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."