastened
away. "Tell her what, I wonder? That you are making much ado about
nothing, for the sake of showing your astonishing skill?"
In precisely this state of mind she went, a few hours later, over to
the cottage, into the quiet room where Florence lay asleep--and, for
aught she could see, sleeping as quietly as young, fresh life ever
"What do you think of her?" whispered the old lady who acted as
housekeeper, nurse and mother to the orphaned Florence.
"I think I haven't seen her look better this great while," Ester
"Well, I can't say as she looks any worse to _me_ either; but Dr. Van
Anden is in a fidget, and I suppose he knows what he's about."
The doctor came in at eleven o'clock, stood for a moment by the
bedside, glanced at the old lady, who was dozing in her rocking-chair,
then came over to Ester and spoke low:
"I can't trust the nurse. She has been broken of her rest, and is
weary. I want _you_ to keep awake. If she" (nodding toward Florence)
"stirs, give her a spoonful from that tumbler on the stand. I shall be
back at twelve. If she wakens, you may call her father, and send
John for me; he's in the kitchen. I shall be around the corner at
Then he went away, softly, as he had come.
The lamp burned low over by the window, the nurse slept on in her
arm-chair, and Ester sat with wide-open eyes fixed on Florence. And
all this time she thought that the doctor was engaged in getting up
a scene, the story of which should go forth next day in honor of his
skill and faithfulness; yet, having come to watch, she would not sleep
at her post, even though she believed in her heart that, were she
sleeping by Sadie's side, and the doctor quiet in his own room, all
would go on well until the morning.
But the doctor's evident anxiety had driven sleep from the eyes of the
gray-haired old man whose one darling lay quiet on the bed. He came in
very soon after the doctor had departed.
"I can't sleep," he said, in explanation, to Ester. "Some way I feel
worried. Does she seem worse to you?"
"Not a bit," Ester said, promptly. "I think she looks better than
"Yes," Mr. Vane answered, in an encouraged tone; "and she has been
quite bright all day; but the doctor is all down about her. He won't
say a single cheering word."
Ester's indignation grew upon her. "He might, at least, have let this
old man sleep in peace," she said, sharply, in her heart.
At twelve, precisely, the doctor returned. He went directly to the
"How has she been?" he asked of Ester, in passing.
"Just as she is now." Ester's voice was not only dry, but sarcastic.
Mr. Vane scanned the doctor's face eagerly, but it was grave and sad.
Quiet reigned in the room. The two men at Florence's side neither
spoke nor stirred. Ester kept her seat across from them, and grew
every moment more sure that she was right, and more provoked. Suddenly
the silence was broken. Dr. Van Anden bent low over the sleeper, and
spoke in a gentle, anxious tone: "Florence." But she neither stirred
nor heeded. He spoke again: "Florence;" and the blue eyes unclosed
slowly and wearily. The doctor drew back quickly, and motioned her
"Speak to her, Mr. Vane."
"Florence, my darling," the old man said, with inexpressible love and
tenderness sounding in his voice. His fair young daughter turned her
eyes on him; but the words she spoke were not of him, or of aught
around her. So clear and sweet they sounded, that Ester, sitting quite
across the room from her, heard them distinctly.
"I saw mother, and I saw my Savior."
Dr. Van Anden sank upon his knees, as the drooping lids closed again,
and his voice was low and tremulous:
"Father, into thy hands we commit this spirit. Thy will be done."
In a moment more all was bustle and confusion. The nurse was
thoroughly awakened; the doctor cared for the poor childless father
with the tenderness of a son; then came back to send John for help,
and to give directions concerning what was to be done.
Through it all Ester sat motionless, petrified with solemn
astonishment. Then the angel of death had _really_ been there in that
very room, and she had been "so wise in her own conceit," that she did
not know it until he had departed with the freed spirit!
Florence really _was_ sick, then--dangerously sick. The doctor had not
deceived them, had not magnified the trouble as she supposed; but it
could not be that she was dead! Dead! Why, only a few minutes ago she
was sleeping so quietly! Well, she was very quiet now. Could the heart
have ceased its beating?
Sadie's Florence dead! Poor Sadie! What would they say to her? How
_could_ they tell her?
Sitting there, Ester had some of the most solemn, self-reproachful
thoughts that she had ever known. God's angel had been present in that
room, and in what a spirit had he found this watcher?
Dr. Van Anden went quietly, promptly, from room to room, until every
thing in the suddenly stricken household was as it should be; then he
came to Ester:
"I will go over home with you now," he said, speaking low and kindly.
He seemed to under stand just how shocked she felt.
They went, in the night and darkness, across the street, saying
nothing. As the doctor applied his key to the door, Ester spoke in
low, distressed tones:
"Doctor Van Anden, I did not think--I did not dream--." Then she
"I know," he said, kindly. "It was unexpected. _I_ thought she would
linger until morning, perhaps through the day. Indeed, I was so sure,
that I ventured to keep my worst fears from Mr. Vane. I wanted him to
rest to-night. I am sorry--it would have been better to have prepared
him; but 'At even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the
morning'--you see we know not which. I thank God that to Florence it
did not matter."
Those days which followed were days of great opportunity to Ester, if
she had but known how to use them. Sadie's sad, softened heart,
into which grief had entered, might have been turned by a few kind,
skillful words, from thoughts of Florence to Florence's Savior. Ester
_did_ try; she was kinder, more gentle with the young sister than
was her wont to be; and once, when Sadie was lingering fondly over
memories of her friend, she said, in an awkward, blundering way,
something about Florence having been prepared to die, and hoping that
Sadie would follow her example. Sadie looked surprised, but answered,
"I never expect to be like Florence. She was perfect, or, at least,
I'm sure I could never see any thing about her that wasn't perfection.
You know, Ester, she never did any thing wrong."
And Ester, unused to it, and confused with her own attempt, kept
silence, and let poor Sadie rest upon the thought that it was
Florence's goodness which made her ready to die, instead of the blood
So the time passed; the grass grew green over Florence's grave, and
Sadie missed her indeed. Yet the serious thoughts grew daily fainter,
and Ester's golden opportunity for leading her to Christ was lost.
THE SUNDAY LESSON.
Alfred and Julia Ried were in the sitting-room, studying their
Sabbath-school lessons. Those two were generally to be found together;
being twins, they had commenced _life_ together, and had thus far gone
side by side. It was a quiet October Sabbath afternoon. The twins
had a great deal of business on hand during the week, and the
Sabbath-school lesson used to stand a fair chance of being forgotten;
so Mrs. Ried had made a law that half an hour of every Sabbath
afternoon should be spent in studying the lesson for the coming
Sabbath. Ester sat in the same room, by the window; she had been
reading, but her book had fallen idly in her lap, and she seemed lost
in thought Sadie, too, was there, carrying on a whispered conversation
with Minnie, who was snugged close in her arms, and merry bursts of
laughter came every few minutes from the little girl. The idea of
Sadie keeping quiet herself, or of keeping any body else quiet, was
"But I say unto you that ye resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite
thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also," read Julia,
slowly and thoughtfully. "Alfred, what do you suppose that can mean?"
"Don't know, I'm sure," Alfred said. "The next one is just as queer:
'And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let
him have thy cloak also.' I'd like to see _me_ doing that. I'd fight
for it, I reckon."
