As A Dozen of Them draws to a close, Joseph confronts a fearful situation, and confesses a secret to his sister Jean. If you missed any of the previous chapters, you can read the entire book here.
A Dozen of Them
CASTING ALL YOUR CARE UPON HIM, FOR HE CARETH FOR YOU.
THEREFORE ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER YE WOULD THAT MEN SHOULD DO TO YOU, DO YE EVEN SO TO THEM.
EVERY TREE THAT BRINGETH NOT FORTH GOOD FRUIT IS HEWN DOWN AND CAST INTO THE FIRE.
“I want a nice still verse,” said Joseph, with his head in Jean’s lap. “Things have been in such a bustle for so long, it seems as though all the verses were hot, and had stirred up a fire somehow—no, I don’t mean that, either; they have helped put out the fire, every time, but I want something nice and still.”
Jean smiled; Joseph must be almost tired out if he wanted still things. “I’m sure you can be easily gratified,” she said. “Look at the very first verse for the month.”
“Say it to me,” said lazy Joseph, “I don’t want to stir.”
So Jean said it: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.”
“But I haven’t any care,” he said, after a moment’s thought.
“Never mind; some care may come, before you expect it; and you may find it good to be prepared. It is a nice still verse, and unless you take the next one to it, I don’t know that you can do better.”
“What is the next?”
“It is the Golden Rule.”
“Then I don’t want it. I don’t want a bit of doing; there will be enough of that when school begins. I’ll take the still one.”
Exactly two days from that talk, this, which I am going to tell you, happened. Miss Emerson was visiting her sister, who was a pupil in the Fowler School, and did not go home for vacation, for the reason that a large part of her home had gone to Europe. Miss Emerson was an elocutionist, and volunteered to give a little entertainment during her visit, for the benefit of the library in the Fowler School.
On the evening in question she was in her room giving the finishing touches to her toilet, and the audience was already assembled in the large parlors waiting for her.
“Let me see,” she said, speaking to her dog Trust, I suppose, as he was the only one present beside herself, “no, I believe I won’t wear diamonds; it would not be in good taste for so small a gathering. They will think I am too much dressed as it is, I presume. I haven’t time to lock these up again. Trust, you may stay here and take care of them; remember, old fellow, you are not to let anybody touch anything of mine until I come back.” She held up her finger at Trust for emphasis, and he gave an intelligent bark in reply; then she smiled on him and swept away.
Five minutes afterwards she was saying in the hall, “Are they waiting? Well, I am quite ready—oh dear! I have left my fan in my room.”
“Joseph will bring it,” said Mrs. Calland who liked things to begin promptly. “Joseph, bring it to me in the parlor. Miss Emerson, will you come now?” And Joseph scampered for the fan.
It lay on the table behind the jewel case. Joseph sprang in breathless, his hand ready to grasp it, when a low growl arrested him, and the fiery eyes of Trust were upon him. He took in the situation at once; Trust was in charge, and he would not be allowed to touch the fan.
“All right,” he said good-naturedly; “I won’t, old fellow. Your mistress wants it, but you cannot be expected to understand that, and I’ll report you as doing your duty.”
Not so fast, my boy; Trust not only distrusts you too much to allow you to touch the fan, but he does not mean that you shall escape him. At the first step toward the door, he grasped Joseph’s trousers with his fierce teeth, almost grazing the skin, and held on. It was by no means a pleasant position. Joseph did not understand dogs very well, was a good deal afraid of this one, as was everybody in the house, and had been glad to think of getting away as quickly as possible from his fiery eye, and here he was a prisoner! For how long? The entertainment was not yet opened. Two hours at least before he could hope that Miss Emerson would reach her room. If her fan was not forthcoming, some other fan would be handed her, and no one would remember that he had been sent for it. What was to be done? Clearly nothing but to stand still and endure Trust’s stern gaze.
Shall you be surprised if I tell you that Joseph’s heart beat fast? He did not know how soon Trust might weary of holding on to cloth only, and conclude to try a bit of the flesh underneath it. In point of fact, Trust soon let go with his teeth; but held on with his eyes. Joseph did not dare to move a muscle, lest it might be taken for resistance, and receive punishment. Was ever a worse dilemma for a good-intentioned boy?
It seemed strange to him long afterwards, the sudden sense of courage which came with the words which memory brought him just then: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.”
Wasn’t this care? Had he ever a worse anxiety? Did not God know all about it? Could He not protect from this danger, as well as from others?
The loud thuds which Joseph’s heart were giving, began to quiet. It was a trying place, one full of care, certainly, but he began to have a strange sense of security; a sort of assurance that Trust would do no more than guard his mistress’ property, and that he, Joseph, so long as he stood still, would escape injury. Two hours of standing perfectly still! Never mind, he could bear it; and he was beginning not to be afraid.
