Tag Archives: Free Read

New Free Read: The Systematic Givers

25 Sep

Isabella Alden never bought into the excuse, “But I’m only one person. What difference can one person make?”

Her answer to that question was always, “Plenty!”

How do we know? Because one of the most common themes in Isabella’s stories is the difference a single person can make in the lives of other people.

Flossy Shipley, one of the Chautauqua Girls, was a prime example.

So was Nettie Beldon in Only Ten Cents.

In today’s free read, Alice Vincent and Laura Keats, students at a seminary for young ladies, learn that small efforts can have big results.

The Systematic Givers was first published in 1887 as a short story in Isabella’s anthology, Harry’s Invention and Other Stories, and you can read it here for free!


The Systematic Givers

Slowly Alice Vincent and Laura Keats walked down the slope until they came to the rustic bridge that spanned the stream that ran through the seminary grounds; here in one of the pavilions that jutted out over the water they seated themselves for a talk.

“I know,” said Alice, taking up the thread of their conversation where it had been broken off a little way back when they met a party of girls bound for the butternut grove. These two had been urged to join the others, but they evidently preferred each other’s company, though they were not rude enough to say just that. “I know it does seem as though we might do something, but how to begin?”

“I do not know of any way but just to begin,” replied Laura.

“But who will start it?”

“Why, you for one, and I for another. Here you have been saying ever since we heard Mrs. Van Benshoten speak, that it seems as though we might do something; but saying that will never do anything. We must just do it.”

“What?” asked Alice.

“Call a meeting of the girls and organize for work.”

“The girls won’t come.”

“You and I will be there, and Minnie Crawford, and there are only three sides to a triangle, and that is all we had to begin geometry with.”

“But we shall have more than that,” replied Alice, laughing. “Annie Clark will join us and make a quadrilateral.”

“Well,” said Laura, “that will be a good beginning, and you know how we progress from polygons to circles—we may have a mission circle before we know it.”

That evening when, after tea, the students gathered for evening worship, the principal said:

“Immediately after this service, all who are interested in the forming of a mission band are requested to meet in the small room adjoining the library.”

Accordingly, instead of three or four, as the originators of the scheme had looked for, twenty-five girls filled the little room to overflowing.

Alice Vincent called the meeting to order, saying, “Miss Keats will state to us the object of this call.”

And Miss Keats stepped forward with a dignity which may have been assumed at first, but which gave place to something that was real, as she lost herself in her subject.

“We have lately heard,” she said, “some very astounding facts. Some of us knew a part of the truth before; at least we might have known it, but I dare say very few of us have been interested in knowing. But I think that in the course of the very able address to which we were privileged to listen last Sabbath, it was brought home to us very forcibly that there are millions upon millions of men and women sitting today in the darkness of heathenism. Many of them know that they are in the dark, and they are crying out to us to send them the light of the Gospel. You remember that we were told that people used to think that there were two points only to be looked at in this matter of sending the Gospel to the heathen: Were the people ready to receive it? and, Were the messengers ready to go? These two things Christians have been praying for, and now it would seem that ‘all things are ready.’ The heathen world has opened its doors to the Gospel; men and women well fitted for the work are ready and waiting to go; yet there is a halt in the work. Instead of two links there are three, and the middle one is missing. It is literally a golden link that is wanting. Now, girls, fellow students, does it not seem a burning shame that when so many are willing to take up the self-denying work—now that the very thing which the Church has been praying for has come to pass—I say, is it not a shame that the money should be wanting? I think we will all agree to that, and if so, we must own that a part of the disgrace is ours. The most of us are Christians; some part of the work belongs to us. Shall we take it up, and begin now? We have been called together to talk over the matter of organizing a mission circle; I would put it, a giving circle, for that is exactly what we propose to do, give! It is not quite time to propose a name for the organization, but when it comes to that, I want to propose, ‘The Systematic Givers.’”

Now I do not intent to give you in this sketch a lesson upon organization, so I shall not give a full report of the proceedings, or tell you how closely they followed Parliamentary usage. It is enough to tell you that “The Band of Systematic Givers” was duly organized, and properly officered. This motto was adopted:

“Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by in store as God hath prospered him.”

Each member of the band pledges herself to give one tenth of her spending money, or the money which she calls her own. Considerable discussion has arisen among the girls as to what moneys they have a right to tithe.

“What would you do about taking a tenth out of the money your father sent to you for a new dress?” asked Lily Case.

“Well,” replied Laura, “I will tell you what I did. Papa sent me thirty dollars for a dress, hat, etc., and I decided to take out a tenth, and got a new dress of a little cheaper materials, or a plainer hat. But I tell you, Lily, I never made even thirty dollars go so far as the twenty-seven did. Bess says my dress is prettier than hers that cost twenty-five dollars, and I know it will be more durable than hers.”

