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Lucy Raymond; Or, The Children's Watchword By Agnes Maule Machar Characters: 23019

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"Tell me the same old story,

When you have cause to fear

That this world's empty glory

Is costing me too dear."

ucy's interest in her studies, and the zeal with which she pursued them, had had a wonderful effect in reconciling her to her new circumstances. She could sometimes hardly believe that only a few short months lay between her and her old life, now seeming so far back in the distance. Her progress in study had been very rapid, as her abilities were above the average, and her love of study was much greater than was usual among her companions, most of whom looked upon their school education chiefly as a matter of form, which it was expected of them to go through before entering on the real object of life, the entrance into "society," with its pleasures and excitements. That it was intended to be a means of disciplining their minds for better doing their future duties, enlarging their range of thought, and opening to them new sources of interest and delight, had never entered into their heads. Lucy indeed pursued her studies more for the sake of the pleasure they afforded her at the time than with any ulterior views, though she did feel the advantages placed in her way to be a sacred trust, and, like all other privileges, to be accounted for to Him who had bestowed them.

With her teachers, who found her a pupil after their own heart, she was a much greater favourite than she was with some of her classmates, who were so uncongenial, that she could not well enter into, or even understand, the things which interested them. Nor could she always refrain from showing her impatience of their frivolities, or her contempt for the follies which so engrossed their minds; and this did not, of course, tend to make her popular. This circumstance Lucy did not care for so much even as she ought; for, though fond of approbation, she cared only for the approbation of those she esteemed, unlike her cousin Stella, who liked admiration from any source.

When the bright, balmy days of spring came, bringing with them thoughts of green fields and budding trees, there sometimes came over her longings almost irresistible for her old home, so full of rural sights and sounds, in such contrast to the stiff, straight city streets and houses, the dust and noise, and the squares planted with trees, which to her eyes seemed like caged birds, as the only reminders that there were such things in the world. These longings usually came to her most strongly in the long spring evenings, in whose lengthening light she used to rejoice at Ashleigh, as enabling her to prolong her pleasant country rambles. Now she must either walk up and down the hard pavements between never-ending rows of houses, or sit at the window, wistfully watching the sunset light falling golden on the opposite walls. Now and then she accompanied the others in a long drive; but the distance which they had to traverse before they reached anything like the country seemed to her interminable; and when they did catch a glimpse of fields and woods, it seemed hard to have so soon to turn back and lose sight of them again.

On her return from one of these drives, which had been protracted till dusk, she was told that she had been inquired for by a girl very poorly dressed, "almost like a beggar." She was puzzled at first, but almost immediately it flashed across her that it must be Nelly Connor. She had often thought of her since she had come to the city, but could not find her, owing to Bessie's omission to give her mistress's address,-an omission which Bessie, not being a good correspondent, and naturally supposing that Nelly would soon find her way to Lucy, had not yet remedied. "Oh, I wish I had seen her!" exclaimed Lucy, much to the surprise both of the servants and her cousins, who could not understand how a girl of that description should come to be so interesting to her as to cause so much disappointment at having missed her, and at having no clue to her place of abode.

"I hope she will soon come again," was the reflection with which Lucy consoled herself; and Stella explained to Sophy and Edwin: "It's a little Irish protegée of hers that she was crazy about at Ashleigh, and she used to lecture me because I didn't think as much of her as she did." Lucy laughed and tried to explain, but stopped, seeing that her cousins took very little interest in the matter.

Lucy did not come much in contact with her uncle and aunt. The former was much absorbed in business, and though a kind and indulgent parent, especially to his favourite Stella, he interfered but little in home matters. Mrs. Brooke, who had always been a rather negative character, had long given up to her elder daughters any sway she had ever held, and was almost entirely guided by their judgment, of which they naturally took advantage to indulge to the utmost their own love of gaiety. Balls and parties in winter, and in summer gay picnics and driving parties without end, engrossed their time and thoughts, to the exclusion of higher objects of interest. Ada was fond of embroidery, and would betake herself to it when nothing better was going on; and Sophy was sometimes persuaded to paint for a fancy sale one of the illuminations, in doing which she evinced great talent. They were generally quotations from the poets which she selected; and as Lucy watched the taste with which Sophy blended and contrasted the rich colouring, she would long for the same skilful hand, in order to clothe in such glowing colours some of the favourite texts which shone for her like beams of light from heaven.

