"On evur- sil. t .. y iin : .. of
hill .*..d ..17'< ."
':ik : .i
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR.
( -i ~I/-f
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR.
"Behold a sower went forth to sow."
"I HARDLY know whether I ought to say I am most sorry or
glad, that I must decline your obliging offer, ma'am," said
the superintendent of the little Long Meadow Sunday-
school. Fact is, we have rather more than enough teachers
"So few children in the place ?" said Mrs Kensett.
Ah, I don't know about that!" said the superintendent,
laughing; "sometimes I think there's more than enough
children, too. Not in the school, however: our classes are
hardly so large as the teachers would fancy. Seems a sort
of waste of time, you know, to come, week after week, for
only three or four children."
Oh, I want no larger class than that," said the lady. "I
think five is almost too large."
"Think so ?" said Mr Morton; "most people don't.
They like more of a show."
But the show-if there is any-should be in the work
done," said Mrs Kensett.
"True," said Mr Morton; exactly so. r.e you settling
in Long Meadow, ma'am ?"
Only for the summer, for change of air."
"There is no better air in the country," said Mr Morton,
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL,
with emphasis. Bt that would make the arrangement of
a class still more difficult. Such matters for a short time
always are. The new teacher brings new ways, and the other
classes are unsettled. Else I am sure we should be most
happy. If indeed, we had more children. But it's a small
place-a very small place. And as you are an invalid, per-
haps rest will be better than work."
I rest better with some work," said Mrs Kensett. "But
I never thought of disturbing your settled classes. Do all
the village children come to your school, sir ?"
Really," said Mr Morton, "I hardly know! Yes-upon
reflection, I think they do,-about all. There are the tavern
children-some half dozen-of course do not come; and one
or two more that I think of."
Are there any families living quite outside the village ?"
said Mrs Kensett.
There are some," said Mr Morton, "how many I can't say
-speaking of those that do not belong in any way to the
society. A poor scattering set, for the most part, hid away
among the bushes on Vinegar Hill. I believe the bell is
warning us all to our places, Mrs Kensett,-shall I have the
pleasure of giving you a seat ? "
And up the white church steps went Mr Morton, bland
and benign; while Mrs Kensett followed him softly along
the little aisle, pondering his words-
"Hid away among the bushes on Vinegar Hill!"
In every pause of the service they came back to her, with
some such refrain as this :-" He came to seek and to save."
" Go ye into the highways and hedges, and compel them to
come in." And then she pictured to herself the motley
crowd thus gathered, and the servants returning with their
glad answer: 'Lord, it is done as Thou hast commanded,
and yet there is room." Room ?-she looked round the little
church---even there, in God's house on earth, there was room
enough and to spare. -Where were the people that should
have filled those empty seats ?-and again her heart echoed
back the words: "I Hid away among the bushes on Vinegar
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 5
There's room within the Church, redeem'd
With blood of Christ divine;
Room in the white-robed throng convened
For that dear soul of thine.
There's room in heaven among the choir,
And harps, and crowns of gold,
And glorious palms of victory there,
And joys that ne'er were told."
The service was over, the people dismissed to their homes;
and in the clear light of the summer afternoon they went
singly or in little clusters along the green village roads.
Some few wheeled off in open waggons to homes a half
dozen miles back in the country; a yet smaller number were
the happy owners and users of a close carriage, and saw as
little as possible of the clover blossoms on their way home.
Undistilled clover fragrance was, after all, rather a common
thing; and even new-mown hay must be bottled and labelled
before they could find out its sweetness.
But clearly none of all these passers-by came from Vinegar
Hill-not one of all that whole congregation had ever been
an outcast "hid away among the bushes." Mrs Kensett
lingered in her walk, gazing wistfully over the green land-
On every side the ground broke into a lovely mingling of
hill and valley, with here a dark spot of lake, set in the
woods, and there the foaming thread of a tumbling brook;
the white church itself standing midway on one long slope;
and clustering below it, more or less near, the village houses
led down to the broad green valley which gave the place its
name of Long Meadow. All fair, all glowing with June
"Can you tell me, sir, which is Vinegar Hill inquired
Mrs Kensett, as a belated farmer came plodding by. He
stopped and looked at her.
"Vinegar Hill? Why !-Beant going there, be you V'
Well, I wouldn't, 'cause it's an ugly place. Worst hole
in the township. I wouldn't take evidence from Vinegar
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
Hill, now," said the farmer, striking the heel of his boot
against a stone with great emphasis, not as to which way
my cow'd gone. Might be sure I'd find her in just t'other
But in what direction is the hill itself ?."
Vinegar Hill ? why, it's there, back o' the church. Slid
off from the back door, sometime, likely, and went a good
way afore it stopped."
"What, that low green hill that seems all bushes ?" said
Ay, but it ain't all bushes, more's the pity," said the
farmer, shading his eyes with his hand as he looked.
"There's houses enough there-too many; and rascals to
fill one jail, and some to spare. Yes, that's Vinegar Hill, and
a sour spot it is. Take more'n one church to sweeten it."
"And how many church members-if they worked faith-
fully, with God's blessing ?" asked Mrs Kensett, with one
of her winning smiles.
The farmer stared, then broke into a puzzled laugh.
SWell, I couldn't rightly say," he answered ; "fact is, I
ain't much in that line o' business, but it's an ugly spot. So,
as I said, I wouldn't go nigh there. Good-night to ye!" and
he strode on.
It was early yet; the proud summer day bent its head but
slightly, glancing over meadow and hill; and the long sun-
beams held the ground against all claims of the white-faced
moon, waiting so patiently to take her place. Mrs Kensett
sat down on a gray stone by the wayside, to look and think.
The whole scene was wondrously peaceful, with something
of that sweet, calm hush, which seems to have lingered about
this seventh portion of time, ever since God blessed the
seventh day, and hallowed it." Hardly a sound stirred the
air, though every green swell of land was dotted with houses
and full of life, with windows gleaming in the sunshine, or
even-in some deep woodland nook-glimmering and twink-
ling with an early candle : the Sabbath rest was upon all.
Only as Mrs Kensett turned towards Vinegar Hill, she felt
the difference. It looked peaceful enough with its close green
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 7
covering that was neither forest nor undergrowth, but a
scrub of thickset bushes : and a tinkle of cowbells moving
slowly along from point to point, and a light hazy smoke
that floated over the tops of the bushes, were the only signs
of life. But as the sunbeams withdrew to higher ground,
and twilight filled the valleys, there came up from Vinegar
Hill a confused murmur-not sportive, not rejoicing, not
even like the wholesome hum of business-but wild, lawless,
Mrs Kensett rose quickly and walked away. At first
towards home-then turned, and began slowly to mount the
church hill once more; saying softly to herself-" to seek
and to save." And as she went, a half dozen children came
stealing up on the other side, from out the thickets of Vine-
gar Hill, and began with great spirit to play ball against the
side of the church, and marbles on its old steps.
So busy were they with their games, so intent upon the
ball and the marbles, that not one of them saw a little lady
cross the stile of the church fence and come towards them.
Not one knew she was near, until they heard a sweet voice
"Which of you little ones has been here before to-day ?"
They all stopped and looked at her.
"Hi! said one of the boys expressively, giving his ball a
toss straight up in the air, and catching it again with great
"Come all the way up a purpose to ask!" said another
mockingly; "and nobody don't know nothin't all about it
no more 'n she don't !-Oh dear !"
Gently Mrs Kensett repeated her question-
How many of you have been here before to-day ?"
"Well, I haven't, for one," said a little boy.
Can't see whose business it is, another said he with the
ball, playing one hand against the other with most impartial
"Might know we hadn't none on us been here," said a
third boy. "Can't play ball agin a meeting' house full o'
people. Guess there'd be a precious row if we did."
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
We always does wait till they's all gone," said the little
"Do none of you come when the church is open, and
in with the people ?" asked Mrs Kensett.
"Not us !" said the big boy, Sam Dodd by name. "Gi
we know some better'n that."
for us, you know," said
little Jemmy- Lucas;
"we's too poor."
Poor !" echoed the other; "yes, Jemmy he's poor enough,
for most things. My father ain't."
"What are you all going to do when you go home to-
night ? said Mrs Kensett.
Is that all ?"
"Enough, too," said Peter Limp, "when it's a good one.
Jemmy Lucas'11 like enough get a.poundin'-but the rest of
us don't care about that, ye see.
It varies the performances,
but it ain't interesting. "
Do none of you say your prayers before you go to bed ?"
asked Mrs Kensett. But nobody answered.
Come," she said, sit down here on the steps with me,
and I'll tell you a story."
"A real story ?" said Jemmy Lucas.
"A real, true story. But tell me first, where do you all
live ? "
With one voice they answered-
On Vinegar Hill."
"What, all of you '
" What sort of a place is Vinegar Hill?
"There's lots of other things
said Peter Limp, nodding his head.
I can see nothing
there, you may depend,"
"More 'n ever you see,
Is it a nice place ?"v
That's according as people thinks," said Sam Dodd, with
a short laugh. Suits me well enough."
Mother says she didn't use to bear it," said Jemmy Lucas.
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 9
"Well, let's hear the story anyway," said Peter Limp,
curling himself down on the steps. "Nobody needn't to
worry over Vinegar Hill. I say, let's have the story." And
down they all sat, grouping themselves around the stranger
lady in various attitudes of carelessness or attention ; ready
to get all the fun and do all the mischief they possibly
"MY story," began Mrs Kensett, "is about the great King
over all the earth."
"I say !" broke in Sam Dodd, "guess that's a mistake.
One king don't have it all."
There's lots o' kings," said Peter Limp.
A little hollow cough sounded so near Mrs Kensett, that
she started and looked round, but there was nothing to be
seen except the boys, and she went on.
Yes, there are many kings. I suppose you can all tell
me what a king is ?"
He's an awful rich man, that wears a gold crown," said
"And has horses and servants and things, don't he ?"
said Peter Limp, "and don't never do nothing' he ain't a
mind to, and eats goodies just all the time."
"And makes other folks stand round," said Sam Dodd;
"and cuts their heads off if they don't mind."
"And he sits 'way up on a throne too," said little Jemmy
Lucas; a great high place, all over di'monds."
"True," said Mrs Kensett; "there are kings who do
almost all these things. But why do they wear a crown, and
sit on a throne ? "
"Why, to show how grand they are," said Sam Dodd;
"and to let folks see they 'd better look out."
"Then a king rules over people? "
10 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
Over everybody ?-or only a part of the world ?"
"Can't be everybody," said Sam Dodd, musing, "'cause
there's none of 'em here. And besides, if there was a lot o'
kings trying' to rule over everybody, some on 'em would get
to fighting. "
"Yes," said the lady, "and so each king that is in the
world has a certain place or part of it, called his kingdom,
where he rules; and all the people that dwell there, are
called his subjects. These are the kingdoms of this
Again the cough sounded, and Mrs Kensett looked round.
"Who is that coughing ?" she said.
"Nothing but Molly," said Peter Limp.
"And who is Molly ? "
"Molly ?-that's one of our girls to home, Molly Limp,-
you can tell her noise 'most anywhere. She's hidin' round
here some place, for the story."
"But why don't she come and sit on the steps with the
rest ?" said Mrs Kensett.
Guess likely she's afeard," said Peter. She does be as
skeary as a woodchuck, mostly. I'll start her home "
"No, no!" said Mrs Kensett; "don't send her home.
$ring her here."
Well," said Peter, I can do that too, if that '1 suit."
And forthwith he darted round the corner of the church,
and having captured the small sun-bonnet that was hiding
there, brought it back-all limp and frightened-to the steps
at Mrs Kensett's feet.
Here she is !" he said,-" about as poor a sample of a
girl as they often get down to the museum. Now, you
Moll! you just take your finger out o' your mouth, and look
at the lady. And as you ain't got to look at pothin' else,
you won't care about that 'ere old sun-bonnet, I don't think.
Here goes !"-
And away sped the bonnet up into the tangled branches
of an old oak tree, that threw its flickering shadow across
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR.
Poor little Molly, thus robbed of all her defences, sat
frightened, trembling, and ready to cry, looking at anything
but the lady. A wan, elfish child, with long, matted hair
encumbering her face, and dark, shining eyes, that gleamed
out as from a thicket. Her frock was soiled, and fringed
with tatters, her little hands and feet were covered with
grimy dust. Mrs Kensett watched her silently at first, then
laid her own soft white hand upon the little begrimmed ones
that lay trembling in Molly's lap. The child started,
glanced up at the lady-glanced again,-and then, with a
bit of a stray smile breaking over her face, Molly clasped
her fingers tight round the stranger's hand, and prepared to
listen; her attention only disturbed, now and then, by that
The kingdoms of this world," said Mrs Kensett, have
each their king. But high over all these reigns One alone,-
far greater in power, far grander in glory; the King of the
whole earth shall He be called.' He rules by His power
for ever, even over the greatest of other kings ; He puts one
on the throne, and pulls down another. He makes one
poor and another rich; He kills and He makes alive."
Must be awful strong," said Peter Limp.
"Yes, He is mightier than all the people in all the world.
Now, other rulers often ill-treat their subjects, but this great
King loves every one of His. He wants them to be good,
He wants them to be happy, He wants to give them great
riches, and to put on them a most glorious dress; and He
has sent every one of them an invitation to a great feast,
that He will give one day in His kingdom."
"I guess I wish He ruled over me," said little Jemmy
Lucas. "He wouldn't have to ask twice, I can tell Him."
I s'pose they're all goin',?" said Peter Limp.
You may bet that," said Sam Dodd; folks ain't such
Some of them are going," said Mrs Kensett; and some
have refused, and some have not got their invitation. I
think you have never got yours, you children,-for the King
has asked every one of you to His feast, too."
12 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
"Well, I should say that was a story as is commonly
called by a shorter name," said Sam Dodd.
"I don't wonder you think so, at first," said Mrs Kensett,
"but it is quite true. I came here to-day to tell you about
"Be civil, Sam, can't ye ?" said Peter Limp. "None o'
your sarce, now. I wants to hear what she 'll say."
Say on," answered Sam, tossing his ball up and down.
"It'll be a cur'ous one, anyhow."
"Oh, it's a book story!" cried Jemmy Lucas, as Mrs
Kensett took a small volume from her pocket.
Yes, it is a book story; but every word of this book is
perfectly true. So now listen. 'The kingdom of heaven is
like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son.'