"Oh, Alfred! you wouldn't, if the Bible said you mustn't, would you?"
"I don't suppose this means us at all," said Alfred, using,
unconsciously, the well-known argument of all who have tried to slip
away from gospel teaching since Adam's time.
"I suppose it's talking to those wicked old fellows who lived before
the flood, or some such time."
"Well, _any_how," said Julia, "I should like to know what it all
means. I wish mother would come home. I wonder how Mrs. Vincent is. Do
you suppose she will die, Alfred?"
"Don't know--just hear this, Julia! 'But I say unto you, Love your
enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and
pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.' Wouldn't
you like to see anybody who did all that?"
"Sadie," said Julia, rising suddenly, and moving over to where the
frolic was going on, "won't you tell us about our lesson? We don't
understand a bit about it; and I can't learn any thing that I don't
"Bless your heart, child! I suspect you know more about the Bible this
minute than I do. Mother was too busy taking care of you two, when I
was a little chicken, to teach me as she has you."
"Well, but what _can_ that mean--'If a man strikes you on one cheek,
let him strike the other too?'"
"Yes," said Alfred, chiming in, "and, 'If anybody takes your coat
away, give him your cloak too.'"
"I suppose it means just that," said Sadie. "If anybody steals your
mittens, as that Bush girl did yours last winter, Julia, you are to
take your hood right off, and give it to her."
"Oh, Sadie! you _don't_ ever mean that."
"And then," continued Sadie, gravely, "if that shouldn't satisfy her,
you had better take off your shoes and stockings, and give her them."
"Sadie," said Ester, "how _can_ you teach those children such
"She isn't teaching _me_ any thing," interrupted Alfred. "I guess I
ain't such a dunce as to swallow all that stuff."
"Well," said Sadie, meekly, "I'm sure I'm doing the best I can;
and you are all finding fault. I've explained to the best of _my_
abilities Julia, I'll tell you the truth;" and for a moment her
laughing face grew sober. "I don't know the least thing about
it--don't pretend to. Why don't you ask Ester? She can tell you more
about the Bible in a minute, I presume, than I could in a year."
Ester laid her book on the window. "Julia, bring your Bible here," she
said, gravely. "Now what is the matter? I never heard you make such a
commotion over your lesson."
"Mother always explains it," said Alfred, "and she hasn't got back
from Mrs. Vincent's; and I don't believe anyone else in this house
_can_ do it."
"Alfred," said Ester, "don't be impertinent. Julia, what is that you
want to know?"
"About the man being struck on one cheek, how he must let them strike
the other too. What does it mean?"
"It means just _that_, when girls are cross and ugly to you, you must
be good and kind to them; and, when a boy knocks down another, he must
forgive him, instead of getting angry and knocking back."
"Ho!" said Alfred, contemptuously, "_I_ never saw the boy yet who
would do it."
"That only proves that boys are naughty, quarrelsome fellows, who
don't obey what the Bible teaches."
"But, Ester," interrupted Julia, anxiously, "was that true what Sadie
said about me giving my shoes and stockings and my hood to folks who
stole something from me?"
"Of course not. Sadie shouldn't talk such nonsense to you. That is
about men going to law. Mother will explain it when she goes over the
lesson with you."
Julia was only half satisfied. "What does that verse mean about doing
good to them that--"
"Here, I'll read it," said Alfred--"'But I say unto you, Love your
enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and
pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.'"
"Why, that is plain enough. It means just what it says. When people
are ugly to you, and act as though they hated you, you must be very
good and kind to them, and pray for them, and love them."
"Ester, does God really mean for us to love people who are ugly to us,
and to be good to them?"
"Well, then, why don't we, if God says so? Ester, why don't you?"
"That's the point!" exclaimed Sadie, in her most roguish tone. "I'm
glad you've made the application, Julia."
Now Ester's heart had been softening under the influence of these
peaceful Bible words. She believed them; and in her heart was a real,
earnest desire to teach her brother and sister Bible truths. Left
alone, she would have explained that those who loved Jesus _were_
struggling, in a weak feeble way, to obey these directions; that she
herself was trying, trying _hard_ sometimes; that _they_ ought to. But
there was this against Ester--her whole life was so at variance with
those plain, searching Bible rules, that the youngest child could not
but see it; and Sadie's mischievous tones and evident relish of
her embarrassment at Julia's question, destroyed the self-searching
thoughts. She answered, with severe dignity:
"Sadie, if I were you, I wouldn't try to make the children as
irreverent as I was myself." Then she went dignifiedly from the room.
Dr. Van Anden paused for a moment before Sadie, as she sat alone in
the sitting-room that same Sabbath-evening.
"Sadie," said he, "is there one verse in the Bible which you have
"Plenty of them, Doctor. I commenced reading the Bible through once;
but I stopped at some chapter in Numbers--the thirtieth, I think it
is, isn't it? or somewhere along there where all those hard names are,
you know. But why do you ask?"
The doctor opened a large Bible which lay on the stand before them,
and read aloud: "Ye have perverted the words of the living God."
Sadie looked puzzled. "Now, Doctor, what ever possessed you to think
that I had never read that verse?"
"God counts that a solemn thing, Sadie."
"Very likely; what then?"
"I was reading on the piazza when the children came to you for an
explanation of their lesson."
Sadie laughed. "Did you hear that conversation, Doctor? I hope you
were benefited." Then, more gravely: "Dr. Van Anden, do you really
mean me to think that I was perverting Scripture?"
"_I_ certainly think so, Sadie. Were you not giving the children wrong
ideas concerning the teachings of our Savior?"
Sadie was quite sober now. "I told the truth at last, Doctor. I
don't know any thing about these matters. People who profess to be
Christians do not live according to our Savior's teaching. At least
_I_ don't see any who do; and it sometimes seems to me that those
verses which the children were studying, _can not_ mean what they say,
or Christian people would surely _try_ to follow them."
For an answer, Dr. Van Anden turned the Bible leaves again, and
pointed with his finger to this verse, which Sadie read:
"But as he which has called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner
After that he went out of the room.
And Sadie, reading the verse over again, could not but understand that
she _might_ have a perfect pattern, if she would.
THE POOR LITTLE FISH.
"Mother," said Sadie, appearing in the dining-room one morning,
holding Julia by the hand, "did you ever hear of the fish who fell out
of the frying-pan into the fire?" Which question her mother answered
by asking, without turning her eyes from the great batch of bread
which she was molding: "What mischief are you up to now, Sadie?"
"Why, nothing," said Sadie; "only here is the very fish so renowned in
ancient history, and I've brought her for your inspection."
This answer brought Mrs. Ried's eyes around from the dough, and fixed
them upon Julia; and she said, as soon as she caught a glimpse of the
forlorn little maiden: "O, my _patience_!"
A specimen requiring great patience from any one coming in contact
with her, was this same Julia. The pretty blue dress and white apron
were covered with great patches of mud; morocco boots and neat white
stockings were in the same direful plight; and down her face the salt
and muddy tears were running, for her handkerchief was also streaked
"I should _think_ so!" laughed Sadie, in answer to her mother's
exclamation. "The history of the poor little fish, in brief, is this:
She started, immaculate in white apron, white stockings, and the like,
for the post-office, with Ester's letter. She met with temptation in
the shape of a little girl with paper dolls; and, while admiring them,
the letter had the meanness to slip out of her hand into the mud!
