What She Could

       Susan Warner / Young Adult

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What She Could
WHAT SHE COULD.

BY THE AUTHOR OF

”THE WIDE WIDE WORLD,” &c.

LONDON:

JAMES NISBET & CO., 21 BERNERS STREET.

MDCCCLXXI.



”WHAT SHE COULD.”

CHAPTER I.

”Girls, there's a Band!”

”A what?”

”A Band--in the Sunday-School.”

”I am sure there is a careless girl in the house,” put in anotherspeaker. ”Go and wipe your feet, Maria; look at the snow you havebrought in.”

”But, mamma----”

”Go and get rid of that snow before you say another word. And you too,Matilda; see, child, what lumps of snow are sticking to your shoes. Wasthere no mat at the door?”

”There was a cold wind there,” muttered Maria, as she went to obeyorders. ”What harm does a little snow do?”

But while she went to the door again, her sister, a pretty, delicatechild of fewer years, stood still, and adroitly slipped her feet out ofthe snowy shoes she had brought in, which she put in the corner of thefireplace to thaw and dry off; the little stocking feet standingcomfortably on the rug before the blaze. It was so neatly done, themother and elder sisters looked on and could not chide. Neatness suitedthe place. The room was full of warm comfort; the furniture in niceorder; the work, several kinds of which were in as many hands, thoughlying about also on chairs and tables, had yet the look of order andmethod. You would have said at once that there was something good inthe family. The child in front of the fire told more for it. Herdelicate features, the refined look and manner with which she stoodthere in her uncovered feet, even a little sort of fastidious gracewhich one or two movements testified, drew the eyes of mother andsisters, and manifestly stopped their tongues; even called forth asmile or two.

”What is all this Maria is talking about, Matilda?”

”Why, we have been to the Sunday-School meeting, mamma.”

”I know that; and it was not a night fit for you to go. What everpossessed you and Maria?” remarked one of the sisters.

”Why, Mr. Richmond wanted to see all the Sunday-School,” said Matilda,thoughtfully. ”He wanted you too, I suppose; and you were not there.”

”There is no use in having a meeting such a night. Of course, a greatmany people could not be there. It ought to have been put off.”

”Well, it was not put off,” said Matilda.

”What did he want? What was Maria talking about?”

”She is the best one to ask,” said the child.

At the same moment Maria came in from getting rid of the snow, andenquired if Tilly had told them everything? Finding all was right, shesat down contentedly before the fire and stretched out her feet towardsit.

”We've had a splendid time, I can tell you,” she began.

”What was done in particular?” asked one of the older girls, who wasmaking a bonnet. ”More than usual?”

”A great many things in particular, and one in general. We've made aBand.”

”I have made several since you have been away,” the other sisterremarked.

”You know we cannot understand that unless you explain,” said thebonnet-maker.

”You must let Maria take her own manner,” said their mother.

”Well, now, I'll tell you all about it,” said Maria. ”There weren't agreat many people there, to begin with.”

”Of course not! such a night.”

”So there were plenty of empty benches, and it didn't look like ameeting at all, at first; and I wondered if it would come to anything;but then Mr. Richmond came in, and I saw _he_ meant something.”

”Mr. Richmond always does mean something,” interrupted Matilda.

”You hush, Tilly! Well, there were prayers first, of course; and thenMr. Richmond stood up in the aisle, and said he wanted to know how manyof us all there were willing to be really good.”

”The servants of Christ, he said,” Matilda explained.

”Yes, the servants of Christ, of course; and he said he didn't know anybetter way to get at it than that we should all stand up.”

A burst of laughter from all Maria's audience a little confused her.Only Matilda looked gravely at her sister, as if she were making badwork of it. Maria coloured, stammered, and began again.

”You all know what I mean! You know what I mean, mamma? Mr. Richmonddid not say that we should _all_ stand up.”

”Then why did you say it?”

”I thought you would understand. He said that all those should standup, so that he might see who they were, who were willing to be realworkers for Christ; those who were willing to give themselves to theLord, and to do everything or anything he gave them to do for Him. Sowe stood up, and Mr. Richmond went round and took our names down.”

”Everybody who was there?”

”Why, no!--those who were willing to do as Mr. Richmond said.”

”Did _you_ stand up?” asked one of her sisters.

”Yes; I did.”

”Who else?”

After a pause----

”Oh, a great many people! All the members of the church, of course; andthen a good many more that aren't. Esther Trembleton rose, and AilieSwan, and Mattie Van Dyke, and Frances Barth, and Mrs. Rice. And littleMary Edwards, she was there, and she rose, and Willie Edwards; and Mr.Bates got up and said he was happy to see this day. I think he wasready to cry, he was so glad.”

”And is this the 'Band' you spoke of?”

”This is the Sunday-School Working Band; that is what Mr. Richmondcalled it.”

”What work are you going to do?”

”I don't know! Mr. Richmond said he could not tell just yet; but we areto have meetings and all sorts of things. And then Mr. Richmond talked.”

”What about?”

