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Ester Ried Yet Speaking by Isabella Alden

Part 5 out of 5

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You will remember that her Christian life had been always
unconventional. The very fact that during her early girlhood she had
been painfully trammelled by what "they" would say or think, seemed to
have had its influence over her later experiences. Since she had been
made free, she would be free, indeed; that is, with the liberty with
which Christ makes us free. What would please _Him_ she resolved
should be the one thought to which she would give careful attention.
Now, it is perhaps worthy of mention, that this closely following
disciple did not once stop to determine whether it would please Him to
give such tender care to this stray child of His, or whether she would
be considered doing not just the thing, in _His_ eyes, if she
entertained her in the pink room.

About what He could have her do next, she gave much thought. And it was
not for days, or rather weeks, that she caught the possibility of His
meaning that the pink room should really be the girl's own.

It was just this way. The weeks went by, and no plan for settling Mart
comfortably elsewhere met Mrs. Roberts' approval. There was constantly
some excellent reason why the one mentioned would not do.

Meantime they became, she and Gracie Dennis, more and more deeply
interested in Mart. In her wardrobe first. "Wherever she lives she
should have respectable clothing; thus much is easily settled." So the
matron decreed, and Gracie did not gainsay it. She became absorbed in
preparing it. Such fascinating work! So many things were needed, and her
skin was so delicate, and her eyes so blue, and Gracie's choice of
shades and textures fitted her so precisely. Then, when dressed, simple
though her toilet was, her remarkable beauty shone out so conspicuously
as to alarm Mrs. Roberts whenever she thought of her in shop or store.

Several times during the weeks, she visited Sallie Calkins, and looked
about her with a thoughtful air, and came away feeling that it would not
do. There was Mark, growing into manhood, a good boy, hard-working,
respectable, proud of his good, homely sister, and of his reformed
father. The two rooms were taking on every sort of homely comfort that
Sallie's skill, helped by Mrs. Roberts' suggestions, could devise. It
was growing into a model little home in its way, but there was not a
corner in it where Mart would fit.

Then, as the days passed, a subtle, fascinating change began to come
over Mart. She slipped quietly into certain household duties. She showed
marvellous skill with her needle; such skill, indeed, that Gracie Dennis
said more than once: "I'll tell you, Flossy, what to do with her: put
her in a good establishment, and let her learn the dressmaking trade.
She could make her fortune in time." And Mrs. Roberts smiled, and
assented to the statement, but not to the proposition. There was no
dressmaking establishment known to her where she was willing to place so
young and pretty and ignorant a girl. But she was quite willing that
Mart should learn the looping of dresses, and the fitting of sacks and
collars and ruffles; and take many a stitch for her, as well as for
Gracie. She was willing to have her do a dozen little nameless things,
the ways of doing which she had caught up; until at last the touch of
her fingers began to be felt about the rooms, and Mrs. Roberts began to
notice that she should miss Mart when she went away. Still, from the
first time she said this, the thought came afterward with a smile of
satisfaction, and it was but a week afterward that she caught herself
phrasing it, that she should miss her _if_ she went away.

What about Dirk? Young Ried could have told you more of him during these
days than anybody else. He still stayed at the boarding-house. Mrs.
Saunders, the mistress of it, was one whom, if you had known her, you
would feel sure could interest herself heartily in such as he. There was
a bit of a room next to Ried's. To be sure, it had been used for a
clothes-press, and it took the busy housekeeper half a day to plan how
she could get along without it; but she planned, and offered it to Ried
for his _protege_.

"Just for the present, you know, until he sees what he can do, poor
fellow," she said, and Ried accepted the little room joyfully, and
helped fit it up.



You think things are taking very rapid strides? Well, don't you know
that there come periods when they do just that thing, or appear to? Why,
even the buds on the trees teach us the lesson. How many springtimes
have you gone to your bed feeling that the season was late, and the
trees were bare, and the fruits would all be backward, and Nature was
dawdling along in a very wearisome fashion; and awakened in the morning
to find that there had in the night been a gentle rain, and a movement
of mysterious power among the buds and the grasses, and that now, in the
morning sunshine, the world had burst into bloom? Yet, did you really
suppose, after all, that the _work_ was done in one night?

There was progress of several sorts in the class at the South End. Even
a casual observer could have seen a change in the boys that first Sunday
after they had attended Dirk's mother to the grave. The dignity of that
hour of sorrow was still upon them. Even the very reckless and
world-hardened will offer a certain degree of respect to death. On
ordinary occasions, the boys might have been merry at Dirk's expense,
for they saw changes in him; but the memory of his mother's coffin kept
them silent, and let his changed manner have its effect.

That Sunday was full of small events to Dirk; at least they are small
enough when one puts them on paper, though I admit that they looked
large to him. Several people interested themselves in his welfare.