That, you understand, was the frying-pan. Much horrified with this
state of things, the two wise young heads were put together, and the
brilliant idea conceived of giving the muddy letter a thorough washing
in the creek! So to the creek they went; and, while they stood ankle
deep in the mud, vigorously carrying their idea into effect, the
vicious little thing hopped out of Julia's hand, and sailed merrily
away, down stream! So there she was, 'Out of the frying-pan into the
fire,' sure enough! And the letter has sailed for Uncle Ralph's by a
different route than that which is usually taken."
Sadie's nonsense was interrupted at this point by Ester, who had
listened with darkening face to the rapidly told story:
"She ought to be thoroughly _whipped_, the careless little goose!
Mother, if you don't punish her now, I never would again."
Then Julia's tearful sorrow blazed into sudden anger: "I _oughtn't_ to
be whipped; you're an ugly, mean sister to say so. I tumbled down and
hurt my arm _dreadfully_, trying to catch your old _hateful_ letter;
and you're just as mean as you can be!"
Between tears, and loud tones, and Sadie's laughter, Julia had managed
to burst forth these angry sentences before her mother's voice reached
her; when it did, she was silenced.
"Julia, I am _astonished_! Is that the way to speak to your sister?
Go up to my room directly; and, when you have put on dry clothes, sit
down there, and stay until you are ready to tell Ester that you are
sorry, and ask her to forgive you."
"_Really_, mother," Sadie said, as the little girl went stamping up
the stairs, her face buried in her muddy handkerchief, "I'm not sure
but you have made a mistake, and Ester is the one to be sent to her
room until she can behave better. I don't pretend to be _good_ myself;
but I must say it seems ridiculous to speak in the way she did to a
sorry, frightened child. I never saw a more woeful figure in my life;"
and Sadie laughed again at the recollection.
"Yes," said Ester, "you uphold her in all sorts of mischief and
insolence; that is the reason she is so troublesome to manage."
Mrs. Ried looked distressed. "Don't, Ester," she said; "don't speak
in that loud, sharp tone. Sadie, you should not encourage Julia in
speaking improperly to her sister. I think myself that Ester was hard
with her. The poor child did not mean any harm; but she must not be
rude to anybody."
"Oh, yes," Ester said, speaking bitterly, "of course _I_ am the one to
blame; I always _am_. No one in this house ever does any thing wrong
Mrs. Ried sighed heavily, and Sadie turned away and ran up stairs,
"Oh, would I were a buttercup,
A blossom in the meadow."
And Julia, in her mother's room, exchanged her wet and muddy garments
for clean ones, and _cried_; washed her face in the clear, pure water
until it was fresh and clean, and cried again, louder and harder; her
heart was all bruised and bleeding. She had not meant to be careless.
She had been carefully dressed that morning to spend the long, bright
Saturday with Vesta Griswold. She had intended to go swiftly and
safely to the post-office with the small white treasure intrusted to
her care; but those paper dolls were _so_ pretty, and of course there
was no harm in walking along with Addie, and looking at them. How
could she know that the hateful letter was going to tumble out of her
apron pocket? Right there, too, the only place along the road where
there was the least bit of mud to be seen! Then she had honestly
supposed that a little clean water from the creek, applied with her
smooth white handkerchief, would take the stains right out of the
envelope, and the sun would dry it, and it would go safely to Uncle
Ralph's after all; but, instead of that, the hateful, _hateful_ thing
slipped right out of her hand, and went floating down the stream; and
at this point Julia's sobs burst forth afresh. Presently she took up
her broken thread of thought, and went on: How very, _very_ ugly Ester
was; if _she_ hadn't been there, her mother would have listened kindly
to her story of how very sorry she was, and how she meant to do just
right. Then she would have forgiven her, and she would have been
freshly dressed in her clean blue dress instead of her pink one, and
would have had her happy day after all; and now she would have to
spend this bright day all alone; and, at this point, her tears rolled
down in torrents.
"Jule," called a familiar voice, under her window, "where are you?
Come down and mend my sail for me, won't you?"
Julia went to the window and poured into Alfred's sympathetic ears the
story of her grief and her wrongs.
"Just exactly like her," was his comment on Ester's share in the
tragedy. "She grows crosser every day. I guess, if I were you, I'd let
her wait a spell before I asked her forgiveness."
"I guess I shall," sputtered Julia. "She was meaner than any thing,
and I'd tell her so this minute, if I saw her; that's all the sorry I
So the talk went on; and when Alfred was called to get Ester a pail
of water, and left Julia in solitude, she found her heart very much
strengthened in its purpose to tire everybody out in waiting for her
The long, warm, busy day moved on; and the overworked and wearied
mother found time to toil up two flights of stairs in search of her
young daughter, in the hope of soothing and helping her; but Julia was
in no mood to be helped. She hated to stay up there alone; she wanted
to go down in the garden with Alfred; she wanted to go to the arbor
and read her new book; she wanted to take a walk down by the river;
she wanted her dinner exceedingly; but to ask Ester's forgiveness
was the one thing that she did _not_ want to do. No, not if she staid
there alone for a week; not if she _starved_, she said aloud, stamping
her foot and growing indignant over the thought. Alfred came as often
as his Saturday occupations would admit, and held emphatic talks with
the little prisoner above, admiring her "pluck," and assuring her that
he "wouldn't give in, not he."
"You see I _can't_ do it," said Julia, with a gleam of satisfaction
in her eyes, "because it wouldn't be true. I'm _not_ sorry; and mother
wouldn't have me tell a lie for anybody."
So the sun went toward the west, and Julia at the window watched the
academy girls moving homeward from their afternoon ramble, listened to
the preparations for tea which were being made among the dishes in the
dining-room, and, having no more tears to shed, sighed wearily, and
wished the miserable day were quite done and she was sound asleep.
Only a few moments before she had received a third visit from her
mother; and, turning to her, fresh from a talk with Alfred, she had
answered her mother's question as to whether she were not now ready
to ask Ester's forgiveness, with quite as sober and determined a "No,
ma'am," as she had given that day; and her mother had gravely and
sadly answered, "I am very sorry, Julia I can't come up here again; I
am too tired for that. You may come to me, if you wish to see me any
time before seven o'clock. After that you must go to your room."
And with this Julia had let her depart, only saying, as the door
closed: "Then I can be asleep before Ester comes up. I'm glad of that.
I wouldn't look at her again to-day for anything." And then Julia was
once more summoned to the window.
"Jule," Alfred said, with less decision in his voice than there had
been before, "mother looked awful tired when she came down stairs just
now, and there was a tear rolling down her cheek."
"There was?" said Julia, in a shocked and troubled tone.
"And I guess," Alfred continued, "she's had a time of it to-day. Ester
is too cross even to look at; and they've been working pell-mell all
day; and Minnie tumbled over the ice-box and got hurt, and mother held
her most an hour; and I guess she feels real bad about this. She told
Sadie she felt sorry for you."
Silence for a little while at the window above, and from the boy
below: then he broke forth suddenly: "I say, Jule, hadn't you better
do it after all--not for Ester, but there's mother, you know."
