Stories About Schoolgirls
CHAPTER 1: ELLA’S SNOWDROPS; A STORY OF THE SPRING-TIME
The cold, dark days of winter were almost gone and the bright rays of sunshine seemed to say, “The spring is coming.”
Some of these rays of sunshine found their way through the parlour widow of a small neat-looking house, down a quiet side street, leading from a busy London thoroughfare.
Let us enter that snug parlour. The room was comfortably furnished, and clean. Its only occupants were two young girls. Susie, the elder of the two, stood with her back to the window, busily engaged in washing up the dinner things, while Ella, a pale delicate-looking girl, about fourteen years of age, lay on a sofa near the fire, with half-closed eyes, and a weary face that told its own tale of weakness and pain.
Both had been silent for a little time, when Ella broke the silence by saying, “Susie dear, I want you very much to do something for me; please be quick and sweep up the hearth, and put everything in the room tidy, for I feel almost sure that Miss Brown will be here this afternoon; she said she would come the very first time she was free, and I think she will be here today.”
Susie, who had just finished putting away the dishes, answered, by saying, “You think a deal of Miss Brown, Ella. I like to hear her talk, for she is a kind, pleasant-speaking lady; but you know I never was in her Bible class, so perhaps that is the reason I don’t watch and look for her coming as you do.”
“You are right, Susie, I do love my teacher very much, and I think I have good reason for my love. I don’t mind telling you,” and as she spoke, a bright flush mounted to Ella’s pale cheeks and brow, “It was Miss Brown who led me to Christ. She told me in such a simple loving way, of all He had done and suffered for sinners, that I could not help feeling I wanted to love and trust Him. At first I did not understand how I could go to Him for salvation; but my dear teacher showed me from God’s word, that to come to Jesus was just to trust Him, to believe in Him as my own Saviour and He has kept me in peace all the time I have been so ill, and even when I was at the worst. One day I heard the doctor telling aunt he did not think I should get better; I was not afraid, for I knew Jesus had died for me, And I should go to Him.”
Tears were in Susie’s eyes, but she only said, “You are a strange girl, Ella, but I wish I were more like you; yes, I do.”
Here she comes,” was Ella’s delighted cry, as the shadow of a passing form for an instant fell across the couch, and Susie hurried to the door, just in time to save Ella’s expected visitor the trouble of knocking.
A few words of kindly greeting and thanks to Susie, and a loving kiss to Ella, then Miss Brown asked her to guess the contents of a paper parcel she had brought.
Ella said she did not know, but the shape was very much like that of a flower pot. Ella’s guess being correct, the paper and string were quickly removed, and as Miss Brown displayed a pot of snowdrops, their pure white blossoms shooting up among the pale green leaves, Susie exclaimed, “What beauties!” while Ella could only express her pleasure by a long sigh of delight.
Miss Brown said, “I thought of you, dear Ella when, just before the cold weather began, I planted half a dozen snowdrop bulbs in the dark brown earth. For many days nothing was to be seen, but still I watered and waited in faith and hope, for I knew that work, I could not see, was going on under the surface. Tiny rootlets were making their way downwards, and leaf and flower shoots were pushing upwards to light and air.
“At last, one morning, my patience was rewarded by seeing little green spikes peeping out here and there from the earth, and ever since, I have watered and tended them for you, looking for the day when I should have the pleasure of bringing them to you, to whisper their own sweet message, not only of the coming spring, but also of your heavenly Father’s love, for God who makes each tiny leaf and flower so beautiful in its season, will not forget His children. You are getting better now, Ella, and I hope that, through God’s blessing, health and strength will come back to you with the spring flowers.”
“You are very kind, Miss Brown, but there is one thing, please, I want very much to ask you about. ‘If we love the Lord Jesus, don’t you think we ought to want to die and go to Him?’”
Miss Brown could hardly help smiling, Ella’s question seemed such a strange one; but she answered gently, “I think, dear Ella, we can give a better proof of love to Christ by being willing to stay or go, just as He pleases. But I will read you some words written by a very true, whole-hearted servant of Christ. They form part of
A LETTER WRITTEN BY PAUL
to the Christians at a place called Philippi,” and taking a Testament from her pocket, Miss Brown read, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour; yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Phil. 1:21-24).
“So you see, Ella, Paul was not in any hurry to go, much as he loved Christ, and longed for the joy of being for ever with the Lord; he was not impatient, he was willing to wait and work just as long as his Master pleased. He left it all with the Lord, and I think, dear, the same Saviour would have us take our lives thankfully and trustfully as a gift from His own hand, and ask for grace to use them for His glory. But are you not almost forgetting His own words ‘I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also’ (John 14:3).
“It is not so much our going to be with the Lord as His coming for us, that He looks for us to have the hope of, fresh and bright in our souls He who says, ‘Surely I come quickly’ (Rev. 22:20), would have our hearts answer, by saying, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus.’
“I should like both Susie and yourself to look out all the verses you can find in your Bibles about the Lord’s coming, so that if He should tarry till next week, and I am able to come again, we may have another talk about the Lord’s return.”
“Oh, we shall like doing that,” said both the girls, and Ella added, “It will be just like having a bible class at home, won’t it, teacher?”
Miss. Brown replied, “Yes, dear, I think it will be very much the same, but I must say good-bye now, as I shall be needed at home.”
“Please come again very soon,” were the farewell words of both Susie and Ella, as Miss Brown rose to go.
I do not know anything about Miss Brown’s next visit, or whether the girls ever found out the text she asked them to, but perhaps my readers would like to search their Bibles and see what they can find on the same subject, and doubtless this will prove both interesting and profitable.
Angels throng the starry heaven;
Praising God with chorus high,
For the gift that He has given,
Unto rebels doom’d to die
Shepherds in the field abiding,
Hear that Christ, a babe, is born;
Angels tell the wondrous tiding,
Bidding them no longer mourn.
Come and look within the manger,
See the Saviour meekly lie,
Come to earth a homeless stranger
That He might for sinners die.
Happy they who now adore Him
While He’s still despised of men;
For when all shall bow before Him,
Such He’ll crown with glory then.
CHAPTER 2: THE FIRST PRIZE, AND HOW ANNIE RAY LOST IT
“You are not looking well, Mary,” Mr. Ray said, with a kind glance at the pale face of his wife, as he rose from the dinner table on Sunday. “Why not keep Annie from school this afternoon? She could mind baby, and you would be able to lie down and rest for an hour or two.”
Mrs. Ray answered in a low, gentle voice, “My head aches rather badly, for poor baby was not well last night, and so restless that I could not get any sleep. But please do not be anxious about me, I shall get on very nicely, and Annie is so anxious about winning the first prize, and has at present the highest number of marks of any girl in her class, I should be sorry to disappoint her.”
“Now, Annie dear, run away and get yourself and the children ready for school, or you will all lose marks for early attendance. Perhaps baby will go to sleep soon.”
Annie went upstairs, followed by the younger children, and the next quarter of an hour was a busy time to her. Small hands and faces had to be washed, three pairs of boots buttoned, Johnnie’s golden curls needed brushing, a part of the proceedings of which the restless boy never quite approved. Nellie and Rose wanted their hats and capes tied, and when at last, Annie took her own jacket and hat from the wardrobe, she did not seem in any hurry to put them on.
Her thoughts had been just as busy as her fingers, and all the time a great battle was being fought in Annie Ray’s heart.
Yes, she was very anxious to win the first prize, and it would now be hard to be obliged to give up the hope that had seemed almost a certainty; the year was just closing, and one Sunday would make all the difference, for Mary Wilson would be at the head of the class. But Mary had not a baby sister, and her mother did not often have bad headaches.
“Mother said I was to go to school, she would be sorry for me not to get the prize,” said Annie, as she began to put on her jacket.
But all the time, a voice was speaking deep down in Annie’s heart; saying just one little verse over and over again, “Even Christ pleased not himself.” And Annie thought of one Sunday evening not many months before, when in that same room, she felt very unhappy, for the burden of sin pressing upon her heart and conscience. But she knew that Christ had died for all, that the sins of all who believe on Him as their Saviour might be forgiven, and believingly she had looked to Him as her own precious Saviour, and He had made her very, very happy, and she wished very much indeed she could do something to please Him.
Only the Sunday before, her much loved teacher Miss Bruce, had been speaking to her girls about some of the many ways in which even young believers may let their light shine for Christ; she had told them how in everyday duties, at home or at school; at lessons or at play, they might please and follow Him whom “not having seen we love.”
Now here was an opportunity, and Annie thought, could it be wrong to wish to go to the Bible class? Oh, if baby would only go to sleep! But its fretful cry could be plainly heard where Annie stood, she knew she must decide quickly, for Nellie was calling, “Do come, Annie, or we shall all be late.”
For a moment longer Annie stood still, as if not quite certain what to do then kneeling by the side of her little bed she prayed, “O Lord, do help me to do right now, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.”