”Oh, I can't tell. You know how he talks.”

”He said what the Band were to do,” remarked Matilda.

”I told what that was.”

”You did not tell what he said.”

”Why, yes, I did; he said they were to do all the work for Christ thatthey could; and they were to pray a great deal, and pray for each othera great deal; and they were to live right.”

”Uncompromising Christian lives, he said. Mamma, what does'uncompromising' mean?”

”Why, you know!” put in her sister.

”Tell, then, Maria,” said the mother.

”Matilda must know, mamma; for Mr. Richmond explained it enough.”

”Then certainly you must.”

”I can't talk like Mr. Richmond, though,” said Maria. ”Letty, you'llspoil that bonnet if you put red flowers in.”

”That's as _you_ think,” said Letty. ”Blue would be very dull.”

”Mamma, what is uncompromising?” pursued Matilda, a pair of large,serious brown eyes fastening on her mother's face to await the answer.

”Did not Mr. Richmond tell you?”

”If he did, I did not understand, mamma.”

”Then he ought to use words you _can_ understand; that is all I have tosay. I cannot undertake to be Mr. Richmond's dictionary. Uncompromisingmeans different things at different times. It isn't a word for you,Tilly,” the mother added, with a smile at the child.

”There is only one thing Tilly will ever be uncompromising about,” heroldest sister remarked.

”What is that?” the little one asked quick.

”Girls, stop talking and go to bed,” said their mother. ”Letitia andAnne, put up work; I am tired. Maria, you and Tilly go at once and beout of the way.”

”I can't see how I am in the way,” remarked Maria. ”Letty has not doneher bonnet yet, and she will not go till she has.”

”Letty, I am not going to wait for that bonnet.”

”No, ma'am; there is no need.”

”I am not going to leave you up, either. I know how that works. Thebonnet can be finished to-morrow. And, Anne, roll up your ruffles.Come, girls!”

”What a lovely mantilla that is going to be; isn't it, mamma?” saidMaria. ”Won't Anne look nice when she gets it on? I wish you'd let mehave one just like it, mamma.”

”I do not care about your having one just like it,” said Anne. ”Whatwould be the use of that?”

”The same use, I suppose----”

”Maria, go to bed!” said her mother ”And Matilda. Look what o'clock itis.”

”I can't go, mamma, unless somebody will bring me some shoes. Mine arewet.”

”Maria, fetch Tilly a pair of shoes. And go, children.”

The children went; but Maria grumbled.

”Why couldn't you come up-stairs in your stocking feet? _I_ should.”

”It isn't nice,” said the little one.

”Nice! you're so terribly nice you can't do anything other people do.There is no use in our coming to bed now; Anne and Letty will sit uptill eleven o'clock, I shouldn't wonder; and we might just as well asnot. Mamma can't get them to bed. Letty and Anne ought to have been atthe meeting to-night. I wonder if they would have risen? Why did notyou rise, Matilda?”

”I had not thought about it.”

”Can't you do anything without thinking about it first?”

”I do not understand it yet.”

”Understand! why, nothing is easier than to understand. Of course, weare all to be as good as we can be, that's all.”

”You don't think that is much,” said the little one, as she beganslowly to undress herself. The work of undressing and dressing wasalways slow with Tilly. Every article of clothing taken off was to bedelicately folded and nicely laid away at night; and taken out and puton with equal care and punctiliousness in the morning. Maria'sstockings went one way and her shoes another; while Tilly's were putexactly ready for use under her chair. And Maria's clothes presentlylay in a heap on the floor. But not till some time after Matilda's neatarrangements had been made and she herself was safe in bed. Maria haddallied while the other was undressing.

”I think you are very curious, Matilda!” she exclaimed, as she followedher sister into bed. ”I shouldn't think it required much _thinking_, toknow that one ought to be good.”

”You haven't put out the candle, Maria.”

Maria bounced from her bed, and bounced in again.

”O Maria!” said Matilda in a moment or two, plaintively; ”you've_blown_ it out! and the room is all filled with smoke.”

”It doesn't make any difference,” said Maria.

”It is very disagreeable.”

”It will be gone in a minute.”

”No, it won't, for I can see the red spark on the end of the candlenow.”

”You are so particular, Tilly!” said her sister. ”If _you_ ever take anotion to be good, you'll have to leave off some of your ways, I cantell you. You needn't mind a little smell of candle-smoke. Go to sleep,and forget it.”

”Don't good people mind disagreeable things?” said Matilda.

”No, of course, they don't. How could they get along, you know? Don'tyou remember what Mr. Richmond said?”

”I don't remember that he said _that_. But then, Maria, would you mindgetting up to snuff out that candle? It's dreadful!”

”Nonsense! I shan't do it. I've just got warm.”

Another minute or two gave tokens that Maria was past mindingdiscomfort of any sort. She was fast asleep. Tilly waited, panted,looked at the glimmering red end of the candle snuff; finally got outof bed and crept to the dressing-table where it stood, and with sometrouble managed to put a stop to smoke for that night.


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