« ElőzőTovább »
was no answer, and I thought to myself, “ Ah! Mrs. Stone works hard all the week, and washing is a thing every one expects to get home on Saturday-night, though some will even take it on Sunday-morning rather than let it lie over till next day. I suppose she has been up late, and is taking her rest now.” Such were my conclusions, for such were only too natural. I knocked again; no answer : so I raised the latch and stepped in. What a charming kitchen it was ! I never admired the finest carpet as I admired those bright red tiles; and the deep black of the grate, polished and shining like a mirror ; and the mangle, standing quite at rest, but shining like everything else. The clock, a good eight-day one, went tick, tick, tick; but no other sound did I hear. There was no fire in the grate, and not the least appearance
of any one having been in the room ; in fact, except from the clock that kept going on, you would have thought the house uninhabited. " What can be the matter with them all?" I asked myself, as I stood listening: but presently I caught a sound of murmuring voices; I went in the direction, and opened the door of a back-room, which, on work-days, was used for the washing. There I saw what was the matter, and will describe it as well as I can: it is all true.
Just opposite to me, at the corner of the fire-place, was Mrs. Stone, sitting on her low chair, dressed in her decent black gown, with the beautiful clean handkerchief standing out in folds beneath it, and her nicely-quilled cap without a bit of ribbon ; her hands, that never rested from four o'clock on Monday-morning to Saturday-night, now folded quietly before her. At the other side was her husband, his legs stretched out, with clean white stockings appearing above his short boots. Then there was a table, and at the table sat the eldest daughter, a' comely young woman, in a pretty lightcoloured gown with a muslin collar; and there, too, were my school-boys, but one had got a bandage round his head. There were three or four prayer-books on the table, and the girl and the two boys had Bibles open before them, out of which they were reading aloud.
The mother saw me first, and she rose up with a smile. I apologized for my intrusion. Don't say that, please ma'am,” she answered, “it is a favour; but I know what you come about: if you will walk into the kitchen, I will tell you about it, and the children can finish their reading to their father, for we always read the word of God before we go to 66 And now,
church; that makes them understand it better when they hear it read there."
With these words we both returned to the bright kitchen, and there she informed me that one of her sons had been struck on the cheek by a stone thrown by those bad boys, to whose house, also, I was going ; and that she had been afraid of sending them again to the school until the master had spoken to their father : adding that her husband had only received abuse from their mother when he went to complain of her sons.
“I am sorry to tell you this, ma'am,” she said, “ for it is not well to speak ill of one's neighbours; but I do not wish my children to keep company with the Turners, and I hope the master will forbid them from following my boys when they are going to school.” I told her I would speak to the master on the subject, and that I was then going to the Turners' house.
Mrs. Stone,” I said, “ will you tell me how you manage to get everything so nice by this hour on Sunday morning, for I hear so many excuses, that children cannot be dressed, and cannot get their breakfast, in time for school, and that parents cannot get ready in time for church: yet you have as much to do as most people.”
Mrs. Stone smiled. “ Well, ma'am, though I say it, yet I believe I give satisfaction to my employers with my washing, thanks be to God! for it is he gives us power to do all things.” “ But how do you do it?”
Why, ma'am, I believe it is as the old proverb says, Where there is a will there is a way.' You see, ma'am, I cannot do without my sabbath,--glory be to God for that blessed day! We work hard all the six days; at work at four o'clock every morning, and at it till late enough sometimes : so would it not be hard if we had not the seventh day to give rest to our poor bodies, and teach us to feel that we are not to be going on this way through all eternity, but were made to enjoy the presence of God and the glorious rest of heaven?
I looked at the good woman, while she thus spoke, very earnestly, but I did not say a word.
very bold of me, ma'am, to speak so to you,” said she ; for she did not understand that, while I was thus looking at her, I was wishing that I myself, and many others, were like her.
66 It is
Oh, no!” I replied ; on the contrary, I am glad to hear you;
but you have not yet told me how you manage to enjoy your sabbath in this way.”
Well, ma'am, I have not much to tell ; but how I manage is this: when my helpers come at four o'clock on the weekmornings, I say to them, after we have had our cup of tea, • Now, friends, let us read a few verses of the Bible, and have a bit of prayer, to ask God's blessing upon us;' for, ma'am, is it not said in the Psalms that he shall bless our handywork, whatever work it is, if it be done in his fear and love ? praise be to his holy name ! Well, then, ma'am, are washing all the week we need not forget our good God, but do all to his praise, and recollect that we are in his sight; so when Sunday comes round it does not take us by surprise as if it were a new thing, and some strange burden put upon us to serve God one day and serve sin six days. Sunday is God's reward to us, ma'am, because we have been fulfilling the burden he laid upon us, and striving to eat our bread in the sweat of our brow; so he lets us rest and serve him entirely on that blessed day."
I smiled at her, and said, “Well, but Mrs. Stone, how do you manage to get all ready, as I see it now, without such late hours, and hurry and confusion, as I often see in other houses, even where there is a servant-yes, perhaps more than one, to help?”
