Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

my head and say I was a good child. But he isn't here now? And Mr. Apson’s a very different sort of gentleman.'

*I suppose,' said Miss Morris, ‘ you would not like to join—what is it?—the Salvation Army because you have been badly treated at the Church school? You wouldn't think that right?'

Oh no,' said Alice. • Mother always said that was a very ignorant-like thing to do.'

Then what other reason is there, except that Lotty Benson is a better girl than some of your

school-fellows!' Alice hesitated.

But there's Polly Mason attends chapel, doesn't she? She doesn't seem so very superior.'

• Oh no-no!'

• Now, however you learned it, you do care to be a good girl, and you, at least, wish to be religious, and to love your Saviour'--here Daisy lowered her voice and Alice bent her head. You are much tou young to change or to understand-and in my opinion it's your duty to obey your father and mother and say your prayers heartily. And then, when the time comes for you to be confirmed, if you feel puzzled you can ask advice.'

Alice looked relieved, if a little disappointed that the path to martyrdom did not lie open.

• Thank you, Miss Morris,' she said doubtfully.

· And I do think,' said Daisy, 'that if it had ever struck you that your Prayer-book and Scripture lessons had to do with anything but themselves you never could have talked about wanting to hear the Gospel elsewhere.'

* But, Miss Morris,' said Alice, the tears rolling down her cheeks, it is kuowing Lotty Benson that has made me feel that—that I don't love God a bit like she does—though I always did my Scripture, and I thought-I thought I was a good girl.'

• Well, then, Alice, you look at your old lessons again and you'll learn them with a difference. I dare say Lotty Benson does you goodonly don't let her lead you to do wrong for the sake of-of

Even if you did get more feelings they would be no good then.' Daisy frowned with her own earnestness and perplexity.

I was going to help Violet with her Confirmation papers against another time—will you come too? And perhaps we can get at anything that puzzles you.'

Alice gave grateful thanks, and went home with her young conscience relieved and her perplexity somewhat transferred to her counsellor.

From the circumstance of her fellow pupil-teacher, Isabel Grey, having been in the conventional sense of the word 'a lady,' Daisy had been in the habit of hearing matters discussed between her and the Miss Gertrude,' whose memory she so dearly cherished, from other than the National School standpoint.

She knew quite well how possible it was for whatever religion did exist in a child's mind to be quite apart from religious instruction, and she knew from her own experience, though in a modified degree, the kind of result that comes from entirely uncontroversial teaching, a body of doctrine taught ex cathedrá, while the individual soul is left to grow in reserve and silence. At the same time, in a thoughtful girl like Alice, inheriting her mother's nature, a great respect for and interest in the subject is developed. How else can the soul be prepared, and if the soul is sheltered it grows in peace.

But it is not prepared for the rough contact with all the contending influences of the world. Alice at Roseberry would have been safe, because she would have believed in her teachers; at Dulworth, when attacked, she did not know what to say. This is perhaps why the most promising pupils sometimes disappoint their early trainers. Daisy herself only dimly glimpsed at the notion that Alice's spiritual life must come out of this trial deeper than it went in. She only saw that the child was having an experience that had hardly come to herself.

Then she thought of her other perplexity with Alice's cousin. Good and evil were all mixed up together. Alice it seemed was to find vital religion at a great risk-she herself was seeking for herself and others, cultivation, mutual understanding, at another sort of risk. Ought it to be run? •Don't do wrong for the sake of feelings,' she had just said. But then-was it wrong? and was not giving up good-wrong? The world was not simple at twenty any more than at fourteen.

CHAPTER X.

THE CLASSES BROUGHT TOGETHER.

When Alice came in after her talk with Daisy, her momentary relief was succeeded by the uncomfortable sense of having to tell her mother that she had not been to school. It did not occur to her to resent Mrs. Woodford's right to ask what she had been doing with herself; but she knew that she should not know how to explain her absence. To her surprise, she entered upon a scene of family discussion. Etty was standing with her back to the little parlour table, looking hot and defiant, the father had his back to the fire, and Mrs. Woodford, sitting in her chair, had a sorrowful and displeased expression on her face.

''Tis a deal more interesting at the Congregational, there's quite young women in the class, and a red cloth on the table, and the teacher was a very nice gentleman, and said he'd be glad to enrol me. It was all out of the Bible just the same, and I don't see that there's any difference. He read a very interesting tale afterwards, about a dear little child that converted her grandmother, who'd been neglected by the Church minister.'

6

• It ain't at all necessary for you to set about converting your grandmother, Etty, as was a good God-fearing woman before you were born or I either,' said Woodford. “It would be a deal more to the point if you minded your manners and did as your mother tells you. I've seen young girls in this place carrying on on a Sunday afternoon in the streets as I won't hear of with any of mine, and Polly Mason was among them. You're to go to school with your sisters, and not to no places of your own choosing.'

Etty looked very sulky.

'I think I'd like to go to service,' she muttered, and do for myself, and not be interfered with.'

"Go upstairs this minute, Etty,' said her mother, "and take your hat off and get the tea. Where would you be if father took you at your word, I'd like to know. For shame of yourself!'

Etty shufiled away, conquered for the present.

* Dear, dear,' said Mrs. Woodford, that Polly's a bad companion for her. What did the lady say when she wasn't at school, Alice?'

Oh, mother,' said Alice, blushing and trembling, I haven't been to school neither, I went to walk with Lotty Benson; but I met Miss Morris, and I will go to Sunday-school, mother-with Etty, and see to the children.'

'I should think you would indeed,' said her father. · What's got you all, I should like to know? Why, here's Lily, I'll expect to hear next that she hasn't been to the Bible-class either.'