Only a very short prayer. But God, who is the hearer and answerer of all true prayer, sent an answer of peace. The struggle was over, and laying aside her jacket, Annie ran downstairs, saying, as she entered the sitting-room, “Mother dear, I am sure I can get baby to sleep if I walk up and down the room with her for a little while, and it would do your head good if you would rest till tea is ready. I know Nellie will be very careful of Rose and Johnnie when they cross the road; won’t you, dear?”
Mrs. Ray was too ill and tired to say anything, but her grateful look, as she placed the baby in Annie’s outstretched arms, told Annie that her mother understood and valued the little sacrifice she had made.
The younger children were soon on their way to school, and Mrs. Ray quietly resting in her room. Then Annie set herself to the work of getting baby to sleep. Carrying it backwards and forwards, she sang, but very softly, so as not to disturb her mother, one of her familiar hymns. At last the cry grew fainter, then ceased altogether; a little more patience, and baby was asleep. Laying it gently in the cradle, Annie put the room in order, and began getting the tea ready.
Half-past four brought the children home from school; soon after, Mr. Ray returned from his young men’s class. I cannot tell you how happy Annie was to hear her mother say, “My headache is almost gone now, for the house was so quiet I went to sleep, and awoke just as tea was ready, feeling very much better for a little rest.”
A few more weeks and the long looked-for day, when the prizes were to be given, came at last, and though the first prize, “Pictures from Bible Lands,” was awarded to Mary Wilson, Annie Ray received a neatly bound Reference Bible, on the fly of which, under Annie’s name, Miss Bruce had written Annie’s favourite text, “For even Christ pleased not himself” (Rom. 15:3).
Did Miss Bruce know anything about the battle that had been fought and won by Annie Ray? Perhaps not, but there was One who knew all about it, and He was the One whom Annie wanted most to please—the Lord Jesus Christ.
Great God, with wonder and with praise,
On all Thy works I look!
But still Thy wisdom, power and grace,
Shine brightest in Thy Book,
The fields provide me food, and show
The goodness of the Lord;
But fruits of life and glory grow
In Thy most holy word.
’Tis here I learn how Christ hath died,
To save my soul from hell
Not all the books on earth beside,
Such heavenly wonders tell.
Then let me love my Bible more,
And take a fresh delight,
By day to read its wonders o’er,
And meditate by night
CHAPTER 3: BESSIE’S MISTAKE
It was an old story that Miss Wilson was telling the girls, and yet if we might judge by the look of fixed attention on the faces of the eight or ten young women seated in the class, on the Lord’s day afternoon of which I am about to write, this story was a very interesting one.
Very simply, but as one to whom the story of a Saviour’s love had brought rest of soul and joy of heart in believing, Miss Wilson told the girls the way of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible lesson was the story of Timothy, who, when a little boy, had listened to Bible stories from the lips of his grandmother, Lois, or his mother, Eunice (2 Tim. 1:5).
Bessie Moss had just finished reading 2 Timothy 3:15, “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Miss Wilson closed the Bible, and said “As I look round my class, my eye rests on many of whom I can truly say, ‘From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures.’ Most of my girls are daughters from homes where the Lord Jesus Christ is loved and honoured. Not one of these can plead ignorance of the word of God. All know the Bible is true, and I am sure there is not one in our class who would not feel shocked and grieved at hearing one word said against this precious book.
“But how many are truly wise unto salvation through faith in Christ?
“‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ And only those who have looked in faith to Christ are really wise.
“You cannot earn or buy salvation: it is a free gift. ‘For the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Rom. 6:23). We accept a gift and thank the giver, do we not? and just so with the gift of salvation.
‘Sinners now on Christ believing,
Everlasting life receive.’”
But as the superintendent’s bell (which almost always rang before either Miss Wilson or her girls thought it could be so late) gave the signal for closing lessons, Miss Wilson ceased speaking, and began to mark the class registers; but not before she had noticed an anxious gaze on the usually bright face of Bessie Moss; so, looking to the Lord for wisdom and grace to say the words that would best meet Bessie’s need, she detained her for a few moments after the other girls had passed out, pointing out one or two passages of scripture, and urging her to decide at once for Christ.
The following Lord’s Day afternoon, Miss Wilson’s school girls were again around her. The clouds had all gone from Bessie’s face, and she looked so bright and happy that Miss Wilson felt almost sure she had some good news to tell, so she proposed that they should walk home together. Bessie was quite willing, and when Miss Wilson said, “I think you have something to tell me, Bessie dear;” her answer was, “Yes, teacher, indeed I have. For a long time I have been wishing to be a Christian; but last Sunday I was so unhappy, I felt as if I could not bear it any longer—I felt I was such a sinner—so I just went to God in prayer, and asked Him to forgive all my sins and wash me in the precious blood of Christ.”
Bessie stopped speaking, so Miss Wilson asked, “Did He hear and answer you, Bessie?”
“Oh yes, teacher; I am sure, quite sure He did.”
“Why are you sure?”
“Because I feel so happy. It cannot be wrong to feel happy, can it, teacher?” Bessie asked, as she looked up wonderingly into Miss Wilson’s earnest face.
“No, indeed, Bessie, it is not wrong to be happy; we are told in the word of God to rejoice evermore (1 Thess. 5). In believing in Christ we ‘rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory’ (1 Pet. 1:8). But trusting joy is not quite the same thing as trusting Christ. Happy feelings may and will pass away, but the Lord Jesus Christ is a real, living Person, and if I am trusting Him, the change in my feelings does not affect the ground of my peace, because I am trusting only in the finished work of Christ, and that is something altogether outside myself.
“Do not think, dear Bessie, that I want to discourage you or hinder your joy. I can and do give thanks for another of my girls who has, I believe, really and truly come to Jesus; but I desire to help you to see more clearly God’s way of peace.”
A few weeks later, and all the gladness had gone out of Bessie’s face, and the old troubled, anxious look was there again.
Of course, Miss Wilson wanted to know the reason of this change. Tears were in Bessie’s eyes as she said, “Oh, teacher, I am afraid I have been making a mistake; I told you I was saved, and I really did think it was true; but I do not feel happy now.”
Mr. Ferguson, the superintendent, was passing at that moment, so Miss Wilson turned to ask him a question.
“Is there any verse in your Bible that says, ‘Whosoever feeleth happy shall be saved’? My Bible says, It is ‘whosoever believeth’ (John 3:16). But Bessie seems to think it must be a mistake.”
Perhaps Miss Wilson’s question gave Mr. Ferguson a clue to the real state of things. He answered brightly: “My Bible says, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved’ (Acts 16:31).” And sitting down by Bessie, with his Bible opened in his hand, he pointed out to Bessie that salvation is by faith in Christ, not by any doing or feeling of our own.
Did Bessie see where her mistake had been?
Yes; I am sure she did, for though soon after she took a new situation and went to live at some distance from the school, Miss Wilson received a letter from her, which, as I think you will be pleased to read, I am going to copy for you.
“MY DEAR TEACHER,
“I have not forgotten you, though this is the first opportunity of writing I have been able to get. I am very comfortable in my situation, and getting on nicely by the Lord’s help, for He is always willing to help those who trust in Him.
“How glad I am that that you ever told me of His love.
“I shall never forget that Sunday afternoon, when you drew me to your side, and said, ‘Do trust in the Lord Jesus now, dear Bessie; He loves you, He died for you, He wants to save you.’
“And I took your advice, and trusted in Him, and now I can sing
‘I came to Jesus, as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
I found in him a resting-place,
And He has made me glad.’
“I must close my letter now. Please give my love to all the girls, and believe me,
Your affectionate scholar,
I think Bessie’s mistake is one into which many young believers fall, putting feeling in the place of faith, or really trusting joy, instead of trusting Christ.
Perhaps some of my readers are making this mistake too. If so, I would urge them to look away from self to Christ; and peace—settled peace—will follow in the faith-look at Jesus. It is something like stepping from the shifting sand on to the solid rock.
How carefully the shepherds keep
Their flocks within their sight;
So Jesus watches o’er His sheep,
And guards them day and night.
The shepherd numbers twice a day
The flocks beneath his care
He knows if any go astray,
Or sick or dying are.
So Jesus reckons one by one,
And numbers all His sheep;
He knows if but a lamb is gone,
For He doth never sleep.
The flocks of men are bought with gold,
And grass is all their food;
The sheep and lambs of Jesus’ fold
Are purchased with His blood.
CHAPTER 4: MARY LYON
Among the Christian women of America, perhaps few names have been more widely known than that of Mary Lyon. To tell the story of her useful life, much of which was spent in loving service for the Lord, would fill a volume but a few lessons from her early life as to the value of thoroughness and habit of doing things well, will (I think) be of some use to the girls who may read this brief sketch of her school-days.
Mary Lyon was born in the year 1797. Her home was a New England farm-house, where from early morning till evening busy work of some kind was always going on. Both Mary’s parents were true Christians. Her mother was a woman of strong faith, and one who prayed much that all her children might early know and love Christ.
