The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Little Missis, by Charlotte Skinner

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Title: The Little Missis

Author: Charlotte Skinner

Release Date: February 24, 2011 [EBook #35383]

Language: English

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"The Little Missis"

By Charlotte Skinner

Author of "Doctor Phill," "The Master's Messages to Women," etc.

With Six Illustrations






"'See how carefully he is helping her out of the cab.'"

"Phebe was in the shop taking a general look round"

"'Bessie, you are to tell me right out what is troubling you'"

"'Let us put this cold-blooded letter on the fire'"

"She caused the cup with its contents to fall into Phebe's lap"

"He was standing on the pavement, looking a sad, solitary figure"




Creak—creak—creak! went the old mangle—one of the box sort, weighted with stones.

"Are you dreadfully busy, Mrs. Colston?" called out a clear, young voice.

"Bless me, is that you, Miss Phebe?" and the mangle was suddenly silent. "No, I'm not dreadfully busy, and in two minutes I was going to make myself some tea; and if you——"

"Oh, won't I, rather! I should just think I will, you dearie; and I'll get it ready, too, while you play your last tune on your old organ."

Creak, creak, went the mangle, clatter went the cups, and in less than ten minutes the two were seated at a little round three-legged table enjoying tea and talk.

"Can't think what's the matter with you to-day, Miss Phebe. Have you got a new dress on, or have you been doing something to your complexion, or what is it?" asked Mrs. Colston, looking very intently across the table.

"I have got my old dress on, and have not even washed my face in dew."

"Well, then, what is it?—Ah, I know! you've fallen in love."

"Yes, I fell in love with you a long time ago," answered her visitor demurely; "but I see you've guessed my secret, you are so clever. The fact is, I have got two secrets to tell you. I wonder which I should bring out first!"

The old mangle woman got up from her arm-chair, and, going to where the girl was sitting, took the fair young face into her hands and kissed the right cheek, saying, as the tears started to her eyes: "There, my dear; that's in place of your mother's kiss, and," kissing the other cheek, "that's for myself."

Resuming her seat there was silence for a minute or two, and then Mrs. Colston, said: "I think I can guess both your secrets. The first is, you have given yourself to Jesus; and the second is, you have promised to marry Stephen Collins."

"Oh, dear, no," exclaimed the girl, rising from her seat. "Why, he has never asked me. Besides—no, I have promised to marry Ralph Waring."

"Ralph Waring!" repeated the old woman, and then there was an awkward silence.

"Oh, dear Mrs. Colston, you do not think I have done wrong, do you?" exclaimed the girl, sinking on her knees in front of her old friend, "say you do not!"

"No, no, dearie; I don't exactly, but it's took me by surprise," and putting both her arms round her neck she kissed her again. "No, dearie, don't think that. Ralph is a very good young man, but I know very well how much Steve loves you."

"It is strange," mused the girl; "Ralph asked me if I loved him more than I did Stephen, and I said of course I did." Then, rising to her feet, she said with a ring of pride in her voice, "You know Ralph is so clever; you should hear him give some of his lectures! He is a great favourite at several men's meetings. His great ambition is to be a Member of Parliament. He is sure to be mayor some day."

"He does a good business, doesn't he?"

"Just fancy, now, you thinking about that; I see, after all, you have an eye to money. I never thought it of you," and then Miss Phebe laughed quite naturally, and the little cloud which seemed to have risen between them cleared away and the sun shone again.

"Why shouldn't I? We can't live without it—but bless me, your cup is empty: what can I be thinking of?"

Phebe commenced drinking her second cup, never noticing that her companion had not touched the first one yet. "Now tell me all about the other secret: that's more interesting to me, you know, for it's so long since I fell in love I forget what it's like."

"But it is a long time since you first loved Jesus, and you don't forget what that is like."

"Ah! that's different, you see. He never changes; men and women do. But never you mind about my love affairs: tell me yours."

Phebe rose and went and stood in front of the window, looking into the little bricked yard through which she had entered the house. There were some scarlet geraniums in the window doing duty in place of a curtain, and her cheeks seemed to have caught the hue of the blossoms.

"You know for a long time I have wanted to be a Christian."

"Yes;" and Mrs. Colston poked the fire during the pause. It was strange for Miss Phebe to continue the conversation while her back was towards her friend; many people can speak openly about earthly love matters, but are shy when the Great Lover is concerned.

"All at once I seemed to understand wishing was not sufficient, that a definite act was needed. So the night before last I got out of bed and knelt down by my old easy-chair, and told Jesus I gave myself entirely to Him, that He should be my dear Master, and that I would be willing to do all He wished."

How well the old friend could see the scene! She knew the room so well. The old chair was covered with brown leather, and it was the chair the girl's mother had died in. By its side stood a little writing-table, and on the wall above were portraits—mostly cut from newspapers and magazines—of some eminent men and women whom the girl regarded as heroes and heroines. An old apple-tree grew close by the window, and in the summer-time little could be seen of the outside world but its green leaves and greener fruit. When the wind blew the boughs tapped, tapped at the window-panes, but Phebe would not have them cut. "I like to think," said she, "they are messengers come to tell me the old tree's secrets."

"Since then," the girl continued, "I have been so happy; and is it not funny," turning now towards the fire, "that the very next day Ralph should ask me to be his wife? So I have given myself away twice since I last saw you."

"I wonder if there is anything left of you for me?" Mrs. Colston asked, with a twinkling smile.

"Yes; I'm still yours. I could never forget how you loved me when I was a little crying mite. You gave me two kisses; I'll give you two—one for being good to me when I was a troublesome juvenile, and one for being good to me now I am a proper grown-up. But I have not finished my story, and if you interrupt me again I shall turn the mangle instead of talking to you. I think I told you a long time ago how much I wanted to write a book—indeed, I have tried, and sent little chapters of it to editors in London, but they have always been returned with thanks. Now you see Jesus has opened up my way to serve Him. I am going to help Ralph with his lectures and speeches—he says I shall—and I shall go with him to all his engagements. He says those who ask him must ask me, too; and, after all, to live a life for Jesus is better than writing a book for Him."

"Comes to about the same thing, I should think."

"I am sure you will be happy now I am a Christian"—this with a coaxing voice.

"But you are a very young Christian."

"A young Christian! Whatever do you mean?"

"My dear child, you have only just started. Why, even the daisies don't come up all at once: flowers and fruits that do, don't come to much."

"If that is what you mean," Phebe replied, with a sigh of relief, "I don't mind."

"Why, you think of my work," the old woman continued; "I often do. The clothes are not finished when the dirt's out, and you are not a finished Christian as soon as your sin's forgiven. The clothes have to be bleached and dried, and then there comes the getting out of the creases, and so I mangle them and mangle them."

"But look here," said Phebe, laughing, "you don't mean to say I have got to be mangled?"

"You need not laugh, my dear, for I am quite sure if Jesus was to speak just now He'd use my old mangle for a text. I know He would; and why shouldn't He, just as well as using the woman's candle and yeast, and the man's fishing-net and pruning-knife."

"I should not like to think I had to be mangled."

"It's more than mangling, Miss Phebe, for if we want to put a nice polish on the clothes we use a hot iron to them. You are used to the thought of being like gold in the fire, and a lump of clay in the potter's hand: why not think of yourself as under my roller? I often and often think, as I smoothes out the marks, and stretches the corners, and turns, and turns, that is just how Jesus is doing with me."

"H'm," mused Phebe, "I suppose it's another way of describing tribulation. But do you suppose everybody has tribulation?"

"I do; there isn't a plant in my little garden I haven't used the scissors to."

"Ah, well, I suppose we must submit."

"Yes, dearie; and we must look beyond to the afterwards. When we see what the Lord has made us we shall thank Him. Why, the things that I carefully pack in the baskets are hardly like the same things I take out, they look that nice."

"Do you think I shall have much tribulation, dear Mrs. Colston?" asked Phebe anxiously, placing her hand on her old friend's shoulder.

"I don't know for certain; the Lord only can tell that. But," looking up lovingly into the face of her favourite, "don't you worry, He'll help you right through, sure enough."

When Miss Phebe had taken her departure and the mangle had started again its painful song, the old woman said to herself: "Strikes me she will have a good deal; but it will be because the Lord wants her to be extra polished. She's real damask, she is; worth taking a good deal of trouble with. Some folks are only like dusters, and if the Lord was like me He'd not take much trouble with them. But, bless me, it's a good thing the Lord is not like me, it 'ud be a poor look-out for some folks if He was."

As Miss Phebe walked home she said to herself: "I thought it was all settled, but it would seem I have only just commenced." That night she again knelt by the old arm-chair. It had always seemed she could pray best there, for it recalled the time when she had knelt at her mother's knees, and had first learnt to talk to Jesus. "Dear Lord," she prayed, "make me a true Christian; and help me to be perfectly willing to let Thee do it in whatever way you think will be best for me."

A mile away, in a farmhouse on a height over-looking the little town of Hadley, another earnest soul knelt in prayer: "Lord, help me to put her out of my thoughts. If this is allowed by Thee as discipline, make me willing to bear it. Lord, help me, but Thou knowest how much I loved her!" and a sob, which would have broken his mother's heart if she had heard it, escaped from Stephen Collins as he looked forward into the future.

At the foot of the same hill, in the back parlour of a thriving shop, a young fellow was counting his day's takings, and when he had finished, he drew his chair up to the fire to think things over. "Steve Collins thought he was sure of her, I know he did; but I got the start of him for once. I wonder if Phebe's father is really well off! I have got on very well so far, but it is slow work in this sleepy place."

The gardener pegs some of his plants down to the ground: some he places by a south wall, some in open spaces where the north wind has free access. He has a purpose with each, and whatever he does is for their "making."



"I say, mother, they've come!"

"Well, let them. What do I care?"

"Oh, but just come and look a minute. See how carefully he is helping her out of the cab. She's a sight too good for him. There! I've got a brilliant idea. I'll go and give them a tune. She shall enter her bridal home to the strains of music," and away downstairs Miss Bessie Marchant rushed. She was the daughter of Mr. Marchant, chemist, Ralph Waring's neighbour.

"What is that girl playing?" exclaimed Mrs. Marchant a few minutes afterwards, as she was preparing supper in the kitchen.

Phill Marchant was sitting at the table working out a sum on his slate. "Why, it's the 'Dead March.' Is her kitten dead?"

"That girl will be the death of me. Bessie, do you hear, stop that noise, will you? Haven't you one spark of human kindness left?"

"No, mother," still going on playing, "I gave all the sparks to Phill."

"Stop playing, will you? or I'll box your ears! It's perfectly cruel. The poor thing will have enough to put up with, without you worrying her with that bad omen."

Bessie suddenly stopped, not because she was afraid of her ears being boxed, but deep down in her heart, where a good big piece of human kindness was thriving splendidly, in spite of her mother's fears, questionings had arisen lest she might not be defeating her own object.

"I don't want to worry her; you know that. It is a funny world to live in if you cannot play the 'Dead March' when you like!"

"You just march off and water the plants in the greenhouse, and don't interfere with what isn't your business."

"All right, but I'll——" What exactly Miss Bessie was going still further to do, her mother did not catch, and it was not Miss Bessie's intention that she should.

It was a drizzling wet night when Phebe Waring arrived at her new home. According to strict economical household arrangements, there was no bright fire in the back parlour to make the room look cosy, because it was near the end of June. The floor was covered with oil-cloth, no rug anywhere, and a table, small sideboard, and six small chairs with American leather cushions made up the whole of the furniture.

"Not very homelike," Phebe thought, "but there, how could I expect bachelor's quarters to look anything different?"

For supper the little maid had placed on the table a large white jug of lemon water, a piece of cheese, and some bread and butter.

"There's a hamper for you, ma'am, from your father's: came about an hour ago."

Quickly taking off her hat and jacket Phebe opened the hamper, and when she looked inside the tears came into her eyes; it was the first glimpse of anything homelike she had seen for a fortnight.

A bunch of wallflowers came first, then a large pat of butter, a home-made cake, a roasted chicken, a piece of ham, and a large box of little gooseberry pies. "Dear old Sis, how thoughtful of her!" Soon the table was spread with the feast the loving sister in the old home had prepared, and to make the room look still further homelike Phebe got Janie, the maid, to light a fire in the empty, rusty grate.

"It was quite fortunate I did not order anything further into the house," said Ralph.

In the morning the room looked as cheerless as it did the night before, and Phebe's heart seemed to shrink as she noticed that the window looked into a yard, surrounded with high walls, and that nothing was growing in it but grass and dandelions. How different from the outlook over the well-kept garden at home! "But I'll soon make it look different," said the hopeful Phebe to herself.

The only bright spot in the room was a bunch of beautiful pansies lying on the table; the wallflowers had been taken upstairs. As Phebe picked them up she noticed a slip of paper pushed beneath the string with which they were tied, and on it was written:

"From Neighbour Bessie. I do hope you will be my friend."

"Ah, that must be Mrs. Marchant's daughter, next door," thought Phebe, "I have heard Ralph speak of her. Of course we shall be friends. What beautiful flowers! Pansies—see, they mean 'heart's ease.' Did Bessie think—but of course she did not. She would not know their meaning."

During breakfast Ralph put into her hand a black-edged envelope, saying, "See what I have had sent me. A funny sort of congratulation!"

Inside the envelope was a card, bordered with ink lines, and in the centre, in letters to imitate printing, were the words:

"Sacred to the Memory of
Who ceased to be on June 10th, 18—,
And was interred in the residence of
Ralph Waring, Draper, etc., Hadley."

"Somebody thinks I'm going to be a poor martyr," said Ralph, putting on a very solemn look. Phebe also looked solemn, but her solemnity seemed real.

"I don't know about that," she replied, "it seems to me it is my liberty which is referred to. If your liberty is interred in your house it is still yours."

"Oh, dear, no; everybody knows women always have their own way—they never lose their liberty," and a slight tone of anger was in the voice, which made Phebe look up in surprise. "But there, it is only somebody's stupid joke; not worth thinking about," and he tore the card into shreds, feeling a trifle sorry he had spoken in the way he had done.

Breakfast over, Ralph said: "And now, dearest, I should like a little business talk with you, if you can spare the time. You know we have had so much lovemaking to do we have had no opportunity of talking together about our business."

"'Our business,'" thought Phebe, "that sounds nice."

"The fact is," said Ralph, when the breakfast table had been cleared and they were alone, "I want to enlarge the business. I want to throw this room into the shop, take the house next door, which is to let, and start a grocery trade, too. Then my idea is to have a horse and cart and go into the villages for orders—many of them are growing considerably, and I think I could work up a splendid connection. Later on I should try to sell the whole affair, and start somewhere different from this sleepy place."

"Somewhere different! I should never like to leave Hadley."

"Of course not, women are never ambitious."

"But I am very ambitious, and should like you to have a large business. How could you possibly leave all your public work here? and I could never leave Hadley while my poor old sick father lives."

"We'll not worry about that," said Ralph, fearing he had gone too far. "We need not discuss that for years. I am glad to hear you say you would like me to have a big business; but how, without more capital, am I going to manage it?"

"That certainly is a very difficult question."

There was silence for a minute, and then Ralph, evidently disappointed she had not said more, asked: "Can you not suggest anything?"

"No, I cannot; but if it is God's will He will show you how it can be done."

"God won't do for us what we can do for ourselves," he answered a little impatiently. "I hardly like mentioning it, but haven't you some money in the bank?"


"How much?"

"Three hundred pounds. It was my mother's money; and the interest has helped to buy my clothes, because father could not afford to give us much pocket-money."

"Couldn't I have that money? Of course, I shall give you pocket-money enough."

"You can have some of it, most certainly."

"Not all?"

"Wouldn't half do?"

Ralph got up from his chair, went to the window, and then said slowly, "Yes, that will do."

"We will go and draw it out next week," said Phebe, "if you like."

"Yes; and of course you had better change the name, had you not? And it will seem more businesslike if you draw the whole of it and then put the half of it back in my name. It will be yours all the same."

"I don't mind," said Phebe, "if that will please you."

"Please me! I'm not a child." Fortunately, just then he was called into the shop.

"Am I selfish?" questioned Phebe anxiously to herself. "Have I done wrong? Ought I to let him have the whole? But I am sure father would be cross if I did."

All that day there was sunshine without, but very little within. Phebe worked hard to make the house more homelike; some rugs were laid on the parlour floor, two arm-chairs established each side the table, ferns arranged in the grate, vases of flowers put on the chimney-piece, pictures hung up, curtains placed at the window—and yet it seemed dreary. But how can there be sunshine in a room when there's a shadow on the spirit?

After tea Ralph said: "I am going to Sunbury to a meeting this evening."

"Oh, I am glad; I shall enjoy that."

"But, dearest, I am sorry to disappoint you. I have promised to walk with old Mr. Cope, and it is too far for you. Besides, if you don't mind, I should like you to attend to the shop a little, just to check bills and take cash, for I am a young man short to-day. Will you?"

"Oh, yes," replied Phebe gaily, trying hard to let the feeling of pride that Ralph thought her capable of doing this conquer the feeling of disappointment. "I shall be delighted to do it for your sake." And after that sweet little speech Ralph kissed her.

The young man who was left in charge of the shop, being of a rather fiery disposition, and having resented somewhat Phebe's advent into the establishment, thought he would take this opportunity of having a little revenge.

"Do you like business, Mrs. Waring?" he asked, when they were alone.

"I hardly know, having had no experience."

"Well, I suppose it is with you as with me, it is all the same whether we like it or not—we have got to do it."

"I don't think the cases are quite parallel," she said, with a smile.

"Oh, I thought they were, for when the governor gave Dick Forbes notice—he left to-day, you know—he said he should not require his services any longer, for when you came you would see after the business when he was away. It must be nice to have a wife to look after things while you are away enjoying yourself."

"Your master is away doing God's business," she replied with dignity, and straightway walked into the parlour.

The dignity all vanished when she laid her head on her hands on the table and had a little cry to herself. Things were all so different from what she had expected, and such a loneliness seemed to have crept into her heart! When she lifted up her tearful face she saw the bunch of pansies quite close to her, and their faces seemed to look into hers and whisper, "Heart's ease!" "What a comfort!" she whispered to herself. "'Heart's ease,' yes, I know where to get it from. I know I feel disappointed, but ought I not to ask: Is Ralph disappointed in me? and is Jesus disappointed in me?"

"What a mean hound I've been!" thought the young shopman, as he caught sight afterwards of her swollen eyes. "It would have served me right if she had boxed my ears. She'll have enough to put up with without me adding to it." And that same night he walked two miles to beg a bunch of roses for her, saying as he gave them to her: "Please forgive me for having been rude to you."

When a king had chosen the design for the gold work of his signet and selected the stone, carefully studying its hue and markings, then came the making of the signet: the gold was put in the fire, and the gem under the lapidary's hammer.



In a little over a year great alterations had been made in Ralph Waring's establishment. The shop next door had been duly taken, the partition wall broken down, and the grocery business started. The only part of Ralph's plan which had not come about was the throwing in of the back parlour into the business portion. "No," said Phebe firmly, "in this department I mean to come first. I am not going to vote for everything being sacrificed to the business; to have a dining-room upstairs means a great deal of extra work. I must also have the parlour of the other shop to convert into a decent kitchen. How can we expect Janie to be bright and happy with nothing better than a scullery to sit in? I mean my kitchen to be as bright and cheery as any room in the house."

"I wonder who's master here!" said Ralph, with a snap.

"We are partners—at least, that is what you have said, and you rule in one department and I in the other. I have no objection to you having one of the front rooms upstairs for a show-room." Ralph had never thought of that, and as it sounded rather "big," it pleased him, and so the dispute ended.

But if changes had been effected in the front premises, a greater change had come about in the back garden, which at first had only looked like a walled-in yard. Where the dandelions had grown was a trim little lawn, with a flower-stand in the centre nearly covered with pink ivy geraniums; there was no space for any elaboration of design, so a narrow bed of flowers round the lawn touched the surrounding walls, which were already nearly covered with shoots of ivy, climbing roses, and that industrious plant, Virginia creeper. In one corner a little arbour had been erected, and, till the climbing plants had completed the covering, a gay red-striped awning had been fixed up, adding still more colour to the scene.

Here one sunny August day Neighbour Bessie found her friend, Mrs. Waring, nursing her baby.

"Well, you do make a pretty picture! Talk of gold pictures in silver frames, you are a picture of love in a frame of flowers."

"Now, no more flattery, neighbour, for a week, or I'll send you to Coventry."

Bessie at once sat down on the grass at Phebe's feet. She was never so happy as when resting on "Nature's bottom shelf." Her mother said this was a sign of laziness; Bessie said it was a sign of economy, because she did not wear out the chair-cushions, and also the sign of a cautious nature, because there was no fear of falling.

"You haven't kissed the baby."

"I don't much care if I do or not, so long as I can kiss you." After the process was over, she added, "If it had been a boy, I just wouldn't have kissed it, so I tell you." Knowing this was a very saucy little speech to make, she did not give Phebe a chance to reply, but hurried on, "It's fairly wonderful the change you have made in this place, and fancy you doing it all yourself! I used to call it 'Dandelion Farm.'"

"What do you call it now?"

"I haven't thought; let me see," leaning her head on her hands and puckering up her brow as though to press the thought in, "it's just like a patch of sunlight; yes, that would do, something out of the usual—Sunshine Patch."

"Yes, that will do," said Phebe, laughing, "but it reminds me how much I disliked the place when first I had a peep of it; these walls fairly made me shudder, and now I wouldn't have them one brick lower, because they give privacy; and see how refreshing they will be to look at when covered with greenery; and look at that lovely laburnum of our neighbour's drooping over the wall; and in the spring that high lilac-tree was a perfect picture. This little patch, as you call it, Bessie, dear, has taught me a lesson I hope I shall remember all my life."

"Whatever is that, teacher?" Bessie asked, looking up with mock wonder.

"But I am serious, Bessie; it is that most of our dark patches we could turn into sunshine patches if only we had the will."

"Do you know," said Bessie, with a real sigh, "my mother is my dark patch, and she walls me round like anything. I wonder if I could plant ivy slips round her!"

"You are a naughty girl," said Phebe, trying hard not to laugh, "I think she has more need to plant them round you."

"Phebe, where are you?" Ralph called out.

"Oh," said Bessie, suddenly springing up, "I'll go at once and consult the gardening book," but Phebe knew this was only a pretence to avoid having to talk to Ralph.

"It is fine to be you," said her husband, "to be able to sit in this retreat doing nothing this broiling hot day. How cool you look! but there, everything goes peacefully with you, while everything goes cross with me."

"Can I put anything right for you?"

"Of course you can't. I've been thinking," sitting down by her side, "what a stupid I am to put myself to so much trouble for people. You know I went last night to Hawtree Hall; I've been going there now for three years, and I haven't one customer in the place."

"But, Ralph, dear, you have a higher aim surely than to get customers."

"Of course I have; dear me, how you do misunderstand me! But surely decent, common gratitude would lead some of the people to deal with me, if they had any. They don't pay for my services!"

"Of course not."

"And why, pray, 'of course not'? The more I get, the more good I can do. Do you think I want money for any special, selfish gratification? God has called me to make money as well as to make speeches, and I can serve Him equally well in both ways."

"Certainly, but I think we all have to watch lest we cloak our ambitions with the appearance of doing God's service, and so deceive ourselves."

"A very nice way of calling me a hypocrite."

"Oh, Ralph, Ralph, it is nothing of the sort! I have often had to watch against that sort of thing."

"Well, don't measure my corn with your bushel, that's all. We'll change the subject. I see you opened that letter of Deason's, asking for that money. I am not going to pay him yet. I want that money for buying a 'new line' with. I am going to try another experiment this winter."

"But, Ralph, that man needs his money, he is poor."

"You can leave all those matters to me. You talk like a—but there, what do women know about business?" And he got up and walked towards the house, but before entering turned round and said, "I shall not be home till late; when it gets cooler perhaps you will be able to make me out a few bills."

She felt inclined to answer, "I don't know enough about business to do that," but wisely kept silence. She had been taking lessons of late in the right use of the lips, and was getting them pretty well under control.

When the cool of the evening came she was again sitting in Sunshine Patch, from whence she got just a little peep of the sunset sky. The baby was asleep; Janie was reading; Phebe had already spent two hours in bill-making and thought she might now conscientiously take the luxury of sitting and doing nothing, except having a good think. All day long there had been in her mind old Mrs. Colston's words about the process a Christian has to go through. "I think," she sighed, "instead of the creases getting out of my character, more creases get in. See how I seem to aggravate Ralph. Then to think of Bessie; I thought I might do real missionary work with her, and she's just as naughty as ever, and Janie is just as dull," and the tears began to come.

"Please, ma'am, here's Mrs. Colston." It was Janie's voice, and Mrs. Colston herself immediately appeared. The old lady at once noticed the tear marks, and exclaimed, "I can see you are quite tired out; you must come in and lie down on the couch, and Janie shall get you something—no, I'll get it myself," and after half carrying Phebe indoors, she bustled away to the kitchen.

"Now, Janie, get some milk, a saucepan, and an egg." While she was watching the milk lest it should boil over, she went on talking. "Look here, Janie, you are to look well after your mistress, or she'll slip through your fingers."

"You don't mean to say she's going to die!" exclaimed Janie, in horror. "Oh, dear, what should I do! You don't know how different this place has been since she's been here, and you don't know what she's done for me."

"No, I don't, but I can guess. You mustn't speak so loud or she will hear, and mind you don't go and tell her what I've said. Just shake yourself together a bit, my girl, and look well after her; be sure and feed her well, and see that she rests."

Mrs. Colston having seen to her favourite's bodily wants, sat down to have a talk. "I suppose you've tired yourself with writing lectures and speeches."

"'Lectures and speeches'!" exclaimed Phebe, trying to laugh, "whatever made you think I'd been doing that?"

"You told me yourself you were going to help Ralph write his lectures and speeches."

"Oh no, I do nothing of that sort," and try as she might the tone of disappointment would not be kept down, and the old friend caught it and guessed something of its meaning.

"You've never told me baby's name yet."

"She has two names."

"That's right; that's one for each of you."

"My name, I mean the one I chose for her, is Mary. I did not want to call her Phebe, because I don't see why married women should lose their Christian name, and they always do if they have a daughter called after them. I think no name can be so beautiful as Mary, because it was the name of the mother of Jesus. Ralph chose the other name; he said, simply Mary Waring would sound mean."

"Perhaps so; Phebe Mary go well together, and it was only natural he would like her named after you."

"It is not Phebe. Baby's name is Victoria Mary."

Mrs. Colston had long ago commenced the training of her lips, and for a moment did not speak.

"And may the little dear always have the victory. That's my wish for her."

"And you don't think it sounds ridiculous then?" asked Phebe, raising herself up on her elbow, "I mean for a draper's daughter?"

"Certainly not; why shouldn't a draper's daughter have as good a name as anybody else? I hope she will grow up a real queenie."

"I was thinking, dear Mrs. Colston, as you came into the garden, that the process of Christian-making is slow work with me. Indeed, sometimes I am afraid it has stopped altogether."

"Not it, my dear; not a wee bit of it," stroking her hair. "If you had said, 'I'm getting on fine—shall soon be a saint,' I should have said it was pretty nigh all up with you. But, bless you, my dear, you've got that feeling just now because the Lord's been dealing with you. I watched old Robert in the spring cutting his vine; my, there was a slaughtering! I fancy the poor old vine thought it was almost done for, but you should just see it now!"

As Mrs. Colston stepped out of the shop door that evening she nearly fell into the arms of Neighbour Bessie, as Phebe loved to call her. "How is Mrs. Waring?" Bessie asked anxiously. "Do you think she is all right?"

"Yes, she'll get on with care."

"Oh, she is a dumpling!" said the girl, with all her impulsive enthusiasm.

"Well then, take care and keep her warm, for cold dumplings aren't up to much! She needs a lot of warmth—love, that's what I mean."

"I'll see she has that," exclaimed Bessie, "if my sort is any good."

"All real love is good, my dear, you may be sure of that."

That night as the old mangle started its tune again, these were the words that went along with it. "There, bless me, how that dear Miss Phebe of mine has won those two girls! Why, she'll win them for Jesus yet. I know she will! Yes, I dare say she thinks she's done nothing. How little we can judge of our own work, or, come to that, of anybody else's, either. It's only our dear heavenly Father, who gets such a high view of things, seeing all over and into all the corners, that can really know how we're getting along."



Two years went by, each day filled for Phebe, except the Sundays, with housework, care of the child, and looking after the business. From Monday till Saturday she hardly ever crossed the outer doorstep. "It will not be always like this," she said to her sister, who remonstrated with her. "When Ralph has got the business well established he will be able to afford more help."

She often smiled somewhat bitterly to herself over the old dream of helping Ralph in his high endeavours to influence the souls of his fellows, and how she was to accompany him when he went forth to deliver his messages. "Never mind," she would say to herself. "I sell the people tea instead." She often called to mind the memorial-card of "Sweet Liberty," and saw how clearly it had proved prophetic of something she had truly lost. Long ago she guessed who the sender was, for she had found out what a keen reader of character Neighbour Bessie was, and what keen intuitive powers she possessed. Phebe never referred to the card, but she once said to Bessie, "I think you ought to be called 'Prophet Bessie.'"

"If you spell that word 'p-r-o-f-i-t,'" replied Bessie, "mother would say you were out of your reckoning entirely. She would say it would be nearer the truth to call me 'Dead-loss Bessie.'"

"Nay, nay, that would never do, but 'dear-loved Bessie' might." The girl looked at her with hungry eyes, but did not answer.

To be so shut in, so entirely engrossed with affairs purely selfish, would to an ordinary woman have been both narrowing and depressing. "An old woman once lived in the Isle of Wight who had never seen the sea, and there are women living in Swiss valleys who have never watched a sunset. How little such women can know of what the world is like! How narrow their sympathies, and how small their ideas! I am something like them," thought Phebe, "but I'll do my best to get a wider outlook, somehow." So by her chair in a corner of the shop parlour you might always find some paper, magazine, or book she was interested in. During the early months of their marriage Ralph had read aloud to her in the evenings, or she to him, but lately he was far too much engrossed in other things.

No one guessed the bitter sorrow Phebe suffered in thus burying her dreams. Alas, for the graves that are not found where willows grow within cemetery gates! for the flowerless graves we often weep over in our daily life! Yet deep in Phebe's heart was the hope that from this grave would blossom, some sunny morn, a husband's love such as she had dreamt of in her girlhood dreams. It seemed as if Ralph's love was sleeping, but surely some day it would waken. Oh, that God would teach her how to waken it!

By this time Victoria Mary had a companion in the person of a little brother. "I should like him to be called Ralph," said Phebe.

"I don't care for children to be made gravestones of," replied her husband. "You certainly shall choose one name and I the other, and you can choose anything you like but Ralph."

The young arrival a few days later was described on his birth-certificate as "John Washington."

These two young folks were ever afterwards known as "Queenie" and "Jack." What a lot of bother it would save if parents named their children what they intend afterwards to call them!

"Phebe," said Ralph one evening, "just put your book down and talk to me."

"That will be nice," said Phebe, with a choke in her voice, brought there by a sudden hope.

"Wouldn't you like to travel?"

"I should rather think I would."

"Well then, don't you think the time has come when we might sell this business and start somewhere else? I should dearly like to go to Australia. Will you consent?"

"If you will only wait till father is taken home, I will willingly go wherever you choose."

"But why should we wait till then? The Bible says 'a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife.'"

"Yes," said Phebe, trying to laugh, "but it does not say a woman shall leave her father and cleave unto her husband." Then, more seriously, "Do you think it is right for marriage to break every family tie? Don't you think a child has duties to its parents, however old it may become? Think how lovingly Jesus thought of His mother, providing as far as possible against her feeling lonely."

"If you are going to preach, I'm done."

"I am not preaching, but I do always like to see if there is anything in the life of Jesus that fits in with my life, so that it will guide me."

"Well, I cannot 'fit in' with this humdrum life much longer, so I tell you that plainly, and I don't mean to, either. If God calls you to stay here, God calls me to go elsewhere; so how can you reconcile those two things?"

"But why do you think God calls you elsewhere?"

"I am not going to be cross-examined like a prisoner," he replied, almost fiercely, and walked away. So the conference came to an end.

About two months afterwards Phebe received a note one dinner-time purporting to come from her sister, saying she wanted to see her at once. As the note was not in her sister's handwriting, and was so strangely worded, she was rather puzzled.

"Who has brought the note?" she inquired of the shopman.

"Some boy, but he has gone now."

"It is strange," thought Phebe; "father must be worse, and she had not time to write herself; yet that is not at all like her."

As quickly as possible Phebe hurried away, to find on her arrival her sister had not sent for her. "It must have been a trick of your neighbour, Bessie, to get you out for a change." And Phebe, thinking that idea was quite likely to be correct, made herself comfortable for the afternoon, knowing that Janie would be sure to keep faithful guard over the children.

It was quite dark when she arrived home, for autumn was fast merging into winter. Ralph was out, but that was no uncommon occurrence. The evening was a very busy one, as the afternoon leisure had caused work to accumulate. When ten o'clock came, and the shopmen had both gone up to their bedroom, and Janie was preparing to retire also, Phebe began to think it was strange Ralph was so late. Going out on to the front pavement she gazed anxiously up and down the road. Very few people were about, for it was anything but a pleasant night for a stroll—true the moon was shining, but hurrying dark clouds were constantly passing in front of it, and a sighing wind seemed to prophesy the near approach of bad weather.

At eleven o'clock she went out again: the clouds had grown larger, the intervals of moonlight were briefer. The wind sighed in a more mournful tone than before, and Phebe shivered, but more through apprehension than cold.

At twelve o'clock she was on the watch again. The night was quite dark. "He must have missed the last train," she said to herself. "I will go to bed now."

She must have slept for about two hours when she woke up with a sudden start. "Could there be any connection between that note and her husband's absence?"—that was the haunting question with which her mind was filled. "But how could there be?" she reasoned with herself. Sleep was wooed again, but all in vain. Rising and getting a light, she opened a drawer where Ralph kept some of his clothes. It was empty. Another drawer was opened; it also was empty. Then she looked in the cupboard, where his travelling-bag was kept; it was gone.

She sat down to think: then, with startling suddenness, his words came to her mind, "I cannot fit in to this humdrum life much longer."

For the next hour it seemed as if she was utterly alone. It was impossible even to think. She was fast becoming petrified, her very blood was freezing, when her baby woke up crying—and that cry saved her! She picked the baby up and strained it passionately to her, the hot tears raining on its little head. The child soon nestled to sleep again in its mother's arms; and then, still grasping her little one, she knelt down to pray. "O Jesus, take care of Ralph! O Jesus, take care of me and my little ones!" That was all she could say. After a moment or so of waiting, as though listening for the answer, she prayed again, and then came the sweet feeling of God's arms being round her, and she said, in a whisper to herself, "He will! He will!"

