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• Never mind that, so long as it is the right path; you know who has said, “ The way-faring men, though fools, shall not err therein.”
* And how are we to know, Helen, that we are in · the right path ?'
• I think, Granny, while we are striving to do oor duty in that state of life into which it has pleased God to call us, and are looking to Him for help and strength, and trying to confess the Lord Jesus Christ before men, both with our lips and in our lives, that we may hope we are not out of the good way.'.
• And do you think, Helen, you shall be able to do this, if you get among bad people who try to tempt you to wickedness; and to laugh you out of your religion?'
'Indeed I don't know : there is nothing good in me, and I seem to tremble when I look forward. Now, Granny, will you pray with me, that the Lord God may be to us, as He bas promised to be to his people, a Father of the fatherless, and a Husband to the widow?'
The prayer was immediately offered, amid many tears and sighs ; for both were oppressed with a weight that they knew not how to sustain, except by casting the burden on the Lord.
When they rose, the poor old woman tenderly embraced her orphan charge, and blessed her for leading her to that most comforting refuge. Helen answered,
The truth is, dear Granny, I have always thought more than I spoke; but now I see you are likely to have many difficulties and few helps, I desire to be, after my poor fashion, more useful to you; and I want to get over my unwillingness to speak out. Oh,
my mother,' she added, with a fresh burst of tears, I fear we are come to a bad place, and these poor little lambs' she could not go on.
Tell me, what have you seen or heard to cause such alarm ?'
‘Not much ; but two or three things passed that distressed me. Phoebe, who is, as you first thought, the eldest, and two years older than me, though she is so little, said that Mary might be passed, with the doctor's help, for thirteen, and Willy for more than nine, and so get higher wages. When I told her it would be an untruth to say they were more than eleven and eight, she and her brother made quite a mock of me, saying nobody minded such nonsense here; and then they told me some cases of such wicked deceit, that it frightened me to bear of them. They laughed the more at me; and said you would soon learn, like others, to make the best bargain you could of the children?'
• What else, Helen?' exclaimed the widow, who saw she hesitated here. “Tell me all, my child ; for it is of great importance I should know it now.'
I thought so, Granny: or I would never have been a tell-tale, to grieve you, and to expose these poor young people. They informed me that their sister Sarah, whom you were asking for, was made, as they said, too good a bargain of; and that from early over-work in the mill, bad treatment, and other injuries—they did not say what-she is such an object that her mother kept her out of our sight. She is up stairs in a little loft, not likely to live long. All the others died of early consumption.'
The widow was petrified at a tale which, in addition to its other horrors, proved her daughter to have
been guilty of the most systematic falsehood. Helen resumed:
From all they said, I feared it was likely you might be deceived into making some agreement that you would afterwards be sorry for: therefore I tell you now. I think Granny, you had better take us to the gentleman you have the letter to rather than a stranger. Then, seeing the deep grief and, alarm depicted on her friend's countenance, - she added, • You know, all Christ's people must bear a cross; and really we have had none to bear, we have been so happy and prosperous. So it is reasonable to expect it now. Besides, is not it a mercy to be so forewarned?'
Again the poor widow thanked her young counsellor ; who, smiling through tears, said, I have often prayed that your kindness to me, a friendless ebild, might be like bread cast on the waters to be found again after many days : but as yet I bave done nothing for you, my own dear Granny.
They went to rest; and at an hour much earlier than even their usual habits had accustomed them to awake at, they were startled from repose by the ringing of a large bell, followed by the shrill tones of Mrs. Wright in the adjoining room calling on her children to get up and be off. It evidently required some rough persaasion to divorce Jobony from his bed; and a blow, followed by an angry cry, was heard. After the lapse of a very few minutes, the door slammed after the departing trio, who were evidently sent forth fasting. As for any morning devotion, it was but too plain that such a thing was wholly incompatible with the habits and feelings of the family. In one point of view, this rather calmed
the widow's rising apprehensions; she knew that wherever the tree is evil the fruit must be so too ; and she strove to persuade berself tbat what this household were in the town of M_ they would have been in her own peaceful village, or in any other place. Resolving, therefore, to be so guarded in her proceedings as to avoid any trap that might be laid, sbe strove to picture to herself a scene of piety, peace and comfort when her dear children were once finally engaged in the work which she resolved should be rather below than above their years and capabilities. Mr. Stratton's letter was her sheet anchor; for even if he did wish to separate them from the parish it was manifestly his interest to make such absence agreeable to them; and so to prevent their return. Thus she reasoned with herself; and rose with a somewhat lightened spirit.
Not so Helen : she had a presentiment of evil, as it seemed. In reality it was only the effect of her natural sagacity drawing plain conclusions from obvious premises. The boatmen on the canal bad dropped hints of which all that she had yet seen were explanatory; the aspect of the town classes where she had passed along, the demeanour of Mrs. Wright, the appearance, manners and communications of her elder children, with what she had overheard of the rousing scene that morning, all combined with her deep mistrust of Mr. Stratton, and the anxious warnings of the good clergyman to prepare her for bitter trials. Yet it was not for herself that Helen trembled ; her fervent love for the companions of her childhood-the tenderness with which her bosom yearned towards them on the approach of even the lightest calamity, and the consciousness of
their truly helpless state in the midst of a callous population where they had not one friend--for she could not concede that sacred title to their new-found relations--all led her to an utter oblivion of self in the matter, and added poignancy to her fears for them.
It was Saturday; and Mrs. Wright, in expatiating on the advantages of beginning work op Monday morning, dropped a few hints that convinced her mother she would feel a satisfaction in seeing them settled in another abode. Desirous of choosing one within an easy distance of the mill where the children would be employed, she could not delay her application; and eleven o'clock saw her, accompanied by her neat and healthful young party, making the best of their way to the counting house of the Messrs. Z. A person officiating as clerk at a high desk, scarcely deigned any notice of the respectful salutation of the visiter, but continued writing until, a little hurt at his discourtesy, the old lady drew forth her letter, which was endorsed Private, requesting to know whether he was the gentleman there addressed. The clerk took it in silence, surveyed, squeezed, and examined it; then, slowly rising, tapped at a door, and handed the epistle to some one within.
After the lapse of a few minutes, a gentleman of fashionable appearance issued from the inner room; and after contemplating the group, asked, “Well, good woman, are you the person mentioned by Mr. Stratton in this letter?'
• I am, sir; I am Mary Green, from L.' * And these are your grandchildren?'