* Whatever makes you say such a thing then, uncle,' said Lily, starting and turning scarlet. ' I'm as regular at Bible-class as any one; but there's something in life besides Bible-classes.'

Lily made this concluding observation under her breath; but when she had disposed of her smart bat she came down to tea in an unusually smiling mood, kissed the children, amused her uncle, and was quite charming.

Perhaps a more wholesome lesson for Alice, at that moment, than Etty's desire to run off with Polly Mason could not have been found. Etty had no desire to be a martyr; she wanted to assert her freedom, and to get more fun and companionship; but Alice felt how much she had failed in setting her a good example. She was still conscious of a rush of contending influences; they were very confusing, but it was a contention of influences, not of ideas, and her mind began again to balance itself. But it was a warning of the difficulties that might in after life assail a loyal, scrupulous, and impressionable nature when exposed to so many contending blasts. It was well for her that while she was really far too young and immature to be able to judge for herself, her parents did hold her tight; but it would have been much more usual in her class of life for them to have been indifferent where she got good,' and to have left their children entirely to the swaying of their own impulses. And while one girl of fourteen or so is swayed, like Alice Woodford, by the love of goodness and the recognition of real spiritual religion, fifty, like Etty, take their future part in life from idle imitation of a companion or from ill-tempered vexation at a reproof.

Alice told Lotty Benson that mother would not allow her to go to the Bible Christian meeting; and however much Lotty might regret her failure in bringing in a wanderer, she, on her side, was forced to confess that when Alice submitted to injustice and resolved to do ber best at school for the future, and, as she expressed it, forgive her teacher, she showed a really Christian spirit.

In the meantime Miss Walters, during her absence from home, had paid a visit to a friend of long experience as a Sunday-school teacher and manager, and of much wider acquaintance with Church work at large than many. She had been a good deal impressed by her friend's discipline and management on the Sunday afternoon, and had talked out all her troubles with her-naughty girls, careless teachers, ignorant teachers, good teachers who could not combine morning school and attendance at early Celebrations, attractive dissenting treats, the worry of the boys on the staircase, and Mr. Anson's inability to think that anyone could help anything. In the evening she went to Church and heard a sermon from an elderly scholarly clergyman, which impressed her very much. She was young, after all, not ten years older than her refractory scholars, and it pointed out a kind of thoroughness in duty which was new to her. She did not think the sermon eloquent, nor did it occur to her that the preacher was clever, but she came out of Church feeling that she had never set about her religion or her parochial duties at all in this sort of way. And she had just found out what thoroughness meant, for after rather a desultory education she had begun during the winter to attend a school of Art, and for the first time in her life had found out what was meant by really taking pains, and doing her best. When she came out of Church, she was told that the preacher was Dr. Goodall, late of Roseberry. And her friend informed her, that many years ago she had derived her first ideas of thorough Church work from a visit to the parish.

Miss Walters was nearly as much surprised as Alice Woodford, by the goodness of Lotty Benson. Was it possible that Dr. Goodall's daughter had been a better teacher than herself? When the Woodfords first came, had not their 'good tone' been rather marked among the others ?'

•I suppose I shall find the school in a worse mess than ever when I get back,' she thought. Behold, the mess was a good deal mitigated, and the teachers declared that Miss Morris's management had been wonderful!

Ethel Walters thought of the sermon, she thought of her own sense of failure, she thought with a dreadful pang that some one else had succeeded. And when Mr. Anson, cured of his distrust of dayschool teachers, insinuated that if Miss Morris could continue to take VOL. 14.

24

PART 82.

a class, it might be a great advantage, she felt distinctly cross. What business had Miss Morris, whose brilliant singing had struck every one as unsuitable to her station, to prove herself also so competent in her own line ? There were drawbacks to those delightful evening meetings.

• However, Ethel Walters had learnt one thing from the spirit in which the popular entertainments had been set on foot, namely, that she had no right to grudge Daisy Morris her success because she was in another station of life. She learnt it by the ardent utterances of the supporters of the movement, and by the example of her own superiors, who took part in it; and though closer contact may cause friction, there was more sense of companionship between the two girls than there would have been if they had not mutually criticised each other's performances every week. Besides which, as a side issue, the advantages of technical training became apparent, and it was borne in upon Miss Walters that knowing how to teach, and how, by rule, to maintain discipline, might assist the personal influence and affection-winning system, which was proving a broken reed to her.

So, on the ensuing Tuesday, as they waited for their fellowperformers, Miss Walters thanked Miss Morris very politely for taking the place in her absence, and remarked

• I hear they were much more orderly than usual.'

• They seem very nice children,' said Daisy ; 'and it was quite a pleasure to take the school, thank you, Miss Walters.'

*I suppose,' said Miss Walters, that all Sunday-schools would seem to you very disorderly. I dare say it would be better if the dayschool teachers managed them.'

'I don't think a head-mistress could in a large town as the work is now,' said Daisy; and I expect the elder girls who have left school wouldn't like it. Besides, it was the kindness of the ladies that made us like our Sunday-school so much.'

*Then you think,' said Miss Walters, hesitating, that even if the teaching isn't so—so regular-'

Oh, yes, Miss Walters, returned Daisy eagerly. We get, as a rule, so little general cultivation ; and the Scripture teaching in day. schools must be worked up to pass the inspector. I am sure it is very good for the children to see things from other points of view. But of course sometimes they are apt to take advantage.'

• They are so naughty at prayers, and in going to church. I get quite in despair,' said Miss Walters.

*If you had a little class vacant at any time, Miss Walters, I should like to take it, while my week-day work is so light-very much. And then if I could assist in marshalling the children to church I should be most happy to be of any use; I have had that to do ever since I was thirteen.'

"Oh, thank you, I think that would be a great help; it is very kind of you.'

6

« AnteriorContinuar »