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New Free Read: For This

12 Jan

Do you remember John Remington? He was the young minister who was the main character in Isabella’s novels Aunt Hannah and Martha and John (1890) and John Remington, Martyr (1892).

In 1893 Isabella wrote a short story in which John made another appearance. Titled “For This,” the story centers around a certain mite-box.

Churches used mite-boxes to encourage people to give offerings. They were named for the “widow’s mite” mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 21:

And He looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.

And He saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.

And He said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all;

For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God; but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.
(Luke 21:1-4)

Typically, a church distributed mite-boxes on a Sunday to all church goers, including children. Each person was asked to fill their boxes with coins for a specified period of time (such as six months) before the church called for their collection.

Mite-boxes made of paper—like the one featured in the story—could be decorated with the name of the person or family who filled it, or with words or images that had meaning to the church’s cause.

That, in a nutshell, is how mite-boxes were typically managed in the Presbyterian Church; but leave it to Isabella to find a new use for a mite-box in her story!

You can read “For This” for free. Just click here to visit BookFunnel.com. Then, choose whether you want to read the story on your computer, phone, iPad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or choose the “My Computer” option to print the story as a PDF document to read and share with friends.

Free Read: A Gingham Patch

9 Dec

This month’s free read by Grace Livingston Hill is a wonderful short story about a minister in need, answered prayers, and the spirit of giving.

You can read “A Gingham Patch” for free!

Just follow this link to go to BookFunnel.com. Then, choose whether you want to read the story on your computer, phone, iPad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or choose the “My Computer” option to print the story as a PDF document to read and share with friends.

Pansy’s Busy Schedule

12 Nov

As the wife of a Presbyterian minister, Isabella moved house frequently, depending on when and where the Presbyterian Church assigned her husband. One of those moves occurred in 1876 when Isabella was 37 years old.

For a period of three short years (from 1876 to 1879), the Aldens lived in Greensburg, Indiana, where her husband had the ministry of Greensburg’s Presbyterian congregation.

A view of Greensburg Indiana, from the 1894 Illustrated Souvenir Book of Greensburg, Indiana.

In typical Pansy fashion, Isabella probably got right to work in her new community, serving the members of her husband’s congregation, writing stories intended to win souls for Christ, and speaking out on matters of importance to women.

In addition, Isabella maintained a very busy travel schedule. Here are just a few entries from her calendar that year:

February 28:

Isabella was in Cincinnati, Ohio, delivering a lecture “for the benefit of the Benevolent Society.”

The Cincinnati Daily Star, February 21, 1878.

June 26:

Her schedule took her to Indianapolis, Indiana, where she read a paper titled “What I Know about Boys” at the state’s annual Sunday-School Convention:

From the St Louis Globe-Democrat, June 27, 1878.

August 1:

The first week of August saw Isabella at the Methodist Sunday-School Assembly at Lakeside, Ohio, where she was one of a number of teachers who led daily children’s classes throughout the week.

The Tiffin Tribune (Tiffin, Ohio), August 1, 1878.

September 26:

Isabella was in New York in her home town of Gloversville, where she read one of her short stories—“What She Said and What She Meant”—to an audience at the Baptist Church.

From the Gloversville Intelligencer, September 26, 1878.

November 15:

Isabella was back in Indiana, this time giving a temperance reading to an audience in Indianapolis, about forty-eight miles from her Greensburg home.

The Indianapolis News, November 9, 1878.

At a time when the fastest way to travel was by train or horse-drawn carriage, Isabella sure got around!

By the way, Isabella’s story “What She Said and What She Meant” was published in 1880 and you can read it for free! Just click on the book cover below to begin reading.

New Free Read: The Wife’s Dilemma

4 Nov

This month’s Free Read may strike a chord with anyone who tried to cook something that didn’t turn out right (like a Thanksgiving turkey)!

“The Wife’s Dilemma” is a sweet short story written by Isabella’s sister (and Grace Livingston Hill’s mother) Marcia Livingston. Marcia was a prolific author in her own right. She published many short stories in a variety of magazines, and co-wrote stories with Isabella.

