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She had used the first verse one
Sunday when teaching the children about the Good Shepherd, and, having a
little more time than usual, had tried to teach it to them--little
thinking how she should thus meet it--but using it because she had grown
fond of it for the sake of her friend, and of the new and higher
feelings that were linked with the first learning of it.

There was a great peace and thankfulness in her heart at having thus
tasted a sort of first-fruits of her little attempt at sowing. It was
soothing a death-bed! Might not she well rejoice that she had
persevered, in spite of the temptation of gain, in not letting her head
and heart be carried away with the fever of work, but giving the best
part of herself to the task she had undertaken?

Not that Jessie saw or thought that this had been the case. Yet if she
had let herself be swept away with Grace's vehement desire to engross
all the needlework, she must have given up her preparation; she would
have been wearied, hurried, and very likely fretful and impatient. At
any rate, there would not have been that kindness and earnestness which
leads others to be good far more than the actual words of teaching.




CHAPTER X.

THE RECKONING.


"IT is a right punishment for our sinful pride in her," said Aunt Rose,
as she had a few last words alone with her elder sister.

"Well, Rose," said Mrs. Cuthbert, "I would not be so very hard on the
poor child. I've been watching her, and I think, though no doubt she has
done very wrong, it was in a childish sort of way, and that you won't
find there's been any real love-making or nonsense of that sort."

"I'm sure, now I find the child could deceive us so, and act such a
part, there's nothing I could not believe," said poor Aunt Rose.

"That is sad enough, but I think you'll find it the worst, and that she
was led into it by others."

"That Florence Cray!" exclaimed Rose; "and what to do about her? How
hinder her from spoiling our child, when she's bound apprentice to me? I
wish I'd never listened to her father!"

Here came Amy herself, sent up to say that the trap was ready, and her
aunt must not be late for the train. She felt as if the last protection
was gone when she saw her aunt and cousin driven away in the conveyance
they had hired at Ellerby.

Girls bred up like Florence Cray would have thought it all a great fuss
about nothing. First and last Florence had seen nothing but fun in Amy's
cheating her strait-laced aunts and getting a little diversion, while
they wanted to shut her up with a cross child; but Amy had been bred up
to a very different way of looking at things, and the whole afternoon
had only been setting more fully before her how she had fallen from what
she had imagined of herself last Lent!

After all, the delay had made it better for her. Aunt Rose did not tell
the story quite so hotly and violently as it would have come out in the
first shock of wrath, but it was dreadful enough to hear her father
say--

"Amy, child, what is this? I never thought you would go for to do such a
thing."

"You that we had trusted from a baby," added Aunt Rose.

Aunt Charlotte said nothing, but her looks were the worst of all to
bear, they were so gentle and so sorrowful. And when Amy had sobbed out
her story they told her that she had been so sly that they did not know
how to believe her word.

"Oh, father! you may believe me. I never told a story--no, I never did!"

"And yet you could make as if you were going day by day to sit with that
poor little chap, only that you might be tramping about the lanes with
that there scamp!"

It was what he took as the hypocrisy of the thing that chiefly wounded
Mr. Lee, and when Amy declared she had always gone into the cottage and
spoken to the boy, she was told, "Much she could have attended to him,
since she had never seen that the poor child was dying."

The fact was that Florence had hurried her a good deal, because Mr.
Wingfield was to show them the rosettes the horses were to wear on the
wedding-day.

After all, Amy had to go up to her room only half believed and
unforgiven. Her father had a great mind to have gone to have had it out
with Florence Cray that night, but as some holiday people were there,
he doubted whether he could see her alone, and waited till the morning.
Then he called her into the parlour and said:

"Florence Cray, what have you been doing with my girl?"

"No harm, Mr. Lee," said Florence, frightened, but therefore pert, and
resolved to stand up for her friend. "You may trust me for that! I know
what is proper."

Mr. Lee made an odd sort of noise, and said: "You do, eh! Proper to
deceive her friends--"

"Oh! now, Mr. Lee," said Florence, looking up in the droll, saucy way
that served her instead of beauty, "it was only two old aunts. One
always reckons it fair play by an old aunt."

"Have done with nonsense like that," said Mr. Lee. "Now, Florence Cray,
mine is a girl with no mother. My sisters, and I have done our best to
keep her a good, innocent girl, and we can't but feel it a hard thing
that you should come leading her to keep company, without our knowledge,
with a fellow that you must know is not such as we would approve."

