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As brambles entangle the feet,
Little troubles our comforts may clog;
Need not make us jump into the bog!
"Tis a terrible place that bog!
I never could bear to be in it;
And be out of the mud in a minute I
Before the last notes of the chorus were over the kettle was singing its own merry tune, while the white steam rose out of its spout.
"Now for a good cup of tea," said one of the elder ladies, as she lifted the boiling kettle from the fire.
"Here is the tea to put into the pot, and here is the sugar to sweeten it," cried Harry; "and here—no, where is the milk?" he added, looking around him to find it.
"Dear! dear! we've quite forgotten the milk!" exclaimed Nora. "But never mind that, we shall do very well without it."
"You may, but I can't!" cried Milly, looking disappointed and sulky. "How stupid it was to leave it behind! I never can drink my tea without having plenty of milk."
"There's 'the backward swing'!" thought Harry.
"Let's go to yon cottage at the side of the lane," suggested Nora, "and try if we cannot get there a drop of milk for Milly."
Off scampered Harry and his sister; and Milly, who was rather curious to see the inside of a cottage, was not long behind them. She came up with Harry and Nora just as their tap at the cottage door was answered by its being opened by a girl from within.
The scene was a novel one to Milly. Half a dozen children of various sizes, but all with shaggy hair, sunburnt faces, and clothes patched and worn, were seated at a deal table eating their noonday meal. It was a very different dinner from that to which Milly Brooks was accustomed to sit down every day, too often with peevish looks and a discontented spirit. The cottagers had a lump of bread on the table, and in a wooden bowl a mess of plain boiled rice. There was not a scrap of fish, flesh, or fowl to be seen in the place; and yet the little family looked quite contented and happy.
"Pray could you kindly let us have a little milk?" said Nora May, speaking as politely to the poor girl as if she had been addressing a lady.
"Please, miss, we've never a drop," replied the cottager, looking with surprise at the gaily-dressed visitors who stood at her door.
"It's surely no great hardship for us to go without milk in our tea for once," remarked Harry, as he and his companions turned from the door. "I suspect that these poor children want a good many things which they never can get, and yet what merry grins were on their rough little faces."
"Harry, such a famous thought has struck me!" cried Nora, her eyes sparkling with glee. "We've brought for our pic-nic more good things than we can possibly eat. We'll ask if we may not carry off some to that cottage. Would it not be a treat to the ragged children to have pies and cake with their bread, and fruit to eat with their bowl of boiled rice?"
"It would be jolly good fun for them," cried Harry, "and almost as much for us."
Nora's kind plan was soon carried out. She and Harry returned to the cottage laden with good things, which made the poor hungry children open their eyes wide, and their mouths too, as soon as the pies, the cake, and the fruit had been set before them. Milly, in her skyblue jacket and scarlet skirt, stood at the door watching their eager, joyful faces; and when she glanced at Nora and Harry she saw all the cottagers' pleasure reflected on theirs.
"How easily some people are made happy," thought the poor spoilt little lady, as slowly she sauntered back to the party gathered near the fire, who were laughing and chatting over their milkless tea. Milly almost envied the little cottagers their power of enjoying; they had the sauce of hunger; they had the milk of content.
Harry and Nora followed, jumping and skipping over the grass, all the more able to relish their feast and their fun because they had cared for others, and let the poor have a share.
About an hour afterwards the pic-nic party broke up. Milly bade good-bye to her companions, and in her mother's fine carriage drove quickly back to her home.
"Have you been happy, very happy, my darling?" asked Lady Milicent Brooks, as she welcomed her daughter back.
Milly gave no reply; she was tired and disappointed, and cared not to give an account of the day which had brought to her so little of the pleasure which she had expected.
I hope that none of my readers are like poor, spoilt Milly Brooks;— for let the peevish and discontented be sent up ever so high on the airyway of pleasure, there always comes "the backward swing;" and the worst part of the matter is, that that backward swing is pretty sure to land them, as it did poor Milly, right in the Ill-temper Bog!
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HATEVER mine ears can hear,
Glorious clouds! as ye sail
Over the clear blue sky,
In clouds shall descend from on high!
Ye sheep that on pastures green
Ye bring to my mind
The Shepherd so kind,
Who supplies all His people's need.
The birds as they soar aloft,
The flowers as they bloom below,