Timothy Shay Arthur.

The angel of the household online

. (page 7 of 15)
Online LibraryTimothy Shay ArthurThe angel of the household → online text (page 7 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

" I've been very wicked, father." His utterance was
choked, and he could say no more.

" Speak to him, Jacob," said Mrs. Harding, bending
toward her husband.

" Lie down, my son, and go to sleep. You have been
very wicked, and I intended to punish you severely ; but
if you ttnU be a good boy, as you promise, I may forgive

Harding tried to speak calmly, and even a little
sternly; but his voice was scarcely steady, and betrayed
the powerful struggle that was going on within. As
Andrew fell back, sobbinff, on the pillow, from which, a
little while before, he haa started up in fear, his father
left the chamber, deeply agitated. He wishcKl to be
alone, in order to recover his manly self-possession. His
face was calm and elevated when he rejoined his wife.
In both their hearts, what a wild tempest had raged,
symboling the fierce storm that darkened the fiftoe of
nature ! But the azure depths of their spirits were clear
again— clear as the starry heavens that arched above
their lowly dwelling.





Mb. Lono, the yillage schoolmaster, after leayinff the
oarpenter, took his way homeward^ oppressed by a
troubled feeling. He was a man of humane impulses^
and these were excited by the cruel threats and savage
looks of Harding. Andrew's offence was heinous^ de-
servinff more than ordinary marks of displeasure; and
he had, himself, been thinking over various modes of
punishment,, in order, if possible, to select that which
would be most efficacious, when the young truant pie*
sented himself in the morning. Miss Gimp, the drass-
maker, was at his house when he returned home. She
was doing some work for Mrs. Long, and dropped in
with it a little before supper-time, very naturidly, she
was invited to remain until after tea. Indeed, Miss
Gimp was generally a welcome guest, for she was chatty,
and knew the weak side of every woman in the neigh*
bourhood. She was, moreover, in possession of all the
current gossip — good-natured and ill-natured — ^floating
about, far and near, and had a way peculiar to herself,
and racy withal, of telling every thing she knew, and a
little more sometimes.

^<You look sober, Edward," said the schoolmaster's
wife, as her eyes rested on her husband's face, soon after
he came in. " Don't you feel well ?"

'< Something has happened that troubles me,'' replied
Mr. Long. And then he looked more serious.

How quickly was the head of Miss Gimp elevated I
What a sparkling interest was in her two bright

" Trouble you, Edward ? What is it ?«'



A shade of anxiety flitted aoroaa the pleasant face of
Mrs. Long.

<' Nothing that particularly conoems myself/' replied
the schoolmaster.

" Any thing "wrong in the school ?"

^^ There's something wrong about one of the scholars.
Andrew Harding has oeen playing truant.''

^'The ne'er do well!" exclaimed Miss Gimp; not so
much in sorrow or anger, as from a species of uncon-
scious satis&ction at hearing a piece of bad news.
. ^^I'm afraid that boy will come to an eyil end/' re-
marked Mrs; Long.

<< He'll come to the gallows, without doubt/' said
Miss Gimp. <^ I never saw his match. Not for a moun-
tain of gold would I live in the house with him. I pity
his poor mother; but, then, she has herself to bluue,
I never saw a woman have so little management with
children. She lets them do as they please, and make as
much noise and disorder ba they like, until she gets so
worried she can't stand it any longer; and then she
ficreams at them, and boxes their ears right and left, in a
Way to make one's blood cold. That's no way to bring
up children."

^'Lideed, it is not/' was the quiet response of the
schoolmaster's wife.

" Why, d'ye know," ran on Miss Gimp, " that on one
occasion of my being there to fit a dress for Mrs. Hard-
ing, Andrew — a little imp of Satan he is — ^forgive me for
saying so — ^And)-ew threw a large case-knife at his sister
Lucy. It came as nigh cutting her ear off as could be —
just touching it with the edge as it glanced by. If you
had seen the passion of his mother ! It was aw&l I
She grew almost black in the face ; and I thought she
would never get done beating the boy. It made me
sick at heart. Oh ! she is a woman of an. awful temper !



I wouldn't htLYe her tongae on me for the world. And
80 Andrew has been playing the tmant, ha V

How the voice of Misa Oimp changed, as she recol*
lected herself!