“With those of us who have an allowance which must cover all personal expenses there can be no question about the matter,” said Alice Vincent. “If we choose to deny ourselves of some luxuries, we have the right to do so, I suppose, but some of our fathers will say, ‘get what you need and have the bill sent home.’”

“I know,” replied Laura, “there is difficulty in some cases of knowing just what we may do; but all of us have something that we may call our very own, and that is all we are responsible for, after all. I know the girls pretty well, and with one or two exceptions, a tithe of what we spend for confectionery, creams and ices in the course of the term would buy a good many Bibles. We girls might almost support a missionary; certainly we can take a scholarship in some of the schools.”

And this is what they did: pledged themselves to support a pupil in a mission school. After several months had passed Lily Case remarked one day:

“Is it not wonderful how much we can do by following out a regular system? Why, I do not miss the money I give, and I actually give dollars where I used to give cents!”

“I am sorry you lose the blessing of self-denial,” said Laura, smiling. “You ought to give enough to miss it.”

“Oh, you need not imagine I do not feel it. Every time I take out the tenth it hurts, for I am naturally stingy. And I say to myself, ‘You old miser! You have got to deny yourself even if it does pinch.’ But after I put the money in the little gilt box, I find that I get along just as well without it to spend. And I love to hand it over to the treasurer. That is what I meant when I said I did not miss it.”

It was only a little while ago that Laura said, one evening, “Girls, I want to tell you something. I am going to India.”

And it was then and there decided that when Laura Keats goes to India “The Systematic Givers” will have a missionary of their own.


In this story, Isabella’s characters were inspired by a speech given by “Mrs. Van Benschoten,” who was a real person in Isabella’s life.

Mary Crowell Van Benschoten was an author and a leader in the Temperance Movement, but her greatest talent was in public speaking. She traveled the country, speaking in churches and at events where she inspired audiences to aid charities, fund churches, and contribute to women’s clubs and girls’ schools.

We can’t know how well Isabella knew Mary Van Benschoten, but Mary’s skill as an orator clearly made such an impression on Isabella, she felt compelled to mention her in the story as the inspiration behind the The Systematic Givers.

Free Read: Davie’s Witnesses

3 Jul

This month’s Free Read is “Davie’s Witnesses,” a story about a young boy, the 4th of July, and a difficult sacrifice.

It’s the Fourth of July and young Davie Carson wants to attend all the celebrations. He also plans to apply for a coveted job opening at the local book store. But no sooner does Davie arrive in town, than his plans begin to go terribly wrong; and Davie begins to wonder if he has missed the greatest opportunity of his young life.

You can read “Davie’s Witnesses” on your smart phone, iPad, Kindle, computer, or other electronic device.

You can also read it as an Adobe PDF document and print a copy to share with others!

Just click on the book cover to choose your preferred e-book format from BookFunnel.com and download the story for free!

New Free Read: Easter Flowers

18 Apr

A big “Thank You” to Rebekah, a long-time reader of this blog, for making today’s Free Read possible.

Not long ago, Rebekah shared her collection of Isabella Alden books with us so we could make the stories available to everyone. Today’s post is the first of many from Rebekah’s collection, and it couldn’t be more appropriate.

The story is about a young girl named Claribel, who begins her Easter morning wanting to commemorate Christ’s resurrection by offering her most beautiful possession to the church. But a friend in need may cause Claribel to stray from her purpose.

You can read today’s short story here on the blog by scrolling down the page.

Or you can read “Easter Flowers” on your phone, ipad, Kindle, computer, or other electronic device. Just click on the book cover to choose your preferred e-book format from BookFunnel.com.

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Easter Flowers

Old as creation itself, yet new every spring-time! The coming forth from the dull, gray earth of the fresh green grass, the putting out of the leaves and the opening of the flowers.

And more than eighteen hundred times have the followers of our Lord Jesus Christ welcomed Easter Sabbath, which still comes to us with its fresh, new joy each year. It comes with the first spring flowers and we welcome its dawning, bringing into God’s house flowers from forest and the choicest of the conservatory. Claribel had been watching her one rosebush for many days, with alternating hope and fear. But her hopes were fulfilled, and on Easter morning she found one full-blown rose. With this single offering she started for church.

“Claribel,” said her mother, “will you have time to go around by Mrs. O’Neil’s and leave this jelly and blanc-mange for Kitty? She enjoyed that which I took to her Friday so much, that I would like her to have some more today. I’ve put in a bottle of beef tea. The doctor says if she can have something to tempt her appetite, and to take her mind from herself, she may get well again.”

