Archive | Free Reads RSS feed for this section

A New Free Read: Mary Burton

24 Oct

This month’s free read is short, but very sweet.

Written in the first person narrative (Could this be a true story from Isabella’s life?), the story is about Miss Smith, a new Sunday-school teacher who finds herself drawn to one of her pupils. Little Mary Burton is fair-haired and blue-eyed, but it is her expression of Godly contentment that first catches Miss Smith’s eye.

Soon Mary Burton experiences troubles in her life. Will Miss Smith be able to help her to regain her contented spirit?

You can read the story here on the blog.

Or click on the book cover to download a version to read on your phone or tablet, or to print and share with friends.

.

MARY BURTON

It is many years ago that I went one morning, at the request of the clergyman of my parish, to undertake the teaching of a class of Sunday scholars. As I entered the room, in which my duties were in future to be performed every Sunday morning, the nervous feeling which had been gathering strength as I walked along, almost overcame me, and I think I should have turned and run home again, had not the kind clergyman caught sight of my anxious face, and come forward to encourage me.

“That is right, Miss Smith,” he said, as he shook hands with me. “I am glad you have consented to comply with my wishes, and to take a class here.”

“If I could only teach them right,” I answered timidly; “but I feel as if I should be better employed in learning than in teaching.”

“You have been learning for many months past,” he answered kindly, “learning from higher than mere human teaching, learning in the school of sorrow and of suffering. Let it be seen that the lesson has not been sent in vain. Strive to lead others to that gracious Saviour, whom you have yourself learned to love, and who said, ‘Suffer little children to come unto Me.’”

He led me to a class of little girls seated at the further end of the room, and left me with them. I glanced at the faces turned inquisitively towards the “new teacher.” I will relate the subsequent history of one of these children, whose appearance particularly impressed me.

Mary Burton was a fair-haired, blue-eyed girl, with an expression of contentment on her face, which made it pleasant to look at her. She was eleven years old, she told me, and lived with her mother, who was a widow. I made a point of becoming acquainted with my children in their own homes; and as Mary was never in during the week, being employed as a message-girl at a neighboring green-grocer’s, I went one Sunday, after afternoon service, to see her. I found the family seated at tea. Everything was neat and clean; and the mother, in her widow’s dress and cap, looked the picture of decent and respectable poverty. She told me she had been seven years a widow, and that her youngest child (she had three) had been born two months after his father’s death.

“I have had a hard struggle to keep things straight, ma’am,” she said; “but now that Mary is growing up to be a help and comfort to me, I feel as if a great burden was taken off me; for I know that she will do what she can to work for her mother, and that, as long as she lives, her brothers will not want for a good example and good advice.” Mary’s face was flushed with pleasure at her mother’s praise, and at the few words of encouragement which I gave her.

As I rose to take my leave, I said, “I will leave you a maxim to think about, Mary. It is this: ‘Godliness with contentment is great gain.’ God has blessed you with a naturally contented disposition, but something more is needed. May you, like Mary of old, be enabled to choose that good part, which shall never be taken from you.”

When Mary was fourteen years old her mother was taken very ill. It was a painful and lingering disease, borne with such meek patience as taught a sweet lesson of faith and trust to all who were privileged to see her in her affliction. Mary came home to look after the invalid and her two little brothers, and it was then that her mother found the blessing of having “trained up her child in the way it should go.” Early accustomed to orderly habits and to hard work, it was wonderful how that young girl contrived to keep everything about the poor invalid clean and comfortable, to have the room always tidy, and her brothers’ clothes well washed and mended.

They had many difficulties and hardships. The boys could only earn five dollars a week between them, and this did not allow food sufficient for three growing and hard-worked children, and the round faces became blue and pinched; still there was no murmuring, or parade of want. Go when I would, Mary was busy with her work, and, amid all their poverty, kept up an appearance of comfort, by her clean and tidy ways.

One day I remember I found her with a face unusually pale, and the evident traces of tears in her eyes.

“What is the matter, Mary?” I said.

