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• Who is there?'
‘My dear Ellen, you must get up. I have brought in two poor little creatures out of the country, dripping, and houseless. I suppose they will do for us?'
. Just light our class-room fire, it is all ready, and I will come to you,' was the ready reply.
Mr. Sandford returned to his charges. He considered what should be his next move; but children and bread and butter are inseparably connected in all our minds. He cut some thick slices, and took them out into the passage. Robin thankfully accepted, but little Amy shook her head. Then Mr. Sandford busied himself with the fire, but he would not bring the little wanderers in, to dry their dripping clothes upon them. He waited for his sister. Their one servant's rest should not be disturbed if it could be helped ; her day was so full of work that she should not be called unless it were absolutely necessary. Not that her day was much fuller than that of her master or her mistress, but they had made this considerate rule, and usually kept it the more carefully, from their knowledge of the maiden's willing mind.
Miss Sandford was not long in coming. “Oh, John, that child is ill,' said she, looking at Amy. “Poor little things ! how thankful I feel that you met them, and that we are quite ready to take them in.'
Mr. and Miss Sandford had planned a small orphanage in connection with their national schools, where there were two small dormitories; and these children were the first gleanings for the new scheme. Here a houseless friendless child might be occasionally trained for service. Such plans, of which there are so many at present, were then comparatively rare.
The trembling sinking little one was undressed, and laid in a little bed in a closet near Miss Sandford's room. This had been made ready for an emergency; and here was the emergency at once.
And Robin was dressed in some dry clothing, and sat by the fire with Mr. Sandford, When his jacket was removed—it was thick, and he was not so thoroughly soaked through as his sister—the parcel appeared tied round his waist. "What is this ?—your clothes ? asked Mr. Sandford.
Mother's parcel. It's Mrs. Sutton's. I'm so glad it's safe! I forgot it,' added he, crying.
You need not cry, as it is safe, whatever it is,' said his friend kindly.
'I cry about Mother too,' said Robin, the tears continuing to flow. And she told me about the parcel. “It's important," she said; and Mrs. Sutton must have it! * Very well; and so she shall, if we can find her,' said the good clergysatisfaction in finding that his home had been with Gipsies; it made the clergyman contemplate the possibility of cunning, but speedily again to dismiss the idea. Nor, since there were no parents, would it be needful to return the children to their former doubtful mode of life.. Besides, they did not look like Gipsies ; there was more to learn, perhaps, another time.
* And now, my boy, tell me where you come from? Robin told his tale, and Mr. Sandford felt quite assured of its truth. He pitied the friendless orphan, and his interest grew as the story proceeded. It was mostly elicited by questions. There was no particular
* And now, my boy, listen to me. You have been very unhappy; but look up, I think it is over now, except your loss, which we cannot restore to you. We shall take care of you here, and you need not leave your sister. You will both learn in our schools ; and if you are good children, you will be provided for.'
And Robin said, “Thank you, Sir,' and smiled. The cold chill had not left his heart, but he could give the kind gentleman his first smile since he left home, and he did so.
Mr. Sandford did not quite like to leave his new charge wholly. It would be foolish, perbaps, to do that. So he told him to lie down in the warm room, and the clergyman went into the library, leaving the door open, and busied himself with his books.
Miss Sandford did not rest again that night. She sat by the little one's bed-side, or visited her from time to time; and in the morning, calling the maid earlier than usual, she sent her out with a message to the doctor.
LITTLE Amy lay for many days between life and death, and Miss Sandford nursed her with unremitting care. The child was often totally unconscious; the pulse was low, and the life seemed ebbing out. But a change came at last, and the danger passed away. Those who have ever tended a helpless stranger for their Saviour's sake, well know the marvellous love that has grown in their hearts towards the object of their solicitude; and in this case, to watch over a lamb of the Fold, such a child as Ellen Sandford's little charge, this was a pleasure not many need look for in their ordinary district' work. Yet some of our readers may have a tale to tell, and will be able to uphold our narrative.
“I must again suggest your taking another maid, before you quite wear out,' said Mr. Sandford to his sister one evening as they sat at tea, (with open door, that they might hear of the little patient, if necessary.) It was after the improvement had taken place, and Miss Sandford had no fear in leaving the little girl asleep.
* Estimated refittings, &c., &c., £500, was Miss Sandford's reply. “No, my dear John, no unnecessary expenses, if you please. The maid will not be required, and the worst is quite over now.'
‘But you ought to have done it sooner, I fear,' returned her brother. ‘I would not have you “ down” with sever from over-fatigue.'
'I am not over-fatigued ; and besides, there would be difficulties that, if you will excuse me, you cannot know. The strange maid could not be trusted to nurse a child in such a state, and she might quite upset the house if she took Ann's department. And besides, we want the money. My views are mercenary, as you may perceive.'
. All very wise, if you are not laid up.'
'I promise you that I will make a change upon the very first hint my bodily frame may give me. Will that suffice? And with regard to nursing that child, it is one of the very sweetest labours that ever fell to
Grateful, patient-nay, holy. It is like the care of a little angel, so far as my ignorance can say. And so trusting!
“Yes; I have observed that she receives the few words I say to her in a perfectly unquestioning manner, and tries to follow the short prayers in a very touching way. She is certainly a most interesting child: what will be her future? She seems now so ready, that I can scarcely wish her to get well.'
'I felt as if I could not spare her, almost,' said Miss Sandford ; though, had she been taken, I believe I should have felt particularly happy, after a time.' *How is the ancle going on?'
well now, but the doctor believes that it will improve if she gets stronger; and once in good health, he says that it would heal entirely.'