Every king on earth, as I told you, has a certain place or
part of the world where he rules; he is lord over all the
people that dwell there. But our story tells of another
kingdom,-what is that ?"
The kingdom of heaven," said little Molly, speaking up
for the first time.
You hush," said Peter Limp. "Who wants you to be
talking young one? Shut up, and behave."
I want her to talk," said Mrs Kensett, with a kind look
at little Molly, I want you all to ask questions and answer
mine; and Molly has answered right. The kingdom of
heaven,-who rules over that ?"
"I don't know-nor don't care," said Sam Dodd, tossing
his ball. Kings ain't much count, anyhow."
"The kings who reign over a country or a single city,"
said Mrs Kensett, "need not be much thought of by the
people who live elsewhere; they have little to do with each
other. But the kingdom of heaven belongs to a Sovereign
who rules over the whole earth too, the glorious One I told
you of just now. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords.
What is His name? do you know ?"
"Well, I don't," said Sam Dodd. Guess all this here's
a big part o' the story, ain't it ? "
"It is a true part," said the lady, gently. "But do none
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 13
of you know even the name of the great King of heaven and
"Guess not," said Jemmy Lucas, shaking his head;-
"you see there ain't much as we does know."
"I am afraid you hear His name so often, that you forget
what it means," said Mrs Kensett. I am afraid you speak
it carelessly a great many times every day. Think."
Do you mean God, ma'am said little Molly, in her
"Yes, I mean God," said Mrs Kensett; "'God who made
heaven and earth, the sea and all that in them is,'-that
great King who dwells in a brightness of glory, that is 'as
the sun shining in His strength.' "
Never heard Him called a King afore," said Sam Dodd,
carelessly. Heard His name often enough-you 're about
"Well, whenever you hear it again," said Mrs Kensett,
"remember that He is far, far greater than all other kings.
He has full power over every king and every subject-over
every man, woman, and child-in the whole world. He
made them all,-you, and me, and all the rest; and He
could take away our lives in a moment, if He chose. He
made the world, and can destroy it again. Take care how
you ever speak His name lightly, for He is 'a great Lord, a
mighty and a terrible.'"
Then don't He like to have 'em speak His name so?"
said little Molly.
"No, my child, it displeases Him very much."
They do it all the time down to father's," said the little
"'Tain't none o' your business if they do," said Sam Dodd,
sharply. If there was such ugly little pitchers round our
house, I'd cut their ears off, straight! "
"I can hardly begin to tell you how great God is," said
Mrs Kensett, holding little Molly's fingers closer in her own.
" Other kings reign for a few years, and then die, but the
Lord is 'King for ever and ever.' He is the King of glory,
and His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom."
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
What sort of a throne does He have ?" asked Jemmy
The Bible says that it is 'a glorious high throne,'-' high
and lifted up:' it tells of 'a rainbow round the throne,' of a
light that would blind our eyes to look upon. For 'the
Lord has prepared His throne in the heavens, and His
kingdom ruleth over all:' He is crowned with glory and
"That sounds mighty fine," said Peter Limp. "Never
heerd a word on it before."
Is it all very true, ma'am ?." said little Mary, timidly.
You ain't got much to do with it, if it is," said Sam
Dodd; "kings don't bother their heads along o' such con-
cerns as you."
The child broke into one of her heavy coughs, then turned
her eyes towards her friend, and waited for an answer. Mrs
Kensett folded the thin hands in hers, clasping them softly.
" It is true, every word of it," she repeated. But what you
say, Sam, is a complete mistake. The kings of this world
do -iot always think much about their subjects, but the
great King of heaven and earth never forgets for a moment
even the least and poorest of His. He sees everything you
do,; He hears everything you say; He knows everything you
"I say, I don't like that," said Peter Limp, doubtfully;
"I guess I ain't agoin' to believe it, nether."
It is so, whether you like it or not," said Mrs Kensett,
"because He is God. The Bible says that His eyes are in
every place, beholding the evil* and the good. Even the
darkness hideth not from Him."
S "I should like it if He'd take care of me in the dark,"
"But I guess He don't see down in our woods, does He '?
said Jemmy Lucas. The bushes is real thick."
"That makes no difference with God," said Mrs Kensett.
" He can see through the bushes as easily as you can through
a window, &ad you cannot whisper so low that He will not
hear. 'Can any hide himself in secret places, that I shall
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 15
not see him ? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and
earth ? saith the Lord.' This is what I want you to re-
member, that God is everywhere. Think of this, Molly,
when you are in the dark, and ask God to take care of you.
Think of it, boys, when you are hid away in the bushes, and
ask Him to keep you from displeasing Him in any way.
For when God sees people do wrong, it offends Him very
much. Now let us kneel down here together, and ask Him
to bless us and help us, that we may never offend Him any
In wondering curiosity the little outcasts looked onr, a
the strange lady knelt there in the old porch and spoke such
wonderful words. Words of entreaty that God would bless
these children; that He would make them all His own; that
He would make their little dark hearts all clean and new in
the blood of the Lord Jesus-not one of the children had
ever heard anything like it before. Even Sam Dodd stood
silent and still by her side when she rose up. The night
was falling fast now.
I must go," said Mrs Kensett, "I have a long walk home.
When shall we go on with our Bible story about the great
"We does play ball here, most nights," suggested Jemmy
"Do you ? then I will try and come most nights' too.
And down the winding path the little lady went in the
gathering twilight, while all the children scampered back to
So when the next afternoon began to stretch long shadows
across the valleys, and to light up the hills with that special
glory that comes towards the close of the day, Ms Kensett
set out again for the chosen meeting-ulace at the old church
16 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
door. It looked all deserted as yet, and for a while she sat
there quite alone-then one by one her little troop came in
It was a sorrowful thing to watch the motions of these
Vinegar Hill children, to see how in everything they acted
and looked like little outcasts. They did not walk boldly
up to the church as the village children would haye done;
following the path, and delighting in the sunshine, and stop-
ping to pick daisies by the way; but came stealing up like
wild rabbits, taking the cover of every bush, and seeming to
dodge those golden rays that filled the world with glory.
Mrs Kensett watched them from the corner of the church,
but quick as her eye was, it could not always tell how they
got from one point to another. A wild looking little head
would peer out of one clump of bushes, as if on the alert for
enemies, and then, in some mysterious way, it was suddenly
transferred to a bush still nearer the church, showing itself
there; so making approaches by zigzag degrees. Only little
Molly was not strong enough, or not wild enough for such
antics, and crept slowly and steadily up to the church. Mrs
Kensett looked, and tried to keep track of the youngsters,
but for a while-except Molly-she could not see one, and
then with a rush they were all upon her, their brown faces
gleaming with lawless fun. Then her start of surprise called
forth such a whoop and halloo and outburst of delight, that
Mrs Kensett felt half stunned, and had to steady her nerves
with a thought of the next words of her story: He sent
forth His servants to call them that were bidden." Bidden
to the feast as well as she. Oh, to persuade them to
So here you are," she said, holding out her hand to
Molly; "I wonder who can tell me what we talked about
yesterday ? "
"About the king," said Molly.
"It wasn't, either, said Jemmy Lucas. "It was about
God's being a king. I told my mother, and she said she'd
heard that once herself, a great while ago."
"Our story," said Mrs Kensett, "begins, you remember,
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 17
in this way: 'The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain
king which made a marriage for his son.'"
"The folks had one here a spell ago," said Peter Limp.
"My how they did go on!"
"They was all dressed up, you know, more'n common,"
said Jemmy Lucas ; "and then they went back to the house,
and the way the dishes chinked beat all."
"Well, when there is a marriage in a king's house," said
Mrs Kensett, they prepare more splendid things than I can
tell you. There is a great feast got ready, with every good
thing you can think of; and many of the dishes are of
gold and silver. And there is the sweetest music that men
can make; and throngs of people are invited; and they come
dressed in the richest and gayest way, because it is a very
"I guess the folks feel great that go," said Jemmy Lucas.
I suppose they do," said Mrs Kensett; whoever goes
to the king's house at such a time, will see many splendid
things. But God, the great King of all, has prepared things
which are so glorious that they would make you forget these
others in a minute ; and He has told us of a time and a place
where they may be seen. You see He tells us this story to
show how He feels towards us, and what He will do for us;
and also how a great many of us feel towards Him; for just
as earthly kings make a feast, and invite guests, so does God
invite us to the wonders and glories which He has prepared
in His kingdom."
Guess likely most folks don't hear Him," said Sam Dodd.
"How does He tell 'em, ma'am ?" said little Molly.
"Why, in the same sort of way that other kings tell their
wishes to their subjects," said Mrs Kensett; "He sends word
by His particular servants."
"What sort of a place is it, anyhow ?" asked Peter Limp.
A more glorious and wonderful place than anybody can
ever imagine," said Mrs Kensett. An earthly king may
have gold dishes on his table, and wear pearls on his dress;
but the very streets of the heavenly city are paved with gold,
and the foundations are laid in precious stones of all colours.
18 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
and every gate is of one pearl. And the brilliancy that shines
there is so great, that the city has no need of the sun; for
'the glory of God doth lighten it.' "
"I Id like to see it for once," said Jemmy Lucas.
"How would you like to live there ?" said Mrs Kensett.
Sam Dodd laughed scornfully.
"Why don't you ask him how he'd like to live in Squire
Townsend's big house and garden ?" he said.
"And the cherry orchard," said Peter Limp.
Why, there would be very little sense in such a question,"
said Mrs Kensett; for Squire Townsend is only a man, and
would never think of sharing his fine house with any one
else. Even if he let you come there for a little while and
take supper with him, he would send you away again. But
all who accept the Lord's invitation to His heavenly king-
dom, may dwell and rejoice there for ever."
"Well," said Jemmy Lucas, "I guess it ain't civil to say
I don't believe it, but it sounds pretty queer."
Do you know," said Mrs Kensett, at first I could not
believe it either ; I could not.think such glorious news could
be true. But then I found that it was written in the Bible,
which is the word of God, and not one of His words ever
makes the least mistake.
"Now this earthly king of whom our story tells, made
ready his feast; and when everything was done he 'sent
forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the
"That's plain enough," said Sam Dodd; "but who does
t'other one send, I should like to know ?"
"His servants. Just as the king did in the story."
Well, none of 'em ever came in my way"' said Sam Dodd,
"that's pretty plain."
Yes," said Mrs Kensett, "one of them comes to you now;
I am His servant."
But you ain't a servant," said little Molly, wonderingly.
"You'se a lady."
"The servants of God, my dear," said Mrs Kensett, "may
be called among men by a great many different names. They
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 19
may be kings themselves, or they may be poor unknown ser-
vants, or little children like you. Anybody can be a servant
What do they have to do, ma'am ?" said Jemmy Lucas.
"Whatever the Lord tells them," answered the lady.
"Sometimes it is one thing, sometimes another. But always,
every day, whatever their other work may bh He bids them
tell the truth, and to speak no bad words, and to help and
comfort other people, and to do nothing to other people which
they would not like those same people to do to them."
"Ain't many of 'em down our way, then," said Peter
Limp, with a low whistle. "I say, that ain't much like our
sort o' folks, Sam ?"
"Who cares 3" answered Sam Dodd, scornfully; what '
"Why," said Mrs Kensett, "the use is that if we are the
true servants of God, He will make us happy every day here,
and will take care of us, and bring us to live in His glorious
kingdom for ever when we die."
"That would do for me then," said little Molly. "They
does all say I 'm going' to die."
"Do for you!" said Sam Dodd, giving the child an impa-
tient push. "You'd look well, stuck up in anybody's king-
dom, you would Guess you'd get turned out faster'n you'd
"Listen," said Mrs Kensett, with a kind smile at the bright,
anxious eyes that sought an answer to every question in her
face: God loves you all, every one; and He wants you every
one to be His servants. There is no one too small, or too
poor, or too weak, to serve Him. Ask Him to help you, ask
Him to teach you how, for the sake of the Lord Jesus, and
He will surely hear."
She knelt down again, with the children round her, in the
porch of the old church; but when the praye~was ended,
it might be seen that Sam Dodd had silently crept away.
20 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
WHAT strange things there are in this world of ours! what
strange contrasts and combinations! to which we are yet so
used, that we half the time forget their strangeness. So
here, on this June evening, a little handful of waifs and
strays came trooping into the old porch, to hear how the
great King had invited every one of them to His kingdom
O Lord, I will praise Thy name, for Thou hast done won-
derful things !"
"You remember, children," so Mrs Kensett began, "that
the king had made a marriage for his son. A great enter-
tainment, with everything that was beautiful, and plea-
sant, and grand, which the king's wealth and power could
"I know!" said Jemmy Lucas. "I've seen 'em get mar-
ried, here in this very church-the rich folks; and it does
seem as if the whole church couldn't but just hold 'em,
they's so grand. They flings flowers down on the steps, and
they walks along right over 'em. And they's all white and
coloured, like it 'most puts your eyes out, only to look at
"And then they goes home, you know," said Peter Limp,
'and eats as if they hadn't never had anything' to eat afore,
and didn't expect to again. Guess I haven't been outside
and heard the dishes! And such singin' and dancin' !"
Well," said Mrs Kensett, a king's feast is much greater
even than these; but what the great King has prepared,
and what the glory of that day will be,-
'When all the saints get home,'
no one can even think.
It says in our story, that the king sent forth his servants
to call them that were bidden to the wedding. I suppose.
they had had a sort of general invitation before, and now the
servants went to remind them; but they would not come.
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR.
And the king was so kind and patient with them, that he
sent other servants, who could give his message better,
maybe-saying, 'Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my
oxen and my fatlings are ready; come unto the marriage.'"
"And then I s'pose they all hurried off, right away," said
No," said the lady, "'they made light of it,' treated the
whole matter as if it were a jest; 'and went their ways, one
to his farm, and another to his merchandise.' The whole
matter was too much of a trifle to interrupt their business,
even for an hour."
"After the king sent to them, and all!" said Peter
"Yes, after all that. So some of them did. 'And the
remnant'-the others-'took his servants, and entreated
them spitefully, and slew them.'
The good king's servants!" cried Molly.
"I 'd think they durstn't do it," said Peter Limp.
Don't you know that bad men will dare do almost any-
thing !" said Mrs Kensett. "And perhaps they thought the
king's palace was so far away, that he would never know
what they had done. But he knew everything."