"Poor fellow!" said Mrs. Saunders, "I suppose his mother tried to do for
him. Just as likely as not she had a clean shirt for him of a Sunday

You will perceive that Mrs. Saunders, though all her life a resident of
a large city, was not very well-acquainted with the abject poor. In
point of fact, Dirk Colson had had no extra clothing for his mother to
make clean. But Mrs. Saunders, full of the motherly thought, yet finding
no trace of a shirt in the bundle of rags that Dirk had brought with
him, went down one day into the depths of an old trunk, and brought to
light and mended and washed and ironed a shirt that had long been laid

It lay in its purity on a chair at the foot of Dirk's bed on Sabbath
morning. He lay still and looked at it for a while, then arose and gave
such careful attention to the soap and water as was new to him, and
arrayed himself in the clean linen.

His clothes were whole and clean. Mr. Roberts had seen to it that he
went respectably dressed to his mother's funeral.

A tap at his door a little later, and young Ried appeared, shoe-brush
and blacking-box in hand.

"Want to borrow?" he said, in the careless tone of one who might have
supposed that the blacking of his boots was an every-day matter to this
boy. "I always keep my own; it is cheaper than to depend on the street

Dirk said nothing at all, but reached forth his hand, and took the
offered tools, and the hint which came with them. When he went down to
breakfast his boots shone, and his fresh paper collar was neatly
arranged; altogether he was not the boy to whom I first introduced you.
I am not sure that Policeman Duffer would have recognized him. A collar
and a necktie make a great difference in some people's personal
appearance. Dirk wondered a little as to where the box of paper collars
came from. The necktie he had just found lying in the bottom of the box.
It was the mate of the one young Ried wore, but that told nothing, for
both were simple and plain, and could be bought by the dozens in any
furnishing store.

It is small wonder that the boys in the class looked at him. Nimble Dick
wore at first a roguish air, but a sudden memory of Dirk's face when he
turned away from his mother's grave came in time. Open graves are not
easy things to forget.

Dirk went to the church that day; went with young Ried by invitation,
and sat in the pew behind Mr. Roberts.

By the way, the seat which he occupied was another of Mr. Roberts'
peculiarities. Three seats were rented by him in a central part of the
large church. One of these seats he and his wife regularly occupied. The
others were almost as regularly occupied by the clerks from the store
who chose to make that their church home. Six sittings to a pew. When a
young man chose, Mr. Roberts was ready to enter into a business
engagement with him, whereby the sitting should be considered his own;
Mr. Roberts considering it to be no part of any one's concern that the
sum for which he thus sub-let the sittings was not a tenth of what the
first rental cost. It was in this way that Mr. Ried owned sittings in
the pew just back of that occupied by Mr. Roberts; and brought with him
constantly one and another young man. Today the young man was Dirk

It was all a strange world to him. He had wandered into the gallery of
the Mission Chapel, and looked down from his perch on the crowd of
worshippers; but this morning he was in the very centre of things, as if
he were one of them. Perhaps it is not strange that the startled inquiry
came to his heart: What if I belonged? Where did he belong now? He had
lost his place; he must make another. What if it should be in this
neighborhood, among these surroundings? Such thoughts did not take
actual shape to him, so that he could have put them into words; they
merely hovered in his atmosphere. Mrs. Roberts sat so that he could look
at her, which thing he liked to do. It had long since been settled in
his mind that he had one friend, and that one was Mrs. Roberts. He
admired Gracie Dennis, too, with a different sort of admiration from
that which he gave to the matron. She might be all very well; and she
was a splendid reader; and he knew that he could imitate her on certain
sentences, at least. And she had taught him to use the type-writer--an
accomplishment which he meant to perfect himself in as soon as he had a
chance. In fact, his ambition reached higher than that: one of these
days he meant to make one of his own with certain improvements! Who
shall say that Dirk was not growing?

On this particular day there sat beside Mrs. Roberts a lady,--a stranger.
He could not see her face, but for some reason, which he did not
understand, Dirk liked to look at her. She suggested something to him
that seemed like a familiar dream. He thought much about her, and
resolved to see if in her face she looked like any one he ever saw. As
she turned at the close of the service he was looking at her steadily.
Lo! it was Mart.

Now the possibility had not once suggested itself to his mind. If you
think this doubtful, you merely show that you know nothing about the
transforming effect of a becoming dress, no matter how simple it may be.
Remember, Dirk had never but twice seen his sister in a bonnet. The
first time it was Sallie's, and though the effect was sufficiently
startling, yet Sallie's bonnet did not fit her face, as this creation of
Gracie Dennis' fingers did. The second time the bonnet had been a
hideous black one, proffered by an old woman who lived in the story
above them, and whose thoughtfulness Mrs. Roberts would not mar by
making any mention of the neat one which she had brought in a box that
day. The black bonnet had been like a mask, hiding Mart's beauty.

The bonnet that she wore now was not of that character. It told a
wonderful story to Dirk's astonished gaze. Now, indeed, the likeness was
plain; without doubt, the girl whose face lighted with a curious smile
at sight of him, bore a striking likeness to the woman who had smiled at
him whenever she met him!

A curious effect this had on Dirk. There was that in his sister which
made it possible for her to be something like the woman who had won his
heart; and that sister was in his care: she had said so; he must work
for her, and watch over her!