<'I am grieved to say that he has/' aaswa:ed the
schoolmaster, gravely.

'' Does his father know it V asked Mrs. Long.

^^ Tes ; and I am sorrj to sa^, is in a most dreadftil
passion about it. I called at his shop as I came home
just now, and the way he looked and spoke made me
really shudder.''

"He's a cruel-tempered man," said Miss Oimp. "I
know all about him. His father was little better than a
savage, and used to beat his children about as if thej
were do^."

" I pity Andrew, from my heart," said Mr. Long.
^^He has acted very badly; but he is only a tender
child, needing correction for his fiiult, but not able to
bear the cruelty in store for him. I feel unhappy
about it."

"How would it do," suggested Mrs. Long, "fi)r yon
to go over, after tea, and try to soothe his father, and
thus break the heavy weight of his displeasure ?"

" Just what I was thinking about," said Mr. Long.

" I wouldn't do any such thing," spoke up Miss Oimp,
quickly. "Take my advice, and don't go near him.
He's a very strange man. As sure as you do, he'll
insult you; and, what is worse, beat Andrew twice as
badly, from a fresh excitement of angry feelings."

"There may be something in mat," renuurked the
schoolmaster's wife.

"There is something in it," said Miss Oimp.
'< People like them can't bear interference from otibers ;
and always repel intrusion by broad insult. Let them
alone, Mr. Long, to do with their own as they please.
More harm than goodwill arise from any attempt yoa



XDfty make to screen the young rebel. It's aU very
kind, very humane in you, Mr. Long, ind does sreat
credit to your heart; but you can't help them any.''

^' There may be truth in your suggestion/' answered
the schoolmaster^ in some doubt and irresolution — ^he
was flattered, in spite of himself, by Miss Gimp's com-
pliment — '< and yet it does not seem right to leave a
helpless child in the hands of a man insane from anger,
and not make an effort to save him from excessive

Tea was soon after on the table. Mr. Long, still un-
decided in his mind, sat thoughtful and nearly silent
during the meal, while Miss Grimp rattled on, much to
the euflcation of Mrs. Long, who, in her agreeable tittle-
tattle, quite forffot poor Andrew Harding. A sudden
roll of distant uiunder interrupted the voluble play of
the gossip's tongue.

"What's that I" she exclaimed — " not a gust commg

• Mr. Long went to the door, and threw a glance around
the horizon.

** There are some heavy cbuds in the west,'' said he.

" And it threatens rain," added Miss Gimp, who now
stood by his side. " Get me my bonnet, if you please,
Mrs. Long," said she, turning to the schoolmaster's wife.
" If s growing dark fast, and I must run home."

"Don't be in a hurry. It isn't late. I'm sure it
won't storm to-night," said Mrs. Long, affecting a great
deal of reluctance at parting with Miss Gimp, who, in
her turn, had just enough self-esteem to believe that the
schoolmaster's wife felt really bad about her "going
away so early."

Often, during the fearful storm that raged that night,
did Mr. Long think of Andrew Harding, and wonder
how it was with him. He could not forget the cruel



fiioe and words of the bo/s fiither: thej haunted his
imagination and his thoughts.

On the next morning, he went early, as was his cus-
tom, to the school-house. He was sitting at his desk,
engaged in study, when the sound of footsteps caused
him to look up. It was too soon to expect any of the
scholars, and he was, therefore, prepiu^ to see a
stranger. He almost started, as he saw the carpentw
leading his son, and within a few steps of the door.

^< Mr. Long, I have brought Andrew to school this

Harding had paused with one foot across the threshold.
He spoke in a steady voice, rather below his ordinary
tone. '<I preferred coming early, before the other
scholars arrived, as I wished to say a word about the

<' Won't you step in?" said the schoolmaster, quite
taken by surprise at the manner of his visitor, in which
was nothing of the fierce indignation apparent at their
last interview.

"No, I thank you. You can so in, Andrew."

The boy entered quietly, and went with a stealthy
step to his usual seat.

" I called to say, Mr. Long," resumed the carpenter,
" that Andrew promises, if you will forgive him, never
again to be guilty of such bad conduct. I think his
punishment has sdres^y been severe enough, and of a
character not likely soon to be forgotten. He has been
very wicked, but, 1 think, repents sincerely."

