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By: Annie S. Swan
Dedicated to Effie and Buz in Dear Memory of Grandma

This lovely story is presented to you, our reader, in it's original form. Published in the mid eighteen hundreds, it offers punctuation as it was once used. We believe that this was meant to help the reader of the story, because these books were meant to be read out loud on a cold, dark night. The family would gather around the fireplace and share in what had evolved from the "morality plays" of the medieval times. Our author, offers us a story which is still very relevant today, while she instructs the people who are her audience, on the failings of her society. We really haven't changed much. My copy of this lovely old book was given to Bessie Kindrigan on Christmas Day in the year 1889. My thanks go to Bessie for taking such good care of her gift that 120 years later, we are able to share it with you. Now sit back and do a bit of time travel—WordShack style.

Chapter I: Wilful Bessie

It was such a pretty place. If you had searched the wide world over you could not have found a sweeter homestead than Clovermead. It lay so cosily in the shelter of the long low hills which sloped away behind the house, and was so surrounded by trees that, unless you had known before, you could not possibly have guessed there was a house there at all. It was quite close to the high road too — only the breadth of a five-acre field to cross, and you were at the orchard gate. The house was a grey and old-fashioned building covered with ivy and honeysuckle, and roses creeping in at every window. Such roses! White, and pink, and red, and yellow — the like of which no other garden in Little Thorpe could boast. Clovermead was on Squire Denison's estate, but the Leighs had been farmers there as long as the oldest inhabitant in Little Thorpe could remember, and for many years before that. The Leighs had always been well-to-do, respectable people — a trifle proud, perhaps, but against whom nobody had a word to say.

At the time my story begins, the family at Clovermead consisted of Farmer Leigh, his wife, and two daughters, Bessie and Susan.

It was the harvest time, and reapers were busy everywhere. Never had Clovermead yielded such an abundant crop, and good Farmer Leigh returned thanks for it night and morning. The weather left nothing to be desired; long golden days, on which work could be done without a lost minute, and lovely moonlight nights, warm and pleasant as the summer time, made these September days long remembered in Little Thorpe. The summer had been cold and wet, but autumn was making up for it all.

One evening after a hard day's work, Farmer Leigh was dozing in his arm-chair by the kitchen fire, and his wife knitting at the other side. In the dairy Susan was straining through the mild, and making a pleasant clatter with the pails. “It's after eight, girls,” called the farmer, rousing up; “get the supper and let's to bed; five o'clock to-morrow morning sharp, to the low meadow, mind.” “Coming, father,” answered Susan's pleasant voice, and in a few minutes she entered the kitchen and drew in the table. She was a comely young woman, Susan Leigh; no great beauty, but a pleasant person to have about the house. She was the elder daughter and her mother's right hand.

“Where's Bessie?” asked Mrs. Leigh with some sharpness.

“Down the lane, mother,” answered Susan, reluctantly.

“Talking to the lads from the Hall, eh!” asked the farmer.

“I saw William Hughes turn the corner as I came out of the byre,” answered Susan.

“I wish them workmen were away from the Hall,” said Mrs. Leigh with a sign; “they seem to be turning all the lasses' heads.”

“There aint anything but a bit o' nonsense atween the young man an' our Bessie, wife' don't trouble your head about it.”

“I don't like it, Leigh,” said his wife decidedly. “I am afraid Bessie's set her heart on 'im; and he isn't one I'd like to give my girl to.”

“I am afraid there has been serious talk between them, mother,” said Susan; “would you object to it?”

“Yes, I would. William Hughes is not a steady young man; and he'd want to take our Bessie away to London with him, -- as well go off to foreign parts at once.”

At that moment the outer door opened, very softly, and Bessie stole in. Even in the firelight the keen-eyed mother saw how flushed her face was, and how bright her eyes. She was very pretty, there could be no doubt — “too pretty to be o' much use,” the mother thought. “I never saw a pretty face an' common sense go together I' my life.”

“Where have ye been, Bessie?”

“Down the lane, mother,” answered Bessie meekly.

“Chatterin' to that good-for-nothing William Hughes. No good 'll come o't, my pet,” said Mrs. Leigh.

Bessie pouted, and the subject dropped. They drew their chairs to the table, and partook of their evening meal — bread and milk, and a morsel of cheese. Then Susan put the things away, and the farmer got the Bible from the shelf. He read a psalm, and offered up the simple prayer without which the day was never begun or ended at Clovermead. The girls bade their parents good-night, and went upstairs to bed. Susan began to undress at once, prudently considering she would require all her seven hours' sleep, but Bessie sat down by the window, and leaning her pretty head on her hand, fell to thinking of her lover, and of the sweet words she had listened to down the lane.

“Bessie!” called Susan, “it's no use sittin' there dreamin'; it's nigh ten.”

Just then their mother entered the room. Bessie looked round in surprise. It was a very rare thing to see her there after they had retired. She came over to the window, where Bessie sat in the pale moonlight, and laid her hand on her shoulder.

“I can't sleep, my lass, till I get the truth from you,” she said, almost hurriedly; “is there anything atween thee an' William Hughes?” Bessie blushed and hung her head.

“Don't turn away from me now, Bessie; I'm your mother, my girl, and I have a right to know. Tell me the truth.”

“He has asked me to be his wife, mother,” said Bessie, very low.

“An' what did ye say, Bessie,” asked the mother, tremblingly.

“I said 'Yes' mother,” replied Bessie, lover still. “I couldn't say ought else; I love 'im.”

There was a moment's silence. This was what the mother had feared. The blow had come.

“Ye know next to nothing about 'im, Bessie,” she said very gravely. “Six weeks only sin' he came to Little Thorpe. Courtin' a lass wasn't so easy nor so quick a job when I was young.”

“Things are different, now, mother; and he had to speak, as he will be goin' away so soon.”

“An are ye willin' to leave father, an' mother', an' Susan, an' go away to Lunnon wi' this young man Bessie?”

“Yes mother, quite willin'.”

“Then I've no more to say. I pray the Lord ye may not have built your happiness on a frail foundation. He's not the husband I would have chosen for you, Bessie.”

“You would be hard to please, mother; you'd like to keep Susan an' me at Clovermead all our days.”

“No, Bessie, but I'd dearly like to keep my girls till I can give 'em to good honest men, different from your flighty William Hughes.”

“You are too hard on him, said Bessie, her temper rising, “because he's smart an' tasty wi' his clothes, like all town folk. He looks a vast deal better to my thinkin' than the country lads in Little Thorpe.”

“It's not the dressin'-up, Bessie, though that's silly enough in a man,” answered Mrs. Leigh, sternly; “it's his reckless speech, an ' off-hand ways, I don't like; an' he spends too much of his time in the Oatsheaf.”

“You can't wonder at him. It's slow for 'im, down here, after town life,” said Bessie, repeating word for word a speech of her lover's. “Mother, don't be hard on us; talk to father, for William's comin' to ask for me to-morrow.”

The mother sighed a deep sigh and turned to go. “If it must be it must be; but oh, my lass, my heart's too heavy, but I'll try an' like the young man for your sake, an' if he can satisfy a few plain questions, I'll give him my girl if I must, but it'll be hard.”

Thank you, mother.”

Bessie flung her arms round her mother's neck and kissed her with real gratitude.

“God bless an' keep you, my lass, an' guide you in the right way,” said Mrs. Leigh; then she went to bed.

But not to sleep. Ah! No; a mother's most anxious hours are in the night, when there is no eye to see but God's.

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Chapter II: The Squire's Daughter

At five o'clock next morning, Farmer Leigh and the girls went out to the harvest field. But the dew was heavy on the corn, so nothing could be done till the sun was up to dry it. It was a grey morning, but rosy to eastward, promising a lovely day. At this busy time Mrs. Leigh had much to do in-doors; she had to manage without the girls' help, as they were needed in the fields. After breakfast was over, she had the house to set to rights, the dinner to make, and bread to bake. Nobody liked better to work than Mrs. Leigh when everything was going smoothly, but she had no heart for her work that morning. Bessie and her love affair were troubling her. Shortly after ten o'clock, a pretty grey pony, carrying a young lady, came up the leafy lane to Clovermead. Mrs. Leigh had just began her baking, and when she saw the pony pass the window, she ran to the front door door wiping her floury hands on her apron.

By this time the young lady had alighted, and was standing at her pony's head — as pretty a picture as eyes could wish to see.

“Why, Miss Hirrel, dear,” cried the farmer's wife in great delight. “Is it you? I can't believe my eyes.”

“Really me,” laughed Miss Hirrel; “we have been to Scotland for a month, and we are just going abroad; but both papa and I wanted to see for ourselves how much longer we would need to stay out of Dene, so we came down last night. How are Mr. Leigh, and Bessie, and Susan?”

“Well and hearty, dear; how well you look, Miss Hirrel — for all the world like one of my roses.”

“You are as good at paying compliments as ever, Mrs. Leigh, “ said the young lady. “Well, I'm going to leave Dapple here and come in for a little. Being an animal of discrimination, he won't touch the flowers. Why, Mrs. Leigh, your roses are as plentiful as if it was June instead of September; how do you manage it? I never met such beauties.”

“Let 'em alone an' they'll grow, I always say. Well, come in; I'm bakin', you see; yes, step into the kitchen as you used to do.”

Miss Dennison flung her habit over her arm, and followed the farmer's wife into the great cool kitchen. She was perfectly at home in it — many a meal she had taken in it in her childish days. She sat down by the table, and Mrs. Leigh plunged her hands into the flour again.

“How's the Squire?” she asked.

“Very well, thank you, but wearying dreadfully to be at home; so am I — there's no place like Dene.”

Mrs. Leigh looked at the sweet face and smiled. “You don't take kindly to the gay doings in town, Miss Harrel.”

“No; it is very wearisome to me; it surprises me to see how people enjoy it.”

“How long do you think the men will be working at the Hall yet, Miss Hirrel?”

“About three weeks, papa thinks; and we will be home about a fortnight before Christmas.”

“Not till then?”

Miss Dennison shook her head.

“I wish them men had never come to Dene, Miss Hirrel.”

“Why?” queried the young lady, in extreme surprise.

“Because one of 'em has got round our Bessie, and she's for off to Lunnon wi' him,” said Mrs. Leigh, stirring her dough with great vigour. “One o' the joiners — William Hughes by name — a dressed-up thing, not more to be relied on than that garden fence, and that's frail enough. Our Bessie's a light-headed thing, and she'll have her own way in this as like as not.”

“Dear Mrs. Leigh, I am very sorry,” said Miss Hirrel, looking as she felt. I don't know what Leigh 'll say to it, I'm sure. That's the way, Miss Hirrel; toil an' bring up children, an' they'll leave you for the first man as looks at 'em. She'll rue it. I know what marriage is; it needs a deal o' ballast I' the boat, Miss Hirrel, an' there's no' a handful between the two o' 'em.”

“Does Bessie really want to marry the young man, Mrs. Leigh?”

“Ay, sure enough. To-night he's comin' to ask Leigh an' me. I hope I may be able to be civil to him; my tongue's none o' the sweetest, Miss Hirrel, but there's a heart at the bottom. I sometimes wish there wasn't.”

A tear stole down Mrs. Leigh's cheek, and she whisked the dough into the tins, and set them down to rise before she spoke again.

“I don't mind my girls marryin' if they'd take decent lads we know summat about; and to go away to Lunnon, too; I'd as life she died a'most.”

“London is not so very far away, Mrs. Leigh,” said Miss Dennison, trying to comfort her.

Nigh fifty miles; far enough for country folk as never left their homes in' their lives. No, no, when Bessie goes to Lunnon she goes for good. I'll not look to see her in .”

“Is she in the fields this morning, Mrs. Leigh?”

“Ay, I' the low meadow.”

“I should like to see Mr. Leigh and the girls before I go away for so long, so I'll just ride round that way,” said Miss Dennison, rising. “Now, dear Mrs. Leigh, don't fret about this; it'll come all right, I am sure.”

“Bless you dear heart, every trouble seems to grow lighter after a talk with you, Miss Hirrel; you've a way with you which does a body more good than all the sermons that were ever preached. I'm expectin' to hear of your own marriage one o' these days.”

Miss Hirrel blushed. “One of these days perhaps you may,” she laughed. “Well, good-bye; I hope you will be out of this trouble when I come back.”

Then Miss Dennison went out to Dapple, who stood like the model pony he was, waiting patiently for his dear mistress. She sprang to the saddle, gave him a touch with her switch, and with a nod and a smile to Mrs. Leigh, cantered down the lane. A rough cart-road branched off through the trees to the low meadow, and here Dapple moved very cautiously, his dainty feet not relishing the stones and hard ruts.

It was a glorious day. The brilliant sunshine glinted through the trees, touching the autumn-tinted leaves with a thousand exquisite hues. The golden cornfields, gay with poppy and corn-flower, swayed in the western wind, and filled the air with a strange restless murmur. The little strip of meadow where the cows fed was as green and fresh as in the spring-time, for all nature was rejoicing in this Indian summer.

Before Miss Dennison emerged from the narrow wood which skirted the low meadow, she heard the voices of the reapers, the cheery “Hi, hi” with which the men urged on their horses, and now and again a snatch of song from one of the women. Miss Dennison drew rein at the gate into the field, and looked at the busy scene for a moment with a smile on her lips. Farmer Leigh, in his shirt sleeves, was laying off the corn from the machine; but catching sight of Dapple and his mistress, stopped the horses, and came towards her, with a well-pleased look on his face. Miss Dennison, you must understand, was the personal friend of every tenant on her father's estate. If there was a complaint to make about game damaging the crops, or fences needing repair, or any other grievance, it was carried first to Miss Hirrel, who was sure to obtain redress for it. She never forgot anything, and nothing was too small or trifling for her to feel an interest in, and as she was the idol of her father's heart, her wish was his law.

Ay, many a heart in Little Thorpe has cause to bless Hirrel Dennison.

“Fine morning, Farmer,” she called cheerily; “this is harvest weather now.” She laid her dainty hand in the farmer's hardened palm, and he shook it heartily.

“Ay, Miss Dennison, this be the Lord's own doin'. I'll make a penny off Clovermead this year, tell the Squire.”

“That's right. He will be glad to hear of it. I have been at the house, Mr. Leigh, and came down now to see you and the girls; we are going abroad for a time.”

