Free Read: Mrs. Knowlton’s Investment

This month’s Free Read is “Mrs. Knowlton’s Investment” by Isabella Alden.

“I wouldn’t go on a Foreign Mission, not if I were the only woman left in the world to do it.”

Mrs. Knowlton doesn’t believe in sending missionaries off to foreign lands; not when there’s so much of the Lord’s work to be done at home. But when it comes time to donate to Home Missions, Mrs. Knowlton has a problem with that, too. She turns up her elegant nose over any mention of Missionary Societies.

When a friend in need begs Mrs. Knowlton to take her place at a Mission Meeting, she can hardly refuse, though she’d rather be anywhere else. But while she sits with the other ladies, busily fuming and finding fault with every portion of the meeting, Mrs. Knowlton makes a mistake—a mistake so horrible, it just may change her life forever.

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New Free Read: The Systematic Givers

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.

New Free Read: The Harrisville Young Ladies’ Band

This month’s free read is Isabella’s short story, “The Harrisville Young Ladies’ Band.”

In this 1881 story, Miss Fannie Archer is president of a young ladies’ missionary band that is rapidly failing. At their last meeting, only three ladies showed up, and they were only there because they were officers of the club! No one, it seems, in her entire town is interested in supporting missionaries who do God’s work in far-off corners of the world. But Fannie is; and she’s desperate to bring some life—and some new members—into the ladies’ band. But how?

It isn’t until she confides in her cousin that Fannie realizes her approach to organizing a missionary support group has been wrong from the start. But with a few suggestions from her cousin, some hard work, and a good amount of devoted prayer, Fannie just may be able to make the club a success, after all.

You can read the entire story below, or click on the cover to read, download, or print the story as a pdf.



IT was having a weary struggle for existence. A spasm of missionary zeal had swept over the place, and while the influence lasted, certain young ladies, with the aid and under the spell of an eloquent lady who came to them from the parent society, had organized a “branch” which now, in only the third month of its existence was in serious danger of withering.

They had struggled bravely, those few; had heroically given up a Saturday afternoon once a month to the effort; had gathered themselves into a corner of the church which was pleasant enough on a Sabbath morning, with the great congregation gathering in, but which had an indescribably dreary appearance to the five or six who hovered over the register on a Saturday afternoon, and wished that the sexton would make more fire, or that they had a pleasanter place to meet, or that something could be done to make missionary efforts less dreary.

The President, with the best intentions in the world, did not understand how to conduct a Young Ladies’ Band. She selected and carefully read a chapter in the Bible; she was a fair reader; but, not being used to mission work, and not having been trained, it did not seem to occur to her that certain portions of the Bible might be better suited to these meetings than certain others; so her choice had been governed only by the length of the chapter. She always chose a long one, because she knew that she could read, and she always believed that she could not talk. Then oh! it is a pity, and “pity ’tis, ’tis true;” I can hardly find words in which to explain to you the tremendous force of will and the outlay of moral courage which it required for this young President to kneel down before her half-dozen companions and offer prayer! There were times when she felt that to have bravely donned a soldier’s uniform and march boldly into the thick of battle, could surely be nothing to compare with this. Yet she did it, with trembling lips and throbbing heart, and low murmured words that even the one kneeling beside her could not, sometimes, catch; yet, be it recorded, she did it.

As for singing, they could not compass that. Five voices in the choir made their music on Sabbath day something to be enjoyed, but though those five voices belonged, three of them to ladies, two of them to church-members, they had not hitherto been persuaded to give their presence to this Young Ladies’ Band.

One of them hadn’t time; she had time, it is true, for calls, and rides, and sociables, and festivals, and shopping, but then these were necessary occupations; they consumed all the time, leaving none for minor matters. One of them was not a Christian, and produced it as an unanswerable excuse for not being interested in any scheme pertaining to the cause of Christ, and one of them “didn’t believe in foreign missions, anyway.” So, as I said, the singing in the Harrisville Young Ladies’ Band was of necessity omitted. Several of the members could sing, it is true, when a strong reliable voice led the way, but the process of starting a tune was too formidable even to be thought of.

They had undertaken to have papers prepared on China and Japan and other missionary countries; and those appointed had faithfully accomplished their task and compiled a formidable list of statistics; the difficulty being that those who listened or appeared to listen, cared little or nothing about the population and productions of the country, nor thought it mattered how many years it was since certain missionaries went there nor how long they were in acquiring the language. A vital interest in the cause was, of course, the mainspring lacking. So the members dwindled; the seven or eight became five or six; always including the heroic President.