I suppose that Sabbath was really the beginning of the surface changes
in Mrs. Roberts' class. Not the beginning to the teacher, but to those
people who only have eyes for strongly marked things.

I know that it was but a few weeks afterward that Mrs. Roberts came home
with such an unusual light in her eyes, and with her face so full of
brightness, that her husband said, inquiringly:--

"What is it, Flossy?"

She turned to him, eagerly, ready to laugh.

"It is what you will understand, but a great many people wouldn't. It is
so nice that you understand things! I feel just like saying, 'Thank the

"Do you mean to convey the idea that only a very few favored people feel
like that? I don't know of a person who has not great occasion. What is
your special one?"

"Evan, the last boy had his boots blacked, and a fresh paper collar on!"

Mr. Roberts threw back his head and laughed,--a genial, hearty laugh.
His wife looked on, smiling. There is a great deal of character in a
laugh, remember; you would have known that this was a sympathetic one.

Mr. Roberts was entirely capable of realizing what this said to his wife
about the future of her boys. It was becoming certain that their
self-respect was awakened.

A few days thereafter occurred another of those little things which mark
some characters.

Dirk, at Mrs. Saunders' breakfast-table on Sabbath morning, heard talk
that on Monday he recalled. By the way, I should have told you of one
other way in which the Sabbath became a marked day to him. He slept in
the little room which opened from Ried's, but his meals were picked up
at a restaurant, as occasion offered,--a much nicer and surer method of
living than he had ever known before. Even the commonest restaurant had
great respectability to him. Yet you will remember that he had by this
time taken several suppers in Mrs. Roberts' dining-room. He knew that
there was a difference in things; in fact, his experience now stretched
over infinite differences; but the first time he sat down to Mrs.
Saunders' breakfast-table, on a Sabbath morning, he discovered another
grade: this by no means belonged to the restaurant class? The Sunday
breakfasts and dinners were some of Mrs. Saunders' quiet ways of helping
along the work of the Christian world. Many a young man appeared at her
table as the guest of Ried or of Dr. Everett, or of some other of the
boarders, who was unaware that he owed the pleasant experience to the

Well, Dirk at the Sabbath-table heard talk of one General Burton, famous
as a soldier, a scholar, and an orator. General Burton was in the city,
the guest of a prominent man; he was to speak on the following evening
in one of the great halls, and much eager talk was had concerning him;
great desire was expressed to hear him, to get a glimpse of him. Dirk
listened in silence, but had his own thoughts about what it must be to
have people talking about one, wanting to get a glimpse of one, and
next, what it must be to be intimate with such people. Did Mrs. Roberts
know the great man? he wondered. And then Dirk smiled as he thought how
queer it was that he should know Mrs. Roberts; that he might, in fact,
be called intimately acquainted with her!

Remembering this reverie of his, you will better understand how he felt
on Monday morning, as he made his way in haste down a quiet part of one
of the up-town streets, intent on an errand that required promptness, to
hear his name called by Mrs. Roberts.

"Good morning!" she said. "Are you in too great haste to recognize your
friends? I want to introduce you to a friend of mine. General Burton,
Mr. Colson. General, this is one of my young men, of whom I told you."

Whereupon the famous general, hero of many battles, held out his honored
hand, and took Dirk's in a cordial grasp. I don't suppose I could
explain to you what an effect this action had on a boy like Dirk.

There is this comfort: you may be a student of human nature, and
therefore may understand it all without explanation.

This is only one of many so-called trifles which occurred during the
weeks, to make their indelible impress on the characters of the boys.

Of course, the Monday Evenings prospered. Reading-lessons and
writing-lessons, and, as time passed, lessons of all sorts made good

Neatly-blackened boots, carefully-arranged hair, and fresh collars
became the rule instead of the exception.

Other avenues for improvement opened. It became noised abroad in
Christian circles that great transformations were being worked among a
certain set of hard young fellows who had hitherto been best known to
the police. Mr. Roberts was interviewed by one and another, and one
outgrowth of the talks was that tickets for a course of expensive and
valuable and attractive lectures on popular subjects were placed in
large numbers in Mr. Roberts' hands for him to use at discretion.
Moreover, seats were rented in the church towards which most of the boys
gravitated--the one connected with their Mission; seats re-rented after
Mr. Roberts' plan, so that as often as there appeared a young man who
cared to have a spot in the church which belonged to him, it could be
had for a very small sum; in fact, as pews rented in that church, a
ridiculously small sum.

These are only hints of the channels which time and patience and thought
opened for these young men, on whom, but a short time before, Satan
believed himself to have so firm a grip.

One feature of the "Monday Evenings" had, in the course of time, to be
changed. The young teacher of elocution went home.

"I want to go," she said at last, in answer to her hostess' pleading. "I
think it quite likely that papa would let me stay and attend school
here; but I am in haste to get home. You need not look sober, Flossy. I
have had a happier time than I have ever had in my life before; and I
have found here a sort of happiness that will last. It almost breaks my
heart to think of leaving those boys,--especially my dear Dick Bolton;
but really, I need to go home and undo certain things that I left badly
done. You don't half know me, Flossy Shipley. When I came here I was a
regular goose. If you had known what a simpleton I was, and how hateful
I had been about some things at home, you would never have invited me.