“Haste back again then, Miss Dennison, do. Dene aint anything when you're away.”

Miss Dennison laughed, and urged Dapple gently forward. “I'll just talk a minute with the girls, Mr. Leigh, she said; “good-bye.”

Bessie was leaning against a stook, with her sunbonnet pulled far over her pretty face, to keep the sun from tanning it. She was very proud of her complexion, and took pains to keep it pure and white. Miss Dennison's cap was pushed far back on her sunny head — she did not mind the sun, and was not afraid of her complexion.

“Well, Bessie?”

“Yes, Miss Hirrel,” answered Bessie, dropping a curtsey.

“Are you quite well, Bessie?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

There was a moment's silence.

“Your mother is in distress about you, Bessie,” said Miss Hirrel, gravely. “Are you going to leave her?”

“I'm not goin' to be an old maid, Miss Hirrel, nor live all my days in Little Thorpe if I can help it,” said Bessie, pertly.

“I don't expect it. But, Bessie,” Miss Dennison laid her hand a moment on the girl's arm, “take serious thought about this marriage of yours, and listen to your mother. She has lived longer than you, Bessie, and knows something of the world. And always remember that marriage is not like any other thing — it is for life, and can't be undone, no matter how it turns out.”

“La, Miss Hirrel, one would think you'd been married yourself, to hear you speak,” said Bessie, with an awkward laugh. Miss Hirrel did not answer, but bade her good-bye, and passed on for a word with Susan.

When she reached home that day, she paused on her way upstairs to ask the housekeeper a question about William Hughes.

“He aint no great things, Miss Hirrel,” she answered. “One o' them selfish, unsteady chaps I wouldn't trust no further nor I could see. He likes the drink too, an' if that Bessie Leigh takes 'im, as they say she will she'll no ha' her sorrows to seek. That's what I think o' William Hughes, Miss Hirrel, an' I've lived sixty years I' the world, and should know something about folk by this time.

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Chapter III: What Came of It

A new wing was being added to the Hall, and other extensive alterations made within and without. A dozen London tradesmen had come to Little Thorpe, and created quite a stir in the quiet little place. Their talk of the great doings and busy life in the city, had sown the seeds of discontent among the youthful members of the community, and many an anxious mother re-echoed Mrs. Leigh's regret that they had ever come to Little Thorpe. Miss Dennison was about to be married, and, loth to part with his darling, the Squire had made it a condition of the marriage that the young pair should live at Dene as long as he lived. That had been satisfactorily arranged, hence the extensive repairs.

Miss Dennison was really concerned about Bessie Leigh, and in a manner took to herself some blame in the matter. But she was powerless to mend matters now, and left Dene, hoping that Bessie would yet see her folly before it was too late. Mrs. Leigh had an anxious day in the house, with the prospect of William Hughes' visit before her.

When six o'clock came and the farmer came in to tea she was obliged to tell him about it. Mrs. Leigh stood in some awe of her husband; he was kind and affectionate, but stern and unyielding when anything displeased him, and she knew perfectly well this affair would displease him very much.

“Ye'd better wash yer face, Leigh,” she said with a short laugh, “there's company comin' to-night.”

“Who's comin'? asked the farmer.

“The lad as wants our Bessie; he's comin' to get 'ay' or 'no' from you an' me to-night.”

“Is he?” quoth the farmer, quite unconcernedly; “he might save himself the trouble. Let's ha' some tea, wife. I'm as hungry as a hawk.”

Mrs Leigh poured out the tea in silence.

“What is to be said to 'im, though, Leigh?”

“Said? Why, I'll set him about his business as civil's I can; that's all, wife,” said the farmer, with his mouth full. “There's a rare handful o' wheat I' the low meadow this harvest.”

You see hi dismissed the matter at once, as if it required no further thought.

“An' Bessie?” Queried his wife.

“Bessie! She's been brought up to do as she's bid, han't she? There'll be no trouble wi' her. Let her go off to Lunnon wi' such a chap, did she think? No, hardly; she has some sense, surely; she can't want anything so out o' the question.”

Mrs. Leigh answered nothing. She knew Bessie's willful ways — how obstinate she could be when she chose, and did not anticipate such an easy settlement of the matter as her husband.

Just then the girls came in, and there was no more said. After tea, Bessie ran off to dress, while Susan cleared the table. About seven o'clock the visitor came. He was a good-looking young man, well dressed, and perfectly at his ease. The farmer knew him well enough, having exchanged remarks with him often outside.

William Hughes plunged into his business without hesitation, and said plainly he wanted Bessie for his wife. Susan had withdrawn, and Mrs. Leigh stood looking out of the window.

“Look here, young man,” said the farmer slowly and decidedly. “It can't be; I ain't a goin' to give my girl to a man I know nothin' about, and who spends as much time as you do I' the Oatsheaf.”

It was plain enough, and the young man coloured slightly.

“I'd be a good husband to her, Mr. Leigh.”

“We won't try you,” said the farmer in the same stolid way; “you can't get her, an' that's an end o 't. An' don't you try to see her or speak to her again, or I'll say something you won't like.”

The young man rose at once and went away.

“Leigh! quoth his wife, the moment he was gone, “there was no use sayin' such hard things to the young man. He means well enough.”

“Hard things! I told him my mind as I meant to do. He's a pretty chap, I can tell you, Susan. I can see through him like a glass — and he ain't worth a rush. Bessie!”

The call brought Bessie downstairs, flushed and trembling, for she had heard the visitor come.

Her father looked at her from head to foot.

“I daresay ye're dressed, my lass,” he said with a grim smile. “Well, the young man's been an' gone, an' that's an end o 't. Mother and me don't approve o' 'im, so ye'll think no more o' him, Bessie; he ain't worth a snap o' my fingers, an' wad bring you to poverty and sorrow.”

So saying, the farmer lighted his pipe, and stalked out, thinking the matter settled, and that he would hear no more about it. Bessie stood quite still for a minute or so, and then went upstairs again.

For two or three days the subject was never mentioned in the house. The farmer was the only one at ease about it. Mrs. Leigh was in a fever of anxiety; she did not like the quiet seemingly, careless feeling about it. That was not generally Bessie's way.

“Mother, I am afraid Bessie 'll make herself ill,” said Susan one day. “She tosses about at nights, and never sleeps a wink, I think.”

Mrs. Leigh did not answer, but her face grew weary and worried-looking; only a mother's heart can understand exactly how she felt.

So a week passed away. After tea one night, Bessie went out with her hat and jacket on, to pay a visit to a friend in the village.

The evening wore on, and when nine o'clock came, a great fear fell upon her father, and mother, and sister.

The night passed, and many more nights — ay, and years, -- but Bessie Leigh came no more to Clovermead.

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Chapter IV: Dark Places

They called place Greenmeadows Court. What a mockery! It was a little filthy enclosure, hemmed in by huge blocks of brick and mortar, so many storeys high, that it made your eyes ace to try and catch a glimpse of the sky.

It was a poor, grey, sullen-looking sky at the best, obscured by the mists and vapours which rose from the densely-populated London district, of which Greenmeadows Court was a part. It swarmed with human beings—every attic, and flat, and cellar was filled to overflowing. Those who live in fine drawing-rooms would have looked shocked and horrified if they had been told how many families occupied each tenement, and might have said it was a case for the interference of the health officers. These gentlemen, whatever their functions were, did not pay many visits to Greeemeadows Court, and the swarm of beings dragged out their wretched lives, and sickened and died when the time came, and were carried away to paupers' graves.

The court opened out into a long narrow alley, where the people in the windows on one side could almost shake hands with those in the other. This was Pigeon Lane. It seems to me that if you want to get at the most wretched places in a great city, you have only to hunt out those which have such names as Paradise Row, Happy Gate, Greenmeadows Court, and such like. There is a kind of grim humour in the wide contrast between the name and the place.

On a raw November afternoon a little child sat on the doorstep of one of the tenements in Greenmeadows Court. It was a girl about six or seven years old, a tiny delicate thing, with a face which might have been pretty if it had been clean and healthy-hued. She was in rags, of course. Greenmeadows Court might more appropriately have been called Rag Fair — a clean and who garment was such a rarity there. The child had her long arms folded across her chest, and was peering with great grey eyes through the narrow opening into the lane. Four o'clock rang from a neighbouring clock. The child counted the strokes on her fingers, then folded her arms again, and continued her watching into the lane.

It was dark almost, though in places blessed with the free light of heaven it was still clear and bright for an hour yet.

In the gutter, a few yards from the child, two or three bundles of rags (they were little else) were making mud pies. The gutter was the nursery of the children in Greenmeadows Court, and the refuse of the street their playthings. Sometimes the child's eyes would rest on them for a minute, and she would smile — an old, wise, pitying smile — as if she had lived very many years longer than them, and knew how hard life was beyond the stage of gutter playing. The minutes passed till the half-hour chimed from the clock. Just then a woman with a basket on her arm made her way through the loungers at the mouth of the court, and came slowly over to the step where the little girl sat.

She rose to her feet very slowly, and looked into the woman's face with loving eyes: “Mother, I've been watchin' for you so long.”

“Sittin' on this damp step, Dottie?” said the woman wearily, and took the child's hand in hers. “You shouldn't 'a done it, dear; you'll catch your death one o' these days.”

“I won't do it again, mother,” said the child obediently; then the two passed into the house, and up the long stair to the very top. There the woman took a key from her pocket and unlocked one of the doors on the landing. It opened into a little low room, poorly furnished and not very clean. This poor woman had neither the heart nor time to spend in house-cleaning; she had enough to do sewing to get necessaries for herself and her child. She shut the door, set down her basket, and sank into a chair with a weary sigh.

“Are you tired, mother?” asked the child, drawing very close to her.

“Tired, body and soul, Dottie,” she said hopelessly; “an' the shops won't give me any more work to do — I soiled it, they said, an' didn't do it fine enough.”

“Never mind, mother,” said Dottie bravely; “some other shop'll give you some, I'm sure.”

The mother shook her head. “My eyes is goin' done, Dottie; I'll have to look for summat else than sewin' to do. An' what'll father say when I've nothin' to give 'im to spend in drink?”

The child shivered. To that question she had no answer to make.

“Mother, han't you a penny even to get a roll with? I'm so hungry,” she said, unable to hold out any longer.

The woman shook her head, and turned round, lifted the child to her lap, and held her very close.

“We'll just need to lie down an' die, Dottie, you an' me; there's no room I' the world for us, my dear — I can't get work, an' there's nothin' for us but to starve.

“Mother, tell me about grandmother, and the beautiful place she lives in, and where you used to live,” said Dottie pleadingly.

The woman gathered the child more closely to her, and, rocking backwards and forwards, began:

“There's the house, Dottie, in a beautiful green meadow with trees round an' round it, an' roses an' honeysuckle all growin' up in at the windows. An' there's the yard where the poultry used to be fed, an' the barn where the corn was, an' the byre where the cows stood, six on 'em, Dottie — Crumple-Horn, an' Daisy, and Bessie, an' Susan after my sister an' me, an' Brownie — such a pretty 'un she was, Dottie! she knew me quite well.

“Tell about the dairy, mother,” said Dottie quickly.

It was such a nice clean place, Dot, with some shelves, an' a little stream o' water runnin' through the middle o't.”

“What was that for, mother?”

“To keep the milk cool. Great basins o' thick cream — there ain't the like o' it here I' the town. An' on churnin' days you ought to ha' seen the great lumps o'yellow butter, an' the buttermilk, -- lovely scones mother used to make with it.”

The woman's eyes were looking through the tiny window with an agony of painful longing in their depths. They had been pretty eyes once, blue and saucy, but now they were dim and worn, and with great dark circles around them, which told their own tale.

“There was the kitchen, Dottie, with the great fireplace, where we could sit right round an' old clock, an' the dresser, an' the plate-rack, with the dishes in it mother got when she was married. Baking days, Dot, -- you should ha' seen the beautiful loaves, an' pies, an' tarts mother used to set on the dresser — it was a perfect sight.”

“Mother,” — Dottie's thin hand stole up to her mother's shoulder, -- “couldn't we go away to grandmother's you an' me an' live; wouldn't she give us ever so little a bit o' the loaves an' pies?”

The woman started as if she had been stung.

“No, my dear,” she said hurriedly, “grandmother 'ud never forgive me for what I did, nor grandfather either. They might give you summat, Dottie, because you're an innocent little child; but they'd shut the door on me.”

“Then I hate 'em, said Dottie, her eyes flashing, “an' I wouldn't have it — there now!”

“No, no, Dottie; that's not a way to speak. They're kind good folks, my dear; an' never forget, so long as you live, that you are grandmother's child, as well as mine; she'd love you, dear, I know.”

There was a little silence. No sound stirred the quiet room, but up from the street below came the noise and shouting of the rough dwellers in the court.

Tears were raining down the woman's faded face, her lips quivering, and her breast, heaving with emotions. God only knew what memories, what agony of longing, what unquenchable regret, surged in her heart.

“No, no, Dottie, my lass, you an' me's alone I' the world,” she repeated. “Grandmother 'ud never forgive me for being the wicked disobedient girl I was; well I deserve it, but it's very hard to think of.”

At that very moment, the lamp was being lit in the kitchen of “the house in the beautiful meadow,” and being set with trembling hand in the uncurtained window.

“Maybe she'd come to-night, Susan,” said a faltering voice. “She'll come at night likely, an' I wouldn't like her to find the house all dark. She might go away again, you know; but when she sees the light, and looks in at the old place, she'll come in, I think, -- don't you?”

Susan only answered with her tears.

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Chapter V: Terrible Relief

Dottie fell asleep, by-and-by, on her mother's knee. Then she was laid down tenderly on her hard flock-bed, covered up with the scanty clothes, and the faded red shawl the woman had about her own shoulders was taken off and laid over the child. Then she moved softly across the floor and sat down in the window to wait for her husband. She sat very long with her head leaning upon her hand, peering out into the night. The roof tops were plainly visible, for the moon was up. But the woman's eyes saw a very different picture from the soot —begrimed roofs in the Greenmeadows Court; they were looking into the great kitchen at Clovermead, and seeing father and mother on either side of the fire and Susan in the middle. It was about nine o'clock, the hour for worship at Clovermead; she could fancy father putting on his spectacles and opening the Bible at the Psalms. Had they forgotten her altogether, she wondered, and put her away out of heart and home as if she had never existed. A low moan escaped her thin lips, and the tears began to fall again. Ay, Bessie Leigh had reaped the whirlwind — her stolen marriage had brought her to the deepest depths of sorrow and destitution. “She dared not dwell upon it to-night, lest she should be unable to resist the temptation which often assailed her, to take her child and hide all their woe in the river. She rose by-and-by, and taking a look at the child to see that she was still asleep, went out of the house, locking the door behind her. She sped downstairs, and stood bare-headed on the step, the chill wind of November making her shiver.

