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Chapter 23 How Miss Fortune went out and pleasure came in

  • > O that I were an Orange tree, >     That busy plant!
  • > Then should I always laden be, >     And never want > Some fruit for him that dresseth me.
  • >                     G. HERBERT.
  • SHE was thoroughly roused at last by the slamming of the house-door after he_unt. She and Mr. Van Brunt had gone forth on their sleighing expedition, an_llen waked to find herself quite alone.
  • She could not have doubted that her aunt was away, even if she had not caugh_ glimpse of her bonnet going out of the shed door,–the stillness was s_ncommon. No such quiet could be with Miss Fortune anywhere about th_remises. The old grandmother must have been abed and asleep too, for _ricket under the hearth and the wood fire in the chimney had it all t_hemselves, and made the only sounds that were heard; the first singing ou_very now and then in a very contented and cheerful style, and the latte_iving occasional little snaps and sparks that just served to make one tak_otice how very quickly and steadily it was burning.
  • Miss Fortune had left the room put up in the last extreme of neatness. Not _peck of dust could be supposed to lie on the shining painted floor; the bac_f every chair was in its place against the wall. The very hearth-stones shon_nd the heads of the large iron nails in the floor were polished to steel.
  • Ellen sat a while listening to the soothing chirrup of the cricket and th_leasant crackling of the flames. It was a fine cold winter's day. The tw_ittle windows at the far end of the kitchen looked out upon an expanse o_now; and the large lilac bush that grew close by the wall, moved lightly b_he wind, drew its icy fingers over the panes of glass. Wintery it wa_ithout; but that made the warmth and comfort within seem all the more. Elle_ould have enjoyed it very much if she had had any one to talk to; as it wa_he felt rather lonely and sad. She had begun to learn a hymn; but it had se_er off upon a long train of thought; and with her head resting on her hand, her fingers pressed into her cheek, the other hand with the hymn-book lyin_istlessly in her lap, and eyes staring into the fire, she was sitting th_ery picture of meditation when the door opened and Alice Humphreys came in.
  • Ellen started up.
  • "Oh, I'm so glad to see you! I'm all alone."
  • "Left alone, are you?" said Alice, as Ellen's warm lips were pressed again an_gain to her cold cheeks.
  • "Yes, aunt Fortune's gone out. Come and sit down here in the rocking-chair.
  • How cold you are. Oh, do you know she is going to have a great bee here Monda_vening? What is a  _bee?_  "
  • Alice smiled. "Why," said she, "when people here in the country have so muc_f any kind of work to do that their own hands are not enough for it, the_end and call in their neighbours to help them,–that's a bee. A large party i_he course of a long evening can do a great deal."
  • "But why do they call it a  _bee?_  "
  • "I don't know, unless they mean to be like a hive of bees for the time. 'A_usy as a bee,' you know."
  • "Then they ought to call it a hive and not a bee, I should think. Aunt Fortun_s going to ask sixteen people. I wish you were coming!"
  • "How do you know but I am?"
  • "Oh, I know you aren't. Aunt Fortune isn't going to ask you."
  • "You are sure of that, are you?"
  • "Yes, I wish I wasn't. Oh, how she vexed me this morning by something sh_aid!"
  • "You mustn't get vexed so easily, my child. Don't let every little untowar_hing roughen your temper."
  • "But I couldn't help it, dear Miss Alice; it was about you. I don't kno_hether I ought to tell you; but I don't think you'll mind it, and I know i_sn't true. She said she didn't want you to come because you were one of th_roud set."
  • "And what did  _you_  say?"
  • "Nothing. I had it just on the end of my tongue to say, 'It's no such thing;'
  • but I didn't say it."
  • "I am glad you were so wise. Dear Ellen, that is nothing to be vexed about. I_t were true, indeed, you might be sorry. I trust Miss Fortune is mistaken. _hall try and find some way to make her change her mind. I am glad you tol_e."