"But, Alfred," interrupted the truthful and puzzled Julia, "what can I
do about it? You know I'm to tell Ester that I'm sorry; and that will
not be true."
This question also troubled Alfred. It did not seem to occur to these
two foolish young heads that she _ought_ to be sorry for her own angry
words, no matter how much in the wrong another had been. So they stood
with grave faces, and thought about it. Alfred found a way out of the
mist at last.
"See here, aren't you sorry that you couldn't go to Vesta's, and had
to stay up there alone all day, and that it bothered mother?"
"Of course," said Julia, "I'm real sorry about mother. Alfred, did I,
honestly, make her cry?"
"Yes, you did," Alfred answered, earnestly. "I saw that tear as plain
as day. Now you see you can tell Ester you're sorry, just as well as
not; because, if you hadn't said any thing to her, mother could have
made it all right; so of course you're sorry."
"Well," said Julia, slowly, rather bewildered still, "that sounds as
if it was right; and yet, somehow----. Well, Alfred, you wait for me,
and I'll be down right away."
So it happened that a very penitent little face stood at her mother's
elbow a few moments after this; and Julia's voice was very earnest:
"Mother, I'm so sorry I made you such a great deal of trouble to-day."
And the patient mother turned and kissed the flushed cheek, and
answered kindly: "Mother will forgive you. Have you seen Ester, my
"No, ma'am," spoken more faintly; "but I'm going to find her right
And Ester answered the troubled little voice with a cold "Actions
speak louder than words. I hope you will show how sorry you are by
behaving better in future. Stand out of my way."
"Is it all done up?" Alfred asked, a moment later, as she joined him
on the piazza to take a last look at the beauty of this day which had
opened so brightly for her.
"Yes," with a relieved sigh; "and, Alfred, I never mean to be such a
woman as Ester is when I grow up. I wouldn't for the world. I mean to
be nice, and good, and kind, like sister Sadie."
Now the letter which had caused so much trouble in the Ried family,
and especially in Ester's heart, was, in one sense, not an ordinary
letter. It had been written to Ester's cousin, Abbie, her one intimate
friend, Uncle Ralph's only daughter. These two, of the same age, had
been correspondents almost from their babyhood; and yet they had never
seen each other's faces.
To go to New York, to her uncle's house, to see and be with Cousin
Abbie, had been the one great dream of Ester's heart--as likely to be
realized, she could not help acknowledging, as a journey to the moon,
and no more so. New York was at least five hundred miles away; and
the money necessary to carry her there seemed like a small fortune to
Ester, to say nothing of the endless additions to her wardrobe which
would have to be made before she would account herself ready. So she
contented herself, or perhaps it would be more truthful to say she
made herself discontented, with ceaseless dreams over what New York,
and her uncle's family, and, above all, Cousin Abbie, were like; and
whether she would ever see them; and why it had always happened that
something was sure to prevent Abbie's visits to herself; and whether
she should like her as well, if she could be with her, as she did now;
and a hundred other confused and disconnected thoughts about them all.
Ester had no idea what this miserable, restless dreaming of hers was
doing for her. She did not see that her very desires after a better
life, which were sometimes strong upon her, were colored with
impatience and envy.
Cousin Abbie was a Christian, and wrote her some earnest letters;
but to Ester it seemed a very easy matter indeed for one who was
surrounded, as she imagined Abbie to be, by luxury and love, to be
a joyous, eager Christian. Into this very letter that poor Julia had
sent sailing down the stream, some of her inmost feelings had been
"Don't think me devoid of all aspirations after something higher,"
so the letter ran. "Dear Abbie, you, in your sunny home, can never
imagine how wildly I long sometimes to be free from my surroundings,
free from petty cares and trials, and vexations, which, I feel, are
eating out my very life. Oh, to be free for one hour, to feel
myself at liberty, for just one day, to follow my own tastes and
inclinations; to be the person I believe God designed me to be; to
fill the niche I believe He designed me to fill! Abbie, I _hate_ my
life. I have not a happy moment. It is all rasped, and warped, and
unlovely. I am nothing, and I know it; and I had rather, for my own
comfort, be like the most of those who surround me--nothing, and not
know it. Sometimes I can not help asking myself why I was made as I
am. Why can't I be a clod, a plodder, and drag my way with stupid good
nature through this miserable world, instead of chafing and bruising
myself at every step."
Now it would be very natural to suppose that a young lady with a
grain of sense left in her brains, would, in cooler moments, have
been rather glad than otherwise, to have such a restless, unhappy,
unchristianlike letter hopelessly lost. But Ester felt, as has been
seen, thoroughly angry that so much lofty sentiment, which she mistook
for religion, was entirely lost Yet let it not be supposed that one
word of this rebellious outbreak was written simply for effect. Ester,
when she wrote that she "hated her life," was thoroughly and miserably
in earnest. When, in the solitude of her own room, she paced her floor
that evening, and murmured, despairingly: "Oh, if something would
_only_ happen to rest me for just a little while!" she was more
thoroughly in earnest than any human being who feels that Christ has
died to save her, and that she has an eternal resting-place prepared
for her, and waiting to receive her, has any right to feel on such a
subject. Yet, though the letter had never reached its destination,
the pitying Savior, looking down upon his poor, foolish lamb in tender
love, made haste to prepare an answer to her wild, rebellious cry for
help, even though she cried blindly, without a thought of the Helper
who is sufficient for all human needs.
"Long looked for, come at last!" and Sadie's clear voice rang through
the dining-room, and a moment after that young lady herself reached
the pump-room, holding up for Ester's view a dainty envelope, directed
in a yet more dainty hand to Miss Ester Ried. "Here's that wonderful
letter from Cousin Abbie which you have sent me to the post-office
after three times a day for as many weeks. It reached here by the way
of Cape Horn, I should say, by its appearance. It has been remailed
Ester set her pail down hastily, seized the letter, and retired to the
privacy of the pantry to devour it; and for once was oblivious to the
fact that Sadie lunched on bits of cake broken from the smooth, square
loaf while she waited to hear the news.
"Anything special?" Mrs. Ried asked, pausing in the doorway, which
question Ester answered by turning a flushed and eager face toward
them, as she passed the letter to Sadie, with permission to read it
aloud. Surprised into silence by the unusual confidence, Sadie read
the dainty epistle without comment:
"MY DEAR ESTER:
"I'm in a grand flurry, and shall therefore not stop for long stories
to-day, but come at the pith of the matter immediately. We want you.
That is nothing new, you are aware, as we have been wanting you
for many a day. But there is new decision in my plans, and new
inducements, this time. We not only want, but _must_ have you. Please
don't say 'No' to me this once. We are going to have a wedding in our
house, and we need your presence, and wisdom, and taste. Father says
you can't be your mother's daughter if you haven't exquisite taste.
I am very busy helping to get the bride in order, which is a work of
time and patience; and I do so much need your aid; besides, the bride
is your Uncle Ralph's only daughter, so of course you ought to be
interested in her.