She made a sign towards her mother’s bed, as if to beg me not to draw attention to her distress, and answered, as she dusted a chair and placed it near the bed for me:

“Nothing, ma’am; I think mother’s keeping pretty well just now.”

Her mother had turned anxiously around as I asked the question; but Mary had so naturally contrived her answer, placing herself at the same time in a position which should conceal her face without an apparent intention to do so, that Mrs. Burton was satisfied. It was my practice, when I visited the widow, to read a chapter aloud, which we talked over afterwards. Her religion was not a mere talk; it was a real possession. She knew “in whom she could trust;” and, in her hour of trial, of bodily suffering, and often of actual want, she would carry her trials and troubles to her Saviour, and, laying the burden at His feet rest contented in the assurance, “The Lord will provide.” She was generally a woman of few words; but that day she spoke more than was her wont, and, among other things, reminded me of the maxim which I had left with Mary on my first visit to them.

“It has often been a comfort to me since,” she said, “and I am sure I find the truth of it more and more every day. To know that our daily bread comes direct from our Father’s hands, seems to make it taste the sweeter; and when things have gone harder than usual, and I could see no way how we could get help, the help has come often in a way that I least expected, till I have been made to feel that to be content with what the Lord is pleased to give us, and to see and know that all comes from His loving hands, is indeed the greatest gain.”

I observed that as she spoke, Mary rather paused in her work, and at last she left off altogether, and stood looking out of the window, while her hands hung listlessly at her side.

It may be easily supposed that I did not usually go to the house empty-handed. I have little sympathy with the piety which leads some really good people to visit the houses of the poor, to read to them, and to give them tracts, and to over-look their bodily wants and suffering altogether. Such, at all events, was not the practice of “Him who has left us an example that we should follow his footsteps.”

It had not pleased God to endow me largely with worldly goods, but it does not require large means to enable one to be kind and helpful to the poor. If we bring a willing heart to the work, we shall soon find many ways at helping, at no greater cost than some slight personal inconvenience or self-denial. That day I had in my purse a five-dollar piece which a wealthy friend, to whom I had spoken of the widow’s patient suffering, had given me for her use. As I saw that something had gone wrong with Mary, and that she was anxious to conceal her distress from her mother, I determined on speaking to her when she accompanied me to the outer door, which she usually did, and that I would give her the money then.

Mary looked nervous when I rose to go away, and as if she would be glad of an excuse for not accompanying me. She saw however, that I expected her, and followed with a slow, unwilling step. When we were quite out of her mother’s hearing, I stopped.

“There is something vexing you, Mary,” I said, “and I suspect you do not want to tell me what it is. If it would be any comfort to speak to a true friend about your troubles, I would willingly hear what is the matter; but if you would rather not tell me, I shall not feel hurt.”

I waited a moment, and as she remained silent, I added:

“I see you would rather not; but remember, dear Mary, that there is One whose ear is ever open to our cry, who is ever ready to pity and to help us. Tell your trouble to Him, ask His guidance if you are in difficulty, cast your care upon Him if you are in trouble, and be assured that none who go in simple trust to Him, shall be sent empty away.”

She answered, “Oh, Miss Smith, I have prayed, indeed I have, but . . .”

“But it seems to you as if the Lord had not heard your prayer,” I said, finishing her sentence for her. “He does not always answer us in the way that we expect; we are poor blind creatures, and do not know what to ask for as we ought; but be assured that the prayer of faith will be answered; if not in the way we wish, at any rate in the way that will be best for us. I will not detain you any longer from your mother,” I added. “She may wonder what is keeping you. Here is a small sum which a friend gave me for you. I have seen that you are to be trusted with money, and that you are thoughtful and prudent in spending the little you have; so I feel sure you will lay this out to the best advantage.”

