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Florence Alice Sitwell.

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lives."

"It is always there," said Kate, earnestly, "burning into me so that I
cannot forget it. It is much worse to bear than the pain. Indeed, I
cannot bear it, it is almost intolerable. Night and day, I can never,
never forget it. And oh, Mother Agnes, if I had killed my own little
Frances, it would not have given me the trouble it does to think of the
things I have done against Jesus Christ."

Kate's words, her face, and her whole manner awed Mother Agnes so much
that she could not speak for some moments. And then she talked to Kate
for long - gently and tenderly and more plainly than she had ever done
before. Kate said good-bye to her with eyes that were full of tears.

That night, before she went to sleep, Frances said:

"Kate, does what you spoke of still burn into you?"

Kate was startled, for she did not think that Frances had heard the
half-whispered conversation.

"Yes," she said, "it is there just the same. I can scarcely bear it!
What can I do?"

"I don't know what you can do," said Frances, "except that you are
bound to speak to Him about it."

Kate turned on her pillow with a half sob, and said no more.




CHAPTER IV.

IN A THIRD-CLASS CARRIAGE.

"Kate - I can't sing any more - I'm just tired out with happiness."

"Cuddle up against me, darling, and try and go to sleep then."

"Then, dear Kate," said Frances, earnestly, "will you _promise_ to tell
me all about the next stations, and the green fields, and the sheep,
and the cows, and the people hay-making, and the dear little white
houses. And I will dream about the sea. Oh, I am so glad that you and
I are going to the sea."

So the little head with its mass of golden brown hair found a
resting-place on Kate's shoulder, and silence reigned for a time. And
Kate, her arm round the sleeping child, watched those green fields
flooded with summer sunlight with thoughts so new and strange that
often the tears would come into her eyes. She could not quite
understand this new life yet, but somehow, since the day when the
fast-closed door was unlocked, and the Friend admitted, she had found
all her old restlessness and her hard thoughts of life vanish, and deep
peace and love had come in their place.

"Is it a station?" said a little dreamy voice at length, and the brown
head moved uneasily. "Please tell me when there's something to be seen
besides 'Colman's Mustard.'"

"There _is_ something!" cried Kate, breathlessly, "there is, Oh,
Frances, such a beautiful face!"

Little Frances was on her feet in a moment, and rushed to the farther
window. Before the train had quite stopped, her head was such a long
way out that an old German from the next window shouted to her, "If you
do not take care, Miss, some fine morning you vill get up vidout your
head."

"I see her," said Frances, turning round to Kate, "all in grey, with a
very, very large bunch of roses in her hands. Now she is talking to
three big brothers. Now the big brothers are carrying all her things;
books, and a bag, and a basket, and a cloak, and a parasol, and a funny
stick with wires in it."

"Lawn-tennis racket," suggested Kate, who knew country ways.

"There is a funny old woman with a hook nose walking with them, and now
the big brothers are laughing and talking to her."

"Maybe she's the old nurse," remarked Kate.

"They are coming our way; oh, do you think she will get into our
carriage?"

"No, she'll travel first-class," said Kate, with a little sigh.

"No, no, I can hear them speak of travelling third. Kate, put your old
hat straight on your head. Tie my blue tie - quick, please!"

The arrangements were scarcely completed when a young man's face
appeared at the window, and soon after they heard a voice: "I say,
Violet, if you really mean to travel third, you and Nanny had better
get in there. There's only a poor girl with crutches and one other
child."

"All right, Dick; help Nanny up first, and give her a corner seat with
my cloak behind her. Now Nanny, darling, lean on his arm."

"Put Nanny facing the engine, or she'll think she's going the wrong
way," shouted another voice, and a peal of laughter followed.. The old
woman after some difficulty was safely landed inside the carriage. The
brothers, carrying the things, followed. Violet with her great bunch
of roses came last.

It was quite new to poor Kate to hear brothers and sisters laughing and
joking together. She could not half understand the little jokes that
passed, but she liked to listen. The musical voices and the ringing
laughter seemed to do her good.

And Violet all the time was conscious of a great pair of wistful eyes
fixed on hers. As soon as the final good-bye to the brothers had been
said, and the train was really off, she whispered something to Nanny,
and began unfastening her bunch of roses. Nanny, meanwhile, bent
forward towards Kate: "You've been ill, my dears," she said.

"We've both been run over," said Kate.

"Eh, dearie me, now! to think of that!" said the old woman,
sympathisingly. "And you were hurt a great deal, I daresay."