"Ester, _do_ come. Father says the inclosed fifty dollars is a present
from him, which you must honor by letting it pay your fare to New York
just as soon as possible. The wedding is fixed for the twenty-second;
and we want you here at least three weeks before that. Brother Ralph
is to be first groomsman; and he especially needs your assistance, as
the bride has named you for her first bridesmaid. I'm to dress--I mean
the bride is to dress--in white, and mother has a dress prepared for
the bridesmaid to match hers; so that matter need not delay or cause
"This letter is getting too long. I meant it to be very brief and
pointed. I designed every other word to be 'come;' but after all I do
not believe you will need so much urging to be with us at this time.
I flatter myself that you love me enough to come to me if you can. So,
leaving Ralph to write directions concerning route and trains, I will
run and try on the bride's bonnet, which has just come home.
"P.S. There is to be a groom as well as a bride, though I see I have
said nothing concerning him. Never mind, you shall see him when you
come. Dear Ester, there isn't a word of tense in this letter, I know;
but I haven't time to put any in."
"Really," laughed Sadie, as she concluded the reading, "this is almost
foolish enough to have been written by me. Isn't it splendid, though?
Ester, I'm glad you are _you_. I wish I had corresponded with Cousin
Abbie myself. A wedding of any kind is a delicious novelty; but a real
New York wedding, and a bridesmaid besides--my! I've a mind to clap my
hands for you, seeing you are too dignified to do it yourself."
"Oh," said Ester, from whose face the flush had faded, leaving it
actually pale with excitement and expected disappointment, "you don't
suppose I am foolish enough to think I can go, do you?"
"Of course you will go, when Uncle Ralph has paid your fare, and more,
too. Fifty dollars will buy a good deal besides a ticket to New York.
Mother, don't you ever think of saying that she can't go; there is
nothing to hinder her. She is to go, isn't she?"
"Why, I don't know," answered this perplexed mother. "I want her to, I
am sure; yet I don't see how she can be spared. She will need a great
many things besides a ticket, and fifty dollars do not go as far as
you imagine; besides, Ester, you know I depend on you so much."
Ester's lips parted to speak; and had the words come forth which were
in her heart, they would have been sharp and bitter ones--about never
expecting to go anywhere, never being able to do any thing but work;
but Sadie's eager voice was quicker than hers:
"Oh now, mother, it is no use to talk in that way. I've quite set my
heart on Ester's going. I never expect to have an invitation there
myself, so I must take my honors secondhand.
"Mother, it is time you learned to depend on me a little. I'm two
inches taller than Ester, and I've no doubt I shall develop into a
remarkable person when she is where we can't all lean upon her. School
closes this very week, you know, and we have vacation until October.
Abbie couldn't have chosen a better time. Whom do you suppose she
is to marry? What a queer creature, not to tell us. Say she can go,
Sadie's last point was a good one in Mrs. Ried's opinion. Perhaps the
giddy Sadie, at once her pride and her anxiety, might learn a little
self-reliance by feeling a shadow of the weight of care which rested
continually on Ester.
"You certainly need the change," she said, her eyes resting pityingly
on the young, careworn face of her eldest daughter. "But how could we
manage about your wardrobe? Your black silk is nice, to be sure; but
you would need one bright evening dress at least, and you know we
haven't the money to spare."
Then Sadie, thoughtless, selfish Sadie, who was never supposed to have
one care for others, and very little for herself--Sadie, who vexed
Ester nearly every hour in the day, by what, at the time, always
seemed some especially selfish, heedless act--suddenly shone out
gloriously. She stood still, and actually seemed to think for a full
minute, while Ester jerked a pan of potatoes toward her, and commenced
peeling vigorously; then she clapped her hands, and gave vent to
little gleeful shouts before she exclaimed "Oh, mother, mother! I have
it exactly. I wonder we didn't think of it before. There's my blue
silk--just the thing! I am tall, and she is short, so it will make her
a beautiful train dress. Won't that do splendidly!"
The magnitude of this proposal awed even Ester into silence. To be
appreciated, it must be understood that Sadie Ried had never in her
life possessed a silk dress. Mrs. Ried's best black silk had long ago
been cut over for Ester; so had her brown and white plaid; so there
had been nothing of the sort to remodel for Sadie; and this elegant
sky-blue silk had been lying in its satin-paper covering for more than
two years. It was the gift of a dear friend of Mrs. Ried's girlhood to
the young beauty who bore her name, and had been waiting all this time
for Sadie to attain proper growth to admit of its being cut into for
her. Meantime she had feasted her eyes upon it, and gloried in the
prospect of that wonderful day when she should sweep across the
platform of Music Hall with this same silk falling in beautiful blue
waves around her; for it had long been settled that it was to be worn
first on that day when she should graduate.
No wonder, then, that Ester stood in mute astonishment, while Mrs.
"Why, Sadie, my dear child, is it possible you are willing to give up
your blue silk?"
"Not a bit of it, mother; I don't intend to give it up the least bit
in the world. I'm merely going to lend it. It's too pretty to stay
poked up in that drawer by itself any longer. I've set my heart on its
coming out this very season Just as likely as not it will learn to
put on airs for me when I graduate. I'm not at all satisfied with my
attainments in that line; so Ester shall take it to New York; and if
she sits down or stands up, or turns around, or has one minute's peace
while she has it on, for fear lest she should spot it, or tear it, or
get it stepped on, I'll never forgive her."
And at this harangue Ester laughed a free, glad laugh, such as was
seldom heard from her. Some way it began to seem as if she were really
to go, Sadie had such a brisk, business-like way of saying "Ester
shall take it to New York." Oh, if she only, _only_ could go, she
would be willing to do _any thing_ after that; but one peep, one
little peep into the beautiful magic world that lay outside of that
dining-room and kitchen she felt as if she must have. Perhaps that
laugh did as much for her as any thing. It almost startled Mrs. Ried
with its sweetness and rarity. What if the change would freshen and
brighten her, and bring her back to them with some of the sparkles
that continually danced in Sadie's eyes; but what, on the other hand,
if she should grow utterly disgusted with the monotony of their very
quiet, very busy life, and refuse to work in that most necessary
treadmill any longer. So the mother argued and hesitated, and the
decision which was to mean so much more than any of those knew,
trembled in the balance; for let Mrs. Ried once find voice to say,
"Oh, Ester, I don't see but what you will _have_ to give it up," and
Ester would have turned quickly and with curling lip, to that pan of
potatoes, and have sharply forbidden any one to mention the subject
to her again. Once more Sadie, dear, merry, silly Sadie, came to the
"Mother, oh, mother! what an endless time you are in coming to a
decision! I could plan an expedition to the North Pole in less time
than this. I'm just wild to have her go. I want to hear how a genuine
New York bride looks; besides, you know, dear mother, I want to stay
in the kitchen with you. Ester does every thing, and I don't have
any chance. I perfectly long to bake, and boil, and broil, and brew
things. Say yes, there's a darling."
And Mrs. Ried looked at the bright, flushed face, and thought how
little the dear child knew about all these matters, and how little
patience poor Ester, who was so competent herself, would have with
Sadie's ignorance, and said, slowly and hesitatingly, but yet actually
"Well, Ester, my daughter, I really think we must try to get along
without you for a little while!"
And these three people really seemed to think that they had decided
the matter. Though two of them were at least theoretical believers
in a "special providence," it never once occurred to them that this
little thing, in all its details, had been settled for ages.