One sunny Saturday afternoon, which was yet cold and chill in the great church, by reason of the fact that the sexton concluded to use sun heat instead of furnace heat, and yet avoided the opening of a single blind until long after the sun had moved away from that quarter, the discouragement of these good-intentioned few reached its culminating point. It transpired that at the proper hour for meeting, there were three shivering damsels who looked drearily at each other. These were the President, the Secretary and the Treasurer of the Harrisville Young Ladies’ Band, or Branch, as they more often called themselves.

“What a branch!” ejaculated the Secretary, as her eye rested on the name, written with careful flourishes in the great blank book before her; then she laughed; then the President and the Secretary laughed. They would all much rather have cried, if that would not have made the matter still more embarrassing. They were all honestly disappointed.

“What are we going to do?” queried the Secretary, in a discouraged tone. “Just think of making a minute of three people at the last meeting!”

“And thirty cents set down in the Treasurer’s report!” chimed in the Treasurer. “Thirty cents given in the month of February by the Harrisville Young Ladies’ Band for the cause of missions!”

Then the President. with tremendous energy of tone and manner: “Something must be done!”

“What?” said both of her companions, in a breath, and, by way of answer, that President let her copies of Woman’s Work and Foreign Missionary slip unheeded, to the floor, and said: “Let us pray!”

This astonished the girls. They had not supposed that it was worthwhile to pray, when only three persons were present, and they all officers. But the young president prayed as though she felt that they had reached the extremity of their wisdom, and now, indeed, must depend on the Lord. Somehow, her intensity of feeling made her less afraid than usual. I do not know that, in the strict sense of the word, she could have been said to pray for missions. Rather, she prayed for the Harrisville Young Ladies’ Band. Not by name; she even forgot that she belonged to that imposing body; was indeed the presiding officer of it; and almost before she realized where she was, or what she represented, she found herself praying as she did in her little room at home, for “the girls.”

The effect of this prayer was echoed by each voice as they arose from their knees.
“Now, girls, we certainly must do something.”




THEN they went home to think about it. Later in the day, the same influence, intensifying with every passing moment, pervaded the heart of the President, Miss Fannie Archer, as she sat in her father’s parlor, elbows resting on the small table before her, and hands thrust into the frizzes of her brown hair. She echoed her thoughts aloud and vehemently:

“Something must be done. Charlie, see here!”

Charlie was a cousin, a young student of theology, and a guest in the house. He came from the library near at hand.

“Well, what is needing my immediate supervision?”

“I want to talk to you about our young society. You are interested in missions, or ought to be. What can we do about our Young Ladies’ Branch? It is just a hopeless drag.”

“Withered, eh? I expected as much.”

“Now, why did you expect it?” a little impatient frown on the fair face. “You think we girls are not in earnest at all; and I tell you we were. We meant to do the best we could, and did; and it don’t work, and it won’t work; I don’t see how it is our fault.”

“I don’t say it is. It is natural sequence, though, from the result of that sort of management.”

“What sort of management? We conducted the meetings just as others do. Just what do you mean by that?”

“Oh, all that I mean is a very old statement, for the truth of which a greater than I is responsible: ‘The children of this world are, in their generation, wiser than the children of light.’”

“I don’t see the application.”

“Well, now,” he said, drawing a chair in front of her, and looking straight into the eyes of his fair cousin, “let us look at the matter. If I were suddenly called upon to make an addition to the statement just quoted, which would fit the present day, I think I should say: The children of light are wiser about everything else that can be thought of, than they are about matters that pertain to religion. How, for instance, did you manage that festival in which you were interested last fall?”

“Well,” said Miss Fannie, “we—Why, we worked it up.”

“Exactly so. You had schemes and plans and committees enough to manage a World’s Fair; and rehearsals and committee meetings, and all sorts of contrivances, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” said Fannie, letting her mind wander dreamily back among the doings of the past, “there was no end of work connected with that festival.”

“So I suspect. The trouble with this branch of yours, I suspect, is that it is not tended and weeded and watered enough.”

“Charlie, do drop metaphor, and talk plain common sense. If you know anything that we can do to awaken an interest in our band, I wish you would tell me; though I am sure I don’t see what you should know about missions.”

“I know less about missions than I do about any other one thing that at present interests the sensible portion of the world, I do believe; and, according to the present rates of management, I am really afraid it will be a long while before I know any more, but I do profess to have a few grains of common sense, and it is about that very article, or the want of it, that I am talking at this moment.”

“Will you enlighten me?”

