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and his father. Then footsteps made the stairs creek. Then there was a volley of oaths.
"Josiah,” called Wiltshire's voice, “your mother's
Not finding his wife, and his wrath gathering force as the minutes passed, Wiltshire now began to ascend to the garret. Whither could Stephen fiee? Alas, there was no way of escape; for if he made a bolt of it and succeeded in getting past the old man down the stairs, Josiah would surely meet him at the bottom. There was nothing for it but to wait. He crouched down in a corner trembling in every limb, and quite white. But directly Wiltshire entered the room, and the rats, who took no notice of Stephen, and were bold by day as well as by night, scuttled off at the sound of his loud step and louder voice, a sudden strength came to the child. He stood upright, his arms folded across his chest.
“What are you doing here? Why aren't you making some use of yourself, you lazy vagabond ?”
Stephen tried to explain that there was nothing for him to do, but his lips refused to move.
“Where is your mistress ? ”
“ What's the good of me taking precautions to keep a tidy home, and working hard, and seeing that my wife's kept out of danger to be all undone by a charity brat like you. You did it, did you? You shall suffer for this. Did you do it, eh?”
“Yes," said Stepheu quickly, “I did."
Wiltshire, choked with rage, made for the boy, but Stephen dodged him and succeeded in tting to the stairs. He fled down them, his pursuer, less nimble of foot and heavier in weight, some way behind him. But his words of fury, though inarticulate, were loud. Josiah, below stairs, caught his father's meaning. He awaited Stephen.
The boy gave a cry of despair. It was useless to try and fight, but instinct impelled him to offer some resistance to the malice of Josiah, who kept one hand over his mouth so that his cries were muffled. It is probable that in no case would they have attracted attention. The neighbours were used to the doings in that house. The woman who lived on the right-hand side had sometimes to send her children out of the room they usually occupied, lest they should hear through the walls the language which was used.
The return of Mrs. Wiltshire created a diversion. Stephen was released. He crept away into the shop. The dusk was falling. A sudden impulse possessed him. He slipped out of the door, and, bruised and sick though he was, once in the streets he ran and ran till he could run no farther.
shelter him from the Wiltshires. When he came near public-houses, however, there was always a brilliant illumination, and here and there the streets were full of people talking, laughing, and quarrelling.
He passed one narrow street, at the corner of which was one of these public-houses, and outside it a barrelorgan was playing a waltz. Everyone seemed to be dancing to it; the children took each other by the waist, and whirled each other round, laughing, enjoying themselves as only children can. Some women with muddy skirts and muddier boots, and disordered hair, were dancing too, more wildly, less gleefully than the children; even some of the men who had come out of the public-house to look on were taking part, their laughter and harsh voices were a discordant element. The scene was fitfully lit by a lurid light when the door at the side of the "public" was swung open, and the effect was curiously weird. Mingled with the sound of the music was the barking of a dog which some boys were teasing.
Stephen went by. A little farther on was a blank wall. It seemed comparatively quiet here. Stephen
. crouched against it with closed eyes. He was longing for rest, but he knew not where to find it.
Presently he became aware that there was music in the air, but not the music of the barrel-organ. It stole upon his senses and soothed him.
It was a hymn that was being played upon a harmonium, to which several voices were singing. The distance made it sound sweeter than if one had been quite close.
Stephen opened his eyes and looked about him wondering. He then saw that almost opposite him was a narrow street or court like the one he had just passed. It was dark, except in one place where the wet pavement was illumined by the light that streamed from an open door. Watching, he could see the legs of people who stepped on to this patch of light. No one seemed to come past it. It must be from here that the music came, he thought, and he made up his mind to go in search of it.
He pulled himself together, crossed the road, and dragged his tired feet along the greasy sidewalk, scarcely deserving the name of pavement. The singing grew more distinct and louder as he approached, but he could not make out the words. He did not try to. The tune pleased him. That was enough.
No one interfered with his entrance. There was a gentleman at the door, but when Stephen looked up at him timidly the gentleman smiled as if he were glad to see him and had expected him, and told him to sit down.