  • "I am  _so_  glad you are come, dear Alice!" said Ellen again. "I wish I coul_ave you always!" And the long, very close pressure of her two arms about he_riend said as much. There was a long pause. The cheek of Alice rested o_llen's head which nestled against her; both were busily thinking; but neithe_poke; and the cricket chirped and the flames crackled without being listene_o.
  • "Miss Alice," said Ellen, after a long time,–"I wish you would talk over _ymn with me."
  • "How do you mean, my dear?" said Alice rousing herself.
  • "I mean, read it over and explain it. Mamma used to do it sometimes. I hav_een thinking a great deal about her to-day; and I think I'm very differen_rom what I ought to be. I wish you would talk to me and make me better, Mis_lice."
  • Alice pressed an earnest kiss upon the tearful little face that was uplifte_o her, and presently said, "I am afraid I shall be a poor substitute for you_other, Ellen. What hymn shall we take?"
  • "Any one–this one if you like. Mamma likes it very much. I was looking it ove_o-day.
  • > "'A charge to keep I have– >    A God to glorify; >  A never-dying soul to save, >    And fit it for the sky.'"
  • Alice read the first line and paused.
  • "There now," said Ellen,–"what is a charge?"
  • "Don't you know that?"
  • "I think I do, but I wish you would tell me."
  • "Try to tell me first."
  • "Isn't it something that is given to one to do?–I don't know exactly."
  • "It is something given one in trust, to be done or taken care of. I remembe_ery well once when I was about your age my mother had occasion to go out fo_alf an hour, and she left me in charge of my little baby sister; she gave m_  _charge_  not to let anything disturb her while she was away and to kee_er asleep if I could. And I remember how I kept my charge too. I was not t_ake her out of the cradle, but I sat beside her the whole time; I would no_uffer a fly to light on her little fair cheek; I scarcely took my eyes fro_er; I made John keep pussy at a distance; and whenever one of the littl_ound dimpled arms was thrown out upon the coverlet I carefully drew somethin_ver it again."
  • "Is she dead?" said Ellen timidly, her eyes watering in sympathy with Alice's.
  • "She is dead, my dear; she died before we left England."
  • "I understand what a charge is," said Ellen after a little; "but what is thi_harge the hymn speaks of? What charge have I to keep?"
  • "The hymn goes on to tell you. The next line gives you part of it. 'A God t_lorify.'"
  • "To glorify?" said Ellen doubtfully.
  • "Yes–that is to honour,–to give him all the honour that belongs to him."
  • "But can  _I  _honour  _Him?_  "
  • "Most certainly; either honour or dishonour; you cannot help doing one."
  • "I!" said Ellen again.
  • "Must not your behaviour speak either well or ill for the mother who ha_rought you up?"
  • "Yes–I know that."
  • "Very well; when a child of God lives as he ought to do, people cannot hel_aving high and noble thoughts of that glorious One whom he serves, and o_hat perfect law he obeys. Little as they may love the ways of religion, i_heir own secret hearts they  _cannot help_  confessing that there is a Go_nd that they ought to serve him. But a worldling, and still more a_nfaithful Christian, just helps people to forget there is such a Being, an_akes them think either that religion is a sham, or that they may safely go o_espising it. I have heard it said, Ellen, that Christians are the only Bibl_ome people ever read; and it is true; all they know of religion is what the_et from the lives of its professors; and oh! were the world but full of th_ight kind of example, the kingdom of darkness could not stand. 'Arise, shine!' is a word that every Christian ought to take home."
  • "But how can I shine?" asked Ellen.
  • "My dear Ellen!–in the faithful, patient, self-denying performance of ever_uty as it comes to hand–'whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with th_ight.'"
  • "It is very little that  _I_  can do," said Ellen.
  • "Perhaps more than you think, but never mind that. All are not great stars i_he church; you may be only a little rushlight;–see you burn well!"
  • "I remember," said Ellen, musing,–"mamma once told me when I was goin_omewhere, that people would think strangely of  _her_  if I didn't behav_ell."
  • "Certainly. Why, Ellen, I formed an opinion of her very soon after I saw you."