"I lost my leg," said Kate.

"Well, now, I can feel for you there, - not as I ever lost one of mine,
as is as good as ever, - but I as good as lost one in Mr. Fred. You
remember, Miss Violet, my dear, that summer when he fell from the apple
tree, and the doctor said as he'd never seen such a leg. Dearie me,
what a sight of trouble we had with him to be sure!"

Violet had risen from her seat, and came towards the two poor girls.

"I want you to let me pin some of these roses in your dresses," she
said, brightly. "They are so sweet. Do you care for flowers?"

"I do. Thank you, Miss, very much." Kate lifted her head, and for a
moment the two girls looked each other full in the face. Such a
contrast they were! Violet all glowing with life and happiness and
beauty; and Kate with her old, sad face, and pathetic, dark eyes.

"Nanny, dear," said Violet, turning to the old nurse; "don't you think
my other cloak would make quite a nice soft cushion? Do reach it
over," and in one moment more poor Kate, who, truth to say, was getting
very weary with her journey, found something that she could lean her
tired back against with comfort.

Violet went back to her seat, and for some little time sat still, with
a book in her hand but her eyes kept wandering off to the two poor
girls in the farther corner. After old Nanny had fallen asleep, Violet
at length came and sat next the girls.

"Do you mind my asking, - are you sisters?" she asked, in her soft voice.

"No, Miss," said Kate. "It pleased God to take my little sister. And
this is a little girl He sent me instead, when my heart was pretty nigh
broken."

"You've had great trouble," said Violet.

"It's not so long ago that I was near drowning myself," said Kate.

A look of great compassion came into Violet's face as these words were
said. She only answered quietly: "Shall I tell you a true story? A
lady one evening who was walking over a bridge in London, saw a poor
man leaning over a parapet, and he had such a sad look in his face that
she felt sure he meant to drown himself. She didn't like to speak to
him; but, as she passed by, she said these words out loud, 'There is a
river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God.' And long
after they met, and he recognised her and said, 'You saved my life,'
and told her that that night he had had the fullest intention of
drowning himself. I think her words had made him suddenly remember
another city besides London, and another river besides the dark, gloomy
Thames rolling away beneath his feet."

She waited a moment to see if Kate had taken in the little story, and
what effect it was having upon her. Kate's head was bent down, and she
had fast hold of little Frances' hand.

"Like enough the city and the river made him think of Christ," she
said. "I couldn't drown myself now, Miss, - not if it was ever so, - for
His sake I couldn't. And if I had to be miserable all the rest of my
life, it seems to me it would be worth while to have lived to have
known the love of Christ even for five minutes."

"And it isn't only for five minutes," said Violet, in a low voice, her
eyes glowing, "but for ever and for ever. This is only the beginning."

They were silent for some moments, and then Violet's gentle questions
called out much of the history of Kate's sad life. They were learning
from each other, those two girls. Kate learned what sympathy may do,
and a deep desire to minister to others sprang up within her. Violet
learned how dull and sad and surrounded with dangers the lives of many
girls in our great cities are, and the knowledge gave rise to new
prayers and plans and work in her future life.

A cathedral town came in sight. Violet, starting up, woke old Nanny,
and then began quickly putting together books and cloaks. Only a few
minutes more, and she was standing with outstretched hand at the door
of the railway carriage.

"Good-bye, good-bye," she said. "Do write and tell me how you and
little Frances like the sea-side. I hope it will do you good," and she
was gone. Kate and Frances watched with eager eyes till the tall
graceful figure of the girl and the bent figure of the old woman were
lost to sight in the crowded station.

"Do you think we shall ever see her again?" said little Frances.

"Perhaps," said Kate, "we shall have to wait till we reach the Golden
City."




CHAPTER V.

BY THE SEA.

Two little girls were lying out, in two long chairs, by the sea-shore.
The younger one was knitting, and, as she knitted, talking and
laughing, and often looking up to rest her eyes lovingly on the sea.
Her lap was covered with shells and sea-weed, brought to her by some
pale-faced fellow-patients who were wandering about the shore.

Mother Agnes had sent both Kate and Frances to a Convalescent Home by
the sea, and their delight over this their first sea-side visit was
untold. From early morning, when they woke to find themselves in a
pink room, in beds with white dimity curtains printed with pink
rose-buds, and the smell of the sea coming in at the open window, till
the last light had faded away in the long summer evenings, their days
were one continued dream of delight.