She had been out in a dark wild storm, but had found the hiding-place.

The next morning, while sending off some telegrams to places where she thought she could make inquiries without causing alarm, her sister called at the chemist's next door for some medicine for her father, and seeing Bessie just near the parlour-door, thought she would have it out with her.

"Ah! I have found you out this time, young lady."

"I don't know what you mean."

"What has she been up to now?" asked her mother, who happened to be near.

"Oh, nothing to be cross about," she hurried to explain, fearing lest she should get the girl into trouble. "Indeed, it was a little act of kindness she did."

"I really don't know what you mean," said Bessie. "I know I've been up to no tricks, for I've been as good this last week as they're made. It's almost been the death of me, I've been so—"

"But what about that note you sent my sister yesterday?"

"Never sent her one."

"Never sent her one!"

"No, never wrote her, nor saw her all yesterday."

"Well, that is very strange."

"What note was it?" asked Mrs. Marchant.

"A note saying her sister wanted very much to see her. Of course I did; I always do, so it was not untrue; but I did not send it. We thought Bessie sent it as a kind little plan to get her out a bit."

"No, I know nothing about it."

Just then Janie came in on an errand, and seeing her mistress's sister, came up hurriedly to her, saying, "Please come in; mistress is looking so bad, and master's not been home all night."

"There!" exclaimed Bessie, as Phebe's sister hurried away, "you may depend that handsome man next door sent that note himself."

"Why should you think that? You are so quick to judge people, and think yourself so mighty clever over it," said Mrs. Marchant.

Instead of the usual saucy answer, Bessie was silent. Was she learning the same lesson Phebe had been learning?



Miss Lizzie Lawson soon found that the trouble which had befallen her sister Phebe was one which, at least for a time, could not be talked about.

"What is the matter with you, Phebe?" she asked anxiously, as she caught sight of the weary-looking face.

"I have had a very bad night."

"Where is Ralph?"

"I do not know." Then suddenly throwing her arms round her sister's neck and kissing her, Phebe said, "Lizzie, dear, I'll tell you all in a day or two, but I cannot now. You'll trust me, won't you? And do not say anything to father."

"God bless and help you, Sis, darling."

Of course the only conclusion the sister could come to was that husband and wife had quarrelled. "He will soon get over his sulks and come back," she said to herself.

All that day Phebe watched minute by minute for postman or telegraph boy, but no message came. Even the shopmen went about on tip-toe, feeling that something strange was in the atmosphere, but the white set face of the mistress kept them from asking any questions.

Sharp-witted Bessie for once was at a loss to know what to do. Should she show any sympathy? Should she go in, or stay away? Should she seem to know nothing, or all? These were the questions she weighed over and over. At last this little note was sent:

"Dear Mrs. Waring,

"Please ask me to come in to tea, or I shall go perfectly blue and never get a right colour again.

"Neighbour Bessie."

Just a wee bit of a smile crept into Phebe's face as she read it, and the thought came, "What would she do if she had troubles like mine to face?"

Bessie's blueness seemed to have quite vanished by tea-time. During the meal she kept up a lively chatter, and Phebe came to the conclusion that Bessie was not aware that anything unusual had happened. I don't know if Bessie had ever read that the way to cheer people who are down is not by bidding them count the blessings still remaining, for they are sure to sink still lower if you do that, but by counting up to them the blessings they have conferred on others. It has certainly a wonderful effect; and that was just what Bessie did.

After she had helped Janie to clear the table she sat down for a minute or two on the rug at Phebe's feet, and then said, "When I began to write you that cheeky little note this morning I wanted to say something—I've wanted to say something for weeks, but don't know how."

"Just tell me straight out," said Phebe gently, stroking her tangled hair, thinking it was some confession she wanted to make or to ask advice how to get out of a scrape.

"It's only that I wanted to tell you how much I love you and what a help you have been to me. Do you remember telling me that story Jesus told about the woman who would have her way, and how it taught us how to pray? Well, last night, for the first time in my life, I really prayed. I felt quite sure Jesus was listening. Things have been so different since you have been here. I never had anybody to talk to as I can to you; you understand me, and don't scold me."

"But I think I often scold you."

"Bless you, that's not scolding."

Phebe bent down and kissed her, saying in a low voice, "God bless you, Bessie, darling. I cannot tell you how your words have comforted me, just as though an angel had helped you to say them. Perhaps some day you will understand what I mean." Bessie thought she understood even now, but did not say so.

"And I may love you just as much as ever I like, may I not?"

"Of course you may, there is room in my life for a lot of love," and Phebe had suddenly to rise and go into the shop, but Bessie knew it was only that she might not see her tears.

Next morning came, still no message. The day passed to Phebe as the previous one had done—she had been ever on the watch, a feeling of dumb despair taking possession of her. In the evening she had a visitor; no other than Stephen Collins, who asked if he might see her alone.

After the first greetings were over there was an awkward silence, and then Stephen said, "Mrs. Waring, you are in trouble. I cannot tell you exactly now how I know, but will you not as an old friend confide in me?"

No answer. Poor Phebe could not think what to say; she could only look up into his kind face and as suddenly let her glance fall again to hide her tears.

But the look gave Stephen courage to go on. "Ralph has left you, has he not? Did he leave no message behind?"

"I can find none," she replied frankly, "and I have searched everywhere." Quite unconsciously she thus for the first time revealed the secret trouble which was so crushing her.

"Do not think me rude or interfering, dear Mrs. Waring" (how the name seemed to choke him!), "but are you left in difficulties?"

"I don't think so—besides, he will come back soon. But why do you ask? Have you any reason?"

"I am afraid people will think it is business difficulties that have made him go."

"But the business is prospering."

"Still you need some capital to go on with."

"The business, I am sure, is all right, besides if I were pressed I have a little of my own." That morning she had found the key of Ralph's desk in her pocket. It had startled her at the time, for Ralph must have placed it there; and now, taking it from her pocket, she rose, went to the high desk standing in the corner, and unlocking it produced the bank book. She opened it quickly, took one glance and then closed it with a sob. Ralph had drawn the whole of the money out as recently as the previous Monday. She put the book from her with a shudder; it was like the death certificate of her husband's honour.

A paper had fallen out of the desk, and mechanically she stooped to pick it up, praying as she did so for strength to appear calm.

Stephen was watching her closely, a struggle going on in his own heart too.

"Is the account all right?" he asked.

"No," then another sob. Oh, for strength! Why could she not make herself be calm? She looked at the paper in her hand, and more because she thought it might give her time to master her feelings than for anything else, she said, "Can you tell me what all these figures are about?"

Stephen took the paper and looked at it for a long time and then said, in a strained voice, "It is a statement Ralph has drawn out showing exactly how the business stands, with a list of all debtors and creditors. If you could get most of the debts in you would still need three hundred pounds to keep affairs going."

"I cannot tell how it is; everything is so dark."

"But if you will let me help you," he pleaded, "all will come right. I can easily lend you what you need."

For an instant, like a vision, there came to her a feeling of restfulness, and she looked up to his face, bending over her, with eager trustfulness. What a safe strong arm his would be to lean on! But instantly she put the temptation from her; it would not be right to accept his help remembering what Mrs. Colston had said, and the sweet light which had arisen went suddenly out, leaving the darkness deeper than before.

"No," she said firmly, "I cannot accept your help."

"But what will you do?"

"I cannot tell, but in some way God will help me. And surely Ralph will come back soon!"

"I do not think so."

"Why?" It was Stephen's turn to be silent this time; how could he tell her all he knew? How could he explain how evident it was that Ralph had drained all the money he possibly could from the business?

"Do you know where Ralph is?" she asked suddenly.

"No, I do not."

After another pause Stephen said, "Perhaps I had better leave you now. When you have had time to think things over, you will trust me more."

A minute ago she would have urged it was not for want of trust, but now her mind, all so confused, could not rid itself of the idea that he knew something about Ralph which he had not told her. When he had gone the idea gave rise to two questions, "What had first made Stephen think Ralph had left her when not even Bessie knew how he had gone away?" and "What had given him the idea Ralph had left her in difficulties when the success of the business had been so widely talked about?" But though she asked the questions over and over again, no answer would come. "Could Stephen have had any share in persuading Ralph to go away? had he tempted him away?" But the remembrance of the tender, true face made such thoughts seem wicked.

Going to the desk for the paper which Stephen had replaced there she took it out to study it for herself, and with it, lying just beneath, she drew out a folded paper, and opening it found it to be—a letter from Ralph! How had it got there? Had Stephen placed it there?—but she was in too much of a hurry to read it to pause to reply.

"My Dear Wife,

"I know this letter will pain you, it cannot help but do so, and for this I am very sorry. I would not willingly grieve you, but it all arises from the painful fact that you have always failed to understand me. You know that for a long time I have had a great desire for a larger sphere. You thought this was because my love to God had grown cold and the love of the world crept into my heart. I assured you this was not so, but that it was only a leading into other service. If I can make money and devote it to God's work, am I not still one of God's servants? I am now with my face set towards a foreign land, where I hope to win a fortune. I feel no remorse at the step I have taken, since I asked you to agree to emigrate and you would not. I know you will get on pretty well without me, because, if you fail in the business you can return to your father. The sale of the business will cover all liabilities and more. I shall let you know from time to time how I get on: it will always be a great pleasure to report progress to you. Never doubt but that all I make, which I do not return to God, I shall hasten home with one day to lay at your feet. Tell my dear children their father heard a call like Abraham did, and has gone out to seek a name and a fortune to enrich them with. I know I have no need to assure you that I shall always remain,

"Your own faithful, loving husband,

"Ralph Waring."

"P.S.—I did not say 'good-bye' to you for fear you should succeed in persuading me to stay with you. Some day soon, I will send you an address where you can write to, as I shall be anxious to hear how you are getting on."

It was strange, but the reading of that letter gave her the calm she had been struggling to obtain. After reading it a second time, she went out into the garden, named in the summer-time "Sunshine Patch." How long ago that seemed! Where was the sunshine now? But the stars shone down on it if the sun did not, and it was refreshing to feel the cool breezes on her face, and to be alone under the pitying skies.

Now that she had read this letter a burden of uncertainty had gone; she knew now something of what she had to face.

Surely Stephen had not been the bearer of that open letter; it must have been in the desk before! But the very doubt about it made it more easy to resist Stephen's offer.

It was impossible for her to return to her father; how could she burden him with herself and two children when even now he could only just manage comfortably? But how could she get the three hundred pounds Stephen said she would need? She had no earthly friend she could go to and had nothing she could sell or mortgage. But, ah, there was always one source of help she could go to! There was one way still open—the upward way! Sitting down in the desolate little arbour, she buried her face in her hands and prayed, "Dear Lord, I have no one to help me but Thee. Please open up my way! Show me how I can continue the business. Give me also business ability. Show me my way very clearly. I know Thou art listening to me. I feel sure of it, just as Bessie did. And now I am going to carefully watch for the sign that Thou art going to help me. Oh, strengthen me; I feel so lonely!" A flood of tears came, but she could let them flow unhindered now.



Early the next morning, as soon as the shutters were down, Phebe was in the shop taking a general look round, and examining the stock. With the help of Reynolds, the shopman who gave her the roses, she got a very good grasp of the state of things. "The stock is very low indeed," said Reynolds; "some things we are out of altogether. It's not my fault, for I told master a fortnight ago, and again last week, but he took no notice—said it was not my business."


Phebe only replied, "We must see to these things as soon as possible; thank you for helping me," and then went in to breakfast.

She had got a clear view of the situation as far as the business was concerned, but all else was in a mist. When she tried to analyse her own feelings with regard to Ralph's conduct, what exactly it was that had prompted him to such a course, how it would appear to outsiders, what steps she was to take to secure capital to work the business, all seemed chaos.

Breakfast over, she picked up a little Revised Bible from her book-corner, and went out into the arbour for a few minutes' quiet, hoping she might gain a little light. She had only just bought this Revised Bible, indeed it had not been out long. Opening it at random, her eyes fell on these words, from the prayer of Asa, "We rely on Thee." A feeling of awe crept over her. Surely an angel must have opened the Book! The sign she had prayed for last night had come. Scanning the page to find out all the story, the leaf was turned over, and then she caught sight of this description: "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards Him."

"I must pray for the perfect heart," she said to herself, "and I shall just rely on God, and I am now going to watch how He will show Himself strong for me. I feel sure He will, for He knows I am relying on Him."

But the angel's work was not over yet. Just then there dropped out of the Bible a little New Year's card which she had never carefully read as yet. Picking it up she looked at it in an absent sort of way, and then feeling that it was in some way specially meant for her she read:

"An inner light, an inner calm,
Have they who trust God's mighty arm,
And hearing, do His will."

"For He hath said, 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.' I took it as His word of honour."—David Livingstone.

"And so will I," she said fervently. Just then there was a call from the shop, and all at once, with hardly a moment's warning, she went from the golden gate to the busy mart.

A commercial traveller was waiting to see her, presenting an account for twenty-five pounds.

With all a woman's wits about her she stood where her face was in the shadow. "I am sorry that Mr. Waring is not at home," she answered, "he is out of town. Can the account stand over till your next visit?" Her voice was quite steady. The traveller looked fixedly at her, but was quite unrewarded for his trouble, through her face being in the shadow. She however saw his uncertainty, but he answered suavely, "Certainly, madam, Mr. Waring's credit has always been good." Then added, after another moment's reflection, "Can I have another order to-day? I have some very cheap lines."

Turning to Reynolds, she said, "You know better than I do what we are wanting; just make a list of what we usually have from this gentleman's firm," and she stood quietly by while this was done.

"I hope Mr. Waring is well," remarked the traveller.

"He was quite well when he left home."

"I hope I shall have the pleasure of meeting him the next time I call."

"I hope so, but, if possible, your cheque shall be sent on before then."

When he had gone she said to the shopman, "Reynolds, I think I can trust you." The man nodded; he wanted to say "Yes," but could not for a lump in his throat. "I do not know where Mr. Waring is, except that he has gone abroad. If anybody asks you where he is, you had better say frankly you do not know." It was hard work to keep the voice steady.

"Mrs. Waring," said Reynolds, huskily, "I'll stand by you to the best of my ability," and he put out his hand, which she took in both of hers.

"I feel sure you will," she said with a choking sob.

The thought which was uppermost in her mind that day was how she could explain her position to any one. Some report must be given to the outside world—what should that report be?—what could it be? If she did not give one the world would soon make one. She determined to go that evening and seek her sister's advice.

The first thing on arriving at the old home was to show her sister Ralph's letter. They were alone in the sister's bedroom. After it had been read twice over the sister threw her arms round Phebe's neck, exclaiming, "You poor child! you poor child!" and then they sobbed together as they had never done since the time when they were first motherless.

"What am I to do? What am I to tell people?" asked the deserted young wife.

"I don't know; I must think," was the sister's answer, who was usually so clearbrained. "Will you come home to live? I wish you would. Father wouldn't object to it if I coax him."

"No, I am not coming to be a burden on him. I must work for the children. But, oh, Lizzie, you don't know all. He has left me deeply in debt, and taken all my own money, and the stock is so low. But don't tell father!"

"Left you in debt!—the rascal!"

"No, no, don't say that; he asked me to go with him two months ago, and I would not consent. So you see it's partly my own fault. But I never thought he would go without me."

"Well, you will just have to tell anybody that asks that he has gone to start a business abroad, and that you may be joining him later. It will be best to be straight about it."

"If he sent for me, should I have to go?"

"I expect you would. You had better tell father all about it, or he will be dreadfully angry if he hears of it from anybody else."

The old father was sitting by the fire reading his paper. He was good at heart, and thought no end of his "girls," but he had always considered it would never do to let them know this, that it was a parent's duty to do a certain amount of scolding.

"How's Ralph?" was his first question. "He's not been to see me for an age."

"He was quite well when I saw him last."

"Saw him last? Why, is he away from home?"


"Where has he gone?"

"Abroad," in a very low voice.

"What did you say?" wheeling his chair round towards her in quite a fierce way. "Why can't you speak out properly?"

"Ralph has gone abroad."

"Gone abroad! Whatever for?"

"To start a business, I suppose."

"Well, you do astonish me. I think he might have come up to bid me 'good-bye,' that I do. And what part has he gone to?"

"To Australia, I think."

"You 'think'! Really, Phebe, you are most exasperating. What are you keeping back?"

"Look here, father," put in Lizzie, "it is like this: Ralph wanted Phebe to go to Australia and she objected. She didn't want to leave you, for one thing, so he's gone without her, and the worst of it is, he did not tell her he was going."

"Didn't want to leave me! that's all fiddle-sticks. She ought to have gone with him. It serves her just right he has left her. Look here, Phebe," putting his hand sharply on her knee, "I consider you have brought disgrace upon me. A wife's place is by her husband's side. A nice talk the town will make of it."

"Father! father!" exclaimed Lizzie, "do not be so hard on Phebe. You know very well you wouldn't let anybody else say a word against her. Of course it is the way of the world to put all the blame upon the woman, but it is rather hard if her own friends do not stand up for her."

"If she had got any fault to find with Ralph she should have come up and told me all about it."

"What! get a wife to tell tales about her husband!"

"Well, it is no good talking anything more about it at present. It came so suddenly upon me. It's a good thing, Phebe, my girl, he's left the business behind him, he couldn't take that with him very well. Of course he could have sold it, but then if he had done so the cat would have been out of the bag. You must just tackle things with a brave hand."

"Yes, I mean to do so, father," was all Phebe could manage to say.

Presently she bade him "good-bye" in her usual manner, though her heart was very full.

It was getting late, and there was a lonely bit of road to traverse, but the two sisters lingered at the garden gate, each loth to part from the other.

"You said, Phebe, darling," the elder sister whispered, "your stock was low and there were debts. What are you going to do for money?"

"I do not know. But I feel sure God will help me in some way or other. I am relying on Him."

"Bless you! you were always a good girl. I wish I had your faith."

"Don't say that, for you don't know how often my faith fails me. I am often ashamed of myself. But I feel sure the business will go on right enough." Just now the monetary difficulty seemed a very small one compared with the fresh shadow which had just fallen on her.

"Well, look here, dearie, let me help you. Take my money and put it in the business. You know how welcome you are to it. And if I never have it back, it will not matter; I should not make any trouble of it."

"You are good, but you know father would not like that, and we should be obliged to tell him;" then she added, as her sister was about to remonstrate, "I'll tell you what I'll do: if no other way is shown me, I will accept your loving offer."

"That's right, darling. And now good-night, and may God bless and comfort you."

All the way home her sister's words kept ringing in her ears, "It is the way of the world to put all the blame upon the woman." She had thought the world would wonder, and would doubtless pity her, but it had never dawned upon her before that the world might throw the blame of the present position upon her. Considering how she had suffered and patiently endured it was a bitter, galling thought. And how could she overcome it? how could she vindicate herself in the eyes of the world? What a stain would rest on the lives of her children! She had thought it would be a hard battle to shield them from poverty. Now she had in some way or other to fight a still harder battle—to shield them from dishonour.

Did Stephen Collins think she was to blame? He surely could not have done so, or he would not have looked so pityingly at her.

Neighbour Bessie was waiting when she arrived home. "I am so glad you have come," exclaimed the impetuous girl; "you have just saved me from such a sad fate."

"Whatever do you mean?" and Phebe, in spite of her heartache, was obliged to smile at Bessie's dramatic attitude.

"Mother thinks I am soundly asleep under the blankets by now. But how could I sleep without one sight of you?—haven't caught a glimpse of you all day. Mother will lock the door at ten o'clock, and if I am not in before then I shall have to sleep on the clothes line in the back yard. It is all up ready."



Late the next evening Stephen Collins called on Phebe again, still hoping his offer of help would be accepted.

They were alone together in the back parlour. "I do hope, Mrs. Waring, you will not think me too interfering, but for old friendship's sake I could not keep from coming. It grieves me so to think you are placed as you are and that you will not allow me to help you." He looked her steadily in the face, and she returned his gaze long enough to be quite sure he was not one of those who condemned her. Yet, in spite of that, her woman's heart craved for the assurance of word as well as look.

"But why should you trouble, Mr. Collins? There are plenty of people who will say it serves me right, and that I must have been to blame"—the words seemed as if they would not come—"that I was not—that it was not an easy thing to live with me—to get on with me."

Stephen Collins rose from his chair with an impetuous movement, and went and stood by the fire with his elbow on the mantelpiece. "Of course," he exclaimed, "the world will talk, but any one who knows you would fling back that accusation as a lie!"

They wore both silent for a minute. Phebe was feeling a relief and gladness no words she could think of would match. At last she said: "It makes a difference, too, if it is known that I could have gone with him if I had chosen. Ralph spoke to me about going two months ago."

"It would have been very difficult for Ralph to have taken you and the children with him, seeing he had no home prepared to take you to."

"Yes, that is so; but still he wanted us to go."

Stephen was looking intently into the fire, evidently weighing some thought over.

"Perhaps I had better tell you, Ralph secured his berth to Sydney three months ago."

"One berth?"


"May I ask how you know?"

"I made inquiries, as I thought it would rest your mind to know exactly where he had gone."

"And you think——" began Phebe.

"I think," interrupted Stephen, anxious to save her all the pain he could, "that it was not his intention to take you with him." Only God knew what it cost that man to say those words; it seemed to him that he was giving this crushed woman an extra stab, but it was only to save her all he could of future pain. He wanted to keep her from building on the hope that her husband would send for her, for he believed in his heart that Ralph was only too glad to be relieved from the responsibility of providing for wife and children.

"Perhaps it was much better he should go with a free hand," was all Phebe said. She wanted very much to ask Stephen to tell her all he knew, all he thought, but dared not do so; something held her back—something which told her there was a wound in that man's heart she might not touch nor look upon.

"He will send for me some day," she said, after another pause; but still Stephen did not answer. It was such a hard struggle to keep himself well in hand—so hard to keep from cursing the man who had stolen his love from him, and who, because she had not brought him the dowry he had hoped for, had basely deserted her!

Phebe thought he was busy turning over ways and means as to how she was to run the business; instead of that he was praying for strength and calmness.

She got up from her seat and, standing by him, put her hand on his arm and said gently, "Stephen!"—that was how she used to call him—"you must not trouble about me. I shall battle through all right. God will help me. See these beautiful words I came across yesterday," and she picked up the Bible and read the words over again.

He took the Bible and looked at the page, but the words were all in a mist. "There is not the slightest doubt but that He will help you," he managed to say.

"My heart is not perfect," she continued, "but He knows I want it to be."

"But don't forget, Phebe—Mrs. Waring," he said, turning towards her, as they both stood facing the fire, "that God works through human agents—very often does so."

"I know He does," she replied, "and I think He prompted my sister last night to offer me the use of her money. I would have said 'Yes' at once, only I know it would vex father. Still, if no other way opens I shall accept her kind offer. So you see things will shape themselves—no, be shapened—all right. Reynolds is such a good 'stay-by' for me, and a commercial this morning let me order a lot of things, although I could not pay his account."

"Oh, yes," he answered; "I know very well you will be a downright successful woman of business. Only, you know," with a smile, "I wanted to have a share in the success!"

"And so you will have," she exclaimed. "Do you think it can ever go for nothing to have a friend like you—some one who believes in me?"

He took her hand in both of his, and, in a voice full of emotion, said: "Phebe, you were always wise and far-sighted—that was why you always won in the games we played together. Your plan is the wise one. It would not do for us to be in any way connected—not even in business matters. But promise me if ever you should want my help you will send for me!"

"I promise," she said, in a low voice; and then they parted: he to go right out, apparently, from her life for years; and yet, though she was long in learning it, never a week passed by but in some way or other his life touched hers.

After he had gone it came upon the lonely woman with overwhelming force the sense of what she had lost, but with a bravery only a pure heart could know she put the thought of it from her and turned resolutely to her ledgers.

Stephen Collins' way home led past Mrs. Colston's cottage. It was the desire for a little bit of human sympathy which led him to knock at her door. He could not unburden his heart to his mother—not that she would be unable or unwilling to understand and comfort, but because he was too chivalrous to burden her with any fresh trouble. He hardly realised it was sympathy he was wanting. Perhaps he might have resented such an idea if it had been presented to him in words, feeling that such a sorrow as his was too sacred for human sympathy; but at least there was the desire to talk over some of it with somebody, and to feel the nearness of sympathy. It surely was this same desire which bade Jesus so earnestly to request the three disciples to watch with him under the shadow of the olives!

Mrs. Colston was busy at her work as usual. A big lad was turning the handle of the mangle, but she sent him home when she saw who her visitor was. Work at once entirely ceased, and the two sat together by the fire, each strangely silent. Mrs. Colston seemed to feel that there was something on his mind which he wished to unburden to her, but knew no way in which she could help him to begin. At last she hit upon an idea.

"I don't suppose, Mr. Collins, you have had your supper," she exclaimed, rising from her chair with a kind of jump. "The idea of me not thinking of that before! and I've got the loveliest pork pie you ever tasted," and in a few minutes there was the refreshing fragrance of coffee in the room and a dainty supper laid on the little round table. Mrs. Colston had always a strong belief in keeping the body well nourished because of its great influence on the mind and heart. "So had the Lord Jesus," she often used to say; "don't you remember how He gave the plain hint to those parents that the girl would need food, and to the disciples about the crowd! And it was just lovely what He said to those fishermen on that early morning when they were cold and wet: 'Come and have something to eat.' Why, when the Lord wanted to give us a bright bit about Heaven He had to bring in a supper party."

For all that, Stephen did not eat much, though there is no doubt the fact of a meal being about does help conversation, and to a certain extent raises the spirits.

At last Stephen got near the secret of his visit. "Mrs. Colston"—his face was turned towards the fire—"suppose a shepherd out walking, who had become lame—could only walk on crutches—should come across on a dark night a lost lamb—a lamb he had loved dearly. What could he do? If he put the crutches down he could not carry it to its home? If you met a man like that what would you tell him to do?"

"I should tell him to speak a few love-words to the lamb, and then hurry away to the nearest cottage and ask the man there to return with him to the lamb and get the man to carry it home." The answer was given straight off, with all a woman's ready tact.

"And if he came to your house?" Stephen turned towards her eagerly.

"I might not be able to carry the lamb," she said, with a little laugh, "but I would certainly help the poor man all I could, and, at least, I'd try to carry it." Then she added: "Mr. Collins, you are the shepherd; but I don't know who the lamb is. Tell me all about it. I know you trust me or you wouldn't have come to me; and you know I'll do all I can for you."

"I know you will," and for the second time that evening he stretched out his hand to grasp another in a close grip. "The lamb is not on any hillside, but in a back parlour."

"Whose parlour?"

"A draper's."

"You don't mean to say it's my Miss Phebe?" bending anxiously towards him, trying to read all she could from his face.


"Is she ill?—I must go to her at once."

"Not ill in body, but heartsick, and in monetary difficulties."

"Oh, dear, dear, what can have caused it all? And me not to know a word of it!"

"She has told no one but her father and sister. I got to know of it in another way; but do not ask me how—some day I may tell you, but not now."

"Where is her husband?"

"On his way to Australia."

"Poor lamb! poor stricken lamb!"—the tears would not keep back, and something like a sob came from Stephen as he rose to his feet to go.

"Stay, stay," said Mrs. Colston, putting a detaining hand upon him, "the shepherd would be sure to give some particulars as to the lamb's whereabouts and what help it needed. Tell me how it is she is in difficulties about money, and what you would advise her to do."

"You can guess how it is she is in difficulties; the worst reason you can think of will be the right one. What I want her to do is to accept my help, but that she refuses to do. If no other way opens up she will accept her sister's help, but she is rather afraid that would anger her father."

"Yes, he has rather close ways. How much does she require?"

"Three hundred pounds with care would set her upon her feet."

In another five minutes the two had parted company outside in the road—Stephen to go home to the lonely farmhouse; Mrs. Colston to go and do shepherd-work.



Mrs. Colston found Phebe seated at her books, where she had been ever since Stephen had left. A brighter look came into her face when she saw her old friend than had been there since Ralph's disappearance, but it was the brightness of the rainbow, for in a minute or two she was seated on a stool at Mrs. Colston's feet sobbing bitterly.

"Poor lamb! You precious dear!" murmured the old friend, gently stroking the brown bowed head and putting her arm lovingly round her neck. She never sought to check the tears, knowing what a safety-valve they are. And who can say tears are either weak or wicked, since "Jesus wept"?

"I am so glad to see you; I did so want you to come, but did not like to send for you," Phebe managed at length to say.

"I came off the first minute I knew you were in trouble. I only wish I had known before," and she put both arms round her then, and kissed her—just like a mother would have done.

"Stephen Collins told me, so I may as well tell you. Do you see these hands?" spreading them out before her. "There's a good deal of strength in them yet. No harm shall come near you that I can keep off. You're not alone in the world, thank God; there's one friend who'll stand by you if no one else does, and her name's Susan Colston!"

Phebe looked up with quite a smiling face. "That does sound nice!" she exclaimed. "You are a dear. I cannot tell you how lonely I have been since Ralph went—just as if I were living in a desert; but such a load seems gone now you have come."

Then Phebe told her story. Sometimes the words would hardly come for a choking sob; but at last it was spread out before her childhood's friend in all its grim, unromantic baldness.

When it was finished Mrs. Colston said: "Well, dearie, I'm not going to say one word against Ralph; I hope I never shall. We will pray for him, that is all: he must just be left to God's dealings."

"But he could not have loved me, could he?" sighed Phebe. Mrs. Colston wisely did not answer. Then Phebe spoke of her fresh trouble: "The world will blame me, won't it? People will say I was a dreadful sort of woman that Ralph could not live with."

"I dare say they will, but what will that matter? Lots of people are wrongly judged and wrongly punished. All this goes into the making of a Christian. You know Job stood the trials of loss and bereavement, but he could not stand the trial of the loss of his good name. It was then he opened his mouth and used bad language. Up to that time he had blessed the Lord—a pretty good difference. Suppose they do take away your good name, the Lord will give it back to you again. Don't try to vindicate yourself: you just leave all that to Him, and He'll make all come out clear. People think it was the washing of those men's feet that showed how humble Jesus was. I don't think so. I think it was when He 'made Himself of no reputation'—just calmly let people take His character away. Don't you see, Miss Phebe, dear, that your life is getting a little bit more like the life of Jesus. Just a little step more, and, like Paul, you'll glory in tribulation."

"I'm afraid I'm a long way from doing that."

"No doubt you think so. But there now, I'm afraid my tongue is going on too fast. What I particularly want to know is how you are going to manage this business?"

"I think I can manage very well if I have a little more capital, and if no other way opens up I can have my sister's money."

"Will you let me ask a favour?"

"Of course I will. You know that."

"And won't be offended?"

"How could I be?"

"I want you to let me open the way for you. You have asked God to open up the way for you, let God answer your prayer through me."

"Do you mean it?" in great astonishment.

"Yes. Perhaps you think a poor old mangle-woman could not have a banking-account, but I have"—this with a pleasant ring of laughter. "There now, what do you think of that? I've just got three hundred pounds in the savings bank. Will that be enough?"

Three hundred pounds!—just the amount Stephen said she would need. Phebe stood speechless.

"Say, dear, won't you?" repeated Mrs. Colston.

"Why, of course I will; am only too delighted. It is the wonder of it that made me quiet. You are good—so very good—and I'll see to it you shall never lose the money," lifting up a face full of love-light.

"You are not to trouble about that. If it is lost it is lost; I shall not mind so long as we're partners. But there is something else I want to ask you, and this you may not grant because it is asking so much."

"I am sure you cannot ask anything I should not be only too happy to grant."

"If you are going to manage the business, who is going to look after the housekeeping and the children? You cannot do all."

"No, I cannot." Then after a pause: "God, who has helped me thus far so wondrously, in such an unexpected way, will certainly make that clear also."

"So He will!" jubilantly exclaimed the dear old body. "So He will, only He will let me do it for Him. It's just splendid to be on errands like this!"

"Whatever do you mean?" Phebe was bewildered.

"I mean this: let me come and live with you and be your housekeeper and nurse! I am tired of living alone, tired of my musical-box, and tired of having no one to show bits of love to when I've a mind to. Will you let me? I'll be so good if you will."

"Let you! Why, it fairly takes away my breath. But I don't know if I ought to let you. It is taking too much from you. You would have to give up your own little home, and then there's the children——"

"I know what you are going to say: that old folks don't want to be bothered with children. Perhaps some don't, but what would my life be worth now if I'd never had anything to do with children?"

"Ah! but that was when you were younger."

"I'm not old yet," drawing herself up with laughable dignity; "no, not yet, thank you. But now to business. As far as you yourself are concerned, have you any objection to my plan?"

"None whatever, none. There's nothing you could have thought of that would give me greater joy."

"Then it's settled," and a kiss—no, it was more than one—sealed the bargain. And then those two women involuntarily knelt down, and the elder one in a quavering voice prayed: "Father, I have followed Your directions, which You whispered to me as I came along the road to-night. Miss Phebe and I love each other, we are going to help each other; do bless us both. Let us feel just now You are blessing us." A pause. "Thank You. The peace in our hearts is the token. We love each other. Tighten with Your own hand, dear Father, the knot. From this moment may this business prosper. May the business be altogether Yours. And bless the two dear bairns. Help me to be another Hannah."

When they rose from their feet Mrs. Colston said: "Before I go I must just have a peep at my charges."

"Of course you shall," said Phebe, beginning at once to lead the way. "How I wish you were not going away from me to-night. I wish you could stay right off."

"I must go to-night, dearie; but I shall not be very long before I'm back, bag and baggage. Janie won't mind me coming, I know."

"She will be delighted."

The two children were in Phebe's bedroom, Queenie in a little cot to herself. They were both asleep. The sight of a sleeping infant always suggests the thought of angels. It is not always the fear of waking a sleeping child that makes the heaviest feet go on tip-toe, but the awe which comes from the near presence of heavenly visitants. To be near a sleeping child is to be near Heaven.

Jack was a fair-haired, rosy-cheeked, chubby child. One little arm lay under his head, and a smile seemed playing round his lips. He seemed almost like a picture of sunshine asleep. Mrs. Colston stooped down and kissed him—what woman could have helped doing so? She had once said she believed Jesus kissed His disciples, because Mark used the words, "When He had taken leave of them"—and Easterns took leave by kissing.

Then she went to look at Queenie. Poor little Queenie! A dark-haired, sad-faced darling. Mrs. Colston could hardly have explained how it was she turned so quickly away from the little crib after ever such a hurried kiss. Perhaps it was because she had seen a mark on the child. Her father had been a forester, and often when out walking with him along the forest pathways she had seen a mark on some of the trees and knew by that sign they would soon be lying prostrate, stripped of all their green grandeur. It was not so much of the child she was thinking as of the child's mother.