"Among other things that were hateful about me, I was a real horror to
my mother. I thought I had reason to distrust and dislike her; when the
truth is that I have cause to go down on my knees and thank her for
keeping me from some things. I'm in a real hurry to get home, and show
that young mother of mine what a perfectly angelic daughter I can be."

And Mrs. Roberts smiled and kept her own counsel; and this was all that
she was supposed to know about her young guest. She never knew the whole
story about Professor Ellis; though there was a girl, Hester Mason by
name, in Dr. Everett's Sabbath-school, who could have told her a good
deal about him, and about Gracie Dennis' helping to break the net that
Satan had woven for her unwary feet. The fact is, there is a great deal
concerning all these people--Hester Mason and Dr. Everett and Joy
Saunders and Joy Saunders' mother--which I should have liked to tell
you if I could have found room. You may read of them any time, however,
if you choose, in a book called "An Endless Chain." Of course, the story
of their lives does not end even _there_, because the chain is, as
I said, _endless_; but there are many of the links presented to

So Grace Dennis went home. And neither then, nor afterward, did Mrs.
Roberts hear in detail the story of Professor Ellis. What matter? She
had, however, a short added chapter. It came in a letter from Mrs.
Marion Dennis not long after Gracie's return. It read thus.--

Oh, Flossy Shipley Roberts! blessed little scheming saint that you are!
What did you do? How did you do it! Ah! I know more about it than those
sentences would indicate. The dear Lord did it, working through you, His
servant. He has called our Gracie to higher ground, filled her heart
with that which has made insignificant things take their true place, and
wrong things show for what they are.

You know, of course, that it is all right about Professor Ellis;--or no!
I fear it is all wrong about him, but right with our Gracie. I hear that
he has permanently located in your city. Perhaps your Christian charity
can reach him. He sent Gracie a letter, trying to explain certain
affairs about that Mason girl, with which I presume you are familiar.
She showed me the letter and her answer. He will not write her another!

"_I_ don't know any Mason girl," said Mrs. Roberts to her husband,
"but it doesn't matter. I don't want to know the story if there is
nothing to be done through it. There are stories enough that one
_must_ know."



It was Monday evening, and there was company at Mr. Roberts' home;
not the usual Monday evening gathering, but quite a large party of
well-dressed men and women, many of them young, yet some were
middle-aged. The pretty room opposite the conservatory was thrown open,
and aglow with lights and flowers; and groups were continually passing
in and out, admiring the paintings and the flowers, and the type-writers
of different patterns, and the books and magazines, of which there were
many. But interest was not confined to this room. The parlors were
thrown open and the music-room beyond; even the cosy little library was
public property for this one evening. The company was large, and their
tastes were varied; so no pains had been spared to give them variety.

You are acquainted with quite a number of the guests; yet I am by no
means sure that you would recognize them all. Even in so short a period
of time as three years, great changes may be elicited!

For instance, do you know the young man in unnoticeable, and therefore
appropriate, evening dress, who is doing duty at the piano, watching
with practiced eye the course of the player, and turning the leaf with
skilful hand at just the right moment? It is a somewhat embarrassing
position; but his manner leads you to suppose that he has been
accustomed to it all his life, and that he reads music well. In the
latter belief you are correct; but as to being accustomed to it--three
years ago Nimble Dick could have told you a different story!

You can't believe that it is he? I do not wonder. The change is
certainly a great one; but he does not feel it. To tell you the truth,
he almost forgets, when he becomes absorbed in his work, that this sort
of society was not always open to him. Three years means a long time to
the young; and Richard Bolton has so long been accustomed to the freedom
of Mrs. Roberts' parlors, and to the sort of people whom one finds
there, that none of the refinements of polite life are strange to him;
and as to turning music, has he not done it for his hostess numberless

If your eyes are now opened, it is possible that you may be trying to
spy out other young men. The rooms are full of them, elegantly-dressed,
fashionable young men; but a few are noticeable by the air which they
have of being in a sense responsible for the comfort of the others. They
are on the alert; they are taking care that no young guest shall appear
for a moment to be forgotten or neglected. They appear to be entirely
familiar with the house and all its appointments. They can be appealed
to for a glass of water or an ice, or to know what special scene this
landscape hanging over the mantel represents, or whose bust this is in
the niche at the left, or in what portion of the library a certain book
will be found, or from what part of the foreign world that
strangely-shaped shell came, and they are all equally at home. In short,
it is like having a dozen or twenty young hosts to look after your
comfort and pleasure. In point of fact, there are seventeen of them. The
original seven has thus increased. Two months ago there were twenty, but
one has secured an appointment as telegraph operator in a distant city,
and as Stephen Crowley occupies a similar position in one of the offices
in this city, some very interesting conversations are held, and many
important items connected with the "Monday Evenings" and the South End
School and the "Library Association," etc., are transmitted when the
lines are not otherwise employed. Young Haskell, too, has gone with one
of the partners from the store where he was first employed, to set up a
branch store in a not distant town; and his old Sabbath-school teacher
has already received letters from him, saying that they have started a
branch Sunday-school in the south part of the town, and that he has
picked seven little wretches out of the streets, from eight to twelve
years of age, and gone to work. "And, dear Mrs. Roberts, I wish you
would pray for me, that I may be able to bring every one of them to

