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قراءة كتاب The Elm Tree Tales

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‏اللغة: English
The Elm Tree Tales

The Elm Tree Tales

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 7

vegetables, and others purchasing, at a diminished price, stale bread from dirty bakeries, and many a one loitering along in his filth and squalor, with no object nor aim save to dawdle away the time that hung too wearily upon him. It was a sad and loathsome sight, so near the gorgeous thoroughfare of this mighty city, to see the pitiable objects of unmitigated want; but there they were, and in all that teeming mass but two ministering spirits were visible, gliding on with their offerings of kindness and mercy.

Down through a dark alley, whose fetid odors were quite sufficient to deter the dainty from penetrating beyond—they went, and into a miserable room where was scarcely space for them to stand, so huddled was it with broken furniture and ragged children. A fire was burning in a shattered grate, and an untidy woman stood ironing by a table whereon was the remnant of their meager dinner. Her husband crouched over the coals as if the day was not warm and sunny. His clothes hung about his limbs in large folds, and his sunken eyes told that disease was making fearful ravages upon him. Madame La Blanche opened her bundle, and, handing him a comfortable dressing-gown nicely quilted, said, "I am sorry to find you so low, Michael, but God's will be done, perchance He means to deliver you from the pinchings of a bitter season. It is but little I can do for you," she continued, as the grateful man smoothed down the warm garment, and thanked her with tremulous lips; "my children made it for you, and this little one I have taken with me that she may learn to be the more thoughtful of those who have a scanty supply of the good things of this life, and the more thankful for the blessings of abundance and health bestowed upon her."

"Ah! yes, miss," said the old man, running his lank arms into the nice garment, and wrapping it closely about him; "'Blessed is he that considereth the poor, the Lord will remember him in the time of trouble.' Many's the time I shall think of the little hands that sewed on this for the sick old man, and I'll pray, miss, that you may never know what it is to suffer want nor sorrow in this weary world, and that you may all be sure to go to a better when you die."

Madame La Blanche read a chapter to him from her pocket-Bible, and with a few words of advice and comfort to the woman, and a picture-book for the children, she went from the unwholesome room up a crazy staircase to one a shade better, because kept with some degree of cleanliness. A young man arose and gave chairs to the lady and the child, and his mother welcomed them with a joy which the poor never feign toward a true friend. "How is John's cough?" said Madame La Blanche. "It seems to me he has failed since I saw him last; but perhaps it is because I have not been here for some time that he looks thinner than usual to me."

"Oh! no, ma'am, 'tisn't that," said the mother; "poor Johnny's going fast. He coughs so o' nights, it fairly makes me ache for him. It puts me so in mind of Aby, I can't hardly bear it."

"I wish he was like Aby," said the lady; "Aby was a perfect example of faith and patience, and he died as a Christian should die, with a firm confidence in Him whom he had trusted. John knows that he can not live long," continued she, "and I hope he is not afraid to die. He has the same heavenly Father to go to for support in these last hours that Aby had."

"Aby, was a good boy," said the mother; whose heart seemed constantly to revert to her dead son. "He'd a been twenty years old next month if he'd a lived, and John won't be till March; but I don't expect he'll live to see that time, John won't live to be twenty year old, John won't," and the afflicted woman turned away her head and looked from the window to hide her grief. Jennie stood all this time looking around upon the meanly-furnished apartment, and upon its thinly clad inmates, and as she saw a young girl looking wistfully at a pretty scarf which she wore, she whispered earnestly to her teacher, and then untying it, she put it around the neck of the poor girl, who seemed almost beside herself for joy. The kind lady then left some money to procure something for John's cough, and some woolen waistcoats from her pack, and, promising to go often to read to the sick boy, they departed; but the breath of their kindness lingered upon the hearts of those forlorn ones, and cheered them in their struggles for life.


CHAPTER XII.

The air in those loathsome streets was scarcely less unwholesome and impure than in the close and crowded rooms, yet the lady and the child kept on still further from the cleanly portions of the city, to seek out other objects of pity and benevolence; and as they walked, they saw a woman running up the street, and heard her say to a respectable-looking gentleman: "Doctor, if you have time, won't you please to stop at our house?"

Madame La Blanche observed the physician more attentively, and found that it was one of her old friends. He, at the same time, turning from a poor man to whom he had been talking, recognized her, and on learning her errand, he asked her to accompany him to see one of his patients. "It is a melancholy case, madam," said he, "the girl is afflicted with a species of hysteria, induced by constant pining for a worthless lover, who ran away, not long since, with another woman. She is in a terrible state, weeping incessantly. I think, perhaps, you may be able to comfort her a little; you know we of the sterner mold have not much power in such emergencies. There it is," said he, as they reached a dusky building, at the entrance of which stood a strange group of idlers, torn and dirty. The sick girl lived on the second floor, with her grandmother and one sister, and as the strangers entered, she shrunk still further back into the corner where she was sitting. A strip of faded calico lay upon her lap, and now and then she would put a stitch in it, but oftener she raised it to her face and wiped away the tears that were constantly falling. Her grandmother seemed troubled and sad as the doctor looked thoughtfully upon her, and when he asked "If she had been any worse, and why they did not send for him before?" she replied, "Why she seems about the same, doctor; we sent her into the country to see what change of air and scene would do for her, but she isn't much better for it. She seems to be in a study all the time, and sits still and cries a great deal. We try to rouse her, and to make her take notice of things, but she falls back into one of her studies again."

"Come here, Jessie," said the doctor, "and sit in the light where I can see you. Does your side pain you any now?" The girl moved languidly from her dark corner and stood quietly by the window, but she answered the doctor only in monosyllables, and appeared uneasy while out of her accustomed retreat; and so soon as he turned to ask her sister some questions about her she glided noiselessly back, and sunk into the old seat, wiping her eyes again with the faded cloth. Madame La Blanche drew near to her, and talked to her in a calm and soothing manner, and Jennie seemed really distressed, as she vainly tried to divert her from her grief by emptying the treasures of her pocket before her. The room was as clean as it could possibly be, and the persons of its occupants neat and tidy, but every thing betokened severe and pinching poverty. The bed for the three was in one corner, and this, with one table and a few chairs, comprised all their worldly goods. The healthy girl was washing for those who never knew how many a tale of want and woe their finely-embroidered clothes could tell. A line was stretched across the narrow space, and there hung the fine

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