She looked at me with an eagerness in her large blue eyes that quite startled me; clasped her hands together, and for some minutes remained silent; then she burst into a fit of passionate, almost hysterical weeping, which shook her the more, that she endeavored to suppress all sound. When she was a little composed, she explained the cause of her agitation. Her elder brother, whose earnings brought three dollars a week to the family, had completely worn out his shoes and his clothes, and his master had more than once threatened to dismiss him unless he were better clad. Poor Mary had almost denied herself necessary food, in the endeavor to lay by a sufficient sum to buy him a pair of shoes; but meanwhile, in spite of constant mending, his clothes had become so worn that they would scarcely hold together, and on Monday, his master had warned him that this must be his last week, unless he came better clothed. Friday had come, and Mary was as far as ever from having obtained money for so extensive a purchase, and saw no means of getting it, and hence arose her anxious, careworn looks.

“I could not tell mother,” she said, “for the doctor says she must not be fretted; it might cost her her life.”

“And why could you not tell me?” I answered.

“Oh, ma’am! I thought shame, when you have done so much for us already; ’twould have been begging like.”

She was crying still, for the poor child was weak for want of sufficient food; so I said, soothingly:

“You went to the right quarter, Mary, and He, whose kind heart, when he was on earth, never allowed Him to despise the cry of the weakest or poorest, has proved that He is ‘the same yesterday, today, and forever.’ As surely does this help come from Him, though through my hand, as when in olden times He commissioned the ravens to feed the prophet, or multiplied the five loaves and two small fishes into food for five thousand fainting followers.”

“Yes, ma’am, I feel it now. Mother often told me to trust in Him; but somehow I thought I was such a weak, wicked creature, He could never listen to me; but now I feel as if I could never doubt Him again, for it seems as if He had sent you on purpose to help us in our great need.”

And, indeed, from that time she seemed able to cast her whole care upon her Saviour God. She had been contented before; her training and natural temperament had made her so; but now a higher element was added—A simple trust in her heavenly Father’s love and care, an earnest faith in the redemption purchased by the blood of His dear Son, with the abiding presence of that Comforter, whose offices of love were the Saviour’s dying bequest to His people, filled her heart, and constituted that godliness which, with contentment, she truly found to be great gain.

Some months later Mrs. Burton died.

Mary had dearly loved her mother, and had looked up to her in everything for advice. It was a bitter loss, but she bore it with sweet, unmurmuring patience.

“I know she is happy now,” she said, as she uncovered the pale face, and her hot tears dropped fast upon it. “I must try to remember all she used to tell me, but, oh! I can never be like her, so good, so patient.”

We can say little in the face of death; those white, silent lips are far more eloquent than ours; they speak to the bereaved in a language which the mere spectator neither hears nor understands, so I thought it kinder to leave Mary to her Saviour and her great sorrow.

When I returned the following day she was herself again, quite composed and calm. It had been her mother’s earnest wish that Mary should, if possible, keep house for her brothers.

It was not easy, but she effected it; she was clever, and I was fortunate in interesting an excellent woman in the neighborhood in her case. This woman was a clear-starcher; she taught Mary her business without any charge and gave her constant employment. Her brothers’ earnings, too, increased as they grew older; so that, after a time, they lived in comparative comfort.

When Mary was twenty years of age, she married a farmer, who lived about five miles out of town. Her elder brother had obtained an excellent situation through his steadiness and good character. This enabled him to go into comfortable and respectable lodgings, and his younger brother went to live with him. They were both excellent, steady lads, and in a fair way to get on in the world.

It was fully four years after Mary’s marriage that I one day resolved to make her a visit, which she had earnestly pressed upon me before she left the home where I had first known her. I availed myself of a coach, which took me to within two miles of the village where Mary lived, and walked the rest of the way.

My path lay through corn-fields and green lanes, and I thoroughly enjoyed the contrast afforded by the pleasant sights and sounds of the country with the bustle and turmoil of dirty and crowded streets. A neat cottage, with a pretty garden in front of it, was pointed out to me as Mary’s home. I was prepared for order and cleanliness, but scarcely for the almost elegant comfort that pervaded the room. The furniture was of the plainest description, but there was an exquisite neatness, and even taste, in its arrangement, which made one feel that the mistress of such a house was no ordinary person.