As soon as Mary was old enough to understand, her mother used to tell her of the Saviour’s love for little children. And Mary would listen, and say when the “Sweet story of old” was ended, “Tell me about my little brother Ezra who has gone to live with Jesus, above the bright blue sky.”
As the schoolhouse was some distance from Mary’s home she did not go to school very early, but her mother taught her at home to obey promptly and cheerfully, and in many ways suited to a child’s strength, to be helpful to others.
When Mary was six years old an event took place which was never to be forgotten by her—the death of her dear father. His family was gathered round his sick bed. Mary did not sob or cry aloud, but looked on, strange new feelings of sorrow and wonder filling the young heart as the dying father prayed, “God bless my children. My Father, be Thou the Guide of their youth. Now, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” And then he went to be with Christ, which is far better.
Dark cold winter days followed, but the widow and the fatherless learnt much of the loving kindness of the Lord. Sometimes provisions were scarce and there was no money in the house to buy more. Mrs. Lyon did not tell her neighbours, but just took her need to God in prayer. Some friend would call with a basket of apples, or a cake for the children; or some farmer on his way to market would stop his wagon at their gate, to say his wife had put up a few things she thought might be of use to Mrs. Lyon.
Mary soon began to help her mother in spinning. Sometimes the work would go on smoothly enough, but at others the flax tangled up and the thread broke or got into knots. And if the face of the little worker grew clouded, and she was tempted to say, “This tiresome old spinning wheel won’t work right today,” her mother would look up with a cheering smile and begin singing,
“It is not in the wheel,
It is not in the band,
But ’tis in the little girl
Who takes it in her hand.”
And so the girl who took it in hand kept bravely on with her work, till in time she was able to spin a thread as fine and even as that of her mother. Having a new dress was an event to Mary and her sisters: so many things had to be done before the dress could be made. Sometimes a woollen dress for winter wear was needed, and Mary would watch the sheep-shearing with great interest then came the wool picking and washing, then the wool must he sent to the carding-mill. Spinning and weaving at the old hand-loom followed, Mary taking part in all these occupations.
During the winter months she attended school, and made rapid progress in her studies. In the summer her widowed mother needed her help in household cares, and it was gladly, cheerfully, given.
When Mary was fifteen years of age, her eldest brother took entire charge of the little farm, and while her mother and younger sisters went to a new home, Mary remained with him as his housekeeper. Busy days they were for her; milking the cows, churning butter, cooking, spinning, and many other duties took up much of her time; but by early rising and constant industry she was able to improve her education.
About this time Mary Lyon gave herself to Christ. From quite a little girl she had felt a great desire to be a true Christian, and had often been deeply anxious about her soul: perhaps the gospel she had listened to had not shown her quite simply how she might he saved by faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It was the afternoon of a bright and beautiful Lord’s day in May, 1816, when she first said from her HEART, “Lord Jesus, thou art MY Saviour.”
She had left the little brown meetinghouse with a heavy heart. A servant of the Lord had been speaking of the goodness of God. In closing, the silver-haired man, looking round with almost a father’s affection, exclaimed, “And now, my children, what more can I say to you? Remember, it is a very solemn thing, and very wicked, too, not to love so good a God as the One of whom I have been telling you.”
Alone, and in deep trouble, Mary took a winding path along the hill-side. She had long been looking into her own heart to find some love to God, but she had not really believed the love of God to sinners (John 3:16), so of course none was to be found in her heart.
But then and there the memory of her dying father’s prayer for his children came to her mind. Why should not the answer be given that day? and turning from the footpath into a hollow near the brow of the hill, she knelt and prayed, “O God, Thy way is perfect; be Thou my Father, and the Guide of my youth. Lead me into Thy way of peace, show me Thy dear Son as my Saviour.”
And her prayer was heard, joy and peace in believing filled her soul. New hopes, new affections, made her very happy, as she said with David, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name” (Ps. 103:1).
And new desires, too, sprang up in her heart; one of these desires was to be allowed to show her love to Christ by doing something that would please Him, and He gave her the desire of her heart.
She was just beginning to keep school, only a village school, and many of her pupils were very young. But Miss Lyon put her whole heart into her work, and the girls who attended her school soon began to love their kind patient teacher. After a few years of study, Miss Lyon began her life-work as head mistress or principal of a large boarding-school for young ladies, most of whom were being trained to become teachers of others. Miss Lyon was anxious that all her pupils should get on well with their lessons, but still more so that they might all early know and love the Lord Jesus.
And year by year the Lord gave her the joy of seeing many of her dear girls converted. Some of her scholars became teachers in mission schools, others just LET their light shine for Christ in their own homes.
After about thirty years spent in teaching, Miss Lyon fell asleep in Jesus on the 2nd of March, 1848.
What found I in the year that’s past
To make my heart forget
That this, perhaps, may be my last?
Although in childhood yet.
For little ones, still less than I,
Their short-lived course have run,
Who never, never thought to die,
When first the year begun.
Their faces rosy, just like mine,
Their voices glad and gay
They did not show a single sign
Of fading thus away.
But I am left while they are gone
Oh shall we meet again,
And on the resurrection morn
Eternal joys obtain?
We shall, if in the Lamb of God—
In Jesus we are seen
We shall, if wash’d in Jesu’s blood,
Which makes the vilest clean.
CHAPTER 5: LONELY LOTTIE
“Un, deux, trois; one, two, three; quatre, cinq; four, five;” then the voice ceased, and closing the French exercise book with a weary sigh, Lottie Grey looked into the small garden, where a few stunted lilac bushes were beginning to look green, for the spring time with its soft air and sunshine made its presence felt, even in the crowded streets of the busy city where Lottie had lived ever since she was old enough to remember anything.
Lottie was a strange little girl; every one who knew her said so, and for once at least every one spoke the truth. Only five summers had passed over the head of that lonely child, but in words and ways Lottie was old and grave beyond her years. Her mother had died when Lottie (an only child) was but a few days old, and soon after her father went abroad, leaving his little daughter in the care of her grandparents.
Mr. and Mrs. Bell were not unkind to Lottie, but they were both getting old, and perhaps because it was long since their own children had been little boys and girls, they forgot that their little granddaughter needed playtime as well as study hours.
Mrs. Bell said Lottie must not play with, or even speak to, any of the neighbours’ children, as by doing so, she might learn rude words or ways, and as Mrs. Bell’s will was law at the time of which I am writing, Lottie had never known the delight of a merry game of play with young companions. Lottie did not go to school, but home lessons took up several hours every day.
But we must return to Lottie, whom at the beginning of my story we left busy over her French exercise.
Lottie had been taught to read when she was not more than three years old, and books were the only companions she had ever known. The Bible had not been one of her lesson books, as Mrs. Bell, who thought so young a child as Lottie could not understand it, did not quite approve of Lottie’s reading it still, it was not a forbidden book, and many happy hours were spent by the lonely child over its pages, and when Lottie closed her French exercise with the weary sigh of which I told you, her thoughts went back to some Bible words she had been reading the day before, and in almost a whisper she repeated over and over again, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire” (Matt. 25:41). Would the terrible words ever be said to her? would Jesus send her away from Him? She had been told that God loved good children, but Lottie was not good, and she knew it; sometimes she disobeyed her grand-mamma, and more than once she had told a falsehood. What should she do? What would become of her? And covering her face with her hands, she began to cry bitterly.
Poor child, with all the Bible reading it was very plain she did not know that it was for sinners Christ had died, nor how, as the Son of man He came to seek and to save the lost; and no loving voice had ever told her of the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep. And as the first thought of every unsaved soul is a desire to hide from the eye of God, no wonder poor Lottie was afraid.
Lottie was alone in the schoolroom, but one Eye saw her distress, one Heart knew how real her trouble of soul was. Yes; the Lord Jesus knew all about it; and in His own time and way His own hand would draw the trembling child to Himself, the only ark of safety.
Lottie’s tears were still falling when her grand-mamma entered the room, and asked the cause of her sorrow. Lottie would rather have been silent, but when Mr. Bell asked a question she expected an answer, and of this Lottie was quite aware. So she sobbed out, “Oh grandma, which do you think I shall be, a goat or a sheep?”
Mrs. Bell looked surprised, but not at all pleased by Lottie’s question; but she only said, “Why Lottie, I really do not know what you are talking about. I shall have to say I cannot allow you to read the Bible if you get such strange fancies, and talk about things children do not understand. But I am engaged now, and cannot stay to hear your French lesson, so you may walk in the garden for half-an-hour. And you may take Victoria,” Mrs. Bell added in a kinder tone, as her eye rested on the pale, tear-stained face of the child.
Victoria was Lottie’s favourite doll, almost as large as a real baby, and permission to play with it was only given on special occasions; so Lottie dried her tears, and in the amusement of dressing her doll forgot, for a time at least, that her question had not been answered.