“I am going to tell you that, ma'am. It is not so hard as people think, though it is hard enough sometimes ; but when we like to do a thing, ma'am, it is wonderful how we do it : a willing heart goes far in a day's work."
" That is true; but tell me straight on all that you do, for it is getting near service time.”
“ I never take more washing than I can get done early on Saturday, unless my good customers let me keep it till Monday, for my helpers have their Saturday evening at home as well as myself. When the weather is wet it is sometimes hard work; but when I can see the ladies themselves that I wash for, they are generally very good, and say, my motives are right, and they cannot find fault if I do not bring home late on Saturday night or perhaps on Sunday morning. So, when all is put away in time, we set to and clean everything up; and the boys are washed, and their clothes put out ready for them to put on when they get up: my daughter does that, and I put all right for my
old man; so we all come down dressed for going out, having only to put on our bonnets. We have
hour is over,
the fire laid ready to light in the back-room there, so that we may have this tidy for the afternoon, and there is so little to do that it is no great work for us to do it when church
and so we have our morning nice and quiet ; and our bit of dinner is all put ready, that it is done just in no time. But whatever we do, ma'am, I think a great deal of saving the morning, that we may feel it different like when we first get up, and keep a quiet mind and a quiet house until we have gone to worship God in the assembly : for thirteen years I have never once been kept from his house: praise be to him for all his mercies !'
I looked at her mild, yet beaming face, and said, “ It is good to give thanks unto the Lord; yea, a joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful.”
“Yes, ma'am, yes," cried Mrs. Stone, “and why should not we be joyful when the Lord hath not only redeemed us from going down to the pit, and ransomed our souls from destruction, but given us this blessed day to be a sign between us and him, to put us in mind of eternity ; because, without the sabbath, the poor soul would be quite lost in all the cares and labours of the body.”
“Well, Mrs. Stone, I must go, else I fear I should be the means of keeping you from church, or at least of making you late there, for the first time in thirteen years. Good morning."
And so I went on my way, and almost wished I was earning my bread, like good Mrs. Stone, by washing all the week, if
would make me feel so delightfully as she did the rest and refreshing wherewith a gracious God causeth the weary in spirit to rest on the most blessed sabbath-day. Yet an allwise Creator hath apportioned to each class the burden suitable to its members; and those who do not earn their bread in the sweat of their brow often eat their bread with greater sorrow of heart, and might find the day of rest a holy remembrancer to their souls of a higher and holier and purer state of being.
The distance that parted Mrs. Stone's pretty cottage from the Turners' was not far. A dirty, broken paling partly fenced the garden of the latter; tall cabbage-stalks were almost all that was to be seen there; the wicket hung half off the hinges, and, as I tried to lift it to effect an entrance, the disagreeable sound of clamorous voices broke the stillness that had reigned around me. I got in, and advanced to the door of the house, which stood open. The house itself was just the same in size as that occupied by Mrs. Stone ; but how differently was it kept !
The scene is still present to my mind—it was such a contrast. The loud quarrelling voices were those of my two schoolboys, who were standing, not half-dressed, on the dirty kitchen-floor to be washed by an older girl, and kicking, struggling, and fighting with her. She had rubbed the face, neck, and arms of one all over with soap, and left him thus whitened until she had done the same to the other. The first boy was fighting to get at the pan of water and cloth, and the clamour and bad language thus caused was not put a stop to by the parents. These were the foremost figures in the scene as I stood at the door. In the middle of the floor the father was sitting on the ground, as dirty as he could be, with a great number of dirty shoes around him, and a small pot of blacking beside him, quite indifferent to the strife and noise the boys were causing. Two or three dirty children were playing about; and in a small room, or rather closet opposite the door, the mother stood with her back turned and her arms buried in the kneading trough, making bread. What a contrast to Mrs. Stone's cottage! One of the boys seeing me, cried out, “ Mother!” in a tone that made the woman look round. The man, though he saw me, never stirred. She came towards me, wiping the flour from her arms.
While I was telling her I had come to see after her sons, she struck one of them, who was struggling with his washer, a violent blow, and uttered harsh words to the other, saying, their absence was their own fault; that they were idle, dirty, quarrelsome creatures, and the plague of her life. loudly retorted, affirming that they could not get dressed, nor have their breakfast in time to go to school. But when I reproved their conduct and manner, the mother at once began to excuse and defend them, saying that it was the truth they spoke; that it was easy for the rich, who had every day to themselves, to manage better, but that they worked hard all the week, and Sunday was all they had to themselves.
“ Yes,” I said, “it is true, Sunday is all you have to yourselves, the poor man's day; therefore, I am surprised you do not make it what it is meant to be a day of repose, and peace, and rest, and joy. You were tired, I dare say, last night, but half an hour's more work would have done a great deal towards giving you a quiet and Christian-like Sunday morning. If the boys had been washed, and the bread baked, I think you would have enjoyed this sweet morning