Mary herself was there, with a baby on her knee, and a pretty little creature, two years old, playing near her on the floor. She greeted me with a happy smile.

“Oh, ma’am!” she said. “This is kind. I have longed so to show you my new home, and my little ones!”

“And I often wished to come, “I answered; “but, as you know, I have a great deal at home to occupy my time, and when I have planned to come, something has occurred to prevent me.”

It was a pleasant visit. We spoke of her mother and of past times, of her present circumstances and future prospects.

“Oh, ma’am,” she said, and grateful tears filled her eyes, “I feel as if I never can be thankful to my Father in heaven for all His goodness. Of course, we have had our troubles at times, and, worst of all, was when my little baby died, our first, when it was six months old; but, through all, we seem to have had so much comfort and peace, as if the Lord, Himself, was comforting and strengthening us. So that I am sure we have reason to say, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.’”

“Ah, Mary,” I answered, as I rose to go, “you know now, by happy experience, that ‘Godliness with contentment is great gain.’“

As I walked home that beautiful summer evening, watching the golden sunset, and the purple hue of declining day stealing over hill and valley, and thought of Mary with her sweet face and quiet happiness and peace, these words came to my mind,

“God hath appointed one remedy for all the evils in this world, and that is a contented spirit.”

The Grace Livingston Hill Memorial School

10 Oct

Isabella Alden was particularly close to her niece, Grace Livingston Hill. Grace was a writer, too, and her books were incredibly popular and are still widely read today.

Grace Livingston Hill-Lutz, about 1912

But Grace wasn’t merely a best-selling authoress; Grace was also a teacher. She was dedicated to teaching Sunday-school classes at her church, and when her daughters Margaret and Ruth were old enough to attend school, Grace decided to teach them at home, just as her parents had taught her.

Grace’s desire to teach wasn’t limited to her family. For years Grace ran a Bible class for children at a nearby Presbyterian church. She was the guiding spirit in establishing a mission Sunday School for immigrant families, and she personally paid to send innumerable young people to Pinebrook School, a well-known Christian Bible conference in the Poconos.

Notice of class registration for Grace Livingston Hill Memorial School; from the Tampa Bay Times, May 20, 1954.

Education was something Grace was passionate about, and when she passed away in 1947 her daughter Ruth Hill Munce took steps to honor Grace’s teaching ministry.  Ruth purchased a 30-acre site in St. Petersburg, Florida and built a school, which she named after their mother.

An ad for Sunday services at Grace Livingston Memorial School chapel. From the Tampa Bay Times, October 22, 1955.

Grace Livingston Hill Memorial School had just four classrooms and 75 students when it officially opened in 1953, but the Christian day school grew with each passing year. Ruth served as the school principal for 15 years. Under her direction, she ensured that Christian education was at the core of every class, saying, “God would be the sum of the equation, the Bible a textbook.”

Grace Livingston Hill Memorial School graduates, class of 1961, from the Tampa Bay Times, June 7, 1961.

In 1962 the school changed its name to Keswick Christian School, and it’s still operating today under that name. But it had its roots as a tribute to Grace Livingston Hill, who loved God and used her talents for writing and teaching in order to serve Him.

You can read some of Grace’s short stories for free on this site. Just click on one of the images below to begin reading.

        

A New Free Read!

24 Sep

Welcome to the final week of our 5 Year Blogiversary Celebration!

We thank each of you for joining us in celebrating Isabella Alden’s life and Christ-centered novels and stories.

Today’s free short story is “Our Church Choir,” which was first published in 1889.

You can read “Our Church Choir” on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or you can read it as a PDF document on your computer screen. You can also print the story to share with friends.

To begin reading, just click on the book cover to choose your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.


This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner on Friday, September 28.

Pansies for Thoughts

20 Sep

Yesterday you read a lovely letter Isabella wrote to the students of an elementary school, thanking them for planting a tree in her honor.