"And didn't they want to go to the feast, ma'am?" said
Jemmy Lucas. That part of the story don't sound true."
They were wicked people," said Mrs Kensett, "and the
king was very good ; and so they did not care for his favour.
And to go to his feast, they must wash their hands, and
change their dress, and give up all their bad ways; so they
would not come. Some would have liked it well enough,
but they had a great deal of business on hand, and so they
'went their ways, one to his farm, and another to his mer-
chandise;' while the others killed the king's servants for
only bringing them his gracious invitation."
"And they didn't really want to go and see the king ."
said little Molly, with her wondering look.
"They did not want to go in the king's way, and at the
king's bidding," said Mrs Kensett; it must be when they
were ready-not when he was. When all their business was
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
finished up, and they could find nothing pleasant to do, then
maybe they would think of the king's invitation."
That wasn't very respectful," said Jemmy Lucas.
"No indeed. But some hated the king himself: 'the
remnant took his servants' (that is, those who .brought the
message), 'and spitefully entreated them.' These were
some who knew that they had displeased the king, and
never meant to obey him at all. And this is just the way
with the invitation which God, the great King of all, gives
to the people in this world. He invites them, He sends
word by His servants that all things are ready; He entreats
-yes, commands them to come. There are glorious dwell-
ings prepared in heaven, there is a wonderful feast laid there;
but some people say they are too busy to think of it, and
others are angry with those who bring the invitation. Many
a servant of the Lord has been killed by wicked men, for
just delivering his Master's message."
Ma'am," said little Molly, didn't anybody go ?"
When the king knew how his servants had been treated,"
said Mrs Kensett, "he was very angry; and he sent forth
his armies and destroyed those murderers, and burned up
their city.' And then he sent out his servants once more,
bidding them go everywhere to bring back guests to the
wedding. Into the poor, tumble-down houses, and along the
wild lanes and the crowded streets they went, and gathered
in the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind'
-all sorts, 'both bad and good.' But in that great king-
dom, and at that great feast, there was 'room enough and to
spare.' And one of the servants came to the king, saying:
'Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is
Why, there must have been room for everybody, I should
think!" said Jemmy Lucas.
Just so," said Mrs Kensett; "there was room for every-
"It was such a great feast! said little Molly, folding her-
hands, with a sigh.
"And such a good king," said Mrs Kensett. So when
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 23
the servant said this, he answered : 'Go out into the high-
ways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my
house may be filled.' Even the commonest beggar might
come; and those who had been overlooked before; and
those who lay starving by the wayside, having no. home.
And 'go quickly,' he had told his servants,-lose no time;
for some of these people were old, and some were hungry,
and many might die and not even know that the king had
"T'other people was just the biggest fools !" said Peter
Well, they didn't need to go, if they wasn't a mind to,"
said Sam Dodd, roughly.
No," said Mrs Kensett, "not if they did not choose. If
people do not wish to have God for their Friend, to have
Him to love them and take care of them; if they have no
wish to live for ever in His glorious kingdom, they need
"The king was wonderful good, no mistake," said Jemmy
Lucas; "and of course the people had oughter go, when he
sent for them; but I don't guess they liked it much, neither."
Why not ?" said Mrs Kensett.
"'Tain't so pleasant as you'd think, ma'am, to go 'mong
folks when you be's all pieces and patches," said Jemmy
Lucas, glancing down at his own trousers, though, to say
truth, patches were not the worst thing there.
Lady," said little Molly, did they go just as they was?"
"Ah," said Mrs Kensett, her eyes glittering with the
bright drops that flushed up into them, "the gracious king
took care of that! He knew how these poor beggars would
feel. He knew how their rags would look at his shining
court. He knew how their soiled and weary feet would
stumble and trip, and never be able to tread his golden
pavement. So he opened for them a fountain where they
might wash the stains away; and as each one came, there
was given to him a new robe, white and clean,'-' a raiment
of needlework,' with the king's own glory wrought thereon,
which the king himself had prepared for every one."
24 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
Little Molly Limp had been looking up and listening with
the intensest eagerness; but now her head dropped, and she
broke into a passion of quiet sobbing, weeping such tears of
longing, and need, and hopelessness, as were inexpressibly
touching. But Peter was roused to much indignation.
There he said, "guess that just comes o' bringing'
young ones where they ain't got no manner o' business.
Hot water enough to drown a cat as has got its eyes open!
You, Moll! shut up! 'Tain't none o' your concern what
kings and folks does."
Such a muss !" said Sam Dodd, contemptuously.
But Mrs Kensett got hold of the little hand, and stroked
"Why, Molly," she said, "it is all true; and you should
not cry about it, unless for joy. For all this-ah, and much
more-will God do for you and for me and for every one of
us, if we will let Him. He has invited us to come; He has
commanded us to come; and now we must beg Him to
bring us and lead us, because He is strong and we are very
Sam Dodd whistled and snapped his fingers, and turned
away; but the rest knelt down with their teacher, while she
prayed the Good Shepherd of the sheep to gather with His
arm all these little stray ones, so lost, so forlorn; and then,
bidding the children never forget the King's invitation, even
for an hour, she said good-night, and went her way.
THE next afternoon was rainy, and the next, but when yet
another had come softly round, the sun shone out bright
and strong, and the birds sang with all their hearts. The
children, too, played with all theirs, down in the village;
wherever there was a dry step for marbles, or a bit of green
grass for somersets and daisies, or an extra-sized mud-
STHE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 25
puddle for sailing boats. Dolls went dry-shod over the
muddy roads ; and kittens shook their soft paws disapprov-
ingly, at the touch; and little girls held up their short
frocks, already two feet above danger. As for the boys and
the dogs, they careered hither and thither, despising trifles,
and came home to tea a sight."
But it was not tea-time yet, and the Vinegar Hill children
had come stealing up as usual to their favourite playground,
and were playing ball with great zeal and spirit, looking
round the while for the lady." But she did not come.
"Guess she's got tired likely," said Peter Limp; "sort o'
tired of us, you know."
I'd like to hear all the rest o' the story, though," said
Jemmy. Lucas. And little Molly crept down to the stile,
and sat there to wait and watch with tearful eyes. Then
presently came running back in great haste and glee.
"She's a-comin' she's a-comin' 'way down there at
the foot of the hill."
What if she is ?" said Sam Dodd, roughly. "She's a
spoil-sport, that's what she is, and I just wish she was
"Why, don't you want to hear about the king said
No! and I don't mean to, neither," said Sam Dodd.
"What does she know about kings ? I say, I'm off."
But it ain't her, after all," said Peter Limp, coming down
from a branch of the oak tree to which he had swung him-
self up for a better view. It ain't her, but another woman.
What's she after, I wonder ?"
The children all stopped their play to look, as the woman
came on, across the stile and up to the steps. A neat, plea-
sant-faced person, and rather old.
Be you the little folks from Vinegar Hill ?" she asked,
catching her breath a little after the long ascent.
I rather suspect we are," said Sam Dodd. "If that's all
you've got on your mind, you can go to bed easy."
Thank you, it's not all," said the woman, her face look-
ing just as pleasant as ever. "I've got two or three things
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
more. My mistress, -that's Mrs Kensett, children; she
that's been teaching' of you here,-she's not well to-day, and
couldn't venture out. And maybe it won't do for her to-
morrow, just the same. So she wants you all to come down
to her house to tea, and she can talk to you there, better
and safer than in this atmospheric place."
"Why, I'm willing she should keep sick all the time, if
that's the game," said Peter Limp. "Hoorah !-goin' out
to tea and biscuits !"
Does she want me too ?" said little Molly, touching her
shy fingers to the woman's shawl.
"No, she don't," said Peter. "Babies not invited, nor
chickens, nor garden stuff generally."
"Are you Molly ? said the woman, bending her pleasant
eyes upon the child. "Then you're invited first of all.
'Molly must be sure to come,' Mrs Kensett said, 'because
she's sick and weak.'"
The child gave a little bound in her gladness of heart, and
Jemmy Lucas went head over heels down the steps, and
heels over head up again, in a way that was quite miracu-
lous. Sam Dodd alone looked sullen and sour.
Well," he said, "got through ? 'Cause we ain't,-and
we 're in a hurry."
She's got one thing more to say, you know," said Jemmy
And if your time's so very valuable, Sam, don't wait,"
said Peter Limp.
How they go on !" said the woman, speaking to herself,
but quite out loud, and looking round upon the wild little
group as if she had been in a menagerie of strange creatures.
"What sort of a road do you suppose, now, such intellectuals
travel? Well, I shan't take much of anybody's time,
little boy, though there is one thing more I had to say."
Why don't you say it, then ? asked Sam Dodd, gruffly.
"Nobody ain't a hinderin' of you."
"It's not so easy for anybody to do that-when I've
made up my mind to speak," said the woman, nodding her
head with a good-natured smile. But this is the thing.
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 27
T'other day when my mistress was here, talking to you
children, she dropped her pencil,-has any of you seen
"What sort of a pencil?" said Sam Dodd, lounging
round one of the white pillars of the porch. "Loads of
folks has pencils,-and loses 'em."
Oh, was it the beautiful one that sparkled at the end "
cried Jemmy Lucas.
"Sam exclaimed little Molly, I said it was like that!
-don't you know ? And you said it wasn't But Molly,
as the last eager words were spoken, turned pale, and
cowered where she stood. The woman saw this, and turned
quick about; yet saw only Sam Dodd lounging round his
pillar as before.
We'll all look, ma'am," said Peter Limp, but we hasn't
none of us seen it."
"Except in the lady's hand," corrected Jemmy Lucas.
And forthwith, and with evident goodwill, the little waifs
began the search-in every crack and cranny of the old
porch, and down the path, and among the thick grass.
Even Sam Dodd left his pillar, and pushed the grass right
and left with his foot, and turned aside the tufts of clover.
Only Molly, of all the group, stood still; her eyes following
Sam's every motion, her face white and troubled. Of all
this the woman took good note.
Poor little one," she said, patting Molly kindly on the
shoulder, what are you shivering about, this June weather ?
This world's a kind o' hard place for such as you. Come
here, boys; I'11 read to you a bit before I go, and then you
can look as much as you want to."
Oh, she's got a book in her pocket, too!" said Jemmy
Lucas. The woman smiled and nodded at him, then opened
her book and read-
And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it,
from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and
there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead,
small and great, stand before God; and the books were
opened; and another book was opened, which is the book
28 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
of life ; and the dead were judged out of those things which
were written in the books, according to their works."
"What was in those books, ma'am ?" asked Jemmy Lucas.
"All the things that you, and I, and everybody else in the
world has done," said the woman. "And you see, maybe
my mistress won't ever know now, for a while, what's be-
come of her pencil; but then she'll know, for it's all down
in the books."
Ma'am," said little Molly, in almost a whisper, who'll
sit on the white throne 3"
And the woman answered: "The great King of heaven
"And will the heaven and earth run away because they
are afraid ? asked Jemmy Lucas.
Yes," said the woman, but they can't go far. Good.
bye !" and with that she rose up and went steadily down
the little path, and was soon out of sight.
The children watched her, then went down on hands and
knees again in the grass; and Molly stole softly away
through the bushes towards Vinegar Hill. But as she went,
Sam Dodd came behind her with a bound.
"You Molly Limp he said, laying a firm grip on the
child's shoulder, "if you don't quit looking' at me, and mind
your own business, I'll put you where you 'll have enough
to see and plenty of time to see it. I'll fling you up into
the sky so high you won't never come down. D'ye hear ?
There you'll hang, and the stars'll come rollin' round you
to burn you up." And giving the frightened child a fierce
push which took her quite off her feet and sent her headlong
down the hill, Sam Dodd put his hands in his pockets, and
dived in among the bushes out of sight.
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 29
IT was rather a strange-looking little group that found its
way next day to Mrs Kensett's door; and the village people
looked and wondered. Not that such children were a par-
ticularly uncommon sight in the village. Sam Dodd and
his compeers were much in the habit of surveying by day
the apple-trees and melon patches which they meant to visit
by night; while a travelling show of any kind was pretty
sure to call out the Vinegar Hill population in force. But
to see a little knot of the young outcasts together, walking
quietly along the broad village street, that was a wonder.
They looked like themselves still,-out at elbows and out at
toes,' and somewhat brimless in the matter of hats; but
upon some of the faces and some of the hands were strange
tokens that the boys had broken caste, and made an attempt
at least to show what colour they were by nature.
Bad sign as the worthy farmer remarked to himself,
-he to whom Mrs Kensett had applied for directions that
first Sunday,-" those young vagabonds are plotting some-
thin' a little above the extra."
But an inquiry as to "what was on foot now ? brought
no more satisfaction than an extremely irreverent-
"Hullo old plough-tail, guess 'tain't none o' your busi-
ness,"-and the good farmer went his way, resolving to put
an extra lock on his garden before the sun should set.
Otherwise, if not spoken to, the children went on quietly
enough,-even a little shyly for them,-until they came to
the little'white fence and gate, with its enclosure of sweet
flowers, where Mrs Kensett lived. There the shyness reached
its full development; and they hung about the gate, and
peeped through the fence, and did everything but go in,
until the lady herself saw them from the window, and came
out to fetch them.
Were you ever in possession of some new pleasure which
seemed (as we say) "too good to be true?" So that the
very sweetness of it made the whole thing seem quite fabu-
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
lous and like a dream ? Just in such fashion felt the little
waifs from Vinegar Hill, as they entered Mrs Kensett's
parlour. For the rough words and scowling looks in the
village street they were ready enough ; all that was part of
their daily life, and gave them no manner of concern. But
the lady's bright smile and kind tones of welcome; the clean
room with its white matting and curtains; the pictures on
the wall, the books on the table, the roses pressing their
sweet faces in at the open window,-all these were utterly
bewildering. Peter Limp hung back, and stood on one foot,
and twisted his old hat into what was a new shape even for
it. Jemmy Lucas got no further than to open eyes and
mouth to their most wondering extent; and little Molly's
face settled into an expression of rapt happiness and de.
"But where are the rest ?" inquired Mrs Kensett, as she
watched the three who had come.
Oh, they's went about other business," explained Jemmy
Lucas. Jem Crook said he'd a sight rather go a-shootin'.
He could get supper enough at home, he said."
"And Tim Wiggins was a-cuttin' of the bushes down in
the holler," said Peter Limp. "They's going to try for a
And where is Sam ?"
