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whatever shall I do? My Sunday was the only day when I could hear anything good. Do you think our minister will ever preach again?” A little further on was a weary mother; a look of pain and wonder came over her face. But she said she did not blame the minister: she knew how hard it was on such means as his honestly to pay one's way.
How sadly did Christian families meet together that evening! Fathers and mothers, who had striven to cultivate in their children a love for God's house and worship, now looked round with pain on their restless, dissatisfied children, and heard, with a strange sorrow, their eager questionings as to the meaning of it all; while they confessed that they had never before spent such a Sabbath in their lives, and hoped never to again. Many a man, who for years looked
his Sunday as a toiling sailor looks on the quiet waters of the harbour, felt an unrest he had never previously known. No thoughtful meditations; no song of lofty praise; no comfort from communion in prayer ; no golden light of a better life had broken in upon his spirit. A sense of loss was felt on every hand; and men suddenly realised, as never before, the utter mournful void their lives would be on a “Blank Pulpit.” I myself could bear it no longer, and hastened away to call upon my minister; but just as I was shaking hands with him I awoke, and lo!- to my delight—I found it was dream.
A dream, and yet not all a dream. It seemed as if to me, in those strange moments through which I had passed, a voice, not human, had spoken. The worth of the minister's work appeared to me in a new light. I could not help feeling that I had been guilty of neglect. I seemed to fear a fulfilment of the ancient prediction“Behold, the days come,” saith the Lord God, “ that I will send a famine in the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord.”
But I was not content with self-rebuke, or useless regrets, or new theories, or even with talking about the matter. There has been talk enough about the subject to last for a generation. I didn't cry long over spilt milk. I at once called together a meeting of my brethren the deacons. I told them of my dream, and of the impressions it had left, and of the convictions it had awakened in my own mind. They caught the spirit I had caught. We resolved to act. We devised fresh plans of Church finance. We set the example of
how to carry them out. The Church backed us up; and from that day and that dream we have dated a new era in our Church work and life. We resolved to be just before we were generous :" honestly to pay our own debts before we undertake the liabilities of charity. And the results have been more than we expected. The benefit to the minister has been great; but I think the benefit to the Church has been greater. Our giving has now become a part of our Sabbath duty and of our Sabbath joy. We “bring an offering and come into His courts ; ” we · honour the Lord with our substance and the first fruits of all our increase”; and while we worship God with gists as well as with song and with prayer and with holy thought, I hope we have learnt to say, with a nobler faith and a grander meaning, “ Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.”
Rubie didn't answer a word, for in her naughty little heart she had firmly resolved not to be a good girl at all. She was a truthful child; moreover, she hated to hurt her mother's feelingshence her silence.
So the horses started, and poor sick mamma was whirled out of sight, carrying with her the memory of a fat pouty face, with brown eyes fixed steadily on the ground. Mamma couldn't see the tears -no, indeed! Rubie took good care of that. But as soon as the carriage was really gone, she ran upstairs to her own little bed-room, bolted the door, and cried as if her heart would break.
Kind Aunt Sophy knocked twice, but received no answer. The little damsel refused to be comforted. She knew that poor mamma had been very ill, and that the doctor said change of air was better than medicine, but that, to gain strength, she must be entirely free from care. Consequently, Rubie had been left at home. “ As if I was a care!” she said indignantly to herself; “ I could hand her her medicine, and do lots of things ”—and the tears flowed afresh.
Dinner-time came, and a woe-begone little figure crept slowly downstairs, and seated itself at the table. She didn't intend to eat anything-oh, no! but Aunt Sophy quietly helped her, and to her
own surprise she discovered that she was really hungry, having forgotten her usual lunch.
It was astonishing how much better she felt after dinner. To be sure, papa and mamma were gone, but Aunt Sophy's face looked very pleasant as she sat sewing in the low rocking-chair. At any rate, the baby thought so, for he reached out his little hands to her with an irresistible crow. And then Rubie began to think how much better the baby was bearing his trouble than she was, how good Aunt Sophy was to come to them, and how much pleasanter it would be if she could just make up her mind to be good. But she couldn't--not just yet. No! Aunt Sophy needn't have come unless she wanted to; and as to the baby-no wonder he didn't make a fuss! he wasn't old enough; he didn't know enough; but she did;” and an ominous shake of the little curly head seemed to say, going to do it, too."
Aunt Sophy was wise enough to see that a storm was brewing, but with infinite tact succeeded in keeping it off until bed-time. Then she'drew a long breath of relief, for surely a good night's rest must calm that little troubled spirit, and smoothe the wrinkles from the scowling forehead !
“It's half-past eight, Rubie-long past your bed-time. Put dolly away now, and I'll go up with you." "I'm going to sit up to-night,” replied Rubie, resolutely.