But when she reached the little parlour again, her face was as bright as ever. "I want you," she said to Phebe, "to let me teach the children to call me 'Nanna.' I had a friend once who was called 'Nanna.' Nothing could make me more proud than to think I was a second 'Nanna.'"

"On certain conditions," said Phebe. "You are having it all your own way to-night. Now it is my turn."

"What are they?"

"That you call me Phebe, and that I call you 'Nanna,' too. I do so want to be mothered, and no one can do it but you." The little speech began with a laugh, but ended with something like a sob. How many there are who want "mothering," and how many could do "mothering" if they chose!

"That's another bargain."

"May I come in?" It was Neighbour Bessie's voice.

"Bessie comes in each night to bid me good-night," explained Phebe. "You couldn't guess what good news I have to tell you," she continued, turning to Bessie.

"Not that——" stammered Bessie.

"Nothing about Mr. Waring!" quickly put in Phebe; and then Bessie was told the whole story. She was sitting on a little stool near the fire by the side of Mrs. Colston.

"I am downright glad for your sake, Mrs. Waring," she exclaimed heartily. "It's just what you were wanting; but, oh dear," resting her chin on her hands, "there's lots of good times a-going, but I'm never in them."

"Why, my dear child, you are always in them," exclaimed Mrs. Colston, patting her head.

"Well, I should like very much to know how you reckon that sum up."

"I reckon it up out of the Bible. You are one of those who have a continual feast."

"A continual pickle, you should say, to be correct."

"No, 'feast.' I know one riddle—and only one. Can you guess it? What is the longest feast mentioned in the Bible?"

"I know," answered Bessie, laughing, "because you've done as good as tell it already: 'A merry heart is a continual feast.' But I haven't got the merry heart, you see. Now, why couldn't it have been arranged for me to be Mrs. Waring's partner?"

"That I cannot tell. That's the Sunshine Patch meant for me. Your Sunshine Patch is all round you already, only you are given to looking too much over the fence."

Thus, without any pillar of cloud, or shining light, or glittering gems, guidance came.



It did not take Mrs. Colston long to sell up some of her furniture and the goodwill of her mangle, and settle down in her new quarters and to her new duties. By that time the three hundred pounds had not only been drawn out, but used, partly in paying debts and partly in adding to stock. On one point Phebe was very firm, and that was that a legal document be drawn up acknowledging the loan and agreeing to pay interest at five per cent. Not that Phebe considered that would cover all her liability. "As I prosper—if I do prosper," she said to Mrs. Colston, "you shall prosper too. We will be real partners."

"I don't want any of that lawyer's writing. Your word is sufficient," said Mrs. Colston.

"That may be, but I might be taken away, or some one else might step in," replied Phebe quietly.

Mrs. Colston quickly saw what was in Phebe's mind, and wisely forbore saying anything further. When Nanna had been duly installed, not only by mistress Phebe and Janie but also by their majesties, Queenie and Jack, Phebe took hold of the business reins in true-going style.

The first thing was to institute several reforms. One class of goods which had usually been sold under different prices received one fixed price; charges to different customers were made uniform.

Reynolds was shocked.

"So-and-so," said he, "will think the things are common if you don't put the price on."

"Then shall we level up, instead of levelling down?" asked the shrewd mistress.

"Oh, dear, no; for Mrs. Dash will deal somewhere else if she doesn't think she's having things extra cheap."

"I cannot help all these little peculiarities," said Phebe. "I mean to run this business on true, straight lines, whatever happens."

Reynolds wanted to say something about it being a woman's whim, but somehow or other the words would not come out. But a climax was reached when he felt that to keep silence longer would be guilty; this was when Phebe announced that in future the entire establishment would be closed every Saturday evening at eight o'clock.

"Mrs. Waring!" he exclaimed; "you have no idea what sacrifice you are making. If it is your assistants you are considering, why not close earlier on Wednesdays?"

"I intend to do that as well," she replied graciously; "but I may as well be frank with you and say it is not out of consideration to my assistants I am closing earlier on Saturdays."

"Then why do it? I want the business to be a success, and I am sure you do; but this plan, you will excuse me saying so, will be a dead loss. Why, we take as much sometimes on a Saturday evening as we do all day on Wednesday! And folks will say if we are so independent of their custom, they'll see we do without it altogether."

"Thank you most sincerely, Reynolds, for so unselfishly studying my interests. But your reasoning is a little at fault," she added, with a laugh. "If people think we can afford to be independent, that is the very best advertisement we could have, for you know the old saying, 'Nothing succeeds like success.' But neither success nor non-success weighs with me in this matter."

"May I ask, then, what does?" asked Reynolds, feeling quite in a fog. The question was put in a most respectful manner.

The answer was given in one word, "God," and when it was spoken both felt no inclination to pursue the subject further. But to Mrs. Colston, Reynold's felt he might explode to his heart's content.

"What's the good of trying to push things on, I should like to know? The mistress, with all these new-fangled ideas, will just ruin the business. What's God to do with a draper's shop, or a grocer's shop either?"

"Keep cool, my dear boy, keep cool. If God's got nothing to do with these shops then they'd better be closed."

"Do you mean to say God troubles Himself about sugar and calico?"

"Yes, I do, and with everything that goes on under this roof."

"Well, I don't, then; but if even He does, what has shutting up early on Saturday evenings to do with it?—that's what I want to know! I tell you it's only a woman's whim"—and he felt ever so much better after that expression had come out.

"To give herself and her friends proper time to prepare for the Sabbath."

"But she's not a Jewess."

Mrs. Colston could not keep from laughing. "The idea that only Jews want preparation-time! Why, Reynolds, I'm ashamed of you. To think that a grown-up Sunday School boy like you should be so dense! How can anybody keep the Sabbath properly who is toiling up to midnight on Saturday? And look how mean it seems, as though you said to the Lord, 'I'll take precious good care You don't get five minutes more time than I can help.' I tell you, Reynolds, your mistress won't lose a penny by honouring God. You mark my words, God has said, 'Them that honour Me, I will honour.' And if even she did lose some customers, she won't lose in the end, I tell you. You watch, but don't take short views of things."

"Well, you're a queer pair, that's all I can say." But it was not all he thought.

Phebe had received no business training whatever; even when a child a book had more fascination for her than a pair of scales, and to dream dreams was more in her line than playing at shop, or even dressing dolls. But she was one of those women who, when they once realise what the work is they are shut up to, quickly master all the details, and with zest determine to become master of it. She saw plainly there was no path before her but what led behind counters. For her children's sake, and for God's sake, she determined to make the business "go"; the zeal she put into it acted as balm to her wounded heart; her industry kept away the feeling of desolation, giving her no time to brood over the hardness of her lot. Indeed, the business was a "godsend," but for it she might have sunk into a spiritless, listless life; instead of that, faculties were developed in her that her nearest and dearest never dreamed she possessed. Of course her father warned her against all unwomanly ways, constantly reminding her that the duty of every member of her sex was to be like a flower and "blush unseen"; but to others he daily sung her praises.

Reynolds by degrees became reconciled to her reforms, and after watching the conflagration of a box of valuable feathers, doomed to destruction on account of the cruelty by which they were obtained, he decided that nothing which might happen in the future as to the conduct of the business would ever surprise him.

Away in Texas there is a little plant called the compass plant, and the Indians, even in the night, can tell by feeling its leaves the direction in which they are going. The top leaves, weighted by dew or dust, sometimes lose their power to point in the right direction, but the young leaves, standing edgewise to the earth, are always true, ever pointing north and south. To Reynolds Phebe was as a compass plant by which he learned to measure right and wrong, but, best of all, she pointed him to God. Of all this she was unconscious, and it was better so; but would she always point true? Would the world's dust ever cause her to lose that charm?

In spite of Reynolds' fears, all these reforms did not affect the business adversely; there were some losses, but the gains outnumbered them. A good many customers came out of curiosity, and gossip was pretty rife in the town, but all the information they got was that Mr. Waring had gone abroad with the idea of starting a business. Some even questioned Phebe herself and Mrs. Colston, but gained no further information.

No other letter had been received from Ralph, but Stephen Collins sent a note one day saying that the ship which Ralph had sailed in had safely arrived after a pleasant journey, and all were well on board. Phebe supposed Stephen had gathered this information from the newspapers, but asked no questions.

One day Reynolds startled his mistress by saying, "Don't you think we might begin to enlarge our borders?"

"What do you mean?—do you want us to take in a third shop?"

"No; but a long time ago master spoke of starting a village trade, and I don't see why we should not start it now." And then he went on to give the names of some villages which were quite growing localities through becoming small manufacturing centres, but where shops had not increased accordingly. By canvassing these and lonely farmhouses which lay between, he thought a good bit of business might be done.

"It could not be done without a horse and cart, and I could not afford to buy those just now," said Phebe, shaking her head.

"I have thought of that, but Higgins, the laundry people, have a horse and light van they use only three days a week; there's no doubt they would be willing to let us hire them."

"Perhaps so; the plan is worth thinking over; but what should I do here while you were away? I should be obliged to engage another assistant."

"Yes, you would; but I think you would find it pay."

Phebe promised she would give the subject serious consideration—"and we must both pray about it," she added. It took quite an effort to bring the words out, but she wanted in every possible way to show Reynolds that God was to be consulted in all business details.

The very next day Phebe had a visit from a young man seeking a situation. She liked his appearance very much, he had a frank expression on his face which touched her heart, and, besides that, she knew his mother very well and had a great respect for her.

"Have you a reference from your last situation?"

The young fellow's face darkened. "No, Mrs. Waring, I have not," he answered. "If I tell you all my trouble, will you promise not to tell my mother? It would break her heart if she knew all."

"I promise," she replied. "Come into the parlour, and tell me all," and the young fellow did so—how he had been tempted to speculate, how he had used some of his master's money, and had been found out before he had time to withdraw money from the Post Office Savings Bank to refund it. "I have paid it all now," he added, "but the master said I need never ask him for a character. If you will trust me, Mrs. Waring, I promise you I will serve you faithfully. You shall never regret having me. Oh, for my mother's sake, do give me a chance!"

"Just wait a minute," and then she went to consult Mrs. Colston, whom she had previously spoken to about Reynolds' suggestion.

"Is this God's answer, Nanna? Or would it be unwise to engage a young man who had made such a mistake? I feel strongly inclined to give him a chance, if even we did not start a village trade."

"I should take it as God's answer, dearie, you are to extend your trade. And, bless me, why shouldn't you give the young fellow a chance? God gives us plenty! But don't start him with a rope round his neck."

"Whatever do you mean?"

"Don't show any mistrust, that is all." Afterwards she said to herself, "Reynolds would call that another 'whim' if he knew about it. She wouldn't have engaged that young fellow as quickly as this before her trouble came, not she; it's just wonderful how trouble softens the heart. It's only them that's received mercy which show mercy."

The young fellow's name was Jones—D. Jones—the "D." standing for David. Neighbour Bessie came in just afterwards on what she called her ginger-beer cork visits—a pop and go visit, and, of course, she was told of the new "hand" and the new scheme—but no hint as to the young man's past was given.

"D. Jones," she exclaimed, clapping her hands, "makes me think of an old man in America my aunt knew, who had once been a soldier; he was 'D. Jones,' but you'd never guess what the 'D.' stood for, that you never would, but it is what I shall call your Mr. Jones."

"Well, tell us what it was, Miss Smarty, or I'll shake you," said Nanna, trying to look fierce.

"It's what I wish somebody would call me; it was 'Darling Jones.' It's a fact; I'm not making it up. Isn't it lovely! Just fancy, if my name was 'Darling,' what a fix mother would be in! She couldn't scold me and call me 'Darling' at the same time, now could she? Wouldn't it be rich to hear her call out 'Darling, you are a wretched girl!' It would be scrumptious, just!"

"You're a naughty darling, that's what you are," said Mrs. Colston, solemnly shaking her head. "It's a pity you can't put all your fun and energy to some good purpose."

"Well, I shall always call your Jones 'Darling,' you see if I don't."

That same evening Reynolds was informed that the extension scheme was to be tried at once.

"And may I ask," in a very quiet voice, looking earnestly into Phebe's face, "what led you to this decision?"

"Yes, certainly. A young man came and asked me to give him employment. I had not advertised, nor spoken of the matter to any one but Mrs. Colston. I liked his manner very much. I took that as a guidance, and have engaged him. I am sending to-night to printers to have circulars prepared, and next week I will help you to get out samples. Perhaps you would not mind seeing Mr. Higgins for me."

"Well, well," said Reynolds to himself, "the idea that God had anything to do with that young man coming here. We shall hear of angels serving the customers next."



The printed circulars were issued in Phebe's own name. Whether she had the legal right to do this or not she did not know, but knew well enough the moral right was hers.

The very first trial of the new scheme showed that it would prove a success. This was largely attributable to two things; first, to Reynolds' "push": the scheme being largely his own he felt the responsibility of it, and for his own credit's sake determined it should "go"; the other thing was Phebe's good sense; the grocery department she conducted from a housewife's standpoint, the drapery department from a Christian woman's standpoint, and thus in both had a considerable advantage over her husband.

Fellow tradespeople marvelled that in the absence of the husband there should be an extension of the business. Woman is supposed to be conservative, yet at the same time it is acknowledged she quickly sees a point and seizes it while the man is still thinking about it. Each cannot be fully true. Love may make her at times conservative; but if roused to devoted service she cannot be anything but progressive.

But if sunlight was growing in the business department the shadows were deepening in the home department. Sturdy little Jack had been elevated to sleeping in the crib, while frail little Queenie nestled each night to sleep in the mother's arms. Nanna could see that the child was a fading flower, soon to be transplanted to a fairer region, but, strange to say, the mother's eyes only saw the still brilliant tints of the sweet blossom. Very early every morning the child would sit up and stroke the mother's face till she wakened, such a glad light coming into her eyes when she had succeeded. A little later on she did not attempt to sit up, but stretched up her arms to her mother's face. Then came a morning when the mother woke without the touch of the little fingers; the child was awake, the love-light as usual in the soft, grey eyes, but with not strength enough left to show its love in the old way.

Then it was Phebe grew alarmed, and the doctor was sent for. But all that human aid could do Nanna had already done. And then came a day when even the shopmen stole about on tip-toe. (The Potter was about to put His cup into the furnace again. There was high work designed for it, for which it needed great preparation.)

All day long Phebe sat by the fire nursing her dying child on her knee.

The angels must have bent very closely round Mary of Nazareth as she nursed her Babe; but surely they gather just as closely round a mother whose child they are about to conduct to their King!

There was still the love-light in the little one's eyes. Nanna was standing at the window watching the sunlight fade from the sky; Phebe was watching the light slowly fade from her child's eyes.

The angels were bending still closer.

For one moment the little hand was once more raised to stroke the loving face bending over it. It was a last effort, and then the light was gone.

The angels had gone.

"It is time she had some more milk," said Nanna, coming near.

"She is asleep," said Phebe, in a strained voice, "let her alone just now," and quite hastily she put her arm over the child, drawing the shawl partly over its face.

Nanna did not feel she had the heart to press her point, and left the room for a few minutes. On her return she said, "Phebe, dear, you must wake Queenie, she must have her milk; it will never do to neglect any effort. Let me have her for a few moments. I'll promise to wake her gently," and she held out her arms beseechingly.

Phebe's answer was to strain the little form passionately to her breast.

"Come, come," said Nanna, more firmly, "let me take her."

"To wake her?" asked Phebe, looking at her with wild eyes.

"Yes, there's a dear. You will be quite worn out."

"She will never wake again," wailed Phebe, and then tears came to her relief, tears which in the first moments of her agony seemed to be freezing her life's blood.

"Phebe! Phebe! Why did you not tell me before? Did you know that she was gone when I spoke to you before?"

"Yes, but I could not let you have her, and I cannot let you have her now." She rose to go upstairs, still carrying the little cold form.

"But I must have her, Phebe, dear," said Nanna, planting herself firmly in Phebe's way.

"Surely, you will not take her from me yet! I cannot, oh, I cannot part with her. It is so hard! Oh, so hard!"

"It is hard just now, darling, I know. Sit down again, and let us look at the sweet little face." Phebe did so. "And won't you really let me have her at all?" Nanna continued; "surely, you will!" and Phebe, pressing a passionate kiss on the cold brow, yielded, knowing that never again in this life would she hold that little form in her arms. Was it any wonder she was loth to part with it, when, however much her arms might ache for it in the future, she could never again press it to her heart!

And then came days of darkness. Why had God allowed her child to be taken? He could not have prevented her husband's desertion without taking away his free will, but the child did not wish to leave her; why did not God touch her with His healing hand? Was not her lot hard enough without this last trial? Why did not God, to make up for the loss of husband, allow the child to remain? Would not an earthly loving father have done as much? These questionings would come, and her heart could find no answers—yet.

And Nanna, who knew all about them, never chided. She just waited, knowing that ere long comfort would come. "It was the sight of sorrow such as yours that made Jesus shed tears," she said one day. "It fair broke the blessed Lord down to see that woman Mary cry so, and to see the trouble death brings."

"Then you don't think He's cross with me for fretting so?" asked Phebe, with some excitement.

"Not a bit of it, dearie. He knows right well what a blow it has been to you, and sympathises with you; rest on that."

"That is a comfort, but then, Nanna, why did He not prevent it? He is all-powerful, and could have prevented it if He had chosen!" It was the old cry from a broken heart, "Why! Why!"

"Because He wished for your child exactly the same as you do." She spoke very emphatically.

"What is that?" Phebe asked, eagerly.

"The greatest good. Be sure of this, if it had been for the child's good she would have stayed. God can judge so much better than we can what is the best, so He decided she was to go. You do believe, don't you, dearie, that God knows best?—He must do!"

"Yes." But the voice had no ringing tone in it.

"And there's another thing I want you to rest on, though you cannot work it out yet in your own mind, but it's true, for all that, and it's this, that God will make all this trouble work for good in your own life, quite apart from dear little Queenie's, or, even for your sake, He would not have permitted it."

"I believe it all, Nanna, and yet it seems so hard to live out the belief."

"Yes, dearie, I know, but that's just because the trouble has kind of stunned you. Just you wait awhile, and you will be able not only to rest on the fact of God's wisdom and goodness, but cheerfully to rest."

"I wish I could!"

How strange it is that there is never a wounded heart but there's somebody close by to put in some extra drop of bitterness. A friend called in one day with the express intention of showing sympathy, but succeeded in doing just the opposite, by remarking she was sure it was not the will of God any little child should die, and what a pity it was we had not more faith. All this Phebe told to Nanna, and, for a wonder, Nanna was near to exploding.

"I do wish folk would have more sense! Why, it seems to me, some folks think they know better than God Himself. If you had prayed, 'My child is not going to die, my faith will keep her here,' wouldn't that have been dictating to God! Then, think of all the holy men and women who have died young! Do you think God allowed them to die before their time simply because they didn't know they might have healing through faith! Don't trouble your head about that. Why, God, perhaps, has some work up yonder to do that only an innocent child-spirit like Queenie could do, or He may have taken her to shield her from some evil. If your faith could have saved that child you would have had the faith. God knew right enough you didn't want to part with her." Then when the dear old soul had taken breath, she started off again. "What is a sign? It's something out of the ordinary way to teach you some special lesson. Well, Jesus said the sick were to be cured by faith, as a sign, not as a rule. Nobody can get over that, so there now," and off she went to give Jack his supper.

It was not long before Phebe herself realised at least one blessing which had come into her life since the child's departure, and that was the sense of the nearness of the spirit world. It seemed as if a line of light connected her world with the beyond, and the line of light was the pathway Queenie had trod. When she had lost her mother her grief was great, but it was the grief of a child, her soul had not the conscious power then to reach after her loved one as now she reached after her child.

The whole of her life seemed made up of strips of light and shade, and just as this gleam from the golden land dawned upon her, the old darkness seemed all to come back again. The following letter was received from Ralph:—

"Queen's Hotel, Adelaide.
"My Dear Phebe,

"I dare say you have been wondering what part of the globe I have travelled to. This letter will set your mind at rest on that score. I do not suppose I shall stay here long, but any letters you send will be sure to be forwarded to me. I have already found several friends here and have good prospects. No doubt my sudden departure was a shock to you, but I did it out of regard for you, and you must think of it in that way. And you cannot say I did not leave you well provided for. The goodwill of the business and the stock are worth a great deal. You are in a much better position now than before you were married. As soon as ever I am permanently settled we will discuss future plans. Of course I miss you and the children very much, and no doubt you miss me. This is a splendid country, with room to breathe in. I only wish I had come years ago. I mean to make my mark here; no more small pettifogging ways for me. My friends tell me I am just the man to succeed here. It is nice to be appreciated.

"Write soon and tell me how you all are.

"I am,
"Your affectionate husband,
"Ralph Waring."

It was not long before Phebe noticed that though the letter was in a foreign envelope, it had neither stamp nor postmark of any description.

By what means the letter had reached her seemed too great a mystery for her to attempt to unravel, so the thought of it was put right away, the change in Ralph's affections being quite sufficient for her to cope with just then.



During these dark days Neighbour Bessie was a constant visitor, and she never came without seeking to bring some brightness, though mostly it was in the form of fun. Sometimes it jarred on Phebe when she first came in, but invariably Phebe was found enjoying the fun before Bessie left.

Bessie was in high feather when Phebe told her in neighbourly confidence that an old great-uncle, recently deceased, had left her the freehold of a meadow at Edenholme, a place four miles from Hadley.

"Do you mean to say you are a landed proprietress?"

"Yes, if you care to put it in that grand style."

"Of course I do—style is everything. But really to be serious, I should like to see this estate of yours!"

"Estate! Just one field, with one solitary donkey, perhaps, in it."

"Well, let's make the dear donkey's acquaintance, anyhow. Could we not drive there? Couldn't Darling Jones drive you and me, and let's have half-a-day's holiday? Now, do, there's a dear! I'm sure I'm losing all my complexion because I never get an outing."

"I do wish you wouldn't call that young man by that foolish name. Suppose he should overhear you?"

"That would be perfectly lovely! He'd put his hand on his heart, and say 'Somebody loves me!'" and Bessie put herself in the supposed tragic attitude.

"You are a dreadful girl. Now, just for a punishment Reynolds shall drive us."

"Then you consent to go?" and Bessie's eagerness confirmed Phebe in her suspicion that it was simply a ruse to get her out.

However, the drive was taken and enjoyed. Instead of the donkey being found in the meadow, there was a blind child groping about on hands and knees for flowers and grasses. "Just look there!" exclaimed Bessie, quite philosophically; "and yet with two eyes of quite the proper sort and power, most of us miss heaps of flowers we might gather."

The meadow was close by a small railway station soon to become an important junction, a new line being under construction which would run into it from quite an opposite direction.

Reynolds drove them to the other side of the line, where some hundreds of men were at work on a long tunnel. The curious little wooden houses in which some of the men lived were inspected, and Phebe had quite a long chat with one of the "gangers."

On their return home Bessie informed Mrs. Colston that the "estate" had some "park-like stretches," and was quite "a suitable site for a summer holiday with the help of a tent." "But it is a shame," she went on, "that it is not on the other side of the railway. Why, if that meadow had only been near that tunnel the railway folks would have given ever so much for it. Don't you think it is too bad?"

"No, I don't."

"You don't! Wouldn't you like Mrs. Waring to make an honest bit of money?"

"Of course I should. But if it would have been better for the meadow to have been where you wished it, it would have been there, no doubt about that."

"Do you think, then, that whatever is, is best? But I don't see how you can. I didn't have any breakfast this morning. Mother said I was in one of my tantrums. Suppose I was; but I can tell you it wasn't the best thing for me."

"Perhaps it just was; but I cannot say positively about your affairs, because I don't know that you come under the same list as mistress does."

"What list is that?"

"The list of Christians. You know 'whatever is is best' for them. Perhaps it doesn't seem so at the first, but God makes it so sooner or later."

"He doesn't do so, then, for everybody?"

"No, I don't think so; I can't see how they can expect Him to."

"It's a bad look-out for me, then, Mrs. Colston," and the girl looked her frankly in the face. "I often wish I were a Christian; but there, I never shall be."

"Why not, Bessie, dear? Tell me what is your difficulty."

"I can't give up my nonsense and fun; it's no good, I couldn't be serious like Mrs. Waring is for anything. And then," dropping her voice, "mother would never believe I was trying to be good, no, not if I tried like an archangel."

"What your mother believes, or doesn't believe, shouldn't come into the question, dear. It's the Lord's opinion of us we've got to trouble about. But you make a great mistake if you think you've got to give up fun, so long as it's innocent fun. Why, I believe God is often disappointed in His children because they're such a long-faced, sour lot; I do indeed."

But just then Mrs. Marchant sent in a message that Bessie was wanted at once.

That same evening Phebe was called into the grocery department to see a woman who particularly wished to speak to her. She was a very forlorn-looking being, and seeing the marks of tears upon her face Phebe invited her into the parlour, placing a chair for her by the fire, for the evening was chilly.

"I've come to ask you, Mrs. Waring, if you will come and see my husband. I do believe he is dying."

"But why do you want me to see him?" Phebe was feeling very bewildered. "Why not get a doctor? I'm not even a nurse."

"Oh, it's not that. I've got a doctor for him; he wants to talk to you. It's him that sent me to ask you."

"But why does he want to see me?"

"I asked him if I should get anybody to come and pray to him, and he said as how he didn't want no parsons a-bothering of him, but he would like Mrs. Waring to come, for," in quite a whisper, "he's mortal afeared of dying."

"He wants me to come in place of a minister?" said Phebe with a gasp. "How does he know me? How did he come to ask for me?"

"Why, you know he used to go a good deal to 'The Rose in June,' and they was a-talking about you there one night—he told me so when he came home—as how you shut your shops early on Saturday 'cause you were particular about Sunday. One of your shopfolks said so to somebody. And my Jim said as how you must be one of the right sort, for your religion cost you summat. That's how it is. He's talked about it a lot of times; and one night some of the men that goes to 'The Rose in June' came to have a look at you."

Phebe smiled. "I should like to help your husband all I could," she said, "but I am quite unfit to talk to a dying man. Why not let me send for one of our good ministers? Or, I will ask my friend if she will go."

"I'm sure he won't see anybody else," the woman exclaimed, but Phebe was out of hearing. Presently she returned, saying in a very quiet voice that she would accompany her home at once. Nanna had firmly refused to go, saying it was a distinct call from God to Phebe herself, and that it would be wicked to disobey.

So in great fear and trembling Phebe went.

The man was lying on a wretched bed, evidently very weak, but with no signs of death about him. After inquiring as to how he felt Phebe started straightway by telling him how unfit she was to help anybody, being only a learner herself, and her very simple straightforwardness drew the sick man all the more to her.

"But, look here, missis," he said, turning on his elbow eagerly towards her. "You can help me all I want, and I'd rather have you than one of them preaching chaps as is paid to do it. What I wants to know is this: Do you think as how God is good and only does good things?"

Phebe paused for a moment, and while she hesitated the man was keenly watching her, with great hungry-looking eyes.

"I want my answer to be perfectly true," she replied, "that is why I waited."

"I know it'll be true," said the man.

Is God good? What about the taking away of her child! Could she say to this hungry, seeking soul He was not good? A thousand times, No—that she could never do. "I have been in great trouble lately—for more than a year the way has been very dark"—there was a choke in her voice.

"I guessed so," said the man softly.

"But God is good," her voice was clear and firm again. "Yes, He is good; I have found Him so over and over again. We judge Him too quickly so often, and so often blame Him for what comes through the sins of other."

"There's so many queer things in the world," said the man, "that it seemed to me there couldn't be a good God."

"It's the men and women who are queer."

"But, look here, if He's really good, will He take pity on a poor chap like me, who's been such a wicked 'un, and only comes to Him when he's not got nobody else to go to?" There was a depth of yearning in the voice.

"Before I answer that question I should like you to answer me one, because I cannot know your heart as God does. Suppose, now, God was to give you back health, how would you treat God then?"

"Ah, now, missis, I must take time to think, as you did." Then, after a pause: "I'd stand by Him, blest if I wouldn't!"

"And leave off going to the public-house and lead a straight, clean life?"

"Yes, I would, if only He'd make me downright sure He wiped off all old scores agen me. Will you ask Him to?"

"Yes, I will."

"But I mean here—now!"

To pray in public! She had never done such a thing in her life! Again came the feeling of fear, but again it was conquered. Kneeling down by the side of the bed, with the man's hand in hers, and the man's wife kneeling by her side, she slowly, in short sentences, asked for just what the man needed, and under his breath he repeated every word she said. If the man had never heard of Jesus, and what Jesus had done for him, he learnt it from that prayer, and grasped the truth for himself.

"Now," said she, as she rose from her knees, "I believe you are going to get better."

All the way home her thoughts dwelt on the fact that she had publicly testified to the goodness of God. "After that," she said to herself, "I must not grieve any more after my darling. It must have been right for her to go, since God is good. To doubt that will make me a liar, and my life, too, must show I do not doubt it; but, oh, that I might catch a glimpse of her just for a minute!"

It was a trembling Phebe who left home—a radiant Phebe returned. Nanna could not understand the change, but when she heard the story she exclaimed: "There now, that's always the way! If ever you want help, go and help somebody else. I do declare it was the Lord Himself who got you to commit yourself in that way. He just cornered you for your own deliverance."

It was a hard, strenuous life that Phebe Waring led day by day. An hour was spent in the business every morning before breakfast, and till the last shutter was up at night she was still at her post. But never a day passed without some portion of it being entirely given up to sunny-haired little Jack. There was no piece of work done in which she did not lend a hand, and not only was there in every department every evidence of fair and honest dealing, but the utmost economy was also studied, down to the tying of string and the folding up of paper. Economy is not the sign of a small mind, but waste the sign of a mind with empty corners.

As the new year approached Reynolds asked if there was to be any stocktaking, and, if so, on what lines it should be done? The truth was Phebe had not thought of this, but did not think it necessary to say so. After due deliberation the whole affair was arranged, and when she cast up her accounts, to her great astonishment she found there had been considerable advance made—and this in spite of the extra help employed, the purchase of a horse and cart, and several improvements which had been made in the premises. "Is not that splendid!" she said to Nanna, as all the figures were explained. "I shall give a good bonus to Reynolds, for he deserves it; and Jones must have something, too. If I go on at this rate I shall some day be a rich woman! Think of that! God is indeed good!"

"Ah, dearie, it's easy to say 'God is good!' when the balance is on the right side, but what must please Him best is when we can say it just as trustfully when the purse is empty."

The truth was, Nanna was just a wee bit afraid lest her darling should not stand the test of wealth. She remembered an old story about a play which used to be enacted at country fairs in the days when the Quakers were so bitterly persecuted. Among the dramatis personæ came the evil one, who, in the course of a speech, made these remarks: "Let these Quakers alone; it's no good hunting them down. This is my plan: God is sure to prosper them in basket and in store, because they serve Him faithfully; then when they are rich, that will be my time. I shall be sure to get them then."

"God keep her from the snare of riches!" was the old woman's fervent prayer.



Neighbour Bessie had got a new thought!

Not that this was an unusual occurrence, her brain being pretty prolific, but this was of special importance and gave her special delight.

She was a member of a certain young woman's Bible class which happened just then to be without a teacher. The inspiring thought was, "Why should not Mrs. Waring become the teacher?" Hurrah! And she should become the teacher, too, if Bessie could by any possible manœuvres bring it about.

That her own personal invitation was not sufficient she knew well enough, and was quite sure Mrs. Waring would never offer her services, though "coaxed like anything." "I know what I'll do!" she exclaimed to herself. "I'll get up a petition. See if I don't;" and she did, for when once Bessie willed she did, and there was "an end on't," as the Lancashire women say.

She drew up the heading herself, one sentence being, "And we shall ever be grateful," which she thought would be especially "fetching." "None of your 'Kathleen Mavourneen' style about that: 'may be for years or may be for ever.'" Truth to tell, there was never much of the "Kathleen Mavourneen style" about any of Bessie's doings, her character being cast in too decided a mould for that.

The following Sunday twelve out of twenty members were present, and all willingly signed the petition, somewhat tickled with the fun of it and Bessie's tragic manner. The other eight she visited at their homes, and thus the full number of signatures was obtained.

Then came the formidable task of presenting the petition. "When a subject presents a petition to the Queen"—that was how she began her speech on the very first opportunity—"I suppose the proper thing is to drop down on the knees something like this," straightway kneeling down in front of Phebe.

"Are you thinking of interviewing the Queen yourself, then? Is that your next adventure?"

"I am already interviewing the queen of my heart, and would beseech her gracious majesty to carefully read this petition," spreading the paper out on Phebe's knee.

"What nonsense are you up to now, Bessie?" asked Nanna, coming into the room just at that minute.

"No nonsense at all, but real serious business, such as you would delight in yourself. Come and help me to persuade Mrs. Waring to say 'Yes.'"

"But ought she to say 'Yes'?"

"I am sure you will say so when you know all about it."

Phebe at once, with a smile, handed Nanna the paper, and Nanna, with spectacles on nose, began to read with a face as solemn as the countenances of two judges photographed on to one negative. But sunshine soon conquered solemnity.

"Well done, Bessie! It does you credit," was the instantaneous verdict. "I can see it's you that's been at the top and bottom of it all. Of course you'll say 'Yes'?" turning to Phebe.

"It's very good of the girls, and it is just what I should like to do; but there is one thing they have forgotten to do."

"What is that?" quickly questioned Bessie.

"You have never asked the permission of the superintendent."

"Never thought of that," exclaimed Bessie; "but there will be no difficulty in that quarter. Why should there be? Then you do really say 'Yes'?"

"I will certainly try what I can do, but understand, the invitation must also come from the superintendent."

"You are a dear," and impulsive Bessie flung her arms round her neck and kissed her. "Do you know I feel so good and virtuous I don't think I shall sleep to-night."

Certainly Phebe did not go to sleep quickly that night, the idea of partly mothering twenty girls quite taking possession of her. If only she could get them to rise up to the full dignity of Christian womanhood what a splendid piece of work that would be! And there and then she began shaping her introductory talk to them. She looked upon Bessie's scheme as another means sent by God to fill the void left in her heart and life.

The following Sunday afternoon she quite expected that Bessie would come in to tea, bringing with her the more formal invitation. The meal was even kept waiting, but no Bessie came.

"She will come in after tea," said Phebe—still no Bessie.

"She will be here at supper-time, sure enough," said Mrs. Colston. Supper-time came, but no Bessie.

"She must be unwell, surely," thought Phebe; but Bessie's high voice overheard on Monday morning proved that to be quite a mistake.

