« AnteriorContinua »
verse, God being willing, to-morrow.
It is a pretty verse, and the words of it have often cut me to the heart, bringing to my mind my behaviour to my own
“ Did not you behave well to your mother, Mary?” said Lucy.
“ There was nothing in my behaviour particularly bad, Miss," answered Mary ; many
children behave as bad, and many worse ; but still my behaviour, such as it was, has often cut me to the heart to think of : ay, and still continues to do so to this day. Disobedience to parents, my dear Miss, is one of those sins to which man's vile heart is naturally inclined ; just as it is inclined to murder, adultery, covetousness, and hatred to God.”
Do, Mary," said Lucy, “ tell us about your mother, and how you behaved to her."
“I have nothing worth telling, Miss, in my life,” said Mary; “ but such as I have to state, you shall hear.”
MARY BUSH'S STORY.
"I was born,” said Mary Bush, “in this very cottage, and have lived here all my life, saving only six years, when I lived servant at one Farmer Harris's, of Hill-top Farm, about ten miles from here. My father was a woodman, and lived by cutting wood in this coppice. This house and garden were his, and had been in the family time out of mind. My father and mother were pretty far in years when they were married, and I was their only child. I remember
my father : he died when I was only six years old, being killed in felling a large tree at the back of the coppice. After his death, my mother let that part of the house in which Margery and her husband now live, and the garden, to one John Stinton, who paid her fifty shillings a year for the same.
very little of
Stinton was a hard-working man, and civil enough ; but he had a large, ill-managed family, and his wife, though industrious and clean, was an ungodly woman. John Stinton had two girls, Fanny and Dolly, about my age; but these girls were living with their grandmother when John first took the cottage, and did not come home till after their grandmother's death, which happened when I was about eleven years old.
My mother kept for herself the little room in which I now live, and a little corner of the garden for pot-herbs. She was allowed by the lord of the manor to pick sticks out of the coppice for her fire, and she made a little money by spinning lamb's wool, and making it into stockings ; so that with the fifty shillings she received yearly from John Stinton, she made a very comfortable livelihood. She was as good and quiet a woman as ever lived; a little thin body. I think I see her now, with her brown every-day gown, and her blue apron and white mob-cap, and her spectacles at the top of her nose. She was one who had always lived in the fear of God, and gloried in the cross of Christ, and was withal of a very sweet and even temper; so that, perhaps, a better wife and mother had never lived. For a poor woman, she was an excellent reader : such a Bible-scholar there was not then in the parish, excepting Mr. Best, our old rector, and he was a wonderful man at the Scriptures. God bless his mem
“So my poor mother and I lived together in this little room : she taught me to read, to spin, to knit, and to sew; she made me help to weed her little garden of pot-herbs, and to clean our room : and it was also
my work to gather wood for the fire, and, as I got older, to fetch lambs' wool from the farmers, and flour from the mill; that my time was fully ployed, and passed very happily, till John Stinton's two girls came home. As soon as my mother saw them, she feared that they were not fit company for
me, and she forbade me ever to play with them ; giving me as a reason, that she much doubted that they had not been brought up in a God-fearing manner; and so, Polly, darling,' she said, 'mind you don't go near them when I am not with you.' Polly darling was what poor dear mother always called me," added Mary Bush.
“I dare say she loved you very much," said Emily.
“Ah, poor body! better than I loved her then; for I was a sinful child !” answered Mary Bush. “And now to go on with my story:
“I promised her very fair that I would make no acquaintance with the two girls, and I meant at that time to keep my word; but the next day, when I was going to pick sticks in the coppice, they followed me, and asked me to play with them. I might have said No; but I did not. I played with them a long time; and when I thought my mother would be expecting me, and I had gathered no sticks to take to her, I began to think what excuse I should make ; and I said to Dolly Stinton, What must I do? my mother sent me to pick sticks, and the time is come when I must go home, and I have no sticks !-Oh!' said Dolly, if you will go
down to the back of the coppicemits not a hundred yards from this place—you will find plenty of sticks, which the woodmen have cut, and put together ready to carry away ; and the woodmen are not there to-day:'-Oh! but my mother,' said I, • has forbidden me to take the sticks from the woodmen's heaps : she says it is stealing. I am only to pick up the sticks that are scattered here and there about the coppice.'-Oh! said Fanny Stinton, • what nonsense! Come, come; I'll run and fetch you a bundle of sticks in five minutes ; you need not care where they come from, so as you have them to take home.'—So off she ran to the woodmen's heap of fagots and loose sticks, and soon brought me a
large bundle, which I carried home. I knew I was doing wrong when I took the sticks; and I felt that my mother's fears were too true, and that these girls were not God-fearing girls : nevertheless, I carried these sticks home, and hid what had passed from my good parent and best friend, to whom I ought to have told everything.
“When I got home, I found my mother kneading a little cake, which she was going to bake upon the hearth. “Polly, my darling l she said, you had but a poorish dinner to-day, so I am making you a little cake. And Parson Best's Nancy has called in with a drop of cream and pot of butter; so we will have a little tea to-night.' So my poor dear mother made some tea, and got the cake ready ; and we sat down together to partake of it. “And how do you think I felt, my dear
young ones, when she spoke kindly to me, saying, in her way, Polly, my darling! how do you like the cake ? Is it nice, my child ?" »
“Not very happy, I should think,” said Lucy. ·
“No, indeed, Miss,” continued Mary Bush: “I did not feel happy, for I knew that I had done wrong : nevertheless, the next day I played again
ith these bad girls, and the next day after ; till at last I got so fond of their company, that I used to slip out even from my work to play with them. It was easy enough to hide ourselves, when we were playing, from my mother; neither was there anybody to tell her what I did—this being a very solitary place.
My mother used often to miss me: and then she would
go out into the garden, or towards the coppice, or toward the brook, calling, “Polly, my darling! Polly, my darling! where are you? But I would always find some excuse for having been away ; and she, not suspecting me of any concealed wickedness, would believe all I said. She used to go, poor dear
o the re
body! with her spectacles on her nose, looking for
“ In this wicked manner I went on for about two years or more, continued Mary ; "slipping out of my mother's sight on all occasions, and doing as little for her as I possibly could: for my heart was altogether given to my companions, and not to helping my poor mother. At the end of two years, my mother's health began to fail; she became thinner and weaker, and could not spin and knit so much as in times past. For some weeks she found great difficulty in going to church, and at last was forced to give it quite up. But I never noticed the change in my poor mother till Parson Best's Nancy called in one Sunday evening, and then told me that she feared my
mother was not long for this world. I was startled and grieved when I heard what she said ; but the very next day I ran out as usual to waste my time with John Stinton's daughters. That very week, I think it was on the Saturday evening (my mother having been poorly all day), she said to me, Polly, my darling! it is a
) warm afternoon : I think it would do me good to take a little fresh air ; give me my stick, and your arm, my child : we will take a walk under the coppice. -Perhaps I may never walk with you again, my child,' she said, as she went out of the door : 'we have had many pleasant walks together.'-—Mother, don't talk so,' I said. Ah, my child,' she answered, God's will must be done!'
“There is a very lovely pathway,” continued Mary Bush, on the west of the coppice, just facing the setting sun. I don't suppose you ever were in it,