  • "Did you!" said Ellen, with a wonderfully brightened face,–"what was it? wa_t good? ah! do tell me!"
  • "I am not quite sure of the wisdom of that," said Alice, smiling; "you migh_ake home the praise that is justly her right and not yours."
  • "Oh, no indeed," said Ellen, "I had rather she should have it than I. Pleas_ell me what you thought of her, dear Alice,–I know it was good, at any rate."
  • "Well, I will tell you," said Alice, "at all risks. I thought your mother wa_ lady, from the honourable notions she had given you; and from your read_bedience to her, which was evidently the obedience of love, I judged she ha_een a good mother in the true sense of the term. I thought she must be _efined and cultivated person from the manner of your speech and behaviour; and I was sure she was a Christian, because she had taught you the truth, an_vidently had tried to lead you in it."
  • The quivering face of delight with which Ellen began to listen gave way, lon_efore Alice had done, to a burst of tears.
  • "It makes me so glad to hear you say that," she said.
  • "The praise of it is your mother's, you know, Ellen."
  • "I know it,–but you make me so glad!" And hiding her face in Alice's lap, sh_airly sobbed.
  • "You understand now, don't you, how Christians may honour or dishonour thei_eavenly Father?"
  • "Yes, I do; but it makes me afraid to think of it."
  • "Afraid? It ought rather to make you glad. It is a great honour and happines_or us to be permitted to honour him.–
  • > "'A never-dying soul to save, >    And fit it for the sky.'"
  • "Yes–that is the great duty you owe yourself. Oh, never forget it, dear Ellen!
  • And whatever would hinder you, have nothing to do with it. 'What will i_rofit a man though he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?'
  • > "'To serve the present age, >    My calling to fulfil–'"
  • "What is 'the present age?'" said Ellen.
  • "All the people who are living in the world at this time."
  • "But, dear Alice!–what can I do to the present age?"
  • "Nothing to the most part of them certainly; and yet, dear Ellen, if you_ittle rushlight shines well there is just so much the less darkness in th_orld,–though perhaps you light only a very little corner. Every Christian i_ blessing to the world; another grain of salt to go toward sweetening an_aving the mass."
  • "That is very pleasant to think of," said Ellen, musing.
  • "Oh, if we were but full of love to our Saviour, how pleasant it would be t_o any thing for him! how many ways we should find of honouring him by doin_ood."
  • "I wish you would tell me some of the ways that I can do it," said Ellen.
  • "You will find them fast enough if you seek them, Ellen. No one is so poor o_o young but he has one talent at least to use for God."
  • "I wish I knew what mine is," said Ellen.
  • "Is your daily example as perfect as it can be?"
  • Ellen was silent and shook her head.
  • "Christ pleased not himself, and went about doing good; and he said, 'If an_an serve me, let him  _follow me._ ' Remember that. Perhaps your aunt i_nreasonable and unkind;–see with how much patience, and perfect sweetness o_emper you can bear and forbear; see if you cannot win her over by untirin_entleness, obedience, and meekness. Is there no improvement to be made here?"
  • "Oh, me, yes!" answered Ellen with a sigh.
  • "Then your old grandmother. Can you do nothing to cheer her life in her ol_ge and helplessness? can't you find some way of giving her pleasure? some wa_f amusing a long and tedious hour now and then?"
  • Ellen looked very grave; in her inmost heart she knew this was a duty sh_hrank from.
  • "He 'went about doing good.' Keep that in mind. A kind word spoken,–a littl_hing to smooth the way of one, or lighten the load of another,–teaching thos_ho need teaching,–entreating those who are walking in the wrong way,–oh! m_hild, there is work enough!
  • > "'To serve the present age, >    My calling to fulfil; >  Oh, may it all my powers engage >    To do my Maker's will.
  • >
  • > "'Arm me with jealous care, >    As in thy sight to live; >  And oh! thy servant, Lord, prepare >    A strict account to give.'"
  • "An account of what?" said Ellen."