Five years from the time of which I have been telling you, had passed away, and Lottie had grown taller and stronger, her lessons too were longer, but Lottie did not make any trouble of that, for her desire was to fit herself to become a teacher of others. She was still very fond of reading, and took great interest in Bible stories. Lottie was still ignorant of the way of salvation, but the thought of God did not fill her with the terror it had done five years before. For two short Bible verses, known and loved by Lottie, always seemed to her like stars shining out through a dark night. One was, “In thee the fatherless findeth mercy” (Hos. 14:3); the other, “I love them that love me, and those that seek me early shall find me” (Prov. 7:17).
I had almost forgotten to tell you, that as nothing had been heard of Lottie’s father for several years, he was supposed to be dead, and her grandma always spoke of her as an orphan. Lottie wanted very much to be a Christian girl, but she did not know God’s way of peace, so instead of taking her place before Him as a lost and sinful child, and trusting herself simply to Christ, she kept on trying to be good, and finding all her trying only end in disappointment and failure.
But the time of Lottie’s blessing was drawing very near—the time when the Good Shepherd would find His little straying lamb. But how and when it all came about, I must tell you in my next chapter.
When you at night lay down your head
Upon your pillow for repose,
While angels watch around your bed,
And slumbers light your eyelids close.
Could you from that sweet sleep awake,
And then lift up your eyes on high,
Before the day begins to break,
And see the rich and sparkling sky—
Then I would tell you of His Name
Who shining on us from afar,
Thus says, “I soon shall come again—
I am the Bright and Morning Star.”
May you through all your nights and days
Live in obedience to His word,
And know, and love, and bless, and praise
The name of Jesus Christ the Lord.
CHAPTER 6: LOTTIE’S CONVERSION
“I am going to ask a favour of you, Mrs. Bell. If you do not object, I should be very pleased to take your granddaughter to school with me next Sunday.”
Miss Lee had made the foregoing request somewhat timidly. Her motive for calling on Mrs. Bell had been a real desire to bring her orphan grandchild, Lottie, under the sound of the gospel; something, too, of pity for the lonely little girl, perhaps made her wait more anxiously for Mrs. Bell’s reply.
“You are very kind, Miss Lee, and I am much obliged for the interest which I am sure you take in Lottie. But letting her go to the Sunday school is quite out of the question. I have not even sent her to day school, because I do not wish her to make acquaintances among the neighbours’ children. But, though her education has been carried on at home, I flatter myself that her progress in her studies is equal to that of most girls of her age.”
Miss Lee, though discouraged, felt she must make one more effort, so she pleaded, “But I do not ask you to let Lottie become a regular scholar. Do allow her to go just for once. It would be a change for her, and I will promise to look well after her.”
So at last Mrs. Bell’s consent was given, though not very-willingly. “Yes, Lottie might go just for once, it could not do her any harm,” her grandmother said.
Lottie thought Sunday was a long time coming, but it came at last, and, to her great delight, Miss Lee called as she had promised for her little friend.
A quarter of an hour’s walk brought them to the schoolroom, and Lottie was at once taken to the Bible class, though younger by several years than any of her class-mates. A loving, earnest teacher, Miss Mills, won her young heart long before the afternoon’s lesson was ended, and a real desire to become a regular scholar seemed to fill her mind. At the close of school, Miss Mills, addressing her new pupil, said kindly, “Do you wish to join our class? Shall I write your name in the register?”
Lottie’s eyes were filled with tears, as she answered “Yes Miss, I wish it very much indeed; but I am afraid that my grandma will not allow me to come again.
Miss Mills drew the little girl close to her and said gently, “Shall I tell you what I would do, Lottie? I would take your desire to God in prayer. He can do all things, and is quite able to make your grandma willing to let you come. Now good bye, but remember, I shall quite hope to see you next Lord’s day.”
Pray about going to school! that was quite a new idea to Lottie; but many times during the week that followed, in her own simple words, she asked the Lord to please let grandma say yes about her going to school; but it was quite late on Saturday evening, before she found a good opportunity to ask permission.
With flushed cheeks and a quickly beating heart, she watched for Mrs. Bell’s reply. It came at last.
“I do not see any good reason why you should not go sometimes if you wish it. But remember, Lottie, if I find your going to Sunday school makes you less attentive to your home lessons, I shall forbid your going at once.”
Lottie was quite ready to promise redoubled diligence in her studies, and the smile with which her teacher and herself greeted each other, when Lottie took her place in the class on the next Sunday, told that they understood each other’s joy at the meeting. From the first, Lottie was deeply interested in the simple Bible teaching Miss Mills gave her scholars, and very soon the question of her childhood, How could she escape from the wrath of God? came with deeper meaning than it had ever done.
Lottie still read her Bible and heard from the lips of her teacher much about the Lord Jesus Christ and His work upon the cross. But she did not really understand the way of salvation. Like many others, she was trying to make herself good, instead of simply taking her place before God, as a sinner for whom the Saviour died.
She wanted very much to ask the teacher to tell her what she must do to be saved; but in some respects Lottie was a shy, timid girl, and week after week passed away leaving her question still unasked.
More than once, Lottie wrote a note telling the teacher her trouble. But not one of all her notes ever reached Miss Mills, for Satan, who always seeks to hinder souls from coming to Christ, would whisper, “You cannot give that note to your teacher, it is not written well enough,” or, “you have been holding it in your hot hand till the envelope looks quite soiled, you must write another.” And so Lottie listened to the voice of the tempter, and did not open her heart to a friend who would gladly have pointed her to Christ, and Miss Mills never even guessed how the burden of unforgiven sin was pressing upon the heart of at least one little girl in her class.
But the Lord Jesus Christ, who had loved Lottie so much that He bore all her sins upon the cross, was leading her by the right way.
Reading had been one of Lottie’s greatest pleasures ever since her small hands could hold a book, and in a short time she had read most of the books in the school library. One Sunday afternoon, the teacher who took charge of the library placed a book in her hand, saying as he did so, “You will like this, I think.” Lottie’s only answer was “Thank you.” The book did not look as if it would prove a very interesting one, for the binding was almost worn out and there were not any pictures in it.
It was a true story of one of God’s servants, a man who, though poor in this world’s goods, was the means of making many rich, by leading them to Christ. And Lottie read with great interest how once when a woman, who was very anxious to know how she could be saved, went to see him, he told her that all she had to do was simply to believe what God says in His word about the finished work of His Son. And then he read her a verse of a hymn:
“Believe on Him who died for thee,
And, sure as He has died,
Thy debt is paid, thy soul is free,
And Thou art justified.”
And as Lottie read, other words came into her mind—precious Bible words “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). And then and there Lottie looked to Jesus and was saved, and, kneeling down by the chair where she had been sitting, she thanked God for His great love in giving the Lord Jesus to be her Saviour. And so Lottie found a Friend, One who would always love and never leave her.
Dear young reader, can you say, “Lottie’s Saviour is my Saviour too”?
How many children now are stretch’d
Upon the bed of pain,
Where many, weary, restless hours,
In sorrow they have lain.
How many children hungry are
With scarcely food to eat;
Who beg their humble, scanty store,
From those they chance to meet.
Yet here we are, in health and strength,
All satisfied with food;
How kind indeed is God to us—
How very, very good!
O surely this, His goodness great
Should make us think of Him;
For we deserve not at His hands
The very least of them.
But more He gives us; greater love
The Lord to us has shown;
The greatest gift that He has given
Is His beloved Son.
And never can true thanks ascend
For aught that we receive,—
For health or daily food, unless
We in His name believe.
CHAPTER 7: THE CAPTIVE PRINCESS
Afternoon lessons were over; Bella March had put the maps and schoolbooks that had been used during the day in their places on the shelves of the bookcase, while her younger sister Grace tidied the work-basket. Both girls then drew near the writing-table where their governess, Miss Elwin, still sat correcting her pupils’ exercise books.
After a few moments she asked pleasantly, “Can I do anything for you?”
“Oh yes, dear Miss Elwin, indeed you can,” answered Bella; “the tea bell will not ring for quite half an hour, and if you will tell us a story, we should like it so much. We do not mean to be idle, for we can listen and work for our poor friends at the same time. And look Grace has drawn your arm-chair up to the fire, and we are going to have such a nice time.”
Miss Elwin took the seat her loving little pupil had placed for her, Bella ran to bring a footstool; so, without delay, Miss Elwin began her story of
THE CAPTIVE PRINCESS
Two years ago I spent my midsummer holidays in the Isle of Wight, and a very pleasant time it was. Long, happy days were spent in visits to different places of interest. At Ryde, Newport, and Blackgang there was much, oh, so much, to be seen and admired; but I think the excursion I enjoyed most of all was one to Carisbrooke Castle, just in the middle of the island.
It is a grey ruin now; the soft green grass spreads like a carpet over its old banqueting-hall, and the ivy climbs over tower and battlement. But the old Castle is beautiful even in decay. Never to be forgotten views of sea and land were those I got from its old walls.