All Monday passed, but no Bessie came. On Tuesday morning Mrs. Colston sent her a message: "Why do you not come in? Have you forgotten what we are expecting?" To Phebe she said: "No doubt the superintendent was not present on Sunday, but at least she ought to have come in and told us so. I don't hold with girls being so thoughtless."

Bessie's answer was: "I'll come in this evening."

Poor Bessie! When she did come—and she made it as late as ever she could—she looked as if she had just made the acquaintance of the ducking-stool.

"I know you wanted to hear what that superintendent said, and that's just why I didn't want to come in," she blurted out.

"Poor old Bessie!" said Phebe, quite pained to see the change in her, "but don't fret about it, whatever it was."

"But I can't help it! It is a downright big shame."

"What dreadful thing did he say?"

"He's going to take the class himself, but I can't stay any longer, mother will want me."

"Bessie," said Phebe, laying her hand firmly on her arm, "there is something else troubling you."

"The girls don't want a man to teach them—but I really must be going."

"Bessie," Phebe forced her into a chair, and stood over her, "you are to tell me right out what is troubling you. Surely there are to be no secrets between us! Tell me just what the superintendent said."


"That he should take it himself"—putting her hands over her face to hide the tears.

"What else?"

"That you were not suitable."

"And what else? Why was I not suitable?"

But Bessie could not answer for crying.

"Tell me this"—and Phebe's voice was very strained—"was it because my husband had left me?"

Bessie looked up at her with her tear-stained face; words would not come, but a little nod told all that was needed.

The blow Phebe had feared so long had come. It was a fact, then, that her good name was tarnished. She went over to the fire, standing with her back to Bessie, to try to calm herself, to pray for strength to bear such a cruel blow. The sound of Bessie's sobbing was very painful to hear, but at last the girl roused herself, and coming and standing by Phebe she whispered, "I would have given anything to have kept it from you. You do believe me, don't you?"

"Of course I do. Do not fret, dear; all will come right"—her breath was caught—"in time."

"To think that I should have brought this on you."

"But you did not—it is better for me to know how—people regard me. Now, go home, dear, and do what you have to do. I shall be feeling all right in the morning."

It was a comfort when Phebe reached her own room to be alone, save for the sleeping child—and the unseen angels.

And Bessie, too, was glad to be alone. She was thankful the whole affair had come out, having felt assured it was bound to do so, but her whole being was filled with indignation at the thought of the indignity her friend had been made to suffer. "If only I had never asked her till it was all settled it wouldn't have been so bad! What can I tell the girls? I shan't let out all the reason, but he will, I dare say. Wish I could be upsides down with him, that I do! What a mess I do make of everything, to be sure. If mother knew she'd say it was just like me. I feel perfectly wretched. I wonder how I could pay that man out for his meanness!"

And then another bright idea struck Neighbour Bessie, and by the time she had worked her plan out she was fast asleep.

The next day, during the minutes she could snatch from work, twenty dainty little notes were written, addressed to the twenty girls who had signed the petition. Each was supposed to be a private note, inviting the receiver to accompany Bessie next Sunday afternoon to some special meeting going on in the town, and to meet her at 2.45 by the market-pump.

Not being very flush with pocket-money—she never was—the notes could not be posted, but during the next three evenings were all delivered by hand. Twelve favourable replies were received, some of the girls expressing appreciation of this marked token of Bessie's favour, Bessie being really a very popular member; four declined on the plea of colds or previous engagements; and four were blanks, but Bessie found out, in some way or other, that these were away from home.

"That's just splendid," she said to herself, surveying the pile of assorted notepaper, "perfect."

"I say, Bess, are you going to give a party?" asked her brother, happening to catch sight of the notes.



"I'll tell you when it's all over."

At 2.45 on Sunday afternoon twelve girls met round the market-pump, each greatly surprised to see all the others.

"I came here to meet Bessie Marchant," said one.

"And so did I," said another.

"And so did I," said they all; and then they all laughed, for they were a good-natured set of girls.

"We'll make her answer for this when she turns up," said some of them.

"What do you mean by this, Miss Bessie Marchant?" three or four called out all at once when at last she made her appearance puffing and blowing through hurrying.

"Dreadfully sorry, girls, to be so late; really couldn't help it. Mean?" looking ever so solemnly sweet, "mean? You were all such dears I couldn't leave one of you out," and taking hold of the two girls she had the least confidence in marched off, all the others following.

She told the whole story the same evening to Nanna, alone. "You would have died of laughing if you'd seen the faces of those girls as they cuddled round that pump, that you would. Some were hanging on to the handle, they felt that took back like. But I got them all to the meeting."

"But what did you do it for?"

"That's just what they wanted to know, and not one guessed. I told them after they came out, though."

"Well, what was your reason?"

"To pay that man out, of course. He pretended he wanted the class for himself, and I thought at least for one Sunday he shouldn't have that pleasure. It was splendid fun just to picture how he would look when he went into the room and found no one there. It did tickle the girls, I can tell you."

"But you don't mean to say you told them all that!"

"Of course I did. I was obliged to tell them how he had refused Mrs. Waring's offer, and so I explained to them how just for once I had paid him out."

"And don't you suppose they will go and tell him what you have said?"

"Some will, no doubt; but others are as cross as I am about it."

"Oh, Bessie, Bessie, when will you learn wisdom!" exclaimed Mrs. Colston, in a very troubled voice.

"What have I done wrong now, I should like to know? You don't mean to say you're cross with me?"

"You have made that man more than ever the mistress's enemy. You have thrown a stone into the waters; you can never tell where its ripples will reach to. He may be a Christian. I don't know, but after the trick you have paid him he will dislike and mistrust Mrs. Waring more than ever. You may have done your dear friend a great unkindness, for if he's got any unsubdued malice in him he'll show it some day towards her; you'll see."

"Mrs. Colston!" exclaimed Bessie, "you fairly take away my breath. I declare life is too much for me!"

"It's too much for any of us—alone. With all your fun and nonsense you need a lot of prayer, that the Lord would keep you from doing anything that's against the Golden Rule."

"I don't know what'll become of me, I'm sure. It's always my luck to do the wrong thing. There, I wish I were dead, that I do! But don't you go and tell Mrs. Waring what I've done, will you?"

"No, I'll not tell her. Trust me for that."



There often came back to Phebe's mind the prayer she offered just after her engagement, "Dear Lord, make me a true Christian, and help me to be perfectly willing to let Thee do it in whatever way Thou thinkest will be best for me." It was one of the few-remembered prayers; they are but few in anybody's experience. Our prayers are too often to us but as yesterday's faded rose-petals.

She was not quite so sure to-day she could pray that prayer truthfully as when it was first framed. But there was this comfort, she had no desire to take herself from beneath the moulding Hands.

Nanna was inwardly very indignant at the treatment Phebe had received, not that her teaching and her own private experiences did not agree, but she was one of those women who have to do a certain amount of boiling over and exploding before a calm level is obtained. She was, however, mostly wise enough to let this exciting process be carried on in private. She was a perfect tower of strength to Phebe; indeed, it would be impossible to reckon up all Phebe owed to her, and Phebe was quite aware of this, often saying that Nanna was the clever one who made the plans, while she was only the humble one who carried them out.

"Look here, dearie," Nanna said, when she could trust herself to speak with calmness, "I say, and say it with all deliberateness, it was wicked to shut that door on you like that. If that man thought you were unfit to mix with those girls he should have first been quite sure of the grounds he was acting on. But, never you mind; mark this, and mark it well, man never shuts one door, but God opens another, and a bigger one, too. Men shut the door of the Ephesus Church against John, but look what a mighty big one God opened for him into Heaven! And it's the same to-day. So, you be on the look-out—I mean to—and see who sees it first. I told Bessie this, and she says she'll buy a spy-glass for one eye and a telescope for the other. I wonder if that girl will ever sober down!"

"She will make a fine woman some day."

"There's the making of a fine woman in her, and she's certainly on the mend."

Bessie overheard Phebe one day referring to Mrs. Colston's leadership, whereupon that young lady remarked she ought to be called "teacher," and all the others in the house "disciples."

It was at the tea-table. David Jones quietly observed, "You never hear of women disciples."

"Yes, you do," snapped Bessie; "if you had ever read Grecian history, you would never have made that remark. Besides, women deserved the name of 'disciple' more than those men did who followed Jesus; they saw to His wants, if they did nothing more; it only mentions once that the men ever did so, and then it took the whole twelve of them to go and buy a meal, leaving the tired Jesus all alone, not even one there to get a drink for Him."

"Better take care, Jones," said Reynolds, "you'll be sure to get the worst of it."

"Yes, of course you will," said Mrs. Colston; "there are too many nasty little things said now-a-days about women. The other day I heard some one say he wished Satan had gone for Job's wife, but he knew better. I felt like calling out."

"But then she was really a bad one," said Jones.

"Indeed, she was not. That's just it; so often wrong judgments are passed on women." (Nanna had wanted to bring out this little speech for some time, and quite blessed Bessie for the opportunity she had made.) "That poor woman bore without a word being recorded against her, the loss of children and property, and it was only when she saw her husband stricken that she rebelled, and then she didn't say half the bad things as Job did a bit further on. Yet Job's held up for admiration, and the poor wife for execration. I tell you it's not fair."

"I should think not, indeed," chimed in Bessie.

"Now, is it?" asked Mrs. Colston, turning to the young men. They both agreed it was not. "Then do be careful," she continued, "both of you, whenever you are tempted to say sneering things about women." Phebe had left the table at the commencement of the conversation, which made it still more easy for Nanna to send home her message. There was one splendid thing about her: however cutting her rebukes might be, she always gave them in a bright, nice manner; as Bessie said, she always used the biggest spoon she could get—inferring that the pill was nearly lost in the amount of jam she used.

Both the young fellows knew her words had a special significance; they were not at all offended, but rather, on the contrary, a fresh feeling of chivalry was stirred in their hearts towards their young mistress, "The Little Missis," as she was so often called. David Jones was even beginning to think there was a halo round everybody's head in that establishment, except his own, and a double halo round Bessie's, in spite of her snaps. If he had known all that took place in that little homestead he would have had a still more brilliant vision of glory—if even he had known the significance of the silver stars, one of which was found in a conspicuous place in every room, he would have felt like taking off his boots, for he was both impressionable and by nature devout. But not even Nanna knew till long afterwards what those stars meant, though she had a pretty shrewd guess about them.

As can be easily imagined, Phebe's life was a lonely one. The fact of her husband cutting himself off from her in such an abrupt fashion was quite enough to bring about this loneliness. There was not even companionship through the pen; she had answered both Ralph's letters, and still continued to write, giving him all particulars of the business, trying to put as much love into the letters as she could truly find echo in her heart, but no further replies came. All was a blank. And then there was the further loneliness all souls find the nearer they get to God. True, she had her sister, and Nanna, and sunny Jack, and Bessie; but these only touched the outer part of her being. We stand as units before God, and the more we understand our relationship to God the more we realise the soul's loneliness from the human side—a loneliness which draws us nearer and nearer to God.

Phebe often wished she could constantly remember the presence of God with her, but sometimes for a whole day she would forget Him, and she knew that was the reason why so often she failed, and the peace was broken. Prayer came very naturally to her when anything was wanted, but she felt that was not sufficient.

"What do people do who have bad memories?" she asked herself. Then came thoughts of strings round fingers and knots in handkerchiefs, but these seemed childish. One day the words, "When they saw His star," were very much with her, and the thought came, "I wish I could always see His star!" and this was followed by what she thought a bright idea. She would make a number of silver stars and place one in each room, shops and sale-room included, where she could not fail to see them; no one but herself need know their meaning, and they would continually remind her of His presence until she had trained herself to do without their help.

The plan was carried out. There was nothing in it anybody could object to; there was nothing of the fetish, nor crucifix, nor altar about it. Many an eye was raised up to those stars; the children were especially fascinated by them, and the shop was even spoken of by some as "The shop of the silver star," but none guessed their meaning. Reynolds was quite in the dark; though he often watched his mistress fix her eyes on them, he never came near the secret. Most people thought they were only in the nature of decoration. How often we draw near to holy places without even a thrill or look of wonder!

And the stars helped her greatly. I do not say she never forgot, but every little help we can secure along life's way to bind us to the Divine we should make the most of and rejoice over.

Even sharp-eyed, sharp-witted Bessie, who was now a real member of the circle, did not guess their meaning. Perhaps this was because she was so full of her own good-fortune that she was not keen on anything else just then, and when her first joy had cooled somewhat, the sight of the stars had become too familiar to excite comment.

For a long time Mrs. Colston and Phebe had been of the opinion that Bessie would never make much progress while under her mother's roof. Both mother and daughter loved each other (there was no doubt about that), but they did not rest each other. Mrs. Marchant was a fretful woman; family cares had shattered her nerves; Bessie was all alive—"life in every limb" was intensely true about her three times over—and so they constantly irritated each other.

As Bessie was washing up the tea-things one day, feeling very down-hearted, even dropping a tear now and again, she thought she would banish her gloom with a little song, and so piped up on her loudest key:

"I'm sweeping through the gates;"

not remembering more than one verse, the chorus was repeated several times.

"Sakes alive!" screamed out the mother from the kitchen, "do stop that. Do, for goodness' sake, finish your sweeping, girl, and get through the gates and stop there!"

"I only wish I could," replied Bessie, but not loud enough for the mother to hear.

Soon after that she noticed her brother's jacket had slipped off a chair in the kitchen, where he had thrown it, and while she was sitting mending some stockings, she saw something moving on it. For a minute or two she kept a most careful watch, then cautiously picked the coat up and hung it at the back of the door. When her brother came to put it on she gave a nervous little wriggle on her chair, but said nothing.

At supper-time there was quite an explosion, the brother declaring she had put a black-beetle in his pocket, in spite of knowing how much he dreaded them; he had drawn it out with his handkerchief at a choir-practice, right in front of all the boys.

"I never did!" protested Bessie.

"You had something to do with it, I'm sure; else why did you so carefully hang my jacket up, without a word of fault-finding?"

"I saw it walk into your pocket; that's a very different thing from putting it in," the girl frankly explained.

Instead of the mother seeing any fun in the situation, and quietly pointing out where fun ends and unkindness begins, and forgetting the many practical jokes Bessie herself had good-naturedly endured at the hands of her brother, she literally stormed at Bessie, declaring she should leave home at once and be put to some business.

Phebe hearing of all this, offered to take Bessie, to which the mother readily agreed. So it was a very short journey indeed Bessie took from home.

Deep down in her heart the girl was very grieved at the way she had left home, but outwardly kept her usual brightness, and was indeed truly delighted at now really being "one of the company."

"If ever I get rich," she exclaimed, "and have a coat-of-arms, I shall have a black-beetle on my quarterings, for it was a black-beetle which carried me here; a fine old ebony coachman! Oh, Mrs. Waring," and a sad note came into the girl's voice just then, "life often seems to me such a tangle and jingle!"

"Does it, dear? It has often seemed the same to me." Just then she caught sight of the star—she must not lose an opportunity—"but we must do our best to turn it into a song. We'll try together, won't we?"

A squeeze of the hand was all the answer Bessie was able to give.

It is strange that though we stand as units before God, the soul's progress can only be definitely marked by its relationship to others. By the way Phebe treated those who came under her influence was one test of her advance.

The only objection Nanna raised to this addition to the family was the fear lest Bessie and Jones should be thrown too much together.

"You must have noticed how she has ceased calling him 'Darling.'"

"They are less likely to come together if they are constantly in each other's society than if they only saw each other occasionally," was all Phebe said.

"I really think," remarked Nanna, "this house ought to be called a hospital for sick souls. First of all, you take this lonely soul in——"

"Why, it was you who took me in," interrupted Phebe.

"All lonely and forlorn," calmly continued Nanna, unheeding the interruption; "then Jones comes along, sore wounded in the battle, and now there's this poor young thing taken in with a broken wing. It's really nothing short of a hospital."

"Well, then," replied Phebe, "we'll call it Love's Hospital."



Jim Coates, the sick man whom Phebe Waring was called to visit, did not die; on the contrary, from the hour of her first visit he began to mend. Very often of an afternoon, when business was slack, she would go and have a talk with him, and nothing pleased him better than for her, instead of reading the Bible to him, to tell the stories out in her own words and with her own comments. No child ever drank in fairy stories more eagerly, and Phebe even discussed some infidel notions he had got hold of, overcoming many of his difficulties. If she had been told two months before that she could even attempt such things the firm answer would have been "Impossible!"

After Jim had regained strength to a certain measure, came the difficult question of getting work for him. Phebe at once thought of the ganger at the railway-works, and drove over to enlist his sympathies on behalf of Jim, frankly telling him all the story. The man listened respectfully, and then said, "Yes, I'll put him on; but he'd better keep his mouth shut as to how he got here, or the men will give him a lively time, I bet. And if he keeps true blue among this crew, then he's a Briton, I can tell yer, for they're the rummiest lot I've ever had. I go to chapel myself with the missis, but I don't let on to them I do."

"Do you think then, it is impossible to be a Christian and work with these men?" asked Phebe anxiously.

"I don't say as much as that," answered the man, nervously grinding his heel into the soil as he spoke, "only you have to keep your religion to yourself."

"Do you think that is possible?"

The talk was getting a little too personal, and the ganger, with an extra red face and a muttered "Don't know," turned away.

Jim Coates was delighted when Phebe took him the news. The distance from the town was no obstacle, he being the happy possessor of a "bone-shaker" bicycle.

"But," said Mrs. Waring, in a serious tone, "the ganger says you must keep your religion to yourself. Are you going to do that?"

"Not I; why should I?"

"Because they will give you a lively time."

"Well, let them; I'm not made of sugar."

"That's splendidly said; and you'll show your colours from the very first, won't you?"

"I should be a sneak if I didn't."

That same day at the tea-table Phebe gave an account of her day's mission. Meal-times were always made as interesting as possible. Nanna remarked that she wondered what the men camped out there did with themselves on Sundays.

Bessie suggested it would be a splendid thing if Mrs. Waring went over there on Sunday afternoons and talked to the men, adding, "I am sure she could do it splendidly, and they'd listen to her like anything; but there, that will never come to pass, because the Bible says women mustn't do that sort of thing."

Nanna was on the war-path instantly. "In what part of the Bible do you find that, I should like to know? That's nothing but the teaching of the evil one, just to hinder the Lord's work. I'd think twice, if I were you, before I'd do that sort of dirty work."

"It says women are not to speak in church; I'm sure it does," stammered Bessie, getting red and feeling uncomfortable.

"It says they are not to chatter in the church, and nothing more; and that's what they still do in the east, so they say, both men and women. You forget that the Bible gives particulars as to how women should dress when they pray or prophesy, that Jesus Himself told women to spread the news about Him, that God told Joel his daughters should prophesy, that Phillip's daughters were prophets and Deaconess Phebe a foreign missionary! You forget all that; but there, you are no worse than lots of other women. Women run women down just as much as men do. Often and often when women might have done a good piece of work for God they got behind that bit of bad translation, and, like dying ducks, gurgle something about it 'not being modest.' It's a good deal more immodest to aid Satan in his work! I've no patience with the majority of women, and I do hope, Bessie, you won't become one of the brainless sort that think a good deal more about the fit of a skirt and the cut of a sleeve than they do about God's Kingdom!"

Poor Bessie did not know what to answer. Fortunately the group broke up just then, and she followed Phebe out into Sunshine Patch, where little Jack was rolling in the grass, and where there was quite a show of spring's yellow and violet tints.

"Life doesn't seem to get any easier," said Bessie, as they seated themselves in the little arbour; "seems impossible to know sometimes what is exactly right to do. But Mrs. Colston never seems at a loss, everything seems pretty straightforward to her."

Phebe had been wondering how much of Nanna's speech had been intended for her own benefit. "You see," she answered, "Nanna is so much older than we are; her longer experience enables her to see more quickly through things, and on so many points she has fought her way to clear conclusions. We must not get discouraged. If we are willing to be trained by God all will come right in the end."

"Yes; but I want things to come right now, and I want to be always able to know at once what is right."

"I am afraid we all do, Bessie, dear; but we have to learn to curb our impatience. If we more constantly remembered that this life is only a training-time we should become more patient, and I find if I give myself time for a few moments of prayerful waiting I am taught which is the right thing to do."

"Ah, you're sweet and patient, that's it, and I am not."

"If it was a question of sweetness, dear heart, I think you'd gain the prize. I think it is more a question of being perfectly willing to let God train us."

"And do you think Mrs. Colston is right about women doing things just like men?"

"I think she is, though I never heard it put so forcibly before. You know it says we are 'all one in Christ Jesus.'"

"I love to hear you talk, and I love to hear Mrs. Colston, too. I do believe I shall be real good some day; but I must rush in now, or Reynolds will be up a tree and it will take me a whole day to get him down again," and off the impulsive Bessie ran.

If Bessie found it difficult to know what was the right thing to do Jim Coates did not. Right from the very first he had a plan ready, and carried it successfully through. The first thing he did was to write out the following notice with a pencil on a piece of tea-paper, and during the first dinner-hour he tacked it on to the end of one of the sheds.

"This is to give notice that Jim Coates, who is a Christian, has come here to work, and he thinks it would be so much easier for him to keep straight if he had a mate going the same way as he's trying to go. If there is another Christian in any of the gangs do find me out and give me a word. You'll know me by a piece of red ribbon in my waistcoat-buttonhole.

"Jim Coates."

At first it passed unnoticed, but the second day a man tore it down to read it more readily. After he had spelt the words out he called out in a loud voice: "I say, chaps, here's a lark! Do you just listen: it's as good as a play," and then in quite an affected tone of voice he read out poor Jim's brave notice.

"There he is!" exclaimed quite a score of voices, while as many derisive fingers were pointed in his direction, "there's the red ribbon," and then they gathered round their victim, and began giving him a warm time. One took away his ribbon, another tried to dry up imaginary tears from his face, and, last of all, they decided to carry him away to some pond and give him a ducking. Jim prayed as he never prayed before. It was so hard to keep down "swear words," but just as these rough fellows were about to carry their threat into execution the ganger, whose acquaintance Phebe had made, came along.

"What are you up to, lads?" seeing Jim on the ground in their midst. "None of your larks, I tell you, or it'll be the worse for some of you."

The words acted like magic. With a few sulky expressions, and a sly kick or two, they all moved on. The man who had taken the notice down tacked it up again—not through any spirit of restitution, but in the hope it would bring Jim further trouble.

"Better keep yourself to yourself," was the ganger's advice, "or they'll make this too hot for you."

The news of the "red ribbon man" and "the advertisement for a mate" spread all through the company, and men even came to have a look at Jim as a kind of curiosity.

Two days passed, but no mate turned up, though he had put up a second notice in another place. The ganger's advice did not deter or frighten him in the least. But on the third day, just as he was mounting his machine, a very big, lanky fellow came up behind him and said: "I'm the fellow you're looking for, if you've found no one better."

Jim grasped him heartily by the hand: "Bless God; I am so glad you've come. Now there are two of us we may find some more, and we might start a little prayer in the dinner-hour—a friend of mine (Mrs. Waring) says the railway-men do that in some places."

"But I'm a poor sort of a Christian," said the man; "bless you, I couldn't pray in a meeting; and as for doing what you've done, I should never have had the courage in a whole blue moon. Why, I've stared at that paper two whole blessed days before I was man enough to come up to speak to you. I was afraid the fellows would see me."

"What's your name?" asked Jim.

"Dick—Dick Witherson."

"Well, Dick, don't you go worrying 'cause you didn't speak to me sooner. I'm only too thankful you've come now. And you know the bravest disciple of all was the one that was at first the biggest coward, so don't you lose heart. Where shall we meet to-morrow in the dinner-hour?" The place was agreed on, and then they parted.

The very next day a third mate was found, and this gave wonderful courage to Dick, almost transforming him into another sort of man.

The following day was Saturday. Work was knocked off at twelve; so there was no time for meeting together again till Monday.

Early that Saturday afternoon Mrs. Coates, breathless and agitated, came into Mrs. Waring's shop and, seeing Phebe behind the counter, went up to her at once, exclaiming, "Oh, Mrs. Waring, can you help me! Jim's never come home; he's quite an hour late. I know they often have to wait a good while to be paid, but that's not all. A lad as plays with my Freddie says he saw him go into 'The Rose in June' about half-an-hour ago. O God, help me; it's all over with him if he's gone in there!"

"It cannot be true."

"The lad says he was sure it was him. Oh, Mrs. Waring, would you mind going in to see if he's there, and try to get him to come home? I daren't go in by myself; he'd give me such a time afterwards if I did."

"Do you want me to go into the public-house?"

"Yes, if you would; we might get him out then before he had spent all his money and was quite drunk. Do you mind? I know it is asking a great deal."

Phebe paused for a moment; but when she looked up at the star she at once answered: "Yes, I will come with you."

It was a very busy time, she could ill be spared, but what was all that compared with the rescue of a soul!

A few minutes afterwards these two women had passed through the swing-doors of "The Rose in June"—the first time Phebe had ever entered a public-house.

No sooner had the doors swung to behind them than they were face to face with Jim! To say that a straw would have knocked the man down is but a faint description of his utter astonishment.

"What—what—is the matter!" he gasped. There was not the slightest smell of drink about him.

"Oh, come outside! Come outside, do!" exclaimed Mrs. Coates, bursting into tears.

It did not take the three long to get the other side of the doors, and then, standing on the doorstep, Mrs. Waring began to explain: "You must forgive us; we were afraid——"

"I understand it all, Mrs. Waring," broke in Jim. "Don't you make any trouble of it. You thought I'd come in to have a drink; but I hadn't. I only came in after some of my mates to keep them straight, if I could."

"But, ought you to put yourself in the way of temptation?"

"Bless you, the drink's no snare to me now. I hate even the smell of it. I thought——" and then he faltered.

"I am so sorry," said Phebe Waring, putting her hand on Jim's arm.

Just then who should go by but Stephen Collins and Bessie's superintendent. The former raised his hat and gave Phebe a smile; but the latter passed on without any recognition, except for an extra look of grimness on his face.

"No, you're not to say you're sorry," said Jim, magnanimously. "It was only natural you should think it queer. As for my old woman here, no wonder she was nervous, after all she's suffered. And I thank you with all my heart, Mrs. Waring, for coming here, for it shows that if I had indeed gone crooked you wouldn't have given a fellow up."

"A very strange place for a woman who wishes to be thought respectable to be found in!" said the superintendent to Stephen. "Those three had just come out of that public-house."

"Just the very place Jesus would have been found in," answered Stephen drily.



No flower ever comes up to perfection through one single influence; many powers and companionships, great and tiny, unite to complete its beauty. The winds rock it, the rains wash it, the breezes fan it, the dew kisses it, the sun smiles on it, the clouds give rest to it, the soil feeds it, neighbouring shrubs shelter it, its leaves protect it, the insects enrich it—and over all is the Great Gardener.

Thus groweth to perfect grace a little earthly flower.

Flowers of the Kingdom grow in like manner.

If Bessie was not a success amid dishes and brooms she certainly was behind the counter; many a customer came again and again, attracted by the bright, sunny assistant, and would even patiently wait till she was disengaged rather than be served by any one else.

In the home circle she was a constant source of pure merriment and joy; very seldom, indeed, was there anything like a cloud upon her spirits as there used so often to be, and this was largely owing to the fact that she was appreciated, that there was now-a-days no fear of being snubbed and scolded. Nanna certainly occasionally "sat upon her," but then it was always done with a smile, and Bessie knew right well every word of "the dear lecture" was uttered because Nanna wished her to be "a right sort of a woman." And then there was the daily inspiration of being with Mrs. Waring, who never lectured; sometimes she would give a look, but that was all, and then there was always love in the look. The girl often wondered why there could not have been the same state of matters at home, and never hesitated to take the most of the blame to herself. She went in home every other day, always with the same determination to be on her good behaviour, but never met with anything like success. It was a long time before she found out the reason of this—it was because the atmosphere of the homes was different. Some flowers can only bloom under certain conditions. One home was Bethany, the other was Gadara.

All the fun and merriment Bessie went in for was not purely spontaneous; knowing the weight of trouble her friend had to carry, she, on set purpose, planned to bring the sparkle to Phebe's eye and the laugh to her lips. Her keen sense of the ludicrous and her ready wit always made her efforts appear natural. One day an old man—an old bachelor—came into the shop, and complained that so many people owed him money, mentioning one, a widow woman, but he added, "I shall stand it no longer, I shall 'court' her." Of course, he meant the county court. When Bessie retailed this at dinner, she described his look of blank wonder when she offered to be bridesmaid! "And do you know, that poor old dear never grasped what I meant, and I do believe he went away thinking I had made him an offer of marriage. I do indeed. I must not do any more adumbrations again."

"What!" exclaimed Mrs. Colston, nearly choking.

"I thought you'd think that was a good sort of a word. I only got hold of it to-day, and I had to turn the dictionary up myself to know what it means. It means 'to shadow forth.' I must not speak in shadow henceforth, but in plain English. Yes, I like that word. I mean to make up a list of nice-sounding words to bring out on special occasions."

"Mind they fit in properly," said Reynolds.

"I shan't trouble much about that," said the irrepressible Bessie, "a misfit often gives piquancy to a sentence. Only yesterday old Mrs. Bennett told me that the doctor had told her as how 'her calculation was that slow she was in a very bad state indeed.' I didn't tell the poor old dear she meant circulation, because I thought it would hurt her feelings. But I just thought that word delicious, and told her she'd have to hurry up with her figures."

Had any one asked Bessie just then if she was a Christian, her answer might have been a "No," but that she was not far from the Kingdom is certain from the fact that she was constantly trying to frame her life to "high issues." "If I can do nothing else to please Jesus," she said to herself, "I can try to let folks have a bright time." If Bessie gained inspiration from Mrs. Waring, it is equally true Phebe gained the same from her. It was largely owing to Bessie's brightness that hope was still strong within her, that she went often to her work with a true zest, and that the sunny aspect of things took first place with her.

Bessie had a gift which singers, orators and philosophers might envy, but it was Phebe who had first given the girl the idea that she could use it to the glory of God. One old woman, whose blood was thin and cold, declared that to be with Bessie for a quarter of an hour was "like sitting in a sunny garden a-smelling of roses." Phebe's enjoyment was something similar, but she had herself placed the seat and planted the roses, though it never struck her like that.

Very often Phebe chided herself for being what she thought too gleesome in her ways, and one night after supper she had a talk with Nanna about it, when all the others had retired to bed. "Do you think I am getting too frivolous, Nanna? I often find myself laughing and even joking, and then I think how unbecoming it is for a matron like me, with all the responsibilities of a business resting upon me, and"—a sigh and a pause—"with such a shadow on my life, to be acting like that."

"How do you think you ought to act, then, dearie?" lovingly stroking Phebe's hair. They were sitting in the old fashion, close by the fire, Phebe on a low stool, leaning on Nanna's knee.

"Why, with something of a calm, quiet dignity," looking up with a smile.

"Do you think that quite fits in with the idea of rejoicing ever more?"


"Or with, that 'your joy may be full'?"

"No. But, Nanna, dear, I don't want you to ask me questions. I want to know what you think yourself. And I want you to remember that mine is a sort of special case, that might not come under general rules."

"Excuse me, I don't think yours is a special case; there's many women with sorer troubles than yours. Besides, if no one was joyful except those who had no burdens, I wonder who'd be joyful! Not many, if any, for burdens come to everybody."

Phebe was silent, for we all, somehow or other, cling to the idea our burden is a specially heavy one.

Then Nanna went on: "You want me to say what I think. Well, you must not scold if you don't like what I am going to say, seeing you would have it; but I've been thinking instead of you being too frisky, you're not joyful enough. You've got five young folks immediately under your control, not to speak of others, and for their sakes—if no other reason—you've got to be joyful. And then there's another reason—you profess to be a Christian, and they're shams and nothing else who don't go in for delight-work—delighting themselves in God. The idea that your trouble should be a sort of black veil to you is ridiculous. If you let your trouble shadow your life it's as good as saying God is not able to take care of you, and if you let it hinder you in your life it gives the victory to Satan, and seems to say trouble has more power over you than God's peace. No, our dear Heavenly Father knows what it is to be merry, and He expects His children to be merry too. So mind you are."

"You dear, sunny preacher," said Phebe, reaching up and kissing her.

"Ah, I do wish folks would go in for more joy. I do believe we could do with joy-missions and joy-missionaries."

"You are one already."

Again there was silence, and then Phebe said: "Of course, it's not as though I had no hope at all. Ralph may come back; sometimes I think that loneliness will waken up his love again, for they say love never dies."

"No love dies," replied Nanna, "but it changes. There are a good many sorts of love. But even, dearie, if that hope never comes about, you've got God and Jack to hope in. Now, I may ask a question, mayn't I?"

"You know you may, you old darling Nanna."

"Are you going in for that 'calm, quiet dignity' affair, or are you going to be the Lord's happy-hearted Phebe?"

"The latter, God helping me," in a quiet whisper.

The next evening there was another conference, but this time it was a conference of three, Jim Coates having come to report progress.

There was now a little band of four Christians among the navvies. They had held two meetings, at which a chapter had been read, and two had prayed. Their mates had not yet learnt the secret of these gatherings; lively times were expected when they did.

Then Jim went on to say how he and Dick had visited the camp on Sunday and found a dreadful state of matters. "Talk o' heathen folks, they're not in it, not a bit of it, and never anybody comes along to say a word to 'em; not even to give 'em a tract. And you should hear 'em talk about religious folks, it 'ud fair make your hair stand on end, that it would. I've been thinking, Mrs. Waring——" and then poor Jim came to a standstill, and sat nervously twirling his hat in his hands. "I've been thinking," he started again, and again there came a pause.

"You needn't be afraid of us, Mr. Coates," said Nanna, "we're only two poor lone women that a mouse would scare out of our wits."

"I don't know about that," said Jim, with a laugh. The bit of fun set him quite at his ease. "I've been thinking that if only we could get the use of a shed we might hold a meeting there on Sundays."

"I'm sure my friend the ganger would arrange that all right for you," put in Phebe.

"Yes, I think he would," replied Jim; "it wasn't on that point I wasn't sure, but on something else."

"And what is that?" inquired Phebe, feeling quite curious as to what could be making Jim shy.

"Well, it's this. I've been thinking if only you'd come and talk to the men as you've talked to me, it might be the making of some of 'em."

"That is impossible!" said Phebe, rising up from her chair in her agitation, "impossible."

The star was forgotten.

Nanna was darning some towels. As Phebe uttered the last word, she let the work drop and looked up, then instantly picked it up again and went on, without uttering a word. Phebe instinctively knew Nanna did not agree with her, and just a little feeling of resentment took possession of her. Nanna ought to have sympathised with her, and protected her from such an overwhelming request.

"I'm sorry," said Jim; "p'raps you'll think better of it a little later on. I can't tell you how sorry I am."