“Why, Fannie, I think I have. I say, how do you manage everything else? Look at that church sociable which was in your house. How many times did I escort you to places so that you could plan for it? How many times did I hear the sentence, “Say, girls, how shall we entertain people when we get them there?” And, “What shall we do about music? We must have some fine music.” And, “Don’t you think it would be nice to have a museum of paintings or carvings, or some curious or interesting things for people to look at, to start conversation, you know; some people don’t know how to talk, unless they have something to talk about.”

Whereupon Fannie laughed, “I remember that sentence, Charlie; you said it yourself.”

“Very well; then I contributed one important item to the general fund; but I hope you see the application. What have you done to entertain people when you got them to your band meetings?”

“They don’t come to be entertained,” interrupted Fannie.

“Suppose they had, how much entertainment would they have received? How much pains do you take with your music? How extensive a literary programme have you? How much thought do you give to the matter beforehand? How much wiser are those who attend than they were before? How much more deeply impressed are they with the importance of missions than they were before they shivered through that hour in the northwest corner of the church?

“Then another point: Just suppose for a minute, if you can suppose anything so ridiculous, that when you got up that fair, over which you were busy day and night for three months, the public had heard no more about it than the simple announcement to those who happened to be in the church, that the young ladies’ fair would be held next Saturday afternoon as usual in the church at 3 o’clock, and not another syllable lisped concerning it until Saturday afternoon came? How large a number would you have had?”

“Bless me! Haven’t I a vivid recollection of being stopped by young ladies on every street corner, and six times between each corner, to receive a cordial, in fact, a very pressing invitation to the fair! We all knew about that, I assure you, and were not in danger of forgetting it. Moreover, it isn’t six weeks since I heard a party of young ladies voting vigorously for a simple tea at the sewing circle because it relieved the stiffness and made everyone feel more social and cheery.”

“The simple question is, why don’t you as a Branch, try some of these devices to set your leaves and buds to growing?”

“But Charlie, think what a humiliating admission to have to make, that our Christian young ladies have to be coaxed and beguiled in that way into having an interest in missionary work! They ought to be glad of a chance to help the cause.”

“My dear, logical young cousin, is there any rule which makes such a proceeding humiliating for mission bands, and perfectly wise and desirable for church fairs and sociables and festivals? People ought to be glad of the chance of paying church debts, and upholstering pews, and getting new organs, and hymn-books, and Sabbath-school library-books, and supporting the interests of the Church generally; but the sad fact remains that they have to be invited and entertained, and fed, and sought after, and coaxed, or they will not come.”

“Well, we might do something of the sort I suppose; only there is very little time in these short afternoons, and as for having tea, it seems as though it would be rather dull, just us girls.”

“Why should it be limited to just ‘us girls?’ Isn’t there any place in the enterprise for ‘us boys?’ It strikes me that it would not injure us in the least to get some sort of an idea of what the church is doing in this line, and I don’t know how we are ever to get it, unless those who are posted in these matters take us in hand. What special harm would there be in your occasionally inviting us to join you, and thrive together?”

Then was Miss Fannie amazed at the audacity of the idea. “How could we?” she said indignantly. “We belong to the Young Ladies’ Branch, and are called the Young Ladies’ Band! But, then, I don’t see that that need make any difference; we needn’t ask the young gentlemen for money; they might just meet to enjoy the exercises and the music and see us home, and, well …” said Miss Fannie, after a moment’s hesitation, “have a good time together. There is no use in talking, now; it is a good deal pleasanter for the girls and boys to meet together and entertain each other than it is to be by ourselves.”

“Of course it is,” rejoined Cousin Charlie, with the relish of one who fully accepted the proposition. “Why, in the name of common sense, shouldn’t it be? We are brothers and cousins and friends, and we enjoy each other’s society elsewhere; why need we be left out in the cold in this matter of missions? I appreciate the business part of it, a separate organization and all that, and your business matters might be conducted before we arrived, and as to the money, of course we wouldn’t force any of ours upon you.” This with a twinkle of eyes that indicated his evident relish of this position. “There is no telling how soon we might be roused to forming a money organization of our own; but until then, why couldn’t we be admitted to the social part, at least?”

Then silence took possession of that little parlor for a few minutes. Miss Fannie disarranged her frizzes worse than before, and the two furrows in her forehead told that she was thinking hard.

“There is one trouble in the way,” she said, at last, speaking hesitatingly. “I don’t believe we girls could possibly manage the religious exercises before outsiders.”