  • "You know what an account is. If I give Thomas a dollar to spend for me a_arra-carra, I expect he will give me an exact  _account_  when he comes back, what he has done with every shilling of it. So must we give an account of wha_e have done with every thing our Lord has committed to our care,–our hands, our tongues, our time, our minds, our influence; how much we have honoure_im, how much good we have done to others, how fast and how far we have grow_oly and fit for heaven."
  • "It almost frightens me to hear you talk, Miss Alice."
  • "Not  _frighten_ , dear Ellen,–that is not the word;  _sober_  we ought t_e;–mindful to do nothing we shall not wish to remember in the great day o_ccount. Do you recollect how that day is described? Where is your Bible?"
  • She opened to the 20th chapter of Revelation.
  • "And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face th_arth and the heaven flew away; and there was found no place for them.
  • "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books wer_pened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dea_ere judged out of those things which were written in the books, according t_heir works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hel_elivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every ma_ccording to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.
  • This is the second death.
  • "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into th_ake of fire."
  • Ellen shivered. "That is dreadful!" she said.
  • "It will be a dreadful day to all but those whose names are written in th_amb's book of life;–not dreadful to them, dear Ellen."
  • "But how shall I be sure, dear Alice, that  _my_  name is written there? and _an't be happy if I am not sure."
  • "My dear child," said Alice tenderly, as Ellen's anxious face and glistenin_yes were raised to hers, "if you love Jesus Christ you may know you are hi_hild, and none shall pluck you out of his hand."
  • "But how can I tell whether I do love him really? sometimes I think I do, an_hen again sometimes I am afraid I don't at all."
  • Alice answered in the words of Christ;–"He that hath my commandments an_eepeth them, he it is that loveth me."
  • "Oh, I don't keep his commandments!" said Ellen, the tears running down he_heeks.
  • " _Perfectly_ , none of us do. But, dear Ellen,  _that_  is not the question.
  • Is your heart's desire and effort to keep them? Are you grieved when yo_ail?–There is the point. You cannot love Christ without loving to pleas_im."
  • Ellen rose and putting both arms round Alice's neck laid her head there, a_er manner sometimes was, tears flowing fast.
  • "I sometimes think I do love him a little," she said, "but I do so many wron_hings. But he will teach me to love him if I ask him, won't he, dear Alice?"
  • "Indeed he will, dear Ellen," said Alice, folding her arms round her littl_dopted sister,–" _indeed  _he will. He has promised that. Remember what h_old somebody who was almost in despair,–'Fear not; only believe.'"
  • Alice's neck was wet with Ellen's tears; and after they had ceased to flow he_rms kept their hold and her head its resting-place on Alice's shoulder fo_ome time. It was necessary at last for Alice to leave her.
  • Ellen waited till the sound of her horse's footsteps died away on the road; and then sinking on her knees beside her rocking-chair she poured forth he_hole heart in prayers and tears. She confessed many a fault and short-comin_hat none knew but herself; and most earnestly besought help that "her littl_ushlight might shine bright." Prayer was to little Ellen what it is to al_hat know it,–the satisfying of doubt, the soothing of care, the quieting o_rouble. She had knelt down very uneasy; but she knew that God has promised t_e the hearer of prayer, and she rose up very comforted, her mind fixing o_hose most sweet words Alice had brought to her memory,–"Fear not–onl_elieve." When Miss Fortune returned, Ellen was quietly asleep again in he_ocking-chair, with a face very pale but calm as an evening sunbeam.
  • "Well, I declare if that child ain't sleeping her life away!" said Mis_ortune. "She's slept this whole blessed forenoon; I suppose she'll want to b_live and dancing the whole night to pay for it."
  • "I can tell you what she'll want a sight more," said Mr. Van Brunt, who ha_ollowed her in; it must have been to see about Ellen, for he was never know_o do such a thing before or since;–"I'll tell you what she'll want, an_hat's a right hot supper. She eat as nigh as possible nothing at all thi_oon. There ain't much danger of her dancing a hole in your floor this som_ime."