"Oh, dear! it always does rain when I want to go anywhere," cried little Jennie Moore. "It's too bad! Now I've got to stay in-doors all day, and I know I shall have a wretched day."
"Perhaps so," said Uncle Jack; "but you need not have a bad day unless you choose."
"How can I help it? I wanted to go to the park and hear the band, and take Fido and play on the grass, and have a good time, and pull wild flowers, and eat sandwiches under the trees; and now there isn't going to be any sunshine at all, and I'll have to just stand here and see it rain, and see the water run off the ducks' backs."
"Well, let's make a little sunshine," said Uncle Jack.
"Make sunshine," said Jennie; "why how you do talk!" and she smiled through her tears. "You haven't got a sunshine factory, have you?"
"Well, I'm going to start one right off, if you'll be my partner," replied Uncle Jack.
"Now, let me give you three rules for making sunshine: First, don't think of what might have been if the day had been better. Second, see how many pleasant things there are left to enjoy; and, lastly, do all you can to make other people happy."
"Well, I'll try the last thing first; and she went to work to amuse her little brother Willie, who was crying. By the time she had him riding a chair and laughing, she was laughing too.
"Well," said Uncle Jack, "I see you are a good sunshine-maker, for you've got about all you or Willie can hold now. But let's try what we can do with the second rule."
"But I haven't anything to enjoy; 'cause all my dolls are old, and my picture-books all torn, and—"
"Hold," said Uncle Jack; "here's a newspaper. Now let's get some fun out of it."
"Fun out of a newspaper! Why, how you talk."
But Uncle Jack showed her how to make a mask by cutting holes in the paper, and how to cut a whole family of paper dolls, and how to make pretty things for Willie out of the paper. Then he got a tea-tray and showed her how to roll a marble round it.
And so she found many pleasant amusements; and when bedtime came she kissed Uncle Jack, and said:
"Good-night, dear Uncle Jack."
"Good-night, dear little sunshine-maker;" said Uncle Jack.
And she dreamed that night that Uncle Jack had built a great house, and put a sign over the door, which read:
Uncle Jack and little Jennie:
She was on the way to the grocery. She had a broken-nosed pitcher, and was going for two cents' worth of molasses. Her face was bright, but it grew sober as she passed grandfather. His white head was bowed over his hand, and the blue old eyes were dim with tears. Mollie stopped and laid a little hand lovingly on his white head.
"It will be a nice dinner, grandpa;" she said, and her voice was sweet and loving.
"We've got a little meal, and a little sour milk, and I can make a lovely johnny-cake, and there are two cents for molasses to eat it with, and there are two potatoes to roast, and maybe I can get an apple to bake for sauce. Grandpa I think it will be a nice Thanksgiving dinner."
"Poor darling!" said grandpa, wiping his eyes, "you are something to be thankful for, if the dinner isn't. But I wasn't thinking of dinner, Mollie. I know it will be good if you get it. Grandfather was thinking of his little boy Dick. It was on a Thanksgiving day that he went away, seventeen years ago to-day. It makes old grandfather think of him whenever the day comes round; though there isn't often a day that I don't think of him, for the matter of that."
"But he's a going to come back on Thanksgiving day, you know; and what if this should be the very day. Grandfather, I'm going around by the depot after my molasses, then if I meet him, I can show him the way home."
But grandfather only shook his head. "It's a pretty thought, child, and I'm glad you've got it to help you through the days; but your Uncle Dick will never come home again. I feel it all through me that I will never see him on earth."
"And I feel it all through me that you will. Why I know he'll come. This morning when I prayed for him to come to-day for sure, I most heard the angel saying, 'Yes, Mollie, he shall.'"
Grandfather smiled and sighed. "You've almost heard him a many times before," he said; "but keep on listening, dear, it keeps your heart warm; and we'll eat our Thanksgiving dinner, and thank the Lord for it, and be as happy as we can, for there's many a body has no dinner to eat. I'm sure I don't know where ours is to come from to-morrow."