Isabella’s writings—her books, stories, letters, and lessons—are filled with quote-worthy lines. Here’s an example from her novel, Tip Lewis and His Lamp:

In the story, The Reverend Mr. Holbrook asked that question of young Tip Lewis to help him realize that his resentment toward another boy was jeopardizing his own standing with God.

It was Isabella’s way of illustrating the Bible verse: “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

That was Isabella’s genius: she had a talent for explaining the Bible in terms anyone—young or old—could understand.

One of the greatest admirers of Isabella’s talent was her niece, Grace Livingston Hill. When Grace was twenty-three years old, she was the newly published author of her first book, A Chautauqua Idyll. And she was ready for her next project.

Grace turned her attention to her Aunt Isabella’s books. She combed through them, selected inspiring quotes, and organized them into a daily devotional, with each quote accompanied by an applicable verse from the Bible.

The result of Grace’s efforts was called Pansies for Thoughts, and it became her second published book.

The original cover for Grace’s 1888 devotional, Pansies for Thoughts.

Isabella wrote a brief Preface for the book, with a prayer that . . .

The Holy Spirit would use these pages in a way to lead some souls daily higher, and higher, even into the “shining light” of the “perfect day.”

Pansies for Thoughts is a wonderful daily devotional, and you can read the book for free! Click here to download the e-book version for your Kindle, Nook, or tablet. Or you can download a PDF version to print or read on your computer.


This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner on Friday morning, September 21!

A New Free Read: Dr. Deane’s Way

17 Sep

This week’s free read is “Dr. Deane’s Way,” a short story written by “Faye Huntington.” That’s the pen name adopted by Isabella’s dear friend Theodosia Toll Foster.

Isabella first met Theodosia when they were teens at Oneida Seminary in New York. It was Theodosia who launched Isabella’s writing career by secretly submitting one of Isabella’s stories to a writing contest. Isabella didn’t discover what Theodosia had done until she received a letter informing her that her story won first prize in the contest!

In return, Isabella sparked Theodosia’s career as an author. In 1872, Theodosia was 34 years old and pregnant with her second child when her husband James died unexpectedly. With a farm to run, and a toddler and newborn baby to support, Theodosia needed a reliable income. Isabella asked her to collaborate on one of her books, and Theodosia’s career as an author was born.

Isabella and Theodosia wrote more than half a dozen books together, including From Different Standpoints.

Theodosia also wrote Echoing and Re-echoing, book five in Isabella’s Ester Ried series.

Theodosia’s story “Dr. Deane’s Way” was written in 1875. Here’s the description:

When it comes to managing his family, Dr. Deane firmly believes his way is best. He methodically doles out chores to his children and rules the kitchen by ensuring his wife cooks only the blandest food for their diets. And when two of his children accept Christ as their Saviour, Dr. Deane believes he has the right to interfere with that, too.

But when Dr. Deane’s daughter Lois rebels against his rigid rules, Dr. Deane must seek help from an unexpected source if he is to cure Lois of her hoydenish ways.

You can read this story on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or you can read it as a PDF document on your computer screen. You can also print the story to share with friends.

Click on the book cover to choose your preferred format from BookFunnel.com:

You can read more about Isabella’s friendship with Theodosia in these previous posts:

BFFs at Oneida Seminary

Locust Shade and a New Free Read

Free Read: The Book that Started it All

Docia’s First Book

A Real Judge Burnham’s Daughter

A Grace Livingston Hill Free Read!

10 Sep

This short story by Isabella’s niece, Grace Livingston Hill, first appeared in a Christian magazine in 1917.

In “A Journey of Discovery” Louise Hasbrouck knows what everyone expects of her. She just received an offer of marriage from Halsey Carstairs, one of the city’s most eligible bachelors. Louise should feel honored and happy; instead she feels restless and anxious to talk to her old friend, Cecilia, who became a bride herself just two years before.

But when Louise arrives at Cecilia’s sweet little cottage in the country, and sees the life she leads away from the city’s whirling social scene, Louise begins to question the path society has plotted for her. Should Louise accept Halsey’s proposal, or will she find the strength to follow her heart?