Little Molly started and flushed.
I didn't hear him say nothing' about it, ma'am," she said,
"I did hear him say considerable," remarked Peter Limp.
"But guess likely the lady wouldn't care about hearing' of it
over. Rather tall talking it was, to tell her."
"Sam Dodd's as growly as an old cat!" said Jemmy
Lucas. "He just swore at me, up and down, for only
askin' him if he wasn't a-comin'."
He's no great loss, any-how," said Peter Limp. Guess
most of us can live through the want of him, if the lady
"Ah," said Mrs Kensett, sadly, I'm afraid I know why
Sam would not come I think I do not need to be told."
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 31
lady !" cried out little Molly; and then she stopped
and looked frightened.
"Never mind Sam, now," said her friend, kindly. "Put
your hats down out in the hall, and then -come and sit by
me, all of you, and we will have a talk before tea."
Down on the soft carpet, on the little foot cushions, or on
the edge of a chair, so sat the children; twisted, curled,
hanging about, like the knotty growth of a perverse apple-
tree, but without its quiet repose. More restless than the
smallest twig or the flightiest leaf on the tree, they went
from seat to seat, and from one position to another. But
the eyes were bright and the faces eager, waiting for the
"' And who is sufficient for these things ?' Mrs Kensett
thought, as she looked at them; then remembered, "Ye are
complete in Him."
You see how it was, children," she began ; "just as with
those boys whom I asked to come to tea, so with the people
that were bidden to the king's feast. 'They went their ways
-one to his farm, another to his merchandise,'-each one
choosing something else instead of the invitation, and going
off to seek his own pleasure or business in other ways. And
others still hated the king, and were angry with those who
even mentioned his name.
"Did all the other folks come, ma'am ?" said Molly:
"the poor folks, out o' the hedges ?"
The servants," said Mrs Kensett, followed exactly their
master's command; not seeking first the great or the wise,
or the rich people, but telling everybody they met the king's
message of grace. If they met a rich man, they told him;
but if it was a beggar, they told him too, no matter how
ragged or sick or ugly he might be. 'They gathered as
many as they found.'"
"Well, I should ha' thought the beggars would be afraid
to go," said Peter Limp; afraid o' bein' trapped, like, and
ashamed o' what they didn't have on. That's how I sh ild
feel. And I ain't so ragged another, but I ain't so fine."
Is that how you do feel ?" said Mrs Kensett. For the
32 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
great King invites you to-day, to come and be one of His
children. Will you go ? "
Go ?" said Peter Limp. "Guess there ain't no king as
would care much about seeing' me nowheres"
"This King does," said Mrs Kensett. "He loves you
every one, and wants you every one in His kingdom.
'There's room around thy Father's board
For thee and thousands more !"'
"Is that all of it, ma'am ?" said little Molly, as the lady
paused and looked at the children with her loving eyes.
"All of the hymn ?" she said. Oh no; you shall hear
'Come, sinners, to the gospel feast,
Oh come without delay,
For there is room in Jesus' breast
For all who will obey.
'There's room in God's eternal love
To save thy precious soul;
Room in the Spirit's grace above
To heal and make thee whole.
'There's room within the church redeem'd
With blood of Christ divine ;
Room in the white-robed throng convened,
For that dear soul of thine.
There 's room in heaven among the choir,
And harps, and crowns of gold,
And glorious palms of victory there,
And joys that ne'er were told.
'There 's room around thy Father's board.
For thee and thousands more,
Oh come and welcome to the Lord;
Yea, come this very hour.' "
"That's just what the servants told the king," remarked
Jemmy Lucas; "after they'd got so many people there,-
there was more room yet."
Yes, and so it will always be, as long as the world lasts,"
said Mrs Kensett. "Every day people are hearing the
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR.
message, and going to the King,' and yet there is room.'
There will always be a place for every one that comes."
"But how's we to go ?" said Peter Limp. "That 's what
I don't see."
How did you come here ? "
"'Why! we just set out and comedy replied Peter, with
"Well, first of all, you accepted my invitation; you deter-
mined that you would come."
SAnd then you set out, as you say, and took the road,
which you had been told led to my house."
"Yes! How did ye know ?" said Peter.
"And then, when you were in the road, you kept in it;
you did not take the highway which crosses down towards
the great city, nor the little by-lane which turns back to
Vinegar Hill, nor even the pretty path which runs away up
to your old playground by the church."
No," said Peter, with a laugh, "in course we didn't.
That wasn't the way to get here."
You wouldn't ha' seen us in some time if we had," said
"Well," said Mrs Kensett, "it is exactly so with going to
the great King. You must resolve to go, in the first place,
and you mustn't let either business or pleasure come in the
Neither bushes nor shooting, said Peter Limp, nodding
his head. "I see!"
"And then," said Mrs Kensett, "you must choose the
right road, and you must set out, and keep on."
"And then we '11 be there !" said Jemmy Lucas. "Well,
don't that sound easy, now !"
"And will the King take us to the feast, right away,
ma'am ?" said little Molly.
"When the servants in the story found guests for the
feast," said Mrs Kensett, you must not suppose that they
were all together. Some were very near, and had but a
short way to the king's house, while others must take a long
34 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
journey to get there. But that did not matter, so that they
all arrived safe."
And is it a long way we must go ?" said Molly.
"We do not know yet, little one," said her friend, gently;
"but our King knows, and He will take care of all that.
The thing we have to do is to walk in His ways, and be
ready. I suppose the people in the story set out for the
king's house just as soon as the servants called them.
Wherever they were, and whatever they were doing, they set
out at once."
"They wouldn't like to wait when the king had sent for
them," said Molly.
No, indeed. And so, if we mean to accept this invita-
tion of our God and King, if we want to dwell with Him in
His kingdom, we should set out at once. There is not a
minute to lose."
But how's we to know how ?" said Jemmy Lucas.
"You must beg of Him first to teach you," said Mrs
Kensett; you must ask Him to lead and bring you, as I
said before. And then remember, that every bad thing,
every wicked word and action, every naughty thought, are
all out of the King's highway. For the road to Him is
marked out with gentle words, and kind looks, and right
actions; and love and patience are like a hedge-row on either
"How's that, now ?" said Peter Limp. "'Pears as if I
understood-and yet I don't, neither."
"When you were coming here this afternoon," said Mrs
Kensett, "if you had seen a very muddy lane, full of dirty
houses and scolding people, would you have thought that
was the way to my house ?"
"Guess we'd ha' known better than that," said Peter
"Why not ?" said the lady.
"'Cause you's so clean and pretty, you know," said Jemmy
Lucas. "Why, I don't s'pose you could live a minute where
folks was fighting. "
"Well," said Mrs Kensett, never forget that everything
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 35
good leads to God, but everything bad leads right away
from Him. Pray to Him to keep you in the fight way."
Then Mrs Kensett rose up, and saying that they had
talked long enough for once, and that she would tell them
more another time, she took little Molly by the hand, and
led the way into the garden, .
Now the garden of this old house where Mrs Kensett spent
the summer, would not have pleased any regular gardener
that ever I saw. For it was old-fashioned, and had old-
fashioned flowers; and some of the walks were bordered
with currant bushes, and some with sweet balm; and there
was not a geranium, nor a fuchsia, nor a heliotrope to be
seen. Great damask roses were there with crimson cheeks ;
but they had no name in the gay world, and were only
"roses "-nothing more. And a fair white cousin of the
damask roses went twining about all over the fence, breath-
ing sweetness upon everybody who went by, but nobody
knew who she was. People only said, Oh, what a sweet
rose !" They never imagined for a moment that she might
be the aunt of Clara Sylvain," or the grandmother of
" Mme Bosanquet." So many roses, as well as people, live
unknown in the world.
Then there were lilies,-not the Japanese foreigners, gay
with spots and grand with hard names; but just "lilies,"
white and unspotted, lifting their pure heads far above the
brown earth. And there were pinks, fringed and fragrant;
and bitter southernwood, and spicy lavender, and rosemary,
and rue, and thyme. A little garden society where every-
body was nameless or forgotten or laid aside. And the
old walls had echoed with steps and voices that were long
since beyond the world's hearing; and the old fruit-trees
36 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
had showered down their wealth for more than one gene-
So up and down here went the children,-the little
strays from Vinegar Hill,-jumping, careering, or lost in
quiet admiration before some old-fashioned tuft of bloom.
For even the quietest people are generally imposing to some-
body; and the old sweet-williams were just as wonderful to
these children, as "Henderson's Perfection" or Hunt's
Auricula-flowered" would be to me. And a rose is a rose,
But the crowning wonder of the whole was at the farther
end ; for there, snugly hidden within an arbour, stood the
tea-table, with the shadows of the vine leaves playing
hide-and-seek upon its white cloth. And on the table
were such stores of good things; such piles of fruit and
cakes and biscuits, such pitchers of milk, such supply of
bread and butter; that it was quite impossible to think of
anything else for a single moment after that. The little
outcasts thought they were in a dream.
It was very real, though, when it came to eating the good
things,-plates were cleared and cups emptied in a way that
was not in the least dreamy and unsubstantial; and it
would have been hard to tell which enjoyed the fun most-
Mrs Kensett or the children.
But, I say! inquired Peter Limp, pausing midway in a
plate of strawberries, who got all these here notions to-
gether ? it must ha' took a sight o' money !"
Why, she did, in course," said Jemmy Lucas.
Then," said little Molly, "she's like the king."
"Guess she is, that's a fact," said Peter Limp; "only
we didn't want quite so much coaxin' as t'other folks. My I
wasn't Sam Dodd the biggest goose that ever walked?"
"I think he was afraid to come," said Mrs Kensett.
"Sam thought I was angry with him about something."
"Was you ?" asked little Molly, earnestly.
"No," said Mrs Kensett, "not angry, only sorry."
Then Molly crept up close to her friend's side, and whis-
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 37
I know why he didn't come, but I can't tell."
"No, don't tell," said Mrs Kensett, softly; "and I shall
not tell, either. Let us talk about the great King who has
invited us all to His kingdom and glory. Run up and down
the garden, children, and bring me the prettiest things you
can find, or the most curious things, or indeed anything you
like, and see what they will tell us about Him. For He made
"What, the hull o' the things ? said Peter Limp.
"Well, I'd just like to know how, that's all," said Jemmy
Lucas ; "but I don't guess you know that ?"
I do about some of the things," said Mrs Kensett; "you
go find them, and then we will see."
So the children rushed away; jumping over the bushes
rolling like a cartwheel along the walks, and turning head
over heels with great glee on every spot of green grass.
"This here's a place!" said Peter Limp, admiringly.
SGuess I wouldn't mind livin' here most of the time."
"I don't s'pose heaven's much prettier!" said little
Molly, stroking the red cheeks of a damask rose.
"It's got to be some bigger," said Jemmy Lucas, "or
there wouldn't be nigh room enough for everybody."
"Well, I wouldn't care if wasn'tt so mighty big," said
Peter Limp, rolling over and over upon the soft grass.
Some folks is just as well out as in, to my thinking Sam
Dodd, now-guess I could get along quite a spell without
"But if there wasn't room for everybody, t'other folks
might get in first and crowd you out," said Jemmy
"Trust 'em for that!" said Peter.
"But just s'pose'n it should get full, and we's be too
late!" said Molly-and with that her small face wrinkled
up and looked very dismal indeed.
Wish you was there this minute! blessed if I don't,"
said Peter Limp. "I say, you Moll! I just ain't agoin' to
have you bawlin' here, scaring' the birds. Take yerself off
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
to the lady, and find out if she knows how you was made,
for I'm a king myself if I do."
Molly shrank, as she always did from a quick word; and
gathering up a quantity of the crimson wind-scattered rose
leaves, she trotted off back to where Mrs Kensett sat, near
the table. And the tide of thoughts having now turned in
that direction, Jemmy Lucas picked up a white clam shell
from the strawberry bed and followed Molly; while Peter
Limp, having secured a large toad and put him in his pocket
with a knowing wink, came after-as grave as a judge.
Coming up first, with her hands full of the crimson leaves,
Molly poured them out in the lady's lap, and then seemed
to think they asked their own questions, for she said not a
word, except, indeed, with her eyes.
Oh, you want to know about the roses ?" said Mrs Ken-
sett, burying her hand in the soft heap. But run and pick
me a whole rose, Molly, and then you can hold it while I
talk about it.
"You see," she said, as the little girl came back with the
flower, "the Bible says that in the beginning God created
the heavens and the earth. There wasn't one of these things
that we see-not a flower, not a tree, not a stone, not a star
-and God made them all."
That's queer, too," said Peter Limp. "Like to know
what He had to work with !"
"He had His own wonderful power, and that was all,"
said Mrs Kensett. "< Men, you know, take something and
make something else out of it. The baker makes bread from
flour, and the miller makes flour from grain, and the tailor
makes coats out of cloth. But when there was nothing to
make anything of, in the beginning, then God made the
earth and the heavens. And at first the earth did not look
as it does now, but the waters were all over it like a flood ;
and it was quite dark."
Didn't He make the sun then, the first thing, so that He
could see to work ? said Jemmy Lucas.
Not for that," said Mrs Kensett ; God can see in what
we call darkness, just as well as in what we call light. And
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 39
at first He did not make the sun, only commanded that it
should be light: and it was so. And then He made the sky,
and then He gathered the waters away from off the face of
the earth, and let the dry land appear."
"Well, what did He do with the water, after He'd tooken
it up ? said Peter Limp.
Why, He left it in the seas and the rivers and the brooks,"
said the lady.
Had all the trees been kivered ip said Jemmy Lucas.
"Why, it must ha' made the grass too muddy for any
livin' cow to eat!" said Peter Limp.
"Oh, there were no cows," said Mrs Kensett; "and
there was no grass, and no trees. Nothing but brown
earth and blue water, and overhead the blue sky and white
clouds, for those were all that God had yet made. But
when the earth was dry, God said: 'Let the earth bring
forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-tree yield-
ing fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the
earth : and it was so.' At His command the grass sprang up,
and the flowers bloomed, and the fruit-trees set their fruit."
"Does He tell 'em to do it now?" said Molly, looking
down at the red rose leaves.
"Yes, it is all by His power and His command still. The
weakest little flower by the road-side is in God's care, and
the tallest tree gets all its strength from Him."
"But I say," said Jemmy Lucas, pulling out his shell,
"how did He make this here concern ?"