So the letter ran; and that tells volumes to the initiated about young

But although the changes among these young men have been great almost to
bewilderment, only one of the number has been promoted to a dazzling
height. The others are without exception earning good, honest livings
for themselves; securing good, substantial educations through the
evening classes which have grown out of that first effort; bidding fair
to become leading and honored citizens when they actually take their
places as men. But Mark Calkins, faithful, plodding, good-hearted,
patient Mark, has surpassed them all! The truth is "that eye hath not
seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart," what sort of
magnificence surrounds him now. He has gone to court. The chief Ruler of
the realm has sent for Mark to be always in his immediate presence in
the palace; and with what joy he went I cannot tell you. Nor how often
they speak of him, and try to let their hearts conceive of the glory
which surrounds him, and dwell on the day when they will be called, one
after another, to share the same glory; for this is the ambition of more
than half of them.

Now, in that sentence is unveiled the most curious part of my curious
story; and that it is curious, I frankly admit. It is no made-up affair.
I am not responsible for the strangeness of it. You are to remember that
"truth is stranger than fiction," and then to understand that I am
telling you the truth. It is, then, a fact, that these young men have
each received conditional appointments to serve in the palace, high in
power and splendor and dignity. The conditions are that they are to be
willing to be guided in all things by the will of their King, whom they
each admit to be wise above all wisdom, and to be kind above all their
conceptions of kindness. It is true that nine of the number have
accepted their appointments, donned their uniform, assumed their
positions as He has directed, and are waiting for the summons to appear
in person at court. It is also true that the others are still in a state
of indecision; they do not know whether to accept the appointment or
not. It is true that they feel themselves honored; that they believe
this to be the only path of honorable and safe promotion. It is true
that they have full faith in those who will tell with joy, that, having
enlisted, they find the service even in this ante-room sweet, and the
rewards great. It is true that they severally visited Mark, just as the
door was opening to admit him to the palace, and heard him speak of the
glimpses of its glory, and heard that his last words before he went away
were, "Oh, mine eyes see the King in his beauty!" and that his voice was
jubilant as that of a conqueror, and his face radiant as with a
reflection of unseen glory; and yet they hesitate, and dally with the
call, and mean, some time, to have such an inheritance deeded to them,
but not now! Remember, I am not responsible for this. Were I writing
fiction I should hesitate to set down such idiotic folly, expecting you
to call it unnatural or absurdly overdrawn; but I do solemnly declare to
you that this is fact. Account for the folly of their behavior as best
you can.

Well, Sallie and her father are left behind. But, mind you, they are not
among the doubtful ones. They both as much expect to serve at court as
they expect to live through all eternity. But while they wait they are
busy. They have moved from the alley; the surroundings were not such as
they liked. Did you notice that bit of a house landing modestly back
from the road, at the further corner of those ample grounds that
surround the South End Church? It is the sexton's house, and that
church, and those Sunday-school rooms, and those grounds, and everything
pertaining to them, are under his care. The father is the sexton, it is
true, and attends the furnace and rings the bell; but it is Sallie's
care that keeps seat and desk and window so beautifully free from dust
or stain. Oh, they live busy lives, and happy ones. Sallie trusted not
in vain in her father's promise that night, when he put his weak will
into the pledge; but you are to understand that it was but a few days
thereafter when he planted his weak and wavering feet on the Rock of
Ages. Then did Satan angle for him in vain.

So, on this Monday evening, there were but seventeen at the gathering. I
hesitate over what to name the gathering. I would call it a party, but
that in many respects it was so totally different from anything with
which you are probably acquainted by that name.

The young man who stands by the door of the conservatory, eagerly
describing to Miss Henderson a rare and curious flower, which has been
sent to Mrs. Roberts from California, is "black Dirk." Really, I hope
you are sufficiently astonished; for he looks so utterly unlike the
scamp who used to be the special torment of the South End Mission that I
should be disappointed if you were not impressed by it. "Mr. Colson"
almost everybody calls him now. The name has long since lost its
strangeness. He is in the employ of the great firm of Bostwick, Smythe,
Roberts & Co., and although Mr. Roberts has never found it convenient to
do so before, there were reasons why he thought it would be well to have
a clerk within call; so Mr. Colson boards with what was the junior
partner of the firm. He is so no more, by the way, for Mr. Ried has been
received as a member, and is decidedly a junior partner. Probably Mr.
Roberts could tell you, if he chose, why one so young, and without
capital, had been elected to partnership; but, as a rule, he keeps his
own counsel, only remarking that the young man developed remarkable
business faculties which were patent to the whole firm. To his wife he

"I tell you, Flossy, I believe a consecrated life will be honored by the
Lord, in whatever channel he gives it talents to develop. 'Whatsoever he
doth shall prosper.' That young man is going to have a career in
business. I shouldn't be surprised if the Master meant him to show the
world how a Christian can use money to his glory."