Here’s the blurb for “The Wife’s Dilemma”:

Newlywed Dora Avery is well educated in math and science, and speaks several languages; but Dora has never learned the fine art of keeping house. No matter what dishes she sets before her new husband, they’re either burnt or sour. It isn’t long before Dora realizes that all her logical plans and recipe books won’t fill her husband’s empty stomach!

Somehow she must hire an experienced cook or learn the proper way to prepare meals herself; but how?

You can read “The Wife’s Dilemma” for free!

Just follow this link to go to BookFunnel.com. Then, choose whether you want to read the story on your computer, phone, iPad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or choose the “My Computer” option to print the story as a PDF document to read and share with friends.

A New Grace Livingston Hill Free Read!

5 Oct

When she first started out in her writing career Grace Livingston (as she was then known) wrote short stories for several different Christian newspapers and magazines.

In 1891 her story “How One Fanatic was Made” was published in one of those newspapers, and it included two charming wood-cut-style illustrations, one of which you can see here:

It also included one of Grace’s timeless lessons on what it means to live a Christian life:

A devout Christian, Miss Delia Stebbins attends church regularly and reads her Bible every day. She is righteous and strong in her faith, or so she thinks. But when a less-than-desirable family moves in next door Miss Stebbins realizes God’s words are actually God’s instructions for daily life. Is it possible she can make up for the years she’s wasted?

You can read “How One Fanatic was Made” for free!

Just follow this link to go to BookFunnel.com. Then, choose whether you want to read the story on your computer, phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or choose the “My Computer” option to print the story as a PDF document to read and share with friends.

New Free Read: Tony Keating’s Surprises

8 Sep

The Reverend Francis E. Clark, president of the World Christian Endeavor Union, said of Isabella Alden:

“Probably no writer of stories for young people has been so popular or had so wide an audience as Mrs. G. R. Alden, whose pen-name, Pansy, is known wherever English books are read.”

Indeed, Isabella enjoyed world-wide fame as an author. By the year 1900 she was selling over 100,000 books a year.

So it’s a little mystifying to see that in 1914, when she chose a new publishing house—M.A. Donohue & Company in Chicago—to publish Tony Keating’s Surprises, the publisher had so little knowledge of who she was, they spelled her name wrong on the book’s cover!

Luckily, that single error doesn’t detract from the pleasure of reading Isabella’s novella, Tony Keating’s Surprises. Here’s a brief description of the story:

For as long as Tony Keating could remember, people have been telling him he was bad, so it was little wonder he came to believe he was just so.

Over the years, Tony has become quite adept at living up to his reputation, by springing tricks and surprises on his parents, his sister, his teachers, and anyone else who happens to cross his path. Why, the entire town believes Tony Keating will come to no good.

Everyone, that is, except Lorena Stanfield. Being new in town, Lorena doesn’t know about Tony’s reputation as the town scamp. With her fresh perspective Lorena sees Tony’s potential for good. But will her gentle influence be enough to transform Tony’s life?

You can read Tony Keating’s Surprises for free!

Just follow this link to go to BookFunnel.com. Then, choose whether you want to read the book on your computer, phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or choose the “My Computer” option to print the story as a PDF document and share it with friends.

New Free Read: The Little Card

8 Apr

A new month brings a new Free Read!

Isabella’s novella The Little Card was first published in 1891 as a serial in The Pansy magazine.

Miss Teenie Burnside’s health may cause her to stay at home, but that doesn’t mean she can’t minister to others. In fact, when she uses her talents to draw and letter some little cards—each with one of the Bible’s Golden Texts—she hopes her cards will encourage others to read God’s Word. Little does Teenie know just how many people her little cards will reach, or what impact they will have on the lives of strangers in need.

Read The Little Card for free!

Choose the reading option you like best:

To read The Little Card on your computer, phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device, just click here to download your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.

Choose the “My Computer” option to print the story as a PDF document and share it with friends.

New Free Read: Clean Hands

12 Feb

Happy February! This month’s Free Read is “Clean Hands” by Isabella Alden.