"I cannot help it. I am altogether unequal and unfitted for such a work. But that does not say I will not help you in some other way, for I do admire your earnestness so much. I will do my very best to find some one who would undertake it."

"Well, that certainly is the next best thing," said Jim, feeling considerably relieved, and with that understanding they parted.

Nanna still went on with her darning.

"You do not think I have done right, Nanna?"

"No, I do not."

"But it would not be possible for me to do such a thing."

"God has opened a door for you, and you have put out your hand to close it."

"Don't say that. You cannot be sure the door was meant for me; perhaps it is that I am to find some one; that is to be my share of the work."

"Child, I have more faith in you than that, and I do not think that is the way God works."

It struck Phebe just then how unfair she had been to Nanna in her thoughts; instead of feeling aggrieved she ought to have felt flattered that her old friend had such confidence in her abilities. It would not do to make any confession, but she put her arms round Nanna's neck and kissed her as though to atone for the wrong she had done.

"Ah, dearie, you've stood to-night, I'm thinking," Nanna continued, "where Moses stood and where Jeremiah stood, and you've made the same excuses they did."

Just then Phebe caught sight of the star.

Did she hear over again the old command, "On whatsoever errand I shall send thee, thou shalt go"? If she did, she certainly made no answer.



It was a long time that night before Phebe got to sleep. She had even found it difficult to pray; this she tried to attribute to the unrest Nanna had caused her. Over and over again did she return to Jim's request, and each time seemed to find a fresh obstacle; the distance was surely one great obstacle.

She tried her level best to rest on the firm conviction the work was not hers, and then to consider how she was to make good her promise to find some one who would feel called to do it.

Would it be any good to appeal to the church? She shrank from that, remembering her late experience.

What could she do! Did God intend to convince her the call was hers by making it impossible for her to find a substitute?

All at once she remembered a committee had recently been formed in the town consisting of representatives from various bodies, to attend to certain social and religious wants of the district—the very thing needed! The first thing she would do when morning light appeared, would be to write to that committee, and with that restful thought she fell asleep.

The letter was written and posted directly after breakfast, but not a word to Nanna did she say about it. What a delight it would be when she could all at once announce the fact that this important committee had received her suggestion with grateful thanks and were commencing work at once!

This said committee happened to meet on the following day. Stephen Collins was a member of it. Mr. Bell, Bessie's superintendent, was the honorary secretary.

Phebe's letter was the first to be read when the item "Correspondence" on the agenda was reached.

In a very pompous voice the letter was read aloud. It had taken the writer more than half-an-hour to frame, but it did not take many seconds to read. This is a copy of it:

"Dear Sirs,

"My attention has lately been drawn to the sad state of matters among the men working at the railway-works at ——, especially on Sundays. I believe the use of a shed could be obtained if workers could be found to conduct a service there. I need hardly say that for such men it would need to be a bright one, and conducted on as fresh lines as possible. It is four miles from Hadley, not too far for a strong man to walk. If you would take up this work, I am sure it would be fulfilling the object for which you were called together, and would bring honour to God. It seems certainly very discreditable to the Christians of this town that no hand has yet been stretched out to help these men. Will you not retrieve our good name? If I can be of any assistance or give any suggestions, I shall only be too happy to do so.

"Yours, in Christian service,
"Phebe Waring."

"There are your marching orders, gentlemen, and a captain ready provided for you," said the honorary secretary sarcastically.

"I do not think that letter calls for any such remark," said Stephen Collins. He was rather aghast at Mr. Bell's words, knowing nothing of the stone Bessie had thrown into the waters. Mr. Bell gave him a very fixed stare, causing Stephen Collins' face to grow very red. "I think it is a splendid piece of work she points out, and one that we should in no wise pass by."

"I think we have quite enough work upon our hands already," remarked the chairman.

"Excuse me, sir," said Stephen, "I thought our duty was first to ascertain how much needed to be done, and then to confer how best it is to be accomplished. We are not here to do so much and no more."

"No one said we were," was the testy answer.

"It's a fine state of matters," remarked one member who always acted as echo to the secretary, "if we are to be told our duty by a woman."

"And by such a woman," remarked the secretary.

"What do you mean, sir?" demanded Stephen.

"Oh, I forgot she was a special friend of yours; I am very sorry if I offend"—this more blandly—"but I mean this: a woman whose husband was obliged to leave her, even forfeiting thereby a profitable business, and who is seen standing talking at the door of a low public-house, is not the kind of woman to do the Deborah act for us. That's what I mean," bringing his hand forcibly down upon the table. "Indeed, I know it for a fact that she was refused admittance as teacher to a certain Sunday School in the town, where she had offered her services."

"That is a libel upon a good Christian woman," protested Stephen.

"Gentlemen, I think we had better pass on to the next business," said the chairman.

"No, sir," said Stephen, restraining himself with great effort, "I am about to move a resolution, and it is that an answer be sent to Mrs. Waring, thanking her for drawing our attention to this call for service, and assuring her it shall at once be considered how it can be met."

This was seconded by a special friend Stephen happened to have sitting next to him.

"And I beg to move an amendment, Mr. Chairman," said the echo; "it is that a reply be sent to Mrs. Waring to this effect:" and then he read a letter which all knew Mr. Bell had previously written and passed on to him.

"'Dear Madam,

"'Your esteemed communication to hand. It is strange, whoever your informant was, that we were not the first to be put in possession of the facts. We are obliged to you for your kind offer, but it is not work at all suitable for women, and indeed the workers would have to be very carefully chosen. At present we have sufficient work in Hadley to occupy us. Perhaps at some future time, when our committee is enlarged, we may be able to take in both Hadley and district. We are, madam, yours faithfully, on behalf of the committee, etc., etc.'"

The amendment was carried with only three dissentients out of fifteen.

One of the members remarked that no doubt the application would have met with a different reception if it had come from some other quarter.

"Mark my words, gentlemen," said Mr. Bell, "Mrs. Waring will commence the work herself. What she wanted was to be able to do so under our auspices."

"And now," said the echo, with a drawl, "she will put it about that she was obliged to do so because those dreadful men were too lazy and indifferent. Trust a woman to make her side right."

Stephen said nothing; he prayed to be quiet, and the prayer was answered. Love urged him to vindicate the honour of this defenceless woman, but wisdom said, "If you love her, you will be silent."

All this part of the committee's business was duly retailed afterwards by Mr. Bell to Mrs. and Miss Bell.

From that time, although Phebe never knew the reason why exactly, she lost four good weekly customers. How many more these influenced could not be reckoned, and in addition to this several people who had been in the habit of saying "Good-day" to her as she met them in the street, now passed her by with the coolest of nods.

The circle in the waters was spreading.

When the committee's letter was received Phebe was more than disappointed; it was like a stab to the heart. For a little while the keen pain was followed by a dazed feeling. It was some time before she recovered sufficiently to fully understand the letter; then two conclusions were arrived at: the first was the committee had no sympathy with woman's work (it was entirely composed of men, although more than half the work they had under consideration had to do with women and children), and the other was that they had the same prejudice against her that Bessie's superintendent had.

Then came three anxious questions. Should she show the letter to Nanna? Having failed to find a substitute, had she now to consider the call a personal one? How far was she justified in allowing men's prejudices to hinder her?

The first was soon answered. It would be a poor return for all Nanna's love to keep this fresh trouble from her; besides, Nanna would be sure to supply answers quickly to the other questions.

"But shall I be ready to accept her answers?" Phebe asked herself. "I'll wait and see; I am sure about nothing that concerns myself just now."

That evening, at their usual time of confidences, and in their usual attitude, Phebe handed the letter to Nanna, giving no word of explanation. Nanna got her glasses, and began at once to read. It took her a minute or so to grasp whom the letter was from, and she turned more than once to the heading of the paper.

"My poor child! You dear Phebe! But never mind; let us put this cold-blooded letter on the fire. Think of it no more, and let us go back to where we were the night Coates came. See, shall I?" holding the letter over the fire.


Phebe nodded, and they both watched it curl up into a black mass, and then sink down into the heart of the fire.

"Shall we go back, Phebe, dear?"

"What does that mean, Nanna?"

"That you give God your answer."

"That I am willing to do that work myself?"


"And do you really think I could?" looking up into the strong, brave face bending over her.

"Yes, I do; it is God's call, and He is sure to give you all you need. Will you?"

There was a pause, and then a faint "Yes," but Nanna knew, though faint, it was meant. And there and then, without altering their position, Nanna prayed: "I thank Thee, dear Father, for this honour Thou art putting on my dear Phebe. Perhaps it is in some way to make up for the dishonour some have put upon her. Through the delay in answering Thee she has brought fresh pain to herself, but forgive her and comfort her, dear Father. Open up the way for her in this piece of work, everything going so smoothly that thereby she may see Thy dear hand in all, and be assured Thou art with her. Give her, dear Lord, to-morrow, if Thou seest it will be good, some extra bit of comfort to make up for what has wounded her so sorely to-day. May she be another of Thy brave Deborahs. We are in Thy hands; never let us even wish to be anywhere else, and do let us each feel the touch of those blessed hands."

The next day at dinner, to everybody's surprise, Mrs. Colston announced that in all probability Mrs. Waring was going next Sunday afternoon to hold a meeting among the navvies.

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Bessie; "then I shall go, too. It wouldn't be the proper thing, you know, to let her go alone."

"And couldn't you sing a bit?" asked Nanna.

"Yes, I would if Mrs. Waring would like me to do so." Bessie had a very nice voice, but was never very confident of herself as a singer.

Phebe only smiled an answer. She was still feeling too nervous to talk much about the plan. Later on, Reynolds said: "I have been thinking, Mrs. Waring, they are rather a rough sort you are going among; if you've no objection, I should like to accompany you."

And a little later, when Jones heard all about these arrangements, he exclaimed: "I'm not going to be left out, I'm sure. I'm coming, too; and if you've no portable organ or anything of that kind lent you, I could bring my concertina." He had a beautiful English concertina, and was really a very good player.

"Splendid!" exclaimed Bessie, "we'll all gather round 'The Little Missis,'—that we will!"

"I am sure you are all too good to me," said Phebe, with tears in her eyes, for she realised that all these offers were made out of pure devotion towards her, no higher motive as yet being apparent.

"There, dear heart!" exclaimed Nanna, "there's the answer straightway."

"What answer?" forgetting for the moment to what she referred.

"Don't you remember what I asked the Lord for last night? A special bit of comfort to come to you to-day, and there it is straightway in the offer of these loving young hearts!"

It struck Reynolds as a rather new idea that anything he did should be described as an answer to prayer. If that were so, God must often be very near to him, influencing him. The thought made him feel very quiet.



Nanna lost no time in sending Jim Coates a verbal message as to Mrs. Waring's promise. This was followed later on by a note from that individual herself, asking Jim to see her friend the ganger, and ascertain if the use of one of the sheds would be granted for a Bible meeting on Sunday afternoons.

The very next evening Jim paid another visit to Mrs. Waring's establishment, this time to give report number two. He little thought the night he came with some of his drinking companions to have a look at the woman whose religion "cost her summat," that he would ever be a welcome guest in her parlour, or even wish to be.

Jim had already enlisted the sympathies of his three Christian mates in his scheme. Dick was especially taken up with it, and the two had lost no time in making all the arrangements they could.

The ganger had done all in his power to help, but had not hesitated in uttering most doleful prophecies. "She's a little brick, that she is; but they'll either send her to Coventry or Bedlam." Jim repeated all the ganger had said, feeling it only right that Mrs. Waring should know the risks she was running.

But Phebe only laughed, quietly remarking: "We shall have more on our side than those that are against us." Jim wondered very much at her reckoning up, but said nothing. He had not learnt yet to include the angels in his calculations.

The whole company joined in discussing the plans—the two young men, Bessie and Nanna.

"I don't see how you are going to walk those four miles," said Bessie; "it is that which troubles me, for you are not a good walker at any time."

"I did think of that myself," said Phebe, "but if it is right for me to go God will give me the strength."

"Hear, hear," said Nanna, clapping her rough little hands; "that's what I call the right note."

"You stop a bit," said Jim mysteriously. "Dick and me have thought about that; you wait and you'll see."

Then he went on to describe how they were going to fit the shed up and erect temporary seats. "But Dick and me want to know, Mrs. Waring, if it was a fine day, if you'd be willing to have the meeting out of doors? More of the men would listen if you would. Dick says if you sat with your back to the shed it would be a sounding-board for you, like as they have in churches."

"That would be a good deal better than a stuffy old shed," put in Bessie, to which opinion Phebe also agreed.

Punctually at a quarter to two on the next Sunday afternoon the little party was ready to start on its expedition. Nanna whispered to Phebe: "'Fear thou not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.'"

Nanna, with little Jack in her arms, and Janie by her side, stood at the street-door to wave their farewells. Prompted by Nanna, Jack screamed out: "Bye-bye, mummy; come back happy."

Jim Coates, all radiant in a new black-and-white check suit, and hair well oiled, met them at the bottom of the street to act as conductor.

"I say, Mr. Coates," exclaimed Bessie, "where's that carriage and pair of greys you promised Mrs. Waring? I wonder you are so forgetful."

"You wait a while, miss, and you'll see I'm not so forgetful as you think," with a comically solemn look on his face.

"Did you ever see such a swell—a real Beau Brummel, if you like!" whispered Bessie to Phebe. "He looks like 'a peacock with a wooden leg,' if you like. But he's 'a dear' for all that."

When they had got less than half-way, lo! there, in the centre of the road, stood Dick, holding a tricycle.

"There!" exclaimed Jim, with a triumphant smile, "there's the carriage and here's the greys," pointing to himself and Dick.

A Bible was strapped on the handle-bar, on which also was hung a large motto-card, bearing the words "God is Love."

"I thought," explained Jim, "these 'ud show as how you weren't riding for pleasure on Sunday."

"You are quite right," said Phebe, feeling deeply touched by this exhibition, not only of thoughtful love, but of loyalty to God, "but I have never learnt to ride!"

"Oh, that don't matter, ma'am," said Dick, coming to the help of his mate. "Jim an' me's a-going' to push you—at least one of us is, but we hasn't fought it out yet which is a-going to do it." These men were real heroes—truer than any who have ever trod a battlefield: they knew right well the pushing of that machine meant months of ill-natured chaff and persecution.

As they neared the end of their journey, one of the men, who had been on the look-out for them, quickly took the word to the camp: "Gentleman Dick and Red Ribbon and their swells are coming along. Come on, I say, and let's have a fine old spree!"

Quite a little crowd gathered close by the shed to witness the arrival. Jim and Dick were greeted with some very rude gibes, but the other members of the party escaped any personal remarks.

With the same quickness and tact Phebe had shown in the management of her business, she set about this new work. Taking their seats in front of the shed, Phebe and Bessie began to sing, Reynolds and Jones standing close by, while Dick and Jim stood on each side as a kind of defence. The concertina was a great help, and when Bessie sang alone it formed a nice soft accompaniment. The men were quite taken off their guard, and thoroughly enjoyed it. "Give us some more, missis," they called out more than once.

A little later on Phebe said: "If you don't mind, friends, sitting down on the grass, I'll tell you a story while my friend has a rest," and a good number of them did so. They hadn't the slightest idea, some of them, that they were attending "a meeting." First, with a story from her own girlhood, and then one told in her own words, from the life of Jesus, she got their closest attention. When one at the close called out, "How much are you paid for this, missis?" more than one tuft of grass was thrown at him, with several unparliamentary bits of advice as to what he was to do with his mouth.

After more singing they asked her to talk to them again, and she did so, this time pressing home one or two truths, and then she prayed. Many of the men had never heard a prayer since they prayed at their mother's knee. Not many eyes were closed, but a wonderful silence fell upon that group of rough fellows as they listened to that "little woman" talking to God.

"Will you come again, missis?" asked one.

"Yes, I will, if you will let me. And please tell your wives, those of you who have them living here—will you?—how much I should like to see them, too. If it rains we should have to go into the shed—would you mind that?"

"No, why should we?" they answered. "Not if the singing girl comes too."

The four visitors went into the shed before starting home, just to see what it was like, and there a surprise met them. On a stool stood four cups and saucers, a jug of milk, a packet of sugar, and some biscuits. Presently Dick came in, carrying a teapot. This was all his own particular bit of work. He had made a fire at the back of the shed and boiled his kettle there, giving a boy a penny to stand guard over it.

The journey home was accomplished in the same manner as the outward had been, and all four had to tell Nanna that they had really had a very enjoyable time. The most enjoyable part to Phebe had been a talk she had with a young fellow who had walked part of the way back with them.

"I was the only useless one there, Mrs. Colston," said Reynolds. "My manly protecting strength was not required at all."

Just like a woman with a dear old motherly heart, Mrs. Colston had ready for them a specially nice tea.

"Is you tum home happy, mummy?" asked dear little Jack, as he gave his mother some welcome hugs.

"Yes, darling, very happy."

"Why is you vevy happy, mummy?"

"Because, darling, I've tried to be obedient."

But the thought of why his mother had to be obedient was too perplexing for him, so he turned to the easier task of counting the gooseberries in his little pie.

Just before entering the town the little party had been met by Stephen Collins, who again passed by with a bow and a smile. But no smile was in his heart. "Others can stand by her and help her, but I must do nothing—not even defend her as she ought to be defended. God help me!"

The following Sunday afternoon the same programme was carried out, with just a few additions. A few women were present, some of the men learnt a chorus; two women forcibly took the tea arrangements out of Dick's hands, the remark being, "What's a great yardstick like you know about making tea!" and instead of one man accompanying the little party on its way homewards there were four. The result of all this was that Bessie informed Nanna that "things were humming more than ever."

If the men had been asked to attend a service there would have been nothing short of a mutiny; as it was they had done so unawares, and got accustomed to it before awaking to the fact. When they did a few rebelled, but the majority submitted to fate. After that second Sunday the feeling of extreme nervousness which had at first taken possession of Phebe passed away. She was able now to look upon the work as really hers, given by God, and began to study it in that light. It was imperative that she should look ahead. The railway-works would continue quite another twelve months. It was all very well to hold the meetings out-of-doors during the fine weather, but what about the winter-time! Would the men be really willing to come into the shed, and if even they were willing to endure the discomfort, what about heating and lighting arrangements?

What was really needed, she told herself, was an iron room, which the men could use as a club-room during the week. How much would such a room cost?

Advertisements were scanned. Yes, a second-hand one could be obtained, with all necessary fittings, for a hundred pounds.

Could she afford to spend that amount just then? Would it be a wise expenditure? Just then she was about to open a branch business in which Jones was to be put as manager, and from which it was hoped to still further enlarge the country trade. This, of course, meant a considerable strain upon the exchequer, and it would only be with difficulty, in spite of her success, that a hundred pounds could be spared.

"Well," she said to herself, "I must just leave the matter for a while, and wait and watch for the pointing Finger."

On that first Sunday afternoon, unknown to Phebe and her little company, only excepting Dick, the ganger had been an attentive listener, standing at the back of the shed, close by Dick's fire, and with him, equally attentive, was one of the contractors, a gentlemanly-looking man.

It was the ganger who had told the contractor of the meeting, and he was there partly out of curiosity and partly out of fear lest there might be some rather rough "horse-play."

He had taken a house in the neighbourhood for two years, furnishing it with every comfort. He was by no means a Christian, having for the last few years been given over body and soul to just two things—money-making and pleasure.

Lunch over, it suddenly occurred to him he might as well go to the works as sit by the fire reading a newspaper. Maybe there was a little hope somewhere in his heart that he might get a spice of enjoyment out of the fun going on.

But in all that gathering there was no more attentive listener than Hugh Black, the contractor. He stayed till the little party started on its homeward journey, and then stood where he could watch them.

"I say, Greaves," turning to the ganger, "yonder little woman is plucky, if you like. There's not many who would have won that lot of fellows as she has done this afternoon. And didn't she hold them! I never heard or saw anything like it in my life before. What brought her here, do you suppose?"

Greaves muttered something about not knowing.

"There's no money in it, that's certain; and it cannot be for popularity among her set, for I should think a good many folks would blame her for it."

"I know what my missis would say there was in it," the ganger plucked up courage enough to say.

"And what's that?" still with eyes fixed on the tricycle, held on either side the handle-bar by Dick and the fresh addition to the party.

"She'd say as how it was to please God."

"H'm." Then turning sharply round to the ganger, he exclaimed, "I say, Greaves; do you profess to be religious?"

The ganger grew very red. "Not like she is," pointing towards Phebe.

"I thought not. If you had, it would have come out before now. Well, I shall not soon forget that little woman."

As an earthly flower grows towards perfection its progress is of no help whatever to any other blossom. Even its fragrance, scattered so lavishly on the air, adds nothing to the perfume of another. Flowers of the Kingdom know nothing of this isolation—can know nothing. The growth of each in grace aids the growth of others.



Late one night Bessie took her favourite low seat close by the fire, and closer still to Phebe, occupying the same position Phebe did in her confidences with Nanna.

"What's the matter, Bessie, dear?" Phebe was very quick to note any change in Bessie's manner, and try as she might Bessie never could hide her feelings.

"I don't know how it is," said Bessie, with a sigh, "but try as I may I can't get on with mother," and then there came something like a sob.

"Is there any fresh trouble?"

"Yesterday was mother's birthday," went on Bessie, in a low voice, "so I thought I would give her a little present; it's ever so long since I've done so. I bought a brooch—I could not afford a gold one—and when I gave it her—she said she never wore sham jewellery——" Bessie's voice was too choked to go on any further.

"Poor old girl!" said Phebe tenderly, taking hold of her hand; "never mind, you must keep on trying; love-work often goes slowly at first. You'll see, she will wear that brooch on Sunday, mark my words."

"But that was not all she said," went on Bessie; "she said I was getting far too much of a saint for her; she wondered I had anything to do with such a wicked woman as she was,—but she believed it was only some clever trick I was up to,—mother even said I could act a sham to you, but she was not so easily gulled."

"Something had surely been worrying her."

"No, I don't suppose so, that's just mother. What is the good of me trying! I feel as if I'd never go in home again, that I do!"

"Do you think that would be acting a daughter's part?"

"No,"—very faintly.

"Then your course is very clear, dearie."

"Yes," with a deep sigh.

"Don't despair, Bessie, darling," said Phebe, stooping down and kissing the girl's brow. "It's a difficult piece of work you have to do, but there'll be all the more joy when it is completed."

There was a long silence between them, and the subject was not referred to again that evening. But Phebe sat long after Bessie had retired for the night thinking things over. The thought uppermost in her mind was this:

"I plead for visitors to go to zenanas in India, but what is my duty to Mrs. Marchant? All the years she has been my neighbour I have never even prayed for her, or tried to pass on to her any helpful message! Fancy that! And I call myself a Christian!"

When Nanna came into the room to bid her good-night, she said: "I wonder what her majesty is turning over so seriously in her mind!"

"Her majesty's subject," with special emphasis on the last word, "is thinking sadly of a neglected duty."

"Well!" exclaimed Nanna, laughing, "if the late lamented Mrs. Caudle had an eye for a bloater, my Phebe certainly has an eye for duties!"

"But, Nanna, when I tell you what it is, you will not laugh."

"Yes, I shall. I belong to the Guild of Gladness, and there's something to be glad about in everything,—if you look for it. If even this duty is a very solemn one, I am glad you have at last thought of it."

"I know I can never get you in a corner." And then she told Nanna her thoughts.

"You are quite right," was Nanna's reply, "we have both been to blame; we have thought so much of winning Bessie, we have lost sight of the mother."

"I shall make 'a dash for it,' as Bessie says, to-morrow. And trust for guidance, at the moment as to the right thing to say."

So the very next afternoon she went in to see her neighbour, and found her, of course, as busy—not as a bee, but, rather, as a cloud of dust.

"I wish I had your easy life, Mrs. Waring! I am never done," she exclaimed, sinking down into a chair with a load of freshly mangled towels in her arms. "And as for troubles,—it seems as if my life was made up of them."

"But I think you will acknowledge that I have had a few troubles lately, Mrs. Marchant, don't you think so?"

"Yes; but then troubles slip off some people like rain off a cabbage-leaf, but it soaks into me like it does into a sponge. I can't shake it off nohow. I don't know how it is, I'm sure," and she put her bundle down on her lap and began to smooth the towels with her hands.

"You are very highly strung," began Phebe.

"Yes, I know that, but you're about the first one that has said so; everybody seems to think I ought to be made of cast-iron. I'm sure the trouble that Bessie of mine's been to me nobody knows. And then to think she can be such an angel to you while to her own mother she can never be anything but a worry!—it's exasperating! It makes me wild when I think of it."

"I am sorry you feel like that. I know Bessie loves you dearly, and she is gaining so much more control that I thought you would have noticed a real improvement in her. Of course I know she is rather thoughtless—but there, you are proud of her for all that, and she is a girl any mother might be proud of!"

"I don't know about that," but a little pleasanter look came on to her face which seemed to contradict her words.

"But I did not come in to talk about Bessie," went on Phebe, "I came in to speak to you about yourself. I was saying to Nanna last night I did not think I had acted the neighbour's part to you; I have seldom ever been in even to ask how you were."

"I am sure it is very kind of you," put in Mrs. Marchant, and she really meant it. We all like to be made of some importance.

"I think housewives need all the cheer and sunshine they can get,"—Phebe suddenly paused, for Phill just at that moment came into the room, and Phebe then noticed, what she had not done before, that dinner for one was laid at the end of the table. Evidently Phill had come in with the intention of sitting down there; if so, it was "good-bye" to all private talk with his mother. After a few scattered remarks Phebe departed.

"You have not been long," remarked Nanna; "what success have you had?"

"Not any," answered Phebe; "just as I was drawing near to say something helpful Phill came in, and then my opportunity had gone. His arrival on the scene quite spoilt my little plan."

But had it? If Phebe had known a little more of the Unseen Hand which shapes our lives, she would not have been quite so sure her little plan was spoilt.

The sight of Mrs. Waring brought to Phill Marchant's mind a little train of thought he had been cogitating over lately, and as soon as she left he remarked to his mother: "Mrs. Waring has got something you haven't got, mother."

"What's that?" snapped the mother. "I'm as well off as she is any day. She's got no jewellery to speak of, and goodness knows, her house is poor enough!"

"Oh, I don't mean that sort of thing."

"Well, what do you mean?"

"She never seems to get into flusters like you do, she seems to have something that steadies her, somehow; I hardly know how to put it." Phill saw from the look on his mother's face he was getting on to dangerous ground, and that made it all the more difficult to clothe his thoughts in words.

"Flusters, indeed! She'd be flustered right enough if she had the worries I have."

"I should think she has more to worry her than you have," Phill ventured to remark.

"That shows all you know about it! Why, she came in this afternoon to try and cheer me up a bit—she as good as said so just before you came in."

"Yes, that's just it!" put in Phill eagerly, "she's got the knack of brightening things up for folks as well as for herself. She makes a fellow feel cheery like to be with her."

"You'd better go and live with her then, like your sister's done. It's a fine thing when children take to lecturing their mother! It would be far more becoming of you to try to lessen your mother's worries than to make out she is so much worse than her neighbours!"

After that Phill ate his dinner in silence, and took his departure as quickly as possible. But the thought of the difference between his mother and Mrs. Waring had taken still deeper root in his mind.

The next time he met Bessie he was specially gracious to her. Bessie did not know what to make of it.

"It is wretchedly dull at home now you're away, Bess. I do wish you would come back!"

"Not if I know it!" answered that young lady. "I know when I'm well off. Besides, I thought you would get on like the steam out of Watts' kettle with me away!"

"Yes, that's just it, I'm always in hot water," he replied in a doleful voice.

"Well, what if you are? Isn't hot water better than black beetles? Hot water is a splendid thing to drink, but it would give you the creeps to have to eat beetles! Ugh!"

"What a stupid you are, Bess, and just when a fellow wants to be serious!"

Bessie had it on her lips to say, "Wonders will never cease!"—she had already raised her hands in a tragic style, but something in Phill's manner checked her. "What was it you wanted to say, Phill?" she asked quite kindly, suddenly dropping her hands.

The lad looked up at her, struck with the change in her voice, and was silent for a moment or so. "Tell me, Bessie, what it is that makes Mrs. Waring so different to mother?" The sentence was quite shot out.

"How did you find out there was any difference?"

"Find out? It don't take long to find that out! Mrs. Waring don't worry and fluster like mother does, and yet I should think she's got more to worry about."

"You're right there."

"Well, what is the difference? I can hear you all laughing like anything sometimes."

Bessie knew well enough what the difference was, but did not like to put it into words.

"I wish I could come into Mrs. Waring's of an evening!" went on Phill.

"Well, do," assented Bessie eagerly, "and then you can find out for yourself what the difference is. I am sure Mrs. Waring will be pleased for you to come. I'll ask her." Bessie was quite relieved by this way of avoiding the explanation of "the difference."

Thus it came to pass that another member was added to "Love's Hospital." Many a bright, merry hour did the lad spend there.

"Have you found it out?" Bessie ventured to ask him after a while.

"Of course I have, and you are pretty dense if you haven't! Why, a mole could see it!"

"Well, what is it?"

"I believe you know as well as I do."

"Of course I do; I haven't lived with her all these months for nothing."

"Then you tell me," said Phill.

"It is that God counts for something in Mrs. Waring's life," was the girl's straight answer.

"H'm," said Phill, "I suppose that's it."

"Yes," said Bessie, now quite brave once she had started, "and what she can't do, she leaves to Him, and knows it will be all right. You see, when once you get to that point, there's no need of flusters and worries."

The boy did not answer, but turned thoughtfully away.

Mrs. Marchant was not able to forget Phill's words; even when her resentment had worn off a little, they were there with haunting power.

"I'd give a good deal to know what it is she has that I haven't!" she kept saying to herself, "for, oh dear, life at times seems unbearable! It can't be her religion exactly, for lots of religious people are just as worried as I am. What can it be, I wonder! I have a good mind to ask her straight out the next time I see her."

She had not long to wait, for Phebe was on the look-out for another opportunity of getting close to her neighbour, and Mrs. Marchant, true to her resolution, put the question to her.

Phebe's heart bounded with joy. How splendidly her way was being opened up! when,—was it of the Evil One, or was it of God?—that just at that moment Mr. Marchant should come into the room!

There was no help for it but to again beat a retreat, but before doing so, she said: "Do come in some afternoon and have a cup of tea with me. You have never been in yet."

"No, I have no time for visiting," was the abrupt answer. But when she got to the door with her visitor, she added, "Yes, I'll come."

When Phebe reported progress to Nanna, that dear old body exclaimed: "Well, that's something to be thankful for! When a woman's got out of conceit with herself, and has an idea she'd like to be different to what she is, she is certainly on her way to Joseph's garden!"

"Joseph's garden!" exclaimed Phebe; "you funny, old dear, what is that?"

"Why, don't you know? Mary while at Bethany only listened to the Lord's message, and gave Him something; but when she got to Joseph's garden, she said, 'Master!'

"But she had to go by the cross to get there!"



Autumn was drawing near, and still the pointing Finger had not been recognised. A few of the meetings had been held in the shed, and, although most of the men had been loyal to their promise, they had been anything but comfortable times.

Nanna thought the matter had not been made a subject of united prayer enough. So at morning prayer, which Phebe had lately established, it was mentioned, and she also spoke of it to some of the men, asking them to pray about it too.

Hugh Black had attended most of the meetings, taking up the same place behind the shed. The men had got to know of this, but said nothing, and once Phebe had caught sight of him herself. His presence brought back a little of the old nervousness, but when she told Nanna, that old Amazon said: "Toots, child, what difference should an extra quality in cloth make to you! I should say he needs your help as much as anybody."

To Phebe's great astonishment he walked into the shop one morning.

"Can I have a word with you alone, Mrs. Waring?" he asked.

"Most certainly," and the two entered the parlour.

Phebe's heart was going pit-a-pat at a very unusual rate. Could it be he had come to put any difficulties in the way—to make any complaints! How is it in any moment of excitement we are sure to jump to the most doleful conjectures?

"Pray be seated, Mr. Black," she managed to say, in a tolerably steady voice.

"Thank you. I have often wanted to come to see you, Mrs. Waring, and this morning I thought I'd just make a rush for it. Perhaps you wouldn't believe it, but I felt quite nervous at the thought of coming."

"That is very strange; I am sure you are given to inspire more terror than I am. To tell you the truth I felt nervous when I saw you come in," and then they both laughed. There is nothing like a laugh for putting people at their ease.

"Well, Mrs. Waring, I'd better go straight to the point at once. I like what you say to those men—indeed, I take most of it to myself, too. But that's not what I wanted to say. What are you going to do when the bad weather comes on?"

"Wear a macintosh," was the simple answer. How could she be so dense! Surely here was the pointing Finger, yet she did not recognise it.

"Yes, yes; but that's not it. Where are you going to hold the meetings?"

Phebe grasped the arms of her chair to steady herself. She had caught sight of the Finger now. She lifted her eyes to the star—God was near!

Then, with her usual simple straightforwardness, she told him all that had been in her mind and how she had been waiting for guidance to know if it was right to spend the hundred pounds. "I can afford to do so now," she added, "much better than I could at the beginning of the summer."

"It would not be right to let you do it. I came here with the determination to offer you fifty pounds, if that would help you in any way, but I'll make it a hundred."

"Sir!" gasped Phebe, her breath fairly taken away.

"Yes, it's no more than I ought to do. I'm making a profit out of the men, and ought to do it; besides, I want to help you, too."

"Mr. Black," she said earnestly, putting her hand on his arm, "I'll accept fifty pounds thankfully, but no more. I must do some of it myself. And do you know, you are here as God's servant! We have prayed so much about this, and God has sent you with the answer."

"I'm not a religious man, Mrs. Waring. I don't want to sail under any false colours. I'm what you'd call 'a black sheep.'"

"Perhaps so, but for all that you are doing some of God's work, and some day you'll do it for God's sake."

"Do you think I shall?" and the man had quite a yearning look on his face.

"Yes, I do."

Then they talked of the best means of securing a second-hand iron building and the best place to put it. When they parted Hugh Black said: "Well, Mrs. Waring, if you will not accept more than the fifty for the building, I mean to help you in some other way."

"So you shall, if God opens up the way."

"Do you think that God wants me to do anything for Him?"

"I am sure of it. The very fact that you were led to make that offer proves it. Do believe it, Mr. Black, for it will help you to get near to God."

"I'll try." Then he shook hands with her, and, just as he was opening the door, turned round and said in a shaky voice: "Pray for me, Mrs. Waring, will you? I was not always what I am now."

"I will, and God will answer." With another hearty shake of the hand he was gone.

How the sun did shine that day! The sunbeams did not glance from the fifty sovereigns, but from this signal proof of God-partnership in the work. There is a little bit of the Thomas spirit in us all. We do so like to see!