"Twenty minutes here for refreshments!" "Passengers for New York take
south track!" "New York daily papers here!" "Sweet oranges here!"
And amid all these yells of discordant tongues, and the screeching
of engines, and the ringing of bells, and the intolerable din of a
merciless gong, Ester pushed and elbowed her way through the crowd,
almost panting with her efforts to keep pace with her traveling
companion, a nervous country merchant on his way to New York to
buy goods. He hurried her through the crowd and the noise into the
dining-saloon; stood by her side while, obedient to his orders, she
poured down her throat a cup of almost boiling coffee; then, seating
her in the ladies' room charged her on no account to stir from
that point while he was gone--he had just time to run around to the
post-office, and mail a forgotten letter; then he vanished, and in
the confusion and the crowd Ester was alone. She did not feel, in the
least, flurried or nervous; on the contrary, she liked it, this first
experience of hers in a city depot; she would not have had it
made known to one of the groups of fashionably-attired and
very-much-at-ease travelers who thronged past her for the world--but
the truth was, Ester had been having her very first ride in the cars!
Sadie had made various little trips in company with school friends to
adjoining towns, after school books, or music, or to attend a concert,
or for pure fun; but, though Ester had spent her eighteen years of
life in a town which had long been an "Express Station," yet want
of time, or of money, or of inclination to take the bits of journeys
which alone were within her reach, had kept her at home. Now she
glanced at herself, at her faultlessly neat and ladylike traveling
suit. She could get a full view of it in an opposite mirror, and it
was becoming, from the dainty vail which fluttered over her hat, to
the shining tip of her walking boots; and she gave a complacent little
sigh, as she said to herself: "I don't see but I look as much like a
traveler as any of them. I'm sure I don't feel in the least confused.
I'm glad I'm not as ridiculously dressed as that pert-looking girl in
brown. I should call it in very bad taste to wear such a rich silk as
that for traveling. She doesn't look as though she had a single idea
beyond dress; probably that is what is occupying her thoughts at
this very moment;" and Ester's speaking face betrayed contempt and
conscious superiority, as she watched the fluttering bit of silk and
ribbons opposite. Ester had a very mistaken opinion of herself in this
respect; probably she would have been startled and indignant had
any one told her that her supposed contempt for the rich and elegant
attire displayed all around her, was really the outgrowth of envy;
that, when she told herself _she_ wouldn't lavish so much time and
thought, and, above all, _money_, on mere outside show, it was mere
nonsense--that she already spent all the time at her disposal, and all
the money she could possibly spare, on the very things which she was
The truth was, Ester had a perfectly royal taste in all these matters.
Give her but the wherewithal, and she would speedily have glistened
in silk, and sparkled with jewels; yet she honestly thought that her
bitter denunciation of fashion and folly in this form was outward
evidence of a mind elevated far above such trivial subjects, and
looked down, accordingly, with cool contempt on those whom she was
pleased to denominate "butterflies of fashion."
And, in her flights into a "higher sphere of thought," this absurdly
inconsistent Ester never once remembered how, just exactly a week ago
that day, she had gone around like a storm king, in her own otherwise
peaceful home, almost wearing out the long-suffering patience of her
weary mother, rendered the house intolerable to Sadie, and actually
boxed Julia's ears; and all because she saw with her own common-sense
eyes that she really _could_ not have her blue silk, or rather Sadie's
blue silk, trimmed with netted fringe at twelve shillings a yard, but
must do with simple folds and a seventy-five-cent heading!
Such a two weeks as the last had been in the Ried family! The entire
household had joined in the commotion produced by Ester's projected
visit. It was marvelous how much there was to do. Mrs. Ried toiled
early and late, and made many quiet little sacrifices, in order that
her daughter might not feel too keenly the difference between her
own and her cousin's wardrobe. Sadie emptied what she denominated her
finery box, and donated every article in it, delivering comic little
lectures to each bit of lace and ribbon, as she smoothed them and
patted them, and told them they were going to New York. Julia hemmed
pocket handkerchiefs, and pricked her poor little fingers unmercifully
and uncomplainingly. Alfred ran of errands with remarkable promptness,
but confessed to Julia privately that it was because he was in such
a hurry to have Ester gone, so he could see how it would seem for
everybody to be good natured. Little Minie got in everybody's way as
much as such a tiny creature could, and finally brought the tears
to Ester's eyes, and set every one else into bursts of laughter, by
bringing a very smooth little handkerchief about six inches square,
and offering it as her contribution toward the traveler's outfit. As
for Ester, she was hurried and nervous, and almost unendurably
cross, through the whole of it, wanting a hundred things which it was
impossible for her to have, and scorning not a few little trifles that
had been prepared for her by patient, toil-worn fingers.
"Ester, I _do_ hope New York, or Cousin Abbie, or somebody, will have
a soothing and improving effect upon you," Sadie had said, with a sort
of good-humored impatience, only the night before her departure.
"Now that you have reached the summit of your hopes, you seem more
uncomfortable about it than you were even to stay at home. Do let
us see you look pleasant for just five minutes, that we may have
something good to remember you by."
"My dear," Mrs. Ried had interposed, rebukingly, "Ester is hurried and
tired, remember, and has had a great many things to try her to-day. I
don't think it is a good plan, just as a family are about to separate,
to say any careless or foolish words that we don't mean. Mother has a
great many hard days of toil, which Ester has given, to remember her
by." Oh, the patient, tender, forgiving mother! Ester, being asleep
to her own faults, never once thought of the sharp, fretful, half
disgusted way in which much of her work had been performed, but only
remembered, with a little sigh of satisfaction, the many loaves of
cake, and the rows of pies, which she had baked that very morning in
order to save her mother's steps. This was all she thought of now, but
there came days when she was wide-awake.
Meantime the New York train, after panting and snorting several times
to give notice that the twenty minutes were about up, suddenly puffed
and rumbled its way out from the depot, and left Ester obeying orders,
that is, sitting in the corner where she had been placed by Mr.
Newton--being still outwardly, but there was in her heart a perfect
storm of vexation. "This comes of mother's absurd fussiness in
insisting upon putting me in Mr. Newton's care, instead of letting me
travel alone, as I wanted to," she fumed to herself. "Now we shall not
get into New York until after six o'clock! How provoking!"
"How provoking this is!" Mr. Newton exclaimed, re-echoing her thoughts
as he bustled in, red with haste and heat, and stood penitently before
her. "I hadn't the least idea it would take so long to go to the
post-office. I am very sorry!"
"Well," he continued, recovering his good humor, notwithstanding
Ester's provoking silence, "what can't be cured must be endured, Miss
Ester; and it isn't as bad as it might be, either. We've only to wait
an hour and a quarter. I've some errands to do, and I'll show you
the city with pleasure; or would you prefer sitting here and looking
"I should decidedly prefer not running the chance of missing the next
train," Ester answered very shortly. "So I think it will be wiser to
stay where I am."
In truth Mr. Newton endured the results of his own carelessness with
too much complacency to suit Ester's state of mind; but he took no
notice of her broadly-given hint further than to assure her that she
need give herself no uneasiness on that score; he should certainly be
on time. Then he went off, looking immensely relieved; for Mr. Newton
frankly confessed to himself that he did not know how to take care of
a lady. "If she were a parcel of goods now that one could get stored
or checked, and knew that she would come on all right, why--but a
lady. I'm not used to it. How easily I could have caught that train,
if I hadn't been obliged to run back after her; but, bless me, I
wouldn't have her know that for the world." This he said meditatively
as he walked down South Street.