Like many of Isabella’s stories, “Clean Hands” illustrates the great influence a simple Bible verse can have on someone’s life.

Miss Elsie Burton is looking forward to her vacation in the city. Just think! An entire week of fun, shopping, and seeing old friends. But when her pastor bids her good-bye at the train station with the gift of an odd little book of Bible verses, Elsie embarks upon a journey of self-discovery she never anticipated.

Read “Clean Hands” for free!

Choose the reading option you like best:

Read “Clean Hands” on your computer, phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device. Just click here to download your preferred format from BookFunnel.com. Choose the “Read on My Computer” option to print the story and share it with friends.

A New Free Read: Which Shall I Take?

8 Jan

This month’s Free Read is a short story from 1893 that illustrates the Bible verse:

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Everyone who knows Miss Carrie Benham thinks she is a bright and sweet-natured, but in her heart, Carrie’s spirit may not be as giving as people think.

So her older brother Ford devises a plan that forces Carrie to choose between bringing pleasure to herself or pleasure to others. Which will Carrie choose?

Read it for free!

Choose the option you like best:

You can read “Which Shall I Take?” on your computer, phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device. Just click here to download your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.

Or you can scroll down to read the story below.

IT was New Year’s morning, and there was company coming to dinner, and Carrie Benham had a dozen or more little duties waiting for her. Nevertheless she paused, duster in hand, and considered for the hundredth time the question which must be settled this morning. She was a pretty girl, with great brown thoughtful eyes, and a fair sweet face framed in soft brown hair, which could take a glint of gold when the sun shone on it. Even in her loose morning blouse, with an old silk handkerchief knotted about her neck, ready to protect the brown hair from dust when she should begin to sweep, almost anyone would have called her pretty.

“There is so much character in Carrie’s face,” her friends said. And strangers looking at her were apt to remark that it was an unusual face for one so young. People who knew her real well knew that it was the sweetness of the soul within which shone out and attracted, rather than the brownness of her eyes, or the clearness of her skin.

Still, I really do not want you to think her remarkable in any way. I am glad to believe that there are hundreds, even thousands, of just such girls as Carrie in this great wide world. Bright, energetic, whole-hearted, sweet-natured girls, who as a rule, are unselfish and thoughtful of the comfort of others.

It was just this matter of unselfishness which was troubling Carrie this holiday morning. She had a curious question to decide, a question to which she had given some puzzled thought several times during the year. Just a year ago this morning she and her brother Ford had had a talk about the Bible verse which Carrie had recited at family worship, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

“I suppose that must be true,” Carrie had said, “because it is in the Bible; but I never could realize it. I do so like to receive gifts, and I cannot imagine myself feeling perfectly happy if I had received nothing from my friends this morning, even though I had been able to give to ever so many. I think people must have to wait until they get old and wise before they appreciate that verse.”

Quite an argument had followed, Ford trying to produce an illustration of the verse’s meaning which would satisfy her, and Carrie declaring laughingly, yet with an undertone of earnestness, that she must be more selfish than other people, because she knew if she had it to decide whether to go without herself, or let others go without, she would be sure to choose for herself.

“Suppose it were a choice between mother and yourself?” Ford asked.

“Oh! Mothers?” said Carrie, with a bright look over at the fair-faced woman who sat by the window. “Of course mothers and fathers are to have the best of everything, and any girl of common sense would be glad to give up for their sakes. But I mean among girls, for instance, equals and friends. It seems to me that the rule does not apply there, unless, of course, it is something one ought to do for the sake of a person in need; but just a mere present! I’m sure I should choose myself every time.”

Out of this talk had grown the scheme which was puzzling Carrie. Two hours afterward Ford brought her two sealed notes.