That day at dinner-time Phebe arranged that Bessie and Reynolds should be in at the same time. While Nanna was carving Phebe told her startling piece of news.

Nanna put down her knife and fork, and, starting to her feet, exclaimed, clasping her hands: "Praise the Lord! it's worth more than fifty pounds to feel Him so near."

"Glorious!" exclaimed Bessie; "let's sing the doxology."

And they did so, Reynolds as heartily as anybody, and Janie coming to the door to join in, though she knew nothing of what the praise was specially for.

"And another thing which is so fine," said Nanna, when they were quietly seated again, "is that all this proves God is working in that man's heart. We must all pray for him; we'll just pray him into the Kingdom." Reynolds wanted very much to ask if he was going to enter that way too. Nanna had certainly looked at him very significantly but said nothing.

After dinner was over, Nanna whispered to Phebe: "Dear heart, wasn't it worth the pain that letter brought you to have all this?"

"I should think so, a hundred times over."

"We must not forget another time a shadow falls that God never lets Satan have the victory in the end. It only means a little waiting, a little enduring."

The next Sunday afternoon Phebe startled the hearers by saying: "I want to correct a mistake which some of you have fallen into. You think I am not paid for my services here, but I am."

"Whew!" went from more than one pair of lips.

"I have had fifty pounds given me, and I have had other payments besides."

"Share round, missis, and then we don't mind," said one voice.

"Yes, I am going to share round, but perhaps not in the way you mean," and then she told them the whole of the story, of what her hopes had been, her difficulty, the watching for the Finger, and the gift of the fifty pounds. "Now," she exclaimed, joy lighting up her face, "who will say God is not watching over our little meeting?"

"Hip, hip, hurrah!" shouted one of the men, which was quite equal, in his mind, to "Hallelujah!"

The story had a splendid effect upon the men. The idea of a club-room all their own, of money being given for their special benefit, gave a decided impetus to the work, and the signal proof of God's near connection with them certainly led many a heart closer to God.

"I say, missis," one man exclaimed, "let us have some share in the paying for this room, won't you? Gentleman Dick," turning towards that individual, "hand round yer hat for a collection. You lazy fellow, stir yourself, do."

And before Phebe had time to say "Yes" or "No," twenty-one shillings were collected.

"This must be spent in something extra," said she, when she had collected her thoughts together, "so I propose you appoint Mr. Dick your treasurer." To which they all agreed.

It did not take long to secure the iron room, and before the autumn days had begun to show the touch of winter it was up, the floor was covered with linoleum, pictures were on the walls, and there were as many wooden arm-chairs as could be conveniently got in. Phebe's idea was that the room should be made as attractive as possible. The men's money was put to the chair fund.

Arrangements were made for the room to be open every dinner-hour and every evening. Dick was appointed custodian, and one of the women paid to give it a good cleaning every Saturday. Dick thought he was quite equal to this latter duty, but Phebe was not quite so sure on that point.

There were about fifty women in the camp, living in the long rows of little wooden houses specially built for them, just like married quarters in some military camps. Phebe wanted specially to get into touch with these women.

In consulting with Mr. Black as to the best site for the room, Phebe happened to mention her ownership of the meadow on the other side of the line, wondering if that would be too far away. It was agreed that the room had better be as near the camp as possible, Mr. Black guaranteeing to be at the expense of its removal should it be found at any time necessary to do so, owing to any development of the railway work.

The opening meeting was made a special one. Bessie had got a special solo, with a very taking chorus, and then some of the men gave little testimonies. To Phebe's great surprise and intense joy, after a little pause when she had asked if any one else would like to speak, Reynolds stepped forward. "Friends, I think it is high time I opened my mouth." His voice trembled very much when he first began, but gradually got steadier. "I've made up my mind to be a Christian. I gave myself to Jesus three weeks ago, and I made up my mind on the Sunday the room was opened to let this be known. It gave me a little courage to put it off a while. I was tempted this afternoon to put it off still longer, but I did not give in." ("Hear, hear!" said Dick, once the secret Christian himself.) "What I owe to my mistress here I can never tell you; she has made God so real to me." ("God bless her!" said Red Ribbon.) "That's all I have to say, as I am no speaker, but I thought I must let you know this."

Emboldened by Reynolds' example three other men made a like confession, and then they all stood up and sang the doxology. "For," said Phebe, "if you cannot all praise God for yourselves you can for others."

On the way home she grasped Reynolds firmly by the hand. "God bless you, Reynolds! This is a happy day. But always remember I am as much your debtor as you are mine. So, please, never praise me again. God only knows how much you have helped me, and what I owe to you. I should not be in the position I am to-day but for you."

And what effect do you suppose that little speech had upon the young fellow? To make him proud and expect a bigger bonus than ever at Christmas? Not a bit of it; he was more than ever her willing slave. If masters knew the value of praise, there would be more "love-unions" than "trades-unions."

Every dinner-hour in a small corner of Sunshine Hall—that was its formal name—a little group of men gathered together, either for prayer or to talk over any difficulties, and it was astonishing the knotty points they got hold of, and the difficult questions they afterwards propounded to their leader. In prayer they mostly spoke of her as "The Little Missis," "The Missis" being too cold and "Mrs. Waring" too formal.

But, in spite of all this sunshine there were still deep shadows. Public opinion in Hadley passed very hard sentences on "The Little Missis," though fortunately she did not always hear them. "Unwomanly," "Forward," "Did not know her place," "Eager for popularity," "Fond of men's company," "Hand in glove with the world," "Knew how to advertise her business"—these were some of the comments. There was one good thing, however, about this state of matters—there was clearly no danger to be feared such as comes when all men speak well of you. How Satan must rejoice when he can get God's workers paralysed through the criticisms of Christians!



The afternoon Mrs. Marchant came into "Love's Hospital," Bessie was very excited. Mrs. Marchant had previously sent word of her intended visit.

"Are you pleased your mother is coming?" whispered Nanna to Bessie as they met on the stairs.

"Of course,—but you might as well ask a magpie if it liked black and white feathers."

"Well, don't act like a magpie, if you can help it, there's a dear," and Nanna patted the girl's cheek lovingly.

Nanna saw to it that it was a specially grand tea, being anxious that their neighbour should realise they were desirous of doing her honour. To grace the occasion still further Nanna wore her Sunday gown and black silk apron; and Phebe, catching the contagion, put on a light coloured cashmere dress which Nanna had presented her with, having specially commissioned a traveller to buy it while on a visit to Paris.

Bessie did not dare to do anything extra in the way of smartening herself up, except putting a red flower in her dress, for fear her mother should openly chide her for her extravagance. And that would be dreadful, if she did it before Reynolds—or—D.J.!

"Do you think there is any chance that Mrs. Marchant will think we are trying to show off?" Phebe asked Nanna. "I should be so sorry if she did."

"She will take it as a compliment, I am sure," replied Nanna.

The fact was Phebe was not quite at home in her new dress, though she had a great liking for it, not only because it was Nanna's love-gift, but also because of its restful colour. She called it her "hope dress." It was a pale heliotrope colour, with silk flowers on it of the same shade, and to Phebe it seemed to speak of the hopefulness and gladness of the springtime. As a girl she had often gathered the wild crocuses in the meadows, and her dress was of the same hue; and the gladness of her girlhood days seemed to shine out at her from its folds. Though her dress was always of the simplest kind, she had a great liking for dashes of colour—not splashes. Nanna shared with her this love of colour, going in as she did for everything that increased true cheeriness. One of Phebe's favourite ideas was that there could not possibly be a "glum" mealtime if a red geranium in full blossom was on the table.

Nanna presided at the tea-table; Phebe sat at the foot of the table, with Mrs. Marchant and Jack on her left, and Bessie and Reynolds on her right.

Both Phebe and Nanna did their best to keep up a bright conversation. At first Bessie was very quiet, but when she did wake up all lost time was more than atoned for; indeed, Phebe had to give her several quiet touches under the table.

When once Bessie started she always found it difficult to "slow up." Phebe could see that her mother was looking at her in a rather ominous manner, and feared there might be trouble.

Reynolds happened to refer to some comical customer they had just had, and Bessie at once began a humorous description of the whole scene.

"But, Bessie," said Phebe, "it is not kind, when you know the poor thing cannot help her singular ways."

But it was too rich a bit of description for Bessie to let drop quickly, and she went on waving her arms in a dramatic manner.

Just at the moment Phebe was taking a cup of tea from Mrs. Marchant, Bessie was exclaiming, "She perfectly waltzed up to Reynolds," when, lo! with a backward wave of her hand, she caused the cup with its contents to fall into Phebe's lap.


In a moment there seemed a tempest in the room.

Reynolds exclaimed, "Now you've done something!"

Nanna screwed her lips up so tightly that only a little "Oh" came out.

"Oh, mummy, your French dress!" cried out young Jack.

Mrs. Marchant sprang to her feet and made a dash over the table as though she was going to box Bessie's ears. The table, however, being too broad she sank back into her chair, exclaiming: "There never, never was such a provoking girl, never! You may thank your stars, young madam, this did not happen in your own home!"

Phebe was the only quiet one in the company. She had placed the empty cup-and-saucer on the table, and as she stood up, the tea streaming down the front of her dress on to the floor, she said, in a calm, low voice, "Pray, Mrs. Marchant, do not trouble about it, I can soon change my dress," but before moving away she bent down and kissed Bessie, who was sitting gazing fixedly at the havoc she had made. The kiss seemed to waken her, and she exclaimed, as the tears streamed down her face, "What shall I do? What shall I do?"

"Do!" exclaimed Mrs. Marchant—"get some more sense into your head, that's what you should do, and drop all your wretched, nonsensical ways."

When Phebe returned Nanna had wisely arranged that she and Mrs. Marchant should finish their tea alone.

Mrs. Marchant's first words were: "Now I know that what our Phill said was true."

"What was that, Mrs. Marchant?"

"That you possess something I don't. If I had had a dress like that spoilt I should have gone into a towering passion, I know I should. But to see you taking it all so calmly, fairly staggered me. Tell me what it is that makes this difference between us?" Mrs. Marchant's voice was quite eager, and she looked beseechingly into Phebe's face.

"Perhaps several things," said Phebe, after a moment's hesitation; "I have trained myself not to get into flurries if I can help it, for they never accomplish anything. Then I knew Bessie was grieved enough without me adding one word more. But the chief thing is—shall I tell you?—do you really want to know?"

"Yes, I do, for I long to be like you." There was a catch in her voice that quite went to Phebe's heart.

"My first thought was, Jesus is here, and He would not like to see me agitated over such a little thing."



"Oh." There was a world of meaning in that one word.

"I think the difference between us is this," said Phebe, taking Mrs. Marchant's bony hand and gently stroking it: "I have put my life entirely into God's hands, and knowing He rules over everything, I can well afford to take things restfully."

"Then it is your religion that makes the difference?"

"Yes, if you like to put it that way."

"And would it make the same difference to me?"

"Of course it would."

"Well, I shall never forget the sight of your face when that tea went over. That sight was worth all the sermons I ever heard!"

"Wouldn't Bessie be glad if she knew! I'm not a bit sorry she spilt the tea, now. It would be worth the spoiling of all my dresses if it makes you want—Him!"—the last word very softly. Her eyes were on the silver star, but the secret of the star was too sacred to speak of.

"But," added Phebe, "you must not give me one bit of praise for keeping calm; I should have been as mad as anybody,—but for Him."

"And do you think of Him as always with you?"

"Sometimes I forget, and it is then that things go wrong."

That evening Phebe found Bessie busily engaged in unpicking the skirt of the unfortunate dress.

"I'll buy stuff to match it," exclaimed Bessie, "if I have to walk all the way to Paris!"

"Well, my dear, you cannot do that, because of the English Channel, but I want you to thank God you spilt that tea."

"Thank God I spilt that tea! What do you mean?"

And then Phebe told her story.

"Ah, it was not the tea, it was the blessed peace in your dear face that did it! It's just like your dear loving ways to want to give me a share in it! I tell you, mother is quite correct, I am the most exasperating girl that ever was! But"—and she looked up with a tender little smile—"I've caught a little bit of your secret to-day. As you stood up there with the tea all trickling down your dress, I fancied I saw Jesus just behind you! It was that which kept me from answering mother back."

"That was just splendid, Bessie, I am proud of you!"

"What, in spite of this!" holding up the stained breadth.

"Yes, in spite of that and a dozen like it! What is that worth compared with my Bessie? And Nanna would say just the same."



One December evening, after the opening of Sunshine Hall, Janie was telling little Jack wonderful stories about what people did at Christmas.

"Nearly always when people go away for a long time, they come back at Christmas, and bring such lots of nice things with them."

"My daddy's gone away," said the child, "mummy said so."

"Yes, I know he has," said the slow-witted Janie.

"Will he come back at Kiss-mus?"

"Perhaps he will."

"And will he bring Jacky nice things?"

"Of course he will, when he comes."

That expectation quite took root in the little brain, and when "Kiss-mus" morning came, his first words were "Has my daddy come? I want my daddy!"

The mother was quite startled, and wondered what had given the child this idea. Janie explained it afterwards, when a considerable amount of brain-searching had been done. It took a wooden horse on wheels, a box of chocolate and a box of bricks to get the little fellow to dry his tears.

The next Christmas, strange to say, there was the same expectation and the same disappointment, but with added sorrow. The child was older, and if it could appreciate good things more, also felt sorrow more. He had mingled with other children, whose fathers made much of them. "Perhaps daddy will come at Christmas," he would say to himself.

Christmas morning came, but again no daddy.

"Why doesn't daddy come?" he sobbed out on his mother's breast.

"I don't know, darling."

"Has he forgotten me?" he asked, turning up his tear-stained face to hers.

"I do not know." The words had to be uttered. There was no way in which she could truthfully cover up the silence of years. To the sensitive child the words were like a cruel blow; after building upon the father's return to be told that father might have forgotten him was more than he could bear, and in his grief, to his little mind, the doubt became a certainty—his father had forgotten him! It was the child-soul's first knowledge of Gethsemane.

The mother strained him passionately to her, showering both tears and kisses upon the little tear-stained face. "But mummy has not forgotten! Mummy never will forget!" she wailed over him.

From that hour a new feeling took possession of little Jack. If his father had forgotten him, it was very likely the mother was also forgotten. Mummy must feel lonely too, but he would not forget her, and when he was a man he would work for her. He would be her champion and defender—not that he used these words to himself, they were rather too long for him, but the idea they expressed was in his brave, loyal little heart. Nanna often wondered at the quaint little ways in which he showed himself his mother's protector, but never knew the heart-sorrow which had given birth to them.

The child's grief was an added weight to the mother's heart. She saw that her burden was no longer one which she had to bear alone, but that her child, her innocent, sunny-haired child, with the face of an angel, and brother to an angel, had to feel some of its weight also.

Away in Holland a gardener will patiently labour for even twenty years to bring one hyacinth to perfection. Its soil is often changed, and the hand, though moved by a heart which dearly loves the flower, does not hesitate to even use the knife to the sensitive root.

With still greater patience bends the Great Gardener over the flowers of the Kingdom.

And still there was no letter from Ralph. She had left off writing now, not knowing into whose hands her letters might fall. At last she ventured to write to Stephen Collins, asking if he thought there was anything more she could do. He at once replied that he was scanning several Australian papers every week, but had not come across any mention of Ralph, and that he could think of nothing further she could do. It did not seem to him to be at all necessary to seek police aid, though he did not say so in his note. Later on, he sent word that he had written to the proprietor of the hotel to which her letters had been addressed, and he had replied that for a long time six letters had been waiting for Mr. Waring, but a little while ago Mr. Waring had sent a messenger for them. Should that same messenger call again he would do his best to obtain Mr. Waring's address.

This gave Phebe courage to write again, but after some months the hotel proprietor returned the letter, saying that nothing had been heard of Mr. Waring, but that if at any time he did receive news of him it should be forwarded instantly.

After that all was a dark blank. Years passed, but not the faintest report of his doings was ever received. "Do you think he is dead, Nanna?" Phebe would often ask, but the old friend could only shake her head and say, "Dear heart, I do not know, but he's somewhere where the Lord knows all about him. We must rest on that."



One Friday morning Mrs. Waring received a note from Mr. Hugh Black asking her to call, if possible, and see him at his house that morning, as he wished to consult her on important business.

It was next to impossible for her to do so, as two travellers were expected, but, thinking the visit had to do with the hall or meeting, she sent Bessie in her place, and a note to Mr. Black, saying the bearer was her special friend with whom he could safely talk over any point, or trust with any number of messages.

Reaching the house Bessie was shown into a conservatory where Mr. Black was writing some letters. He received her very courteously, and, as politely as he could do so, gave her to understand the business he wished to discuss with Mrs. Waring had nothing to do with the work among the men, but was quite private. He would, however, explain it all in a letter to Mrs. Waring, if Bessie would be kind enough to wait while he wrote it, and he would himself call on Mrs. Waring the next day. On a little table near by was some fruit and biscuits to which he asked her to help herself. But a fit of shyness seemed to have come over Miss Bessie, and though she looked wistfully at the tempting fruit, she only nibbled away at a biscuit while the letter was being written. It was an innocent-looking little missive Bessie carried home, but not nearly so unimportant as it looked. It did not contain exactly a bomb, but it certainly gave Phebe a shock. Both Nanna and Bessie noticed her excitement, but said nothing, as they were both quite sure they would hear all about it in due course.

Mr. Black paid the promised visit, and remained talking a long time, but there was still the same kind of subdued excitement about Phebe when he had gone; indeed, the interview had even deepened it.

At supper-time that day—Saturday—Bessie made a confession. There were some nice pears on the table, which Nanna informed the company were Bessie's gift. "Yes," said Bessie, "but I'd better tell you why I bought them. When I went to Mr. Black's yesterday he asked me to have some fruit. There was a tray with a nice white cloth on it and some plates, and on one plate a silver knife-and-fork and some parings. And on the tray, besides other things, a beautiful dish of pears, and another knife-and-fork. Oh, I did want one of those pears so badly; you can't tell how much I wanted one!"

"Well, bless me," said Nanna, "why didn't you take one, then! Didn't he ask you to take one?"

"You so often ask me to bless you, and I really haven't any blessings to spare. So please excuse me."

"Your very presence is a blessing," put in Phebe.

"That does sound nice, but really if you interrupt me so much I shall never get through my little story. Of course Mr. Black asked me, and that made me want one all the more. But the sight of that knife-and-fork made me feel I could not dream of having one—yes, I did dream of it, but I couldn't really take one! Just fancy me taking a pear with a knife and fork! I should have been as awkward as an elephant in a china-shop."

"What did you do, then?" asked Reynolds.

"Do? Why, I went without, of course. I wasn't going to show off my bad training. So to prevent such a display of self-sacrifice again I bought some pears this morning, and I had a downright good practice in the kitchen with Janie. We can both do it in high style now."

And then everybody round the table, except David Jones, who usually spent week-ends at Hadley, and had arrived just in time to hear Bessie's story, began eating pears with a knife-and-fork, only the knives were steel ones.

After supper David asked Bessie if she would take a little walk with him for a few minutes. It was not the first time he had done so. Both Phebe and Nanna had seen the growing nearness between these two, but had made no remark, for the friendship had certainly been helpful to both.

"I could quite sympathise with you about that pear," said David as they reached a quiet road away from the usual Saturday night scenes. He did not always reach Hadley so early, but had made a special effort this night for a special purpose. There was something on his heart he wanted to say very much, and had hardly known how to introduce it. The story of the coveted pear seemed quite like "a godsend" to him. "Yes, I have felt like that myself."

"Have you?" said Bessie. "Shouldn't have thought it; it isn't like a man to hesitate at a trifle like that."

"Do you think I should have eaten it straight away out of my hand?"

"Something like that."

"Would you have blamed me if I had done so?"

"I shouldn't have blamed you, most certainly not; but smart folks might."

"I don't care for smart folks, do you?"

"Can't say I don't, seeing I should like to be smart myself."

There was a little pause, and then David said: "But you would advise me, if there was something I wanted very much, to take it the best way I could?"

Bessie seemed to hesitate; perhaps she guessed what it was the young fellow wanted! "Certainly," she answered in a low voice.

"Bessie," and he turned eagerly towards her, "it's a flower I want, a flower to wear for ever on my heart."

"I think you're growing sentimental, and it's getting late; we had better turn back."

"No, Bessie, now I've once started you must let me finish. It's you I want." And then he told her the old story which has had so many different endings, yet always beautiful when coming from lips sincere. That same night David told his mistress all about it. "And what did Bessie say?" asked Phebe, greatly interested and pleased at the confidence he showed in her.

"Well, she didn't say much, but I think it will be all right."

"You may rest assured if she had meant to refuse you she would have said so right out. But, David," and here she put her hand on his arm, and her voice took on a low, tender note "have you told her how you came to be in my employ?"

"No, Mrs. Waring," all the joy suddenly dying out of his face; "do you think I need do so?"

"Yes, I do; I think it is your plain duty to do so."

"If I did she would throw me over as she would toss away one of her pears that was bad."

"I don't think so; it is only your fear makes you have that thought."

"But why should I tell her? That is all past and gone."

"You would be starting life together with something withheld from her; there would be no thorough trust in each other. And, suppose some one told her of the occurrence? Such a thing would not be impossible. Better lose her now than lose her respect when you are tied together for life."

There was a tender pleading in her voice which quite broke David down. "I believe you're right. I'll do it," he said in a broken voice.

The next morning he was unusually quiet; during the walk to the meeting in the afternoon he was still as absorbed. Bessie did not know what to make of matters, trying in vain to read the secret of the gloom on his face. "I never knew he was of a sulky turn before," she said to herself; "if this is having a lover it's a mighty queer business. I wonder if it's something I've done wrong! I wonder if he expected I should have gone down on my knees in ecstasy last night!" But wonder as she might there came no answer.

On the journey home David made a desperate effort to get the unpleasant task over.

"Bessie, there's something I want to tell you which I ought to have told you last night, but did not like to."

There was such a ring of pain in the voice that Bessie's heart was touched at once, and for the first time, and of her own accord, she slipped her hand into his arm. The little action was like balm of Gilead to David.

"When Mrs. Waring engaged me, she took me without a character," he went on.

"She did me, too," said Bessie, "so we're in the same boat."

"I had used some of my master's money, and before I could pay him back he found it out. I was going to return it, for I had money in the savings bank."

"Did you pay him back?"

"Yes, every penny; but he would give me no reference, and I was dreadfully afraid mother would find it out. It would have broken her heart."

"Well, that's all done with now, so forget it. You've good character enough now for the two of us."

"And you don't think any the less of me?" he asked, bending anxiously towards her.

"I think all the more of you," she said, looking up frankly into his face and pressing her hand upon his arm more firmly, "only it's made me feel rather queer, for I shall now be obliged to tell you not simply one bad thing I've done, but heaps. In fact, I don't know where to begin."

"That's all nonsense," he said. "I know you are trying to cheer me, and I bless you for it, but there's still another thing I must say, for I want that there should never be a shadow between us. I did not want to tell you of my slip. I don't want you to think I was frank enough to tell you all this of my own accord. It was Mrs. Waring who pressed me to tell you."

"That's just like her; she is a dear."

"So she is; she's been the making of me."

"So she has of me. Leastways," added Bessie in her characteristic manner, "she is making me. The business is not near finished yet."

"It's all right," whispered David to Mrs. Waring as they went into tea.

"I'm so glad," was her reply, "doubly glad."

There was really no need for him to tell her this; his face told the story so plainly—so very plainly—that when tea was over, and they were standing in Sunshine Patch, Mrs. Colston went up to them and said:

"And so you young folks have made each other happy."

"Why, how do you know? Who told you?" exclaimed Bessie.

"Know! Who told me? There was no need for anybody to tell me. Your faces tell the tale. Well, do you think you'll get on together all right?"

"I can get on with anybody," sang out Bessie, "if they only let me have my own way."

"Do you think we shall, Mrs. Colston?" asked David.

"Yes, I've watched you, and I do think you will; but you must neither try to get in front of the other. It must be side by side." Taking a hand of each, she said in a sweet, serious way: "May the Lord bless you both; may you not only be strength to each other but to many besides."

"You dear!" exclaimed Bessie, flinging her arms round her neck, and kissing her, while the tears streamed down her face; "if I'm only half as good as you, I'll do."

"Nay, nay, child, you must not take any measurement by a mortal; Jesus is our measure. But look here, dears, you've both got to go in and tell your story to mother next door. Don't leave her in the cold. But, mark you, you'll have no silver forks to eat your pears with."

"Oh, yes, she shall," exclaimed David as they both went away laughing.

That same evening Phebe and Nanna talked this courtship over, and concluded that things were going on all right. Then Phebe started a fresh subject. "Perhaps you have wondered, Nanna, dear, what Mr. Black came about. I felt I could not tell you about it all in a hurry; it was too exciting, and I have not had a quiet moment till now."

"It's all right, dearie; I knew you would tell me at the proper time."

"Ah, my dear, I wish I always had your calmness."

"I wonder how it is so many folks seem to envy me! I have nothing everybody cannot have as well as me."

"Tell me in a word what you think your secret is, could you?"

"How like I am to Mrs. Marchant!" she thought to herself. "How much we all lean upon one another!"

"Yes, I think I could; but then it's your secret as well as mine."

"Never mind whose else it is, tell it me, there's a dear."

"It's only this—that I know the Lord is always with me, and that in His hands things are sure to come right—could not help but be, He's so clever and good. So why shouldn't I be calm?"

"You say 'in His hand things are sure to be right,' but so often I say to myself, 'How can He make my tangle right?' He cannot make sin come right."

"There's your mistake, dear heart," exclaimed Nanna. "He can! He can! He can make the wrong you've suffered work out splendid things in your character, and help you to do things you would never have force enough to do if you'd had a smooth life. And He's doing it now, now! So rest on that, you poor, tired child. Now tell me about Mr. Black, will you?"

Phebe gave a little sigh of relief. "I had almost forgotten about it. It will almost take away your breath, so be prepared."

"Stop one minute," said Nanna, "let me ask one question. Is it something you approve of?"

"Yes, quite."

"All right, then, nothing whatever can take away my breath now."

"Don't be quite so sure about it. What do you say to him showing me how I can have two thousand pounds paid to me this week?"

"I should simply say he couldn't."

"But he has, and when I tell you how, you will advise me to take it, I am quite sure. Now, doesn't this take away your breath?"

"No, I've still got a few gasps left."

"You know that meadow of mine? It has a long frontage to the main road. Some men have been buying up the land all round the new railway-station. They expect it will be quite a busy centre owing to the junction of rails. Mr. Black knew I owned that meadow. I told him so when I thought the hall might go up there, and he has negotiated with these men for the sale of it. But for him I should have thought I was doing well if I had sold it for five hundred. He is trying to see if he can get a little more when I told him what I should use it for."

"What is that?" a sudden fear again taking possession of Nanna lest money should become a snare to her darling.

"To build or buy a house for a cottage hospital here in Hadley. I have long wanted to do it, and now, without any trouble, God is sending me the money."

"God bless you, my dear one," said Nanna, her heart full of rejoicing.

"And what do you think of this plan?" continued Phebe. "I should like to give the money to Stephen Collins, and let him do all the business, my name never to be mentioned. He need simply say a friend had entrusted him with it. Mr. Black, I know, will keep my secret. I thought two thousand would provide the building, and the town might be willing to pay for its upkeep. I should like it called 'Love's Hospital.'"

"There! Didn't I tell you the Lord would help you to do big things? Can't you see if you'd never gone to the railway-men you would never have known Mr. Black!"

"Yes, I can see it, and if I had never visited Jim Coates, I shouldn't have gone to the railway-men. It is all the Lord's doing. I have got another scheme I want to work out, but have not the money for it yet, and I don't see where it is to come from either. Still, after this wonder I shall not give up hope."

Stephen Collins accepted the task, called together a town's meeting; a committee was appointed, Bessie's old superintendent, Mr. Bell, being one of the number. An old-fashioned house, with a large garden was bought, and in less than twelve months "Love's Hospital" was in working order.

Bessie, Reynolds and David knew Mrs. Waring had sold her meadow at a very good figure. They knew also of the anonymous donor of the hospital, and, as shrewd young people will, put two and two together; but the townsfolk, in spite of a good deal of curiosity, were not so wise.



When little Jack was nearly nine years old he came home from school one afternoon in a sorry plight. Not only was his face tear-stained, but his jacket was torn. There was every evidence that he had been in a battle, and had not come off victor, either. Fortunately, his mother was away spending the afternoon with her father and sister.

"My dear boy!" exclaimed Nanna; "what ever have you been doing!"

"Don't be cross with me, Nanna," cried out Jack, literally throwing himself into her arms, "I couldn't help myself. You would have done the same yourself." His arms were round her neck, and he was hugging her so tightly that she found it rather difficult to get her words out. The hugging really seemed to comfort him. Nanna felt alarmed, for it was so unusual for Jack to shed a tear or to be so demonstrative. Trying with one hand to loosen his grasp, and with the other stroking his tangled hair, she said: "You surely could never imagine your old Nanna mixed up with a fight, now could you? A pretty figure I should cut, shouldn't I?"

"Well, you would have done something; I know you would," sobbed out the little fellow, who could no longer keep the tears back.

"Ah, no doubt I should have done something; you're right there. But tell me what it's all about? Whatever will mummy say about it! And what do you suppose your little angel-sister thinks of you if she is looking at you now?"

The thought of the "little angel-sister" did not distress him much; but at the mention of "mummy" his grief broke out afresh.

"But you won't tell her, will you? And you'll mend my jacket for me, won't you?" taking his arms down from her neck to show the ugly rent by the pocket.

"Not tell mummy? Keep anything from mummy? Why, Jack, what can you be thinking about? She would not like her boy to have any trouble she did not share. And if you have done wrong all that she will do will be to give you advice that might help you another time."

"I know, I know," and the voice was a little fretful, an unusual thing for Jack, "but you don't understand: it's because it would make mummy cry I don't want her to know."

"Well, tell me all about it, and then I shall understand."

"And you won't tell her?"

Nanna felt to be in a difficulty, and had to think. Jack saw the difficulty she was in, and, like the chivalrous little fellow he was, helped her out of it by saying, "I'll tell you first, and then I know you'll say she mustn't know, and Janie must not know," getting down from her knee and shutting the door—"nobody must know."

Resuming his seat, and with one arm round her neck, he told out his little tale of woe, the tale that was so big to him. A fresh boy had come to his school whose displeasure he had won by obstinately keeping at the top of the class, a position keenly coveted by the new boy, whose name was Frank Bell.

Knowing of no other invective he could hurl at his rival, Frank tried this one: "You're no good; you've no business among respectable boys. Your mother's a wicked woman, and that's why your father can't live with her. My ma says so; I heard her."

"I told him she was as good as good could be, better than his mother, for my mother held meetings and his mother didn't. So he said he'd pay me out for calling his mother names, and after school he hit me in the face, and I hit him back."

"And you got the worst of it?"

"He's ever so much bigger than I am. My mother is good, isn't she?" lifting up his tear-stained face to look steadfastly at Nanna. There was no doubt in the loyal little heart of the mother's goodness, but there was one big mystery in his life he could not solve, and he wondered if Nanna could help him—or, would help him.

"Of course she is good; we both of us know that."

"If only daddy would come home! If he would, then Frank couldn't say anything." He watched her face attentively—the face that had always had truth written on it, that had never kept a secret from him.

"I wish he would, too; but I don't know why he doesn't, and mummy doesn't know either. Perhaps—but you must not speak of this—perhaps he is dead. Sometimes we think he must be."

"Poor daddy!" murmured the child, and then turned to look at his photo hanging over the mantelpiece.

"But, Jack, dear, I want to show you where you have done wrong and how you must be wiser another time. It does not matter what any number of boys say about your mother; it could not alter the fact of her goodness. You need only have said he was making a mistake. Then you should not have questioned his mother's goodness; it is quite right for him to think his mother better than yours—every boy should think his mother the best that ever was. And then, when he struck you, you should not have struck back—that's what cowards do, heroes quietly walk away. You remember what our dear Jesus said, that when anybody strikes us on one cheek, we are to let them do it on the other side, too, if they like."

Jack sighed. Life to him just then was indeed an "unsunned space," and it seemed getting darker. It was bad enough to have had his dear mummy so wickedly spoken about, but to be struck and not retaliate! And now Nanna was disappointed in him. There came another deep sigh.

"Don't sigh, little man. It is by these mistakes we learn. You will be wiser next time, so cheer up. Let us ask Jesus to forgive us all our mistakes. We can afford to forget all about them then."

In the most natural way possible the two knelt down and made their request of the invisible Master, whose presence in that room was always acknowledged. It was by no means the first time these two had done so. Jack was not at all surprised or confused.

Prayer over, Nanna set about preparing tea, and Jack, still disconsolate, sat by the fire. His own share of the pain was forgotten, but he could not feel happy about his "mummy." He did not want her to know, and yet he longed to hear from her own dear lips that she did not mind.

"You won't tell mummy, will you?" he pleaded before going to bed, and the promise was given. "Not till you say I may," said wise, far-seeing Nanna. The burden of having a secret from mummy was a heavy one, and Nanna felt sure it would not be long before it all came out, and that the loving little heart would only find peace in the mother's arms.

Phebe that night went in as usual to give Jack his "good-night" kiss. He had cried himself to sleep. He had even laughed at supper-time, and forgotten all his sorrow, but in the darkness of the bedroom it had come back again with full force.

The mother bent to kiss her boy—the face was damp—Jack had been crying! Nanna had said nothing about any trouble, yet she was always Jack's confidante. What could it be? She bent again to kiss him. Yes, it was quite damp—the pillow even was damp. Her sunny-faced, earnest, eager-hearted Jack, crying! The boy sighed in his sleep, tossed about, and then, the light of the lamp falling on his face, he woke up.

"Oh, mummy! dear mummy!" The lamp was quickly put down, and in an instant the two were locked in each other's arms.

"Jack, darling, you've been crying. You must tell me all about it."

"But I can't—no—you are not to ask me."

And then straightway he told her, though not in words. He smoothed her face, he examined her, then he hugged her, and whispered:

"It is my good mummy!"

"Has somebody been telling you I'm not good?"

"Did Nanna tell you?" he exclaimed. "Oh, dear, she promised she wouldn't!"

"No, darling; Nanna did not tell me. She would not break her promise to you."

"Then how did you know?"

She could hardly explain. "I guessed it," she said. "I saw you had been crying. Who was it that was finding fault with me?"

"Frank Bell; he's a new scholar." The name was not familiar.

"See here, darling, you must never trouble about me. You know I do things differently from some mothers, and they think it is wrong, but I think it is God's wish; so it does not much matter. You understand?"