Ten was pealing from the church clock, but the court was swarming with men, women, and children; this was the liveliest part of the day.

“Hev' you seen ought o' my husband, Mrs. Barnes?” she asked a neighbour passing into the house.

The woman shook her head, and went on without remark. Another woman passing to her own door heard the question, and paused to speak.

“He's nabbed, Mrs. Hughes,” she said, eager to tell the news; “there's been the frightfulest row down Lambeth, and he's a'most done for a p'leeceman. Seven years he'll get maybe; I shouldn't wonder.”

Something like relief stole into the face of Bessie Hughes. Terrible as the means of relief were, still it would be a brief respite from the blows and curses, the agony of terror which she had to endure daily from her drunken husband.

“Lambeth, was it? She asked; “what was he doin' there?”

“Dunno,” said the woman; then Bessie Hughes turned and went upstairs again to Dottie. Her heart was lighter than it had been an hour ago; for if she could be rid of the continual dread her husband was to her, if she could keep her meager earnings to herself, brighter days might dawn for her and Dottie. She locked her door, and lying down very softly on the bed, laid her tired head on the pillow, and fell asleep to dream that she was again a little merry child, making daisy chains in the meadows at Clovermead.

It rained in the morning when Bessie Hughes rose, but the weather mattered little to her. Dottie still slept. Her mother was thankful for it, for waking hours were not so pleasant that she could seek to prolong them. There was not a bite in the house for breakfast, and no prospect of getting any. For a few minutes she was at her wit's end. She opened the cupboard, and took from it a little box which she touched almost reverently. It was locked, and the key hung always by a ribbon round her neck. She drew it out, fitted it in the lock, and opened the lid. This was what the box contained: - her marriage lines; -- a little Testament, on the flyleaf of which was written in a crooked, unsteady hand, “To Bessie, with Mother's love;” beside it was a little gold locket and chain containing the portraits of her father and mother, -- Susan and she had got them alike, a Christmas present — the very Christmas before she left home.

“It goes to my heart to part wi' this,” she sobbed, “but I can't see my darlin' starve, an' maybe I'll be able to take it out o'pawn again.”

She put it in her pocket, locked the box, and set it back in the cupboard. The she wrapped the red shawl round her head, and ran quickly downstairs. There were not many people about, the rain was falling in torrents, and all who had a shelter gladly kept it. Bessie Hughes had not far to go. Whatever else is lacking in the quarters of the poor, the public-house and the pawnshop stand open always, inviting poor hungry miserable beings to add to their burdens. The shutters were not yet off the windows of the pawnshop; but the door was open, and Bessie slipped in half ashamed. This was not her first nor second visit to it, but she had never lost the shrinking shame which overwhelmed her at entering such a place. The man looked at her somewhat sharply when she presented the trinket, but asked no questions. After examining it carefully, he gave her five shillings.

“I hope to take it out some day soon,” she said; “I don't like to part with it.”

“All right; I'll be glad to see you, missis,” said the man, with an offensive smile; and Bessie hurried out, more ashamed than ever. She went into the dingy little milk shop at the corner of the lane, and bought a pennyworth of milk and some rolls. The woman also sold her two-pence-worth of coals, and some sticks, which completed Bessie's purchases. Dottie was awake when she got home, and ravenous for breakfast. Her mother kindled a fire, and the two crouched close to it, and enjoyed their meal as only those can enjoy it who have kept a twenty-four hours' fast.

Dottie grew quite cheerful over it, and chattered away till her mother actually caught herself laughing.

“Now, look here, Dottie.” she said, when they had finished, “I'm goin' away to Lambeth to see about father. You'll stay here and keep the fire warm till I come back, which won't be long.”

“Will father come with you?” asked the child.”

“I don't know, dear; but I think not. Don't go out, mind, because it's awful wet, an' cold besides.”

“Very well, mother; but you'll get all wet.”

“Oh, I'm used to it,” answered the mother, tying on her old bonnet, and once more rolling the shawl round her. “Be a good child till I come back; good-bye.”

She stooped and kissed the child fondly before she went out. Just on the landing she met a young woman coming up with a bundle in her arms.

“Is that more work Ellen?” she stopped to ask.

The young woman leaned against the banister, and put her hand to her side, to keep down the sharp pain mounting the long stair had given her.

“Yes, it's more. I'm getting' 'bout tired out now, Mrs. Hughes.”

“Do you feel bad?” asked Bessie sympathisingly.

“Bad! I think I do. Coughing till I can't move sometimes. What's the use o'livin' as we do?”

“Not much; but you're better off than me, as you've always work. Do you s'pose they'd take me on?”

“No, they wouldn't; they've plenty of hands — more 'n they want. I'm expectin' every bundle 'll be my last; an' then there's the river — the sooner the better I say.”

“Don't talk so, Ellen,” said her listener, sharply.

“You needn't pine for my work. What d'ye s'pose I can make, workin' sixteen hours a-day?”

Bessie shook her head.

“Fourpense; sixpense if I sit up half the night. That's what we poor ones keep body and soul together on,” said the girl bitterly. “Well, I'll need to be off; time's money.” So saying the girl passed on her way, and Bessie went downstairs. It was a good hour's walk to her destination — the police court at Lambeth. She did not want to see her husband — only to ascertain what was his offence, and what was likely to be his punishment. She elbowed her way through the crowd, and got into the court-room, but she could not see her husband.

“Do you know if a man named William Hughes has been brought up this morning? She asked a man standing beside her.

“Yes; not a minute ago. Smashed a bobby's head last night; he's dead, too. Yes — he's committed for trial; fourteen years likely he'll get. Any relation?”

Bessie did not answer, but simply thanking the man for his information, passed out of the court, and sought her way home. Does it seem an awful thing to you that a woman should feel absolute relief to hear that her husband was likely to be transported for fourteen year? Yet that was what Bessie Hughes felt. This was the end of the dream of her girlhood; instead of being a lady as she had fancied, she was the wife of a felon lying in jail charged with the murder of a fellow creature. And the worst of it was that she had not one kindly thought of him who had been her handsome lover eight years ago. What had the treatment been to bring about such a state of feeling? It need not be detailed here. But it is a daily occurrence. Such martyrdoms are common in our Christian land — so common that they are lightly thought and spoken of.

But there will be great reckoning at the Day of Judgement.

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Chapter VI: Their Father's House

Next day was Sunday. A fresh, bright, beautiful morning, making one dream of spring-time in the country, of green meadows, babbling brooks, and caroling birds. Mrs. Hughes rose at daylight, tidied up the little room, and lighted a little bit of fire.

We may as well hev a bit comfort when the money's there,” she thought. “An' mebbe I'll get work to-morrow.” Then she washed her face, and brushed her hair, which made her look years younger. She felt this morning just as if a new lease of life had been granted to her, for there was no brutal drunken husband to come in and make Dottie and her tremble for their lives. Then she awoke Dottie, and dressed her, wishing all the time the little garments were not so worn and soiled. “We'll have some breakfast, Dottie,” she said, “an' then we'll go out a little bit; it seems a nice morning', an' it'll save the fire.”

Dottie was quite pleased. She, too, felt the difference of home without her father, but some innate delicacy made her refrain from speaking of it to her mother. It was about ten o'clock when they went downstairs and out into the court. How quiet it was to-day! Scarcely a creature to be seen, except a lean little dog, and a starved kitten, snuffling about in the gutters, searching for a morning's meal.

“Is this Sunday, mother?” asked Dottie.

“Yes, dear.”

“Mother, what is Sunday?”

“Sunday? The day of rest,” said Mrs. Hughes slowly, repeating words heard long ago in the church at Little Thorpe.

“Mother, dear, couldn't we go to church? Asked Dottie, pressing her mother's hand, and looking up into her face; “I'd like to see the inside o' one.”

“We could go to the mission, down Lambeth, Dottie.”

“No, mother, a real church,” pleaded Dottie, “where all the grand-dressed folk go. We could squeeze into ever so little a corner, nobody 'ud see us.”

“No, no, Dottie. They'd turn us out, and set a policeman after us maybe.”

“Once before, when I asked, mother, you said church was for everybody,” said Dottie.

“Ay, but there's one church for the rich an' another for the poor,” said the mother; “I guess there'll be two heavens too — one for the rich, an' another for the poor.”

“Mother, there's Ellen comin' behind us,” cried Dottie.

Mrs. Hughes paused, and waited till the girl came up.

“I saw you go out, and I came after you, Mrs. Hughes,” she said. “I wanted a mouthful o'fresh air; but if you don't want me, I'll go by myself.”

“No; come along with us. Dottie an' me were just goin' to hev' a bit walk an' a seat in some o' the gardens. I brought a piece for us, an' your welcome to a bite, Ellen.”

“Thank you” said the girl, and taking Dottie's other hand, the three walked on together.

The bells were beginning to ring now — some with a sweet, wild, ringing chime, and some with a big, solemn boom, but all repeating the same invitation, and calling worshippers to the house of God.

“Mother, just let's stand here a minute,” said Dottie, as they passed a great church, with iron railings in front, and a long stone passage up to the pillared doorway, “just by the railings a minute to see 'em go in.”

“No, no, come away, it don't do to stand starin' at folk,” said her mother.

“Oh, let her if she wants to,” said Ellen listlessly; “I guess no one'll take any notice o' us — they're too much took up wi' their fine clothes an' their piety,” she added bitterly.

“Ellen, what makes you speak so? Asked Mrs. Hughes, leaning up against the railing. She often wondered at the bitterness with which the girl spoke.

“I've been drove to it,” she said half fiercely. “Not long after I first came to this wilderness I used to go out sewing to ladies, and do plain sewing for 'em at home. They'd keep me waiting' weeks an' weeks for a few shillin's, an' me starving'; the most o' em haven't no more feelin' than them stone posts — no, not as much. Look at this 'un, Mrs. Hughes, look at 'er well.”

A carriage had drawn up at the gate, and a lady, tall and aristocratic-looking, dressed in velvets and priceless sable, stepped out and passed up to the church.

“She owes me seven-an'-sixpense, Missis Hughes, for the last sewin' I did for her. I traveled them miles to Queen's Gate five times for it, an' she was always engaged, and would I call again? I left off after a bit an' she's owin' it yet. They're all alike, them Christians, Missis Hughes. If them's the kind heaven's to be filled wi', I'm not sorry my chances o' getting' there's so small.”

In all the constant stream passing up to the church, not one pair of eyes glanced kindly at them — some who might have felt inclined to speak to them being deterred by fear of what their neighbours might say. One came by-and-by, who had no fear of this kind, who was not so absorbed by her “clothes and her piety,” but that she could spare a thought for this forlorn-looking trio at the church gate. It was the clergyman's wife — a young lady with a sweet face, shining with love and kindness towards every human being. She came in alone, her husband having gone round to the vestry. She glanced at them with her gentle eyes, but passed through the gate without speaking. But before she was half up the path, she turned and came back.

“Won't you come in?” she asked pleasantly. “Service is just about to begin. Why stand outside?”

Ellen Carson looked at her in perfect wonder. Mrs. Hughes dropped a curtsey, and spoke low and hurriedly -- “Oh, ma'am, thank you, we're not fit to go inside such a grand place.”

“It is your Father's house,” said the lady gently; “open to all His children. You have as good a right there as I or any other person; do come in.”

“I'll come, said Ellen Carson with a strange smile, “if you'll let me sit by you. I guess you won't do that.”

“Won't I? Come and see; my seat will hold you all.”

Dottie tugged at her mother's skirts — “Do go, mother.”

Then all three, moved by some strange impulse, followed the lady into the church. The crimson door closed noiselessly behind them, and they walked down the long aisle, the minister's wife leading the way, and looking round to make sure they were coming. The pew was at the very end of the crowded church, and I leave you to imagine the amazement on every face, at sight of Mrs. Wingate's strange companions. She held open the door and silently motioned them in, herself taking the end of the seat. She bent her head a moment in silent prayer, the burden of which was, “Father, give me these burdened hearts, for Thy dear Son's sake!”

The two women crouched down in the seat, as if ashamed, but Dottie sat straight up, and looked about her. Grand, solemn music was pealing through the place, played by an invisible organist; it made the child's heart beat, she could not tell why.

Every pew was crowded, and an exquisite light from the painted windows streamed in on the sea of faces, each one reverent and composed as befitted the house of God.

“Heaven must be like this,” the child thought, and nestled back on the soft cushions in utter content, for had not the dear kind lady said it was her Father's house. Presently the minister entered and went up to the pulpit. He was a comparatively young man, with a fine, open, earnest face, which won the heart at once. He had a splendid intellect, and a power of eloquence which enchanted his hearers, and he was called the first preacher of the day. But besides that, and above all that, he was a gentle, loving, child-like man, whose one aim was to serve the Master he loved, and bring souls to the feet of Jesus.

As he stood up to pray that morning, his eyes wandered to the pew where his wife sat, and after the first glance of surprise, they grew moist and tender and the first words of his prayer were falteringly uttered.

Dottie listened breathlessly to every word, and in the corner, her mother's eyes grew dim. It was the first time Bessie Hughes had been in a church for years; and her soul was stirred to the very depths.

After singing, the minister gave out his text — “I will arise and go to my Father.”

The sermon which followed was one worthy to be printed in letters of gold. Not for its grand rhetoric, nor its apt illustrations and pathos — though all these were marvelously displayed — but for its simplicity, its direct speaking to the heart, its offer of peace and pardon, and satisfaction for every human need. In this age of great learning, of scientific research, which points and leads to skepticism, we have need of such sermons—greater need than in the old simple days, when the Gospel was preached by men who had little scientific knowledge, little college training, and more of the spirit of the apostles, and of the Master whose servants they were. How many of us in these days go up hungering to the House of God, and are sent empty away? To what aid is all this university lore? In the last days, when our feet touch the Jordan, we have all to grope our way back to the faith of our childhood, and feel for the hand of “Our Father in Heaven.”