Stephen did so gladly enough. There were rows of forms all filled with boys as ragged and some of them as thin as himself. Stephen found himself next to a young fellow with a crutch.
He was still rather frightened, but no one seemed to: want to interfere with him or turn him out, and before the hymn was finished he felt already warmer and more comfortable, and as if he had a right to be there. The boy with the crutch offered to share his book, but as Stephen was staring about him he did not notice it. He could not read, so he was not a loser by this. Moreover, by the time he had observed the boys and wondered what the white thing was at the end of the room the hymn had come to an end, and suddenly the room was in darkness.
And then he thought he heard his own name.
How did he know that ? wondered the boy. He did “Stephen!"
not think anybody knew. And why was he telling Could it be? Hark, there it was again.
these other boys ? “Boys,” said a voice, “I am going to tell you to-night “Shall I show him to you?” asked the voice. about some one called Stephen-St. Stephen.”
Stephen half rose. He was afraid. He was pulled He did not know what saint meant. He had never back by the boy with the crutch. heard the word before. He did not know that there was “ There !” said the speaker. “There is Stephen.” any other Stephen in the world besides himself.
Was he dreaming? He gasped, and then held his “You know, my boys, there's a great deal of un- breath, watching eagerly.
It was not of him the gentleman was speaking then after all.
On the white thing at the end of the room had appeared the half-prostrate figure of a man. His face was upraised, and bright and gloriously happy, happier than any face Stephen had ever beheld or conceived of. And yet, could it be? There were cruel people near, mocking him, angry with him, throwing stones at him. The boy could see that his body was hurt and bleeding. And his heart swelled with sympathy for this other Stephen. After all no one had ever thrown stones at him, and there were more people doing it than just the Wiltshires. But after all this was a man, and he was only a little boy.
Did not he mind, that he looked so happy ?
“ This, my lads, is copied from a beautiful picture by a great artist. You know
what an artist is, don't you? And it shows us the first martyr, St. Stephen. A martyr is a witness, a witness for God. We can all be witnesses, though we are not all called upon to die like St. Stephen.”
Then he went on to tell the children the story of the saint. And they listened with breathless interest, though none so intently as the little fellow whose name was Stephen too. To him it was all so new and yet so real. His eyes were fixed on the picture, and it seemed to him that the eyes of the martyr looked at him. It was as if he had found a friend.
“And now I'll tell you, TO BOTH SLEEP CAME IN MERCY.
what they did to him in
their anger. They took kindness in the world. People are not always good to him away to a high place, a place twice as high as he each other. You know that. Many of you have had to was, and he was thrown down from this with his hands suffer, haven't you? You've had blows, and cruel things bound. And then a stone, so heavy that it needed two have been said to you, and you've had to put up with men to carry it, was rolled down on him, and after that, them as best you could. But you've had bitter feelings all the people who wanted to, threw stones at him till in your heart against those who've ill-used you, most he died.” likely. Anyway, you haven't known where to get help The speaker heard one of the audience give a sob. or quite how to bear it. Now, I'm going to tell you the "Shut up," said the boy with the crutch, not unkindly, way God would like you to behave about these things. however. And so I shall try and talk to you to-night about “Think, boys, how it must have hurt. I don't Stephen. He was made to suffer, you know. Wicked suppose any one has ever done anything as bad as that men hurt him."
to you, have they? But he had no thought of himself,
He was thinking about Jesus, and when he was dying he kneeled down-you see, in the picture-and he prayed for the people who had stoned him to be forgiven.
“ He forgave his enemies. That's what God wants us all to do. We must do it if we wish to go to heaven and be with Him.
“ Remember that. It's very difficult. But God will help you, just as He helped St. Stephen. When people are unkind to you, you must love them and forgive them.
“Now, what did I say you must do ?” And several hoarse voices shouted out"Love them and forgive them.”
Stephen did not say it. His throat was dry and his tongue would not move. But his heart was crying out: “I must love them and forgive them.”