" I am not angry with him " said the schoolmaster,
^'but grieved that any scholar of mine should commit
that most disgraceful of all offences — ^playing the truant.
If you think he has been sufficiently punished, and Bin«
oerely repents, the matter can rest where it is; but I
will not promise, for the future, should he offend again.
The example would be too pernicious."



_— ^ •

'^I tiiiak yon can tnist him/' answered the oarpenter,
as he moved back a few steps from the door. << Gk>od
morning/' he added, after standing silent for a moment
or two, and went awaj.

Mr* Long felt rather strangely on finding himself
alone with the boy, after this brief interview with Hard*
ing. In both the father and son, a striking change was
apparent As to the basis of the change, he was alto>
gether ignorant. The natural oondnsion to which his
mind came, almost without reflection, was, that the car-
penter had punished his child with a measure of severity
from which his own better consciousness now revolted,
and that, as some reparation for his cruelty, he now
sought to screen him from further consequences. That
both were greatly subdued, was apparent at a glance.

^< Andrew," said the schoolmaster. He spoke kindly,
but seriously.

The child looked up timidly.

" Come here, Andrew."

The boy left his seat, and came toward the school-
master, with a slow movement, his eyes fixed earnestly
and inquiringly upon his fiice.

There were unmistakable marks of suffering and fear
in that young countenance j and, as Mr. Long noted
them, pity for the lad and a new interest in regard to
him were awakened in his mind.

<^Poor boy I" It was his involuntary mental ejacula-
tion. Scarcely thinking of what he was doing, he took
Andrew, by the hand, and said, kindly —

<< I am sorry you were so naughty yesterday. How
came you to do so ?"

The child's lips quivered a moment, and his eyes fell
to the ground. A little while he stood silent.

^< How came you to do so, Andrew V The voice that
said this was kind and encouraging.

^' I don't know, Mr. Long," was answered ; and now



the boy'« clear eyes — ^the schoolmaster was simole witli
the softness of their expression — ^were raised to his.
<<It seemed as if I couldn't help it. I didn't think
much, at first, what I was doing; bat when I got a
going, it was l^e running down Hll. I oonld not stop

" You are sorry about it, are you not, Andrew f*

'* Oh yes, Mr. Long. I can't tell you how sorry I am.
I wish 1 hadn't done it."

" You will never do so again ?"

*' Not if I can help it, Mr. Long."

" You can help it, Andrew," said the schoolmaster, in
a serious voice. " Every one can help doing wrong."

« I don't know." The child spoke half to himsdf,
and in a tone so sad, that the schoolmaster was touched
by it. '' It seems as if I couldn't help it, sometimes."

'< Do you ever say your prayers, on going to bed at
night?" asked the schoolmaster, after a few moments of
thoughtful silence.

<<I used to say them a good while ago; but I never
do now," was answered.

<< You must begin again, Andrew, if you deure to be
a eood boy. Begin this very night. Do not get into
bed until you have knelt down and said, ^ Our Father
who art m heaven.' Do Lotty and PhiUp say their
prayers at night f"

<< No, sir. Mother doesn't teach any of us to say our

" Do you ever read in the Bible ?"

"Mother won't let me have the Bible."

"Why not?"

" She says I dirty ike leaves and pictures."

<^ Have you no Testament ?"

"No, sir."

"If I give you one, will you read in it?"

"Yes, sir."



" Very well, Andrew, I will bring you a Testament
this afternoon, and, it shall be jours if you will learn a
verse in it every day/'

The lad's face brightened with real pleasure.

"Not all evil — ^no, not all evilP were the school-
master's earnestly, inward spoken words. "The inno-
cence of childhood has been trampled on and overlaid ;
but there is good ground still, ready for the hand of

" Andrew,'^ said he, after a slight pause, " you must
be on your guard when the other boys come to school,
It is known that you have played truant, and some of
them will be sure to say unkind things to you about it.
Tnr and not get angry — ^try hard, and Fm sure you can
help it. Don't seem to mind what they say, and they'll
Boon let you alone."

The form of a boy darkened the door at this moment,
and the conference of Andrew and the schoolmaster was
at an end.