Bessie Hughes listened with her face hidden, but Ellen Carson sat upright now, drinking in every word, with great dark eyes shining like two stars.

Dottie listened too, able to comprehend it only dimly, and Mrs. Wingate listened also, and prayed.

When it was done, and Mr. Wingate prayed again, Ellen Carson bowed her head and wept such tears as bring healing to burdened hearts and tired eyes. But Bessie Hughes was conscienceicken, for if the minister had known her circumstances he could not have preached more directly at her.

“Tell me where you live,” said Mrs. Wingate, when the service was over, and she rose to let them pass out.

Bessie Hughes hung her head and hurried past, dragging Dottie behind her.

But Ellen paused, and, forgetful in her impulsiveness where she was, took one of the lady's hands and raised it to her lips.

“Oh, ma'am, God in heaven bless you,” she said with a half sob; “I've got such a blessin' here to-day, such a comfort, I feel like a different being. You're sure it's all true?” she added wishfully.

“True? It is God's own Word,” said Emily Wingate with a bright sweet smile; “tell me where you live, and I'll come and see you to-morrow, and have a talk with you.”

“It's such a place, ma'am, you couldn't come.”

“Couldn't I? There are not many places in London I wouldn't venture into — come, tell me.”

“Greenmeadows Court; my name is Ellen Carson.”

“I shall remember. Good morning.”

Then Ellen went out; Mrs. Hughes was waiting with Dottie a little way from the gate.

“I've got a new life, Missis Hughes,” said Ellen abruptly; “I've got to feel right down in my heart that God's livin' yet an' cares for me. An' I don't care now though I've to work day and night if I can keep on feeling like this. God cares for me.”

Bessie never spoke.

Bessie never spoke.

“The lady's comin' to see us to-morrow, she said,” went on Ellen brightly; “don't you feel glad that you went in?”

“Glad? I wish I was dead, Ellen Carson!” said Bessie in a smothered voice.

Ellen was troubled, but inwardly resolved to lay Bessie's case before her kind friend on the morrow.

But when the morrow came, Ellen watched in vain for the minister's wife; and in a darkened room in a city parsonage, there was the sound of mourning which could not be comforted. In His mysterious providence, God had given Emily Wingate a sudden call up higher. Well for her that she was ready — not a moment's warning had been give. “The cup of cold water” to her poor sisters had been the last act the Master willed that she should perform for Him on earth. Who shall say with what fullness of joy she entered upon her rest and recompense above?

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Chapter VII: The Shadow of the Past

Next morning Mrs. Hughes awoke with a load on her mind, remembering this was rent day. Two shillings weekly she paid the grim, close-fisted landlord for her poor shelter, and unless she could obtain work that very day, Dottie and she would be homeless. The landlord came punctually at twelve o'clock, and took the florin from her poor thin fingers without a moment's hesitation. “It's a great deal, Mr. Jones, for such a poor little place,” she ventured to say; “couldn't you give me a sixpence back?”

Mr. Jones, laughed. “Not if I know it. If it don't please, missis, you know what to do. There's plenty willin' to pay two shillings an' more for it; you ain't bound to stay.”

So saying, he departed to take Ellen Carson's hard-won money with as little compunction.

After paying her rent Mrs. Hughes had one shilling left. How many days would that last, and where would the rent come from next Monday morning? Sorely perplexed, despairing almost, she went in to have a talk with Ellen. She found her singing at her work, with a happy look on her pale face which Bessie had never seen there before.

“Ellen, don't you think I might try your shop?” she asked, almost hopelessly. “P'r'aps when I explained how needful I was, they'd give me sum'mat to do. I can sew pretty well yet, if it's not fine work as needs such good eyes.”

“You might try, Missis Hughes,” said Ellen, but she shook her head as she spoke.

“They get so many applications they can't give to all, an' seein' so much misery I s'pose makes 'em hardhearted; they get used to it.”

Yesterday Ellen would have spoken hardly and bitterly, but to-day her voice was soft and gentle, and her whole manner changed.

“Leave Dottie with me,” she said, “and go off at once. If you can see the principal you've more chance; he's kind-hearted, but he isn't often in.”

“No; I think I'll take Dottie; it'll mebbe help me, when they see she's dependent on me.”

Ellen smiled a little sadly. “Very well; it's a long way, an' she might be tired, you know; 112 Norfolk Street is the address — you'll find it easy.”

“Thank you,” said Bessie, and still lingered, regarding the girl wistfully.

“Ellen, what has come to you?” she asked; “you're like a different creature.”

Ellen dropped her work, and raised her eyes to the quiet sky. “I don't know what it is, Missis Hughes, nor how to explain it,” she said simply. “I feel such a peace and happiness somehow, since I heard them blessed words in church yesterday. It's all true I've heard about God long ago, though I didn't believe it. I've felt all day as if He was quite near me; an' I keep repeating them words, 'I am God's child, He cares for me.' Over and over, till I feel that glad you can't think.”

“I wish I felt just so,” said Bessie wearily, and, without waiting to hear the answer, she turned and went back to her own room. Not many minutes after Ellen heard them going downstairs. It was a very long walk to Norfolk Street, and the early darkness had fallen when they came to the shop. It was a large drapery warehouse, where the commonest class of goods were sold very cheaply. A smart shopwoman regarded Bessie sharply, and asked superciliously what she wanted. Bessie proffered her request tremblingly.

“We've more hands then we want,” said the smart shopwoman, with as much dignity as if the concern were hers,” “but in three weeks time we expect a large order for wincey shirts. Can you make them?”

“Yes, ma'am, I'm very handy with my needle.”

“Well, you may call then, and possibly we may employ you,” said the woman patronizingly; “but it needs to be well done, remember; you'll get one to do as a sample.”

“Very well, ma'am in three weeks I'll come,” said Bessie, glad to have the prospect of work, even so far in the future. But what was she to do in the interval — starve or beg? There was no alternative.

“Mother, do buy a roll, ever so little a one,” said Dottie, when they had gone a little way towards home; “I'm so awful hungry, mother, and tired as well.”

“Very well, Dottie, we'll have a penny roll between us, and we'll sit down on this railin' and eat it, an' get a rest.”

She put her hand in her pocket to find the precious shilling, but fumble as she liked she could not find it. The she turned it outside in, and spied a little hole, where the coin had fallen through.

“Oh, Dot,” she cried in distress, “I've lost the shillin'.” She was quite overcome, and leaning against the railing, began to cry helplessly. Dottie felt very much like crying too, but tried to comfort her mother.

“Dot, I don't know what we are to do,” she said at last, in a low, quiet voice. “There isn't a bite at home for us, my darling'; we'll need to beg or starve.

Dottie thought a moment. “Sing, mother; sing one o' them nice songs I've heard you sing to me. You sing so nicely, mother; you'd be sure to get something.”

Sing! When her heart was breaking, and her voice almost failing her with hunger and fatigue. For Dottie's sake; well, she would try.v

She took the child's hand in hers, and threaded her way slowly through the crowded thoroughfare till they came into the quiet squares and streets, where the houses were big, and solemn, and grand — belonging to people who could count their money by thousands.

It was very quiet, so quiet indeed that Bessie Hughes dreaded to raise her voice there. What could she sing? In her girlish days she had the words and music of many a gay melody on the tip of her tongue, but none of them would be suitable now.

“Come, mother,” pleaded Dottie.

Then with a mighty effort her mother gulped down the lump in her throat, and began the familiar strains of “Home, sweet Home.” She had an exquisite voice of marvelous sweetness and power, and the song rang through the quiet square weird and mournfully, making some seated at sumptuous dinner tables start almost in affright. More than one curtain was drawn, and lovely eyes peered out curiously to see who the singer was. One after another the doors were opened, and liveried servants came down the steps, gingerly holding out silver coins to the minstrel. Dottie ran for the money, and thus saved her mother one humiliation.

They paused at the end of the square, and Bessie tremblingly counted her gains.

“Seven-and sixpence, Dot,” she said breathlessly. “It was worth it, though I thought I should have died. I'll just sing down this crescent, and then we'll go home.”

She began again, holding Dottie tightly by the hand and pressing the other to her heart to still its wild throbbing. Before she had sung to the end of the first verse, a carriage drawn by a pair of magnificent greys swept up the crescent, and stopped almost close to them. Then the door of the great house opened, and a lady and gentleman, followed by a servant carrying wraps, came down the steps.

The coachman sprang down and held open the carriage door. Before the lady stepped in, she glanced about her, as if looking for some one. Her cloak fell from her head, revealing a fair sweet face crowned by sunny hair, in which sparkled many diamonds. Her dress was white, clinging in streaming folds about a perfect figure.

“I want to give something to the poor woman we hear singing, Walter, she said to her husband. “Oh, there she is, and a poor little child too.”

She gave a step forward, and her eyes fell full on the face of Bessie Leigh. There could be no mistaking it, though it was worn, and thin, and old. Ay, it was Bessie Leigh; but before she could speak or seek to detain her, Bessie had flown, dragging her child after her, round the corner, and speeding down the narrow lane where the stables were — anywhere to hide her poverty and shame from the pitying startled eyes of Hirrel Dennison.

She did not hear Dottie's wondering tearful question; these words rang in her ears with a bitter refrain — words she had heard long ago, on a harvest morning, in the low meadow at Clovermead: --

“Always remember that marriage is not like any other thing: it is for life, and cannot be undone, no matter how it turns out.”

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Chapter VIII: Quiet Talk

“I'll tell you what, Missis Hughes,” said Ellen Carson one day. “Why shouldn't we live together, you an' Dottie an' me? It 'ud save two shillin' a-week, an' there is plenty room in my place for you.”

The thoughtful girl's offer was gratefully accepted, so the New Year beheld the three domiciled together in Ellen's room. Bessie had got her promised work, and be close sitting, could make a shilling, and sometimes eighteenpence a-day. By putting their earnings together, and sharing alike in all things, the slender means went farther and secured more necessaries for them. Dottie was the little housekeeper, and it made her mother's heart ache to see how wise and womanly and far-seeing the child had grown, at the age when she had had no more care than one of the swallows twittering in the eaves at Clovermead.

So, in comparative comfort, the winter dragged itself away, and spring came. Oh, how beautiful in country places! How refreshing to the eyes, how gladdening to the heart, to see green buds and tiny blades peeping out, and to smell the brown fields awakening for seedtime!

The two desolate women sewing for dear life in Greenmeadows Court would talk by the hour about spring delights, for Ellen was a country girl too; while Dottie listened open-mouthed, wondering whether, perhaps in some far-off happy time, she might not see with her own eyes the wonderful things they talked about. By-and-by summer came. That was not so pleasant for the poor in cities, for the hot, stifling air of their crowded districts bred foul fevers and incurable diseases, which swept them by dozens into their graves.

During July and August typhus fever raged in Greenmeadows Court, but the three in the attic room escaped contagion. None of them could be spared. Ellen was the pillar of the small establishment, if I may so put it; her bright steadfast faith and cheerfulness of heart sustained them even in the hardest days. Poor, weak, faltering Bessie Hughes, who had never possessed much strength of character, leaned on the girl with as much dependence as Dottie leaned on her. The child bound them together, and made sunshine in the poor, little place, as children do, and will, thank God, as long as our old world shall exist.

The summer waned, and autumn days swept in with dreary rains, and wild winds moaning night and day. Then it was that Ellen's sharp eyes began to note how very white and worn Dottie's mother was growing, and how very often her hand went to her heart, while her breath would come quickly, and in gasps almost of pain. She dragged at her toil, and had to leave off even before the daylight had gone, her eyes grew so tired and dim.

“Bessie,” Ellen said, one afternoon, looking up for her sewing, with a quick, sudden glance, “I'm goin' to say summat you won't like; you got angry wi' me for sayin' it awhile ago. But, I can't help it, Bessie; you ought to go home to your mother.”

Bessie's face flushed.

“I thought I told you never to mention that again, Ellen,” she said.

“So you did, but I don't mind for that. You ought to go, Bessie, you're not well; an' if anything happened to you what would come to Dot?”

“Look here, Ellen, do you s'pose I'm goin' back to Clovermead as I am now; no, I'd die rather, an'cep for Dottie, I'm not mindin' how soon death comes. The Lord you believe so in, surely He can look after Dottie.”

“The Lord helps those as helps themselves, I've heard,” said Ellen, bluntly; “and I b'lieve it's your duty to take 'er home to your mother's.”

“I aint goin' there, that's flat, said Bessie, with a flash of the old willful temper, that had made home unpleasant sometimes.

“I've fallen low enough, but I aint goin' there to hev' fingers pointin' at me from them as envied me when I was at home. I've got some pride left.”

Pride! Poor, foolish Bessie! Had all these years of poverty, and heart-crushing sorrow killed all the better feelings, and left only pride

“I wish I'd a mother to go to; if it was to the end of the earth I'd go, no matter what I'd done,” said Ellen, with a sob. “Do you think she wouldn't take you back?”

“I don't know; she might an' not, you never know. Father wouldn't; he's dreadful when he's crossed.”

“You remember that beautiful story about the Prodigal Son,” asked Ellen half dreamily.

“Oh, that's only a Bible-story,” said Bessie, almost contemptuously; “people who live don't forgive like that.”

“I don't know how you can doubt your mother,” said Ellen. “Mothers always forgive, and I b'lieve her poor old heart's breakin' for you at this minit.”

“Father 'ud shut the door, and I know the look o' 'im, an what he'd say,” said Bessie sullenly; “an' even if they did take me in out o' charity, there's the whisperin', an' the pointin' o' the neighbours.. 'Poor Bessie Leigh,' they'd say. I couldn't stand that, Ellen.”

She finished with a short bitter laugh — and went on with her seam.

Ellen sighed, and held her peace.

“Ellen, I wish you'd tell me how you came to be livin' here,” said Bessie, breaking the silence.

“That's easily enough told,” answered the girl quietly. “Father died at Reigate, where we lived. Mother an' me couldn't make our livin' in the country, so we came here. Hard life we had. Mother died after a bit; sewed herself to death. I sewed on; here I am, that's all.”