“Here are two letters,” he said, “which I would like you to keep until a year from today unopened. Next New Year’s morning you may consider which you will open first. The one you choose to accept and give first attention annuls the other; it will be of no use whatever to anybody. You will note that one is addressed to Miss Caroline Benham, and on the other is written, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ I do not mind telling you that both are New Year’s presents, from myself. I do not want you to come to any decision now, of course; but next year I would like you to choose between them. Not from a conscientious standpoint, because you do not know, and cannot know until after your decision is made, who may or may not be blessed by it. What I want you to do in a year from now is to decide on the whole, for the one which you believe will give you the greater pleasure, and see what will come of it. It is not a fair test, of course, of the verse about which we were talking, because the Lord does not generally ask us to work in the dark; but I choose to watch the outcome of this little plan of mine and see what will result.”

Carrie had exclaimed and demurred and coaxed to have just a hint of possibilities, and declared that she could never keep a letter from Ford a whole year without opening it, and declared that she knew perfectly well which she should choose; she did not mean to go without his present for the sake of anybody, unless, indeed — “Ford, it isn’t anything about father or mother, is it? Because if it is, I can decide now.”

No, Ford said, they were counted out.

It had ended by Carrie’s locking the letters up in her treasure box and forgetting them for weeks together, until some sudden overturning of the box in search of treasures would bring them to the surface; then she would study over the problem with a half-amused wonder as to which she would choose. It did not trouble her much while it was months in the future; but behold, here was the very holiday morning on which the decision must be made.

“Who would have thought it could have come so soon?” said Carrie, pausing, broom in hand, to ask herself which she should take. She had been very impressively reminded of her contract in the early morning, when family gifts were exchanged. There had been none for her from Ford; he had simply looked over at her and smiled significantly.

“Oh, dear!” she said, half-vexed over the situation, “I think it is almost too bad in Ford to give me such a problem. I want to give other people pleasure, I am sure I do. I can think of a dozen nice things that he may have given me a chance to do for the girls, and if I was sure it was one of them I believe I would go without my present; only it seems so queer not to have a present from Ford, and me going away so soon.”

You see, it had been settled at last that Carrie should enter at Hampton Institute for the spring term, in order to get well started in the routine of school before the actual hard work of the next fall. For two years Carrie had been looking forward to Hampton Institute as the place of all others where she wanted to go; but now that it was settled, and the time of going was near, she began to have a lonesome, half-home-sick feeling about it, and to wonder what it would be like to be suddenly set down among several hundred people whom she had never seen before.

“If I only knew what my present was,” she said wistfully. “It may be a lovely tinted picture of Ford, such as I have been wanting for so long; and then I almost could not give it up for anybody. Ford is so queer! Why can’t he do things like other people? I believe if I should decide for the other I would almost rather not know what was in mine; but he said I was to look at both as soon as I had decided, and make up my mind honestly about the blessedness; only I cannot change my decision after that. Oh, dear! It is certain to be something nice for one of his girls; something that I would have pleasure in giving them; but then it is a good deal to give up, I am sure.”

That phrase “one of his girls” perhaps needs explanation. You must know that Carrie’s brother Ford was the pastor of the church to which Carrie belonged, and of course all the girls in the large congregation were “his” in the sense that she meant, though there was a choice little company of her very special friends whom she felt sure he would choose from.

“It is almost certain to be Clara,” she said. “Ford knows it would be more blessed for me to give to Clara than any of the others; and she doesn’t have many gifts, and she is heart-broken now at the thought of my going away. If I were only sure it was Clara I believe I could decide. But then, it might be Helen Peck; Ford thinks a great deal of her. Well, so do I, but then—Oh, dear! Was ever a girl in such perplexity?”

Broom and dust-brush did good service for a few minutes, while Carrie knitted her brows and thought. “If there were only an ‘ought’ in it,” she said aloud presently, “it would be so easy.” And from that sentence you catch a hint of the manner of girl she was; for there are some to whom things are not easy, even when there is an “ought” in them. However, Ford had assured her that she was honestly to decide for that which she felt would give her the most pleasure.

“It isn’t really fair, as Ford said,” she told herself at last, “because I am so utterly in the dark, and because I do like gifts from Ford to keep as love tokens. But then I have ever so many, and I do like to give presents, and Ford may have planned a lovely pleasure for me. And besides, there is the verse, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ It doesn’t say ‘sometimes,’ or qualify it in any way. I just believe I will choose it.”