What, the clam shells said Mrs Kensett. You know a
queer little fish lives in them, but do you know where theylive "
"In the deep, deep sea," said Jemmy Lucas :. "my mother
says so. Why, she used to once sail round in a boat and
pick 'em up. And the water's as salt as anything."
"Well," said Mrs Kensett, "after God had gathered the
sea-water together into its place, so that the dry land ap-
peared; and when He had covered the earth with grass and
trees and flowers; then next of all He made the sun and the
moon and the stars, and placed them up in the sky to give
light upon the earth, and to divide the day from the night."
40 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
"How did they know when night come, afore that?"
asked Peter Limp. The chickens theirselves couldn't ha'
telled when to go to bed if there warn't no sun-down."
"Ah, but there were no chickens then," said Mrs Kensett,
"and no people: God had not made them yet. That came
next. When the sun was shining by day and the moon by
night, then God said: 'Let the waters bring forth abund-
antly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may
fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.'"
"Clams, and such ?." said Jemmy Lucas.
"Yes, and chickens and birds. 'God created great whales,
and every living creature that moveth, which the waters
brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged
fowl after his kind.' "
And with that Peter Limp pulled out his imprisoned toad,
and triumphantly flung him into the heap of rose leaves in
the lady's lap.
What d'ye say now ? he inquired. "Guess he warn't
one o' 'em. 'Tain't a bull-frog, ye see,-him's a toad."
Mrs Kensett saw that, very clearly And (strange as it
may seem) she was not particularly fond of toads; and had
received the intruder with a very unpleasant little thrill of
the nerves. However, she had too much presence of mind to
let that appear.
"Put him down on the ground, Peter," she said. "That
is where he belongs-not on my lap. No, the toads were
not made with the fishes, nor with the birds, but with man.
Five days, five portions of time, had passed by; each one
seeing some new wonder, some new treasure added to the
earth; and yet there were no animals walking upon the dry
land, and no man to enjoy it all. Then when the sixth day
came, God said: 'Let the earth bring forth abundantly,'-
before it had been the waters, but now the earth,-' cattle,
and creeping things, and beast of the earth, after his kind:
and it was so.' And then, Peter, the toads were made."
"And the men too ?" said Jemmy Lucas.
"Yes; man was made last of all."
"Well, if there warn't nobody at all in those days," said
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 41
Peter Limp, "guess I'd just like to know who telled about
"Why, the Lord himself," said Mrs Kensett; "nobody
could know so well as He who did it all. Afterwards, when
there were men on the earth, God told them about it, and
bade them write His words down. So that is the way we
come to have the Bible. God told different people what to
write,-things that He knew, things that He had done, things
that He would do, as well as things which they themselves
had seen and known; and so we call the Bible God's book,
-the word of God."
It was growing late now; the sun had dropped down be-
hind the hills, and the twilight was wrapping its soft curtains
round the sleepy little birds and the weary flowers. So Mrs
Kensett led her little troop back into the house, where they
picked up their ragged hats, and with a rush went out of the
garden gate and away towards Vinegar Hill.
"'BUT they made light of it !'" thought Mrs Kensett to her-
self, as she sat waiting for her little scholars the next fine even-
ing. The very brightness of June weather had succeeded
the days of rain, and the birds sang in the full joy of their
hearts, as if there had never been another June day in the
world. Yet through all the universal music, those words
seemed to ring in the lady's heart : "They made light of it,"
"they would not come." Her face drooped on her hands,
in earnest pleading.
Presently a little footstep came pattering round the church,
and Molly Limp crept close to her friend's side, and looked
at her with wistful eyes.
O Molly," broke out Mrs Kensett, taking the little girl's
hand in her own, "I was thinking, child, what shall I do
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
if you all refuse the Lord's gracious invitation ? There is
no one so good, there is no one so lovely as He,-how is it
that you do not love Him ?-all of you," she added, for the
others were gathering round. And human eyes so full of
pity had never looked on those children before.
"I love you," said little Molly Limp.
Well, we's don't know much about Him, you see, ma'am,"
said Jemmy Lucas.
"But think of this one thing which you do know," said
Mrs Kensett. "The Lord invites you to be His children;
He will give you a place in His heavenly kingdom, a seat at
His heavenly feast, if you will only come."
Queer stories you tell, I must say," remarked Sam Dodd,
whose dark face had suddenly appeared over the heads
of the little group; who knows they're true, to begin
"Why, I know, and so do a great many other people,"
said Mrs Kensett. "They are all written in God's book of
"Well, 1'll go," said little Molly, "only you see I don't
know where heaven is."
"Why, it's up in the sky, you goose!" said Peter Limp;
" and how anybody's to get there I'd just like to hear some-
"The Lord will take all His children there when they die,'
said Mrs Kensett.
"But I thought you said now," said Jemmy Lucas.
"No, don't you remember I told you yesterday that some
people would have a long journey before they got there ?
And some only a short one. All we have to do is to set out
at once, and then whenever the end comes the King will
receive us. How long would you wait, if an earthly king
had sent for you to come and live in his palace ?"
"Why, yesterday," put in Jemmy Lucas, "when we was
just a-goin' down to see you, ma'am, we was a-gettin' ready
all day Guess I washed my hands a matter o' six times-
"'And Molly, she just kep' her sun-bonnet on the whole
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR.
while," said Peter Limp. Warn't much getting' ready she
could do, but she done that, first rate."
"And just so I want you to prepare for the heavenly city,
-do every little thing you can think of to help on the way,
and set out at once. For this is what God tells us to do.
We must seek to please Him; we must obey Him; we must
think of Him as our King who rules over us, as our Heavenly
Father who loves us; we must love Him, and pray to Him,
begging Him to lead us, that we may not lose our way, and
to hold us up that we may not stumble, and to bring us safe
to His glorious kingdom."
"But I'd like to get there all at once !" said little Molly,
with a disappointed face.
We must stay in this world till the Lord takes us away,"
said Mrs Kensett, holding the child's little, thin hand in a
warm, soft clasp; "and He knows just the best time for
that. .But when we have set out for heaven, Molly, the
world will not seem like the same place that it did before.
Because if we love God, and know that He loves us, that
will make us happy all the day long. When we are in
trouble He will take care of us, and when we are in pain He
will comfort us. And the thought of our glorious home in
heaven will make us patient, even though our home here
be very poor."
I don't mind that so much," said Molly, wistfully, "but
I does ache so sometimes Will He help that ?"
Oh yes, He will help the pain, or He will help His little
child to bear it," said her friend. God never leaves His
children alone for a moment; so whether they live or die,
they are safe and happy in His care. And in heaven 'there
shall be no more sorrow nor crying; neither shall there be
any more pain.'"
"Well, Sam," said Peter Limp, nudging the elder boy,
who-half whistling, half listening-sat tossing his ball up and
down,-" feel to set right off ? Sounds kinder good, don't it."
That's according' as you look at things," said Sam, gruffly.
" Never did like to do as I was bid, myself, and the notion
ain't took me yet."
44 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
Guess I don't know 'zactly what I be's bid," said Peter,
with a puzzled look. "And I don't see how's a feller to
"The Bible will tell," said Mrs Kensett. "And if you
ask God, He will teach you."
Like enough !" said Sam, giving his ball a contemptuous
toss. But Bibles don't grow on Vinegar Hill, I guess.
And as to askin', like to know where I'd find a chance ?"
Well, there ain't much chance, you see, ma'am," explained
Jemmy Lucas. "They's allers drinking up there. And
they's allers swearin' down to Limp's. And we's so mortal
poor. Guess you wouldn't like Vinegar Hill much, ma'am."
Mrs Kensett paused, looking round upon the children with
eyes that made them all gaze at her.
Children," she began, listen. No matter who you are,
God commands you to serve Him. And no matter where
you live, you can always pray to Him in your hearts. There
is no one too weak for Him to help, there is no one too poor
to be His child. But then they must seek Him with all
their hearts. As for the Bibles, I'll bring some with me
sometime when I come, if you will promise to read them.
You remember what I told you the Bible is ?"
Things that God has done," said Jemmy Lucas.
"No," said Molly, "it's what He told the folks to write
about 'em. But I can't read 'em, ma'am," she said, wist-
"But I can," said Jemmy Lucas. "And I can read to
"And your father can sell it for rum, too," said Sam
Dodd. "That '11 be one of the things that'll be done, pretty
No, he won't, neither," said Jemmy Lucas. "See if I
don't keep it safe. And if he does, it'll be your father as
takes it, Sam Dodd !"
Sam gave a contemptuous laugh, swinging himself round
the porch posts, and keeping carefully on the outskirts of
the party, as he had done all along.
Don't make much odds," he said; "such beggars as you
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 45
ain't got enough to make it hardly worth while to keep what
they have got! "
"Jemmy !" said Mrs Kensett, laying her hand upon the
little boy's lips, and keeping back the angry words.that were
all ready to spring forth, hush you mustn't answer Sam
when he speaks so: that does not please the Lord. And
the best of all the things that you will find in your Bible,
will be how to please Him. Remember, the way to His
kingdom is not a road where people speak angry words or
do naughty actions ; that would be like taking the muddiest
lane you could find to reach my house. God says, 'Love
your enemies,' 'Do good to them that curse you.' He says,
'Swear not at all.' He says, 'Overcome evil with good."'
SBut you see, ma'am, it's part true," said the little boy,
bursting into tears, as Sam Dodd-with another ringing
laugh-bounded away down the hill. "We's just so poor
as he says."
"And old Dodd just does it too!" said Peter Limp. "It's
good Lucas can't sell Jemmy! Guess he would !"
Poor little Jemmy," said the lady, laying a gentle hand
on the boy's head. "But if Jemmy is not rich now, he can
learn how to be rich by and by; and if his father here
grieves him sometimes, he has all the more need to learn to
know and love his Father who is in heaven. And the Bible
will teach him all that. And soon he shall have one, if I
WHETHER the sweetness of the day had crept down even
into the bushes on Vinegar Hill, alluring out the little wild
creatures that dwelt there in the shade ; whether the thought
of the new Bibles was the attractive power,-certain it is,
that for a good hour before Mrs Kensett left her house, the
next afternoon, the children were all ready for her at the
46 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
church. They did not lose their time, however. Ball and
marbles went on with the utmost vigour; and if little Molly
Limp's old sun-bonnet survived its many flying jumps into
the tree branches, that could only be because it had passed
the point where sun-bonnets can improve or grow worse.
Molly herself sat very still, watching the winding path that
led up from the village; and was almost as little affected by
Sam Dodd's teasing work as was the old sun-bonnet. For
Sam was there, despite his scorn of Bibles-playing, and
hanging about, and plaguing all the smaller children. But
it might be noticed that to-day, as yesterday, he kept him-
self on the outside of the circle, far away from Mrs Kensett,
and at the end of the porch towards Vinegar Hill.
So at last the lady came up through the late sunshine, and
took her place among the children; only Sam Dodd seemed
careful to keep beyond her reach.. She did not notice this,
however, but began her talk just as usual.
"Children," she said, we come to the last part of my
story to-day, and it is the most important of all. Now tell
me first what you remember about the rest of it."
There's a great King," said little Molly, while the rest
considered; "and He's asked us all to come."
And you know," said Jemmy Lucas, there ain't any-
thin' in the hull world so grand as His feast 'll be."
And we've got to take the road that ain't muddy," said
Peter Limp. "So as we won't stick fast, like-and get all
"'Cause in course the King would have a good road to His
\ house," said Jemmy Lucas.
So good a King," said Mrs Kensett. "But what do you
* mean by a good road ?"
: "Why, a road where there ain't nothing' bad," said Jemmy
Lucas; "you know you's said the mud was like swearing'
and fighting' and tellin' lies."
"S'posin' folks lives in mud-up to their eyes ? said Sam
Dodd, with one of his sneering laughs, what then ?"
"If they live in the mud, and can't live anywhere else,"
said Mrs Kensett, "then they must walk softly, on tiptoe;
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 47
and the girls must hold up their dresses, and the boys must
roll up their trousers. And they must step on every little
stone and stick they can find, to raise them up. And they
must pray to the great King to make the place better, and,
most of all, to hold them up from falling, and to give them a
dress to which the mud will not stick. People who live in
the mud, Sam, may always make a clean way through it,
with God's help."
"I'm going' to tell mother every word !" said Jemmy
Lucas. That 's just what she's allers a-callin' Vinegar Hill
-it's a mud-hole, she says."
And you said, ma'am," put in little Molly, softly, "that
we was to set out right away, and the King wouldn't mind
how we was dressed."
No, not when you set out," said Mrs Kensett. "I didn't
tell you to wear a new sun-bonnet, Molly, when you came
to my house; and I let the boys come in their old jackets."
Guess likely we couldn't do no other," said Peter Limp.
" Shouldn't never ha' corned, likely, if we 'd waited to dress
No," said Mrs Kensett, I knew that, and so God knows
it about us. When the great king sent his servants to all
the people by the wayside and under the hedges, he knew
they must come just as they were. The beggars had nothing
but rags; and those that were lame must come upon crutches,
and the blind ones must feel their way along."
"Queer looking' set he must ha' had, I say," remarked Sam
Yes, when they set out," said Mrs Kensett. "But sup-
pose, children, that when you came to me, the other night,
I had meant to keep you always, to have you live with me,
and be my children ?"
Then guess likely we'd oughter been dressed up fine,"
said Peter Limp.
And so we couldn't ha' come," said Jemmy Lucas.
You see, ma'am, I hadn't nothing' !" said little Molly, with
her pitiful look.
"Well," said Mrs Kensett, "suppose I had sent you this
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
message: I know you have no clean clothes, children; but
set out just as you are, come straight to me, and I will give
you a new beautiful dress fit for my children to wear in my
house.' Then what ?"
"I shouldn't want none o' your old dresses, I know that,"
said Sam Dodd. I'm rich enough to get my own things;
and they're good enough for me, if they ain't for you."
Ah, but our own things can never be good enough to
wear at the King's feast," said Mrs Kensett, not if we wash
them ever so often, and mend them ever so well. In the
shining splendour of His kingdom they would be but rags
still. And therefore, in His great love, He offers us each a
complete new dress."
"Why, must all the folks be dressed alike?" said Jemmy
"In one way they must be," said Mrs Kensett; "they
must all wear something in which they shall be fit for the
"Comes awful hard on poor folks, don't it now ?" said
Peter Limp, shaking his head.