“Have you no relatives or anything?”

“Yes, Uncle Dan, my mother's only brother. He was captain of an Indian trading vessel. He was married, but had no children. Aunt Sally, I used to call her, I remember when I was a little thing. I loved them very much, so did mother.”

“Are they dead?” asked Bessie.

“Lost at sea. I think they must be; we never heard of them for so long,” answered Ellen, tears blinding her eyes a moment. “The Lord'll bring us all together again some day, that's what mother used to say.”

Bessie remained silent. When Ellen spoke like that she had nothing to say.

“I get so tired sometimes, Bessie,” said Ellen, letting her work fall, and dropping her head on her hand. “It's such a poor, starved useless kind o' life this; just stitch, stitch, stitch, for daily bread, an' never a moment to think o' another thing. If I live to be as old as mother and keep on stitching, I wonder how I'll feel. Perhaps the Lord'll see fit to take me to Himself before I'm an old woman.”

She said the last words in a whisper, more to herself than to Bessie. It was a strange thing how the “hope of Christ,” which had taken such sudden hold of the girl's burdened heart that night in Mr. Wingate's church should have become so deeply rooted, and burned with such bright and steady light through dark hours, and in dark places.

“Ellen, Ellen!” shouted Dottie's shrill voice on the stair, “there's a man askin' for ye; he's comin' up; he's here, Ellen — such a funny man.”

Then another voice sounded through the quiet room, a man's voice trembling with eagerness-- “Where is she? Where's poor Mary's child?”

Ellen started to her feet, her dark eyes dilating with surprise, which was almost terror. But when they rested on the honest weather-beaten face, and the true grey eyes of the man on the threshold, she staggered forward, and with a great sob, was clasped close to his heart.

“There, there, my deary; don't take on, my precious!” said the trembling voice, while big tears rolled down his cheeks and fell on Ellen's head; “don't cry, my darlin', and shake like that, it's only Uncle Dan'l!”

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Chapter IX: Uncle Dan'l

Yes, it was Uncle Dan'l. By-and-by, when Ellen grew more composed, he raised her head and held her back from him, and took a long, long look at her.

“Ye've weathered a tough gale, my lass,” he said; “Uncle Dan'l come jes' in time to save the trim little craft from being reg'lar swamped.”

“I am very poor, Uncle Dan'l, but I can offer you a seat,” said Ellen, with a tremulous smile; “sit down and tell me where you have been; we thought you were drowned — mother and me.”

Not a word,” said Uncle Dan'l firmly, “not a word, honey, till I hear all about yourself.”

“There isn't much to tell, Uncle,” answered Ellen. “Father died, you know, and mother an' me couldn't get anythin' to do in Reigate, so we came to London. Work was scarce and poorly paid, but we All us managed to live; but it was too much for mother; she took ill and died, and I worked on — that's all.”

Uncle Dan'l looked round the poor little room, and then wandered back to Ellen's pale, worn-looking face, till his eyes grew moist, and he was obliged to blow his nose very loudly with a brilliant red silk pocket-handkerchief.

“Well, you see, Ellen, the last time but one the Petrel sailed we were bound for Bombay,” he said, after a while; “but we had a very bad voyage, and got into port so disabled we took three months to repair; and after that we didn't get a cargo for another month — so there we were. Yer aunt were mostly a gone case among the heat an' blacks and moskeeters together. We couldn't write, you see, so that's why you never heard; but we never thought there would be anythin' wrong, and when yer aunt an' me came home and goes to Reigate, we finds ye clean gone, nobody knows where 'cep that ye went to Lonnon'. We had only a fortnight, and we searched as well as we could, and advertised and everything, and 'twas no use. Then the Petrel had to go off again to Calcutta, an' we only got back a fortnight ago, and we've been searchin' ever since.”

“How did you find me out, Uncle?”

“The queerest chance, deary. Yer aunt and me were goin' along Norfolk Street, when she spies some very cheaply-ticketed pilot-jackets at a shop-door, an' she says, 'Dan'l, let's go in an' hev' a look at 'em.' 'Very well, ole woman, I say, so in we goes. There was a werry smart chap rollin' up shirts or somethin' in a brown paper, and says he to the girl, 'Them's for Ellen Carson' Then yer aunt she gets all of a tremble, but I asked right out who Ellen Carson was, an' where she lived, -- so her I am.”

“An' where's Aunt Sally?”

“On board the Petrel; we've got to sail in two days. You'll jes' go with us my darlin'. My, wot jovial times you an' me and the ole 'oman 'll have in the Petrel now…

Ellen put her hands before her face; her uncle thought she was crying, but her lips moved in prayer.

“O dear Lord, I thank Thee,” was all she said. Was there need of any more?

“Get up, Ellen, said Captain Bluff, growing quite restless; “yer aunt'll be most beside herself; get on yer hat and shawl, honey, and let's be off.”

Then Ellen remembered Bessie and the child. They had not retired, for the simple reason that there was no place to retire to; but they were over in the furthest corner of the room, Bessie talking to Dot to keep her from listening to what was passing.

Uncle Dan'l nodded inquiringly in their direction, then Ellen rose.

“Bessie, this is Captain Bluff, my Uncle Dan'l said Ellen, her face all aglow; “This is a friend o' mine, Mrs. Hughes and her little girl, Dottie.”

“Happy to see you,” said Uncle Dan'l, and took Bessie's hand in his great hearty grasp, while with the other he drew Dottie to his side, and patted her sunny head.

We live together, and work together, uncle,” explained Ellen, getting her shawl off the door. “We have been very good friends.”

“I'm glad on 't; a good friend's a good thing, the Bible says. I'm much obliged to you, ma'am, for bein' a friend to my darlin'.”

“Liker she's been a friend to me, Captain Bluff,” said Bessie confusedly. “O Ellen, are you going off?”

“Yes; Uncle Dan'l has come for me, an' Aunt Sally's waitin' for me aboard. But I'll come back to see you to-morrow, Bessie.”

“Yes, she will,” said the Captain heartily; “I'll bring 'er myself.” Then Ellen tied on her bonnet. “Good-bye then, Bessie; I'll be back to-morrow to settle up everything; kiss me Dot.”

The child's eyes were full of tears, and she spoke never a word when Ellen stooped and kissed her. Meanwhile Captain Bluff shook hands with Bessie, and left two golden sovereigns in her palm. Then he offered Ellen his arm, and with a parting nod, and a tearful smile back into the little room, she took it and went, taking all the sunshine with her.

“I'm werry thankful, my precious,” said Uncle Dan'l as they passed out of Pigeon Lane into a wider, more respectable, street, “I'm werry, werry thankful to take you out o' such a place. How you've ever lived in it so long's beyond me, an' it'll be beyond the old 'oman too.”

God is there as well as in finer places, uncle,” said Ellen softly, leaning — oh, so thankfully — on his strong arm.

“Ay, my precious, He makes a palace out o' the poorest place,” answered Uncle Dan'l reverently. “We'll call a cab, Ellen; it'll take us quicker to the docks,” he said, and accordingly gave a great shout to a cab-driver at the stand.

During the drive very little was said, only sometimes Uncle Dan'l would say with a grin of delight -- “My, the old 'oman 'll be beside hersel'. Wot larks we'll hev' on board the Petrel.”

They reached the docks at last, and having paid the cabman over and above his fare, Uncle Dan'l took Ellen's arm again, and fairly dragged her through among the wharves. Ellen was bewildered here where her uncle was perfectly at home.

“There's the Petrel! Exclaimed he, “an' there's the old 'oman astanuin' on the deck.”

Ellen could not see for tears. She got across the bridge somehow, and in a moment more was gathered close to Aunt Sally's motherly heart, who sobbed, poor soul, for very joy; while Uncle Dan'l looked on, and finally gave vent to a hurrah which startled the sailors in his own and other ships.

Ellen's heart was like to break for joy. All the old, poor, miserable life was at an end, and a new one begun. Once word echoed and re-echoed in her heart with unutterable sweetness. A very little word, dear friends, but the sweetest on earth to every one of us — HOME

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Chapter X: Many Mansions

Very early next morning Dottie perched herself up in the window seat to look for Ellen. Her mother's eyes, too, would often wander to the entrance to the court; every minute seemed an hour without Ellen. She only realized now how much the girl had been to her. It is ever thus. Only when our loved ones are taken from us we know how dear they are.

The day wore on, the slow afternoon hours dragged themselves away, twilight fell, then darkness, and no Ellen. What did it mean? Dottie sat till she could see no longer, and then slid down to the floor and began to cry.

“Why don't she come, mother? She said she would.”

“Oh, she's got her rich friends, an' don't want anythin' more to say to us, Dot,” said her mother with a short dry laugh; “that's the way of the world; Ellen was well enough as long as she was poor, now she's got her uncle and aunt she don't want us.”

“She said she would come, mother,” said Dottie, not willing to relinquish her faith in Ellen; “p'r'aps she'll come; to-morrow I'll get up so early, mother, to watch for her.”

To-morrow came, Dottie kept a vigil all day, but it closed without bringing Ellen. Then the child's faith lost its hold, and her mother never heard her mention the girl's name again. These were dreary days for Bessie and her child. The place was empty without Ellen; there was no one to speak to, no one to lean on, and Bessie felt something like a ship without a rudder. She was never made to fight life's battle alone, and before Ellen had been gone many weeks, she began to falter in the struggle. She was wasting away; before the year closed, she was forced to admit Dottie would be left motherless. On the last Saturday in November, the shop refused her any more work. She had done the last so badly, they could not employ her any longer. Bessie never spoke when the shopwoman told her, but meekly took her meager pittance from her hand and went home to Dottie. The child was watching for her, with her face pressed close to the window pane; but her ear caught the slow step on the stair, and she ran to meet her. The absolute ghastliness of her mother's face made her cry out in affright.

“It's nothin' dear; a spasm at the heart, that's all,” she gasped, and fell down on the bed, with her face hidden in the pillow. She lay so long still that the child grew frightened, and tugged at her dress.

“Dottie,” the mother said, faintly; “there's one o' Ellen's uncle's sovereigns over in that jar in the cupboard. Take it out, dear, and run down to the gin-shop and get me a sixpennyworth o' brandy; I feel like to die.”

Dottie got the money, and flew off like an arrow. The strong stimulant revived her a little, and she sat up after a while, and said she was better. Then Dottie made her a cup of tea, which she drank, but could eat nothing with it.

“Just come to bed, Dot,” she said, feebly; “it's after eight, an' I'm so tired an' done I can't sit up.”

Dottie undressed very quietly and crept into bed, falling asleep almost immediately; but her mother tossed about uneasily all night through, and rose in the morning neither rested nor refreshed. She left Dot asleep, and sat down in the window, leaning her head on her hand, and looking out with unseeing eyes on the dreary scene. The end was at hand, she felt; some intuition told her her days — her hours, perhaps — were numbered. I cannot tell you exactly how she looked upon the near approach of death.

One moment she would feel a kind of dreamy apathy at the thought of the long sleep coming to her; the next she would shudder from head to foot, for what she knew must come after. Then there was Dottie! The sight of the child's innocent face asleep on the pillow sent a keen pang to her heart. She had been very cruel to her little child. Instead of the sheltering care her grandmother might have given her, a week, perhaps less, would see her the inmate of a workhouse. She had depended on Ellen, you see, but Ellen had failed her. Dottie awoke just then, glad and relieved to see her mother apparently so much better. They took their slender breakfast together, then her mother told her to put away the things and wash her face.

“I'd like to go to the church to-day, Dot,” she said almost wearily; “the church you an' me, and Ellen went to, if I thought I could walk so far.”

“Yes, mother,” said Dottie, eagerly; “we'd go away soon and walk slow; I'd like to go — it's such a lovely place.”

Many times Dottie had pleaded with her mother to go back, but in vain. Ellen had taken her once or twice with her to that and other churches; but Bessie Hughes had never been within a church door since that day.

Before ten o'clock the two started; Dottie trying her best to help her mother, whose steps were very slow and feeble. The bells were ringing in when they reached the place; but they crept in at a side door, and into a high back seat, where they were almost unobserved. It was the same grand, solemn, beautiful building, filled to over flowing with well-dressed attentive hearers. One was absent who had been there the last time Bessie was in it. The minister's pew was empty to-day. He came in by- and-by and mounted the pulpit with slow measured step. He glanced round his people, as was his wont before the prayer; but Bessie bent her head very low, and he did not see her. He was aged and changed, because the light of his life was gone. People said his great sorrow had bound him closer to his work, and given him a wider, deeper insight into the “innermost” of human life, and that never had his preaching been productive of so much good. It may have been so. Those of us who have passed through deep waters know how different life looks to us after such experience, how poor and trifling, after all, even the highest aims of the world appear in comparison with the awful solemnity of death, and the mystery of that which is beyond. In his preaching, Mr. Wingate used no paper, he simply chose a few words as text, and then closed the Bible and spoke to the people. He did not preach at them, but to them. Do you know how much difference there is between the two prepositions?

To-day the words of the text were—“In my Father's house are many mansions.” Words fail me to give you even a faint idea of the discourse. It was spoken from the very heart, and went to the heart. It closed with an earnest appeal to those who did not yet feel that the mansions were for them, to give themselves to God, and secure the inheritance of His children. Many hearts were touched that day — hardened worldly hearts, so sheathed in the armour of the world, that even a two-edged sword could scarcely pierce them. Many were weeping. Immediately after the service Bessie Hughes rose, and grasping Dottie's hand, almost fled from the place. Not a word was spoken all the way home. Dottie felt, child though she was, that it would be better not to break the silence. They reached home with the hour. Then Dottie saw a strange sigh; her mother locked the door, and fell upon her knees by the side of the bed.

“O Lord, I'm a mis'rable sinner,” she heard her say almost in a whisper; “have mercy on me, for Jesus' sake.”

Then the child, half afraid, crept away over to the fire, and sat down on her little stool. It seemed a long time till her mother rose; Dottie glanced at her eagerly, fearfully even, as if not sure what had come to her. There was a look on her face the child had never seen before.

“Dottie, Dottie, God has shown me what a miserable sinner I am,” she said brokenly, “an' we'll go away to-morrow, you an' me, my darlin', home to grandmother's.”