Kate's face was growing sunburnt and warm in colouring. Her eyes had a
soft, surprised look in them, as if she were suddenly waking up to a
whole world of unsuspected wonders in heaven and on earth. There was a
gladness about her, like the gladness of a little child who has been
turned out of a dull, close room into a field of cowslips. She and
Frances never tired of each other's company; and Kate, for the first
time in her life, was guilty of laughing and talking nonsense from
sheer lightheartedness.

And so the days sped by, till Kate began to have a sort of wish to see
the Orphanage again, and a feeling that after all the pain might be
conquered, and life there be brightest and best.

And, oddly enough, as she and Frances were talking about it one
morning, who should make her appearance but Mother Agnes herself, who
spoke about Kate's return as if it had been all settled long ago; and
then told Frances to her great surprise that she too was to become an
inmate of the Orphanage. The poor aunt had had losses, the little shop
was given up, and she could no longer provide for Frances, and had
entreated Mother Agnes to get the child admitted. And Frances' great
love for Kate helped her over the trouble of changing her old home for
a new one.

When the two invalids arrived at the Orphanage, they found a great
"Welcome" arranged in daisies over the door. Kate was feasted like the
prodigal son on his return, and no one thought of reproaching her for
having run away. And Kate returned the love and kindness she met with
fully and joyously, for now she had entered into that mysterious rest
and sweetness existing somewhere at the heart of things, of which so
much is written, but which so few set themselves with earnest purpose
to find.

It was a surprise to every one, except perhaps to Mother Agnes, who
understood the girl's mind, when Kate began to write little poems, and
to receive sundry little sums of money from different magazines for
them. Kate's first wish, of course, was to give back the value of the
Orphanage dress in which she had run away; and then Mother Agnes
started a money-box, into which all the earnings were put in the hope
that some day enough would be found in it to buy Kate a cork leg.
"That day, Kate," said she, "may yet be a long way off. But,
meanwhile, dear child, you will remain here, and complete your
education, and by-and-by I hope we shall see you mistress of a village
school."

The money-box was placed in the Orphanage schoolroom, and the children
dropped their pennies in, and sometimes strangers who came to visit the
Orphanage were told how Kate had lost her leg, and added something to
the fund. And, in course of time, the box got so full that Mother
Agnes, for prudence sake, would carry it to her own room to lock it up
at night.

* * * * * *

Another frosty Christmas, but it was night now, and all the glories of
a starlit sky could be seen from the corridor window, on the broad
ledge of which Kate and Frances sat. The years that had passed had
changed them much. Kate had a quiet power about her that could be more
felt than expressed in words. Her face, quaint and clever, was lighted
up by a singularly sweet smile; and nothing reminded one of the old
Kate except the large, pathetic eyes. She was Mother Agnes's right
hand with the little ones. Her way of managing them was so winning
that she seldom or never caused vexation; and she brought sympathy,
imagination, and judgment to bear in her work amongst them.

Frances had grown very pretty; she had golden brown hair, and blue eyes
that were always laughing; and her face was not only beautiful in form
and colour, but sensitive and refined. She had quite recovered her
accident; was fleet of foot as a little hare, and full of health and
spirits. Frances was always laughing, and it was a laugh so utterly
joyous and free from care, that it seemed to have no place in this
weary, hard-working, grasping, eager, restless nineteenth century, but
to belong to some early age, before the world had lost its freshness,
or better still, to be an earnest, with all that is good and true, of
the "Restoration of all things."

[Illustration: Kate and Frances.]

She was leaning her head against Kate's shoulder, and talking eagerly.

"And then, dear Kate, as you have made up your mind to be a
schoolmistress in Westminster, and to teach those poor little sickly
children whom no one seems to care for, I have made up my mind to be an
hospital nurse, and Mother Agnes has given her consent; and oh Kate,
every spare minute they give me shall be spent with you. And you will
have some dear little sitting-room looking on the river, I know. And
there we shall sit together, and watch the rush of life on the river;
and talk of a hundred things - of your school children and my patients,
and the beautiful things that happen to us, and the comic ones. And,
as we are talking, Mother Agnes will perhaps come in for a cup of tea
(having come up to town on some errand), and you will give her the
nicest tea possible, and then we three will sit there still when it is
dark, and talk of everything in heaven and on earth. And when the
girls from here are put out to places in London, they will come and see
you, and have tea with you in your little sitting-room."

Voices and rushings of feet were heard on the stairs.

"Kate! where is Kate?"

"Kate, you are wanted in the schoolroom!"

"O Kate, here you are! Now, guess what has come for you from London!"