Which of you can tell why Jean, just a moment before this, should whisper to Mrs. Calland, daring the voluntary, “Do you know where Joseph is?”
“He is with the scholars, I suppose,” answered Mrs. Calland, a little surprised at the question. Where should Joseph be but in his place? She had already forgotten that she sent him for a fan.
What made Jean anxious? She couldn’t have told you. Joseph was never in mischief, was almost certain to be where he ought to be, yet his sister fidgeted, stretched her neck up to get a glimpse of her brother, and finally slipped quietly away to investigate. The boys did not know where he was; the girls had not seen him since supper. Oh, yes, Laura Akers saw him just before the entertainment commenced; she heard Mrs. Calland send him to Miss Emerson’s room for her fan; she was passing the hall, and heard her give the direction; he was to bring it to the parlor; she presumed he had done so, but she had not seen him come in.
Neither had Jean, and in two minutes more she knocked at Miss Emerson’s door and said, “Joseph!”
Trust looked toward the door, and gave an ominous growl.
Joseph spoke in low, quiet tones, “I’m all right, Jean. Trust is on guard and won’t let the fan go, nor me either. Don’t make a fuss; just run and ask little Fanny Emerson to come here a minute; Trust will obey her.”
This sensible idea was at once carried out. Fanny Emerson, the young sister of the elocutionist, came in haste, exclaimed over the situation, scolded Trust, and carried off both Joseph and the fan in triumph.
When the owner of the fan heard the story a few hours later, she exclaimed over it, too; looked a trifle pale; told Joseph it was well he had sense enough not to try to move, for Trust would have torn him in pieces.
“I quite forgot that I left him on guard,” she said. “I don’t know how you escaped so easily. Mercy! If he had bitten you I would never have forgiven myself.”
“I should think not,” said Jean, her, face flushing. She could not help feeling a little indignant.
But Joseph smiled.
“It is all right,” he said, “I wasn’t hurt a bit.” It was only to Jean that he added, afterwards, this bit of information:
“I was scared, Jean, most as much as I ever was in my life; but it came to me all of a sudden that it was big enough to be called a ‘care,’ and I just tried, you know, to give it to Him; and somehow, I don’t know how, He took it. It does beat all how those verses fit in!”
I HAVE NOT FOUND SO GREAT FAITH, NO, NOT IN ISRAEL.
WHY ARE YE FEARFUL, O YE OF LITTLE FAITH.
THE SON OF MAN HATH POWER ON EARTH TO FORGIVE SINS.
ACCORDING TO YOUR FAITH, BE IT UNTO YOU.
FREELY YE HAVE RECEIVED, FREELY GIVE.
“But I have nothing to give,” said Joseph. He was, as usual, talking with Jean about the verse he would take for the month.
“I’ve received enough, I’ll own that; a fellow never received a nicer year in his life than I have spent here; but I haven’t a thing to give, as you know yourself.”
Jean sewed in silence for a few minutes, then said, “It seems strange to me that a bright boy like you, with strong hands and feet and a good sensible tongue and a pair of eyes of his own, should make a speech like that.”
Joseph laughed a little. “Well, I have those things, of course,” he said at last. “Everybody has; but I can’t very well give them away.”
“I don’t see why not. I’m sure of one thing: it makes very little difference what else you give, so long as you hold on to those. Why don’t you give your heart, out and out, Josey, and be done with it?”
“How do you know but I have?” said Joseph, after resting his chin on his hand and looking thoughtfully out of the window for awhile.
Jean looked at him eagerly, a bright light in her eyes. “Sometimes I think you have, Joseph, but you never said so in words.”
“A fellow doesn’t say everything he thinks; but I always meant to tell you I did it, Jean, quite a while ago; and I mean that my hands and tongue and all that, shall be His forever; but I was thinking of money and such things when I said I had nothing to give.”
“Oh, Joseph! Never mind the money. Don’t you suppose He can get it for you whenever He wants you to give any? I’m so glad!”
She looked it, out of her eyes; and she did what was not usual with her—drew his brown head close to her lips and kissed him two or three times; tender, slow kisses such as his mother might have given him.
Joseph said nothing, only winked hard, and told himself that his sister was the best sister a boy ever had, and he chose the verse she suggested for the month.
That was the reason it came to him, while he stood talking with merry little Nellie Ayers, as she sat on a bench in the workshop, her great green-eyed cat in her arms. Nellie Ayers was a character in the school; a homeless orphan to whom Mrs. Fowler was almost a mother, just because her heart was large and she could not help being. Nellie was bright, and warm-hearted, and thoughtless, and in a hundred thoughtless ways gave more trouble than all the other scholars put together. Mrs. Calland even reached the point of sometimes saying, “I really don’t believe we can keep Nellie another year unless she is changed in some way.”