"Yes." Then, after a pause: "And it has not anything to do with daddy not coming home?"

There is a sisterhood of Mary found the wide world over—women who have felt the sword pierce the soul, and in that instant Phebe felt afresh what membership with that sisterhood meant. But her child, at all costs, must not know of it.

"No, nothing at all," was her calm answer.

And then came the story of the fight and the torn jacket. It was so nice to be able to tell her everything, and to know she was not hurt at all.

"What, my Jack been in a battle!" trying hard to laugh.

"Yes; but Nanna has mended my jacket, you'd never know it was torn, and I'm never going to fight again. Nanna says heroes walk away, and that must be so, 'cause it's harder."

"Nanna's right, you dear little champion!"

"When I am a man, nobody will dare to say you're not good."

"Yes, they will, dear. You know Jesus told us to beware if everybody spoke well of us. That would show we were not quite brave enough."

But the child spoke truer than she knew.

The next morning Phebe sent Frank Bell a box of chocolate, which Jack willingly delivered.

To say that Frank was mystified is putting it very mildly.

"For me?" he exclaimed.

"Yes, mother sent it you."

"Does she know what I said about her?"

"Yes, but I didn't tell her. I had to tell Nanna because of my jacket."

Frank thought Nanna was the servant. He wanted very much to "round on" Jack for telling, but did not know how fairly to do it.

"She knew what I said about her, and yet sent me this chocolate!"

"Yes, you see she's a real Christian—Nanna says she's one of the right sort."

"Well, she must be; my father's a Christian, but I don't speck he'd send anybody chocolates that snubbed him," and the very idea made the boy laugh.

"You'll never say she's wicked again, will you?" pleaded Jack wistfully.

"That I won't, I'll say she's a stunner, and she is, too!" And from that moment Phebe Waring had no more brave defender than chubby-faced Frank Bell.

That same morning Phebe got a few minutes' talk with Nanna: "Jack told me last night you knew all about his little battle and what occasioned it."

"Yes, he did," said Nanna, turning round to look at her carefully. She was not quite sure how much Phebe knew, nor how she would take it. The look satisfied her.

"I only want to say," said Phebe, "that you need not worry about it for my sake. I have been so happy lately that I can afford to have a little drawback like that. Perhaps God saw I needed something to keep me humble."

But she could not have spoken in that brave tone twelve hours before. She knew that, and Nanna guessed it too.

"Ah!" said Nanna, "it wouldn't do for us any more than for the trees to have all sunshine and never have a storm."

Yes, Phebe had been very blessed lately, and she not only knew it, but had drunk in all the joy of it. The railway-works had long since been completed, and the hall had been taken down and stored. Most of the men had been scattered all over the country, many of them taking with them the precious secret learnt from a woman's lips, but some still remained in Hadley and the neighbourhood, and these had persuaded Phebe to continue the meetings in the public hall. She had done so, and very happy gatherings they had proved to be.

Every week the further scheme she had in her mind took deeper root: the more she saw of working-men, of their hard life and colourless existence, the more she pitied them. The scheme was often talked over with faithful Nanna, whose brain was as keen as ever, though her body was more bent. More than once she advised Phebe to consult Stephen Collins, but Phebe could not trust herself to do that, knowing too well that temptation lay in that direction.

"Besides," she would add, "I have not money enough yet. Love's Hospital was not my gift—the money simply was passed on by me. This time God seems to show that I have to work for the money, storing it up little by little. When I have enough and have got my plans all settled, I'll ask Stephen to carry them out for me. I don't mind doing that; it would not take long."



Bessie's marriage passed off in high style,—the change that had come over her mother being most marked—and after a fortnight of "doing the grand" at Bournemouth she and her "Darling" Jones settled down to business with the firm determination of making it "hum." And "hum" it did. Bessie had been a treasure in the business at Hadley, but she was a far smarter business woman now that she shared some responsibility. Every morning the shutters were down at eight o'clock, every corner thoroughly swept by nine, every order attended to promptly, supplies well seen to. It was like taking in a breath of Swiss air to go into that shop. Many a sleepy country-woman rubbed her eyes and pulled herself together after an interview with Bessie. It was not simply done for the money it brought, though of course the more business done the more it was to the advantage of the managers, but the main impetus was in the thought that she was helping Mrs. Waring. Bessie's highest delight was to win her "Well done!"—to know she was hastening the development of her scheme, for Phebe had taken both Reynolds and Jones into her confidence.

Bessie's mother marvelled at the change which had come over her, and wondered if it could possibly be the same girl who used to be always in hot water! If there was anything "hot" now-a-days it was more of the nature of milk than water.

The money for Phebe's scheme was gradually accumulating. One or two special agencies had helped in this, but it had mostly been won by hard and constant application to work. And all the time the sum in the bank had been growing Phebe's influence had grown too. There was never a town's meeting called to discuss any forward movement, or to right any wrong, but she was invited, mostly accompanied by her boy. But, as nearly always happens, alongside with this growing influence was a growing disfavour with well-to-do, rut-bound people, especially with those who had class prejudices and believed that woman was simply the chattel of a man. This was very much accentuated when she was called in as an arbitrator in a dispute between some men and their master, and was still further manifested when she publicly exposed the wrongs of some laundry girls. Whenever she saw wrongs or injustice she was bound to speak out. She even once spoke out at a church-meeting against the custom of relegating the poorest members to the top seats in the church gallery. That was a shocking offence, and almost won for her church-discipline. But she calmly went on her way, her eyes still fixed on the silver stars, and more and more became the confidante and helper of the poor.

The day at last arrived—the day she had looked forward to for months, even years—on which she paid into the bank to her "scheme account" the last needed amount before commencing operations, bringing the grand total up to five hundred pounds!

The following day arrangements were made for an interview with Stephen Collins. Both Nanna and she agreed it had better take place at her sister's house, her old home. It would be quieter, and there would be less chance for gossip to make anything out of it.

The father was dead, but the sister was still staying on in the old house. Phebe frankly told her she wanted a business talk with Stephen, and asked if she would mind inviting him.

"I shall be only too pleased," was the reply. "The wonder to me is you manage to get along so much by yourself as you do. Who would have imagined our dreamy Phebe turning into an enterprising business woman, and quite a public character, too! How things change! I used to be the go-ahead, and now I'm as good as a recluse."

"You've done the hardest piece of work, after all, dear," was Phebe's answer; "one that God won't forget. And, besides, you have the opportunity of coming out into the world and its work now father is at rest."

Stephen Collins accepted the invitation, and on a dreary Friday afternoon at the end of October the three gathered round a cheerful fire in the old-fashioned parlour.

For a minute or so Phebe thought they were girls and boy together again, and that the door would open presently and "mother" would come in with her cheery voice, "Girls, it's time for tea, and you'd better get Steve to help you!" How many a romp they had had together, especially when "father" was away at market! The fire crackled and the old clock ticked just as they had done then, but a glance at Stephen's iron-grey hair and his sad, earnest face gave proof enough that the old merry days had gone by for ever.

They talked about the weather, about the new tenant in the next farm—all three seemed anxious to talk, and yet there were awkward pauses, and Phebe could not bring herself to mention her scheme. The Spirit of the Past seemed to hold them.

The sister must have known Phebe's thoughts, for all at once she said: "It's no use waiting for mother to announce tea to-day. I must get it ready myself."

"Let me help you," said Phebe.

"No, you sit and talk with Stephen." She still called him by his Christian name.

Phebe poked the fire, and swept some dust from the hearth, conscious all the time that Stephen was watching her closely. When she took her seat again they were both silent, till at last Stephen said:

"Mrs. Waring, I have not the slightest idea what it is you wish me to do for you, but rest assured whatever it is I will do my utmost to fulfil your wish. Please do not hesitate. Trust me."

"Trust you! There is no need to tell me to do that. I do not hesitate because of any thought of unwillingness or mistrust—never that." For the first time their eyes met and she could not resist putting her hand on his, just for an instant. "Why I hesitate is because I am going to ask so much, and you may not think my plan a wise one."

"You need not hesitate on either of those points. I have plenty of time at my disposal, and I should not put my judgment before yours."

"I don't think for a minute my sister will agree to my scheme."

"Then we must try to convert her."

It was not till the tea had been cleared away and the trio had gathered round the fire again that the scheme was unfolded. Phebe introduced it by saying: "You must please both of you let me tell my tale without interruptions, for I really feel nervous talking to two such critics. When I have quite finished, then you can talk. I must first of all tell you I have saved up five hundred pounds, and I want to buy Farmer Green's big meadow in Haystone Lane; he wants a thousand pounds for it."

"How can you buy a thousand-pound meadow for five hundred pounds? Folks will say that's like a woman," interrupted the sister.

"Will they? But you must please let me finish my story. I propose for the present getting a mortgage of five hundred. I want to put this meadow in trust of Mr. Collins, Mr. Black, Jim Coates, and my two assistants, Reynolds and Jones, with Mr. Collins as chairman, or something of that sort. Then I want this meadow turned into garden allotments. I think it will make forty. One of these I want to reserve for a plot for our railway-hall to stand on, to be used as a club-room. These thirty-nine allotments I want let out to working-men, or women, too, if they felt equal to spade-work. These would bring in a rental of thirty-nine pounds; twenty of this would be needed for interest and the remainder to be spent in prizes for the best things grown in the gardens. For the club I should propose that a small quarterly subscription be charged, which would be sufficient to keep the place going. I hope by the time the scheme is started to have saved another fifty pounds, which I should like spent in the purchase of plants and trees to start the gardens with." Phebe paused. The sister held up her hand like the children do at school: "Have you finished! Please may I talk?"

"Yes, I have finished."

"Well, I think you are a very foolish woman to squander your money in such a fashion! You've got your old age to think of, and your child to provide for. Let your working-men provide gardens for themselves—they can spend plenty of money in the public-house. You stint yourself to help them, and not one in twenty will give you a 'Thank you' for it. No, I say you are not called upon to do such a thing as this. What do you say, Stephen?"

"I say, it's just like her."

"That may be, but that doesn't say it's wise."

"You are too hard on these men, Lizzie. They can afford no luxuries, no hobbies, and there is little wonder they go to the public-house. I often think if I had a home like they have I should do the same myself; there is nowhere else that is bright and attractive for them to go. As for their thanks, I don't want them; besides, my name is not to be mentioned in connection with the scheme. But before I die I hope to be able to clear off the mortgage. As for my boy he can always get a living out of the business. I have no need to provide further than that for him." Turning to Stephen: "Will you do this for me, Mr. Collins?"

"I will." No marriage-vow was given with more earnestness.

"Well, you are the funniest woman that ever God made," exclaimed the sister.

When the time came to separate, Phebe would not hear of either her sister or Stephen accompanying her, though the night was dark. They went as far as the garden-gate with her, and as they stood there after she had left them, Stephen said in a choked voice: "You call her the funniest woman God made: I call her the best and the bravest."

"So she is," the sister replied frankly; "but then it doesn't do to tell her so, does it?"

"I only wish I might," was his low response.

As the sister walked up the path again to the silent old home she whispered to herself: "Poor old Steve! Dear old fellow! What a queer world this is!"

While Phebe was away from home that evening Nanna sat for a while in the desk in the grocery department; she often did so when a quiet time was expected. "I shall write a book some day," she used to say, "and the title will be 'From the Mangle to the Desk.'" Certainly she looked wonderfully wise there with her spectacles on her nose.

All at once she was attracted by the sound of a voice. Her memory for faces was very defective, but for voices very acute. Where had she heard that voice before? Looking up she saw a tall, elderly, shabby-looking man, who every now and again gave a little hacking cough. She watched him as he bought half an ounce of tea, a rasher of bacon, one egg, and half a pound of sugar. Then she heard him say to Reynolds, who was serving him:

"Who owns this shop?"

"Mrs. Waring."

"I wondered who 'P. Waring' was: it used to be 'R. Waring.'"


"Where is Ralph Waring now?"

"I don't know—he went abroad on business."

A little stifled laugh: "Oh, did he?"

Nanna saw that Reynolds suddenly looked up and gave the man a searching look. When he had gone Reynolds went up to the desk. He was too agitated to speak, and Nanna was feeling just the same. At last she managed to say:

"Follow him!" pointing to the door.

Just as he was Reynolds rushed to the door; he looked to the right, he looked to the left, but the questioning customer with his cough and his laugh was out of sight, for the gathering gloom of the chilly autumn night made escape easy.

It might have been a December night the way Reynolds was shivering. "Was it——?" he asked in a hoarse whisper as he returned to the desk.

"Yes," was all her answer. Then, "I must go at once and meet the mistress."

"Let me go."

"No, that would never do. She would wonder what was the matter, and as long as possible we must keep it from her."

As fast as she could the dear old lady hurried along the lonely country road. The little, stifled sarcastic laugh was still sounding in her ears, a laugh that spoke of a heart unchanged except as trouble had soured it.

At last she heard footsteps—light ones—she could see a woman's form! Yes, it was her dear Phebe, and, thank God, she was alone!

"Why, Nanna!" exclaimed Phebe, as soon as she recognised her; "whatever brought you out a night like this?"—kissing her on the cheek and taking hold of her arm.

"To take care of you, dearie, to be sure; and, besides, I wanted a walk."

"On a night like this?"

"Yes, I felt stifled like," which was quite true.

Phebe's suspicions were aroused, but finding all well at home, concluded it was just some whim of the dear old soul's, or else she had suddenly been seized with some unaccountable fear, as is sometimes the case even with young folks.



For nearly ten years Ralph Waring had been a homeless wanderer, getting a living in a variety of ways. Of course things had gone well with him while he had money in his pocket, but when that had melted away his appreciative friends suddenly disappeared. Like other folks in that new country he had plenty of opportunities of getting on, but like so many others he wanted the top rung of the ladder first, and found that such a leap did not come within the bounds of possibility. Every bottom rung he was compelled to try proved too prosaic, and years were spent in becoming familiar with a whole series of bottom rungs.

All the letters he had sent to Phebe had been under cover to Stephen Collins; even the one Stephen Collins had himself placed in the desk had been directed to him. Why Ralph had done this it would be difficult to say. His motive may have been the wish to provide Phebe during his absence with a reliable helper, but it was very questionable if he had really sufficient regard for either of them to do that.

The letters ceased just as soon as his "castles in the air" came to grief. He could never bring himself to write to Phebe of defeat. He was once tempted to make up a story of good fortune, but had sufficient good sense left to know that should Fortune continue to frown upon him this would only add to his annoyance. No, it was better she should think him dead than poor.

It was three years since his illness came upon him. He struggled against it with a heroism that would have placed him on the top rung if it had been shown earlier and in other ways. Then a feeling of home-sickness came over him; or perhaps it was that he missed the tender ministry of loving hands.

But how was he to get home? There was no other way than to work his passage over, and that he must do at once before he got too weak to do so. A berth as assistant-steward was secured, and in a few hours after setting foot on English soil he found himself in the old country town of Hadley.

His first impulse was to go straight to Phebe and pour out his heart to her, with all its bitter disappointments. Then his usual cautious habit reasserted itself—he would first of all make inquiries.

After taking a very humble lodging he soon found out the position Phebe held in the town, and then his chagrin knew no bounds. He wished himself back again a hundred times over in the land of strangers—what a fool he had been! However, she should never have an opportunity of lording over him. "R. W." would stand for "Richard Wood" equally well as "Ralph Waring." A very old school-fellow had failed to recognise him, so it was not likely Phebe would. It was this strong belief in his changed appearance rendering his identity impossible that made him enter the shop. He quite chuckled over the way in which he had "done" Reynolds, and tried the experiment a second time. Reynolds was in the shop and again served him. As soon as he left the stolid look disappeared from Reynolds' face, and quick as lightning he despatched a shop-boy to follow "the tall, thin man with a cough" to see where he went. "Don't show yourself, though," was his parting injunction.

The lad did his "shadowing" in quite a professional manner, and returned with the answer: "63 Dutton Street."

"63 Dutton Street!" repeated Reynolds to himself. "Well, I never! Things get worse and worse! I mustn't tell Mrs. Colston that, the poor old dear! I won't let out he's been in again."

After Ralph Waring had made his second lot of purchases and paid his lodgings a week in advance, he had one solitary half-crown left. He had no watch or anything with him he could sell or pawn; possessing absolutely nothing but the thin, shabby clothes he stood up in. He turned the silver coin over in his hand, and muttered: "Only that between me and the workhouse!"

Day after day Nanna kept her secret from Phebe. How could she tell her! How could she bring such a double fold of gloom over her! And day after day she prayed for God's clear guidance.

At every opportunity she kept a stealthy watch over every customer who came into the shop, and all the day she was for ever listening for that hollow, rasping cough.

All this tension told upon her considerably. Phebe was quite certain she was not well, and she knew herself it was taking away her joy and breaking her peace. At last she pulled herself together, and decided she must carry the burden no longer. "It is too difficult a piece of work for me to do," she said to herself, "I must leave it all to God. If He wanted me to help in it He would have shown me the way. I'll just watch and see how He does it," and the joy and peace came back again.

If she had known of "63 Dutton Street," she would have seen the beginning of God's plans.

The knowledge soon came.

She was in the business early one morning, when all at once she felt impelled to whisper to Reynolds—

"Have you seen Ralph Waring again?"

Reynolds had no alternative but to answer "Yes."

"Did he come into the shop?"

Reynolds gave a solemn nod.

"Tell me all you know, Reynolds," she said, fixing her clear grey eyes on him; "don't keep anything back. I am quite prepared, for I feel sure all will come right."

And then Reynolds told her, first of all looking round to see if any one should be listening.

"He is staying at 63 Dutton Street," he whispered.

"63 Dutton Street!" she exclaimed, and then checked herself. "Why, that is where Mrs. Coates lives!" in a lower voice.

"Yes, he is lodging with her."

"Well! well!" She hardly knew what to say. Surely God had led Ralph there—but why?—why?

"Why? Why?" kept repeating through her brain as she went about her work.

That morning she received a letter from Bessie, in which that young lady said: "When are you coming to see me? Couldn't you come this afternoon?"

"Yes, I will," she said to herself. "Bessie's brain is younger than mine, and quicker. Perhaps she can tell me what I ought to do."

When Phebe knew of the intended visit, she said: "Well, I am glad! I do believe you are improving in your old age. Be sure and tell Bessie she has my permission to give you a good scolding for not going sooner."

"How little she dreams of what my real errand is!" whispered Nanna to herself. "I wonder if I am doing right in not telling her! But surely if I can keep trouble from her that is right! Surely she has suffered enough through Ralph Waring already without having any more! She thinks he is dead—'tis better so." And with that assurance she started on her journey.

"You blessed one!" exclaimed the excitable Bessie; "I have a good mind now you are here to lock you up like lavender, and never let you back again. Now I am going to get a high-style tea ready. If only I had been quite sure you were coming I would have bought a whole red-herring—they are the most economical things going, you only need one; you hand it all round the table, and each guest rubs his, or her, bread with it, and each one has all the delight of seeming to eat a whole bloater. However, as it is, we must stretch to sardines this time. David!"—peeping into the shop—"I'm not coming into the shop any more to-day, so if you can't manage to scrape along without me, you can put up the shutters at once."

"You see, Mrs. Colston," said David, "she is just the same Bessie as ever."

"Well, I never!" exclaimed Bessie, "if that isn't rich! Did you expect I should turn into somebody else?—say Polly Spriggs, or the Duchess of Marlborough!—which would you have preferred?"

But David had fled back into the shop.

It was during tea Nanna told her story—always the time for confidences.

"We had such a strange customer in the other day, Bessie. Guess who it was!"

"Was it one of the high levellers, or one of the low levellers?"

"He looked like one of the low levellers, as you call them; but he used to be——" Nanna's hands trembled so much she almost dropped her cup.

Bessie was quick to notice this. "Dear Mrs. Colston," she exclaimed, "you have some bad news to tell me! What is it?—Do tell me quickly!"

"The customer was Ralph Waring."

"Ralph Waring! And does the Little Missis know—did she see him?" and Bessie started up from her chair in her excitement.

"No; I want your advice. Reynolds has found out that he is lodging at 63 Dutton Street. Just fancy that!"

"63 Dutton Street!" repeated Bessie, quite bewildered.

"Yes; with Mrs. Coates. You know Mrs. Coates. Do you think I ought to tell her?"

"Tell Mrs. Coates?"

"No—the Little Missis, as you call her."

"Of course not. If his lordship does not choose to make himself known, why should you trouble her about him? She has had enough trouble with him already—at least, I think so."

"That is just how I have been thinking."

"Oh, dear, dear! Whatever in the world did he need to turn up again for! I wish to goodness I could run away with him, that I do!"

"What is that you are saying?" exclaimed David, looking in from the shop, with quite a dramatic expression on his face. "Who is it you are wanting to elope with now? I really must know!"

Amid both laughter and tears Nanna explained the situation.

"Well, if she can manage to run away with him," said David magnanimously, "I am quite willing. But how can you work it, my sweet queen Bess?"

"Ah, that's the difficulty," she sighed. "I shall have to put my thinking cap on."

"There is no doubt he is very ill," said pitying Nanna; "he has a dreadful cough."

"A consumptive cough?" asked David.


"Then may God help him! I know what that means. My father died of consumption in Warley Hospital."

"I have it!" exclaimed Bessie, "let's get him into Warley Hospital! At least he would be some distance away, and would be better treated than in lodgings. Oh, yes, I'll manage to run away with him after all, you see if I don't! I'll call and see Mrs. Coates, and if I hear her lodger cough, I'll offer to get him an indoor letter for Warley Hospital. I'll not show myself at all, of course. Mrs. Coates shall do the real elopement work; I'll only superintend."



True to her word Bessie paid her visit to Mrs. Coates the next day. She had not been long in the house before the hollow cough was heard.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Bessie; though really listening for it, the sound had quite startled her. "What a dreadful cough!"

"That it is. It's our lodger, poor fellow! I'm afraid he's not long for this world."

"What is his name?"

"Richard Wood."

"H'm." If Mrs. Coates had been at all a sharp sort of woman she might have detected something peculiar in that expression.

"I'm afraid he's very poor," continued Mrs. Coates. "He's paid me all right, but I don't think he's much left. I took him up some hot supper last night, and my! didn't he eat it up ravenously!"

"Has he any friends?"

"Doesn't seem to have any."

"The best thing he could do would be to get into a hospital."

"Yes, I suppose so. I really wish he would, for that cough quite wears on me."

"I know some one who subscribes to the Warley Hospital: I could get him an in-letter for there, I feel sure, if he would care to go."

"Do you really!"—quite eagerly. "I should be glad if he could be got there! I shouldn't like to tell him to go, it would seem cruel, but I'm sure I can't stand that cough much longer."

"Well, go up at once and ask him," suggested Bessie.

"I will, there can be no harm in that," and away Mrs. Coates went.

There was quite a different look on her face when she returned.

"No, he won't go," shaking her head, "couldn't move him!—says that when his money's all gone, he'll go into the workhouse; I needn't be frightened about being kept out of my money—as if I was thinking of that! But there, that's all I get for all my trouble! You might give your life for some folks, and they wouldn't give you even a nod in return, not they!" Mrs. Coates was evidently feeling very annoyed.

"Yes," exclaimed Bessie, "he's just one of that sort"—and then suddenly added, "at least, I should think so, from what you say."

Bessie could think of no other suggestion to make, but went away determined to think out some other plan for getting Mrs. Coates' lodger out of Hadley.

The next time Mrs. Coates had an interview with her lodger, he suddenly asked: "Who was that woman who wanted to get me packed off to Warley?"

"Mrs. Jones," was the curt answer.

"And who's Mrs. Jones?"

"A very nice woman," turning round quite fiercely towards him, "a very nice young woman indeed, and I can't see why you shouldn't be willing to let her do you a kindness—that I can't!"

"Perhaps not," he replied, "but you haven't told me yet who she is. There are heaps of Mrs. Jones."

"She used to live with Mrs. Waring; she's the daughter of Mr. Marchant, the chemist. I wish you'd let me ask Mrs. Waring to come and see you," exclaimed Mrs. Coates, not giving "Richard Wood" time to reply, the very mention of Phebe's name bringing, what she thought, a bright idea into her head; "she would be sure to know what was the best thing for you to do! I always take all my troubles to her."

"Look here, woman!" exclaimed the lodger angrily, "don't bring that friend of yours here, for I will not see her. Please remember that."

"But she is a good woman."

"Is she!"—with a sneer.

"Yes, she is—a very good woman!"

"Then why did her husband have to leave her?—Yes, I know her just as well as you do, perhaps better."

"You know nothing bad about her, that I'm certain," replied Mrs. Coates, raising her voice to quite an angry pitch; "you should ask, 'What sort of a sneak was her husband to leave such a woman?'—that's what you should ask."

"So that is how she talks about her husband, is it?"

"No, it isn't. I've never heard her mention him, so there. But I won't have you say one word against my Mrs. Waring. So I tell you!" And Mrs. Coates left the room for fear her tears should be seen.

"The horrid man!" she said to herself. "I suppose God sees something in him to love, at least that's what Mrs. Waring would say, so I suppose I must search for it till I find it. But for that he should go out of this house this very day, that he should! Wouldn't Jim be riled if he knew what he said about Mrs. Waring! I'd better not tell him."

Late one evening Phebe paid a visit to Jim Coates to explain to him her garden scheme and to secure his help for it.

What a change there was in that home from what it was on her first visit! The whole family this evening was in a state of great excitement over the arrival of a new couch, and each member had been taking turns to lie down on it. Jim had also got a special and personal bit of news which considerably added to the excitement; he had just seen Mr. Black, who had offered him a good position as foreman on some fresh works quite near, and when Mrs. Waring added her news there was a state of matters in that little home difficult to describe.

Jim clapped his hands and shouted: "If this isn't like being in Heaven afore the time! It beats everything I ever knowed!"

"Don't make quite so much noise, then," put in Mrs. Coates. "You see," turning to Mrs. Waring, "we've got a lodger in bed upstairs, and he's that bad, poor fellow, I don't know what will become of him."

"Bless you! he can't hear us," exclaimed Jim; "and if he did, it 'ud do him good. It does you good to laugh, and it does you good to hear a laugh, too."

"Ah, but Mr. Wood is a good deal too bad for that."

"Poor fellow!" said their visitor, "if I can help him in any way please let me know."

"Look here, Mrs. Waring," put in Jim. "I wish you'd do us the honour of having a bit of supper with us. I'm of the same mind as your Mrs. Colston, when you're extra happy it seems like as if you ought to eat together. On the strength of my new job I've bought a tin of coffee and some new-laid eggs."

Mrs. Waring felt it would be very ungracious if she did not accept the invitation, though just then time was very precious.

"Don't you think I'm a lucky man, Mrs. Waring?" exclaimed Jim, as he stood with his watch in his hand, counting the minutes while the eggs were boiling, "and it's all come through you."

"No, through God," was her correction.

"Well, God used you, anyhow. And what a change there is in Mr. Black, too——"

"Who is that!" suddenly exclaimed Phebe, springing to her feet. Mrs. Coates had just gone upstairs, leaving two doors open behind her. It was the lodger's cough she had heard.

"It's only Mr. Wood coughing," explained Jim, and Phebe took her seat again feeling strangely tired.

Again the cough was heard. It had a strange little moan at the end of it, almost like a suppressed cry.

"Oh!" exclaimed Phebe, this time feeling powerless to rise, but stretching out her hands to Jim Coates, "that is my husband coughing!"

Jim almost dashed his watch on the table and rushed towards her, taking hold of both of her hands.

"It's our lodger, Mrs. Waring, don't be skeered. Come up and see him, if you like, and then your mind will be easy."

"Yes, yes," whispered Phebe faintly, "in a minute I will."

She would have fallen on the stairs if Jim had not put his strong arm round her, but when she reached the sick man's room she was herself again, only that her breath seemed very short.

Just for an instant she stood at the foot of the bed, and then going to the side she took up one of his thin hands, and said gently: "Ralph, dear, why did you not come home?"

"I didn't want any fine folks about me."

"But I am not fine, I am your wife. You will come home now, won't you?"—the voice was full of pleading. "It is your home, I've kept the business on—it's yours, too."

"Of course it is." There was not one loving tone in the voice, but he was stroking her hand gently. He was glad she had come, glad of her gentle welcome, but he did not want to show it.

Jim Coates and his wife were dumb with surprise. When the meaning of it all dawned upon them, with the instinct of true gentle-people they crept quietly downstairs.

Phebe bent and kissed Ralph on the brow. "I'll leave you now, dear," she said, "just for a little while. I must go home and arrange for your coming. I will not be long, and if we roll you up well in blankets and drive in a closed cab the journey will not harm you." His only answer was a nod, but that was better than a refusal.

She walked home like one in a dream. Stephen was there waiting to ask her some question about the garden scheme. He was talking to Nanna.

Almost abruptly Phebe broke in upon them. Her face was very white, she was trembling all over, and could scarcely speak. Nanna rushed to her, thinking she would fall before she reached a chair. It was Stephen who gently placed a seat near, and held his arm round her as Nanna stooped to loosen her boots.

"Poor dearie, you're quite done up!" said Nanna, but she knew all the time the shadow had fallen.

"I've found Ralph," she whispered. "I want you to light a fire upstairs—I am going to fetch him home in a cab."

Stephen withdrew his arm and caught hold of the chair-back to steady himself; the room seemed to swim before him.

"Yes," was all Nanna answered.

"Did you know?" gasped Phebe.


"And you?" turning to Stephen.

He could only shake his head.

The sight of Stephen's struggle gave her fresh strength.

"Why did you not tell me, Nanna?"

"It was too difficult—I did not know." The words came with great effort.

Phebe stroked her hair with a comforting touch; they had exchanged places.

It was Stephen who fetched the cab, and when it drove up again and the limp figure with the incessant cough stepped out, he was standing on the pavement, looking a sad, solitary figure.


It was very late. The shop had long been closed. Jack was safely in bed. Only Nanna and Janie knew of Ralph's arrival.



As soon as their lodger had been removed, Mrs. Coates told her husband what he had said about Mrs. Waring. "And to think," she exclaimed, "that he should talk like that about his very own wife! I didn't tell you before 'cause I knew it 'ud rile you so."

"I should think so," Jim cried out, "the good-for-nothing fellow. I should have been tempted to have picked him up and carried him straight off to the workhouse whether he wanted to go or whether he didn't."

"Do you suppose Mrs. Waring knows how he's talked about her?"

"No; shouldn't think so."

"If she did, do you suppose she would have taken him home?"

"Yes; that would make no difference to her. She's got too big a heart to hold spite against any one."

"Did you know that she nursed Topsy Scarves for six weeks when she had the smallpox?"

Jim shook his head. "No, but it's just like her if she did."

"She did. Topsy wouldn't let no one else touch her, but she was like a lamb with Mrs. Waring; so Mrs. Waring stayed six weeks and let her business get on as well as it could without her. And when Mrs. Scarves wanted to thank her, she said she wasn't to, for it had been a real happy time for her. Mrs. Scarves says she did everything for Topsy, and wasn't frightened a wee bit. I told you Mrs. Bessie Jones offered to get Mr. Wood,—no, Mr. Waring,—into Warley Hospital. Do you think she knew who he was?"

"Did she see him?"

"No, she only heard him cough."

"I wish to goodness she'd succeeded, and that it shouldn't have been in our house the Little Missis got such a blow! My! it was a staggerer for her when she heard him cough! I never saw any one look as she did! I wish we could help her in some way or other, that I do. I wonder God lets such a good woman like she is have so much trouble."

"Perhaps it's trouble that's made her good," wisely remarked Mrs. Coates.

"Perhaps so, it does some people."

As soon as Ralph was safely in bed Janie was despatched for a doctor. His appearance alarmed Phebe more than ever. The cough was incessant, and occasionally thin streaks of blood were seen on the handkerchief.

"I wish you'd get me a red handkerchief," he said, in an irritable voice.

"A red handkerchief! Why? I haven't got one."

"Yes, a red handkerchief. And if you don't possess such a thing, you could get one, couldn't you? I shouldn't see that blood if I had a red handkerchief."

"I did not know exactly what you meant. I'll get you one at once out of the shop." It was the same old Ralph, always wanting to cover up trouble, never able to fairly and boldly face consequences.

The doctor pronounced him in a dangerous condition, promised to send something at once to ease the cough, and in the morning would examine him more thoroughly. "But I am afraid he is not long for this world, Mrs. Waring," he said, as he bade her good-night; "he has had a very hard life lately, that is very evident."

Yes, she saw it all; Ralph had come back with a wrecked life—had come home to die!—the man who had gone forth to win a fortune to lay at her feet. How bitterly disappointed he must be! This thought gave an added tenderness to her voice, and made her still more patient. All the night long she watched by his side. Sometimes he slept a little, but when awake lay gloomily staring at the wall. He never uttered a word of tenderness or pleasure at being home. Only once did he refer to the past, and then it was to rip open the old wound.

"You've been very successful, Phebe."

"Yes; God has greatly helped me."

"No doubt; but still it was I who started you. I left you a good business, and in addition"—he had to pause to cough—"and in addition I had trained you well, so, after all, the success is mine as much as yours."

How could she contradict him? If he found comfort in this thought would it not be cruel to put forward any doubts? So after a pause she answered: "Yes."

"You don't seem very sure about it," with as much "snap" in the words as his breath would allow.

"I should not be where I am now, but for you," she answered gently, and that answer seemed to please him.

Then in a little while: "I must see the books in the morning. I shall soon be able to pick up the threads. There's a country branch, isn't there?"


"Ah, that's good; I gave you that idea." Another fit of coughing. "I shall soon be all right; it's only an extra cold I've got. I'll soon be able to take the reins, and then——" But he was too weak to finish the sentence.

Early in the morning Phebe went to break the news to Jack. He was sitting up in bed rubbing his eyes. She sat down by his side putting her arm round his neck, bringing his sunny head to nestle on her shoulder.

"Jack, darling, I've something very particular to tell you."

"Have you, mummy? What is it? Has Janie got a sweetheart?"

"No, it is something very serious. You must not joke."

"Is it?"—lifting his head to look at her. "Are you in trouble? Who's been hurting you?" in his impetuous way.

"No one. Jack, your father has come home."

"Father!—come home!" in a bewildered voice. "Father come home! I say," and he began to get excited, "I must get up at once. Then he wasn't dead after all?"

"Stay a bit, Jack; he is very ill—and very poor." She knew the dreams the lad had cherished, of how his father would return, of the grand treasures he was to bring his boy.

"Poor!" he exclaimed; "then why didn't he write and tell you so? Why did he leave us all this time!"

"Jack," she answered gently, "I expect it was because he was so disappointed at not finding the fortune," and then she told him all the story of how she had found Ralph.

"Has he asked after me?"

"No, not yet. You see he is very ill."