Little hands seized hold of Kate, and the children's eagerness was so
great that she was obliged to remind them that she had only a wooden
leg, and couldn't get downstairs quickly.

"Kate, we can't keep it back, we must tell you! It is your cork leg
arrived. Mother Agnes has given the last five pounds herself, and
ordered the leg to be here by Christmas."

But when Kate was introduced to her new member, with injunctions to
treat it with due respect, she was quite overcome. She leaned against
the wall and sobbed. She had never cried when she lost her leg; and it
was only the love and kindness shown her that made her cry now. But
the tears were only for a moment, - and they were followed by a great
rush of gladness.

The little ones would not be satisfied without helping Kate upstairs
and to bed that night, and placing the cork leg in a prominent position
in the room, "so that you will be quite sure to see it, Kate, as soon
as you wake up on Christmas morning."




CHAPTER VI.

CHRISTMAS DAY.

"Why, my dear old Kate, you're only half awake yet, and the little ones
have been up for hours already, and Christmas Day has broken upon the
world once more. There; give me a kiss, and wish me a merry Christmas
in a proper manner."

"Another Christmas," said Kate, half dreamily, raising herself in bed.
"Frances, what are you doing?"

"Finishing a frock for poor Aunt's youngest; but oh, Kate, I have been
watching the dawn too, such a lovely dawn; I shall never forget it.
There, lean your head against me while I tell you about it. The light
came creeping, creeping up, so slowly, and so shyly. Then suddenly the
clouds parted, and a burst of glory came, making the dull snow, and
even the icicles look warm in the red light. And was it stupid, do you
think? I couldn't help thinking of you and the little children in
Westminster, and how you would watch the sunshine coming into so many
little desolate lives."

Frances stopped suddenly, and neither spoke for some moments. Her big
blue eyes were resting on the snow scene outside. A vision crossed
Kate's mind of two little girls watching that same scene many years
ago, in the cold moonlight with sorrowful hearts. She thought she knew
well what Frances meant about sunshine coming into a desolate life.

"Dear old Kate, how tired you will get sometimes with teaching those
poor little things, who are sure to be tiresome and naughty. But then,
you know, it will be all work for Him, and so of course you will be
quite glad to be tired. And then He will not let you bear one tired
feeling alone. It will be like those verses in your favourite poem: -

"But this it was that made me move,
As light as carrier-birds in air;
I loved the weight I had to bear,
Because it needed help of Love.

Nor could I weary, heart or limb,
When mighty Love would cleave in twain,
The lading of a single pain,
And part it, giving half to Him."


"O Kate, what a life! And then to think that all these little dawnings
we see in people's lives are only pictures of the great dawn coming,
when all things will be made new. Kate, doesn't it make you
unutterably glad?"

"Indeed, it does, Frances. And, please God, you and I will take our
places side by side in the great army of watchers and workers."

* * * * * *

One glimpse more into the lives of two happy women. Only a few years
later, and Frances had a love-story and a wedding. The story began in
a summer holiday in the country, where she, not being very strong at
the time, had gone for rest and change. He was the village doctor, and
he first met her sitting by the bed-side of one of his poor patients,
and her bright face haunted him. They met again in the Sunday school;
and again at a great open-air parish tea, where Frances sat next him.
She pitied him for being shy, and tried gently to draw him into talking
about himself and his work; and her quick sympathy soon discovered a
large intellect and large heart behind an uncouth manner. And then
each found that the other was working out of love to an unseen Lord,
and watching for the Daybreak, and the interest in each other deepened.

They met again often during those bright summer days; and when the time
came for Frances to go back to her work in London, the doctor found
that he could not let her go without first asking her to become his
wife; and she found that she could not refuse. And now the doctor's
little wife trots with him over the snow, wherever he goes, carrying
sunshine into poor cottages, and often things more substantial than
sunshine, and more likely to be understood by hungry people. All his
patients are her patients; and, with her nurse's experience, she is
able to show them how to carry out his orders.

She rejoices in showing kindnesses to the poor Aunt who once gave her a
home. To Kate she writes that the country is looking lovely, and Kate
must make haste to come and spend Christmas in the happiest home in
England.

And Kate herself? In some corner of the great world she still works,
with patience and tenderest sympathy, amongst uncared-for children.
She has seen the first rays of light come into many a sad little life.
And together she and the children watch "until the Day break and the
shadows flee away."



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Online LibraryFlorence Alice SitwellDaybreak: A Story for Girls → online text (page 2 of 2)