But she had no talent for drawing; and though by diligent practice she improved very much in playing and singing, she knew she should never be able to do either like her cousin Sophy. How useful, she thought, might she not be, if her heart were but actuated by love to Christ! She felt she dared not speak to her on this subject, but she often prayed to Him who can command the hearts of all, that He would touch and renew that of her cousin Sophy.

Between Stella and Lucy, dissimilar as they were, there existed a strong cousinly affection. Stella, with all her bantering ways, would never now go so far as seriously to annoy her, generally taking her side when she thought the others were too much for her. But though Lucy tried earnestly to draw her cousin towards the knowledge of her Saviour, all such attempts seemed to glance off her, like raindrops from an oiled surface. She was quite satisfied with herself as she was, and had not yet found out the insufficiency of the earthly pleasures which at present satisfied her. She believed, of course, in another world, and the need of a preparation for it, but she thought there was plenty of time for that; and it had never entered within the range of her comprehension that the change of heart, which is the necessary preparation for a future life, is as necessary to living either well or happily in the present. So that Lucy was constantly feeling that, in the most important matters of all, there could be no genuine sympathy between them.

Nor among her schoolmates was her longing for sympathy between them more fully gratified. They were all actuated by the "spirit of this world which passeth away," and avoided everything that could bring the thought of another to their minds; so that she had not found one with whom she could speak on the subjects most dear to her, or hold an intercourse mutually helpful.

There was, indeed, one of her schoolmates, a Miss Eastwood, a boarder at Mrs. Wilmot's, in whom, from her sweet, serious manner and appearance, and from some other tokens, she thought she might have found a congenial friend. But Miss Eastwood was a little older than herself, and Lucy's natural shyness was increased by the impression that she rather avoided her and Stella, probably from knowing that Mr. Brooke's was a thoroughly worldly family, and supposing that Lucy must be like her cousins in this respect. Miss Eastwood in this was acting conscientiously; yet such a determined avoidance of those who appear to be worldly in their principles of action, though founded on the desire of keeping out of temptation, sometimes leads to great mistakes. Real Christian sympathy may sometimes be found where from circumstances there may seem to be least appearance of it; and even where it does not exist, influence for good might be exerted over those whom distrust must necessarily repel. He who sat with publicans and sinners, while He enjoins His followers to be "not of the world," even as He was not of the world, cannot surely desire them to avoid all opportunities, naturally occurring, of coming in contact with those who may not be like-minded; and if Christians would always show their true colours uncompromisingly, while coming near to others, as God's providence opens opportunity, they would both do more good and find sympathy and fellowship oftener than they expect.

Of all the inmates of her uncle's house, little Amy was the one in whom Lucy found the greatest congeniality. Her readings to her, and her teaching about Jesus, seemed to have satisfied a craving of the child's little heart, and she drank in the truths which Lucy tried to explain to her, with the eagerness of one who had been thirsting for the living water. Indeed she needed very little explanation; it seemed as if the Spirit of God was her teacher, instructing her in things that might have seemed too deep for so young a child to grasp,-though indeed there may be less difference than we often imagine between the mind of a child and that of the wisest man, as regards their power of comprehending truths that are too infinitely profound for the greatest human intellect to fathom.

Amy had from her infancy been so delicate, that she had been in a great measure confined to the nursery all her life; and not being nearly so winning and attractive as Stella, she had never been so great a favourite with her brothers and sisters, who, never having taken the trouble of drawing her out, considered her rather uninteresting. The death of a fine little boy, a little older than Amy, had strangely had the effect upon her mother of making her turn away, almost with a feeling of impatience, from the unattractive, ailing child that had been spared, while her noble little boy, so full of beauty and promise, had been taken. Amy had been left almost entirely to her nurse, who had taught her some of the simple prayers and hymns that she herself had learned at Sunday school, though she had not spoken to her of Jesus, as Lucy had done. The story of His love fell upon a heart that was unconsciously yearning for a fuller measure of affection than it had ever received from human sources; and the love which it excited in return, for Him whom the child seemed at once to recognise as an ever near and present friend, became the most powerful influence of her life. She never wearied of hearing about Him, of asking questions about Him, particularly about His childhood, which often threw light, in her young teacher's mind, upon things which she had not considered before. The child's intense interest, too, and the simplicity of her childish faith, were no small help to Lucy, in the midst of much that might have drawn her heart and mind away from her first love. For there were many temptations in her way,-temptations which sometimes overcame her. Even her zeal in her studies often unduly absorbed her mind, tempti

ng her to leave the fag-end of time and strength for prayer and the reading of God's word, and her natural ambition often led her into unchristian feelings and tempers. Then, when humbled and discouraged, and doubtful whether she really was a child of God at all, some simple, loving remark of Amy's would drive away the clouds, and she would come again, in penitence and faith, to drink of the living water which alone can quench human thirst.

