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land to them; and far off enough to me, though now and then I seem to feel as if it were but as yesterday, and almost forget that I am an old woman, fit for nothing but just to wait my summons home. People do say that seeing things that happened so long back is a sign that my time is nearly up. But the Lord knows the time, and sure I am only listening and watching for His footsteps, for it can't be long now.” And Chloe smiled, rocking softly to and fro. to go back to old times. I married Philip Bran, who was postmaster in our village, and had a little linendraper's shop as well.
How happy we were, to be sure! He used to talk very solemnly to me sometimes; but as I was trying to do right, I liked it. Every word of praise from him seemed worth working for, but I fear I minded too little the praise that comes from God. When my work was done, I helped in the shop, for Philip of an evening had enough to do sorting the letters; and I always felt so eager to sell, just to be able to tell him at supper what I had done, and felt very clever if I managed to get off any of the shabby things that had lain about for months. In the country, Jane, folks are not so knowing-not up to all the ways of the town ; and often a poor girl would come in, and almost trust me to choose for her, and I would get her to buy some faded thing, telling her 'twas the prettiest thing in the shop; and though you will hardly believe me, Jane, this did not seem like a lie to me. But one day Philip took down a faded shawl from a top shelf, saying, 'I must put a lower price on this, or it will lie here until it is of no good.'
“Well, that very night a girl came in; she had just received her wages, and was come to buy a dress and warm shawl for the winter. I thought directly of the faded one, and taking it down, spread it out, saying, “There is a bargain! only seven and sixpence; worth fourteen shillings!' This was a lie, for I knew it to have been only seven and sixpence when new.
« « It is a little faded,' said the girl. “ Yes," I said, knowing that any one could see that ; “.but think of the price !” And the poor girl believed me, and took it.
“I longed to tell my husband, but he was too busy ; but when the shop was closed, and we were sitting over the fire, I told him.
“He sat quite silent until I said, “Now, am I not clever ?' and then he spoke. I shall never forget it, Jane.
"Chloe ! can I believe that, for the sake of a few shillings, you have told a deliberate lie? not only deceiving a poor girl, but grieving the good Lord above?'
“I burst into tears. “Oh, Philip! don't look at me like that! Why, you must praise up your goods to sell them.'
“Yes, if what you are saying is the truth, though I would rather leave it to them to do the praising, but customers seem to expect you to say your part nowadaysbut then, keep to the truth. But Chloe, have you never heard those reproofs in the Bible against those who are "deceitful with the weights ?” and what are you better than
“But I, trying to defend myself, said, 'You know the people that come to buy often pretend they don't care for something, to try and bring down the price, while, all the time, they are determined to have it. Is that wrong ?'
««Yes,' said Philip, 'everything in the form of a lie, whether spoken, or only acted. Do you mind that text in Proverbs, “ It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer ; but when he is gone his way, he boasteth.” And in the same chapter it says,
that all these doings are an abomination to the Lord.” But it is not for me to judge you harshly, my lass, when the Lord is so patient. But we must go back to the shawl-and sure enough he did too; for he knew to whom I had sold it, and gave her one that was really worth fourteen shillings. And I never wanted, after that, to push things off on people, unless they were worth the money for I did wish to do right; though I fear my love to Philip came before God then. But do I tire you, Jane ?”
“ No, please go on, Mrs. Bran. Hearing you talk makes me want to be religious; it seems so real to you.”
“God grant it may be so to you, Jane! But to go back to my story: time went on, and a little boy was born to us. How happy we were, to be sure ! Philip would carry
him about in his arms, so proud to show him to customers; for, theugh I say it as shouldn't, he was a beautiful child'; and when two years old, he used to toddle about with us, or sit quietly in a corner, playing with a few toys, by the hour together.
“ But trouble came. A large linendraper's shop, with all the new-fangled things, was set up close to us, and being new, our old customers left; and altogether 'twas hard to live ; and then it was my little Willy was born. I could only cry when I thought of the future ; but, as you have heard, Jane, 'God ne'er sent the mouth, but He sent the bread wi't.' And sure enough, before long the people found out that after all my things were cheaper in the end; and we soon got back all we had lost.
But I come to the sad part: the dreadful fever came to our village, and many people died. Then my little Willy took it, and in a few days Philie sickened. I can't talk much of that, even now; but in a week there were two little coffins laid side by side in the churchyard, and Philip and I returned to our lonely home. He tried to comfort me by saying the little ones were better off, and that we had two little angels, belonging to us in heaven. But he wanted comfort himself, and sure enough he got it; for God gave it him—but still he never looked the same man again; and six months after he died from rheumatic fever.
“And then, Jane, I cared for nothing. It was no comfort to remember that three belonging to me were angels in heaven : they were happy, I was unhappy-I felt so hard like. But Mrs. Fenwick found me out, and begged me to live again with her. I went, not caring what I did ; but the children's pretty little ways softened my heart; and
though every time I took them in my arms I longed for my own, still I had some one to love, and the love of God came back, and taught me so much that I had never even thought of before, that now I can even thank the Lord for the trouble, because He led me, and showed me Himself. But I hear steps.” And Chloe took off her spectacles to wipe away the tears that had dimmed them.
“ Thank you so much, Mrs. Bran; I shall be so glad to come and sit with you again.”
And then the door opened, and all the children came up to say "Good-night!" for, though they did not all go to bed at the same time, it had been the custom for them all to come together, father, mother, and all. And then Rachel, the housemaid, brought her supper, waiting to have a little chat; and Chloe retired for the night warmed and comforted by the love showered upon her, while Jane went back to the kitchen, feeling that religion was a true thing to Chloe, and that she would ask God to give it to her; and also, if Mrs. Bran would allow it, Helen should hear the story of the shawl.
How careful Christians should be to lead consistent lives; for the eyes of the unconverted are very watchful to see anything amiss; and they may do great harm to another's soul by a careless word or action.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,”1 and may none of our readers ever be led away, like Helen, by the love of gain, to forget this command : “ That no man go beyond or defraud his brother in any matter : because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we elso have forewarnedyou and testified."
I Matt. v. 16.