But then He '11 give 'em all they want !" said little Molly,
with sparkling eyes.
Yes," said Mrs Kensett, "He will give them all they
want-if they want it. But if people scorn it, as Sam does,
the King will let them take care of themselves. That hap-
pens sometimes. So it was in the story: 'When the king
came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not
on a wedding garment.' All the others had put on the shin-
ing dress which the king had provided for them, but this
man chose to present himself in his own old clothes. Just
so will it be in the kingdom of God: He will look to see
whether those who come are fit to dwell in His presence."
"Well, what sort of a dress did he give 'em ?" asked
You know," said Mrs Kensett, "the guests were gathered
out of the highway. They were toiling there, it may be, at
some hard labour; or they were lying there idly in some
misery, when the king's servants came: all rags, and dis-
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 49
eases, and dirt. I dare say the servants wondered how their
master could invite such creatures to his feast. And so the
Lord's gracious invitation finds us, children, some in sick-
ness and sorrow, some at work; and not one of us fit to
stand before Him a moment. Well, the king found that
most of these poor people had done what they could to get
ready, they had washed their old clothes in his fountain, and
they had tried hard to keep out of the mud, and they had
put on the glorious robes which he had provided. But one
man had ventured into the royal presence in all his soil and
in all his rags, just as the servants found him in the high-
way. The others were all white and shining, but he sat there
wrapped in an old tattered cloak."
"I shouldn't think he'd have dared !" said Molly.
"Guess likely the king was angry enough," said her
There are some people in the world now, who are just
like this man," said Mrs Kensett; they think they are good
enough for heaven just as they are. They need not set out
to serve God; they need not get ready to stand before Him.
If they are not quite what they ought to be, why, they think
the great King of heaven and earth will never notice such a
trifle. But, children, He sees everything. There seems to
have been but one unwashed guest at the feast, yet the king
"But I thought you was like the king ." said little Molly,
" and you's said we might come just as we was."
"Yes, for one afternoon," said Mrs Kensett. "But sup-
pose, as I said, that when you came, I had meant to keep
you to live with me always ?"
Oh, in course that would be different," said Peter Limp.
Guess likely we 'd ha' had to slick up, then."
But we 's couldn't !" said Jemmy Lucas.
And if I knew that, and if I was rich enough, then I
should have given you each a new, clean dress."
"And if we was stuck up, like, and wouldn't put it on,
then you wouldn't ha' kep' us," said Jemmy Lucas. "I see f
That's fair !"
50 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
"Well, what did t'other king say to the man ?" put in
Sam Dodd, flinging an old pine cone right at the head of
"You, Sam Dodd! quit that!" said the little boy.
"Reckon he'd be mad enough with you, wherever you was."
He said," answered Mrs Kensett: "'Friend, how camest
thou hither, not having on a wedding garment ?'
Why, that sounds real peaceable," said Peter Limp.
The king waited to hear the man's excuse. But 'he was
speechless,' he had none to give. Children, all the people in
the world will stand together before God, one day; and then,
if you are not ready for His glorious kingdom, what will you
answer when the Lord asks you why ?"
Why shouldn't I be ready, I 'd like to know ?" said Sam
"God is perfectly holy, and you are a sinner," said Mrs
Kensett; God is perfectly just, and you have disobeyed
Him a thousand times."
"Guess I'd tell Him I couldn't sort o' help it," said Peter
"Would that be true ?" said the lady. "Cannot you help
speaking bad words ? cannot you help doing wicked things ?
Remember, there is no use in telling God a lie."
"Well, I can't get ready," said little Molly, sobbing; "so
I guess the King will be angry with me. I don't know how,
and I 've nothing' to put on but this old frock."
"Little Molly, little Molly !" said her friend, tenderly,
"do you know that the Lord knows that ? He knew it when
He invited you to come. A great while ago He saw that none
of the people in this world were fit to stand in His presence :
neither you nor I, nor anybody else, have anything of our
own that we could wear. He knows all the bad thoughts
that are in our hearts, and all the naughty words that are
on our tongues: He knows that we are sinners, and can
never be anything but sinners without His help. Yet He
bids us come."
".I can't go, though," said Molly; "He 'd be angry."
"Ah, but the king was not angry with the poor, ragged
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR.
people who came," said Mrs Kensett; but only with those
who stayed away, and with the one who refused to have a
new dress. For see how God has loved us. He knew we
could never make ourselves fair and clean; He knew we
could never change our wicked hearts; and He therefore
opened a fountain where we may wash, and bought for us
each a new white robe."
Little Molly dried her eyes with her hand, and looked up
How s we to get it, though ?" said Peter Limp. "That's
what I don't see."
Just as you would in the other case," said Mrs Kensett;
"come and receive it, as you would if I had prepared one
for you at my house. Set out to seek the Lord and His
kingdom, and beg Him to give you all that you need, for
"Well, if this ain't a story !" said Sam Dodd, whistling.
"It's cur'ous enough," said Peter Limp, "but you ain't
got no business to say that to the lady"
Ma'am," said little Molly, "has God bought my frock
"Ah, yes !" said Mrs Kensett, with her loving eyes full
of gladness, "it is all bought and paid for, Molly-for you
and for me, and for all the rest! So may the Lord bring
us all to wear it in His kingdom, for our Lord Jesus' sake !"
" I off !" said Sam Dodd, as he saw the lady approaching.
"I'll give her the start, and let her get to the pine tree
yonder, and then see if I don't cut across to Vinegar Hill
afore she can go the other ten feet. She'll never walk herself
into a fortin'."
Why, her's sick-don't you know ?" said Jemmy Lucas.
"Better stay to home, then, and let well folks alone," said
52 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
Sam Dodd, scowling. If she had any airthly thing to do,
now, she wouldn't be so mortal fond o' us. Ain't had a
regular smashin' turn o' ball since she come, we ain't."
She's got the books !" cried little Molly.
"Much good they'll be to you !" said Sam Dodd, giving
Molly's head a sharp fillip; "you don't know whether B
means a bat or a bumble-bee."
Well, I do," said Jemmy Lucas, "and it don't mean nary
one on 'em. And I'll read to Molly, too, Sam Dodd."
Read away!" said Sam. It'll be comfortable for her
to have a book for you to read in, then, 'cause yer own won't
stay home-not two days."
Guess I'd just thank yer to let my sister alone, too,"
said Peter Limp.
"0 sugar and molasses !" said Sam. "But you see I
don't care about your thankin' me, not the crack of a whip.
I 'm one o' those folks as does things without looking' for no
thanks. Here comes yer schoolmarm, little chaps, so just
hand her over my love, and say as I couldn't possibly wait."
And Sam Dodd swung himself round the pillar, and down
upon the grass, and then rolled himself to the foot of the
slope towards Vinegar Hill, at a rate that nearly made his
"Where's him a-goin' now, I wonder ?" said Peter Limp,
looking after Sam with some envy and longing. "Guess I
might run and see, and be back in time, likely."
Oh, you wouldn't go away now, Peter ?" said little Molly;
"why, she's got the books !" And Peter yielded to that side
of the question, and forgot Sam.
"Little people," said Mrs Kensett, as she took her seat,
and setting her basket before her, you see I have brought
your Bibles. But before I let you have them, I want to see
if you know and remember what the Bible is, and what it
"You's said it was all true," said Jemmy Lucas.
"And God telled the folks what they was to write," said
little Molly. "About things He'd done, you know,"
"And about the great feast," said Peter Limp.
THE OLD CHURCH DOOR. 53
"Yes, so it is God's Word. It tells, too, how we can get
to His heavenly kingdom: what way we must go, what dress
we must wear. It tells how nobody can make himself fit
for the King's presence; and how He opened for us a foun-
tain, and purchased for each of us a robe. It tells also what
price was paid for all this."
"Must ha' cost a heap !" said Peter Limp.
Yes, more than you carl imagine," said Mrs Kensett.
"In the beginning, when God made all things, He saw that
each, as He made it, was very good. The flowers were good,
blooming out in the fairest colours, and breathing the sweet-
est scents; and the trees were good, taking the right shape,
and bearing the best fruit; the birds built their nests just
right, and sang their songs without a single false note. The
beasts, also, were all good and perfect according to their
kind, living and working and playing, as they were meant
to do. And when the first man and the first woman were
made, they were perfect too. God saw everything that He
had made, and, behold, it was very good.'"
Warn't there no bad people? asked Jemmy Lucas.
"Not one. But after a while the man and the woman
disobeyed God, and then they became sinners, and when sin
had once come into their hearts, there it stayed; and all their
children were sinners, and all the people in the world since
then have been sinners too."
They was wicked, like," said Peter Limp.
"Yes, it was as if some beautiful dress which God had
given them was all tattered and rent, and the colours all
faded out, and the clean, fresh stuff had become soiled, and
muddy, and foul. It was just like that, children, only very
much worse; for a soiled dress can be washed, but who can
make the heart clean, when once sin is there ? "
"Folks is pretty bad, sure enough," said Jemmy Lucas;
"they's horrid bad down our way; why, you couldn't begin
Well, who could make them all good ? said Mrs Ken-
sett; "who could make them stop speaking bad words, and
stealing, and fighting u"
54 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
"Tell you what," said Peter Limp, "you's just asked
the biggest sort of a poser! Why, I don't s'pose as the
hull world could do it-not if they was every one on 'em
Well, suppose the people themselves wanted to be good ?"
said Mrs Kensett.
"They might try," said Peter, reflectively. "That
couldn't hurt 'em."
"Suppose they tried, then," said the lady. "Suppose
every one mended up his clothes, and washed them as well
as he could,-would he be fit then to stand before the
King ? "
But the boys laughed derisively.
Guess likely you don't know much about the folks down
yonder!" said Peter Limp. "Some o' them clothes is past
"But, ma'am," said little Molly, "you's said the King
would give 'em a dress, every one."
Ah, that is it said Mrs Kensett ; "but for that, not
one of us could ever live in His kingdom. For, children,
though my dress may look clean and whole to you, I know
it is not fit to wear in the presence of the great King. If I
ventured before Him in any dress of my own, all He could
do would be to send me from His presence."
"What did the king do with t'other feller ?" said Jemmy
Just that," said Mrs Kensett. "'Then said the king to
the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away,
and cast him into outer darkness.'
He was just a big fool," said Peter Limp; why couldn't
he have took what the king give him? Didn't cost him
"I suppose he was too proud," said Mrs Kensett: he
would have liked better to buy it for himself. Or else he
thought if he took the dress, he must enter the king's ser-
vice, and he did not want to do that. Children, God knew
that we were not fit to come into His presence: He knew
that we could never make ourselves fit. There was sin in
THE OLD CHUTJCH DOOR. 55
our hearts, and not one of us was strong enough to take it
out. And God hates sin, and He could not have one bit of
it in His heavenly kingdom."
Like as t'other king couldn't stand the rags and mud,"
said Jemmy Lucas.
Yes, just so ; God must send us all away, and it is death
to be driven from His presence. And there was no man
that could help. Then the Son of God, our Lord Jesus
Christ, said, 'Lo, I come!' He who was perfectly holy,
came and opened a fountain where we might wash and be
clean; and that fountain was His own blood. With His
own life He bought the new robe which God offers to each
one of us. I told you it cost a great deal."
"But what made Him die ?1" said Jemmy Lucas.
"God was angry with us all for disobeying Him; He
would have punished us all; and then Jesus came and bore
our punishment; He died for us. He took a man's shape,
and was put to death here in the world; and now He is in
heaven, to do all things that we need. For His sake God
will send His Holy Spirit to take the evil out of our hearts,
to help us to serve and love Him; for His sake God will
blot all our sins out of His book, and will count us right-
eous only for His sake. As if we were to wash our poor
clothes in some glorious fountain, and hide them all with a
white, shining robe belonging to the King."
"I 'd like that," said Jemmy Lucas, "only I don't know
"You know how the men did in the story,-they took
what the king gave them, feeling sure they had nothing, and
could get nothing of their own."
I'd take it, ma'am," said little Molly. "But then I can't
tell the King, and He don't know."
Oh yes, He does! He knows every word you think;
He hears every word you say," said Mrs Kensett. "Tell
Him you want it, Molly ; tell Him you want to be forgiven,
and to be a pure and holy child ; tell Him you want to
dwell in His kingdom. Tell our dear King Jesus just what
you want, and He will give it to you; He will teach you to
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
understand it all. You may ask anything of the Lord, for
She took the little Bibles out of her basket, giving a blue
one to Molly, and a red one to Jemmy Lucas, and a green
one to Peter Limp. How beautiful they looked, with their
new, fresh covers, and the gilt edges glittered in the sun-
"Read them, study them, love them, children," she said;
"they will tell you about Jesus ; they will teach you how to
do His will; they will show how His love made Him come
and die for you. Read them, and pray every day that the
Lord would bring you safe to His heavenly kingdom for
Jesus' sake. Never forget how He loves you; never forget
that He knows everything you do, and hears every word you
say. Never forget that He hates sin. He can do every-
thing; in all your need, in all your trouble, in all your fear,
pray to Him."
Slowly Mrs Kensett went down the little path, though
the sun had set, and the twilight was deepening fast; but
wild little feet, and swift pattering steps, hurried in among
the bushes on Vinegar Hill.
( THE SEED IS THE WORD."
BY THE AUTHOR OF
"SUNDAY ALL THE WEEK," "LITTLE JACK'S FOUR LESSONS,"
"ELLEN MONTGOMERY'S BOOKSHELF," ETQ
JAMES NISBET & CO., 21 BERNERS STREET.
PRINTED BY BALLANTYNE AND COMPANY
EDINbURGH AND LONDON
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR.
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR
THOSE of you who have read The Old Church Door," will
doubtless remember Mrs Kensett, the kind lady who, like
her Master, "went about doing good;" sowing words of truth
and life wherever and whenever she could find a chance. And
you may perhaps like to know what became of all the good
seed which she scattered broadcast. For it is one thing to
plant in a trim little garden-bed, smooth and fenced in, easy
to watch and water and weed; and quite another to sow in
the broad, open field, where you can but fling the seed right
and left, and then leave it to the sunshine and the rain of
heaven. In those Eastern lands where this story of the sower
was written, the fields are not even enclosed, but stretch on
and on, in a sort of boundless way, till it seems, indeed, as
if the field were the world. Rocks start up in the midst of
it, and thorn-bushes strive for the possession of the good
ground, and right through the field runs the highway, with
its line of hard and waste soil. The seed falls there, as the
sower walks up and down-good seed, fit to yield a glorious
harvest; but it does not grow. "The fowls of the air come
and gather it up."