We must do our best for her. And perhaps it will be as well not to take another mouth into our household just now,' continued Mr. Sandford, smiling. That is, if we can safely avoid it. Does she ask for her brother now?'
‘Not again, since I explained that it would be best for him if they did not meet at present; though Mr. North does not fear much about infection, only he said that he thought children were better away.'
You must not make too much of a romance out of this first gleaning for our orphanage,' observed Mr. Sandford.
'No, no. I am very matter-of-fact; it is all reality. I do not mean that we can never be disappointed in this little one, though I earnestly hope not; but I have spoken of her as she is now.'
*How that poor boy fretted about his sister!' observed the clergyman thoughtfully. “It quite troubled me to see him. And they have no one but each other in this world.'
'You like the boy a little bit, I see,' said Miss Sandford.
• Indeed I do,' replied Mr. Sandford readily. And how quick the little fellow is! He will be in our first class before we can look round, in spite of the temptation of his slate. “My scribbler," Mr. White calls him. I doubt if he ever writes a copy without making an etching somewhere; and if you see the left hand closed, it is because there is a penand-ink scrawl upon the palm.'
"He must get himself into trouble, then, sometimes.'
"Yes, he does ; but it is no great wickedness. He takes his punishment quite quietly, regarding the circumstances as cause and effect, no doubt. He is a very odd boy, but a bit of a genius, I believe, and will very likely turn out something beyond his class, if not desultory.'
'Here, then, is your piece of romance,' said Miss Sandford, laughing. Keep it, by all means, only pray let us take care how we make favourites of the orphans, with such a very large family to encourage in welldoing.'
Never fear me,' returned the clergyman. I know the danger of it, and the very ill feeling it calls up, especially in inferior minds; but perhaps the caution we have so kindly given each other may not be without its uses for us both. But now let us have a little "mercenary” talk. I am going to have a collection in church for these re-fittings, and to write out a circular for those non-worshippers, one of whom was wittily called a “buttress of the Church.” I wish, I am sure, that they may prove half as useful, and not more responsible for their position.'
We will do them the favour to apply their money to any extent, if they will only send it,' observed Miss Sandford.
• The extent will be but limited, I fear. People are rarely very neglectful of one duty, and at the same time very earnest concerning another,' continued Mr. Sandford. “But my mind is made up to go on asking and preaching for this object as long as I live, if necessary; and if I do not complete my work, I charge you to lay the injunction upon my successor.'
"“ Ben cominciato, mezzo finito,”' replied his sister, I have found that proverb true as long as I have known it.'
You are always encouraging, Ellen, I must say. The beginning is certainly made already. What a comfort it has ever been to me that you are not a croaker: “It will be of no use. You will never get the money. You are only hampering yourself,” and so on.'
Now, John, you are thinking of an unhappy neighbour of ours, you kpow.' • How can I help it? I do often think of that poor man.
Such a companion for life would weigh me to the ground. I do not allude to her maliciously; only with the recollection of my own happier circumstances came the pity for another's lot. But now we really must be practical, and very mercenary indeed for a little while.'
So the tea was removed, and forth came the directory, and written lists, and various other papers, and the brother and sister were immersed in business until it was time for the evening prayers.
Shall you not prefer our not attempting to go through all this business with them?
(To be continued.)
“So they sailed and sailed until they came to a beautiful island, where cheese-cakes grew instead of flowers. What is an island ?' said the school-mistress. A dozen little arms were stretched eagerly forth, a dozen pairs of lips parted to reply. The children were sewing; the mistress was telling a story, now and then asking a question in geography or arithmetic. The children were so happy that they paid no heed to the laburnum boughs which tapped against the window, and only one naughty little head was busy counting the tiny, green, half-formed gooseberries which were in sight through the open door, hanging like tassels on the squabby bushes beside the red-tiled garden path, on which the spring sun was shining. The smell of the ladslove and lilacs came in both strong and sweet, with the sound of birds singing, cows lowing, and the rumble of carts in the lane. The sounds were low and sleepy, however, for the school stood in a nest of turf and trees, and everything was quiet there, except the children, who were noisy enough at times, you may be sure.
Presently, the little gate was heard to swing open, and a heavy step to come trampling up the tiled walk. Others besides the child who had counted the gooseberries forgot the island where cheese-cakes grew, and turned their heads towards the door. When they saw who was coming, their eyes grew large and round. Black Bill, the wickedest man in the village, had come to terrify those timid little birds in the green nest. But Black Bill, although even dirtier and more ragged than usual, was not frightful to-day, for he was sober, and his face looked puzzled and even kind. The mistress, who had risen like a mother hen to protect her chickens, smoothed down her ruffled feathers when Bill scraped his foot in what was meant for a bow, and came shyly a few steps towards her, with a wet bundle in his arms.
‘Look ye, Mrs. Lester,' he said ; this is a little lass, this is. I found her down among the sea-weeds, high and dry on a bit of an old raft that the tide had washed in along shore. For cold and all, she were welly dead, poor little soul, but she bean't rightly dead yet, I'm thinking, and I didn't know where to bring her to if it wasn't here. For children and you come into one's mind together natural, Ma'am.'
He meant this, not only because Mrs. Lester was a school-mistress, but because she was such a bonny, plump, rosy little woman, with a child's face of her own still, and a great love for children, who all loved her.
The man sat down on one of the benches and began to unfold the bundle. Then indeed the little ones saw that it was a girl, but her face was so pale and still, that they were frightened, and some began to cry. Mrs. Lester opened the door of her own little parlour.
Bring her in here, Bill,' she said ; 'I will try what I can do; I fear it will be of little use.'