It is early yet to prophesy what Mr. Colson will do. Doubtless he will
be a merchant; certainly he will be a Christian; possibly he will be an
orator, of whom the world will yet hear,--a temperance orator, for
instance. I know you would like to hear him read a poem. He is not
confined to Will Carleton's style now, though he still reads with power
some of those inimitable delineations of life; but Gracie Dennis offers
no more criticisms when he reads. In fact, I have heard her defer to
him, when a question arose, as one who had probably studied the passage,
and caught its best. I am willing to confess that my poor black Dirk was
a bit of a genius. The thought I desire you to catch is that so many of
those poor fellows, who of necessity live by their wits in the city
slums, are diamonds which could be fitted to shine. You take a diamond
and throw it down in the dirt and filth, and put your foot on it and
grind it in, and leave it there, sinking and soiling, day after day,
year after year, and when somebody comes along and picks it out, how
much will it gleam for him at first? Yet the diamond is there.

"Thou shalt be a royal diadem in the hand of thy God." Mrs. Roberts had
been at work hunting diamonds for His diadem.

As Mr. Colson stood there chatting freely with Miss Henderson, there was
nothing about the association that looked incongruous, neither did it
occur to any. There was not a trace of embarrassment about this boy from
the slums; he had forgotten the slums, and stood talking with one of the
aristocrats of the city.

How came she to talk with him, to allow herself to be entertained by
him? Let me tell you: thereby hangs a tale. Some time before this
evening--in fact, nearly two years before--Mrs. Roberts had come to a
puzzle, and stood and looked at it doubtfully. Then she presented it to
the others:--

"They are growing easy in their manners with me, learning to be
gentlemanly without embarrassment, and thoughtful over little things
without being ashamed of it; but I am afraid that with other ladies they
would be sadly frightened and awkward. When Mrs. Delaney came in this
evening I could but notice how utterly silent Mr. Colton became; he had
been talking well before. It seems as though there was a great gulf
between them and social advancement. How can we bridge it?"

Then young Ried ventured his thought:--"My sister Ester had a class in
the Center Street Sabbath-school--nice little girls, who wore pretty
dresses, and had their hair curled, and came from the best families.
After she was taken sick, she told me one of her regrets was that she
had not stayed well long enough to try a plan which she had. She meant
to take a class of rough little boys in the mission-school, and she
meant to ask the mothers of the little girls to let them come, once a
month, and play with the little boys from the streets--she to play with
them, and watch over them every moment; but to try to interest the girls
in teaching the boys gentleness and good manners. I don't know how it
would have worked. Ester was never well enough to undertake it; nor
could she seem to enlist any one else in such service. It has grave
objections, I suppose; but I have always thought that I should like to
see something of the kind carefully tried."

Mrs. Roberts, before this little story was half-concluded, had turned
those eager eyes of hers on the speaker--eyes that always had a peculiar
light in them whenever her soul took in a new suggestion.

"Thank you," she said. "I see, oh! a great many things. I ought to have
called in that dear sister Ester to help on this phase of the question
before. It has always seemed to me as though we were doing her work."



That was the beginning of a new effort. There were certain young ladies
becoming well-known to Mrs. Roberts, by reason of a similarity of tastes
which drew them to her.

She sat down one day and wrote out their names with great care on her

Miss Henderson's name headed the list. She was one of the aristocrats. I
use the word in its highest sense. The accidents of wealth and position
were hers; at least, that is the way we talk, though I suppose we all
believe that the Lord is the giver of both, and will require an account
of the same at our hands.

If this be so, Miss Henderson will be more ready than some with her
rendering; for she is of royal blood, and guards well the honor of the
Christian name she bears.

Without hesitation, Miss Henderson headed the list. The others were
chosen more slowly; ten of them, picked soldiers, to do special duty "in
His name."

It required much explanation, much care to plan wisely.

But the girls caught at the idea.

In the course of weeks they formed a band, with Miss Henderson for
president. Ostensibly they were a literary society; really they were
diamond polishers.

They met one evening by invitation, with Mrs. Roberts, and made the
acquaintance of the "Monday Club." They sang for them, read for them,
heard them read; chatted with them on the various topics of the hour,
the last lecture of the course, which all had attended; a certain book
carefully read and criticised by Mr. and Mrs. Roberts and Dr. Everett in
the Monday Club,--not so carefully read by the young ladies; therefore,
it came to pass that they were somewhat worsted in an argument
concerning it, which was bad neither for the young ladies nor the Monday

Finally, they were taken out to supper by these young men, who had so
far come under Mrs. Robert's' influence that they were willing to endure
torture for the sake of pleasing her.

It is a long story. I could write another book about it just as well as

The main difficulty would be that the critics would pronounce the story
overdrawn. They always do when one revels in facts. It is only when an
author keeps within the range of sober fiction that he may feel
comparatively safe from this charge.