Mollie shook her brown head. "Now, grandpa, you are not to coax me to keep these two cents and go without our molasses. I've set my heart on a Thanksgiving dinner. I told Jesus I loved him very much for sending these pennies; and we don't want our to-morrow's dinner till to-morrow comes. I'm going now for the molasses, and I shall go around by the depot;" and she kissed her grandfather on his white hair, on his nose, on both sunken eyes, and kissing her hand to him as she ran across the street, she was soon out of sight.
"I wonder which street I would better go?" she said, stopping at the corner, and looking each way with a wise air. "If one only knew which street Uncle Dick might take in coming from the depot, one would know how to decide. I don't see why grandpa should think I am foolish in talking so; of course if Uncle Dick is alive, he will come home some day, and it might be to-day. What if I have said so a good many times, it is true every day, and will be till he comes. I most know he is alive, for people always hear, some way or other, when their friends die. I'm going down Allen Street; that's the shortest road from the depot;" and she turned the corner so suddenly that she ran right against this tall man who had a large valise strapped over his shoulder, and a satchel by the hand.
"Softly, softly, my lassie," he said, as Mollie stopped out of breath. "You nearly tipped me over, to say nothing of yourself. Perhaps while you are finding your breath, you can tell me where to find Marham Street."
"Yes, sir, I can; I just came from there. I live on that street. It is a good long way from here, and you turn up and down about every lane you come to. If you will wait till I go to the store for my molasses, I can show you the way. The store is just down that block, and across the road."
"All right; go ahead. I'll follow. So you are going after molasses, for mother to make a Thanksgiving cake, I dare say."
"No, sir," said Mollie, and her voice took a sober tone, and she shook her brown head with a sigh. "I haven't got any mother; she died when I was a little bit of a girl. I live with grandpa, and we never have any cake; we are too poor; but we are going to have a Thanksgiving dinner for all that. I will have that little, when it only comes once a year. We have two lovely big potatoes roasting at the fire, and I know how to make perfectly splendid johnny-cake, and we are to have this molasses to eat with it, because it is Thanksgiving. I did mean to have a dessert, like grand folks. I was going to have two apples and make some lovely apple-sauce, but I had to give that up. Perhaps by next Thanksgiving, Uncle Dick will come home, if he doesn't come to-day, and then maybe we can have dessert too."
"Are you expecting Uncle Dick to-day?"
"Oh, yes; we expect him every day, but mostly on Thanksgivings, for it was then he went away."
"Where did he go to?"
"Out to Australia, sir; ever so many years ago; seventeen years ago to-day. Grandfather thinks he is lost, but I don't."
Mollie was so busy picking her way across the muddy street that she didn't see the start the man beside her gave, nor the red blood that rolled over his dark face as he said: "What is your grandfather's name?"
"Elias Miller, sir; and he is the best man on the street; oh I guess he's the best in the city. I do wish Uncle Dick would come home and take care of him. If he knew how much he was needed he couldn't help it."
"He'll come," said the tall man, striding on very fast; "which is the way? Oh, you want the molasses;" and while they waited in the store, he picked out a dozen rosy apples and had them put up; Mollie watching with eager eyes. What if he should be going to give her one of them to pay her for showing the way. If he did, grandpa should have his dessert.
The end of this story is one that is very hard to write.
How can I tell you in a few lines about the walk home, and about how the tall gentleman carried the molasses, and said he would step in and see grandpa a minute, and how grandpa's eyes, dim and old as they were, yet knew in a minute that his own boy Dick stood before him, and how they talked and laughed, and cried, and had a wonderful dinner; every one of the twelve rosy apples bubbled into sauce; nor how they moved the next day out of that street entirely into the nicest of little houses, and how roasted potatoes and apple-sauce came to be every day matters to Mollie, and how she made the dearest little housekeeper in the world. You see it can't be done; it sounds like a fairy story, but Mollie knows that it all happened.