It was evening. Lotty and Grace were sleeping, side
by side^ and Philip, a restless, rather fretful child of four
years, had some time since been taken off to bed. Mrs^
Harding, having cleared away the supper things, now
busily plied her needle. Her husband was near her, bj
the table, his head resting on his hand, and his mind
busy with a new train of thoughts that occupied it almost
peir force. Side by side, on two low chairs, sat Andrew
and his sister Lucy, younger by two years. Andrew
held open in his hands the Testament given him, ac-
cording to promise, by Mr. Long, and he was residing
from it in a low voice, while Lucy leaned toward him,
listening intently. The mother's ears were open, as well
as Lucy's, and took in every word ; and it was not long
before Harding began to listen also. Andrew wa^ read-
ing of the birth of Christ in the city of Bethlehem, and
of the wise men who came from the East, guided by the
star that heralded his wonderful advent. It was many,
• many years since the words of this strange history bad
been in his thoughts; and now they came to him witb a
newly awakening interest. Andrew read on — of the
angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream, warning him
of the evil designs of Herod— of the cruel slaughter of
the Innocents~ - of John the Baptist preaching repent-
ance in the wilderness of Judea — and of the baptism of
the Saviour in Jordan.

All unconscious that his father and mother were list*
ening, the boy continued to read. What a power was
in the divine word) coming to their ears, as it did, borne
on the voice of a child I There was a wonderful fascination



about every fiict and every holy sentiment. They saw,
in imagination, Jesus led up, of the Spirit, into the wil-
derness, to be tempted of the devil; and whed the re-
buked tempter left him, they felt a sense of pleasure at
the triumph of good over evil, that passed with a low
thrill to the profoundest depths of their being. In the
call of Simon and Andrew, and James and John, the
sons of Zebedee, they almost seemed to hear the Lord
speaking to them, and calling them to a new life. They
saw him going about through Galilee, teaching in the
synagogues, and preaching uie gospel of the kingdom,
and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of
disease among the people. And when he went up into
a mountain, and taught from thence the multitude, the
divine words he uttered came to them with a spirit and
power that lifted their souls into higher regions, and
gave them perceptions of truths such as had never come
to them before.

^^ Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain
mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see
God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be
called the children of God."

Many times, in earlier days — days in which some rosy
gleams from the morning of childhood mingled with the
colder light of selfish maturity — had they heard these
beautiful sentences; but never had the words so pene-
ta*ated their souls; never had they felt such a sad,
almost hopeless yearning to rise into the holy states of
the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemaker.

Still An(h:ew read on, unconscious that other ears
than Lucy's were hearkening to his utterance intently.

'^ Let your light so shine before men, that they may
see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in

A low sigh 'from the mother's heart trembled, scarce
audibly, on the air.



^' Agaia, ye have heard that it hath been said by thexa
of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt
perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto you^
Swear not at all: neither by heaven, for it is Grod's
throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; neither
by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king.
Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, b^use thou
canst not make one hair white or black; but let your
oommunication be yea, yea; nay, nay: for whatsoever
is more than these, cometh of evU.''

" Cometh of evil — cometh of evil." How the words
sounded in the ears of Jacob Harding, over an4 over
again, as if ^oken directly to him I

" But I say unto you. Love your enemies, bless them
them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and
pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute
YOU : that ye may be the children of your Father which
18 in heaven ; for he maketh his sun to rise on tlie evil
and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the
unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what re-
wajxl have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more
than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye
therefore perfect, even as your Father which is ia
heaven is perfect."

Tired with reading aloud, Andrew now closed his
Testament, and said, in a kind way,* to his sister —

" Come, Lucy — diet's go to bed."

Lucy made no objection, and the two children, who
had learned to wliit on themselves, took a candle, and
went off to their chamber, up stairs, without a cross or
UBgry word— something so unusual, that both father and
mother noted it with surprise.

Plying her needle, sat Mrs. Harding, and near her,
his hand shading his face from the light, was her hus-
band, almost motionless. In the minds of both lingered



passages just read from the Word of Life, while a deep
calmness pervaded their spirits. Not so much rebuked
were thej by the truths, condemnatory of the past,
which seemed spoken anew, as inspired by a dawning
hope of something better in the future. A dim fore-
shadowing of better and happier states came to both, and
with it an awakening tenderness each for the other, and
ft deeper, purer, more unselfish love for their children.