Then the picture vanished away, and the light was turned up, and there was more singing and a prayer. But Stephen took no part in either. He was only conscious of one thing. He must not run away. He inust go back to the Wiltshires. He must be a witness. lf not, he could not go where God was, and his mother was with God, and he wanted his mother.
“Now if you'll come to-morrow, boys, I'll tell you about another saint, some one who was willing to be a martyr, only God didn't ask it of him, and then the night after that, about some little children who were allowed to be martyrs when they were tiny babies.”
Then there was the stamping of many feet, confusion, a rush of cold air, and Stephen found himself in the street.
He set his face homewards.
usual morning's work, but the effort to rise and walk was unavailing. It made him sick and faint. Yesterday's exposure, and his cold bed in his wet clothes, and all the pain and excitement he had gone through, were producing their effect already.
“I will wait a li tle while longer,” he thought, “and then I will go in."
No one disturbed him. The donkey had to wait in patience for its breakfast, looking pitifully at Stephen with its pathetic eyes. Mrs. Wiltshire was late as usual, and the men were not disposed to be down early. It was almost noon when Josiah appeared. Stephen heard his slow and heavy footsteps.
“What are you doing here, you lazy vagabond ?” he cried. “Here have we been wondering what had come to you! Where have you been? Here, none of this. Get up, you obstinate little brute! What, you won't, won't yer? I'll show you how."
He was dragged into the kitchen. Wiltshire was there, eating his breakfast, and Mrs. Wiltshire, whose appearance was not improved since yesterday. Stephen looked at her appealingly. After all, though he was too generous to remind her of it, it was for her sake he had suffered. Perhaps because she felt this, and was powerless to help him, she turned upon him with reproaches and abuse.
Never mind what followed. Stephen closed his dying eyes that he might see the beautiful face of the saint who had been stoned ; and it may be God gave him strength to bear his punishment-a punishinent which, because of its severity, brought eveutually the penalty of the law on his brutal persecutors. When they released him his lips moved before he fell unconscious on the floor. He was trying to say, “I love and forgive you."
THE SHADOW OF AN ASS.
It took him a long time to get back, because he was so stiff and tired and sore. When he came to the shop and svught for admittance he found all in darkness. Mrs. Wiltshire had betaken herself and her injuries to bed, and Mr. Wiltshire and Josiah were spending the bank huliday evening away from home in such festive scenes as were congenial tv them.
He waited for some little while trembling, and knocking timidly, but as no one appeared, and as he rather dreaded a meeting between himself and his employers now that it came to the point, he made up his mind to delay it till the morning. He bethought him of his friend the donkey, went round the back way, climbed over he knew not how, and got into the miserable shed where the creature slept. There they passed the night together; to both sleep came in mercy.
The donkey was the first to wake. The sound of its moving disturbed Stephen, who opened his eyes, wondering where he was. For a little while he was too dazed to remember, and when he tried to sit upright he was conscious of pains all through him that made him sink down again on the straw groaning. At last it all came back to him, the memory of yesterday and of last night, and of the saint whose name he bore. He tried to recall what the gentleman had said he was to do to the Wiltshires. At last he remembered: “Love them and forgive them.” He said the words over and over to himself, and they wrote themselves indelibly on his mind. “When I see them,” he thought, “I will tell them.”
He felt he ought to go into the house and do his
HE Greeks had a proverb which ran thus, “To
dispute on the shadow of an ass.” This took rise
from an anecdote which Demosthenes is said to have related to the Athenians, to excite their attentions during his defence of a criminal, to which they were paying but scant attention. “A traveller,” he said,
once went from Athens to Megara on a hired ass. It was about midday in the height of summer and he was exposed to the scorching heat of the sun, and not finding a bush behind which he could obtain shelter, he got down from the ass and seated himself in its shadow. The owner of the donkey objected to this—for he was driving the animal-saying the use of his shadow was not included in the bargain. The disputants at last came to blows, and threatened to call in the aid of the law!" After having said so much and roused the attention of his audience, Demosthenes recommenced the defence it his client, but the audience were anxious to know how the judges decided such a singular case.
