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had seen his fifth birth-day; and there was no other child expected. Their eldest boy, Thomas, was not old enough, however, yet to earn any thing; and Margaret and Mary, their two girls, were only six and eight years of age, so that nothing could come from them; and indeed their parents were at the expence of eightpence a-week to put these two little girls to school in the village.
Thus hopeful were the prospects of this family, when a poor widow, with one little girl, was sent back to the parish from some distant place; she came in bad health, and Dinah gave her a lodging in her cottage till it could be settled what should be done for her by the parish officers : she was very ill when she arrived, but hoped soon to be better, and talked of being able to get her own maintenance. She was a quiet, gentle person, and a most tender mother; the little one was about a year and six months' old, and a sweet and endearing infant. Dinah did all that was kind for the poor woman so long as she lived, but she was taken suddenly off her hands: she died quite unexpectedly, even to the parish doctor, and was buried at the public expence. It was then proposed that the orphan, little Lizzy, as she was called, should be taken immediately to the union workhouse at Pershore. But John and Dinah had been consulting each other in the mean time about the baby, and Harry had put in his word, for he was old enough to understand what they were saying. Dinah was proposing that they should keep the child with them, and John was not against it, although in a more calculating spirit he asked emphatically“How is we to afford it?" Harry, however, settled the matter : “ Lizzy shan't go,” he said ; and the father and mother did not add another word.
Dinah tried to get some trifle from the parish officers to help towards maintaining the baby; but as this was not granted her, she grumbled a little, and thought no more about the matter, and thus the littleone was settled in the cottage, slept in the cradle, for which Harry was now too long, and took all her meals off Dinah's own plate, and out of Dinah's own cup, a privilege which Harry had enjoyed till Lizzy came. Dinah was not the sort of person whose love shewed itself in many endearing words, but she had much of the affectionate wife and mother in her heart, and it will appear that she hardly herself knew how the sweet ways of the child had won upon her: the honeysuckle which grew over the rude porch before the cottage door, had not inserted itself more closely into every corner within its reach, than the sweet smiling and helpless baby had wrought its way into every corner of her affections. As to Harry, he had fully adopted the child as a little sister, and he was never seen abroad unless with Lizzy at his side.
Thus passed a long, cold winter, and a bright spring, and a portion of the summer; and the baby had got on nicely, and had quite forgotten her own poor mother, and learned to talk a little : and every thing had gone on well, till one Saturday night when John, having received his wages, was tempted by his own evil heart to turn into the ale-house, and spend more than a seventh part of what he had earned. Dinah received him, as she always did on these occasions, with a frowning brow, and many angry words, and she retained her anger through all the Sunday, shewing her displeasure by being rough, not only to her husband, but to all the children.
She went, however, as usual, to church, and took the children ; and John went with her. She was not in a humour, it might be thought, to profit by what she heard there, yet the text stuck by her, as she said, not only that day, but ever afterwards, for it was fixed upon her by the power of the Divine Spirit; the words were these—“Put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, long-suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Col. iü. 12, 13.) Her ill-humour, notwithstanding, lasted all the week, and from time to time she dropped such words as these—“Don't set your heart too much on Lizzy there, children; for I don't think, as things are, I can afford to keep her to eat the bread out of your mouths, it's what can't be expected, it is quite enough if we take care of our own, and is no burden to the parish, nor likely to be."
No man was ever saved from the temptations of the ale-house by the ill-humour of a wife. On the second Saturday, John broke into his earnings even more deeply than he had done before, and the whole of the next Sunday was spent in quarrelling.
6 John,” said Dinah, “it's no use, if you can't keep out of the ale-house, I can't and won't keep Lizzy. I know you loves the child; but, as sure as I's here, unless you promises me that you will never set foot in the Lion again, I shall be off in the morning to the union with the child, and you may make what you will of it."
“ I shan't make no such promise,” said the man sulkily; “I don't see why I am to be denied for other folks's brats, and if you have a mind to take the child to the union, to-morrow is your day, for the cart is going to Pershore to take some bags of wheat, and I am to go too, and can give you a lift with the child; and so let it be, but you must be up by sun rise.”
“Well, so let it be !" answered Dinah, “and let none of the children be the wiser. We should have five work with Harry if he knowed what we was about.”
“Now, to think of her !” said John, soliloquising to himself, as he was getting his supper that night" because I might have spent to the valley of four shillings in the ale house in one six months; that she should be going to give up the child ! but she thinks I love the little thing, and fancies to get about me to make a promise, and may be, to give leave for her to fetch the wages on the Saturday night, which is what she is driving at : but she has missed her mark, howsomdever; I warrant she will change her tone before morning light."