“Well,” Charlie said, after a thoughtful pause, “I’ll admit that it is a humiliating thing that we who are as intimate in regard to every other subject as friends well can be, are afraid to talk about Christ and heaven together, or to speak to our best friend in the presence of our other friends. I hope the time will come for a reform in that matter. I hope to live to see the day when it will be as natural for girls and boys to pray before each other as it is now to talk.

“But we must take the world, in part, as we find it, and until we can move wisely in an advance, how would it do to let us come in late, in time to pass the cake and coffee and see you safely home? I know it is hard on a fellow to make him provide a niche for himself, but I seem driven to it.”

“Charlie,” said Miss Fannie, under a sudden impulse of frankness, and after another pause, “you are a provoking fellow, sometimes, and you have hinted some real hateful things during this very talk. At the same time, I’ll own that you have given me some new ideas, and I may work them up.”

“Thank you,” was the said Charlie’s courteous reply, accompanied by an unnecessarily low bow. “The hope of seeing a new idea developed once more repays me for all the sacrifice of personal ease and enjoyment that I have made.”




THUS began the new order of things in the Harrisville Young Ladies’ Band. The very next Monday there was a self-constituted committee of three, being the aforesaid officers of the band, who met to discuss ways and means. Thereafter the younger portion of Harrisville pertaining to the First Church was in a flutter. Invitations were out on the daintiest of note paper, inviting every young gentleman and every young lady to the next meeting of the Young Ladies’ Band, to be held at the house of Mr. Samuel Marvyn; tea at seven.

“What is this Young Ladies’ Band?” said the young ladies to each other, who had heard the regular announcement of the band meeting, or at least sat under its announcement from the pulpit for every third Saturday in the month during many months. Now this cream-tinted note aroused their interest.

“This is something new under the sun, isn’t it?” said the gentlemen, one to another; and straightway some of them reflected that they ought to know more about missions, they supposed. At least, they would go; that much encouragement to the cause they would certainly give. Neither did the matter stop with this single invitation. Cousin Charlie had occasion to discover before the week was past that something at least equally as important as a church fair was in progress. At every corner, in every street-car, at the church-door, in short, wherever he met a young lady, he was liable to be greeted with the interrogation: “We shall see you at the band meeting, I hope?” or, “We are expecting you to help us on Thursday!” or, “Shall you go to the band meeting, Mr. Archer?” according to the degree of intimacy between the parties.

Of course, being courteously invited to a young peoples’ gathering, the young people courteously responded, and on Thursday by five o’clock the young ladies who gathered in Mr. Marvyn’s parlors would have astonished the northwest corner of the church. Neither had energy exhausted itself in invitations. A careful programme had been arranged and was presented. It was wonderful how many young ladies had been found to do, so soon as something definite and tangible had been given them to do.

The Misses Heber would sing, of course they would. Why not? They had voices like birds, and loved to sing as well as ever birds can, and they sang that evening. Miss Lillie Brooks could, and would, and did, recite as sweet a missionary poem as ever thrilled an audience. Neither was the devotional portion of the hour forgotten. The President’s heart beat fast, it is true, and her cheeks were red, yet she had earnestly counted the cost, and determined not only to give her voice to the cause but to make all the young ladies help her, so she distributed the slips of paper, containing each a Bible verse, over whose selection and careful writing she and Cousin Charlie had spent several evenings, and there followed a well-chosen and impressive Bible reading, helped by some grand voices which were unused to reading Bible verses, not so much because they were unwilling to read them as because no one had ever asked them.

Then the President prayed; then there followed her in prayer, little Susie Scoville, much younger than any of the others, but an earnest, consecrated little Christian, who had months before determined to do, always, what she could, and who, when the President asked her privately, answered, with glowing cheeks and doubtful voice: “Oh, Miss Fannie! I’ll try.”

Then there followed her, sweet, fair, timid, Emma Nelson, whom nobody ever thought would be willing to pray in public, but something in the earnest voice and simple words of the girl kneeling beside her, so much younger than herself, nerved her voice to try. And so, this became a pleasant part of the afternoon, despite all their fears and tremblings.

Then the gentlemen began to honor their invitations and came, in cheery groups, fresh from the outside world, banishing all formality and stiffness by the very bustle of their coming. Then cups of coffee and sandwiches, simple, easily prepared, and easily served, seemed to bring with them a full tide of talk, and destroy the last vestige of formality.