Just now, Nellie was putting as much mourning into her words as her merry heart could furnish, as she explained to Joseph, “Why, I haven’t the first thing to put in the special collection for next week. I wish I had; I’m the only girl, I guess, who won’t have anything. I wish they’d let me give my shoes and stockings; I hate to wear them; but Mrs. Calland won’t allow that; I wouldn’t like her to see me this minute sitting here without them. Or I might give Muffy; she is all I have of my very own; but she wouldn’t look well in a collection-box; besides, she would be sure to say ‘Meow’ right in the midst of the prayer, maybe,” and then Nellie laughed.
It was then that Joseph thought of the verse. Surely none had received more freely than Nellie; yet what had she to give in return? This set him to studying.
“What do you want to give anything for?”
“Why, just because I do. All the girls are going to; why shouldn’t I want to? You don’t think I haven’t any heart, do you?”
“Oh, no! But I was wondering what the motive of it all was, you know.”
“The motive? Why, you ought to know; one would think you had never heard Mrs. Calland talk. Doesn’t she say a hundred times a week that we must give always for Jesus’ sake?”
“That’s just it. Is that what you want to give for?”
“Why, I suppose so, of course.”
“Then why don’t you give yourself?”
“Yes,” said Joseph steadily, though there was a flush on his face which deepened as he went on. “Out and out; settle this whole business forever. Give your hands, and your feet, and your tongue, and —well, your heart, you know, and that covers all the rest. If folks really want to give for Jesus’ sake, I say, why don’t they give the only thing He wants, instead of hunting around for something that they haven’t got, and he doesn’t want them to give?”
Said Nellie, “You are a queer boy! Why, that means— do you mean being a Christian?”
“Yes; I said so, out and out. Why not? That is giving the thing He has asked for; and He doesn’t care for all the money in the country unless we do as He wants us to.”
“Have you done it?”
“Yes, I have.” The whole face was rosy red now, but Joseph’s clear eyes looked steadily into the face of the little girl. “I belong to Him; I’ve given to Him all I’ve got; strength and voice and everything. I’m going to serve Him the best way I know how.”
He said not another word at -that time, but turned away, leaving Nellie to her kitten and her thoughts. He had not the least idea how large a harvest would grow from that little seed. It was only a few days afterwards that Nellie came to Mrs. Calland with something hid under her little work apron. “I don’t know whether it will do to put in the collection basket,” she explained, her cheeks rosy, “but I haven’t any money, you know, and I truly mean this.”
It was a carefully-shaped heart cut from pure white paper, and on it were printed these words:
“I have given them all to Him,” said Nellie, “and He will understand that if I had any money for the basket that would belong, too.”
There were tears in Mrs. Calland’s eyes when she kissed Nellie. “He will certainly understand,” she said. “Give the heart to me; it is very precious. I will put a silver dollar in the basket in its place, and keep the heart in memory of my little scholar. You have given the only offering which He cares for, Nellie.”
“That was what Joseph said,” was Nellie’s answer, and it set Mrs. Calland to questioning, to learn that the consecration of this young, and heretofore almost wasted life, was the first fruit of Joseph’s seed-sowing.
But not the last; during the fall term a new spirit seemed to pervade the school. The change in Nellie was decided and marked, and being a little girl of energy, she worked with all her heart in this new way which she had entered; awakening a new courage in Joseph’s heart; helping him to see a dozen ways of “giving” which had never occurred to him before.
While the golden days of October were still smiling on them, one and another, and yet another of the scholars came quietly to Mrs. Calland with the story of their new-born life, hid in Christ; and each time she traced the seed-sowing to Joseph and Nellie.
“He is helpful in every way, and our troublesome, mischievous Nellie is going to develop into a real comfort, thanks to his leading.” This was the sentence with which Mrs. Calland closed a long talk with Father and Mother Fowler.
“Well, mother,” said Farmer Fowler, “you and I think about the same, I believe; and I don’t know as we need wait any longer. Mrs. Calland will be carrying him off before our eyes, if we don’t make haste;” and he smiled on his daughter as he spoke.
“Harry would carry him off in a minute,” said Mrs. Calland, “and make a merchant of him.” Harry was Mrs. Calland’s city brother-in-law, with whom her husband had been in business during his lifetime.
“I don’t doubt it; and Joseph would make a good one; but your mother and I have about decided to make a son of him, that is, if you will have him for a brother. I was for waiting a year or two longer, but she wants it done out and out; and I don’t know but she is right.”
“I’m sure she is,” Mrs. Calland said, with radiant face. “He is just the boy to be a son to you always, and, as for me, I’ll adopt Jean; I don’t believe I could get along without her.”
But Joseph does not know a word of all this yet. He will soon be told, but I determined that you should know it first.
Thanks for reading A Dozen of Them by Isabella Alden. Later this week a complete version of the book will be added under the Free Reads tab on this site, so you can re-read the book or share it with others.