You can read this story on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or you can read it as a PDF document on your computer screen. You can also print the story to share with friends.

Click on the book cover to choose your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.


This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner tomorrow!

Meet Myra Spafford … and a New Free Read!

3 Sep

This post is part of our blogiversary celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered into Friday’s drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card!


Isabella Alden’s father Isaac Macdonald is often credited with instilling in her a love of writing. He gave her a journal when she was very young and—to teach her to pay attention in church—he encouraged her to take notes during Sunday sermons so they could discuss the minister’s message later in the day.

“A Writer” by William Adolphe Bouruereau, 1890.

But it was probably Isabella’s mother, Myra, who taught Isabella to be a great story-teller.

At a young age—even before she could write—Isabella’s mother encouraged her to make up little stories about things.

“Make a story out of it for mother,” she would say; and out of those beginnings, Isabella began to develop the writing skills that would serve her as an adult.

Myra was herself a story-teller, and often entertained her six children with stories of her own younger years.

Myra’s father was Horatio Gates Spafford, a well-respected author and New York newspaper editor, so she developed her own writing skills at a very early age.

Isabella credited her mother Myra with teaching her how to weave a story centered on a well-loved Bible verse. It was Myra’s habit to gather her children—and later, her grandchildren—around her in the evening to tell them stories that were entertaining and and helped make sense of a Bible verse or Sunday-school lesson.

Her stories always contained a practical lesson in walking daily with Christ—a theme Isabella adopted and perfected in her own stories.

When Isabella’s father Isaac Macdonald died in 1870 Isabella and her husband Ross made certain Myra came to live with them. Although Ross’s career as a Presbyterian minister caused them to move regularly from one town to another, Myra made her home with the Aldens for the next fifteen years.

Myra’s entry in the 1880 Cincinnati directory shows she resided with the “Rev. G. R. Alden’s.”

They were living in Carbondale, Pennsylvania when Myra died at home in 1885. Isabella was 43 years old when her mother passed away, and she missed her terribly.

At that time Isabella was editing The Pansy magazine; and since she and her family members—including Ross, her son Raymond, her sister Marcia, and Marcia’s husband Charles—were all contributing articles and stories to the magazine, Isabella and Marcia found a way to pay tribute to their mother in the pages of The Pansy.

The cover of an 1891 issue of The Pansy.

They began publishing short stories for children in The Pansy under the pseudonym “Myra Spafford.” The stories were reminiscent of the kind of stories Myra told her children and grandchildren.

In 1887 Isabella published Grandma’s Miracles; Stories Told at Six O’clock in the Evening. The book is a fictionalized account of those tender and loving evening story-times Myra had with her children and grandchildren.

You can read Grandma’s Miracles for free!

Click on the book cover to read this story on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or you can read, print and share it as a PDF document on your computer. Just click on the book cover to start reading now.

 

It’s Our Blogiversary!

29 Aug

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been blogging about Isabella Alden and her books for five years!

And to thank you for your support and encouragement, we thought we’d throw a party . . . a party that lasts the entire month of September!

Please join us every weekday in September for fun and games, weekly Amazon gift card drawings, and plenty of Free Reads!

See you there!

Jenny, Nancy, and Susan

 

A New Free Read: Choker and Old Stuffy

7 Aug

This short story, set in a big city during the dead of winter, first appeared in the 1875 book Dr. Deane’s Way. Isabella and her best friend Faye Huntington (whose real name was Theodosia Toll Foster) contributed several stories each to the book.

In Isabella’s story “Choker and Old Stuffy,” Tom Benton and Dick Graves are struggling medical students. They’re so poor they have to take turns wrapping up in a ragged old comforter just to stay warm during the cold winter months! But a chance invitation from an unexpected source will soon change their lives forever.

You can read this story on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or you can read it as a PDF document on your computer screen. You can also print the story to share with friends.

Click on the book cover to choose your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.

 

A New Free Read!