Once in the night the child awoke, and heard her mother's voice murmuring very low, -- the only words she could distinguish were “many mansions.” She remembered drowsily that the minister had spoken a great deal about the mansions, and thought her mother would be dreaming of the sermon.

She turned over again, and fell asleep. Her dreams were all beautiful. They were of the glad to-morrow, when mother and she were really going away from this miserable place, home to grandmother and the house in the beautiful meadow. In the grey dawn she awoke again, and sprang up to look out of the window. It was morning sure enough, for there were one or two people about, and she heard the rumbling of a cart in the alley beyond. She dressed herself quickly, and then set about kindling a little fire, as quietly as possible, lest her mother should be disturbed. She was sleeping yet evidently, for the counterpane was drawn up over her face, and she lay quite still. Glad that she should be resting so well, the child slipped over to the window and sat down to watch the chill sunrise, and think of the joys before her. Just then there came the piteous mewing of a cat on the stair-head. Dot ran to open the door quiet it, lest it should awake the sleeper. When she opened the door, a pretty little grey kitten ran in, purring, and rubbed itself against her. The child was delighted, and lifting it in her arms, carried it to the little stool at the fire, and began to nurse it on her lap, talking to it softly all the time.

By-and-by the light grew broader, a wintry sunbeam stole into the little room, the kettle bubbled over with a great noise, and still Dottie's mother slept. The child rose up doubtfully at last, and going over to the bed, pulled down the coverlet, and called her name. Her face was deathly white, and though her eyes were half-open, there was no meaning or sight in them. She was awfully still; surely never had sleep been so sound, so strangely still before.


It was a poor, trembling cry of pain, and a little shaking hand went forth and touched the cold, pale brow —


Never to go home to grandmother's or the house in the beautiful meadow; never to rest tired eyes on the face of father and mother; never to be gathered into the peace and rest of home — ah, never now!

But she was at rest.

Even at the eleventh hour, Bessie Leigh had entered into the “Father's house, where there are many mansions.”

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Chapter XI: A Little Pilgrim

In the grey light of a December afternoon, a little child wended her way along the high road to Bromley. She was poorly clad in a short thin dress of dark material and a faded red shawl rolled round her, with one corner drawn over her head to serve as a bonnet. In one arm, snugly tucked up in the shawl, with only a fluffy head and two bright eyes visible, nestled a tiny grey kitten. In the other arm the child carried a little box, which she clutched very firmly as if in dread of losing it. She was about a mile from the town, the lights of which shone through the gloom and cheered the tired little pilgrim on her way. She kept on slowly but steadily, till she entered the High Street. Six o'clock pealed from a church clock as she passed the shops, looking for one where she might purchase something to eat, and some milk for the kitten. She was too timid to go into the large, brilliantly lighted shops, but went on slowly till she found a little milkshop, where there was a good-natured looking woman knitting behind the counter.

“I want two rolls, please, and some milk — a penny 'orth in this bottle.”

“Have you got any money to pay for it, child? Asked the woman sharply, but not unkindly.

“Yes,” and the child produced a threepenny piece from her pocket.

“The milk is for my cat, you see,” said the child in her simple way; “she is very hungry, I'm sure.”

“An' does it take it out o' the bottle?” asked the woman with a smile.

“Oh no, I pour some into my hands, and she kicks it up quite nice.”

“Where do you live?” asked the woman.

“Nowhere,” answered the child, and gathered up her rolls as if fearful of being detained.

“Please, can you tell me how far it is to Little Thorpe?”

“Little Thorpe! Why, bless me, child, it's forty good miles if it's a step.”

“And how do you go, please?” asked the child, edging towards the door.

“Straight on all the road; there's many a turn I' the road, but it's the same un' all the road; you can't miss it.”

“Thank you, ma'am,” said the child, and disappeared in the darkness.

“Some tramp's kid, likely,” the woman thought, but she could not get the child's face out of her mind.

The little traveler, clutching her box and her kitten, and her provisions all in her arms, almost ran out of the town, so afraid was she of being overtaken and detained. She grew tired by-and-by, for she had walked seven miles that day — a long way for little limbs, and it grew so intensely dark she feared she might lose her way. There was a tall hedge on either side of the road, and a tree every few hundred yards. If she could get inside the hedge, the child thought, she could nestle down at the root of one of the trees, and find shelter til the morning. Peering closely at the hedge, she came to a gap large enough to let her through; and a few yards from the gap there was a great tree, with a thick trunk and great branches spreading out round and round it. They were quite leafless to be sure, but so thick that they were a shelter from the wind.

The kitten began to mew piteously for her supper, for which its little mistress reproved it mildly. You would have smiled to see the child take a bite of bread and a mouthful of milk, and then pour a little into her hand to feed the kitten. You might have smiled, but a tear would not have been very far away.

“Now, Kitty,” she said, talking to the little thing as if it were a human being, “we must keep this till morning, you know, because I dunno' when we'll get any more. Forty miles yet, Kitty; the last one I asked said it was forty-five, so we're getting' on, Kitty, an' when we get to grandmother's you'll get ever so big a basin o' the thick cream mother used to --.” Her voice broke, and catching the kitten in her arms, and bending her face close over it, the child sobbed herself to sleep.

It rained in the night, and soaked the red shawl through and through. The morning broke cold and damp, with a chill mist hanging over the earth like a pall. The child awoke, shivering, but the kitten rose dry and warm for its soft nest in her arms, and mewed for its breakfast.

“We'll need to walk a bit first, Kitty, my dear,” she said decidedly, “cos I'm sore an' stiff with cold.”

She dragged herself up, hugged her treasures close to her, and creeping through the gap in the hedge, walked as fast as she could along the road. A cart came rumbling out of a lane leading to a farm, and the driver seeing the child coming towards him, stopped his horse.

“You're early on the tramp, little un,” he said good naturadly; “Come, I'll give you a lift.”

He even got down off his cart and lifted her in, and when he saw the kitten, his broad face grew smiles all over, and he laughed heartily.

“Where are you goin', little 'un?”

“To Little Thorpe,” said the child. The man stared in open wonderment.

“Where do you come from?”

“London,” answered the child, and bent her head, wishing people would not ask her so many questions.

“Where's yer folk?”

“I ain't got any.”

“What are ye goin' to do at Little Thorpe?”

“I don't know till I get there, “ answered she, with an odd mixture of simplicity and shrewdness. The man winked, and bidding his horses “Gee-up,” left off asking questions. He drove her to a toll where four roads met, and where she had to turn away in another direction from Little Thorpe. The child thanked him and jumped nimbly off the cart, and went on her way with a light heart. She was getting on famously; the number of miles was always diminishing, and it would not be long before she found rest and refuge at grandmother's A little way further on, she sat down and shared her breakfast with the kitten. The mist was clearing off, and the sky breaking overhead — only the air was raw and bitterly cold, so she could not sit long.

Mid-day brought her to a tiny village, where she bought some more bread and milk, and again asked “how many miles to Little Thorpe.”

The old man in the shop looked at her severely over his spectacles, and spoke in a very gruff voice.

“There ain't such a place, at least I never heard o't. I guess ye've lost your way, child.”

“Oh no, sir, thank you,” said the child, and ran out of the shop, fearful of being questioned any more. The old man took the trouble to go to the door and look after her, thinking she would belong to some tinker's company, but there was nothing to be seen on the quiet road but the solitary child plodding through the mud. Thinking over what the old man had said, she began to tremble lest she had taken the wrong way. That would be a dreadful thing; she might wander on and on and never come to grandmother's. She walked on slowly for an hour and more without meeting a creature; then, as she turned a bend in the road, she met another cart, with a man walking at the horse's head.

“Please, is this the road to Little Thorpe?” she asked.

“Ay,” was the answer vouchsafed, but it was all the little questioner wanted.

Thus re-assured, she went on briskly again, talking to the kitten to beguile the time. It seemed to be growing colder every step of the way, and the wind was rising northward. The sky was black and lowering, and a stray snowflake would skim past, as if heralding the approach of its fellows. It was a real winter's day. By four o'clock it was dark, but in the distance the child saw a light gleaming from some house or hamlet, and kept on bravely, though she was very weary. It was scarcely a hamlet; it was only two or three tiny houses built on the edge of a common, -- why they had been planted down just there it was not easy to guess. She crept round by the end of the house and over among the furze on the common. She crouched down there, holding the kitten and the precious box tightly under her shawl.

It was her third night on the road; how many more nights, the child wondered, through dropping tears, before she should sleep at grandmother's. It was a strange undertaking for such a child — a journey of fifty miles on foot through an unknown country; her courage and endurance might have shamed many an older person. She slept by-and-by — a troubled, uneasy sleep, haunted by unpleasant dreams. She was absolutely without fear of any kind, this delicate child; she had none of that shrinking from dark or lonely places, which is so characteristic of children. To her the stars were companions, and in her dim childish way, she felt she was in care of Him who is above the stars.

It snowed in the night, and wrapped the sleeping child in a spotless covering. When she awoke in the dawning, she sprang up in a wonder of amaze. What could it be? Where had it come from? Everything was white and shining and marvelously beautiful; even the furzy gorse on the common was made graceful with its delicate frieze of frozen snow. The sun was rising to eastward, and the sky was cloudlessly blue and studded with many stars. So absorbed was the child in looking upon this fairy scene, that she forgot that she was hungry, and cold, and stiff. But presently the kitten mewed, and then its little mistress looked towards the houses doubtfully and timidly. Smoke was issuing from the chimneys — there would be warm and cosy firesides within; perhaps if she begged very hard, they might let her in to warm her fingers and toes.

“Be quiet, Kitty,” she said, stroking the grey back caressingly; “you shall have some breakfast soon.”

She waded through the snow, and went very slowly up to the door of one of the houses. Her timid knock was answered at once by a comely young woman with a fat baby in her arms.

“Please, will you let me warm my hands?” said the child, almost in a whisper.

“You poor little mite,” said the woman compassionately, “of course I will; come in.”

The child followed her gladly into the coziest of kitchens, where there was a blazing fire, and a tempting odour of coffee and bacon.

“Where hev' you been?” asked the woman, looking curiously at the tiny figure and the kitten; “where do ye come from?”

“I don't come from any place, ma'am, and I'm going to Little Thorpe. We slept all night up there among the bushes, Kitty an' me, but it was cold.”

“Slept all night among the bushes? John, dear, here's a poor little child slept out all night in the snow.”

The door of the inner room opened, and a man appeared on the threshold, rubbing his face up with a towel. He was a fine broad-shouldered fellow, with a pleasant face it did you good to see.

“Well, give 'er summat to eat; an' Polly — an' talk to 'er after; there'll be some coffee left, isn't there?”

The woman laughed, and clapped the fat baby down on the rug. Then she poured out a cup of coffee, and cut a slice off the nice home-baked bread, and poured out some milk in a saucer for the kitten. Need I tell you how that breakfast was enjoyed?

“I'm goin' to Little Thorpe, ma'am,” said the child with moist, grateful eyes. “Please, is it far?”

“How far will it be to Little Thorpe, John?” the young woman asked her husband.

“Over twenty miles, Polly. If the little un's goin' that far she can go wi' me I' the wagon to Desbro'.”

“Yes, John. What are you goin' to do at Little Thorpe dear?” she asked.

“See grandmother,” answered the child, speaking of her mission for the first time. “Mother's dead, so I'm goin' home to grandmother.”

The woman's eyes filled with tears, and she lifted up the fat baby to hide them.

“Why don't your grandmother come or send for you when your mother died?”

“Cos she didn't know about me,” answered the child slowly, and the woman seeing she did not want to be questioned, left her to her breakfast, and went to get her husband's coat and wrap. In about ten minutes the wagon was at the door, and John called cheerily to the child to come away, for the day was wearing on, and it was a good fifteen miles to Desbro'. She took one of her precious shillings from her pocket and offered it timidly to the woman.

“No, no, my dear, keep it. I don't need any payment an' I hope you'll get all right to your grandmother's.”

“Thank you, ma'am.”

The child dropped her a little curtsey, picked up her kitten, and went out of doors, where she was lifted into the wagon, and placed right in a great nest of straw. The woman and the baby came to the door to see them off, and waved her hand till they were out of sight round the corner. It was a long drive — cold, but not unpleasant. The child enjoyed it very much, so did the kitten, for it sat up with a very wide-awake look on its face, and peered at everything. It was a much pleasanter way of getting over the ground than walking. About noon they drove into the queer, old-fashioned market-place of Desbro'. It was market-day, and all the farmers were standing about in groups, and the square was quite lively with sleek horses which had brought in well-filled carts of corn from the neighbouring farms. The child looked about her with much interest. Little did she know that the white-haired old man who patted her head as she made her way through the throng was the very dear grandfather to whom she was going. John directed her which road to take, and bidder her a kindly good-bye, went off to see after his business.

Five miles he had said it was to Little Thorpe. The child's heart throbbed with joy; before the night fell she would be with grandmother. At mid-day the sky had over-cast, and before the child had gone a mile up her way the first flakes of the coming storm began to fall. The brave-hearted little pilgrim was very weary, and she seemed to ache from head to foot. Oh how thankful she was that this was her last day on the way. The wind rose in the north, and blew fiercely along the unprotected highway, driving the snow in a blinding maze against the trembling child, who had never seen anything like it before, and was afraid. She made slow progress in the teeth of the wind, and began to fear she should never reach grandmother's. As the afternoon wore on, the farmers' gigs on their way home went whirling past her, but all their occupants were too much absorbed trying to keep out the cold and the whirling snow to see the little struggling child, who had hard work to keep her footing on the slippery way. At four o'clock darkness fell. The child's heart was almost fainting within her, but the lights in the distance cheered her on, -- only a little further, and she would be safe with grandmother.

About five o'clock, she entered the village street, and paused at the lighted doorway of the Oatsheaf.

A youth was leaning up against the lintel smoking, and to him the child spoke, asking timidly for Clovermead. “Leigh's place?” he asked, “yes.” “Straight up that road; see,” he said, pointing to a bye-way leading through the fields, “that's the nearest; 'taint half-a-mile.”

The child turned her face towards it, wondering whether she would be able to travel the half-mile which yet lay between her and her grandmother.