“There’s plenty of time,” replied Claribel. “I’ll walk fast, and it is an hour to the time Miss Clark told us to be there with the flowers.” And Claribel tripped away with her little basket of dainties for her sick schoolmate, and her treasured rose. She stopped a moment to speak to Kitty, and tell her that mamma had sent her something nice for her Sunday dinner. But Kitty had only eyes and thoughts for the beautiful rose which Claribel had in her hand

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “What a sweet, lovely rose!”

“Isn’t it!” returned Claribel. “You know it is Easter morning and I am going to take this to the church! Miss Clark told us to bring all we could get and she will arrange them. I had only this one, but it is so beautiful that I think it will make up for there being only one.”

“Will you let me hold it a minute?” asked Kitty.

Claribel rather unwillingly resigned her treasure to Kitty’s care for a moment. If anything should happen to it!

“Oh, if I could only see the flowers!” said Kitty with a weary sigh. “But I don’t suppose I shall ever see another rose.”

Suddenly there flashed through Claribel’s mind what her mother had said about Kitty’s having something to take her mind from her own pain and sorrows and the thought followed, what if she gave her the rose? Would it help? Kitty seemed to enjoy just holding it in her hand for a few minutes. Should she leave it? Could she go to the church without a single flower? She had looked forward to this morning so eagerly, and watched so anxiously the budding of this rose. She had welcomed its opening with such joy, could she leave it here instead of taking it to adorn the house of God as she had intended? Ought she? Was it not a way of showing her love to Christ, bringing flowers to his house on this morning when his resurrection was to be commemorated? These thoughts darted through Claribel’s mind perhaps less clearly defined than I have written them down, but they were in her heart, and there followed another, even the words of Christ himself, uttered long ago, “I was sick and ye visited me,” and she said, with a lump in her throat:

“Kitty, one little flower won’t he missed very much and you may have the rose.”

“Oh, Claribel, how good you are! If I get well, and I do believe I shall, I’ll do something nice for you. This will make me happy all day.”

Claribel hurried away. She was afraid she would cry and spoil everything. Not that she was sorry she had given away the rose, not at all! But there was a sharp pain for a few moments over the thought that she had no Easter offering to bring. Had, she but known it, she had brought more than they all. I am afraid that Miss Clark herself could not have willingly given away her beautiful bouquet of rare green-house flowers, which she had bought out of her ample allowance. She and the girls wondered a little that Claribel had no flowers, for they knew about her rosebush, but the little girl had no intention of telling of her unselfish deed. But she always told her mother everything and when they were settled down for their Sunday afternoon talk, she related the story of her interview with Kitty.

Mamma’s eyes filled with tears, but she asked:

“But, Claribel, why didn’t you take your rose to church and have it sent to Kitty afterwards? You know the flowers are often sent to the sick people in the village.”

“I know, but you see, Kitty would have had to spend all the long, lonesome day without anything to comfort her. The flowers are to be distributed tomorrow morning, and I will ask Miss Clark to send Kitty some. My little rose will be wilted by that time.”
And thoughtful little Claribel was the bearer of Miss Clark’s pretty bouquet the next morning.

“Kitty had the most comfortable day yesterday that she has had in a long time,” said Kitty’s mother. “I thought in the morning she would have a hard day, but your visit seemed to set her right up; she just lay with the rose in her hand or on her pillow all day, and the doctor said last night that he had more hope of her than at any time since she was taken sick.”
Easter Flowers


If you enjoyed this short story by Isabella Alden, please be sure to share it!

 

New Free Read: On Which Side Were They?

6 Feb

Not all of Isabella Alden’s stories had happy endings. This month’s free read is a short story Isabella wrote in 1893 when she was living in Washington, D.C. and very active in the Christian Endeavor Society. She deliberately left the ending of the story unresolved. Perhaps she was waiting to see how the real-life model for her story played out—or perhaps she wanted her readers to concentrate on the meat of her story, rather than on a happy ending. Either way, “On Which Side Were They?” is a thought-provoking story that’s as relevant today as it was the day it was first published.

You can read “On Which Side Were They?” 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.    

New Free Read: Miss Whitaker’s Blankets

12 Dec

Isabella’s sister, Marcia Livingston penned this month’s delightful Free Read.

In the “Season of Giving” Miss Rachel Whitaker is no stranger to charitable causes. She’s a good Christian woman who faithfully donates to her church and mission boards, like her parents did before her. But when she is confronted by someone in need on her own doorstep, will she answer the call?

You can read “Miss Whitaker’s Blankets” 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.

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.

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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.”

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 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!

New Free Read: What She Could

16 Aug

It’s back to school time across the country, when millions of children return to the classroom.

As a teacher herself, Isabella Alden understood the tremendous influence a teacher had over the minds and hearts of young students.

In 1893 she wrote a short story about a young teacher, her sacrifice, and the rewards she reaped, simply because she did “what she could” for her students.

Now you can read the story for free! Just click on the book cover below to begin reading.

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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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