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Learning to write.
A burst of grief.
“Do you think that I could possibly learn now?” asked Mary Erskine.
Why,—I don't know,—perhaps, if you had any one to teach you."
“ Thomas might teach me, perhaps," said Mary Erskine, doubtfully. Then, in a moment she added again, in a desponding tone, -“but I don't know how long he will stay here."
“ Then you don't know at all yet,” said Mrs. Bell, after a short pause,
“ what you
shall conclude to do.”
"No," replied Mary Erskine, “not at all. I am going on, just as I am now, for some days, without perplexing myself at all about it. And I am not going to mourn and make myself miserable. I am going to make myself as contented and happy as I can, with my work and my children.”
Here Mary Erskine suddenly laid her head down upon her arms again, on the little worktable before her, and burst into tears. After sobbing convulsively a few minutes she rose, hastily brushed the tears away with her handkerchief, and went toward the door. She then took the water pail, which stood upon a bench near the door, and said that she was going to get
Mary Erskine's request.
some water, at the spring, for tea, and that she would be back in a moment. She returned very soon, with a countenance entirely serene.
“ I have been trying all day,” said Mrs. Bell, " to think of something that I could do for you, to help you or to relieve
in some way or other; but I can not think of any thing at all that I can do."
“Yes," said Mary Erskine, “there is one thing that you could do for me, that would be a very great kindness, a very great kindness indeed."
“ What is it?" asked Mrs. Bell.
“I am afraid that you will think it is too much for me to ask.”
“No," said Mrs. Bell, “what is it?"
Mary Erskine hesitated a moment, and then said,
“To let Mary Bell come and stay here with me, a few days."
“Do you mean all night, too?” asked Mrs. Bell. “Yes,” said Mary Erskine, “all the time.”
Why, you have got two children to take care of now," replied Mrs. Bell, “and nobody to help you. I should have thought that you
Mrs. Bell assents.
would have sooner asked me to take Bella home with me.'
"No," said Mary Erskine. “ I should like to have Mary Bell here, very much, for a few days."
Well,” said Mrs. Bell," she shall certainly come. I will send her, to-morrow morning."
Mary Erskine's bible.
M AR Y BELL IN
MARY ERSKINE had a bible in her house, although she could not read it. When Albert was alive he was accustomed to read a chapter every evening, just before bed-time, and then he and Mary Erskine would kneel down together, by the settle which stood in the corner, while he repeated his evening prayer. This short season of devotion was always a great source of enjoyment to Mary Erskine. If she was tired and troubled, it soothed and quieted her mind. If she was sorrowful, it comforted her. If she was happy, it seemed to make her happiness more deep and unalloyed.
Mary Erskine could not read the bible, but she could repeat a considerable number of texts and verses from it, and she knew, too, the prayer, which Albert had been accustomed to offer, almost by heart. So after Mrs. Bell had gone home, as described in the last chapter, and after she herself had undressed the children and put them to bed, and had finished all the other
Mary Erskine's evening prayer.
labors and duties of the day, she took the bible down from its shelf, and seating herself upon the settle, so as to see by the light of the fire, as Albert had been accustomed to do, she opened the book, and then began to repeat such verses as she could remember. At length she closed the book, and laying it down upon the seat of the settle, in imitation of Albert's custom, she kneeled down before it, and repeated the prayer. The use of the bible itself, in this service, was of course a mere form :--but there is sometimes a great deal of spiritual good to be derived from a form, when the heart is in it, to give it meaning and life. Mary Erskine went to bed comforted and happy; and she slept peacefully through each one of the three periods
repose, into which the care of an infant by a mother usually divides the night.
In the morning, the first thought which came into her mind was, that Mary Bell was coming to see her. She anticipated the visit from her former charge with great pleasure. She had had Mary Bell under her charge from early infancy, and she loved her, accordingly, almost as much as if she were her own child. Besides, as Mary Bell had grown up she had become a very attractive and beautiful child, so kind to all, so