Nor was this the entire programme. No sooner was the debris of the supper cleared away, when an exercise, so carefully planned and prepared that it had all the grace of an impromptu about it, was presented for the entertainment of the guests. It was nothing more formidable than a series of questions and answers, the questions appearing to come from any person who happened to think of one that she desired to ask, and the answers appearing to emanate from those who happened to be informed. Simple, natural questions, as for instance:

Miss Laura Proctor said suddenly, and apparently without a shadow of premeditation, “This is quite a large band meeting, isn’t it? When were young ladies’ bands first formed? Does anyone know?” And one who knew gave most informally the answer.

“I wonder if they have succeeded in raising much money?” questioned another.

“Oh, yes,” said another: “why, I read only yesterday, that—” and then followed some delightful figures.

“What are they doing with the money? Is it used for any special work?” queried another, and the answer was prompt from a voice across the room.

“What is the use of missions, anyway?” said a skeptically inclined young lady; “hardly any of the heathen are converted after all.” The answer to that was simple and conclusive, and the talk went on.

One young lady told of what she had read that Mrs. Mateer said last month.

“Who is Mrs. Mateer anyway?” asked a girl who would not have dared to ask it, had the question not been on her carefully studied paper, lest she might thereby have exposed her ignorance.

“Why, she is a missionary in China,” was replied, and then there followed little touches of her peculiarly interesting work, called out by question and answer.

You see the point; I wish you could have been there to have heard how well it was managed, ands how thoroughly the young ladies themselves became interested in the talk. Several of the gentlemen fell so readily into the trap that they produced questions from the impulse of the moment, which taxed Fannie Archer’s wits to the utmost, and would once have embarrassed her utterly had not there flashed over her the idea of appealing to Cousin Charlie for information, and in the wicked satisfaction which she felt in seeing him obliged to say, “I really do not know,” she regained her composure. But the first general meeting of the Harrisville Young Ladies’ Band was a success. Neither was there danger of that portion of the branch withering soon. A taste of success made the leaders thereof long for success.

Also there came, as if by accident, a special interposition of Providence to them soon after. Behold, it was announced in the Harrisville Church that Mrs. Mateer was in this country and would address the ladies of the First Church on next Thursday afternoon. Straightway the ladies of the Band gave each other little appreciative smiles. They knew who Mrs. Mateer was. Some of them who a month before would hardly have known of her existence, felt posted, felt able to post others.

“Oh, yes,” they said, “she is a returned missionary from China. She has had a very interesting experience; you must go and hear her.” And they began to feel that they knew something about what was going on in the world; and they went to the Thursday afternoon meeting. So did others; and to those who heard, and to those who heard of her, through those who did, there came an inspiration in Harrisville for missions that will tell for eternity.

Today there is no fear of blight for the buds in the Harrisville Branch. They are continually talking up that band. Of this fact the said Cousin Charlie has become so convinced that does there occur a moment’s lull in a conversation where two or more young ladies are present, he is sure to turn with animated face, and a voice exactly simulating one of the energetic of their number, and say:

“Oh, girls, what shall we do for our next Band meeting?”

What did they do? Oh, dear, you don’t expect me to tell you?

What can a band of wide-awake, energetic, earnest-hearted, thoroughly roused young ladies do for missions? Rather what can they not do?

I think the Harrisville Band boasts the banner membership today. They are eager as ever. They are more earnest; the work has gone beyond the regions of entertainment; it has taken on strength and power; yet they are always struggling after entertainment; for there are always young men and women, new ones coming within the circle of their influence, who must be caught before they can be made to serve. Yet should you ask the Harrisville Young Ladies’ Band today what they did to make their band so large and so effective, I am not sure that they would not look from one to another, slightly puzzled how to answer. There are so many little things to do that cannot be grouped into one brief answer. Perhaps they would fall back with a laugh on that one sentence which they never forgot: “Oh, we talked it up.”

Yet I may tell you, that there is a secret behind that secret. It was discovered when those three girls looked at each other with determined faces that Saturday afternoon in the old church, and said “Something must be done.”

Where there is a will, there is a way. Is that it? Ah, there is yet a secret behind that secret, for the force of strong wills was brought to bear upon this subject only, when, laying aside her timidity, and her shrinking, and her poor attempts at guiding, Fanny Archer let book and pride slip from her that afternoon and said with full heart, “Let us pray.”

In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me, and brought me out into a large place.

There is strong will power in the Harrisville Band; there is an eager looking out for the little things that will help; there is a wisdom like unto that which the children of this world use when they mean to succeed, and there is a consecration of time and strength and pride, all on the altar; and the buds and blossoms of that branch, nurtured as they are under the shadow of the true vine, shall bear fruit.

They shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The End