Then the great orator commented severely on their childish injustice, in listening with attention to a paltry story, while they turned a deaf ear to a cause in which the life of a mad was involved. From that day, when a man was inclined to discuss paltry subjects to the neglect of great ones, he was said “to dispute on the shadow of an ass.”
CHE grandfather clock in the hall ticks steadily on. year, that is slipping off with its heavy luggage of smiles
The sun has long since gone to bed, wrapped in the and tears, rain and shine, heartbreaks and glints of joy,
rose-coloured robes that mean a still harder frost. into that past which is the home of all earth's years. The stars steal out in the deepening blue. There is an “The year is going, let him go!" expectant thrill in the air, for it is the last day of We shall watch him depart with dry eyes. But it is Ninety-five's life. Yes, the old year is passing swiftly always well to pay respect to old age; little dancing away, and the frost-bound earth holds her breath ; the feet must be firmly pressed to the hardening snow, and cruel north-east wind is lulled.
rosy lips tightly pursed up to keep laughter a prisoner. Little feet are hurrying along the straight avenue of “Do you think they will muffle the bells to-night?” elms that leads up to the ancient porch of a certain asks Minny under her breath. priory church famous in history and in fiction. The “No!” whispers back Johnny. “They don't do it children are coming to say good-bye to the old year, and nowadays. When mother was a little girl they always to welcome the young stranger who is travelling so fast did." in order to step into Ninety-five's shoes. The boys and “Oh, did they have happy new years when mother the girls gather, hand-in-hand, forming a ring under the was a little girl ?” Minny's round blue eyes grow wider. shadow of the magnificent old tower, their eyes fixed Johnny is about to make a sharp retort to this speech, eagerly on its clock's creeping fingers. Round about, on but, somehow, he chokes it back; and, then, he is glad meadow and lea, the fair white snow lies so deep that he did not utter harsh words in the solemn, starlit hush. their footsteps have made no sound; and little chattering Instead, he is beginning to whisper a description of the tongues are hushed awhile. Something is going to muffling of the priory church-bells in bygone days, to happen. The bells will tell us what. High up in the toll a goodbye to the dying year, when, lo! a sudden belfry, the bell-ringers are ready, at attention, waiting to start runs quivering along the ring of little folk. Overbegin the happy story.
head break out, with clash and peal, the mighty bells Quiet, children all! This little Johnny and that little throbbing their farewells; and after the first thrill of Minny must stay their fidgets, and hush their whispers. surprise, the children begin to say softly their goodbyes Each must be still as a mouse. It will never do to to the speeding-away year. Perhaps Johnny's are said disturb the last hour of the old year—the poor, tireu-out with a rueful stir of regret for certain shortcomings that
stalk out of their hiding-places in his memory. He might have been kinder at home; more obedient to his good, loving parents; more upright in his dealings with his schoolfellows. There was Smalley Minor; he needn't have elbowed off the poor little chap who wanted to be chummy, and who needed sympathy sorely, seeing he was a new-made orphan. There were one or two other matters also; a prize, for instance, won by not quite the fairest means; what an ugly black business that quibble was to look back upon! Johnny wriggles in secret; he feels sorry to have laid that extra bit of sorrowful luggage on Ninety-five's back.
