The light of a beautiful Sabbath was fast fading, and the last golden gleams fell softly upon the form of a light-haired little girl who sat by a cottage window, her head leaning upon her hand as if deep in thought.
The sun had departed like a grand old monarch, leaving behind him a glory of purple and gold more beautiful than his own full splendour. Yet the little girl saw nothing of all this beauty. She was thinking of the story in the Sabbath school book she had been reading,—the story of a child’s life; and she wondered if all that happened in the story could be really true.
Jennie was pondering in her troubled brain a question which the reading of the book had brought. What could it be? Evidently it was not to be answered easily, for her fact only grew more clouded, until at last she resolved to ask the help of some wiser mind.
Fortunately, Jennie knew that she had but to make her perplexities known to her mother and they would all be explained in the clearest way; so, seating herself in her rocking-chair by her mother’s side, she said:—
“Mamma, I want you to tell me something.”
“Well, dear, what is it?”
“I’ve just finished by Sabbath school book, you know, and it’s just perfectly lovely; all about the sweetest little girl; only she was always doing so many kind things for everybody; and I’ve been trying to think what’s the reason little girls in books always have so many chances for doing good, and little girls like me, who are out of books, don’t have any at all.”
“Not any at all?” questioned the mother. “Is that really so?”
“Well, no, not quite, I suppose,” said Jennie, “but then they are just nothing but the tiniest little bits of things. There’s never anything big and splendid for real little girls like me to do.
“Now, Susy Chrystie, in the story, took her little sister May out for a walk, and just while they were crossing a bridge, May pulled her hand away from Susy’s, and tried to walk on the edge, just as close as she could; but in about one second her foot slipped, and she would have fallen off into the water if her sister hadn’t jumped right to her, and caught hold of her dress, and pulled her back all safe.
“Now just think, mamma,” said Jennie, her blue eyes opening widely as she spoke, “Susy Chrystie saved her little sister’s life; wasn’t that a splendid, big something to do?”
“Yes, my dear, that was a brave thing for a little girl to do, for even an older person might have been too frightened by seeing the danger May was in, to act quickly; but if my little Jennie will always try to keep quite still, and never scream when any sudden fright comes to her, she too may be able to think quickly of the best way in which to help herself or others.”
“But, mamma, you know that nothing ever does happen to me; and besides, I haven’t any little sister or brother.”
“Never mind, my child, if you will do carefully every little duty and obey cheerfully even when you cannot see why you should, you will please your heavenly Father and give me comfort and pleasure, and perhaps some day you may have a chance to do something brave, but you have to be faithful in the small duties first.”
Jennie’s face grew brighter, as it always did when she had confided her griefs to mamma, and for many days she watched and waited anxiously, thinking that at any time something might happen.
And so it did; for one day a letter came from Jennie’s aunt, Mrs. Graham, saying she would come and spend a few days with her sister, and bring with her little Willie, a boy about two years old.
Of course they were very welcome, and Jennie greatly enjoyed playing with her cousin. He was a charming fellow, but very fond of having his own way; and one of his great enjoyments was to plunge two chubby hands into Jennie’s thick, light hair, and pull it with all his might.
Of course this was a short-lived pleasure when any older person saw him, but when they were alone, Jennie would endure the pain patiently until she could coax the little fellow to let go.
She never gave him a cross word, and when the nurse would say impatiently, “Indeed then, Miss Jennie, it’s a wonder you don’t just slap his hands!” she would answer gravely, “Oh, no, he’s so much littler than I am.”
Yet Jennie was not perfect, and though she generally tried to do what was right, sometimes, like the rest of the world, she wanted to do what she knew was wrong.
One bright afternoon, when she was playing in the yard, her mother called her:—
“Your aunt and I must ride to the station directly, to meet uncle and your father, and I would like to have you go quietly into the nursery and sit there until Maggie returns from an errand; it will not be long.”
“But Willie is sound asleep, mamma, he doesn’t want me,” said Jennie, who was anxious to stay out of doors.
“Yes, dear, I know it, but we shall feel safer to have someone in the room, even if he is asleep; something may happen if he is alone.”
Jennie, however, was so unwilling to sit quietly in the house that even these familiar words did not attract her, but with slow steps and a sullen face she obeyed her mother’s wishes.
She knew quite well how slight a thing she had been asked to do, and although at another time she would not have objected, just now, when she wanted to do something else, it seemed very hard to give up her own will.
Her conscience was so disagreeable, too, for it would keep saying all the time, “I am ashamed of you, Jennie! Can’t you do this for your kind mamma, even if you do want to do something else?” How tiresome it all was, and how she wished she could “just do as she liked!”
Thoughts like these were filling Jennie’s mind as she stood looking out of the nursery window; but all at once she was aroused by the strong smell of burning wool.
Turning quickly, the child grew almost rigid with fear as she saw, just in front of her, a small flame burst out from the rug before the fire, and not far from the crib where Willie lay sleeping. In an instant, however, the thought “What shall I do?” was followed by the remembrance of what her mother had often said, “If in any way your dress should ever take fire, you must try to smother it at once; never run away, but throw yourself down, or wrap yourself in anything to be found.”
Remembering this, she hastily caught up the other end of the rug, which was large and heavy, and threw it over the flame. This quite extinguished it, for it had only just started into life when Jennie saw it; but in her zeal she tore off the bedspread and blankets, crowning all with two large pillows upon which she seated herself, for by this time the child was so confused that she hardly knew whether it was the rug or her own dress which had taken fire.
Now she wanted to see somebody, and, not daring to move, she began to scream. This wakened Willie, who added his voice to the uproar, and soon brought the bewildered nurse to the rescue.
In less than an hour the carriage returned, and Jennie was kissed and praised more than she had ever been in all her happy life, by her parents and her aunt and uncle; for they saw quickly what had happened, and trembled to think what might have been.
That night as Mrs. Graham bent to give Jennie her good-night kiss, she whispered, “May God bless you, my thoughtful little niece, for you have saved your cousin’s life today!”
“Why, did I really?” thought Jennie; “how glad, how glad I am; for if I hadn’t been there, the fire would have caught the crib, and, oh, that would have been awful!”
Then, as memory brought the scene more clearly before her, and she recollected how her conscience had fairly pushed her into the room, her little face grew red with shame, and she softly said, “I will never fight with conscience again, for if I had had my own way, I could never have saved poor Willie’s life.”
It is always important to obey our parents and to obey God when we are asked to do something. Although we may not want to do it, or we may be busy and think it not so important, it is most important to obey and listen to our conscience right away. It is the small duties in life that builds character.
“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.” Luke 16:10