3 Jul

As the editor and principal contributor to The Pansy magazine, Isabella had many opportunities to reach children and teens with a message of Christ’s love.

Stories, poems and novels were her vehicles for teaching young readers about salvation, forgiveness, and honesty. Isabella especially used the magazine to show children what it meant to walk with Jesus in their everyday lives.

Today’s story—from an 1895 issue of The Pansy—teaches young readers about the impact one act of kindness can have on a young girl.

Choose the way you want to read the story:


.

Angela’s Temptation

It was a very warm morning, and the basement kitchen in which Angela had been at work, was dark and hot. Her work was by no means done; the floor must be scrubbed, and everything in and about the kitchen put into perfect order, and the dishes were not all washed. Yet Angela stood in the middle of the room, her cheeks very red, and a look almost of despair in her beautiful Italian eyes, as she gazed at the fragments of a handsome cut-glass pitcher which lay at her feet. That pitcher she knew was very much prized by Miss Ethel, Mrs. Parker’s only daughter; and whatever Miss Ethel liked was doubly dear to her mother’s heart. It was only this morning that Angela had received a caution to handle it carefully, and here it lay in a dozen pieces!

She could not have told how it happened. She had remembered the caution given her, and had rinsed and dried the pitcher with the utmost care, and was climbing to the top shelf to set it away. At that moment a gust of wind had blown one of the closet doors against her elbow, and so startled her that she almost lost her balance, and then the pitcher somehow had escaped from her grasp.

Poor Angela! Perhaps you cannot think how bitter was her temptation. As quickly as thought can travel, she was back in her Italian home, leaning against one of the tall pillars of Madame Carara’s workroom, watching the kettle which hung over the fire, and polishing •the elegant fruit plates, and doing more dreaming than anything else. It was very warm, she remembered, and she was bare-footed, and wore nothing but her loose blouse and skirt; and had the sleeves pushed up above her elbow, and sat thinking, what if she were the mistress of this beautiful home, instead of the little kitchen girl whose duty it was to wait on all the other servants, and do anything that they did not like to do? If she were the mistress, she would wear, she thought, a white silk dress trimmed with diamonds and lace, and would order her gondola to be made ready, and would float about on the lovely green and gold and purple water, just as long as she pleased; for dinner she would have—and then she had jumped up quickly, hearing Rosa’s call, and had forgotten that she had a plate on her lap, and it had smashed itself!

Angela believed that she would never forget that morning. There had been no chance to hide the mischief; if there had been, she would not have told of it for the world; but Rosa was upon her even before she could gather up the tell-tale pieces; then, oh, how Angela had been scolded! Yes, and whipped! The Italian lady with whom she lived was not above raising her own strong arm to punish Angela. Her poor head and ears and neck had tingled and ached all day from the blows which they received. But worse than that, Angela was not allowed to go to the great fete which was held for two days, and to which she was to go that afternoon. Instead, she spent the long bright afternoon shut up in her room, weeping bitterly.

That was a year ago; but every detail of the day was as vivid to her mind this July morning as though she had just lived through it. Many things had happened since. She had crossed the great ocean, and come to America to live, and was a Sunday-school scholar, and a Junior Christian Endeavor member—A large girl for that society, older than the most; but they had made room for her and been good and kind, and Angela loved them.

But what hard fate followed her that her troubles must come so near to holidays? Tomorrow would be the fourth of July, the American fete day, as Angela called it; and tomorrow afternoon they, the Juniors, were to go on the cars out to the Superintendent’s lovely home, and have games on the lawn, and tea in the summer house, and ice cream and fireworks in the evening! And she was to go with the rest. Mrs. Parker had planned a new white dress for her, with pink ribbons to match her eyes, Miss Ethel said, though surely her eyes were not pink! In the way of all this beauty lay a mountain, in the shape of a broken pitcher.