Sometimes the spiritual beauty of her little cousin's expression, and her growing ripeness for a better country, would awaken a feeling of regret that Amy was not more like other children, lest indeed she might be ripening for an early removal. Yet the thought would recur: "Amy is not fit for the roughness of the world; why should I wish her stay upon it, instead of going home to rest in her Saviour's bosom?"

Fred had paid a short visit to his sister as soon as his college vacation commenced, but he had made an engagement for the summer as a tutor, and he was obliged to hasten away to his duties before Lucy had said half of what she wished to say, or asked his advice on half the subjects on which she had been longing for it. However, short as his visit was, it was very useful as well as very pleasant, reviving old thoughts and habits of feeling which were in danger of falling into the background, and stimulating her to follow the example of a brother who was so stedfastly bent on following his Lord.

As the time for the summer examinations at Mrs. Wilmot's drew near, Lucy, bent on carrying off two or three of the prizes, redoubled her application to her studies; but she allowed her desire to accomplish her object to carry her too far. All her thoughts, all her time, were so engrossed by it, that she had none to spare for anything else. She would not join her cousins in any of their innocent recreations, and became impatient and irritable when she met with claims upon her time that could not be set aside. Even the Lord's day at last began to seem an interruption to the work in which she was so eager. Her too intense application began to affect her health: she was growing so nervous, that Stella would sometimes declare that she was changing her identity, and could not be the same Lucy Raymond as of old. Lucy could indeed feel the change in herself, and this only increased the irritation, instead of leading her to remove the cause, by moderating the ambition which was leading her to a blameable excess in what would otherwise have been praiseworthy diligence. But just at that time the coveted prizes seemed to throw everything else into the shade, and she had no watchful, judicious friend, to point out, in timely warning, the snare into which she was falling.

Even little Amy, for the first time, occasionally found herself impatiently put aside, and her requests to be read to met with, "Not now, Amy; I haven't time. Don't tease me now, like a good child;" and would steal away, with a surprised look in her soft eyes, wondering how it could be that Cousin Lucy should not have time to read to her about Jesus.

One of the prizes on which Lucy had most set her heart was that to be given for History, one of her favourite studies. In ancient and classical history she had been very thoroughly grounded by her father, and had nothing to fear, most of the principal events being familiar to her as household words. But her knowledge of modern history was not so extensive, and she had a great deal of hard study before she could feel at all at ease in competing with her classmates, some of whom were considerably older than herself, and had given most of their attention to modern history, the division in which the greater number of questions were asked.

Lucy had studied with so much diligence, and her daily recitations were always so good, that she had great hopes of taking the first prize; and her master, with whom she was a great favourite, did not conceal his expectation of her success. Just the day before the examination, when looking over the list of subjects for revision, she found, to her dismay, that she had unaccountably overlooked one of those prescribed. It was quite too late to hope to repair the omission satisfactorily, but she hastily procured the proper book, and set to work at once, to try to gain such a general knowledge of the subject as would enable her to reply to the questions that were certain to be asked upon it. But her overtasked mind refused to grasp the words that swam before her eyes; and a headache, which had been annoying her for days, became so severe, that she was obliged to shut the book and throw herself on the bed, her oppressed mind relieving itself in a burst of tears.

While she was still crying, Amy came in, and, going up to her, stroked her cheek with her loving little hands. "Are you hurt, Cousin Lucy?" she asked wonderingly; and as her cousin shook her head, she asked in a lower tone, "Were you naughty, Cousin Lucy?"-these being to her the only conceivable causes for sorrow.

"Yes, Amy, I've been naughty!" exclaimed Lucy impetuously. She saw now how wrong she had been in allowing herself to be so led away by her ambition, as to have sacrificed to it all else, even her habit of watching in faith for

"The service that Thy love appoints."

Numerous instances rushed upon her mind, in which she had turned aside from opportunities of usefulness, of showing kindness and forbearance to others; she had been letting her oil run out, and her lamp burnt faint and dim, and all that she might gain this petty prize, which she was likely to lose after all! Had she not, in yielding to her peculiar temptation, allowed herself to become as worldly as those whom in her heart she had been condemning?

Amy's gentle voice came to awaken more soothing thoughts. "But why do you cry so, Lucy?" she said. "Won't Jesus forgive you, and make you good?"