These young ladies represented other parlors and other dining-rooms.
They arranged for little graceful entertainments, to which the Monday
Club was invited. Gradually others were invited too--good, solid men,
and wise-hearted, motherly women. The invitations were select, the
"polishers" were chosen with care; but it was surprising to these
workers to find how large the Christian world is, and how many stood
ready to help if they were shown love.

"It is one of the best suggestions that that dear Ester has given us."
This Mrs. Roberts said one evening when the Young Ladies' Band and the
Monday Club combined their forces and gave an entertainment to some of
the best people on the avenue.

I have given you hints of how they did it. They were every one
Christians, these young ladies; none others were chosen. They worked
with a single aim in view--His glory. They took no step that was not
paved with prayer. Do you need to be told that they succeeded?

This was one of the reasons why Mr. Colson chatted with Miss Henderson
with perfect freedom, and why his bow was graceful and easy when she
introduced him to her friend Miss Fanshawe, of Philadelphia. He was
accustomed to being introduced to her friends.

I'm sure I hope you wish I would tell you somewhat of Mart Colson. If
you are not deeply interested in her I am disappointed in you. She has
been such an object of interest to me since that time when I caught a
glimpse of her once through the cellar-window, with a gleam of sunset
making her hair into gold.

It is a summer evening of which I tell you, and she is all in
white--except her eyes; nothing can be bluer than they are to-night,--
and except the flowers about her. She is always among the flowers.

I hesitate, after all, to tell you about Mart. Hers is one of those
stories hard to tell. Besides, her friend and patron has suffered much
criticism because of her, and though Mrs. Roberts does not care in the
least, I find that I am sensitive.

"Has she really kept that Colson girl with her all these years?" Yes,
she has. I speak it meekly, but she has! "And never had her learn a
trade, or work in a factory, or learn to support herself in any way?"
She has never sent her anywhere to learn a trade or to work in a factory
or to stand behind a counter. It is too true.

No, I was almost sure you did not approve of it. But, for all that, I
don't mean to argue Mrs. Roberts' cause. "To her own Master she standeth
or falleth."

Not but what Mrs. Roberts has argued, on occasion,--with Gracie Dennis,
for instance, who paid her a few weeks' visit, less than three months
after she first went home.

"Flossy," she would say, "what are you going to do--with the girl? Do
you really mean to keep her here?"

"She has no mother, my child, nor father; and her brother is not able to
care for her yet. Where would you have me send her?"

"Why, Flossy, there are places."

"Yes, my dear, I know it, and this is one of them."

"Well, but she ought to be learning things. How is she going to support

"She is studying arithmetic with me, you know, and writing and reading
with the dining-room girls; and I am teaching her music, and Mr. Roberts
proposes to have her join the history class as soon as she is
sufficiently advanced in the more common studies."

"But, Flossy Shipley, that is great nonsense! You know what I mean. You
cannot turn the world upside down in that fashion, or make an orphan
asylum of your house or a charity school."

"My dear, do you really think the house is in danger? Does it look like
an orphan asylum or feel like a charity school?"

Then would Gracie Dennis laugh, but look a trifle vexed, nevertheless,
and mutter that people couldn't do things that way in this world.

Then would Flossy be ready with her gentle drops of oil to soothe the

"Gracie, dear, I am not trying to reform the world. There are a great
many girls left destitute I know, and I will do at wholesale all I can
for them; but this one is peculiar. You have admitted that it was
unusual to see such dangerous beauty, and she is unusual in her mental
development. She could be fierce and wicked; she is ignorant and bitter
about many things; I am afraid for her. I have not been able to think of
a place where the Lord Jesus would have me take her. I must see to it
that _He_ is pleased, you know, at all hazards. If He does not mean
us to keep her in the shelter of our home for the present, we do not
know what He means.

"We cannot 'mother' the whole race: He has not even suggested it to our
hearts. He has simply said, 'Here, take this one; there is room for her;
keep her until I plainly tell you that her place is elsewhere.' Gracie,
would you have me tell Him we cannot?"

By this time Gracie would be humble and sweet.

"It is very good of you," she would say, meekly, "and I was not thinking
of such a thing as finding fault. I was only wondering whether--whether--
well, you know--whether such a life as she is leading in your house would
not unfit her for her proper sphere?"

But a sentence like that was always liable to put little Mrs. Roberts on
all the dignity she possessed. Her husband had ideas on that subject,
and had imbued her with them. Her voice could even sound almost haughty
as she said:--

"As to that, Gracie, we must remember that the 'sphere' of an American
woman is the one that she can fill acceptably in God's sight. He may
call her to the highest; I don't know. Since she is the daughter of a
King, there may be no spot on His footstool too high for His intentions
concerning her."