Round-eyed Minny, on her part, has no regrets to weigh down her heart. She is innocently thinking, while she waits, of those poor little children in the far-away North, who, mother says, will be trotting from door to door on this last night of the year, begging, with out-spread pinafores, for cakes, and singing shrilly“Hogmanay, trollalay, give me of your white bread
and none of your gray!' Then the little maid's thoughts fly back southwards again, halting for a second in the clean white world of the children's ward of a great London hospital. Minny wonders if the inmate of a certain cot there, to whom she sent her brightest Christmas shilling, is awake watching for the New Year. There is such a glow of happy content in Minny's simple heart that she tells herself she is glad the bells are not muffled, glad that they sound out so joyously as they cleave the frosty air, pealing and crashing while the clock's fingers steal nearer to the end of the hour. How mournful it must have been to hear the solemn muffled sounds mother listened to-when she was a little girl! Minny shivers; then she with difficulty keeps back the loud cry springing off her lips. The bells have ceased abruptly, and the silence is stranger to bear than their mighty clamour. “Don't you be frightened ! ” whispers Johnny, remembering that Minny is only that weak thing, a little girl. “Listen !' and he squeezes up her warm trembling hand tightly in his own. There is a new sound falling on the air--a stately regular clang. It is the clock in the old tower speaking, and Johnny begins to count aloud; so do the other boys and girls in the ring.
“ One!—Two!—Three !” On, on, the strokes mount up at last to “Twelve!” The last note is swallowed up in the loudest of merry peals from
“The happy bells across the snow,". crazy with the whirl of their joyous greeting.
“A happy New Year! A happy New Year!” The shrieks of the excited children mingle with the clamour of the bells. The ring is broken, and little feet stamp over the snow while their owners' voices, shrill and sweet, welcome the baby-year, just born.
“Hurrah for Ninety-six !” shouts Johnny, leading off the cheers, and some boys' caps are thrown up so high that it is a wonder they ever returned to earth again. In the venerable priory church, founded centuries since for the Augustinian monks and priors, all is silent and still. But in the elm tops outside, the birds are awaking to wonder what all the clamouring of bells and young voices can possibly mean. And the wind carries the story, told by the New Year chimes, along the deep quiet reaches of the river. Under every roof, far and
wide, hands are clasping hands; good wishes are coming in and going out. In every heart are new-born resolves, for does not the message of the bells say, “Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.” “I'll be kind, this coming half, to Smalley Minor!” Johnny tells himself, as he takes breath for another cheer. “I'll help him all I can with his preparation, and I'll never laugh at him because he is such a noodle at football. A happy New Year to Smalley Minor ! Hurrah!”
Minny makes no resolutions; she has not the sense. Only, she knows, deep down in her heart, that mother is so good to her, and she means to be " so good just the same” to that ailing little occupant of the cot in the children's ward up yonder at the hospital, the little sufferer who has got no mother at all; who has only one Friend, the best of all comforters though,
“ The Friend for little children
Above the bright blue sky!” But whose are these dark figures hurrying over the white snow towards the little folk? A happy cry of “ Mother!” from each boy and girl answers the question. There is a rush forward to meet them, and then the dark new-comers all begin tying on the warm comforters and wraps, which they have brought for the tiny wanderers.
“We must muffle our little bells !” say these wise mothers. “Else the New Year will sow sickness and sorrow in our homes ! "
“But it is a bappy New Year, so there can't be sorrow in it,” insist the little people as they scamper on in front; and the mothers, bringing up the rear, pray God in their hearts that this new-born year may indeed brim over with true happiness for each and all dear to them.
M. B. MAXWELL.
MIKE'S FIRST THREEPEN CE.
A TRUE STORY.
LITTLE Mike was the merriest, cheeriest little soul it
At time I knew him he had just undergone a very painful operation to his feet, but the suffering that many an older person would have shrunk from and grumbled at, only seemed to make Mikey more bright and full of fun.
When asked, “Why are you so happy, Mike?” he would answer, “ Cos the pain is just gone away, and Dr. Harley says I can walk straight presently.” Looking at the poor little feet and terribly deformed ankles, and thinking how the child must have suffered from cold, hunger, pain and dirt during his five short years of lifeand seeing the bright face, hearing the merry laugh and cheery voice that prattled unceasingly, I could only feel ashamed of the unthankful spirit that could find sorrows for itself among its many blessings.
Mike was the pet of the whole hospital. Nurses, students, doctors, and visitors all loved him, and he loved them in return. His large heart found room to love every body, which is perhaps the true secret of happiness, but his favourite among all who were kind to him was the young house-surgeon. Why, Mikey himself alone