The snow had drifted on the bye-path, and was still whirling from above. The child stumbled often, while the kitten, not liking such rough usage, mewed most piteously. Surely never had half-mile seemed so interminably long. But, by-and-by, in the dim distance, the weak and weary child saw a cluster of low-lying roofs, and one bright light shining out like a star of promise. A few more steps, and then what would matter all the weary, painful struggling? For the house in the beautiful meadow would be reached at last. The footpath led into the farmyard, where the broad light from the uncurtained kitchen window made everything easy to see. The child staggered forward, and took one look in at the window before she knocked at the closed door. A great fire roared up the wide chimney, and cast a bright, beautiful light on the dresser, where stood the quaint old dishes her mother had often told her of. There was only one person in the kitchen, a young woman sewing at the fire. But presently, as the child looked, there came in at the door opposite the window an older woman, with a motherly face, and grey curls peeping out at each side of her cap.

Grandmother! The child gave a little cry, and staggered forward to the door. But even as the little trembling hand went forth to ask admittance, the much-tried, feeble strength gave way, and she sank upon the step. The snow fell more gently in that sheltered spot, and covered up the poor old red shawl, and made a fairy head-dress of the corner pulled over the sunny head.

Sitting in her arm-chair, the grandmother's eyes grew dim over an unforgotten sorrow, little dreaming what the snow was hiding at the door.

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Chapter XII: Grandmother

Susan, Susan, it's gone six; father wants his breakfast, an' he's frettin' about the calves!” called a cheery voice, while a night-capped head peeped round her bedroom door, in the direction of the door at the head of the stair.

“Yes, mother,” called Susan, briskly, and the next minute her mother heard her jump out of bed, and went back for a comfortable half-hour, till breakfast should be ready. Susan Leigh was very smart at her work. In ten minutes she was dressed and down in the kitchen, breaking up the lump of coal which had kept the fire in all night. Then she set on the kettle, swept up the hearth, and drew the table from the wall over in front of the fire. Nine years had made very little difference in Susan Leigh. She was the same pleasant, cheerful, helpful girl — a perfect comfort in a house. She had just the kind of face you would like to see opposite you at the table, and of which you could never tire. She was the stay of her father and mother, and a pillar in Clovermead. Nothing could possibly go wrong if Susan were there to look after it.

Before the breakfast was quite ready, her mother came down.

“It's been such a snow, mother,” said Susan; “look at the heaps in the garden. I don't remember seein' so much since I was a little thing.”

Mrs. Leigh went over to the window, and stood still, looking out. Every tree and shrub was draped in white, and it seemed to be several inches deep on the ground. The frost was intense; the sky as clear as crystal and sparkling with myriads of stars. A bright moon was high in the heavens, its weird light sparkled on the frosted snow, making it glitter like the purest diamonds.

“It's been a canny bit snow. I remember that Christmas morning Bessie was born, it was just like this; an' I mind father took you to chapel for the first time without me knowin'; you were just two and a a-half — an' what a delight it was to me to hear of it, and how you behaved so well, an' Bessie a little wailin' thing lyin' on my arm.”

Tears dropped from the motherly eyes, and she turned round almost sharply, as if vexed with herself.

“Taint no use thinkin' o' them things, Susan, it does a body no good. Just take the broom and sweep out the back doorstep, before father wants to go out; an' I'll watch the bacon.”

“Yes, mother.”

Susan got the broom from the closet, and went into the outer lobby to the back-door. “There seems to be a great drift against it, mother, it feels so heavy when I am openin' it,” cried Susan. “Mercy, mother, here's a cat runnin' in. Where can it have come from? It's like Topsy's kitten that got drowned in the horse trough.”

Mrs. Leigh looked round laughing at the pretty little thing which ran in, and up to the fire, as if quite at home.

“Mother!” cried Susan in a strange, surprised way; “there's a child here asleep on the step.”

“Well, bring it in, an' don't stand wonderin' over it, poor little thing.”

“Susan lifted the light burden in her strong arms, and carried it to the fire, where the strong heat melted the snow, and it ran down in little streams to the floor. Mrs. Leigh drew in the arm-chair and took the child on her lap. Susan took the box from the child's shut fingers, and threw the soaking red shawl on the floor.

“Is she dead, mother?”

“No, no, only half frozen; get a bucket, Susan, and fill it out o' the kettle — or, no, that won't do; run up for the blankets off your bed, and we'll roll 'em round her.”

In an incredibly short time Susan was back with the blankets, and they took off the child's scanty, worn garments, and rolled her in their warm folds, while Mrs. Leigh chafed her feet and hands, looking at her with all the great mother heart in her eyes.

“She's comin' round, Susan,” she exclaimed breathlessly, when she saw a slight tremor in the eyelids; “she's getting' ever so warm, poor dear little lamb; it's been a cruel mother as left her on such a night.” They hung over her a few more minutes, and at last a long sigh escaped the child, her eyelids lifted, disclosing a pair of wondering eyes, as blue as the forget-me-nots.

She looked round inquiringly, a faint, sweet smile curling her lips at sight of the kitten enjoying the unwonted heat of the fire. Then she looked up into the kind, motherly face bent over her, and said in a voice of strange, wondering joy — “Grandmother!”

Mrs. Leigh burst into tears; and Susan's eyes filled. The child said it so naturally, and nestled her head so confidingly on Mrs. Leigh's breast, you cannot wonder that “it broke them down.”

“She must have a sip of warm milk, Susan, an' then a sleep; an' we'll lay her in your bed. After she's had a good sleep we'll ask 'er where she came from.”

“Yes, mother.” Susan was scarcely an instant in getting the milk, but the child could only take a few mouthfuls. She seemed very weary, for her eyelids closed again over the blue eyes, and she fell fast asleep. Then Mrs. Leigh carried her very tenderly upstairs to Susan's room.

Meanwhile Susan had time to look at the box she had taken from the child's hand. She raised the lid, and looked for a moment with dumfoundered eyes. Then her face grew white; and she began quite to tremble. In the box lay a letter, addressed in a trembling hand to “Mrs. Leigh, Clovermead, Little Thorpe,” Beside it, a worn morocco Testament, the very counterpart of her own; also a gold locket and chain she had admired often on her sister's pretty neck. The truth flashed across her mind in an instant, and even as she stood looking into the box, her mother returned to the kitchen.

“She's sleepin' ever so sound, poor little thing. I wish father 'ud come down and let us have a bit breakfast now.”

“Mother,” said Susan, tremblingly; “come here, mother, an' look at this.”

Mrs. Leigh went over to the window, and put on her spectacles, to examine the contents of the box; one glance was sufficient. She did not cry out, or faint, as some women might have done; she only whispered over and over —

“Thank God! Thank God!”

Then she lifted the letter, and broke the seal.

Thus it ran:

“Dear Mother and Father, I don't know what makes me write to-day, but I can't help it. Something's been pushin' me to it all day, though perhaps you may never see what I am going to write. I might tell you a very long story, but it would serve no good; but I do tell you that I have been punished for my sin in running away from you, and being the wicked girl I was. All you said about William was true, and more. He was too fond of the drink; and before I was a month married to him, I wished I was dead. By-and-by nobody would employ him, and he took to all sorts of wicked ways, -- you never dream of in Clovermead. Perhaps I wasn't so patient with him as I might have been, but I was sore tried. We have one little child; she has no right name, never was christened, -- I call her Dottie. I would have killed myself long ago, if it hadn't been for Dottie. She's very dear to me — as dear as I was to you; but she'll never do as I did to you. I've earned my own livin' ever so long sewin'; but William takes all I make — at least he did. He's away just now, got fourteen years' penal servitude for killing a policeman in a drunken brawl. I shall not live long, mother, and I somehow feel that Dottie will get home to you some way or other. If she does, be good to her, and love her, for the sake of what I used to be when I was like her. And never tell her where her father is, or what he is. Let her think he's dead, or anything, but never tell her. And, oh, if he should ever come for her, don't let her go with him, it would be the ruin of her. It seems like nonsense writing all this; but something makes me do it. I break my heart every day for a sight of you; this hungering for home is killing me. But I won't let it bring me home for fear of being turned away. Dear, dear, mother! If I could only lay down my head, where I used to lay it, when I was a little thing like Dottie is now! I'm tired, tired. If you ever see this — try, father, an' Susan an' you, to forget what I was when I grew up, and just to think of me when I used to the hay-fields to play hay-making with Father. Bessie.”

“It's just what I've said over an' over, Susan,” said Mrs. Leigh, in a strange tearless voice; “an' now she'll be dead, likely. But how could the child get here?”

“Perhaps Bessie's outside, mother,” said Susan.

“Outside!” repeated Mrs. Leigh, sharply. “No, no; d'ye suppose a child o' mine could be as near, an' me not know it. Ah, Susan, you don't know what it is to be a mother. Bessie's dead, I know.”

She rocked herself to and fro in the chair, looking so strange, that Susan began to be afraid, and wished she would cry. Just then there was a step on the stair, and Mr. Leigh came in looking somewhat surprised.

“What's all the noise about? I've been lyin' tryin' to make out what you women's tongues were goin' about, but I couldn't.”

Mrs. Leigh rose, and held out the box to him, and spoke in a strange, excited way.

“D'ye see this, an' this, an' this, Leigh?” she said, lifting out the articles, one by one; “them's Bessie's. They're come to-day, Leigh; an' now come upstairs an' I'll show ye summat else o' hers.”

The farmer had not a word to say, but turned quietly and followed his wife upstairs. She opened the door of Susan's room, and her husband entered with her, wondering what this could all mean. On Susan's pillow lay a sunny head — with a child face turned to them, a very thin and sharply outlined face; but sweet and fair, and very like another which had rested there, many, many years ago.

“That's Bessie's child, Leigh,” said his wife; but there was scarcely any need to say it. A quiver ran all over his rugged face, and his broad breast heaved with the emotion that would not be kept down. He stood quite still, but dim, yearning eyes, looking on the sweet child face, longing to gather it on his breast, for the sake of one who had been his delight in other years. His wife stood quite still also; her strange unnatural calm was very unlike her.

Presently the child's lips moved in her sleep. Mrs. Leigh bent down, and caught the tenderly murmured word —


Then tears came — a great flood, which eased her bursting heart as nothing else could have done. By-and-by Susan crept in, sobbing, and they all three stood by the sleeping child, with hearts overflowing with thankfulness that God had answered their prayer so far. Though Bessie was lost to them for ever, it was a great thing to have with them her little child.

Ay, that was an hour of deep joy, of unutterable thankfulness to the inmates of Clovermead.

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Chapter XIII: "The Lord Led 'Er"

You may imagine there was not much work done in Clovermead that day. Mrs. Leigh did nothing but go up and down, to the room where the child lay, longing for her to awake, and yet afraid lest she should be disturbed before her health-giving rest was over.

The early dinner passed, she took her sewing, and went up to the room to wait till she awoke. Susan had lighted a fire in the old-fashioned grate, and a more snug and cosy little room you could not have found anywhere. About two o'clock the sleeper stirred, and in a moment Mrs. Leigh was at the bedside. The child opened her eyes, and looked up in mute wonderment at the face bending over her.

“Are you grandmother?” she asked timidly.

“Yes, my dear,” said Mrs. Leigh, trying to speak quite calmly; “do you feel all right now?”

“Yes,” answered the child, not seeming yet to comprehend where she was' “I fell on the step; it was dark too, and snow. Oh! Is Kitty here?”

“Yes, my dear, she's down in the kitchen sittin' ever so comfortable; don't you feel hungry?”

“No. May I get up?”

Just then Susan, hearing their voices came running upstairs, carrying a lot of things over her arm.

“This is yer Aunt Susan,” said Mrs. Leigh almost delightedly; the child gravely nodded.

“Mother told me, she said simply; “is there grandfather too?”

“Yes, Susan, jis' run out to the barn for father; an' set on the bit o' dinner I kept, to warm.”

“Yes, mother; this is a lot o' our old things; I sought 'em out o' the trunk I' the attic. I thought they'd fit till we got some made, you know,” said Susan, with a sob in her voice. “They've been hangin' warmin' at the kitchen fire a good time.

“That's right,” said Mrs. Leigh, heartily; and when Susan was gone, she shut the door, and lifted the child in her arms and carrying her over to the fire, began to dress her. She looked so like Bessie, when she put on the old tucked frock, that Mrs. Leigh fell to crying again, while Dottie stood looking on, longing to comfort her, but too timid to try. By-and-by Susan came up with the hot dinner, followed by Mr. Leigh. It gave them both a great surprise to see the startling resemblance the child bore to their poor lost Bessie.

“Jes' let her hev' her dinner, Leigh, an' then she'll tell us all about it.” The farmer nodded, and all three watched her while she partook of a hearty meal. Then Mrs. Leigh drew a little stool close to her chair, and bade her sit down and tell them all how she got there.

“Is your mother dear?” was the first question.

“Yes,” and the child's eyes grew shadowed a moment. “She died afore I came away. It seems ever so long ago. We'd been to church, mother an' me, and when we came home, mother cried, and said we would go to grandmother's in the morning. We went away to bed very soon, so that we might be able to get up early. I got up first, an' mother slept sound a long time, till I went and pulled at her. Then I was frightened she was so cold and white. The woman downstairs said she was dead.”

“After a bit, men came with a black box,” she went on, “and put mother in, and took her away — I don't know where to; the woman thought she would be buried in the cemetery, down Lambeth; but I didn't know the road. I didn't know what to do when mother was taken away, but kept thinkin' on what she'd said, that grandmother 'ud love me an' let me get summat to eat sometimes; I opened out the box an' saw the letter, but I couldn't read it; but I got the woman to tell me, an' I said it over and over till I minded it all, then I knew where to come to.”

“But how did ye come?” asked grandmother through her tears.

“Walked; an' a kind man gave me a ride in his wagon. I saw 'im,” pointing to her grandfather, “in the street where the wagon stopped. He clapped my head, he did.”

“Ay! So I did, little knowin' it was Bessie's child,” said Mr. Leigh.

“Who showed you the road to Clovermead? Asked Susan.

“A boy; but it snowed, so I was feared I wouldn't get up; and Kitty cried so, as I tumbled with 'er: then I prayed hard to God, as I used to hear Ellen do.”

“Who's Ellen?” asked grandmother.

“Ellen used to live with us, and mother was ever so fond o' 'er. She was rare good 'un, Ellen; but her Uncle Dan'l came an' took her away in a ship, an' she never came to see us. Mother cried at nights because Ellen went away. I used to see 'er though she thought I was sleepin'.”