There was outside criticism, of course. Indeed, Mrs. Roberts was
sufficiently peculiar in many respects to call for much criticism from
the world. They talked much about "that girl" she had picked up.
Gradually they said "that Colson girl"; then one day some daughter
asked, "Is she really a sister of that handsome Mr. Colson in the
store?" And by-and-by there were some who spoke of her as "Mattie
Colson." That was the name which Mrs. Roberts always called her. It
began gradually to be known also that "Mattie Colson" knew a great deal
which was worth knowing. Three years of companionship with a lady like
Mrs. Roberts, and such as she gathers about her, can do much for a girl
who wishes much done for her.

As to "earning her living," I am not sure but she was learning to do it
in several ways. Mrs. Roberts struggled against all false ideas of life,
therefore taught her none.

She was not the cook, but she could, and had on occasion, served up a
most enjoyable breakfast.

She was not the second-girl, yet her fingers were undeniably skilful in
the arrangement of rooms and tables. She was not the sewing-girl, yet
constant were the calls on fingers that had become wise in these
directions. She was by no means the nurse, yet there was a little
golden-haired "Flossy" in the sunny room upstairs whose devoted slave
she was, and whose mother felt that Mattie's loving, watchful care over
her darling was only second to her own, and was so to be relied upon, by
day and night, as to repay tenfold whatever she might have done for the

In fact, it would perhaps be difficult to define "Mart" Colon's position
in the house. Yet she was, as I said, becoming known among the young
ladies outside as "Mattie Colson, that handsome young Colson's sister;
as pretty as a doll, and a _protege_ of that lovely Mrs. Roberts,
you know." As for the Young Ladies' Band,--I do not include them when I
talk of the girls "outside,"--what they had done for Mattie Colson she
could not have told you though she tried, her eyes shining with tears.

The days had come wherein the very matrons who had said that it was a
strange thing for Mrs. Roberts to take a girl from the slums into her
family--that it was "tempting Providence to attempt such violent
wrenches"--now said one to another, that "it must be a great relief to
Mrs. Roberts to have that Mattie Colson always at her elbow to see that
everything about the home was just as it should be;" and they added,
with a sigh, that "some people were very fortunate."

Now, dear critic, you stand all ready to say that this is a very nice
_paper_ story, but that in actual life attempts at doing good do
not result so smoothly; that to be "natural," Mrs. Roberts ought, at
least, to have tried in vain to reclaim half of her boys.

It is true, I have said nothing to you about two or three whom she has
not as yet reached, though she is still trying. My story was not of
them, but of the twenty whom she _did_ reach. Concerning your
verdict, there are two things that I want to say: First, go into the
work, and give the time and patience and faith and prayer that Mrs.
Roberts and her fellow-workers gave, before you decide that it is vain.

And secondly, will you kindly remember that, whether this be natural or
not, it is true?

I do not think I have told you the immediate occasion of this particular
gathering. It was, in fact, a reception given to Mrs. Ried. It is not
likely that I need tell you at this late day that her name was _Gracie
Dennis_ Ried. I could have told you much about it, had I been writing
a story of that sort.

In fact, there is a chance for considerable romancing. There are matters
of interest that I might tell you, about "Mr. Colson" himself, young as
he is; and about Mattie, who wears to-night a rose that she did not pick
from the conservatory; but I don't mean to tell it.

I have just one other bit of history to give you. They stood together
for a moment--the young bridegroom and the lady with whom he had
faithfully worked ever since that rainy afternoon in which he had
confided his gloom to her.

Both were looking at the two young men who stood near the piano, waiting
to join in the chorus. Both had known these young men as "Nimble Dick"
and "Black Dirk."

Still another of the original seven stood in the immediate vicinity. The
glances of the two workers took them all in; then they looked at each
other, and smiled meaningly.

"I have been thinking of that first Sunday afternoon," said Mrs.
Roberts. "I asked them to pick up my handkerchief, which had dropped,
and 'Nimble Dick' said, 'Pick it up yourself, mum! you're as able to as
we be!' I wonder if they would remember it? What if I should tell them!"

As she spoke the bit of cambric in her hand designedly dropped almost at
the feet of Dirk Colson. He stooped for it instantly, but "Nimble Dick"
was too quick for him, and presented it to the owner with a graceful
bow, and a slightly triumphant smile.

But the chorus was commencing, and the bass and tenor were at once
absorbed in their work; so Mr. Ried and Mrs. Roberts had the memorial
laugh all to themselves. None but they understood what the white
handkerchief said.

Despite the laughter there was a suspicious mist in Mr. Ried's eyes.

"How far is mirth removed from tears?" he asked his hostess. And then:
"Do you know, when I look at these young men, moving about your rooms at
their ease, really ornaments to society, and think of the places in the
world that they will be likely to fill, and think of what they were when
you first saw them, the overwhelming contrast brings the tears!"

Said Mrs. Roberts:--

"I will tell you something that will do your heart good.

"Did you know that our young lady helpers had reorganized in larger
force, and with certain fixed lines of work, which they feel certain
they can do?

"The effort has passed out of the realm of mere experiment.

"They have chosen a name. They are henceforth to be known as THE ESTER

"They came to me for a motto to hang in their rooms, below the name; and
I gave them this:--

"'And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me. Write. Blessed are the
dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that
they may rest from their labors: and their works do follow them.'"

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