Did any of you children ever see a scarecrow ?-a tall,
ugly figure, made up of an old bonnet, and a ragged coat,
and a long stick-or some such fine materials-and set up
in a cornfield to wave to and fro in the summer wind. Did
60 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
you ever see a real man in such a field, hiding behind the
fence bushes with his gun ? Well, he was there to shoot
"the fowls of the air ;" and the tall, make-believe figure
was to scare them away; and perhaps some of you boys
have earned ten cents, now and then, by keeping watch over
the field, in place of the gun, or the scarecrow. For, when
the farmer has sowed good seed in his field, he knows well
that if those black fowls of the air come swooping down,
there will be hardly a grain left.
Just so when we have heard.good words of truth : when
some one has been telling us of God, and how to serve and
to love Him, then comes the devil, and sends a host of
wicked thoughts, and wicked feelings, and wicked imagina-
tions; and unless they are resisted and driven off, not one
of the good seeds will grow.
Ah, it is easy to watch the fenced field or the garden;
easy for kind parents and teachers to help the happy little
children to remember, and try, and persevere; but for those
wild, wayside places, trodden underfoot, untilled, uncared
for, those little waifs and strays who have not a kind friend
in the world, what shall guard the truth in their hearts if
perchance they hear it ? Who shall help them to resist the
devil ? Why, their homes are the constant abiding-place of
the fowls of the air.
Sam Dodd had very little idea that any good seed had
fallen on his heart, that first day when Mrs Kensett sat and
talked to the children; and still less, perhaps, did he know
the extremely wayside" condition his heart was in: how
open and exposed it was to those fowls of the air," that
are ever busy in all waste places. His mind full of evil
thoughts, his lips full of evil words; every good thing that
tried to lodge there was generally caught away in a moment.
No kind parent watched with his long gun of punishment;
no fear even of the law waved its ugly shape in the wind;
and as for watching himself to drive the birds away, that
was the last thing Sam had ever heard of. Everybody
seemed to like them where he lived; it was thought good
fun to entice them down, and see them do their work.
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR.
O those "fowls of the air!" how busy they were that
day And they took all manner of shapes, as they
swooped down to gather up the seed Mrs Kensett had
The first grain of good which lay on Sam's heart for
a while was a little bit of a thought how good it was of the
King to send him an invitation to His feast. All the way
down the hill that night Sam kept thinking of it; and when
he burst in, noisily as ever, at the door of his wretched
home, he thought of it more than ever. Yes, it was a very
wretched home, though perhaps not just the sort of one you
imagine. There are a great many kinds of wretched homes,
and this was one of the worst.
In the first place, however, which was all good as far as
it went, the house was the largest and best built of all the
houses on Vinegar Hill. It was painted red, with green
doors and window shutters; and all across the front was
a sort of long porch or piazza, with a wooden bench that
stretched from end to end. Round the door were some
half-dozen hitching-posts, and a wide open shed farther off
told of accommodation in bad weather. But to-night, in
the soft June twilight, there were several teams and saddle-
horses fastened to the posts by the door. And now, close
at hand, one could hear plain enough some of the sounds
which, even softened by distance, had made Mrs Kensett
feel sick at heart-loud oaths, and stormy contention, and
many a drunken laugh.
None of these stopped Sam: he was too well used to
them all. He burst in, as I said, with a whoop and a
halloo, among a posse of men that were sitting in the back
room. Ah, me! you would never have guessed in there
that it was June. Could roses grow in a world where such
scents were possible ? Could birds sing on an evening
when the air carried such sounds ? The room was so dark
with the smoke of a dozen pipes that the very candles burned
dim, and so foul with the fumes of whisky that you could
hardly draw your breath ; and not a word nor a laugh that
would not make you shiver. There sat poor Tim Lucas,
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
offering his shoes for another drink, and too far gone to
remember that he had parted with them already. There
sat many another, from the Hill and the village, some
richer, some poorer, but all sold into the chains of Satan,
and led captive at his will.
James Dodd, Sam's father, kept a steady head through it
all; watching his miserable guests; urging them on, now
with ridicule, now with praise; taking every sort -of pay-
ment for his draughts of poison; and putting Tim Lucas's
shoes in his closet, with as little remorse as he put Walter
Crook's money in his till.
I told you a little grain of good, a little thought of right,
had lodged in Sam's heart. He did not know it; and won-
dered to himself now, as he went in, what made the room
look so much darker and uglier than ever before. He had
seen it in that state a thousand times. But how ugly it did
all look, to be sure! And Sam thought curiously of Mrs
Kensett's description of the King's feast. Everybody was
asked,-so she had said: and some people were going,-she
said that too; and Sam thought to himself, as he had be-
fore, that no one could be such a fool as to stay away. But
then he was asked too so she had declared, and yet he was
not going; he did not feel so. Sam found the subject quite
too large for that smoky room : he took up a bit of stick,
and, going out to the door-step, sat down and began to
"Why, in course !" he broke out after a while, "that's
just where it is. I ain't a-goin', so it stands to reason I
ain't asked." And Sam threw off the light shavings with
greater exactness than ever.
Wonder if He does see down here now ?" the boy began
again, as a storm of foul words burst forth through the
open windows. Or hear what's going' on ? I know I
wouldn't listen, if I was Him, if I didn't like it no better
than she says He don't. What 'ud a king want with the
like o' us ?" Sam went on, contemptuously. Why, if even
the gov'nor knew where half o' them fellers was, they'd
every one on 'em be took up afore you could count ten.
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR.
'Twouldn't be much loss, you know, to nobody else, but
still it ain't exactly the kind o' invitations she was a-tellin'
of. Feastin' of 'em too! My! ain't some folks just the
easiest gulled! Did sound kinder pleasant, though," said
Sam, relenting a little. "I say, I shouldn't mind goin'--not
if it was true. Wonder who telled her ? Them 'ere slicked-
up folks allers does make believe they knows more'n
They ain't a-talkin' so very low just now. Guess if He
can hear whispers, it 's likely He heard that," said Sam, with
another glance into the noisy room. We was to think of
it when we was hid away in the bushes. Guess as how
I '11 get a little farther off."
And Sam rose up from the stone step, and lounged away
into the dark thicket that lay all round the house.
Sam! Sam Dodd! be's that you ?" called a stealthy
voice from out the bushes.
O' course," said Sam, gruffly. What wickedness is you
up to now, Tim Wiggins? "
"Wickedness! said the boy, mockingly, and sidling up
to Sam. "That's a sort o' new-fashioned word out o' your
mouth, ain't it, Sam Dodd ? Wouldn't wonder, now, if you
warn't a-thinkin' o' what the old woman said, up to the
church. Oh dear !"
"None o' your business, anyhow," said Sam, fiercely.
' I ain't, nuther, and that's more."
Dear me! said the other boy. "He's sure o'
Sure as you are to have your head knocked off, if you
don't behave," said Sam Dodd. What's to pay in the
bushes to-night ? Is't you after the sheriff, or the sheriff
after you? 'Cause I'll bear a hand, if that's it."
"Nary one," said the boy, linking his arm in Sam's.
"Come now, keep a cool tongue, can't ye ? I'm just getting'
a small job ready for him, that's all."
"Oh, is that all ?" said Sam. "I shouldn't call you
much of a job, any day, Tim."
"'Tain't me, you fool," said the other. "It's Farmer
64 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
Graves's chickens. Them 'ere young fat ones as he sets such
What, the ones in the boxes ? said Sam. "They're all
safe enough. Why, his wife's got 'em set round right under
her bedroom winder."
So as she could hear 'em if they cried in the night," said
Tim Wiggins. "Guess I knows where they be. And
whether they're fat, too. Why, I've felt o' them chickens
once a week regular ever sen' they came out o' the shell."
And they're fat now, are they ?" said Sam.
A ," answered the other. "There's a dozen on 'em,
Sam, just six a-piece."
"Supposin' I take 'em ? said Sam.
"Supposin' you ain't turned chicken yerself, to make the
thirteenth," said Tim Wiggins. Why, I say that talk up
yonder to the church made me so hungry I couldn't hardly
"Feared you don't get much to eat down your way," said
Sam, coolly. "1 ain't forgot my dinner yet. Hows'ever, I
don't often make objections to a chicken supper. But I tell
you what, Tim Wiggins, old Graves keeps a gun."
Let him keep it! he's welcome," said the other, with a
sneer. "Guess I ain't green enough to stand out in the
moonlight to be shot. He can blaze away just as powerful
as he's a mind ter. Won't hurt me none, nor the dear little
chickens he's so fond of. They 'll hev' their feeling's all
locked up and packed away, afore that old gun's loaded.
But I say, Sam, be you a-goin' ? or. ain't you quite got
through meditation' yet ?"
For all answer to which Sam knocked off his companion's
hat, and then engaged him in a rousing scuffle; which being
well over, with a wild, whooping halloo, the two boys dashed
away into the night, and the echoes of Vinegar Hill sank
down once more, and were stilL
"Unl-r "ver f the ~ it, t e t
,3s it~ :'3" 1
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 65
UNDER cover of the night, now, the two boys stole on, softly
as two cushion-shod cats; hushing their voices when once
beyond the bounds of Vinegar Hill, and keeping in the
shadow of fences, barns, trees, and hedges, wherever they
could be found. For although the moon rose late this night,
yet already there came up a warning glory of her approach,
chasing and rebuking the works of darkness.
Silently the boys crept along, but swiftly too ; moving with
so exactly the same impulse, turning and winding and stoop-
ing at so exactly the same points, that one might fancy not
only that each knew the way, but that they had often
travelled it before together. Ah, where had not those two
boys been together, under cover of the night ?
"I say," whispered Tim Wiggins, as they reached the
farm, they's up yet !"
Old woman's give him a better supper'n common, bein'
as it's Sunday," growled Sam. "Moon's coming' up, too,
and that's more."
Let her come," said Tim Wiggins. "'Tain't the first time
I've seen her white phiz, by several. It's too confounded
dark round where the coops is, t'other side, to see much-if
there was twenty moons."
Guess you 'll find one '11 make it light enough to do your
business," said Sam Dodd. Old Graves ain't perticklar
about seeing' the hull of a bush afore he lets fly."
"I just wish you was home and abed, tucked in said
Tim Wiggins, impatiently. "'Tis kinder late for babies to
be out. Moonlight's ketchin', too, I've heerd tell."
"You mind yer own business, Tim Wiggins," said Sam,
fiercely, "'cause if I have to take it in hand, it '11 be so well
done that there won't be nothing' left for you to do never
Oh dear sneered Tim. There the light's out! and
it won't take 'em two seconds to get asleep, 'cause they ain't
66 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
more'n half awake none o' the time. Now, Sam, for
Sam made no answer. But as they crept softly round the
house, making a careful examination on all sides, there
came over him again the thought of the afternoon's talk-
of the words of the lady's prayer. The feast which the
King had made,-what a thing that would be!
And what did He think of this way people took-to get a
feast for themselves ? "He sees you, boys, wherever you
are,"-so the lady had said. Sam shivered a little, and felt
for a minute as if there were, indeed, twenty moons."
Everything was very quiet within doors; the silence
almost seemed to make Tim's words good; and without
there was nothing louder than the soft hum of summer in-
sects, and the cry of the night-hawk, and the distant rush
and murmur of a little brook. The leaves waved gently in
their June freshness; the blades of grass held their dewy
crowns erect; the shadows changed and softened every
moment with the coming light of the moon. The dark out-
line of the chicken-coops could but just be seen. But with
one glimpse of them, Sam Dodd was himself again,
"Tell you what," he whispered, let's take 'em up, coops
and all, down into the woods yonder."
Won't do," said Tim. Coops might be weightier'n we
thought,-and you kin shake chickens awake in a jiffy. Or
they's might be fast to the ground with stakes. Just you
hold the bag, Sam, and I'11 choke 'em so easy they '11 all
think.they's dreamin' o' biled pertaters."
Down on the grass knelt Sam, holding the bag wide open,
while Tim-having with great care pulled up the one mova-
ble slat of the coop-put in his hand and began the work.
With infinite skill he contrived to seize each chicken by the
neck, holding it so tight, that not an outcry could be made,
until with a dexterous twist, he put outcries quite out of the
question. One coop was emptied, and another but in the
third, an adventurous young cockerel, having caught
one gleam of the moonlight, opened his mouth and hal-
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 67
"Blast him," muttered Tim Wiggins, savagely, our fun's
up. I '11 stop his noise, though."
But the young cock, throttled midway in another jubilee
crow, broke down in so extraordinary a manner, with such a
very alarming blast of his trumpet, that the boys caught up
their bag and darted round the house, then stopped to
Slowly up went the window, creaking and rattling as if
that were an exercise to which it was not well fitted. Then
Well, I'm sure I did hear a noise among the chickens,"
said the voice of Mrs Graves.
Just the moon," said the farmer, sleepily. "Always do
feel called upon to crow when the moon comes up-whether
it 's three o'clock, or two o'clock, or eleven o'clock. Don't
make no sort o' odds."
But they're not crowing," said Mrs Graves.
Ain't no breed o' chickens as crows all the time," said
the farmer. "Not so fur's I know. And I'm sure that's a
Well, it didn't sound like a crow, one bit," said Mrs
Graves. "It was a scream. I wouldn't wonder if that
brown mink was there again."
Couldn't get in, if he was," said the farmer ; "I fastened
up them coops myself, and didn't leave door-room enough
for a weasel, not to say a mink."
"Why don't they crow again, then ?" said his wife,
straining her eyes and ears to make out something from the
Mooh's an old story, now," said Mr Graves, yawning.
"Might keep on till daylight, if it warn't."
What 's that down among the bushes ?" said the sharp-
eyed little woman, leaning out of the window. I do be-
lieve, Ahab, it's that mink Shoo! shoo get out!" And
Mrs Graves clapped her hands vehemently. The farmer
"They do tell about ketchin' a weasel asleep in a stone
wall," he said, "but 'tis the first time I-or anybody else-
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
ever see a mink walking' round in the moonshine to be looked
"But I saw him said Mrs Graves. I'm sure I did."