Memory was busy too recalling past scenes. More than two hundred years—that old Castle, then a stronghold, had been the prison of a royal child—the princess Elizabeth, second daughter of King Charles I. Born in a palace, and until she was six years of age surrounded by all the splendour of a court, still, from all accounts we have of her, she must have been a gentle and affectionate child. Perhaps she wondered sometimes why her father almost always looked so sad, or why her mother should seem so anxious and unhappy.
Poor child! she did not know what dark clouds of sorrow had gathered round the throne of the Stuarts, for she was too young to understand the full meaning of sad news brought one day to the palace: that the king was at open war with his subjects. The queen mother escaped to France and her children were scattered, never all to meet again in this world.
The princess Elizabeth with her little brother, the duke of Gloucester (four years younger than herself), were taken as prisoners to Sion House, Brentford. Here, through years of civil war that followed, her childhood passed into girlhood; a sad, lonely girlhood. Still, her education does not seem to have been neglected, for in a curious old letter written by one of her tutors he describes his pupil as “tall and graceful in her movements, but better still as a lady of excellent parts, great discretion, and remarkable understanding.” High praise to have been fairly deserved by a girl of thirteen, was it not?
Perhaps the happiest days in her life were those in which she was allowed to pay a visit to her father, himself a prisoner. If Charles I. had not been a wise king, he had always shown himself an affectionate father, and a few hours spent in the society of his gentle daughter must have been a real cheer and comfort to the unhappy monarch.
But the day on which parent and child were to say farewell to each other came all too soon.
Sentence of death had been passed upon the king, and the day of his execution fixed for January 30th, 1649.
The day before, the princess Elizabeth was allowed to pay him a last visit. It must have been an hour of deep sorrow for both. The king took his daughter in his arms and for a few moments the poor child sobbed as if her heart would break, but when told by her father how it grieved him to see her so distressed, she showed how strong and unselfish her love for him was by drying her tears and listening calmly to his parting words.
He told her his wishes about many things, and gave her loving messages for her brothers and sisters, and one to be given to her mother if ever she saw her again.
Then followed a few words of counsel to herself, and a precious gift—her father’s Bible—from that day her greatest earthly treasure. Then the time allowed for their interview expired, and an attendant entered the room to conduct the princess back to the place of her confinement.
The day following, the head of King Charles I. had fallen on the scaffold, and the princess Elizabeth might let her tears flow unhindered.
But God, who healeth the broken in heart and bindeth up their wounds (Ps. 147:3), was teaching, though in the School of Sorrow, the young princess. In the Bible that had been her father’s she read of a Saviour who had said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). And like a weary dove she turned to Him and found rest and peace.
One who knew her well wrote of her: “Her active piety improved the little life allotted to her, and she grew fast in the fear and love of God.
Shortly after her father’s execution, she (still a prisoner) was removed to Carisbrooke Castle, which she never left again, for in less than two years after the sorrowful parting with her father, the Lord gently took her to be with Himself.
She had never been strong; and there was no loving mother or affectionate sister near to notice how pale and thin she was growing. She took a severe cold from walking one showery day in the grounds of the castle. A low, nervous fever followed, and she drooped like a fair flower, and grew weaker day by day.
One day the attendant left her, as she thought, to sleep. Returning after a short absence, she found her truly asleep, but it was the sleep of death; her face pillowed on her open Bible, and a smile of perfect peace resting on the cold, pale features.
She was buried in Newport Church, and for years her very grave seemed forgotten, till in the year 1793 some workmen employed in the church found a stone slab bearing the simple words “Elizabeth, daughter of the late king Charles, deceased September 8th, 1650.”
A marble monument, placed over the grave by the wish of our present queen Victoria, in loving memory of the princess Elizabeth, now marks the spot.
Perhaps some day you may see it for yourselves, but the lesson I am most anxious you should learn from the story is that “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised” (Prov. 31:30).
“Thank you, Miss Elwin, for telling us such an interesting story. I shall take more pains to improve my knowledge of English history now I have heard about the princess who, though only the same age as myself, had to go through so many troubles,” said Bella thoughtfully, as the ringing of the tea bell gave the little party a signal to leave the school-room.
King Solomon of old
A happy choice had made;
’Twas not for life, ’twas not for gold,
Nor honours that he pray’d.
He chose that better part
That leads to heavenly joys,—
A wise and understanding heart;
And God approved the choice.
Far better than his crown,
And all his grand array,
That wisdom which the Lord sent down,
To guide him in his way.
If this is what we seek,
We cannot ask amiss;
The youngest, poorest, child may speak,
And ask the Lord for this.
CHAPTER 8: A GLIMPSE AT PERSIA
The boys who lived in England fifty years ago, I do not think were half as rich in toys and picture-books as most of my young friends are now.
Lessons, too, were not made so interesting as they are at present, when puzzle maps, and play grammars may be found on the shelves of almost every nursery bookcase.
Still there were many good schools, and though the law of England did not then, as it does now, provide a fair amount of education for every British child, yet it was beginning to be thought a disgrace, even for poor people to allow their children to grow up without knowing how to read and write. But, things in Persia were far worse than this; there was not a single girls’ school to be found all through the country. Perhaps you will ask how was that, did not the girls do lessons at home? No, for I regret to have to tell you their mothers were quite unable to teach them, being themselves very ignorant.
But how did they spend their time?
I will tell you. The women and girls worked in the fields or vineyards, looked after the sheep and cows, carried heavy loads, and did all kinds of rough out-door work.
Many of these poor people were Christians in name. They did not worship idols like the heathen, nor kneel down and say prayers before images or pictures of the Virgin Mary, or Peter, or Paul. But they had no true knowledge of God or of Christ.
For some years kind Missionaries had been preaching the Gospel among them, but they had not seen much fruit of their labours. A few boys had been taught in the Mission schools, but most of them after leaving school and choosing wives from among the poor neglected girls of whom I have been telling you, seemed to forget all they had been taught. One of the Lord’s servants, feeling it was time something should be done for the girls, wrote to a friend in America asking him if he knew of a Christian lady who, from love to Christ, was willing to leave her pleasant home and all her friends, take a long journey by sea and land to Persia, and open a school, where those girls might hear of the Lord Jesus and His love.
The letter was put into the hands of
and her whole after life was her answer to it.
From first reading it, the Lord put a great desire into her heart to work for Him among the women and girls of Persia. She was quite willing to leave the happy home and go to live among strangers, but one thing stood in the way. Her mother was a widow, and Fidelia was the only child. Could she spare her much-loved daughter? Would she say, Yes, when her consent was asked? At first the thought of parting from Fidelia was a great trial, but before long she was able to smile through tears and say, “Go, my child: and may the Lord bless and keep you.”
When Miss Fiske arrived in Persia, she set to work, before attempting to teach others, to learn the Persian language. Soon after she wrote to a friend in America: “I cannot tell you that I am getting on very fast, but I know a few words. The first Persian word I learnt was daughter, then I learnt the verb, ‘to give:’ and so I began by asking the people to give me their daughters, and I am praying that God may make them willing to let their little girls come to our school. So I hope soon to be able to tell you I am really at work among the girls of Persia.”
Miss Fiske’s was to be a boarding-school. The scholars were to live entirely with their teacher; only removing to their own homes for the holidays.
At last the day fixed for opening the school came. Miss Fiske, you may be sure, was ready in good time, but at nine o’clock not one girl had arrived. Miss Fiske felt very disappointed, but she just told the Lord all about it, asking Him to send her some scholars, and before long one of her friends was seen crossing the school-yard with a little girl in each hand.
Miss Fiske went out to meet them with a bright face, and words of welcome for her pupils; the man who had brought them said, “Take these two girls and begin your school, let them be your daughters and teach them all that is good for women to know.”
So Miss Fiske’s school was begun, but before the end of the first week, six girls had been brought to her, and others soon followed.
Poor Miss Fiske, I think she must often have felt very sad and lonely during the first year of her
SCHOOL KEEPING IN PERSIA;
for her little scholars were often very naughty and trying. We must remember they had not been taught in their homes to be obedient or kind to each other. Indeed, at first they hardly seemed to know how wrong it was to tell untruths or to steal, and when their kind teacher told them how displeasing to God such conduct was, they would answer, “In our country everybody tells lies, and we know they steal, why should not we?”
All this grieved Miss Fiske deeply, for she really loved her scholars, but it led her to pray much that the Holy Spirit might shine into their dark hearts, showing them their need of a Saviour.
One morning Miss Fiske put some black pins she had brought from America, on a cushion in her room. Before evening they were all gone. Miss Fiske felt quite sure no one but her girls had entered the room, so calling the scholars together, she told them of her loss, asking them not to add to their fault by hiding it. She then questioned them one by one. But all said they had not taken or even seen the pins and one little girl was even bold and naughty enough to say, “God knows we have not taken your pins.”
Miss Fiske was much grieved, but said gently, I think God knows that you have taken the pins, now I wish all of you to kneel down while I ask God to show me where they are. Perhaps, added the kind teacher, “God may not see it best to show me now, but I feel sure He will some day.”