The New York train had carried away the greater portion of the
throng at the depot, so that Ester and the dozen or twenty people who
occupied the great sitting-room with her, had comparative quiet. The
wearer of the condemned brown silk and blue ribbons was still there,
and awoke Ester's vexation still further by seeming utterly unable to
keep herself quiet; she fluttered from seat to seat, and from window
to window, like an uneasy bird in a cage. Presently she addressed
Ester in a bright little tone: "Doesn't it bore you dreadfully to wait
in a depot?"
"Yes," said Ester, briefly and truthfully, notwithstanding the fact
that she was having her first experience in that boredom.
"Are you going to New York?"
"I hope so," she answered, with energy. "I expected to have been
almost there by this time; but the gentleman who is supposed to be
taking care of me, had to rush off and stay just long enough to miss
"How annoying!" answered the blue ribbons with a soft laugh. "I missed
it, too, in such a silly way. I just ran around the corner to get some
chocolate drops, and a little matter detained me a few moments; and
when I came back, the train had gone. I was so sorry, for I'm in such
a hurry to get home. Do you live in New York?"
Ester shook her head, and thought within herself: "That is just as
much sense as I should suppose you to have--risk the chance of missing
a train for the sake of a paper of candy."
Of course Ester could not be expected to know that the chocolate drops
were for the wee sister at home, whose heart would be nearly broken if
sister Fanny came home, after an absence of twenty-four hours, without
bringing her any thing; and the "little matter" which detained her
a few moments, was joining the search after a twenty-five-cent bill
which the ruthless wind had snatched from the hand of a barefooted,
bareheaded, and almost forlorn little girl, who cried as violently
as though her last hope in life had been blown away with it; nor
how, failing in finding the treasure, the gold-clasped purse had been
opened, and a crisp, new bill had been taken out to fill its place;
neither am I at all certain as to whether it would have made any
difference at all in Ester's verdict, if she had known all the
The side door opened quietly just at this point and a middle-aged man
came in, carrying in one hand a tool-box, and in the other a two-story
tin pail. Both girls watched him curiously as he set these down on the
floor, and, taking tacks from his pocket and a hammer from his box, he
proceeded to tack a piece of paper to the wall. Ester, from where
she sat, could see that the paper was small, and that something was
printed on it in close, fine type. It didn't look in the least like a
handbill, or indeed like a notice of any sort. Her desire to know what
it could be grew strong; two tiny tacks held it firmly in its place.
Then the man turned and eyed the inmates of the room, who were by this
time giving undivided attention to him and his bit of paper Presently
he spoke, in a quiet, respectful tone:
"I've tacked up a nice little tract. I thought maybe while you was
waiting you might like something to read. If one of you would read
it aloud, all the rest could hear it." So saying, the man stooped
and took up his tool-box and his tin pail, and went away, leaving the
influences connected with those two or three strokes of his hammer to
work for him through all time, and meet him at the judgment. But if
a bomb-shell had suddenly come down and laid itself in ruins it their
feet, it could not have made a much more startled company than the
tract-tacker left behind him. A tract!--actually tacked up on the
wall, and waiting for some human voice to give it utterance! A tract
in a railroad depot! How queer! how singular! how almost improper!
Why? Oh, Ester didn't know; it was so unusual. Yes; but then that
didn't make it improper. No; but--then, she--it--Well, it was
fanatical. Oh yes, that was it. She knew it was improper in some way.
It was strange that that very convenient word should have escaped her
for a little. This talk Ester held hurriedly with her conscience. It
was asleep, you know; but just then it nestled as in a dream, and gave
her a little prick; but that industrious, important word, "fanatical,"
lulled it back to its rest. Meantime there hung the tract, and
fluttered a little in the summer air, as the door opened and closed.
Was no one to give it voice? "I'd like dreadful well to hear it," an
old lady said, nodding her gray head toward the little leaf on the
wall; "but I've packed up my specs, and might just as well have no
eyes at all, as far as readin' goes, when I haven't got my specs
on. There's some young eyes round here though, one would think." she
added, looking inquiringly around. "You won't need glasses, I should
say now, for a spell of years!"
This remark, or hint, or inquiry, was directed squarely at Ester, and
received no other answer than a shrug of the shoulder and an impatient
tapping of her heels on the bare floor. Under her breath Ester
muttered, "Disagreeable old woman!"
The brown silk rustled, and the blue ribbons fluttered restlessly for
a minute; then their owner's clear voice suddenly broke the silence:
"I'll read it for you, ma'am, if you really would like to hear it."
The wrinkled, homely, happy old face broke into a beaming smile, as
she turned toward the pink-cheeked, blue-eyed maiden. "That I would,"
she answered, heartily, "dreadful well. I ain't heard nothing good,
'pears to me, since I started; and I've come two hundred miles. It
seems as if it might kind of lift me up, and rest me like, to hear
something real good again."
With the flush on her face a little hightened, the young girl promptly
crossed to where the tract hung; and a strange stillness settled over
the listeners as her clear voice sounded distinctly down the long
room. This was what she read.
"Dear Friend: Are you a Christian? What have you done to-day for
Christ? Are the friends with whom you have been talking traveling
toward the New Jerusalem? Did you compare notes with them as to how
you were all prospering on the way? Is that stranger by your side
a fellow-pilgrim? Did you ask him if he _would_ be? Have you been
careful to recommend the religion of Jesus Christ by your words, by
your acts, by your looks, this day? If danger comes to you, have you
this day asked Christ to be your helper? If death comes to you this
night, are you prepared to give up your account? What would your
record of this last day be? A blank? What! Have you done _nothing_ for
the Master? Then what have you done against Him? Nothing? Nay, verily!
Is not the Bible doctrine, 'He that is not for me is against me?'
"Remember that every neglected opportunity, every idle word, every
wrong thought of yours has been written down this day. You can not
take back the thoughts or words; you can not recall the opportunity.
This day, with all its mistakes, and blots, and mars, you can never
live over again. It must go up to the judgment just as it is. Have you
begged the blood of Jesus to be spread over it all? Have you resolved
that no other day shall witness a repeatal of the same mistakes? Have
you resolved in your own strength or in His?"
During the reading of the tract, a young man had entered, paused a
moment in surprise at the unwonted scene, then moved with very quiet
tread across the room and took the vacant seat near Ester. As the
reader came back to her former seat, with the pink on her cheek
deepened into warm crimson, the new comer greeted her with--
"Good-evening, Miss Fannie. Have you been finding work to do for the
"Only a very little thing," she answered, with a voice in which there
was a slight tremble.
"I don't know about that, my dear." This was the old woman's voice.
"I'm sure I thank you a great deal. They're kind of startling
questions like; enough to most scare a body, unless you was trying
pretty hard, now ain't they?"
"Very solemn questions, indeed," answered the gentleman to whom this
question seemed to be addressed. "I wonder, if we were each obliged
to write truthful answers to each one of them, how many we should be
ashamed to have each other see?"