Are you? What for ?” “ Miss Jackson is very sick. She needs mustard-poultices. I must watch with her.”
Miss Jackson was an ancient dolly, with a wooden head, from which the paint had long since departed. Frequent warm water baths had obliterated all traces of her eyes but the holes; which was very convenient, for she could be blind or not, at her little mistress's pleasure. To night she rejoiced in a pair of jet-black orbs, which Rubie had made with pen and ink.
What is the matter with Miss Jackson?”
“It looks like it, indeed,” replied Aunt Sophy, who could hardly help laughing at the startled appearance of the fearfully black eyes. So you are going to sit up all night?” “Yes," with a pucker of determination in the little set mouth.
Very well; I must go up to baby now. I'll come in and see you before I go to bed."
Rubie stared. Could she have heard aright? She had expected violent opposition, and was prepared to battle with it valiantly. What could Aunt Sophy mean? Was she really going to let her sit up all night? She felt almost injured at the thought, and her project had already lost its principal charm.
But nothing of all this was visible in the little face that Aunt Sophy saw on her return. The brown eyes were gazing anxiously at Miss Jackson, on each of whose wan cheeks reposed a mustardplaster (Rubie knew quite well how to make them, she had seen it done so often for poor mamma), and whose best dress, of green plaid silk, had been exchanged for a yellow flannel night-gown.
Aunt Sophy produced a candlestick, lighted a candle, and turned
off the gas.
“ I'm going to leave this for you, Rubie,” said she. I think it will last as long as you need it. The fire will keep until morning. Promise me that you will not go near the stove."
Rubie longed to throw her arms around Aunt Sophy's neck, and give her a good hug, but she didn't. The kiss was given very quietly, and then the door shut, and she and her charge were alone.
Dolly suffered acutely for half an hour, in the course of which time her plasters were changed an incredible number of times. Then her little mistress became tired of the performance. The stillness was oppressive. It really was very provoking that Miss Jackson was not gifted with the power of speech. Stupid old thing!” Rubie said to herself, “ I shouldn't care much if she did die. I believe I'll take off her plasters, and put her to bed. She must learn to bear her own pains. I have to when I have the tooth-ache. I must wash her eyes out first, so she'll go to sleep.”
Miss Jackson meekly submitted to that painful operation, and was reposing tranquilly upon the sofa. Rubie had settled herself in the big rocking-chair, and was suspiciously quiet for some time, when the kitchen clock made her start. She counted the strokes. Could it be twelve o'clock? How strange it seemed down there all alone! Where was she when it struck"
“ten and “eleven"? Twelve o'clock! Midnight! She had never been up so late but once in her life before, and that was when mamma was so very ill, and papa just took her to the bed and let her look. How good mamma was ! Rubie remembered how often she had to lie down while making her
little piqué dress. “And I wouldn't even promise to be a good girl," she thought, with almost a sob. What if mamma should die!” Here, in the midst of her sad reflections, she heard a faint rustling on the sofa, and all at once she thought of Miss Jackson. Alas! neuralgia and mustard-plasters were nothing in comparison to what she was now suffering, for two little mice were busy at work ; yes, upon her very vitals, which were pouring out in a stream of saw-dust and bran !
Rubie was mortally afraid of mice. Moreover, notwithstanding her late impatience, she loved Miss Jackson. She gave one loud shriek, which effectually frightened the little animals, and brought Aunt Sophy to her side.
‘Oh, auntie !” she sobbed, “ the mice were eating Miss Jackson
Didn't you see them coming ? “No; I wasn't looking. Oh, I don't want mamma to die, auntie!”
Aunt Sophy took the poor excited child upon her lap, and rocked her without a word, until the sobs had ceased. Then she told her that mamma was growing stronger every day now, and a month of quiet rest would probably make her quite well again; that it had troubled her very much to go away, and leave her children, but the doctor said it must be so.
Rubie had heard all this before, but, somehow, she realised it now for the first time.
“Mother will think a great deal about her little girl and boy at home,” said Aunt Sophy. “It will grieve her if they are not happy." Rubie couldn't speak.
The baby behaved like a man to-night; and if you will help me, too, we shall get along nicely.”
“ I will—I will-oh! I'm so sorry.”
Aunt Sophy kissed the quivering lips, then took Rubie upstairs to her room, where baby was sleeping quietly.
“ Why, auntie,” inquired the little girl, much surprised as she. looked at the nice smooth coverlet, “haven't you.gone to bed yet?”
"No," replied Aunt Sophy, quietly; “ I was waiting for some one."
Rubie hid her face, and her only answer was a closer hug. The next day she dictated a letter to her mother. It was as follows :
MY DEAR MAMMA,-—I want you to get well. I will be good. The baby was good last night, but I wasn't. Aunt Sophy didn't go to bed