“D'ye mean to say, little lass, ye've come all the way from Lunnon, every step by yourself?” said Mr. Leigh, seemingly unable to believe it.

“Yes sir, an' the kind man gave me a ride in his wagon, an' I slept out nights an' bought bread an' milk for Kitty an' me. We did very well, 'cep when it snowed and rained.

“The Lord led 'er, said the farmer reverently; “she couldn't ha' done it without Him helpin' 'er.”

“ We won't ask any more questions just now,” said Mrs. Leigh. “Spose you come down now an' see Kitty at the kitchen fireside, eh?”

So they all went down to the kitchen, where Kitty was, sure enough, lazily reveling in the glorious heat from the fire.

Dottie looked round at the dresser, with its array of old dishes and shining dish-covers, then wistfully into her grandmother's face.

“Mother said you made lovely pies an' loaves, an' set 'em on there,” she said. “We used to speak about 'em when we were awful hungry an' had nothin' to eat. She said you'd give me some if I lived here; will you?”

“Yes, yes,” said grandmother; “bakin' day to-morrow, my dear, then you'll see.”

Then Dottie, perfectly content, stooped down to stroke the kitten, feeling that her beautiful dream had come true, and that she was safe with grandmother. There never had been any doubt in her mind about her reception, it had never entered her head to fear they might doubt her, or turn her away.

The child had perfect faith in what her mother had told her, and it was no surprise to her to find herself so gladly welcomed.

“Mother, here's Lady Floyd's carriage comin' up the lane,” cried Susan in delight; “she'll be so pleased to see Bessie's child.”

Mrs. Leigh got into a great bustle of course, though Lady Floyd was only the dear Miss Hirrel of yore — not changed or spoiled by her grand life.

Presently the carriage drew up at the door, and the footman sprang down to open the carriage-door.

Lady Floyd was not much changed. It was the same sweet lovable face, -- a little older-looking, perhaps — the same winning manner made more frank and gracious by her intercourse with the world. She came into the kitchen at Clovermead, as if she loved it and its inmates.

“I've just come down for Christmas, Mrs. Leigh,” she said. “How are you, Susan? Why, who is this?”

“Bessie's child Miss Hirrel,” exclaimed Mrs. Leigh, using the old name in her excitement. Then the whole story of the child's journey and arrival was poured into Lady Floyd's astonished ears. Meanwhile Dottie regarded her with wondering curiosity. Where had she seen her before? Lady Floyd put up her hand to pull aside her veil, then the whole scene flashed before her. She had seen the gesture before, on that memorable night when her mother had sung for the first and last time in the streets of London. Lady Floyd had not thought it would serve any end, or do any good to relate the incident to Bessie's friends, but the incident was still fresh in her memory. She saw that the child recognized her, so she told the story to Mrs. Leigh in a few compassionate words, her bright eyes dim all the while.

“She is very like Bessie, isn't she?” asked Lady Floyd, putting out one white hand to draw the child to her. “She will be a great comfort to you, Mrs. Leigh. How strangely she has been led to you. God's ways are very wonderful.”

“I'd be content, my lady,” sobbed Mrs. Leigh, “if I'd only known what hope my poor girl had after death. I could bear all the rest if I knew that —“


Dottie's hand went forth timidly, and touched grandmother's skirts, while her great eyes looked up solemnly to her face. “May I tell you? — when we came home from church that day, mother prayed — - I heard 'er — - ever so hard; an' she said God had showed her she was a mis'rable sinner. I mind, because I said it over, tryin' to know what it meant — mother was always so good; an' when I waked up at night, I heard her sayin', over an' over, 'Many mansions' — that's what the minister said — an' her face was all shining; you never saw how she looked.”

“She was led back to the fold at the end, there cannot be a doubt,” said her ladyship. “You must not fret about it. Can't you leave Bessie with God, dear Mrs. Leigh?”

“Yes, Miss Hirrel, I can, an I'll fret no more.”

“Well, I must be going. Dottie, you must come up to the Hall, and see my little girl. She is just your age,” said her ladyship, in her kind way. “Papa will be so delighted to hear of this, Mrs. Leigh, and Sir Walter too. I am quite in a hurry to be home to tell them.”

Mrs. Leigh smiled, and went to show the Squire's daughter out.

When she came back, Susan had gone out, and only Dottie was standing on the rug, her eyes heavy with tears. She turned round, and looked questioningly into her grandmother's face, and then ran to her sobbing, and was gathered close to her heart. “My darlin', my darlin', never mind,” she whispered tenderly, and though Dottie still sobbed, it was for joy that she felt herself to be so truly and entirely “Grandmother's Child.”

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Chapter XIV: Old Friends

It was the summer time. Such a summer time! The earth seemed to be burdened with sunshine and beauty and wealth of flowers.

Oh, how I wish I could tell you exactly how Clovermead looked in these golden days; how plentiful and sweet and beautiful the roses, and lilies, and pansies, and gilly-flowers, and so many others, you might be quite tired out if I named them all! The orchard trees were bending under their load of fast ripening fruit, corn fields already were tinged golden in the sun, every hedgerow was still white with May, dog-rose and honeysuckle grew wild and sweet in every lane. In these days, in such a place, it was a perfect gladness to be alive and able to enjoy it all. So thought Dottie Leigh, lying drowsily under a great apple tree in the orchard, watching grandmother sew and listening to the birds' ceaseless caroling, and the drowsy humming of the bees. She was called Dottie Leigh, you must understand, and people had ceased to talk and wonder about Bessie's child. She was unspeakably dear to the three hearts at Clovermead. The sunny happiness of her new life brought out all that was glad and merry and winsome in the child; she was the very sunshine of the place. She loved them all, but her heart clung to her grandmother. It was in her, from the first, her hope had been centred; to her, Clovermead had always meant grandmother. It seemed as if she had always lover her, yet how much nearer and dearer the reality was to the child's heart I cannot tell you.

The orchard sloped down to the road, where there was a gate overshadowed by two great elm trees. People thought the wayside was not a very desirable or safe situation for an orchard; but the little that was stolen by tramps and other wayfarers was only a unit in the great harvest it yielded every year.

“I see some people comin' up the road, grandma,” said Dottie, rising up and shading her eyes from the sun. “They're coming right up the lane to the house; see — two ladies and a man.”

We'd best go in and see who the visitors are, Dot,” said grandmother, rising also; “come.”

Dottie placed her hand in her grandmother's and the two went through the wicket into the flower garden. By this time the visitors were on the front doorstep. The younger of the two ladies turned at the sound of footsteps, and almost started at the sight of the child.

“Why, Uncle Dan'l, there she is!” she exclaimed, her voice trembling with delight. Dottie's face grew very pale.

“Why, grandma, it's Ellen!” she exclaimed, then gave a great bound into the girl's arms, and clasped her hands tightly round her neck. Grandmother had heard about Ellen so often, that she came forward with outstretched arms.

“Her as was so kind to my Bessie can't be no stranger to 'er mother,” she said in her honest way; “you're welcome to Clovermead, my girl.”

Ellen silently offered her hand to Mrs. Leigh. This was the mother to whom Bessie had been afraid to come back. Poor, foolish, mistrusting Bessie!

“This is my uncle and aunt, Captain and Mrs. Blunt,” said Ellen, at which Uncle Dan'l bowed very low, and Aunt Sally shook hands very heartily. “If you'll let us come in for a little, Mrs. Leigh, I'll tell you all about it.”

“Surely, surely!”

“Jes' let me go for my husband and my lass,” said Mrs. Leigh; “it'll save tellin' the story twice and they'll be proud to see you.”

Mrs. Leigh accordingly departed, and Dottie clung to Ellen's hand, looking at her wonderingly; she was so unlike the Ellen of old. Ah! Happiness can make a great change on a face; to-day Ellen looked almost beautiful, her cheeks were so smooth and delicately coloured, and her lovely eyes so bright and clear.

“So you've got to grandmother's at last, Dottie,” said she in the old affectionate way; but before the child had time to answer, the door opened again, and grandmother reappeared, followed by grandfather and Susan. Then there were more introductions, but by-and-by they all got seated, and Ellen began her story, -- still holding Dottie tightly by the hand.

“Dottie would tell you, Mrs. Leigh, how Uncle Dan'l came for me, an' I went away?”

Mrs. Leigh nodded.

“Well I was meanin' to go back next day an' leave things all square, you know; but here, that very night, orders came for the Petrel to sail, so off we had to go. I wanted to go on shore again an' wait till she came back, but Uncle Dan'l wouldn't let me.”

“No, said Uncle Dan'l gruffly; “ye see, mum it was jis' this. She might be livin' and she might not when we come back from Calcutta, so I ses to my old 'oman, 'Ole “oman, we've got 'er an' we'll keep 'er.' She agreed — so we did.”

"And I had no clothes, Mrs. Leigh," went on Ellen merrily, "so Aunt Sally an' me had to set to work, an' take in some o' 'ers. They did till we got to port. But I was frettin' so about Bessie an' her child, I couldn't sleep scarcely for thinkin' o' 'em an' what they must think o' me. I wwrote to 'er, but I don't s'pose she ever got it. Well, d'rectly we got back to England, not more'n a fortnight gone I went straight to Greenmeadows Court, -- found 'em all gone, of course, Bessie dead, and Dot nobody knew where. I made inquiry about where they'd buried Bessie, at the parish. It was in Kensal Green Cemetary, an' they pointed out the place they thought was the grave. I bought some flowers, Mrs. Leigh, an' laid 'em on for Bessie's sake, an' pulled up the weeds."

"Thank you, thank you, my girl," said Mrs. Leigh, her tears falling fast.

"So then we thought Dottie might be here, an' as we had some holidays, Uncle Dan'l said we'd all come together an' see."

"So 'ere we are," said Uncle Dan'l solemnly, "vich I hopes present company is as glad to see us as we are to see 'em."

"An' I am so glad, dear Mrs. Leigh," cried Ellen, her eyes brimming too; "to find Dottie so well, and in such loving hands. It's God's doing, sure enough."

"Ay!" said Uncle Dan'l solemnly; "He looks after us on the sea and on the dry land. Hulloa, mate," he said, suddenly addressing Mr. Leigh; "haven't ye a word to say?"

"Yes, I've this," said the farmer, suddenly springing up and grasping the Captain's hand like a vice; "that I hope ye'll all stop a bit 'ere with us at Clovermead. I'll never forget, my dear, what ye did for my poor lass." His voice shook, and he went over and took Ellen in his arms, and kissed her as if she had been his own.

"I'm a man of few words ordinary times," he went on, shaking hands vigorously with good Aunt Sally; "but this I say, that when ye're on shore, Clovermead's yer home whenever ye like to come."

"That's right, that's right," said the Captain; "Sally, ole 'oman, where's my handkerchief?"

His eyes were quite full of tears, and being unable to vent his feelings or to subdue them, he gave three leaps in the air, and shouted out with great vigour these, not very apt or suitable words - "Breakers ahoy!"

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Chapter XV: Conclusion

There is some one at the door, Dottie, said grandmother, from the depths of her easy chair at the kitchen fire. The easy chair was essential to the old lady now, for she had reached the allotted span. Grandfather had long since gone to his rest.

"Yes, grandmother," said a sweet, young voice, and a girlish figure left the window to open the back-door.

Could that be Dottie? Could that tall, graceful, fairfaced young lady be the poor ragged little child who was found on the snow-covered doorstep at Clovermead? Yes, sure enough it was the same; but remember fourteen years have passed since then, and that such a period of time can accomplish many changes.

She opened the door and beheld upon the step in the bright harvest moonlight, the slouched and drooping figure of a man. He had his hat drawn far over his brows, as if to screen him from observation or possibly, recognition. His clothes were ragged and threadbare, and his shoes dusty and way-worn; he looked like one of the tramps who are plentiful on country roads in harvest time.

"Please, miss, give a poor man a bite o' bread," he said, in a low, trembling voice.

"Surely," she answered pleasantly, and went back into the kitchen, to cut a thick slice from the loaf. When she returned the man was leaning up against the wicket, as if unable to support his tottering weight.

"I am afraid you are ill; let me get you a glass of cider," she said kindly, and ran to the larder at once. He took the glass from her hand, with trembling fingers, and drained every drop.

"Thank you, miss," he said unsteadily. "What place is this?"


"Oh! Are you the farmer's daughter?"

"No; his granddaughter," answered Dottie, wondering at the question. "Good night. If you are too tired to go farther, you can sleep in the straw barn, if you don't smoke."

"Thanks, miss."

The man drew his hat over his brows, and walked off, down the lane to the highway. Then he went on quickly, as if pursued by some evil thing, till he had left the clustering roofs of the homestead far behind. Then he sat down on the bank, and covered his face with his hands. He had a tattered coat, but there was a human heart beating under it. He was a man you would not have liked to see prowling about your homestead, and whom you would not like to meet on a dark or lonely road; yet underneath the repulsive, fierce exterior, there surged an ocean of unavailing regrets, of passionate longing, of deep, unquenchable love, towards the only thing in the wide world he could call his own - the child who had just given him charity, as she did to others such as him every day of her life. His own child! Yet not his own; he had forfeited all claim on her, he had severed the ties of kinship by his unnatural conduct. If she thought of him at all, it must just be as a dark fearful memory, resembling a nightmare. He had cursed her birth, he had lifted his hand to her many a time in drunken anger, he had made himself the very terror of her childish life. But she had found a haven at last, and was at peace. That was all he had desired to know. He had hungered to see her again, to trace in her face the image of the poor foolish young wife whose life he had spoiled.

Ah! But those were bitter moments, made none the easier to bear by the thought that they were the fruit of his own doings. There stole into his mind, as he sat in the stillness, holy words he had heard long ago from the lips of a sainted mother who loved him, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

Then up from the depths of the man's desolate heart there rose a prayer, which, I believe, went straight to the throne of God, and made the angels rejoice.

"God save me, Christ save me! Save my poor lost soul!" I do not know what were the fruits of that prayer. At the dawning, the man rose and went upon his way back to London, from whence he came.

Among its teeming thousands he is hidden, but God knows where he is; God looks down upon him; God pities and helps him. Among all we love and pray for, is there one we would not trust with Him? He careth for us all.

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