"Not asked after me! And been here all night!" He was rather glad to have this fresh reason for anger.

"You must not take any notice of that. Remember how ill he is. Sick people cannot be expected to be thoughtful. Get dressed now, and then come and tell him you are glad he has come home."

"But I'm not glad—and I don't want to see him."


"No, I don't; and I won't see him," bursting into angry tears. "What's the good of a father like that! To stay away from us and never write us a letter, and only come back 'cause he's ill!"

"It was I who brought him back, you must remember."

"What will all the fellows say! I've told them——"

"Never mind all that. You can tell them your father has had disappointments, and they will be sorry for him."

"Not they, they'll sneer. Oh, mummy, I am so wretched!"

She tried to soothe him, but the angry spirit had got hold of him too much. "Come and see him, there's a dear Jack. You will be sorry for him when you see how ill he is."

"No, I won't. He's been cruel to you—cruel!"

"Jack," standing straight up and speaking very firmly, "I am grieved, deeply grieved, at your unloving spirit. You had better get dressed and go at once to your aunt's and remain there till you have a more forgiving spirit. How could I tell your father that you refuse to see him!"

It was the first time there had been a cloud between them. Each felt it keenly. Phebe went away with a heavy heart. The burden had more than doubled during that quarter of an hour. How gladly she would have entered the Golden Gate just then! It seemed as if now both husband and son had failed her. Entering the sick-room her eyes fell on the silver star, and the old motto came again to mind: "We rely on Thee." "I do," she murmured, "God is with me; He is working all things right."

"Nanna," exclaimed Jack, when he got downstairs, "I can't find my cap." His eyes were too full of tears to see it.

"Well, you don't want your cap before you have your breakfast."

"I don't want any breakfast."

"Don't want any breakfast! What nonsense! Where are you off to?"

"To aunty's; mummy said I must go at once."

"Mummy did not mean you to go without your breakfast. Of course she will want your aunty to know quickly of your father's return; but there's not so much hurry you cannot have your breakfast."

He had been trying hard to keep back the tears, but could not succeed. "Oh, it's not that," he exclaimed. "Mummy is displeased with me, and is sending me away."

"Jack," said Nanna, putting her hands on his shoulders and trying to look into his eyes, "do you mean to say you are going to desert your mother just at one of the darkest moments of her life?"

"I don't want to go—she sent me away," freeing himself from her detaining hands.

Arriving at his aunt's he was obliged to tell her the whole of the story. She felt inclined to share the boy's anger and resentment in the first moment of excitement, but, afterwards viewing the matter from the mother's standpoint, her words were very similar to Nanna's.

"No doubt you are disappointed, but didn't it strike you your mother must be disappointed, too? I think you've done wrong, Jack, not to stand by her and make things as easy as you could for her."

Poor little Jack! Everybody seemed against him!

"What did Mrs. Colston say to you?" the aunt continued.

"Just what you do," he answered, and then sighed deeply.

"Ah! I thought she would. Your mother must be as disappointed in you as you are in your father, and I'm sure Mrs. Colston would say we disappointed God as much as we disappoint one another."

In less than an hour love for his mother had overcome all pride, disappointment and anger, and he was back home again.

Nanna met him with a smile. "Well done, Jack; you've scored a victory, I can tell it by your face. Mummy will be delighted! Jack, dear, it will do your heart good to see her loving patience. She makes me think of God. Her patience and love are just like what His must be—only, of course, His are bigger. I tell you what you must do when you go upstairs. Don't make any note of your father's funny ways; take notice only of how your mother's trying to win him——"

"Should I go upstairs now?"

"No, your father's dozing. Sit down and have some breakfast. I don't suppose you ate much while your burden was on you. Jack, have you ever heard of St. Bernard's Hospice?"

"Yes, I've seen a picture of it."

"The monks go out with their dogs in the winter to see if they can come across anybody perishing in the snow. They are love-missionaries. I think this house is a hospice just now. Your mummy's found a poor perishing soul, and she's brought it home to get it ready for heaven."

"Is father going to die?"

"Yes; I'm afraid he's not long for this world—the doctor says about a week; so you and I have got to do all we can to help mummy."

"What can I do?"

"A lot. Do what mummy does; show all the love you can."

It was not until Ralph had finished his breakfast that he asked: "And how are the children?"

"There's only one left down here."

"Which one?"

"The boy."

"Well, it's a comfort it's the boy. I expect Washington is a fine lad by now!"

"Washington!"—the name slipped out involuntarily, it sounded so strange.

"Yes, Washington; that's the lad's name, and the one I mean to call him by. You can fetch me up the books now."

Going downstairs she caught sight of Jack.

"Mummy," exclaimed the lad, rushing towards her, "I'm so sorry I disappointed you! I couldn't stop away from you. I'll do what you want me to do, and I'll stand by you through thick and thin, that I will. You'll see if I won't," and the bargain was sealed with a hug and a kiss.

He was received back without one word of reproach. "Jack, if your father calls you by your other name you must not express any surprise. I can get along fine now you are with me."

This little rift in the home-music had puzzled as well as troubled Phebe, but all at once it struck her that God perhaps meant her to see a parable in it, and that was how it was to work good for her. "Perhaps Ralph got away from God as Jack went away from me, because things weren't as he wanted them. But he'll get back again to God, as Jack has got back to me." And the parable comforted her, and inspired her. For God can take even the wayward doings of a petted child to teach His lessons and do His work.

Jack made his way upstairs at once. "Good-morning, father," he said in his cheeriest tone, "it must be nice for you to be home again."

"Yes, nicer for me than you, I suppose"—the words were snappish, but Ralph looked at the boy with a kind of look which plainly said: "You will do."

The business books were brought, but he was far too weak to master them: "I'll attend to them when I'm stronger," he said.

But each new day found him weaker.

If ever a man lived in an atmosphere of love Ralph Waring did. How much of the old love had revived it would be difficult to say, if even any had. But it was a love which was willing to forego self to the utmost, and what love could be richer, more Christlike, than that?

It was a true testing-time to Phebe. It was not easy to relinquish every thread of work in which she had been so deeply interested, and it was harder still, after being her own mistress so long, to submit patiently to that dictatorial voice! It was as though the Great Gardener had taken His cherished plant on to a bleak moorland to see how its blossoms would thrive where the winds blew all around it.

All the town soon knew of Ralph Waring's return, and many were the comments on it. Some said it was "mighty good of Phebe to take the rascal back again," and showed how loving her heart was. Others said it showed that Ralph still loved her in spite of her having driven him from home, and that he could not die in peace away from her.

It was not till the last day came that there was any proof that love had conquered. The doctor's prophecy had not come true, for he had lingered week after week, and even on this last day there seemed no change, except in manner and voice.

"Phebe," the tone was even stronger than usual, but quite startling in its tenderness, "my life has been a failure. I see it all so plainly now."

"This part may have been so, dear; but you must remember this is not all." She had a great longing to soothe and comfort him, but the moments were too precious and solemn to allow her to cover up the truth, however much she might be tempted.

"Yes, but the future must be a good deal according to what the past has been."

"Yes, maybe; but I love to think that out of all our tangles God can produce a beautiful design if we turn to Him with all our hearts."

Ralph sighed heavily. "It has been self all along with me. It was a good thing God did not let me succeed. How I have fought against my failure, what it has cost me to be here receiving all your kindness, knowing all about your success, you can never tell—never!" and for the first time in all her life Phebe saw tears rolling down his face.

"Poor Ralph! I am grieved for you, dear!"

"I know you are," taking hold of her hand and kissing it. "It has cost me a struggle to acknowledge that God has led me right. If I had been other than a bankrupt soul He could not have had mercy on me. He was obliged to bring me low. But I thank Him for it. You do forgive me the wrong I did you?" and he looked so wistfully at her.

"Of course I do, a hundred times over," and she stooped to kiss him, her hot tears mingling with his.

"Dear Phebe——" But strength had gone. With one hand clasping Phebe, and the other his boy, and with Nanna gently wiping the cold sweat from his brow, he passed to the other land. His last words were: "Phebe, come with—me!" But he had started on a journey he was obliged this time to take without her.



In a very few weeks after Ralph's death the whole affair of his return seemed but as a dream, so much had life resumed its old aspect for all in Phebe's household. But the calm was not to last long; there was first to be two big pieces of excitement, and then, as the young folks say in the old game of "Family Coach," a general "change" round.

One glorious spring evening Jim Coates paid Mrs. Waring an unexpected visit.

"I thought you were at Exton," exclaimed Phebe. She knew that Hugh Black had started work there on a very large scale, and that he had given Jim a good berth.

"Yes, I was there; but I have come over specially to see you. I said to my mates, 'If there's anybody that can help us it's the Little Missis. And I mean to go and ask her, that I will.' So I've come."

"Are you in trouble? You know I will do whatever I can for you."

"I know you would, Mrs. Waring, I know you would. But, thank God, it's not anything that is specially my trouble; it has to do with all the lads. They are threatening to come out on strike. They're just mad against Mr. Black, and I thought you might go and see him for us, he would listen to you. It would be no good me going; the lads say now that I'm afraid to open my mouth against him."

"But I should not know what to say to him!" put in Phebe, feeling somewhat aghast at the new rôle which was being thrust upon her.

"I can soon tell you all about it, and then I know right well you'd know what to say—no one better. Mr. Black's got hisself into a kind of a corner. He's promised to have the work done by a certain date, and now he sees he can't do it. P'raps he got the job by making out he could do it quicker than others, I don't know about that: anyhow, he's in a fix, and the lads say he means us to get him out of it."

"But how could you?"

"Well, he wants us to work an hour a day extra."

"Yes, you could do that," put in Phebe again in a quick voice, feeling relieved at this easy way out of the difficulty.

"Yes; but what is he willing to pay us? We work ten hours a day now, and a long day it is at that heavy work, and to put another hour a day on to it without anything extra is what the lads won't stand."

"Do you mean to say he wants you to work that hour for nothing? There must be some mistake!" exclaimed Phebe.

"Oh, yes,—don't make a mistake,—he will pay us the usual money, of course, but the lads say that is not fair, if we work extra when we're tired he ought to pay us extra, specially when it's to get him out of a mess, and—my! he'll make a lot of money out of it too! And what I don't like," continued Jim, sinking his voice, "the fellows sneer at him so; they say he's been harder than ever since he's been a bit religious. 'That's what your religion does for a man!—makes him a bigger sneak than ever.' That's how they talk."

Phebe was silent. If the men did talk like that, then it was her duty to go and speak to Hugh Black.

"And there is something worse still for you to hear," continued Jim. "Mr. Black says if the lads throw the job up, he shall put on a gang of Irishmen, and the fellows say if he does, they will never let them do any work, and there's sure to be bloodshed!"

Another silence. Certainly if she could prevent bloodshed it was her duty to do so! And it seemed to her, too, that the men's claim was a just one; if they were willing to help Hugh Black out of his difficulty he ought to be willing to pay them something extra.

"Are you willing for me to tell Mr. Black all you have just said?"

"Will you go, then?" asked Jim eagerly.

"Why, yes; how could I refuse?" The words came but very slowly.

"There now!" exclaimed Jim excitedly, slapping his hands vigorously on his knees. "There, I said you would, and the lads bet all manner of things you wouldn't; they even said you wouldn't because you couldn't afford to offend Mr. Black. But I told them to wait and see."

Phebe only answered: "Can you tell me exactly what the men would like Mr. Black to do?"

"Yes, I could, but I wonder——"

"Do not hesitate to speak out anything that is in your heart. But I wonder if I could guess what it is you wish to ask me to do! Is it to go and have a talk to the men first?"

"It is!" exclaimed Jim, more excited than ever. "How could you know what was in my mind?"

"Oh, very easily," replied Phebe, laughing.

"I know what the lads want, and you are welcome to tell Mr. Black all I've said; but it will be a heap better if you will talk to the men theirselves."

"Would they be willing for me to be their spokesman to Mr. Black, do you suppose?"

"Why, of course I am. They'd only be too proud if you would."

"When could I see them?"

"They have a meeting to-night——" Again he hesitated, feeling he was asking so much.

Phebe quickly answered, "I will go with you at once," and then added, "Ah, Mr. Coates, it is not the first time you have induced me to go on an errand I have shrunk from!"

"And this one," exclaimed Jim, his face all aglow, "is going to be as well-ended as the other one was, you see if it isn't!"

Half-an-hour's run by the train, and ten minutes' walk brought them to the place of meeting. Many thoughts passed through Phebe's mind during that short journey; how came it she should be led into such difficult positions?—how could she adequately deal with subjects so far removed from those of her everyday experience?

Several of the men were on the look-out for her; evidently her visit was expected, for a potato-basket had been turned up for her to stand on, and a chair provided for her to sit on. The men had gathered, about sixty of them, just at the junction of some country roads, and were standing under the shelter of a high barn-wall, for a rather cold wind was blowing.

Many a rough hand was stretched out in welcome to her, and though she was a stranger to some, no one seemed in the slightest to resent her coming.

"I'll speak first and set the ball a-rolling," she said, in her bright way; "Mr. Coates has told me about the trouble you are in, and it is very good of you to let me share it."

"It does one good to hear her voice agin," said one old man in a very audible whisper, which was followed quickly by a loud "Shut up!"

Phebe went on in her calm, low, but incisive voice, commenting on what Jim had told her, and then she asked, "Who is your spokesman here?"

"Ford!" called out a score of voices, and a thick-set man came forward.

"What do you wish Mr. Black to give you for the extra hour?" she asked.

"A shilling."

"And if he agrees to that, what would become of the Irishmen whom you say are on their way here?"

"Let them go back to their taters," some one called out.

"Oirishmen are as good as ye are!" The accent was so unmistakable that a general laugh went up. But it did good.

"Of course they are," replied Phebe, "and sometimes a bit better, and it is for them I want to plead. If I take any sides at all it will not be for the rich"—a big cheer, and much clapping of hands—"but for the poor and unfortunate. Those men come expecting work; if Mr. Black agrees to your terms you ought to be willing to stretch out a willing hand to those Irishmen. You all know Mr. Black has made an error in his calculations"—cries of dissent—"hear me to the end and I am sure you will agree with me."

"We'll make them listen," called out a strong voice, followed by several others. "That we will!"

"No, friends," Phebe calmly answered, "I will only have a willing audience."

"You have! You have!" they all called out.

"I am going to ask Mr. Black to give you fifteenpence for that extra hour, on condition that you are willing to work 'shifts' with these Irishmen. Couldn't you manage that?"

"No," said Ford, "the days are not long enough."

"Well, what could you suggest that would show that you were willing to do the brother's part by these men, and also show Mr. Black that the English working-man was willing to do as he would be done by?"

Then there followed several little speeches of the usual Socialistic strain, to which Phebe replied: "Yes, I sympathise with you there, but those questions are out of order at this gathering. We must be practical."

"Tell us what you would like us to say to him," said Ford, and another round of cheers followed this suggestion.

Phebe paused for a moment to ask for guidance; the light from the blessed stars was very clear, but just then an added glory was given to the scene by the moon suddenly shining forth. The silver beams brought Phebe a message. "This is what I would suggest, friends," and as she spoke it seemed as if a sudden silence came over the men, "that instead of working the extra hour—for I am sure your day is long enough—you let the new men work with you, and that Mr. Black pay you a halfpenny an hour more than the usual rate—that would mount up in the course of the week; or, if that is not practicable, to work in 'shifts,' as I suggested before, which could very well be done with the aid of electric light. If he preferred the latter plan, I should still advise him to let you work the extra hour at the increased pay I mentioned. Of course this will greatly aid him in getting the work finished, perhaps long before the time. I am not, however, forgetting that the plan will shorten the job for you, but work will surely not be scarce this fine weather. Now, what do you think of my suggestions?"

"I think they'll do all right," said Ford.

"Do you all agree to them, and empower me to say so to Mr. Black?"

"She speaks fair enough," said one man.

"He'll never cave in to all that," called out another.

"But do you agree?"

A great shout went up: "We all agree."

"And will you go on steadily and quietly with your work till you hear from me again?"

"Yes, we all agree!" Every man of them must have joined in that shout by the noise they made.

They all wanted to shake hands with her before she left; several wished her "luck," but one old man said solemnly: "Eh, missis, you're a clever 'un, but you'll never get anything out of Hugh Black."

Before Jim started to accompany Mrs. Waring to the station he whispered to Ford: "There now! didn't I tell you she'd manage the men all right? I knew she'd handle them all neat enough! Trust the Little Missis for that."

"Yes," assented Ford, "she's just splendid, but she won't succeed."

The visit to Hugh Black was by no means so easy an affair as the one to the men had been. When he learnt what her errand was he could hardly believe it. "Whatever will those men get you to do next? I expect the next thing will be, you will represent them in Parliament. I shouldn't wonder, though, but that you'd do it better than the fellow who is there now. But to the point: what have those fellows talked you over to ask me?"

"I want you to understand, Mr. Black, they have not told me at all what to say; what I am going to say to you is my own suggestion, to which they agreed."

"If that is so it will make a considerable difference."

Her first endeavour was to get him to sympathise with the men in their hard toil. She scored a good point when she expressed her surprise that clever men like he was did not invent more machinery to save such heavy toil. "I feel sure you could do it if you tried." From that she passed on to the fact that the men had some time ago found out he was seeking to live his life on a higher plane than at one time. "'A bit religious' is the way they put it."

"Well, what if they do?"

"I want them to see that that bit is real," was her straight answer; "that God has something to do with your business arrangements."

He made no answer, and then she told him the two suggestions she had made to the men, and asked him which he preferred.

"You fairly take away my breath!" he exclaimed. "The last one is a splendid idea! I had never thought of that wrinkle! The men would never agree working side by side, but the idea of the 'shifts' and the electric light is a dazzling one. The wonder is, I had never thought of it myself."

"You think, then, the electric light could be managed?"

"Yes, easily enough. Why, do you know, I should get this contract finished in time to take on another I was thinking I should have to decline! I really ought to pay you for the idea—excuse me," seeing a flush come to her face, "but I am really indebted to you!"

"What may I say to the men, Mr. Black?"

"That I will have the two 'shifts,' and that if they will work the extra hour I will pay them the sum you have named to them. I could do no other after the help you have been to me."

"I wish," she said earnestly, "you had agreed to it out of sympathy with the men, and because you thought God would have you do so."

But he made her no answer.

Early that evening Jim Coates came to receive the message for the men. He lost no time in returning to his mates. They were assembled in the same place as before.

Of course the message was received with cheers. Some of the men could hardly believe their ears.

"Well, I never!" was all Ford and some others could say.

"And I am to tell you," continued Jim, "that when this job is finished, Mr. Black will have another job on hand."

Another cheer.

"And he couldn't have taken this job but for the Little Missis."

Still a louder cheer.

"But there is something else I have to tell you," went on Jim again, "which she said I was to be sure to remember. When you asked her to say what she would have us ask, she took just a moment to ask God for guidance, and at that very moment the moon came out. It was the clear moonlight which brought her the message about the electric light. She says that was God's answer. You know it was all along of the electric light made Mr. Black so pleased; it made the way easy for two gangs of us to be at work, and made it possible for him to take on the other job. So the Little Missis says we are always to remember God will work for us if we will let Him."

There was no cheering after that part of the speech, but the words, "God will work for us if we will let Him," rang in those men's ears for many a long day.

They were repeated to Mr. Black by Jim Coates.

"'God will work for us if we will let Him,'" Hugh Black repeated to himself, "how real God is to that little woman! I wish He were as real to me!" The moonlight never fell upon his path but the words came back to him, and they were always followed by the simple, earnest prayer: "Undertake for me, O my God."

Hugh Black was Mayor of Hadley that year. One day Jim Coates put a little packet into his hand in a very mysterious manner. It contained two pounds in sixpences and threepenny bits, and this little note:

"We'd like you to do something with this that would show our gratitude to the Little Missis.—A few rough Navvies."

He mused over it a few days, then he borrowed a photograph of "the Little Missis" from Bessie, had a coloured enlargement taken from it, then had it framed in carved oak, with the words in gilt beneath: "The Little Missis. Subscribed for by a few grateful admirers."

The next step was to ask permission to hang it in the Council Chamber, which was readily granted. Thus in the very room where she had been spoken of as "a woman whose husband had been obliged to leave her," the portrait of "the Little Missis" had a place of honour.

It was months before Phebe knew anything of this, and when she did, so many other things had come to pass that her mind seemed too full to either grieve or be glad over it.



Eighteen months had gone by since Ralph's death. Nothing of any unusual nature had occurred to Phebe or her household, except the completion of the Garden Scheme and the settling of the dispute between Hugh Black and his men. It had been a true resting-time, without any strain, without any need to study ways and means, and without any attempt to advance in any direction so far as outward things were concerned. And yet Phebe did not feel satisfied; there was something missing, life did not satisfy her in its present outlook. During Ralph's illness all her outside work had been given up, others had stepped in and carried it on, and she had never got back to her old place again entirely. This was not through any unwillingness on her part, it was simply that the way did not open up.

While Ralph was away there had always been a sense of strain and tension which had buoyed her on and on. Now that was removed, and there was no necessity to be on the alert, there had crept over her a weariness and lassitude.

"Nanna," she suddenly said one day, "I am going to leave you."

"Going to leave me!—never!"

"Not for long, you dear; you may rest on that. But I have thought I should like to get right away for three or four weeks. I want to view my life from a distance—that is, if I can. If I get away from my everyday surroundings perhaps I could see it more clearly. I'm not satisfied with it."

"But you would take somebody with you? Your sister?"

"No, not my sister; I should be all the time viewing her life if I did."

"Well, then, take Jack. I should not like you to go alone."

"Yes, I might take Jack."

So the two started on their journey alone, and only Nanna and Aunt Lizzie knew whither they were bound, both of whom were strictly charged to keep the matter secret.

What the mountains are to the Swiss, the sea is to the islander. Phebe and her boy settled down at a watering-place on the east coast, the lad finding endless amusement and instruction among the fishermen, while the mother sat on the green cliffs under the shadowing of blossoming trees, watching the course of the distant river, and the great steamers passing by bound for foreign shores, but intent mostly with the study of the past and future. The steamers made steady progress, but the same could not be said of the personal studies. Day followed day, but no progress was made. She was just where she was when she first came.

"Show me Thy will, O God," she prayed. "Thou knowest my heart is willing for it."

One very warm day she had her sunshade up to keep off a darting sunbeam that would keep dancing on her book, and did not notice a gentleman taking a seat not two yards away from her. When it was nearly time to meet Jack for their evening stroll she suddenly became aware of her neighbour. Both sunshade and book dropped from her hands—only one word escaped her lips, and it was—


Not even in a moment's excitement would he have called her "Phebe" unless in some way she had given him permission, but here it was, and eagerly he grasped it. "Phebe!" and their out-stretched hands met in a tight clasp.

"What brought you here?" Phebe was the first to speak.

"I may ask the same," said Stephen. "But sit down again; this is a quiet spot, and I should like to talk to you." So they sat down again, but close together this time. "I came here," continued Stephen, "to have a quiet time to think things over and to know God's will. Not a creature in Hadley knows where I am. I have long wanted to ask you to be my wife, as I did years ago, and during all the years since then no one has taken your place in my heart—no one ever could. Whether you accept my love, or not, you are still, as ever, my queen." His voice had sunk to a whisper. He knew from the pressure of her hand that it was not likely she would refuse it. "I would have spoken to you before this, but I was afraid—I thought you shrank from me. Forgive me, dearest, if I wronged you."

"You have nothing to forgive. I only seemed to shrink from you because I feared"—it seemed so hard to get the words out, but he wanted to hear, so did not help her at all—"I feared lest you might not respond to my love."

"What, after waiting all these years! Never mind, you shall not reproach yourself. I ought to have shown you more of my heart. But, tell me, will you have this grey-haired fellow for your very own?"

They looked into each other's eyes, the answer was there plainly enough. "You know I will," said Phebe, "but I've nothing to give that is worthy such patient love."

"That is my business," he said, with a laugh, "so don't trouble about that."

"Shall I tell you what brought me here? I was so restless, I wanted to quietly review my life and plan something for the future. Only Nanna and Lizzie know where we are. Jack is with me. But I have been just as restless, and I prayed only an hour ago, 'Show me Thy will, O God.' God must have sent you to me."

"I'm sure He did, my Phebe." There was such a glad ring in the voice.

"If only we could be young again!"

"Look at the sky, dearest!" There were bars of light and dark in the western sky, and above these a flock of tiny clouds. Along the edge of the horizon ran a line of rosy light. Presently the bars merged into dark purple clouds, the cloudlets above took on a rosy light, the glory widened from below and from above, till the whole western sky was aflame with radiant beauty. "That is like our life, dearest," Stephen whispered, putting his arm round her as they sat. "All our clouds which memory may bring or the future reveal are going to be made beautiful, covered all over with rosy love."

"But it's evening, Stephen," she whispered, "the darkness is creeping on," and he felt that she was trembling.

"But we are together. Besides, no illustration can be strained too far: it's evening in the heavens but mid-day in our lives."

"Well I never!"—it was Jack's voice. (Was there ever stranger ending to a wooing!) "Are you two chums?" Evidently he was feeling very annoyed. His mother having failed to meet him at the appointed time and place he had come in search of her.

Stephen jumped up at once, seized hold of the lad with loving hands, and compelled him to sit down between them. "Yes, we're chums," said Stephen, in his old bright manner, "and we want to tell you how it came about."

Jack's face looked rather dark, and he muttered: "This is why, then, mummy wanted to come here so much."

"No, it was not," said Stephen firmly, and then he told him of their unexpected meeting, of how God had seemingly led them both on the path, and of his (Stephen's) boyhood love for his mother. And all the time Phebe said never a word, but sat looking at the two with eyes full of love.

"Ah!" said Jack, with a sigh of relief, "I don't mind now. I thought you'd been keeping it dark from me. But, I say, if you take mummy, you'll have to take me as well! Else what will become of me?"

"Of course I shall; the fact is, we'll all be chums together, won't we?"

"Rather!" said Jack. "I call this spiffin," and then their hands seemed to get all mixed up together.

The next day Stephen had a particular request to make. It was that, seeing he had waited for his love so long, they should be married at once, and Phebe felt she could not refuse him.

Nanna, Aunt Lizzie, Bessie, Reynolds and Jones were all communicated with at once, and on a given day the three establishments were closed, all assistants given a holiday, and the above-named individuals summoned to the ceremony. To please Jack he was allowed to give his mother away, and Reynolds was the bridegroom's best man.

Bessie—the Bessie of old!—was delighted. "This is what I call fine! I'm as happy as if I were being married to my dear 'Darling Jones' over again!" Nanna was just as radiant; her old dream after all had come true!

Once more during the honeymoon Phebe referred to the past. "If only we could have started our life together! How was it I was so blind? Why did not my heart respond to your love as it does now? Nanna was not nearly so blind as I was," and then she told Stephen of Mrs. Colston's guesses that afternoon in the old kitchen where the mangle was.

"I cannot answer your questions, dearest; but I am sure you are the richer women to-day for the trials you have had."

"Yes, Nanna said that day, when I told her I was a Christian, that to be a full Christian was a matter of development, that there were many creases in my nature God had to mangle out. I am afraid there are many creases still left."

"Yes, though we may be blameless before God our education is still going on."

"But I have been far from blameless. I have often thought if I had entered more into Ralph's ambitions it would have been better and his end would have been different. What if I should bring defeat into your life too!"

"Dearest! you have brought nothing but inspiration into my life. You are not to have these sad thoughts. I was not brave enough in the past to show my love, or you might have seen it in a plainer manner—and all would have been different. But we neither of us acted from selfishness. You considered at the time you acted rightly by resisting Ralph's restlessness. God will never blame us for not acting up to any light that was hidden from us. If we have made mistakes in the past God has forgiven us, and therefore we should put the past entirely from us."

"So we will," she answered, with a happy smile; "we are both making a new start, and we will let nothing hinder us."

When the time came for their return home, there was great excitement among many of the Hadley people. The honeymoon had been considerably lengthened at Stephen's request, for two reasons—first, to give Phebe as long a rest as possible; and secondly, to give time for the beautifying of the old farmhouse on the hill above the town. Bay-windows and a porch had been built out, the front garden had been relaid, several rooms refurnished, and all had been kept a grand secret from Phebe.

"I tell you what it is," said Jim Coates, "she shall have a welcome like a duchess, that she shall!" So instead of stepping into a cab as she expected she would do when she came out of the station, Phebe found a carriage-and-pair waiting them, and then at a certain bend of the road a whole body of men suddenly made their appearance, took out the horses, attached ropes to the carriage, and drew it along in triumphant style.

Just for a moment Phebe was quite startled; the idea suddenly presented itself that they were being captured by robbers—it was but for an instant—and then the sight of Jim Coates' face, and the triumphant look on Stephen's, made it all clear to her, and partly laughing, partly crying, she managed to exclaim: "It is too much—too much!—don't let them do it, Steve!" But it would have taken more than Steve to hinder that loyal little band of stalwarts, if even he had been willing, which he was not.

Wreaths of evergreens were stretched across the road, flags were fluttering everywhere; close to the house was a long banner, with the words in red letters, "Welcome home to the Little Missis and her husband."

As the men paused at the gate they had still breath enough to exclaim:

"Three cheers for the Little Missis and her husband!" and great hearty "Hip! Hip! Hurrahs!" rang out.

"But, Steve——" exclaimed Phebe, as she looked up at the unfamiliar-looking house, and then a second revelation came to her.

Steve answered her questioning look with a kiss on her cheek—and then there was another cheer.

Bessie and Janie were both standing at the gate, bearing a great basket of roses.

Bessie had decided that because she had not thought of scattering roses on the path at the wedding, she would do so at the home-coming.

"Yes, she shall walk on roses this time," Bessie exclaimed; "the other time she was married she had only cold potatoes. I mean to make up for that."

The idea of any one walking on cold potatoes fairly puzzled poor Janie. "I never heard of such a thing!" she exclaimed. "I'm sure she didn't when she came home. I was there, and ought to know."

"You know well enough," retorted Bessie, "what a cold welcome she got. Didn't I see you lay the supper-table? And didn't I tell you it looked more like a meal for an errand-boy than for a bride? Don't you remember that?"

"Yes," meekly answered the literal Janie, "but there were no cold potatoes messing about."

So the roses were strewed on her path by the two young women, who though so different in character, had both learnt to love her with a wonderful devotion. But before Phebe trod on the roses, she stopped to kiss her friends, and then turning round to the group of men who looked very hot but very happy, she said: "You have done us too much honour, but may God bless you." They could see that her face was wet with tears as well as radiant with smiles and then another cheer went up for "the Little Missis and her husband."

Dear old Nanna was standing on the doorstep with Jack by her side.

"Welcome home, dear heart!" said Nanna, kissing her and giving her a motherly hug.

Jack stood patiently by till he thought Nanna had had her full share, and then gave her a gentle reminder with his hand that it was his turn now.

Did the sight of the loaded table and the gay, bright room bring back to her any thoughts of the past? If they did, no shadow from the past was allowed to linger.

In a month's time they were all fairly settled down. Jack, Mrs. Colston and Janie had all removed to "the house on the hill," and Aunt Lizzie had taken up her residence at the business establishment, there to remain, God willing, till Jack should reach his majority.

"Nanna," said Phebe one day, "do you remember telling me that a Christian is not perfected till death, that we have to be trained and disciplined? And do you remember what discipline I needed?"

"Yes, I remember it well. You see, I'm always thinking about it because I like to watch the process."

"I have been thinking God has ceased to do any training with me—could it be that He is disappointed with me?—that because I have not come up to what He expected, He has put me on one side."

"Why, dearie, what has put that into your head?"

"What discipline have I got now? Peace and joy and prosperity are with me in abundance."

"All God's training is not done by pain. Bless me, the flowers know better than that! The cold winds and rains make them bloom right enough, but the sunshine has a good share in the work as well. Instead of you having no training just now, the sunshine all round you is doing it as fast as it can. And if God sees you can stand the sunshine without getting puffed up, or careless, or proud—I know you will forgive an old woman's plain words—He perhaps has glorious plans of work for you in the future. He can discipline and train you by all this wealth He has given you."

"Trust you," replied Phebe, laughing, "for never giving me the ghost of a chance of being miserable. I never saw anybody like you for ruthlessly stripping away every shred of the blues!"

"Do you want to keep a few of the blue rags, then?"

"No, you know I do not."

"Dear heart," said Nanna tenderly, "there was a time when you had to search round for your bright bits: now you are surrounded with it, take in all you can get—rejoice and exult in it, and don't lose one bit simply because you have got so much."

When Phebe repeated this conversation to her husband, he added: "If God has crowned you with joy, sweetheart—and I hope from my heart He has done so—do not let anybody put a thorn in the crown God did not mean to be there. I would like to crown you every day myself with joy if I could—my queen!—my ray of glory!"

"But, Steve, be serious."

"I never was calmer in my life. You know I mean every word I say—say you do!"

"Yes, you loyal lover mine," linking her arm in his, "but you don't have a monopoly in love for all that," looking up at him with a smile on her sweet face. "Now, I want to ask you a very serious question."

"Ask on, my queen."

"But it is really serious."

"And so am I. What is it, darling?" bending down to kiss her. He never seemed to tire of proving to himself that she actually, after all the weary years of waiting, belonged to him, and he to her.

"If God were to call me home to-night," she said in a low voice, "I should not want to go. That cannot be a right frame of mind to be in, now, is it?"

"Yes, it is; a perfectly right frame of mind. If you were wanting to go home just now, it would seem to show you were not satisfied with what God had provided for you. When the call does come you may feel very different from what you do now. I never think we can be exactly sure what we should do under certain conditions—supposed conditions. It is only the present moment that we need to concern ourselves about, and I think we can both say we are ready this minute to do God's will. Don't you think so, sweetheart?"

"God's will for us just now is so sweet," she answered, "that I somewhat mistrust myself. But I can truly pray, 'Teach me to do Thy will, O my God.'"

"And that is everything," he exclaimed. "It is by our desires God judges us. And, sweetheart," again bending tenderly over her, "when the call does come, whether to you or to me, we'll clasp hands, if we can, to the last moment, and then we'll wait patiently till we clasp them again in the Sunny Land."

"The Little Missis" had been toe well trained for the sunshine to spoil her—it did but bring out still fairer beauties in her character; and no end of work came to her, or she went to it, whichever way you prefer to have it.

The Great Gardener had kept this flower for long years in an exposed position, where winds and frosts had worked their will; and many a time had He bent over it, with loving look but with firm hand, to shape it into more perfect form and fairer beauty.

And then He said: "I will put it into a sunny place."

He did so.

And there in that place of sunlight, by its very beauty it brought praise to His Name, and the winds which once had been so rough with it, bore its fragrance afar.


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