"How many would be ashamed to have _Him_ see?" The old woman spoke
with an emphatic shake of her gray head, and a reverent touch of he
"That is the vital point," he said. "Yet how much more ashamed we
often seem to be of man's judgment than of God's."
Then he turned suddenly to Ester, and spoke in a quiet, respectful
"Is the stranger by my side a fellow-pilgrim?"
Ester was startled and confused. The whole scene had been a very
strange one to her. She tried to think the blue-ribboned girl was
dreadfully out of her sphere; but the questions following each other
in such quick succession, were so very solemn, and personal, and
searching--and now this one. She hesitated, and stammered, and flushed
like a school-girl, as at last she faltered: "I--I think--I believe--I
"Then I trust you are wide-awake, and a faithful worker in the
vineyard," he said, earnestly. "These are times when the Master needs
true and faithful workmen."
"He's a minister," said Ester, positively, to herself, when she had
recovered from her confusion sufficiently to observe him closely, as
he carefully folded the old woman's shawl for her, took her box and
basket in his care, and courteously offered his hand to assist her
into the cars for the New York train thundered in at last, and Mr.
Newton presented himself; and they rushed and jostled each other out
of the depot and into the train. And the little tract hung quietly
in its corner; and the carpenter who had left it there, hammered, and
sawed, and planed--yes, and prayed that God would use it, and knew not
then, nor afterward, that it had already awakened thoughts that would
tell for eternity.
THE JOURNEY'S END.
"Yes, he's a minister," Ester repeated, even more decidedly, as, being
seated in the swift-moving train, directly behind the old lady and the
young gentleman who had become the subject of her thoughts, she found
leisure to observe him more closely. Mr. Newton was absorbed in the
_Tribune_; so she gave her undivided attention to the two, and could
hear snatches of the conversation which passed between them, as well
as note the courteous care with which he brought her a cup of water
and attended to all her simple wants. During the stopping of the train
at a station, their talk became distinct.
"And I haven't seen my boy, don't you think, in ten years," the old
lady was saying. "Won't he be glad though, to see his mother once
more? And he's got children--two of them; one is named after me,
Sabrina. It's an awful homely name, I think, don't you? But then, you
see, it was grandma's."
"And that makes all the difference in the world," her companion
answered. "So the old home is broken up, and you are going to make a
"Yes; and I'll show you every _thing_ I've got to remember my old
With eager, trembling fingers, she untied the string which held down
the cover of her basket, and, rummaging within, brought to light
a withered bouquet of the very commonest and, perhaps, the very
homeliest flowers that grew, if there _are_ any homely flowers.
"There," she said, holding it tenderly, and speaking with quivering
lip and trembling voice. "I picked 'em the very last thing I did, out
in my own little garden patch by the backdoor. Oh, times and times
I've sat and weeded and dug around them, with him sitting on the stoop
and reading out loud to me. I thought all about just how it was while
I was picking these. I didn't stay no longer, and I didn't go back to
the house after that. I couldn't; I just pulled my sun-bonnet over my
eyes, and went across lots to where I was going to get my breakfast"
Ester felt very sorry for the poor homeless, friendless old
woman--felt as though she would have been willing to do a good deal
just then to make her comfortable; yet it must be confessed that that
awkward bunch of faded flowers, arranged without the slightest regard
to colors, looked rather ridiculous; and she felt surprised, and not
a little puzzled, to see actual tears standing in the eyes of her
companion as he handled the bouquet with gentle care.
"Well," he said, after a moment of quiet, "you are not leaving
your best friend after all. Does it comfort your heart very much to
remember that, in all your partings and trials, you are never called
upon to bid Jesus good-by?"
"What a way he has of bringing that subject into every conversation,"
commented Ester, who was now sure that he was a minister. Someway
Ester had fallen into a way of thinking that every one who spoke
freely concerning these matters must be either a fanatic or a
"Oh, that's about all the comfort I've got left." This answer came
forth from a full heart, and eyes brimming with tears. "And I don't
s'pose I need any other, if I've got Jesus left I oughtn't to need any
thing else; but sometimes I get impatient--it seems to me I've been
here long enough, and it's time I got home."
"How is it with the boy who is expecting you; has he this same
The gray head was slowly and sorrowfully shaken. "Oh, I'm afraid he
don't know nothing about _Him_."
"Ah! then you have work to do; you can't be spared to rest yet. I
presume the Master is waiting for you to lead that son to himself."
"I mean to, I mean to, sir," she said earnestly, "but sometimes I
think maybe my coffin could do it better than I; but God knows--and
I'm trying to be patient."
Then the train whirred on again, and Ester missed the rest; but one
sentence thrilled her--"Maybe my coffin could do it better than I."
How earnestly she spoke, as if she were willing to die at once, if by
that she could save her son. How earnest they both were, anyway--the
wrinkled, homely, ignorant old woman and the cultivated, courtly
gentleman. Ester was ill at ease--conscience was arousing her
to unwonted thought. These two were different from her She was a
Christian--at least she supposed so, hoped so; but she was not like
them. There was a very decided difference. Were they right, and was
she all wrong? wasn't she a Christian after all? and at this thought
she actually shivered. She was not willing to give up her title, weak
though it might be.
"Oh, well!" she decided, after a little, "she is an old woman,
almost through with life. Of course she looks at everything through a
different aspect from what a young girl like me naturally would;
and as for him, ministers always are different from other people, of
Foolish Ester! Did she suppose that ministers have a private Bible
of their own, with rules of life set down therein for them, quite
different from those written for her! And as for the old woman, almost
through with life, how near might Ester be to the edge of her own life
at that very moment! When the train stopped again the two were still
"I just hope my boy will look like you," the old lady said suddenly,
fixing admiring eyes on the tall form that stood beside her, patiently
waiting for the cup from which she was drinking the tea which he had
procured for her.
Ester followed the glance of her eye, and laughed softly at the
extreme improbability of her hope being realized, while he answered
"I hope he will be a noble boy, and love his mother as she deserves;
then it will matter very little who he looks like."
While the cup was being returned there was a bit of toilet making
going on; the gray hair was smoothed back under the plain cap, and
the faded, twisted shawl rearranged and carefully pinned. Meantime her
thoughts seemed troubled, and she looked up anxiously into the face of
her comforter as he again took his seat beside her.
"I'm just thinking I'm such a homely old thing, and New York is such
a grand place, I've heard them say. I _do_ hope he won't be ashamed of
"No danger," was the hearty answer; "he'll think you are the most
beautiful woman he has seen in ten years."
There is no way to describe the happy look which shone in the faded
blue eyes at this answer; and she laughed a softly, pleased laugh as
"Maybe he'll be like the man I read about the other day. Some mean,
old scamp told him how homely his mother was; and he said, says
he, 'Yes, she's a homely woman, sure enough; but oh she's such a
_beautiful_ mother!' What ever will I do when I get in New York," she
added quickly, seized with a sudden anxiety. "Just as like as not,
now, he never got a bit of my letter, and won't be there to get me!"
"Do you know where your son lives?"
"Oh, yes, I've got it on a piece of paper, the street and the number;
but bless your heart, I shouldn't know whether to go up, or down, or
Just the shadow of a smile flitted over her friend's face as the
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