"I'm sure I meant no harm," said Florence, beginning to cry; "I only
thought it was dull for her, and took her for a walk. And you needn't be
afraid, Mr. Lee, I never left them alone not one minute, nor he never
said one word; nor did more than just shake hands. You may trust me, Mr.
Lee."

On the whole the Lees were satisfied that the mischief had not gone as
far as such imprudence might have led. Mr. Wingfield would be gone in a
few days, for the wedding was coming on, and Amy was certainly not in
love with him. When she compared him with Ambrose Cuthbert, she felt
sick of having been flattered for a moment by his attentions, and
looked on the whole with the bitterest shame, as having led her away
from all her good resolutions, and made her thus deceive and disobey her
father and aunts. And when the knell rang for poor little Edwin Smithers
she cried more than ever, feeling almost guilty of his death.

She never wished for a moment to accept the invitation for which she had
once been so eager, to see Miss Robson's wedding clothes and wedding
presents. Grace Hollis went and took Jessie, and Florence Cray went too.

These were a sight! Such gilt clocks! Such extraordinary contrivances
for ink-stands, toilette apparatus, dinner services, and every service
that could be thought of! Such girdles, chatelaines, rings and
bracelets! Such silks and satins! such garments for morning, noon, and
night, and even afternoon tea! And oh! such dressing-gowns!

They sent Florence Cray home thinking over all the novels she had ever
seen, where a girl at an inn married a rich man, and also thinking how
to alter her best hat.

They sent Grace Hollis home deep in plans how to get another order for
plain work.

And they sent home, Jessie very happy indeed, for a lady's-maid had
asked whether a dozen more handkerchiefs could be marked with "Maude" in
the same style as the Nina.

Miss Needwood was really getting quite prosperous.

The next day, almost every one, who could, went to see as much as
possible of the wedding; so Aunt Rose had not yet to endure the presence
of Florence, and to keep watch that she did not chatter to Amy, who was
drooping and shame-stricken enough.

That morning came a letter from Mrs. Cuthbert. She said she should be
lonesome without Ambrose; and would her brother lend her his Amy for a
few weeks, when she would do her best for the child, and not let her
forget her needlework? This made things much easier to all; but Amy knew
it was a very different going from home from what it might have been.

Before she came back, Florence Cray had found what she called "working
at Old Lee's" so dull, that she had teased her parents into requesting
the return of part of her premium, and binding her to the chief milliner
in Ellerby.




CHAPTER XI.

WHICH SHALL PROSPER?


MR. SOMERS had come home from his six weeks' holiday, and was talking
over the village news with Miss Manners.

She told him of little Edwin Smithers's death, of the summons to Jessie
Hollis, and of the visit of Mrs. Cuthbert.

"Of course it is wrong to judge," she said, "but do you remember that
Lenten sermon, and the impression I told you it made?"

"I remember well. It was on the seed, and on bringing forth fruit."

"Well, when we had the Parable of the Sower the other day, I could not
help thinking how it had worked out. There were some, like that Cray
girl, who never seemed to take it in at all, but left it as something
outside of them. Then three distinctly were moved to undertake
something, the two Hollises and Amy Lee. Well, Grace dropped her
missionary needlework as soon as that wedding order come in her way----"

"Don't be hard on her, Dora."

"No; but I'm afraid I can't help seeing that she does not seem to keep
up her Sunday ways as she used. Then there's a sharp, worn, fretted way.
I am very much afraid she is getting choked with the thorns."

"I don't know Miss Hollis well," he said, thoughtfully, "but I am afraid
she does not look much beyond her shop."

"And my poor little Amy Lee responding so readily--seeming all that
could be wished, and then showing herself so little able to stand
temptation from that silly girl."

"I hope there was no more than silliness."

"I don't think there was; but still, after all the care Rose and
Charlotte have taken to bring up that girl really refined, it was very
disappointing to find her ready to be led away in an instant by foolish,
vulgar admiration; above all, when it led her to neglect the good work
she was supposed to be doing, it showed such shallowness."

"It is a comfort that often trials, and even falls, do deepen the soil,
so that the roots may have a better hold another time," said Mr. Somers.
"I think there is good hope that so it will be with poor little Amy. And
I think you have some good soil to tell me of."

"Indeed I have.



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