Without a word the children knelt down, and Miss Fiske prayed; as she rose from prayer, it came into her mind to search for the pins in the small cloth caps, or turbans, all the girls wore. She told them her intention of doing so, when one little girl, holding her cap very tightly with both hands, cried out, “Do not look in my cap, no, not in mine!”
Of course, hers was the first searched and the pins found in her cap so nicely hidden away that only their black heads could be seen.
This was the last serious case of theft in Miss Fiske’s school, for after that, if a newcomer stole anything, her companions would say to her, “Run, Saetie, or run, Kera, and put that in the place you took it from, or God will tell our teacher you have stolen it.”
And as the little offender always took the advice of her companions and restored the stolen property, cases of dishonesty soon became a thing unknown among Miss Fiske’s scholars. The little girl who had taken the pins from her teacher’s cushion, was one of the first to give her young heart to the Lord Jesus, and grew up a happy Christian girl, and a great help to Miss Fiske in the school.
From the time that her pupils began to show any real interest in the word of God, Miss Fiske was often asked to go to their homes and tell the sweet story of a Saviour’s love to their mothers and elder sisters. Her own account of some of these visits is very interesting. Perhaps I may tell you about it in my next chapter.
As Mary sat at Jesus’ feet,
To learn His sacred will,
We in the Saviour’s presence meet,
To hear His doctrines still.
Oh for that meek attentive mind,
Which happy Mary show’d;
May we that “one thing needful” find,
That was on her bestow’d.
’Tis here we learn the glorious Name,
Of God who reigns above;
And while we read the sinner’s shame,
Are taught the Saviour’s love
Lord! while we thank Thee for the grace
That sends this happy news,
We still would sit in Mary’s place,
That “better part” to choose.
CHAPTER 9: MORE ABOUT PERSIA
The mission school at Gong Tapa was a subject about which the mothers of the girls who were Miss Fiske’s first scholars never seemed to grow tired of talking.
Like the women of all Eastern lands, they went daily to the well to draw water for household use, and when they met there, or visited each other at home, one would say to her friends, “When my daughter Mohana came home for her holidays, she told me such a beautiful story about a prophet who was cast into a den of lions because he prayed to the true God. But the God whom he served took care of him, and would not suffer the lions to hurt him.”
“And I,” said another closely veiled woman, “visited Sache at the school; I saw her among her young companions, and I heard her singing with them the praises of Jesus. The girls are truly taught many things we their mothers do not know. They can read and sing Christian hymns, as well as sew and embroider. I almost wish I were a child again, for then I would go to school.”
“Thou canst not go to the school, Salome,” said an aged woman. “But why not ask the teacher to come to our homes? We will sit at her feet, we will hear the words of wisdom from her lips.”
A murmur of “Good, good,” ran through the little group of women, as they turned to go to their homes. Soon a messenger was sent to invite Miss Fiske to spend her next holiday at the house of one of her pupils. A promise to do, so having been given, the news spread quickly, and on the day fixed for the visit, quite a large company of women were gathered to receive her. A mat had been placed for her to sit upon (the Persians do not use chairs), and the women sat or stood on the earthen floor.
A few were anxious to hear the sweet story of a Saviour’s love, but by far the greater number had been attracted only by curiosity to see Miss Fiske. As soon as she entered the room, they began to ask questions about her dress, her home, and her relations. “Why do you not wear rings in your ears, or silver ornaments in your hair, as we do?” said one. “Tell us about your grandfather and your great-grandfather,” cried another. (The Persians are very fond of talking about their relations.)
Poor Miss Fiske soon found it would be impossible to answer all their questions, and that to attempt doing so would only be a waste of time; so lifting her heart to the Lord in prayer, she said to the women, “I see the customs of your country are very different from those of mine. Now as I am almost a stranger in your country, you will not be angry with me for telling you that in my country when one speaks the others remain silent.
“Now I have something to say to you about a relation of yours, and mine also; her name was Eve. Do you not think that is a pretty name? But before I can tell you her story, I want every one of you to place the fore-finger of her right hand on her lips, and keep it there until I have done speaking.”
The women looked surprised, but became very quiet. Miss Fiske then told them in very simple words the story you have often read in the opening chapters of Genesis, of the creation of Adam and Eve. She then told them of the Fall, or how sin first entered the world, and of the first promise of a Saviour (Gen. 3:15).
The women looked very sorry when they heard, that on account of their disobedience to the command of God, Adam and Eve had to be sent away from the garden of Eden, and one or two took their fingers from their lips as if just going to speak, but remained silent at a sign from their companions.
When the Bible lesson was over, and they were at liberty to talk, more than one said to Miss Fiske, “We did not know God was so good. Eve was the first to disobey God, and yet He said a woman should be the mother of the Saviour. Will you not come again very soon, and tell us more of these good things?”
On the next visit, Miss Fiske had a still larger number waiting to welcome her, and God richly blessed the simple gospel message she carried to the homes and hearts of these poor ignorant Persian women. Many of them became true-hearted disciples of Christ.
Some of Miss Fiske’s pupils were among the first converted in her school, and they were very anxious for the salvation of their schoolfellows, speaking to them about their souls, and holding little meetings to pray with and for them.
Soon the Lord called one of His young disciples to be with Himself in heaven. Her name was Sarah, she was received into Miss Fiske’s boarding school when she was about ten years of age. She learned to read the Persian bible (printed in Syria) very quickly, and was very fond of learning psalms and chapters, but it was not till about five months before her death that her teachers were quite sure she was really the Lord’s. From the time she first confessed Christ she grew rapidly in grace, and was a real help and comfort to her teacher.
When she became very ill, it was thought best for her to leave the school, and return to her father’s house. On being told so, she said, “Let me pray first.” After a little time spent in prayer, she came to her teacher, and smiling through her tears, said, “I am ready to go now.” She then left her much loved school, never to return to it. During the last few weeks of her life, though often in great pain, she was always bright and cheerful, and often spoke of the loving kindness of the Lord.
The last day of her life was a Lord’s day. She was very weak all day. Her father, who was a preacher of the gospel, and had been asked to go and preach at a village some miles distant among the hills, noticing she seemed worse than usual, said to her, “Sarah, shall I go to preach, or shall I remain at home with you, as you are very ill today?” The dying girl answered brightly, “Go, dear father, preach the gospel, and I will pray for you.”
Her father then set out on his long walk. Early in the afternoon Sarah became much worse, and forgetting through weakness where her father had gone, asked for him; on being reminded he was away preaching, she smiled and said, “It is well, do not send for him, I can die alone.” Soon after, she expressed a wish to see Miss Fiske. Her sister was leaving the room to fetch her, when Sarah called her back, saying, “Do not go, for I remember this is the hour when Miss Fiske reads the Bible and prays with my companions. Do not disturb her, I can die alone.” Half an hour later, and dear Sarah’s spirit, absent from the body, was present with the Lord.
Blind Martha, as she was always called, was the next to follow. From the time of her conversion she seemed to long to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. She would often say, “I have never seen the sunshine or the flowers, but I do not mind, for soon I shall see the face of the Lord Jesus, and His face is brighter than the sunshine, and more beautiful than the flowers.”
Like Sarah, she was obliged to leave school on account of illness. One night she called her mother, saying, “Mother, I think it is time to get up, for I can see a great light. Is not the sun shining?” Her mother told her it was still quite dark, and asked her if she felt herself worse. “No, I am not worse,” she replied, “but I think I shall soon see His face.” Her mother lay down again. When the morning light filled the room, she saw that God had given blind Martha the desire of her heart. She was truly asleep in Jesus.
The flowers which deck my pathway round
And skirt the shady wood,
Proclaim as with a thousand tongues,
That God is very good.
The ripen’d fields of waving grain,
For man and beast assign’d;
Tell that the great Creator is,
Not only good, but kind.
The glorious sun and peerless moon,
And stars which round them wait;
Prove God to be not only good
And kind, but very great.
But oh the Cross where Jesus hung,
Doth yet more strongly prove,
That, though so good and kind and great,
The mighty God is LOVE.
CHAPTER 10: AMONG THE ROCKS
Perhaps there are few more pretty or interesting sights than the merry groups of children, enjoying a visit to the seaside, as we wander over the yellow sands and shingly beach, on a bright autumn morning, at all or any of our watering-places. And I think it would have been difficult to find a happier party than the one, of whose sayings and doings “among the rocks” I am now going to tell you.
The eldest of the party was Hilda May, a tall slightly-formed girl of about thirteen years of age, very fond of reading and fancy work, and though of a gentle and affectionate disposition, rather too much given to indulgence in day-dreams.
She might have made a pretty picture for the pencil of an artist, as she sat where the high cliffs throw their shadows over the sandy beach, her thoughtful face shaded by her large sun hat; her hands lay idly in her lap, half hidden among the folds of the soft white shawl she had been knitting only a few moments before; while her eyes, with, a dreamy, far-off look in them, were gazing on the wide waters that rippled along the shore or broke in tiny wavelets almost at her feet.