The duster was dropped presently, and Carrie’s brown head went down for a moment on the window-seat near which she stood. When she raised it there was a softened light in the brown eyes, and a glad ring in her voice, as she said:

“I have decided! I have so many lovely things of my own, I just long to give somebody else a pleasure. Now I am going to look; or no, wait until this room is in perfect order.”

The decision once made, it was hard to wait; but Carrie was trying to learn self-control, and held herself steadily to the task of dusting every little nook and corner, and placing every chair and book where they belonged. Then, at last, she drew from her pocket the two letters which had waited so long, laid the one addressed to herself on the window-seat with a loving little good-by pat, and broke the seal of the other.

Could she believe her eyes? It contained a check for a larger amount of money than she had supposed her brother could afford, and on the paper in which it was folded was written, in Ford’s clear hand, that it was to cover the expenses of Miss Clara Foster at the Hampton Institute for one year and one term, in order that she might have the pleasure of entering this spring with her dear friend, Carrie Benham, who delighted in giving her this New Year offering.

Carrie Benham, as she read, felt a curious sensation in her throat. She wanted to scream, to laugh, to cry. She did not know what she wanted. What, oh, what if she had chosen the other letter? Now Clara, her darling Clara, the dearest, best friend a girl ever had, could be with her every minute; and could have what she never had hoped to have—a chance for an education.

The pastor, in his study getting ready to make a five-minutes’ speech at the festival in the evening, was presently almost smothered with kisses.

“Have you opened the other letter?” he asked, when he could get breath to speak.

“No, Ford, I haven’t; I forgot all about it; there isn’t the least need for opening it. I know it is something perfectly lovely, of course, but it doesn’t matter in the least. Nothing in all the world could be so blessed as this. I was never so happy in my life.”

“Still it was in the bargain that the other should be opened and the two compared,” he said, with a fond smile for the happy-faced girl. “I must hold you to the terms. Where is the letter?”

Together they went in search of it; and Carrie opened with trembling fingers, to find another check, much smaller than the first, but yet of generous size, to be used in buying her the best bicycle that could be found in the market.

What shouts of laughter there were over this gift. A bicycle had been among Carrie’s supposed unattainable wants for two years; and behold, but two months before, on her birthday, a rich uncle who rarely thought of her had been moved—no one knew how or why—to send her by express a magnificent Victor bicycle, with all the modern improvements.

“Did you know he was going to give me one?” Carrie asked, almost breathlessly, as the thought struck her that Ford had planned with foreknowledge. But he shook his head promptly.

“Not a word about it until it came. No, this was all in good faith, and you would be without your bicycle still, according to your choice, if Uncle Ford had not mixed himself up in the matter. But I suspect, Carrie dear, that your Father in Heaven knew all about it.”

“Oh,” said Carrie, “doesn’t it seem wonderful? And oh, Ford! What if I had chosen for myself? Wouldn’t it have been dreadful?”

What do you think of Ford’s method for testing Carrie?

Which envelope do you think you would have chosen? 

 

A Sweet Old Story

18 Dec

With holiday preparations in full swing, it’s nice to stop every once in a while to remind ourselves of the true meaning of the season.

“A Sweet Old Story” is a short piece Isabella wrote for The Pansy magazine in 1885, telling the story of Christ’s birth in simple terms. The lovely woodcut illustrations below were part of the original magazine issue.

 

Title Image: A Sweet Old Story

A great many hundred years ago, away and away across the water, one beautiful starry night something happened.

Up among the hills and the rocks the sheep were taking their rest; safe from wolf or tiger because the faithful shepherds watched all night.

They were gathered in a sheltered place around the fire and they were talking. Good men, they were, who believed what God had told them in the Bible, and were watching for his promises to come to pass.

If we had been near I think we might have heard something like this:

“It is a long time that we have been waiting for the King to come.”

“Yes,” says another; “years and years! I remember how my grandmother used to gather us about her and tell us how the Lord was to send us a king to rule over us, and to make all wrong things right. She used to think he might come in her day; and she sat often listening and watching, to see if she could hear his voice.”