Lucy's "bread upon the waters" had come back to her in spiritual comfort, just when she most needed it. She put her arms round her little monitor, and, as she kissed her, her thoughts formed an earnest prayer that her Lord would indeed forgive her, and help her to begin again, wiser for her experience, and strong in looking to Him for strength.

The quiet hours which her headache enforced were of great service to her, in giving her time for thought and resolution. When at last she rose, and arranged her hair to go down-stairs, her heart had grown so much lighter and calmer, that she felt more like herself than she had done for months, and she could now leave the matter of the prizes, without undue anxiety, with Him who knew what was best for her, and who, she was sure, would not refuse her any good thing.

The examination in history was the first to come off. When Lucy looked at the list of questions, she found that several of them were on the part of the subject she had overlooked, and that these she could not answer at all. She felt that all chance of the prize was over; but she did not allow her mind to dwell on this circumstance, but wrote her replies to the other questions, with a calmness and clearness which would have been quite beyond her power, had she allowed herself to remain in a condition of feverish suspense.

When the examiners' decision was made known, it was found that the first prize had been awarded to Miss Eastwood, who was quite taken by surprise at receiving it; but that, as Miss Raymond's paper had been so good in all except a very few points, the second prize, awarded to her, was considered almost equal to the first. This was much better than Lucy had expected; and as she received two first prizes in subjects where she had felt by no means sure of success, she was on the whole very well satisfied, as was Fred also, when her joyful letter informed him of the result.

Stella announced Lucy's success at home with almost as much pleasure as if the success had been her own. Edwin congratulated her with rather more animation than he was in the habit of showing, and Ada declared that "It must be nice to be so smart."

"Yes; but Lucy has been injuring her health by her close study," remarked the more observant Sophy. "Look at her now, how pale and thin she is, compared with what she was when she came!"

"Oh, the holidays will set me all right again," Lucy declared, laughing; but Mrs. Brooke decided that Lucy needed immediate change of air. She had been hoping to be able to spend her holidays at Ashleigh, among her old friends; and as the Brookes were all going to a fashionable seaside resort, it seemed likely that nothing would occur to prevent the hoped-for visit. But Amy's cough, as well as other symptoms of delicacy of the lungs, had increased so much, that the doctor declared the sea-air too keen for her, and that she had better be sent, during the warm season, to a quiet inland place in the neighbourhood, the air of which he thought particularly suited to her constitution. But of course Amy could not be sent there alone, and none of the rest would have been willing to give up their proposed visit to the seaside, except Mrs. Brooke, who could not be spared from her duties to her other daughters.

Lucy therefore seemed the one who should accompany Amy, and she herself felt that it was an occasion on which she might make some return for the kindness she had met with in her uncle's family. So her visit to Ashleigh was given up, and Amy's delight at finding that she was to accompany her to Oakvale, was enough to make her forget any disappointment which her decision had involved. They were to be received into the family of a friend of the doctor's, a widow lady, who frequently received invalids as boarders, with whom little Amy would receive all the care and comfort she needed.

A few days before their departure, Lucy at last received, through Bessie Ford, the address of Nelly Connor's mistress. Stella, who, notwithstanding her raillery at Lucy's protegée, had a sort of latent interest in Nelly, from her association with her pleasant visit to Ashleigh, accompanied her cousin in her long walk to look for the house. On reaching it at last, tired and hot, the door was opened, not by Nelly, as Lucy had hoped, but by an unprepossessing-looking woman, whose hard face grew more rigid when informed what was the object of her visit.

"You needn't come here to look for her," she replied grimly; "she's left this some time since, and I don't never want to set eyes on her again."

"Is she not here, then? Where is she gone?"

"I don't know," was the reply, "and I don't want to know. A girl that could behave as she done to one who took such pains with her, and kept her so long, ain't a girl to my taste. I wash my hands of her."

"But perhaps you could tell us what place she went to from you?" persisted Lucy. "I am a friend of hers, and would like to find her out."

"Well, she is no credit to her friends," said the woman, rather pleased at being able to give her a bad character where it might be of some consequence. "And as for the vagrant character she went off with, I'd be very sorry to have any acquaintance with him."

Finding the uselessness of prosecuting her inquiries there, Lucy bade Mrs. Williams good-day, feeling sure that Nelly's conduct had been misrepresented,-an opinion shared by Stella, who had taken a strong dislike to the woman's grim demeanour and spiteful tone,-and very sorry for having lost the only clue to her protegée once more.

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