Stuart Milburn did not feel very good-natured. "The whole world has gone crazy," he muttered; "anyway this little snipe of a village has. Why can't they let a fellow alone? I don't want them to look after me, and I don't feel in need of their interference either. I never saw such a time; I can't turn in any direction but some old maid will ask me something stupid; and the girls are as bad, and the boys are worse."
Now, what do you suppose all this was about? You will be surprised when you hear, for no doubt you think from his picture that Stuart was a sensible boy.
The truth of the matter was just this: Stuart's home was in the city, but he had come to the country to spend the summer vacation at his uncle's, and have a good time. In his uncle's family were five cousins, three boys and two girls. Robert, the oldest, was five years older than Stuart, and, being a college graduate, Stuart looked up to him and respected his opinion. He, as well as the others, were Christians.
Now, it so happened that when the family of cousins heard that Stuart was coming to spend the summer, they entered into an agreement to pray for him every night and morning, and to do every thing that they could to get him to be a Christian. A most reasonable and unselfish thing, you will say. What would Stuart have thought of them if they had possessed any other good thing in this world, and had kept all knowledge of it to themselves!
But it was this very thing that had vexed him, and sent him off alone with Tiger, that summer morning, instead of joining the cousins in their fun. And yet they had been very pleasant about it all; they had not tried to force him into doing anything that he did not want to do. I hardly know what made him so absurd.
"Stuart," his Cousin Will said, "I wish you were going to Yale with me this fall."
"I wish I were, with all my heart, old fellow," said Stuart, with the utmost heartiness. "I worked like a Jehu to get ready to enter, but I didn't accomplish it; never mind, just you look out for me next fall. I'll be there as sure as my name is Milburn."
"Stuart," his Cousin Robert said, a little later, as they were coming up the walk together, "I wish you were going this road to heaven with me," and Stuart answered nothing and looked annoyed and wished his cousin would let him alone. Now, if you see any sense to that you see more than I do.
As to the "old maids" there was only one of them in his uncle's family, and as she was his own mother's own sister, and he had often been heard to say that she was the very best old aunty that a fellow ever had, one would think he might have excused her for wanting him to go to heaven where his mother had been waiting for him for three years.
However he didn't. It was her softly spoken sentence as they rose from prayers that morning: "I prayed for you all the time, Stuart," that had sent him off in a pet with his fishing rod over his shoulder.
"You may go along," he said to Tiger; "thank fortune you can't talk; if you could no doubt you would ask me to go to prayer-meeting to-night. What a preaching set they are! I wish I had known it, and I would have steered clear of them and gone home with Randolph. Well, I'll have one good day; there isn't a house within four miles of the point where I am going, and fishes can't preach. I will live in rest for one morning. We will have some good rational enjoyment all by ourselves, won't we, Tiger? And carry home a string of trout for Aunt Mattie, to pay her for looking so sober at us this morning."
Saying which he snapped his fingers cheerily at the dog, and sent him in search of a ground squirrel, and made believe that he was perfectly happy. What do you suppose came into Stuart's mind and heart before he had held his rod in the water ten minutes, and followed him up with a persistent voice all the morning? Nothing so very new nor strange, nothing but what he had known ever since he was a little boy five years old, and had stood at his mother's knee, one summer Sunday morning, and said it to her; it was just this little verse: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."
It was wonderful with what a clear voice that seemed to be said over in his ear. He looked around him once, startled, half expecting to see some one, and once he muttered: "I was mistaken, I see, about the fishes; they have caught the preaching fever, and can do it as well as any of them."
But afterwards there came a wiser thought; those were the words of Jesus Christ; what if he were repeating them in his ear. Did he really and truly want him, Stuart Milburn, to follow him?
"Pshaw," said Satan, "that was said to the fishermen at Galilee hundreds of years ago." Still came the mysterious sentence: "Follow me;" "fishers of men!" he said over aloud; "what a strange idea. Worth while, though, to catch men. I should like to be able to lead people. They wouldn't be led, though, I suppose any more than I will."