“How do you think it will be?” asked a third. “Do you think He will come suddenly from the sky, with bands of music, and guards of angels, and with a crown on his head, speaking in a voice of thunder to all wrong doers?”

The first shepherd shook his head. “I do not know,” he said. “I often wonder how it will be; and I read over and over again the promises of his coming. Some of them sound as though he was to be poor and alone; but how can that be when he is to rule the world? I do not understand it; but I long to see my king.”

Just then a light brighter than the sun shone all around them.

“What is that?” they said.

Could the world be on fire? No, all was quiet down in the valleys; and the earth was sleeping. The shepherds looked at one another and said not a word; but their limbs trembled so that they could hardly stand.

“Look! What is that, coming from the brightness! It must surely be an angel.”

He is speaking. “Fear not,” and his voice was like the sound of music.

As he spoke, the fear seemed all to glide away from the shepherds, and they felt a strange, sweet happiness stealing over them.

Then came the wonderful words: “There was born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour for you; he is Christ the Lord.”

O glorious news! How shall they know where to find him?

“Listen,” the angels tell them. “You will find the baby in a manger.”

What strange news was this! The King of Glory, the Saviour of the world to be found in a manger!

But before they could say a word, suddenly the air was filled with angels. They were singing this song: “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth, peace, good-will toward men.”

Illustration of the baby Jesus asleep with seven cherubs surrounding him.

The Christ Child surrounded by angels, from Raphael’s painting

The music to which these words were sung was not like any that the shepherds had ever heard before; nor did they hear anything like it again, until the angels opened the golden gates and showed them the way to the palace of their King. Only a few minutes, and the angels soared away, the beautiful light faded, the sweet voices were lost in the blue distance, and there was only the sheep asleep on the hillsides, and the stars smiling down on them.

Do you think they thought it a dream? Oh no. Listen to what they said:

“Let us go right away to find the Lord. He will be in Bethlehem; that is the city of David. The Lord has sent his angels to tell this news; we shall see our King!”

And they hurried away.

Did they find the King? Yes, they found him; a little baby in a manger, his father and mother watching over him.

Oh, I don’t know what they said when they saw that baby. I have often wondered whether they dared to touch him, to put his soft hand on their faces, and kiss his sweet pure lips. But this I know. Wherever they went, they told that the King had come, and they had seen him.

Years and years ago it happened, yet the men and women, boys and girls are talking, singing and thinking about it today. The most wonderful night the world has ever known was that in which the angels sang the song of the new-born King.

Illustration of Mary holding the infant Jesus as winged cherubs surround them.

The First Christmas.

The shepherds who first told the story have been with the King in his palace, I suppose, for as many as eighteen hundred years, but on Christmas eve in the year eighteen hundred and eighty-five, two sweet little girls are going out with their baskets full of holly leaves and buds, and in the sweet moonlight with the stars looking down on them, are to sing for their sick mother the same sweet old story which I have been telling you.

Two little girls dressed in coats and hats and carrying baskets stand outside a building. They are looking up as if singing to someone who is on an upper floor of the building.

Singing Christmas carols to mamma.

These are the words they will sing:

The angels, the angels, who sang on Christmas eve,
And waked the shepherds so long ago,
What was the song that they caroled so?

Glad tidings, glad tidings, to you, to you, we bring,
Of peace on earth, good-will to men;
And angels echoed the song again
Glad tidings, glad tidings, to you, to you we bring.

They found Him, they found Him
Beneath the Eastern Star,
And kings and shepherds kneeled down to pray
Around the manger where Jesus lay.

What treasure, what treasure, can little children bring?
And where is the blessed Redeemer now,
That round His cradle we all may bow?

No treasure, no treasure, is half so sweet to Him,
As little children who greet Him here
With loving heart and open ear;
No treasure, no treasure, is half so sweet to Him.


A Note from Jenny:

Isabella often wove her own life experiences—and those of her family—into her stories. I suspect the two little girls and their ailing mother were real people Isabella knew. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to identify who they were, but one day, I hope to discover “the story behind this story” and share it with you.

Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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