Her younger sisters, Alice and Maude, and her only brother, Albert, a merry, fun-loving boy of nine, were busy building a castle in the sand at a short distance from where Hilda sat; but she did not heed their ringing shouts of laughter, so absorbed had she become in what Albert sometimes called one of her “brown studies.”
A few moments later, and a young lady whose approach by the steep road that led from the cliff to the sands Hilda had not noticed, was standing by her side, and a pleasant voice said, “Castle building again, dear Hilda?”
Hilda started, coloured and caught up her knitting, saying as she rose to give a very loving welcome to the newcomer, “Really, dear Edith, I am quite ashamed of being so idle, but I was having a very pleasant time; sit down here, please, and we can have a nice long talk,” and Hilda drew Edith to a rocky seat by her side. Edith Lee, though several years older than Hilda, and an assistant teacher in the day school where Hilda was a pupil, was her great friend and confidante, and a very real affection had grown up between the two girls.
As soon as her companion was comfortably seated, Hilda said, “I quite expect you will think me foolish, Edith, but I am going to tell you all about my castles in the air. Two or three years at most, and if we are still down here, I shall be leaving school, and do you know what I should like to do with my life? I think it would be delightful to nurse poor sick people in some large city hospital. Mamma had such an interesting book, called ‘Memorials of Agnes Jones,’ and I have read how, though she was quite a lady, she left her own beautiful home and went to nurse sick people in a workhouse at Liverpool, and she used to speak to them about the Lord Jesus, and they all loved her very much, and were so sorry when she died.
“Perhaps I could not do quite as much as Miss Jones did, but I think I could learn to nurse. Or, if I cannot do that, I should like to go abroad and teach little heathen children. You know Miss Mason has a dear friend who is teaching in a school in Syria, and she writes such charming letters and says the Bible seems almost a new book to her, now she is able to study it in a land where the customs of the people throw light on many passages which we who live in England find it hard to understand. She has seen women grinding at the mill, and drawing water from the wells just as they used to do when the Bible was written.
“Would it not be delightful, dear Edith?” asked the young girl eagerly, while a bright flush of pleasure made her cheeks glow and her eyes sparkle.
“You have drawn a bright picture, Hilda,” her friend said gently; “but please, dear, do not be vexed with me if I try to show you that dreaming and doing are not quite the same.
“You know, darling, our lives do not come to any of us a year or a week or even a day or an hour at a time. Only a moment at a time is really ours. And I do not see any reason why you should not learn to teach little children and nurse sick people before you leave school.
“Your own dear mother is far from being strong, and sometimes is not able to leave her room for days together. Do not you think the tender, thoughtful nursing of a loving, affectionate daughter would be a great comfort to her?”
“Oh yes, Edith; I am sure it would, and I wonder I never thought of it before. But you see mamma is so often ill, and then Hill, our old nurse, does almost everything for her, and I am only asked to do little things; not like real sick nursing,” Hilda said in rather a sad tone of voice.
“‘Faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord’ (Matt. 25:23), were the words of the Lord Jesus, you know, dear Hilda, when in the parable of the talent He spoke of the servant who had done his Lord’s will; and day by day, I think, the Lord is showing me more clearly how I may do what you call ‘little things’ for His glory—just common everyday home or school duties—‘ye serve the Lord Christ.’ And you and I who, through grace, can say, ‘We love him because he first loved us’ (John 4:19), want to be His true-hearted, loyal servants, do we not, darling?”
“Oh yes, Edith, indeed we do, and I thank you very much for showing me some ways in which I may begin at once. But I suppose I really must wait till I am older before I could teach others?”
“I am not so sure of that as you seem to be. You are older than your sisters and Albert, could you not help them in their lessons, and show them in many ways the beauty of the new life seen in unselfish loving words and ways?”
“I have really tried sometimes, Edith; but Alice and Maude did not seem to take much notice of what I told them, and Albert is so fond of play and such a tease, it did not seem of much use trying to teach him anything out of school; but I will try again, dear Edith, I will indeed.”
Edith’s reply, spoken in a low, gentle tone, was “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).
The younger children who had been too busy building a castle on the sand to notice Edith’s arrival, now ran to welcome her—her gentle spirit, her many small kindnesses to them, having quite won their, young hearts; and when at their request she went to see and praise the skill and patience of the young builders, Hilda followed, and seemed to take far more real interest in making those around her happy than she had been in the habit of doing
When languor and disease invade
This trembling house of clay,
’Tis sweet to look beyond our cage,
And long to fly away;
Sweet to look inward, and attend
The whispers of His love
Sweet to look upward to the place
Where Jesus lives above;
Sweet to look back, and see my name
In life’s fair book set down;
Sweet to look forward, and behold
Eternal joys my own;
Sweet to reflect how grace divine
My sins on Jesus laid;
Sweet to remember that His blood
My debt of sins has paid;
Sweet on His faithfulness to rest,
Whose love can never end;
Sweet on His covenant of grace
For all things to depend;
Sweet in the confidence of faith
To trust His firm decrees
Sweet to lie passive in His hands,
And know no will but His;
Sweet, blessed hope! and I at last
Shall see Him and adore;
Be with His likeness satisfied,
And grieve and sin no more.
CHAPTER 11: THE CHILDREN’S SERVICE
The young castle builders had been having a merry time on the sands. Their sister’s friend Edith had often been a willing listener to their simple tales of joy and sorrow, and Albert soon told her how the mound of sand near which they stood had not long before been a fine castle, round which they had dug a moat, and how, after a brave defence by Alice and Maude, it had been stormed and taken by himself, in the character of one of the brave knights of old, of whose deeds of daring the schoolboy was so fond of reading.
But as Alice and Maude were, they said, too hot to play any more, the whole party turned to Edith with the question, “What shall we do next?”
Edith said, with a smile, “You have all been talking so fast that I have not had an opportunity of telling my errand: to march you all to a service for children to be held near the Black Rocks, at eleven o’clock this morning. One of the Lord’s servants, Mr. Story, has come all the way from London to work for his Master, the Lord Jesus, among the children who, just like yourselves, are spending their holidays by the seaside.”
“Oh, we shall like that. It will be delightful—better than all our play,” said Alice, a gentle thoughtful child of eight. And gathering up their spades and pails our young friends were soon ready to accompany Edith.
When they reached the Black Rocks, they found about thirty children, sitting in groups on the sands, whose willing hands had raised a small hillock for Mr. Story to stand upon, and dug out some seats for themselves.
It was time for the service to begin, so Mr. Story, after giving out the hymn sheets, took his place in the centre. He had a kind pleasant face, and the children felt at once he was a man to be loved and trusted. He asked the young people to sing a hymn from the sheet, and as I am sure you would like to know at least one verse, I am going to copy it for you:—
“The Gospel bells are ringing,
Over land, from sea to sea,
Blessed news of free salvation,
Do they offer you and me;
For God so loved the world
That His only Son He gave,
Whosoe’er believeth in Him
Everlasting life shall have.”
Then in a few simple earnest words of prayer, Mr. Story asked the Lord’s blessing on their meeting. He prayed that many young hearts might be so won by hearing of the love of Jesus that they might trust Him for pardon, and find in Him a friend who would lead them every step of the homeward way, and, life’s journey done, take them to be with Him in the beautiful house He has prepared for those who trust in Him.
Another hymn was sung, then Mr. Story read a verse from his pocket Bible, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it and is safe” (Prov. 18:10), and said, “Dear boys and girls, as I came along the beach this morning I noticed many of you very busy building castles in the sand, and as I watched you at your play, my mind went back to the olden times when there were many castles in England. Only a few are left now, and they are almost all in ruins. The castles I am telling you about belonged to rich men who were called barons.
“Now, some of these barons were very fond of fighting, and often went to war with each other. Some of their castles had round, others square, towers. Some were built near the sea, others were a long way from it. But in one thing I believe they were all alike—every castle had its ‘keep’ or stronghold.
“Last year, when I was in Kent, I went to visit the ruins of an old castle. Ivy grew on its crumbling walls, and a carpet of soft green grass covered the great hail, where long ago the barons and their friends used to dine. I asked the guide to show me the keep, and he took me up a number of very steep stone steps into a small square room, and told me to notice how very thick and strong the walls were. There were no windows in the keep, only small holes or slits in its walls, just large enough to shoot arrows from. And then the guide told me how, in the time of war, all the women and children in that old castle, and all the jewels the baron and his wife had, were taken into the keep.
“Perhaps some of the little children were afraid when they heard the noise of war outside, but I think their mothers would tell them there was no need for fear, for in that stronghold no one could hurt them. The walls of the castle must be pulled down before danger could come to any who had fled for refuge to its keep.
“But why do you think I have told you so much about the old castle and its keep? Just because the Lord Jesus is a strong tower to those who trust in Him. I have told you how all the weak things and all the precious things in that old castle were placed for safety in the keep, when fighting was going on outside. The verse I read from the Book of Proverbs says, ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower,’ and the very first use I want you to make of the Saviour’s name is to trust it for your own salvation.