Over and over sounded the verse, "Follow me." Stuart grew very grave. The moments passed; a fish jerked and wriggled at the end of his line in vain; he did not notice it. Tiger jumped at his heels and talked loudly in his way, but the fisher paid no attention. An important question was being settled.
Suddenly he jerked out his rod, threw back the fish into the water and wound up his line.
"Come, Tiger," he said; "let's you and I go to the woods and find the boys; I have made up my mind to 'follow.'"
Up in her own little room at home, his Cousin Sarah, who was just Stuart's age, and thought he was almost perfect, locked her door and prayed this prayer:
"Dear Jesus: He has got vexed at us all and gone off fishing, by himself. Don't let him have a good time at all; don't let him have any more good times until he finds them in thee."
There is a little nestling among the bed-clothes, and then a ringing voice says: "Well, mamma, here I am; good-morning. Shall I tell you a nice pretty story this morning, while you comb your hair?"
"Oh, yes, indeed."
"Well, once there was a man named Peter, and a naughty king named Herod put him in prison. Prisons are great big stone houses with iron windows, where they put naughty men. Peter wasn't naughty, but King Herod was; and he fastened him to two soldiers; he put chains around his wrists, you know, and then around each soldier's wrist. Then they locked the doors and locked and bolted the great big gate, and went away. Peter went to sleep; and in the night he heard some one say to him, 'Get up, Peter, quick; and put on your cloak and come with me.' Then Peter opened his eyes, and there stood an angel; then he hurried and put on his cloak and his belt, and they went out, he and Jesus—the angel was Jesus hisself, you know—and they went by the soldier, and the soldier didn't say a word; and Peter wondered and wondered how they would get through that big gate that was locked up so tight; but when they came to it, open it swung—there didn't anybody touch it at all—then they went through and went down the street, and pretty soon Peter turned around to say something to Jesus, and he was gone! He had gone back to heaven, I suppose.
"Down street a little ways there was a woman lived, and her name was Mary, and she had a prayer-meeting at her house; ever so many people came to prayer-meeting, and they prayed to Jesus to take care of Peter and let him get out of prison. Peter knew there was a prayer-meeting, so he thought he would go to it; and he knocked at the gate (they had to knock at the gate when they went to see Mary), and a girl named Rhoda went to see who was there; and instead of letting him in, she ran back and said: 'Oh, don't you think, Peter is at the gate.' Then the folks said: 'Why, no, he isn't; Peter is in prison, and the door is locked, and the soldiers have the keys. You are mistaken.' But she said: 'No, I ain't mistaken; I know it is Peter.' So they 'sputes about it and Peter kept knocking, knocking, and pretty soon some of them said: 'Come, let's go see who is knocking, that Rhoda thinks is Peter;' so they went to the gate and there they saw him, and they knew him and they were so glad to see him; they opened the gate and let him in, and they all wanted to talk to him at once, but he beckoned to them to keep still, and then he told them how Jesus came down out of heaven and woke him up, and got him out of prison. Isn't that a nice story, mamma?"
"A splendid story, darling; and every word of it is true. That was your own Jesus that you pray to, who took care of Peter and helped him out of prison."
"I know it am, mamma; I know all about him. Now, shall I tell you another story?"
"Oh, yes; I like your stories when they are as nice as this one."
"Well, now listen; this is my other story and it is all true:
"There, isn't that a nice story, mamma?"
Mamma, feeling a tremendous distance between that story and the last one, concludes that it is time to give the boy his morning bath, and kiss his little tongue into quiet for a few minutes.
It was July, and the great city was very hot. Day after day the fiery sun rose and blazed away with all his might on the dusty pavements and heated houses. All the people too who could were leaving the city.
But the poor were obliged to stay, no matter how the sun beat down into their narrow streets and small stifling rooms. There had been no rain for a long time; many people were sick and dying, and the world looked very dark to some of them. Mrs. Holmes lived high up in the topmost rooms of a tall block of buildings. Her rooms were small and hot, for the sun shone into her windows and upon the roof all the long day. She was a seamstress and a widow with one little daughter, Nettie.
Mrs. Holmes was very sad and troubled, for Nettie had not been well all the spring, and now she seemed like a little wilted flower; no strength, nor appetite, though mamma denied herself everything that she could to get nice little things to tempt her darling. The doctor had said she must have change of air, must go into the country. He might just as well have said she must go to Europe, for Mrs. Holmes had no dear old home in the country waiting to welcome her; no uncles, aunts and cousins, writing "When will you come?" So she sat through the long afternoon and tried to sew as well as she could with the heat, and the flies, and her sad thoughts.
Nettie was lying on the bed asleep, her little face as white as the pillow.
"She is going to slip right away from me, and leave me alone," the poor mother groaned to herself. "Oh, Father in heaven, help me!" she cried. "Show me what to do for my dear little daughter." The help was nearer than she thought.
"Mamma," said Nettie, sitting up very suddenly, "I had a nice dream; I guess I was in the country, for there were trees all around, and green grass, and birds singing; and such beautiful flowers! Are there any flies there?" she said, as she brushed a troublesome one from her face.
The tears came in her mother's eyes, for she remembered dimly the pleasant cool rooms, darkened by blinds and shade trees, where scarcely a fly dared set it's foot, but that was long ago.
Mrs. Bertrand lived in the city, too, and she was a widow also. The difference between her and Mrs. Holmes was that Mrs. Bertrand had a great deal of money, and lived on the broad avenue, in a stone house, with marble steps. She lived there winters, but as soon as the first warm days came she packed all her handsome dresses into her trunks, and started for her house in the country, a lovely spot on the shore of the bay. There she spent the pleasant summers, rambling over her beautiful grounds, resting under the shade trees, or sailing on the bay. Now, she was not selfish and cold-hearted, if she was a rich lady; she truly loved the Lord Jesus, and loved to do his will. So it happened that while Mrs. Holmes sat in her attic, and begged the Lord to send her help, that Mrs. Bertrand sat in her beautiful home, gazing out on the blue waters, and off to the misty hills and rosy sky. Her heart swelled with thankfulness, and she asked the Lord what to do next for him. How easy it is for God to answer people's prayers, if they would only believe it!
She sat and thought a long time of different persons, wondering what she could do for them. But the thoughts that came oftenest, and would not go away, were of poor sick little Nettie, and her sad young mother.
"Yes, I'll do it," she said; "I wonder I had not thought of it before." Then she went to her writing desk, and wrote a letter and sent it off.
Now let us go and hear it read.
"A letter for me!" said Mrs. Holmes. "How strange! Who would write to me?"
The letter was from Mrs. Bertrand, and it said: "I want you and Nettie to come right away and spend the summer with me. I am sure the fresh air will cure her." But that was not all. There was money enough sent to pay their expenses, and buy them each a traveling dress, and some other things.
I can't tell you much about how Nettie screamed for joy, and how her mother cried, then both laughed, and both cried; but I know that not long after two very happy beings dressed in gray, took the morning boat and were brought safely to Mrs. Bertrand's door. Then how they rode and sailed, and took long rambles, and gathered flowers, and thought the time spent in sleep was wasted.
The favorite seat was in the balcony, where Nettie could watch the sea-gulls come and go, and where you may see them all this minute, Nettie, and her mother, and Mrs. Betrand, with her basket of flowers. Nettie's cheeks are getting round and rosy, and it is hard to say who is happiest of them all; but Mrs. Bertrand must be, because you know it says: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
He is a little bit of a fellow. He can't read any more than a mouse can; but he is very fond of standing in this way, beside his mother, while she points to the words and pronounces them; then it is easy to read them.
Last Tuesday morning he was reading this verse: "A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent." There were two listeners to this lesson. Warren's father in the study was having a great hunt after some papers, but in his haste he couldn't help stopping to listen to the sweet little voice repeating the long words.
"Mamma," he called at last, "seems to me that is a long verse, and one almost beyond the little man's understanding isn't it?"
Mamma laughed. "I think so," she said. "But the trouble is Warren doesn't; his sister Laura has been learning this verse, and he wants to."
In the little reading-room opening from the study, Uncle Warren, a gay young chap who was boarding at his sister's, listened and laughed over the words that sounded so queerly, coming from the baby lips. Over and over they were repeated: "A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent." As he listened Uncle Warren's handsome face grew sober, he was writing letters, and many papers were strewn before him. He took up one of them and read it over:
"Dear old fellow:—You have buried yourself in your sister's arms long enough. Don't be tied to her apron-string; come down to-night, we are going to have a real jolly time in Joe's room. Mum is the word."
Uncle Warren laid it down again and took up another. It read:
"Don't allow yourself to be caught in places where everything is to be kept secret. When boys begin to keep their pleasures from their best friends, it generally shows there is something wrong. I've been a little worried about your evenings. I hope you will be prudent as to how you spend them. Remember you are your father's only son."
Over the first reading of this letter, Warren had said, "Poh! Fiddlesticks! He thinks I am a baby," and laying it down had begun a reply to the other, that read thus: "Dear Dick:—I'll be on hand, though I don't suppose our governors would like it much."
Little Warren, in the other room, went on struggling with the long words, "A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent." How exactly to the point it was, even about the prudent part. It startled him a little. He tore Dick's letter into little bits, while he listened and thought. Then he took up his father's letter once more and read it over slowly; then with a sudden decided movement, he tore the letter he was writing into halves, and put it into the waste basket, and rapidly wrote this in it's place: "Dick:—I can't come. My father wouldn't approve; neither will yours. In haste, Warren."
Then he went out and kissed little Warren on his nose, on his eyes, on his chin, three times for each; and that was all that either the little boy or his mother knew about the work that had been done in the library.
Not Tommy Brown, but Brown Tommy. He was all in brown from tip to toe. His hair was brown by nature, and the sun had browned his face and hands. His eyes were a lovely dark brown. He went on a journey on the cars with his mamma, and this is the way he was dressed. He had a brown merino dress, kilt skirt and jacket, with rows and rows of brown buttons all over it; there were two pockets in the jacket; his brown cloth gloves were peeping out of one, and the corner of his handkerchief, that hung out of the other, had a brown flower on it. His stockings were all brown, and his waterproof cape that was hanging on his shoulders was just the color of his stockings. Then he had a Centennial hat, three-cornered, such as old soldiers used to wear a hundred years ago; it had a long brown plume on it. This was Brown Tommy.
How did he act? Well, not so nicely as he looked, I am sorry to say. On the cars, in the seat before him, was a lady who tried to talk with him, but he saw fit not to answer any of her questions. She seemed to think he was a timid little boy, who must be coaxed into knowing her; so she talked on, in a pleasant winning voice. At last she turned to his mamma, and said: "Your little boy can talk, I suppose, or is he too young?" Just that moment, up spoke Brown Tommy, and what he said was: "Did you ever count all the buttons on your dress, or don't you know how to count so many?" This seemed to astonish the lady very much. Her dress was trimmed in the new fashion, with rows and rows of buttons, and Tommy, who is rather mixed up in his counting, seemed to think that it would take a very smart woman to count them all. Having once found his tongue, he kept on pouring out the questions till the lady must have wondered what had become of his timidity. He asked her what was the name of the place where she lived, and how many churches there were, and whether she went to church every Sunday, and whether she sat as still as a mouse. By the time they reached their journey's end, Brown Tommy and the lady knew each other very well; at least, he knew all about her. She said she had never been asked so many questions before in her life.