Do you begin to understand Angela’s temptation? To be sure there was no Rosa to spy out her trouble. Cook was away for the day, and Mrs. Parker and Miss Ethel would not be downstairs until nearly lunch time. Nothing would be easier than to hide out of sight forever the broken pieces, and let Mrs. Parker suppose the pitcher safe on the top shelf where it was usually kept. If only Miss Ethel had not wanted to send cream in it this morning to that sick girl, it would be there now! Couldn’t she say nothing about it until after the Fourth-of-July fete? Only until then; after that she would be willing to tell the whole story, and take the hardest whipping any girl could receive.

She walked the floor and cried, and wrung her hands in her intense Italian fashion, but she did not resolve to carry out this plan. What was in the way? Why, as I told you, she was a Junior Endeavorer, Despite the fact that she had been only a year in this country, and spoke our language in a broken fashion which made some of the girls laugh, and found everything about her very new and strange, she had taken to her heart the pledge of the Juniors, and meant to keep it if she could. Moreover, the very night she was received as an active member, she walked home behind some of the large girls and heard their talk. There had been an Italian boy received at the same time, into the older society. One of the girls in speaking of it said, “I think he ought to have waited until he understood things better. Those Italians are not trustworthy people; father says it is all but impossible for them to tell the truth.”

Then Miss Ethel had said, “Oh, I don’t think so! I feel almost certain that our Angela is truthful, and would be, even though she were tempted.”

Angela’s face had glowed, in the darkness, with joy and pride over those words. This July morning she thought of them, and they finally settled for her the question of concealment. It was a dreadful trial; it was to her like giving up everything, for the time being, but she would do it.

A very red-cheeked, swollen-eyed girl knocked presently at Mrs. Parker’s door and was invited in. The kitchen work was all neatly done now, and Angela had taken up her heavy cross and gone upstairs. With eyes downcast and lips that quivered, she told her woeful tale. Silence for a minute, then Mrs. Parker said:

“Very well, Angela; I am sorry, of course; but I am glad you came directly to me with it, instead of leaving me to find it out for myself, as some might have done. Next time you will be more careful and close the door, so that the wind cannot cause you trouble. If you have finished in the kitchen, you may take these letters to the post-box, and stop at the corner and order some berries for luncheon.”

Could she believe her ears? She was not to be whipped, nor scolded, nor shut up in her room, nor given just a crust of bread to eat! None of these things. Instead, she went out on her errands, and returned, and was treated quite as usual.

Never was a happier heart than Angela’s. It was actually pleasant to do right; one felt so glad over it. Yes, she could give up the fete, even, and be glad that she had told. Had not Mrs. Parker commended her?

In the evening, as she was going upstairs, Mrs. Parker said something about the basket she would need the next day for flowers. Angela stopped and turned, her great eyes looking larger than usual.

“Ma’am,” she said, “for flowers?”

“Why, yes, child, don’t you remember that you are each invited to bring a little basket for flowers, and roots that you can plant?”

“Oh, but, ma’am, I am not to go! Surely I am not to go!”

Mrs. Parker looked bewildered. “Why not?” she asked. “I thought you wanted of all things to go.”

“Oh, yes, ma’am, yes, indeed! But you forget the pitcher.”

“The idea!” said Ethel, before her mother could speak. “Did you suppose we would keep you away from the lawn party because you had an accident and broke a dish?”

“Mother,” said Ethel the next day, as they watched Angela making an eager dash down the street, arrayed in her white dress with pink ribbons, “the child must have had a very hard life before she came to this country. Fancy being whipped and fed on crusts and water, and not allowed to go anywhere, because she broke a plate! I wonder if all Italians are cruel?”

“The Italians do not know Christ,” said Mrs. Parker. “It is acquaintance with Him which makes people patient, and forgiving, and long suffering.”

“But all people who are not Christians are not unreasonable and cruel!”

“Oh, no; no, indeed! Some are very kind-hearted. But have you never wondered how much their surroundings and education in a Christian land, and the influence of Christian fathers and grandfathers had to do with their kind heartedness? In other words, we have Jesus Christ to thank for much that is not directly recognized as his work.”


Have a happy 4th of July celebration!

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.

%d bloggers like this: