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Nothing here to call my own,
E. S. H.
Frank Fraddon and His father.
A CHRISTMAS STORY.
HAVE not had quite enough bread for breakfast," said little Frank Fraddon ; “ but I shall thank God, nevertheless, for it is more than I deserve.
Harry Hold was grumbling yesterday because he got skimmed milk in his tea, when he had nice rock-sugar, toast, and fish as well, and a plenty to eat and leave. But I remember what you have often told me, mother, that we should be thankful for the smallest favour the Lord gives us, whether it be only what I have had this morning or a crust of bread and a cup of water. Though my breakfast has been so small, yet it is much more than Philip Hixon had yesterday; for he said to me down by the wood, when I was bringing your sewing from the village, that he had only three brown sops in his bason, and he could not tell whether he should get any dinner. But when I saw him in the evening he told me that after reading the chapter his mother opened the door, and there was a bright half-crown shining on the threshold, which God had surely sent, and which saved them from actual starvation. I have been thinking about this a good deal, and I know it has made me more grateful for my half-breakfast; so I shall thank God, mother, who has always been so good to us.”
Then little Frank Fraddon clasped his hands together, closed his eyes, and said, in a soft and musical voice : “I thank Thee, my dear Saviour, for giving me food this morning, and all the mornings of my life; and also for preparing for me a home in heaven, where I pray Thee to bring both me and my mother, and all my friends. Amen." Susan Fraddon was standing at the end of the table, with
fixed on her little boy. Surely the reader will not think less of her if we say there were tears upon her eyelids, which she sometimes wiped away with her apron? Susan Fraddon was a good woman, and loved her Lord and Master, though He had seen it best to chasten her in various ways. And this is often His course with His own people. Many of His most faithful followers are sometimes greatly straitened, even suffering, it may be, hunger and thirst, besides neglect and scorn; for has He not said, “ As many as I love I rebuke and chasten”? Susan felt this, but she was not discouraged or cast down, for she looked “not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternai.”
It was Christmas Eve, and the sight of her boy and the sound of his sorrowful words had awakened memories in her soul that scarcely ever slept, but were fresher and clearer to-day than at any other season. Several years ago Solomon
Fraddon, her husband, had left her very mysteriously. Their only horse needed shoeing, which he rode into the village, and whilst the blacksmith was preparing the iron, Solomon was seen in the market, with his best whip in his hand, talking with a strange man—and that was all. Inquiries were made, advertisements inserted in the newspapers, searching parties wandered hither and thither ; but there was no clue to the missing man.
The kind blacksmith brought the horse back to Susan Fraddon, and said all it was possible to say to comfort her; but, like Rachel of old, she refused consolation. She took, however, this great trouble to her Heavenly Father, and in the midst of her severest anguish He sustained her. She had known His love when but a child, which had softened for her the ills of life, and was never more precious than in the day of trouble.
Little Frank was then a baby in the cradle ; and often has she kissed him there in the evening twilight, when the beautiful image of sleep was upon him, and smiles played upon his pretty cheeks like day-beams upon the pastures, and gone to the door of her home to listen for the footfall of him who was dearer to her than the light of the stars or the beauty of the summer bower. And there she would remain lost in meditation and prayer until the moon rose over the river and built bright palaces of silver in every dell, turning the warm tears upon her face to pearls of liquid light, and hanging the tree-tops, ferns, and grasses in snowy tissues. The breeze rustled in the underwood, bats wheeled by the ivied ruin, the river murmured on the lonely moor, and strange whisperings travelled among the hills; but no husband's footfall gladdened her ear, nor his much-loved voice cheered her heart.
And week after week it was the same, until the lagging years partially softened the sudden sorrow. The horse had long gone, the cow had been parted with, the sheep driven to other fields and sheltered in other folds; and poor Susan and her boy were so reduced that it was really difficult to
survive. Nearly the last piece of bread had been eaten for breakfast, and poor little Frank's hunger had not been appeased. Yet Susan Fraddon still trusted in her God. How beautiful is faith, especially the trust of a loving wife ! And how much more beautiful is the childlike faith of the Gospel !
“Here, Frank,” said Susan Fraddon, “take this sewingwork which I have just finished, over to the lawyer's, and tell the servant that mother would feel obliged, as it will be Christmas Day to-morrow, if Mrs. Bindweed would send the money for it, and also that which was due to me a fortnight ago.
If this is not sent ours will be a very small dinner to-morrow, for we must cook the three last potatoes we have in the broken pan under the stairs, and eat them with a little salt. But He who was born in a stable will not despise us because our dinner is poor ; but, if our hearts go up to Him, will visit us as freely as those whose tables are heavily laden with the luxuries of life. Whatever it is, Frank, we will try to be thankful, and not forget to render Him our love. Methinks I have never felt Him so near as I have lately, when our cupboard has been empty, and the last stick in the grate. But go now, dear Frank; I will tidy up the house a little, and put a few stitches in your best cap, as we know not when we shall afford to buy another. Of course I shall think of your father, as I always do on Christmas Eve, more than on any other eve throughout the year. I shall put his chair in the corner, with his slippers by it, which have been unworn so long; for, perhaps, after all the Lord may send him back. Now let me kiss you; there, good-bye, and I do hope Mrs. Bindweed will pay you."
Little Frank Fraddon kissed his mother, and closed the door behind him. He was not very long in reaching the lawyer's residence, when he told the servant his story, handing her the parcel. She replied that she was sorry her mistress was not at home, that she was gone to a ball at the Squire's, and would not return until late at night. Poor Frank, he felt his heart sink within him, and a cold shudder shook his frame. He bade the servant good-bye, turned from the door, and soon his eyes were red with weeping. What should they do now to pass the Christmas? How procure sufficient to eat ? And, worse than all, how could he break the sorrowful news to his mother? As he passed along, the snow began to fall, and the wind was whistling through the leafless trees. His hands were very cold, but he rubbed them together to warm them, and even washed his face in the cold water of the brook, that his mother might not see he had been crying. Brave little Frank, we feel we could kiss him heartily if he were near us now! He lifted up a little prayer to our Father in heaven as he trudged along, which served to comfort him greatly. Will it not be well for those who are discontented, amid so much of the good things of life, to remember the hardships and privations of poor little Frank Fraddon, which might tend, perhaps, to remove their ingratitude, and stimulate their hearts with thankfulness to the great Giver ?
Susan Fraddon received the intelligence of Mrs. Bindweed's absence with some dismay; but the cloud did not remain on her countenance long when she saw the brave look of her boy. The neighbouring people passed by their door on their way from the late market, but there was no market for Frank or his mother! Of what use was it to go there with an empty stomach and an empty purse ? Money is what the sellers wanted, or there would be no buyers. Legs of mutton, ribs for roasting, fat geese and ducks, and all the rich abundance prepared for the holy tide, passed another way, and not a single shred crossed their threshold. Frank went down to the sea-beach, and found some wood washed up by the waves, which he gathered together and carried home, so that they might not be entirely without fire on Christmas Day. He also succeeded in securing a handful or two of shell-fish, which he put into his pocket for his mother, as he knew she greatly relished them, A few crusts were all they had that evening,