A little while they had heard Andrew and Ituor
moving about in the chamber abov^ ; then all was still.
Presently there stole down a low murmur. The mother's
hand rested in her lap, and she raised her head to listen.

<< What is that V she said, rising and going to the
fix>t of the stairway.

'' Oive us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our

This much she heard distinctly, in the voice of

The murmuring sound was continued for a little while,
and then all was silent.

''W|iat was it?" asked Harding, as his wife came
back to her seftt by the table.

A moment or two Mrs. Harding gazed into her hus-
band's face, as if to read his state of mind, and then
answered — •

" It was Andrew, saying his prayers."

The hand that had been withdrawn from between the
lipht and his &ce, was quickly restored to its position by
Harding, who turned himself a little farther away from
observation, and did not speak for nearly half an hour.
That time was spent in an almost involuntary review of
the past, and in partially formed purposes to live a better
life in the future; if not for his own sake, at least for
the sake of his children.

Very gently did sleep draw her dusky curtains around
the weary heads of Mr. and Mrs. Harding that night.



Morning found their spirits calm; hopeful; and yearning
for the better life, of whose beatitudes came to them
some partial glimpses as they listened to the words of
the Saviour; teaching the multitudes that gathered to
hear, as he sat upon we mountain of Galilee.


One daT; a few weeks later in the course jof events we
are recording; Miss Gimp was a little fluttered by seeing
a handsome carriage draw up before her humble dwell-
ing. She looked, of course, for a richly dressed ladv to
emer^ from so elegant a vehicle ; but, instead, a plainly
attired girl, evidently a domestic in some family; stepped
upon the ground. The dressmaker was already in the
door. ^

'' Does Miss Gimp live here J" asked the girl.

^^That is my name: will you walk in?" said the

The girl entered^ and took the chair that was

' Are you very busy at this time ?" she inquired.
" Not very;" answered Miss Gimp.
" Have you a week to spare ?"
^' I don't know about that,'' replied the dressmaker.
" Who wants me for a week V
"Mrs. Barclay."

" Mrs. Barclay; over at Beechwood ?"
'^ Yes. You made a dress for her last fall; I believe/^
^* Yes. When does she want me V*



'' Bight away, if yoa can come."

Hiss Oimp considered a little while.

''I have two dresses to finish/' said she; '^ after that,
I can go to Mrs. Barclay."

<' How long will it take you to finish these dresses?"
asked the girl.

" To-day and to-morrow."

^^ Then you can come the day after to-morrow f "


"Very well. Til say so to Mrs. Barcky. At what
time in the morning will you be ready ?"

<< As early as you please."

*'Say nine o'clock*"


''Very weU," said the girl; "I will be over for you,
in th^ carriage, by that time."

Miss Gimp was very good at promising, and at per-
forming also, when it suited her to keep her engage-
ments. In the present case, she meant to be as go^ as
her word, even though in keeping her word to Mrs.
Barclay, she broke it to her very particular friends,
Mrs. Jarvis and the storekeeper's wife, for both of whom
she had promised to make dresses, as soon' as the work
on hand was finished. The Barclays were wealthy
people, and she could afford to disappoint her less pre-
tending neighbours, for the sake of making favour with

According to appointment, the handsome carriage
drew up before the dressmaker's door exactly at nin«
o'clock on the day agreed upon, and Miss Gimp,
conscious of having acquired a new importance, Was
soon reposing among its luxurious cushions. Flust the
dwelling of Mrs. Willits drove the elegant vehicle, and
Miss Gimp did not fail to lean from the window, to
throw a smile at the storekeeper's wife, who exclaimed
to herself —



*' Why, bless us ! What does all this mean V*

A brisk driye of half an hour brought them to the
stately residence of the Barclays — the finest within a
circle of twenty miles. Mrs. Barclay, a handsome but
dignified woman — ^her age was not over thirty-five — ^re-
ceived the dressmaker kindly, but with a manner that at
once repelled all gossipping familiarity. She had sent
for her as a workwoman, to perform a needed service,
and wished for nothing beyond ; and it was but a little
while before Miss Gimp understood this clearly. Two
or three times during the first day, she tried to draw
Mrs. Barclay out ; but it was of no use — ^the lady wanted

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryTimothy Shay ArthurThe angel of the household → online text (page 7 of 15)