The child was usually taken out of the cradle when Dinah went to bed, and slept upon her arm; and that night, Dinah wept sorely over the sleeping babe. But she had resolved not to give in : “he loves the child,” she said to herself, “ he will never go through it: he will be sure to say in the morning, “ wife, you shall fetch the wages in futur : you may as well keep the child till she is bigger : we will not take her to the union to-day, at any rate.”
But, as John said nothing like this, Dinah got up when it was light, and dressed and fed the baby; and having told her eldest daughter to mind the house till she came back, she went after her husband to the master's and there got into the cart, having a nice seat on one of the bags.
It was a bright sweet morning; the dew lay on the grass, the birds were singing, and the air was filled with the scent of flowers which grew in every cottage-garden by which they passed. Their way lay under a long avenue of tall trees, and little Lizzy was sitting upon Dinah's knee, and telling her, with much delight and in her sweet broken language, of all the pretty things she saw, sometimes calling to John as he walked by the cart side, and imitating the sounds he made to the horse. “The woman will bring her back after all,” thought John ; and
Dinah thought if he would but say the word, that he would go no more to the Lion, she would just bring the child home again.
John, however, would not speak the word, and Dinah's spirit was not humbled; so at the entrance of the town the man and wife parted. John went on with the cart to stow away the bags in a safe place, and Dinah took the child to the union workhouse, where she was taken in according to form; and Dinah saw her carried away, crying most bitterly in the arms of a stranger.
When the poor woman had given up the child, she returned to the high road where she had appointed to meet her husband and the cart; and there she sate down under the shade of a tree, and if ever poor creature wept bitterly, it was her. But when she saw the cart coming, she dried her eyes, and pulled her bonnet over her face—“he shan't see I's vexed,” she thought, “that he shan't.”
John saw her soon, and was almost hoping that her heart had failed, and that she had not left the baby; for, rough as he was, the little one had crept as deeply into his heart, as it had done into that of his wife. Who but God had put this feeling for the helpless orphan into the breasts of these poor people; and what had led them to act against this feeling so far as they had done, but that weak, selfish nature, common to all men, which is ever at variance with all that God puts into us of good. “So you be there," said John, when he came up and found his wife without the child; “come, get up, and don't keep me a waiting.”
Dinah got into the cart, and not one word passed between the woman and her husband till she got out before her own cottage door. During their absence, little Harry had attempted to console himself by pulling the poor cat about, under pretence that it was his dear little Lizzy; and bestowing upon it all those very questionable civilities with which children are rather apt to overload their pets. When they heard their mother's footsteps at the door, all the children ran out to meet her, and little Harry's first words were, “mamma, where's Lizzy ?"
Where's Lizzy ? was repeated by all the children ; and when their mother told them that she had been forced to take her to the union because she could not afford to keep her, there was a general burst of sorrow; and there was not one who did not agree in saying that they would rather give up part of their own food, than that the poor baby should be sent away.
When people know that they have done wrong, they are very apt to try to carry it through by ill temper, and so did Dinah : she scolded the children from the oldest to the youngest, driving them about, and trying to put off her own trouble, by busying herself in getting her husband's supper ; but though she put herself and her daughters into a great bustle, calling one, one way; and another, another; she could not help seeing that little Harry was crying as if his heart would break. He had got into a favorite corner under a tree, where he used to play with Lizzy, and though his youngest sister went up to him from time to time to say a word of comfort to him, all his answer was—" I am sorry for Lizzy! Oh! I am sorry for Lizzy !”
Now, in the natural way of things as they were in Dinah's mind, all this weeping and wailing, as she called it in her ill temper, would only have made her more hard and obstinate ; for it set up her pride, to find that even her own children thought she had done wrong, and that they were all willing to have denied themselves rather than the baby should be sent away. The little forlorn one, therefore, would have had little to depend upon from the feelings of Dinah, if she had not had another and a better friend, even that God who never changes, and whose love is always the same towards the poor creatures whom he has made, even sending troubles only for their good, when he judges them to be needful; and this good God was about to work that change in the heart of Dinah, which no human persuasions could have wrought. But God works by means, and the means he used in this place, was by bringing the text of the sermon she had heard when last at church with great power and force to her mind. The school-mistress had given the verses to Margaret and Mary to learn by heart, and Margaret was trying whether Mary could repeat them, whilst Dinah was bustling about after the supper.
The poor woman had never been learned in scripture, and had never had any experience of its power before; but at this time, when she was both vexed with herself, and grieved for the baby, the Lord the Spirit brought the words which the children were saying, with such power to her mind, that she began to say to herself, “ Well to be sure, I was wrong; how could I be so unforgiving to my husband; and how could I put away that dear baby just to spite him. How could I expect the blessing of God on such