“If you had fallen into the water it would be of no use for me to stand still on the shore and tell you of beautiful things I was going to give you, or kind things I would do for you some day. You know quite well the help you would need would be that I should jump into the water and pull you out. And if you do not know the Lord Jesus as your own Saviour, you cannot understand or be glad to hear about His other names, so precious to those who love Him.
“But many of you have come to Him for salvation, and you are saved and you know it. Now, I want you to turn to Christ as your strong tower when you are tempted to do wrong. Look away to Jesus. Lift up your hearts to Him in prayer, and you will learn how blessed it is, day by day, to have the. Lord Himself as your keeper, your strong tower.
“‘Jessie, do you love the Lord Jesus?’ a friend of mine asked a very little girl one day,
“‘Oh, yes!’ was the quick glad answer.
“‘How do you know, Jessie?’
“‘Because I feel it in my heart.’
“‘Do you think He knows you love Him?’
“‘Yes, I am sure He does.’
“‘How does the Lord know, Jessie?’
“‘He can see right into my heart.’
“‘But I cannot see into your heart. How am I to know that you love Jesus?’
“Jessie slipped a little text card into her friend’s hand, and pointed to the verse on it. It was this: ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15).
“And I think Jessie was right, for obedience to Christ is the best proof of our love to Him.”
And once more the children’s voices rang out in the words of a favourite hymn, and a few more words of prayer brought the service on the sands to its close.
Our young friends were silent for a short time, and Edith lifted her heart to the Lord in prayer, that the seed sown might fall into the good ground of young hearts, prepared by the Holy Spirit to accept the precious Saviour.
As they parted at the end of the street, where the Mays were lodging, Alice whispered as she kissed Edith, good-bye, “Thank you so much for taking us to the children’s service. I hope I shall never forget what I heard this morning.” And Edith’s reply was, “Ask the Lord to help you to remember it, darling.”
Earth was a lovely garden once.
Where God Himself could walk,
While Adam, full of happiness,
Might with his Maker talk.
The rose then bloom’d without a thorn;
No storm was in the sky;
The dove sought not for refuge then
Her rock where she might fly.
The happiness so quickly lost,
Came from the God of love;
But still unchanged by all the sin,
Love flows down from above.
Christ came ’mid all our sin and woe
To bear it all away,
And lead us to a better land,
Where smiles eternal day.
CHAPTER 12: A TALK ABOUT INDIA
“Oh, aunt Bertha, I am so glad I came early today, so that we can have a good long talk and Jenny Wells threw both arms round her aunt Bertha, and kissed her affectionately.
“You know I am always glad to see you dear,” her aunt said kindly, as she helped Jenny to take off her wraps. “But what do you propose the subject of our afternoon’s talk should be?”
“I want to hear about India, please Auntie. Miss Morgan called at our house this morning to leave a message for her papa, but she could not stay, for she said she was going to say good-bye to a very dear friend who was about to sail for India, as a Zenana teacher. I asked Miss Morgan to tell me about it, but she said, ‘I cannot stay now, dear, or I shall lose the train for W.,’ but just as we got to the garden gate she added ‘Ask your aunt Bertha, Jenny, for I think she will be able to tell you more about Hindu girls and their needs than I could,’ so Auntie you see I am all attention;” and Jenny drew a low chair up to her aunt’s work-table.
The Zenana schools, or missions, as they are sometimes called, are an attempt made by loving, large-hearted Christian women to gain admittance to the private apartments of the girls and women of India, in order to tell them about the Lord Jesus and His love in dying for sinners. But I must try to tell you a little about the homes of Indian girls, or you will be unable to understand why the gospel can only be carried to them by women. I do not think any Hindu girls ever get birthday presents or New Year’s gifts. Even their own fathers are often very unkind to them, and seem to give all their love and care to their sons, and will often hardly speak to their daughters.
They do not go to any day or Sunday school, but are taught by their mothers how to plait their hair, paint their faces, cook rice, and embroider on silk or muslin. If the parents are poor, they sometimes allow their daughters to go to the well for water, or to the market to buy food, always taking care that their faces are quite covered with a large white or blue cotton veil; but if the parents are of high caste, their daughters never go out except when carried by native servants in a kind of covered chair, or box, called a palanquin, or palky.
“Most of the Hindu girls marry when they are very young, often when not more than nine or ten years of age. Shall we follow one to her new home? It is in the house of her husband’s mother, who often treats her daughter-in-law very unkindly. The young wife has to cook her husband’s food and wait upon him, but is not allowed to take her meals with her husband, or even speak to him except he speaks to her first. If she fails in pleasing her husband or his mother, they often beat her in a very cruel way.
“If her husband dies, she is still worse off. His relations tell her that the idols they worship are angry with her, and that her sins have caused the death of her husband; they often turn the widow out of doors to starve or beg. Many widows were burnt alive with the dead bodies of their husbands, but I am glad to be able to tell you that in the year 1829, when a great part of India was acquired by the English, a law was passed to forbid widow burning, or the ‘Rite of Suttee,’ is the horrid custom was called.”
“I am glad such dreadful things can’t be done now,” Jenny said, with a long sigh of relief; “but, please Auntie, I don’t think I quite understood what you meant just now by the words high caste.’”
The Hindus are divided into several classes, called castes. Each caste keeps itself to itself, as we say sometimes, and will not even eat with the members of another caste. Those of high caste will refuse to give a drink of water or a piece of bread to one of a lower caste. But in one thing high and low caste Hindus are alike: they want salvation—a salvation of which many of them have never heard, for as soon as a Hindu becomes a Christian he loses his caste, and is often called to suffer the loss of all his property and friends for Christ’s sake. But I have not told you anything about Indian babies yet, have I, Jenny?”
“Oh, no, aunt Bertha, and I am sure I should like to hear about them; you know I am so fond of babies.”
“Up to the year 1804, a large number of girl-babies were killed every year in India, sometimes by their own mothers. Many were thrown into the river Ganges; and even after British law in India had done all in its power to save the babies, when there was a bad harvest or a long dry season, the Hindu priests told the people that these things happened to them because the gods of the river were angry that no more children were thrown into the river. One of the Lord’s servants who for some years preached the gospel in India, told me once how (in the Lord’s hands) he was the means of saving a dear little baby from being drowned, and as I am sure you will be interested, I will tell you the story of
THE HINDU MOTHER.
“The heat of the day was over, and Mr. S., who had been preaching in a native village some miles from where he lived, was riding slowly homewards, when he caught sight of a small company of Hindus, who seemed anxious to avoid observation, making their way to the Ganges. Mr. S. drew rein, and watched them for a short time, and soon felt sure that they were going to drown a baby, not openly, as would once have been done, but in a more secret way.
“First walked several priests carrying idols gongs, and large bunches of flowers, these were followed by another, who carried the baby, gaily dressed, and with its face painted red and black. The mother of the infant followed; Mr. S. could not see her face, as she wore a veil, but her head was bowed, and Mr. S. felt sure she was in trouble. Could he save the baby? No English friend or Christian was near him, but he remembered the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish’ (Matt. 18:1). In another moment his mind was made up. He was going to try; for would not the God whom he served be near him, and teach him what to say and do?
“Mr. S. now saw that the party, whose movements he had been watching had almost reached the bank of the river, and he must ride as quickly as possible over some rough ground.
“Was he too late? you ask. As he came within speaking distance of the party, he saw an old priest throw the baby into the river, while his attendants waved flowers and beat a gong. But the love for her child was too strong and deep in the heart of the poor mother to be crushed out even by the false teaching of these cruel priests. Springing into the stream, which in some parts is very narrow, she grasped the baby, and brought it safely to land. The old priest now became very angry, and began to scold her, saying that the gods of the river would punish her by killing her husband if she would not part with the baby. The poor mother seemed very much frightened, and trembled all over. The priest took the baby out of her arms, and was about to throw it again into the river, when Mr. S., who came up at that moment, took hold of his arm, saying as he did so, “Do you not know that the Queen of England is also Empress of India; and her laws forbid children being thrown into the Ganges?’
The priest who knew that he was doing wrong, was glad to make his escape, followed by his attendants. Mr. S. then returned the infant to its mother, and told her in very simple words of a God of whom she had never heard. When he spoke of God’s love in giving His Son to die for sinners she said, tears of joy filling her eyes, ‘I will always pray to the Christians’ God, He is so good; and I will teach my baby to love and serve Him too.’ Mr. S. then gave her a copy of the Gospel of John printed in her native language, which she gladly promised to learn to read. He then continued his ride homewards, very glad and thankful that he had been the means of saving even one Hindu baby from a watery grave.
How long sometimes a day appears,
And weeks how long are they
Months move as slowly as if years
Would never pass away.
Both months and years are passing by,
And soon must all be gone;
For day by day as minutes fly,
Eternity comes on.
Days, months and years must have an end,
Eternity has none;
’Twill always have as long to spend,
As when it first begun.
Great God! an infant cannot tell
How such a thing can be;
I only pray that I may dwell
That long, long time with Thee.