"Seein' him's a sartain sure sign he ain't there said the
farmer, decidedly. "II'll get the gun and bring down some
o' them 'ere bushes, if it'll content ye,-though 'tain't con-
sidered just the best way o' prunin' 'em, likely."
Shoo! shoo !" repeated Mrs Graves, pounding upon the
clapboards with her little hands. There, I guess I've
scared him, so he won't come back to-night, any way. But
if it's all right, Ahab, why are the coops all so quiet ?"
I s'pose a woman could be answered, sometimes," said Mr
Graves, if so be as she 'd ever stand still for two minutes
together But what a man's to do with both sides of a
question to once, is more'n I know. First, the coops is noisy
-then they's quiet; first, the chickens cries out-then they
don't. And nary one suits her! I'm a-goin' to bed.
Wouldn't keep awake no longer for all the plaguy minks in
"Well, let's go down and just walk round the house
first," said Mrs Graves, pounding on the clapboards.
" Shoo! shoo !"
What followed upon that, the two boys did not hear.
Hastily lifting their bag of ill-gotten game, they stole away
from the cover of the house to that of the nearest bush, and
so went on, running like partridges, doubling like hares, till
the village itself was left behind, and they were safe in the
murky shadows of Vinegar Hill.
"Now we'11 just rest a bit," said Tim Wiggins, letting
down the bag. "My! I wonder if that old feller's got round
the house yet Tell you what, if she'd had the gun, she'd
ha' blowed every one o' them chicken-coops clean away."
How many have we got ? whispered Sam.
"Don' know,-bag's pretty heavy. Guess we'd just as
good sit down here and divide. One's mine for finding' and
planning ; and two's mine for the bag; and three's mine for
the throttlin'; and four's mine, to begin. Go ahead."
Sam looked on, scowling, while his companion threw four
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 69
chickens in a heap at his feet; but as the facts were not to
be denied, thieves' honour bade him submit. He thrust his
hand into the bag without a word, pulling out a plump
Five's yourn," said Tim, and six is mine. And seven's
yourn agin, and eight's mine. And nine's yourn, and ten's
mine,-and 'leven's mine. Lucky there ain't nary odd one,
or we 'd have to fight for it, sure as guns," said Tim, coolly
throwing his lion's share back into the bag. "Was another,
"Yes, and you dropped it," said Sam Dodd, fiercely.
" You was so scared, when you run, you just flung it away."
"Why didn't you pick it up, then?" said Tim, with a
I say, hand out another o' them birds," said Sam, giving
Tim a cuff.
Help yourself !" replied Tim, swinging his bag round
with such force, that Sam measured his length on the ground.
And before he could pick himself up again, Tim was gone.
Worse than that, one of Sam's chickens went with him.
Sam turned them over in the moonlight.
"Five was mine,-one; and seven's two,-and nine was
three,-and that's gone Eight o' his own, and one o' mine."
With a fierce oath, Sam caught up the two solitary
chickens, and flung them from him as far as his strength
could throw; then walked slowly along towards home. The
moon was well up now, pouring a flood of soft light in among
the bushes, rounding out the shadow of each in darker and
sharper lines. The light wrapped up Sam himself, shone in
his eyes, made the ground startlingly white and sparkling
before his feet. Sam scowled, and muttered between his
teeth, and then fairly dodged the fair line; darting from
bush to bush, and keeping now in the thick shade. But it
did not seem to make much difference, after all. To be
sure, the moon didn't look straight in his eyes; but when-
ever he looked out from the bushes, there was her bright
face shining down as clear as ever. What was that the lady
had said ?
70 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
Think of it, boys, when you are hid away in the bushes."
Sam started on a full run, and never stopped till he was
in the very midst of the smoky carouse, which was still
going on at his father's house. In the midst of it, taking
part in it, steadying his nerves with the bold wickedness of
those who were older than himself, both in years and sin.
You would wonder, perhaps, how it was that Sam Dodd
went up with the rest to the old church next day, and I
don't suppose he could have told himself. Tim Wiggins did
not go,-perhaps that was one reason; for Tim's face and
words and manner, whenever Sam met him that day, had
been particularly irritating.
"Say, Sammy," he would begin, had a first-rate broil for
breakfast! How 's yourn ? Eat tender, did they ?"
Or, "Sam, how's yer head after that 'ere moonshine?
Made ye look kinder streaked, didn't it ? "
S'pose yer goin' to tell the old woman up yonder as how
you didn't sleep well, and got a headache. Just give her my
love, and tell her I's made over all my share o' t'other feast
"None o' yer business," Sam would answer, angrily. Tell
ye I ain't a-goin' near her." But when the afternoon came,
he did. Something in the strange words attracted him,
something in the gentle voice drew him; but oh, what a "way-
side" heart it was, on which the good seed fell! So grown
up to weeds, so thronged with evil thoughts and feelings and
desires! Children, pray most of all for those who seem to
have no good in them, for they need it most of all. And
the prayer of faith has power, even against "the fowls of
the air" and their prince.
Everything in Sam's heart was adverse tlht day. When
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 71
he saw the lady in the distance, waiting in the porch, there
came over him a great desire to aim at her with a stone, and
knock her bonnet off, regardless of her head. But Jemmy
Lucas was so close at hand, that Sam thought, on the whole,
it might not be prudent. So he contented himself with
knocking off Jemmy's cap, and then rushing into the porch
with the shrillest whistle that even his well-trained organs
could produce. And when she started, his laugh was the
loudest, his whoop of satisfaction the most overpowering.
Hanging about the old pillars, climbing into the old tree,
pinching Jemmy Lucas, and tickling Peter Limp, and making
faces at little Molly; so Sam Dodd listened. And yet (you
would hardly believe it) he heard every word that Mrs Ken-
sett said. The golden dishes and gay dresses and sweet
music that graced the King's feast ; the greater splendour, the
unimaginable glories of the heavenly kingdom. Sam lost
not a word. How like music the mere thoughts were!
"Every gate was of one pearl,"-and "the city had no need
of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it; for the glory.
of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."
Sam did not understand it all; the words of the music were
strange words; and yet the sweet, clear notes somehow
echoed down in his heart.
"Anybody can be a servant of God," so she said; "and
He bids them tell the truth, and speak no bad words, and to
help other people."
Sam swung himself round and round the pillar, then
straightened himself up, scowling-
"Now that's just what I ain't a-goin' to do," he muttered,
" nor to be, nuther. Who wants to be took care of, I'd like
to know ? Guess when I'm anybody's servant he'll know
it: and I too."
Again the words fell sweet and soft-
God loves you, every one. Ask Him to help you."
Sam paused, then as the others knelt down around their
teacher, he spoke an oath between his teeth, and turned
away. The good seed lay scattered, and the fowls of the air
came down and gathered it up.
72 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
"Easy talking! said Sam to himself. "Guess if Idon't know
a trick worth two o' that, I am smart. I want something' right
straight off now, to take the taste o' them kings out o' my
mouth." Sam sat down on the grass to think and ponder,
while the night fell, and the stars came out in their summer
glory. The rest of the little hearers had long ago gone home.
"I owes every one on 'em a turn," said Sam to himself.
"Sneakin' round up there, and making' believe to be-better'n
they are. They setting' up to find the King!" Sam
chuckled bitterly. "There's that young 'un now,-guess
I'll begin with her."
Sam started to his feet, and went noiselessly threading his
way among bushes and houses, till he came to Limp's cot-
tage, which lay far away down at the very bottom of the
hill. The owner of course was not at home,-he rarely was at
that time of night. You might have found him, perhaps, in the
drinking party down at James Dodd's; or, more likely still,
in some dark nook of the outside world, deep in consultation
with John Crooks. He was off somewhere; and in the one
small room which his house contained, Mrs Limp sat, mend-
ing his jacket. The smallest and dimmest of tallow candles
gleamed faintly through its own smoke like an exhausted
fire-fly; the smallest and puniest of babies wailed wearily
on the wretched bed. And Mrs Limp sang scraps of lulla-
bies, and plied her needle, and drew sighs a fathom deep.
And at the slightest' sound the needle redoubled its efforts,
as if the temper of the absent Mr Limp was a somewhat
doubtful thing, where his mending was concerned. The air
of the room was close and foul and hot; heavy with bad to-
bacco and bad whisky; reeking with the fumes of the supper
and the heat of the little stove.
Outside, on the door-step, sat Molly and Peter, talking in
the soft twilight ; and they too kept watch, ready to scamper
away at the least alarm. But one of the crickets in the
grass could hardly have moved with lighter feet than Sam
Dodd, as he crept up to listen.
You see, Molly," Peter was saying, "'tain't an over and
above sort o' place as we lives in here; and folks ain't
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR.
more'n common fond o' me and you,-so guess likely they
wouldn't none on 'em break their hearts with mission' of us.
You ain't no 'count, anyhow."
"But then I don't know whatever the
with me," said poor Molly, wistfully.
King would do
" No more don't I," said Peter,-" blessed if I do.
tell you what I did hear, once, Moll,-some o' them rich
folk's kinder squeamish like, and they don't like to kill off
their old sick horses, and sich; so they has a field a purpose
to turn 'em into, and let's 'em die off natural. My !" said
Peter, reflectingly, why, there's enough weakly young uns
here in Vinegar Hill to stock a farm!"
Molly was silent a little; the prospect did not look hope-
" But that don't sound like what the lady said,
"No more it don't," said Peter, shaking his head. "But
how it's different, Moll, I can't tell ye; so don't ye go for to
"'God loves you all'-that's how she
said," said little
thinking. 'He wants you every one to be His ser-
But servants has to work, Peter, so I'd have to be
all different, you see."
"Guess likely," replied Peter.
"Well, maybe He'd cure
ye up if you once got there."
Oh, I wish I was there now !" said Molly, with a long
sigh; "I'm so tired, Peter."
Shouldn't wonder if you was," said Peter, assentingly.
"Well, you might start right off, if you'd a mind ter."
"But I forget!" said Molly, I forget how."
"What, don't you remember nothing' ?"
" Only what I said.
She said tha
'And there's no one too small, or
Lt. And oh, I remember now !" said
Molly, with a cry of joy. She said, 'Ask Him to help you,
ask Him to teach you how.' "
So she did," said Peter. "And she said for somebody's
"But I know she said the
that," said M~olly,
74 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
t'other." And putting her hands together pleadingly, little
Molly looked out into the darkness and cried-
0 King! please help me! please teach me! I don't
"You shut up !" said Peter, giving her a little shake.
"If you're goin' on like that, I'll be off. What d'ye
s'pose father 'd say, if he heard sich a yellin' round his front
Molly shrank and cowered.
"The King heard, though, Peter," she said, under her
breath, "'cause the lady said He couldn't help it."
Well, I guess you'd better just hush," said Peter, "or
there be other things as can't be helped, nuther. Father's
coming this blessed minute; and he don't keep no field for
Molly slid down from the door-step into the night, and
Peter disappeared among the bushes; and Sam Dodd set
his teeth in a sort of rage. All sorts of sweet words had
kept coming into his thoughts as he stood there,-thoughts
of the great King, thoughts of His kingdom ; loving words
that the lady had said; and right up against them came a
tide of evil, surging, swelling, and at last sweeping all before
SI '11 pay you off, you little beggar, for talking' sich stuff," he
muttered, savagely. And always Satan can provide mischief
for willing-as well as for idle-hands to do. Sam went
prowling round the house, and presently came upon poor
Molly's kitten ; her white fur making her but too visible in
the twilight. There she sat, watching a rat hole; so abso-
lutely intent upon her duty that she never thought of being
afraid, till Sam's fingers came about her throat with so
fierce a grip, that she could not even mew. I am not going
to tell you all that he did; but when he left the place,
laughing contentedly to himself, the little kitten lay
stretched out by the rat hole, having died at her post.
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 75
THERE is an old story in a very old book of fairy tales (you
know they sometimes say queer things), which tells of a
battle that raged once upon a time between a bird and a
pomegranate. A pomegranate, you must understand, is a
very large, handsome, and fragrant fruit, that grows in the
East,-in Asia, the very headquarters of fairy tales.
The battle, as I have said, raged fiercely. To secure itself,
at length, the pomegranate broke into twenty pieces, scatter-
ing the seeds of its life far and wide in all directions; but
the bird hopped briskly round, and eat them every one. Or
all but one. One single seed rolled secretly away, and hid
itself under a broad burdock leaf ; and as long as it lay there
hid, the bird had not quite conquered, and the pomegranate
was not quite dead.
Something like this seemed to have gone on in Sam
Dodd's heart. His own evil thoughts and inclinations, the
wicked words and wicked persuasions of his companions,
had certainly done their best to gather up every good seed
which the lady had sown; and yet, hidden away in a corner,
one little grain of life still kept its place. It was not in
good circumstances for growing, but it was there; and as
the afternoon came round, Sam might be once more seen
among the little group that gathered round the old church
door. But he hung back more than usual, and was a little
shy of them all, especially of Molly, who, poor child, looked
as if she had cried her eyes half out over her dead kitten.
Still, she did not seem to suspect Sam of any hand in
the mischief ; there were too many hands about her always
ready for just such work. Sam eyed her askance from time
to time, as he sat there listening and kicking his feet about;
saying very few words of his own, but never losing one that
the lady said. Until of a sudden something new caught his
eye and his thoughts; and from that moment Sam heard
not another word, to notice it, till the talk was almost done.
All around the worn steps of the church, the fresh turf
S6 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
laid its soft bordering of green ; and the grass had been
lately cut, and now the young blades were just shooting up
again to repair damages. And as the old keeper of the
church grounds was not as keen of sight nor as deft of hand
as he had once been, so it happened that there were corners
here and there, which the scythe had failed to touch. Tufts
of long grass made a lank ring round the tree stems, and
others bent down over the church steps; and little clusters
of clover leaves held up their unshorn heads in all sorts of
places. They were not at all interesting to Sam Dodd,-
indeed, few people would have admired them in their present
state,-but as Sam gazed at them idly, with wandering eyes
and thoughts which did not go far enough off to lose either
word or look from the lady, all at once he saw something
else; and his idle thoughts became, in a moment, the busiest
that could be.
At the very foot of the steps a particularly long tuft of grass
waved back and forth above the scraper, swaying gently in
the breeze; and deep hid in the shade of its rank leaves,
Sam saw a strange glitter of something bright. A gleam
that flashed and shone and went out, as he moved his head
one way and another to get a better view. It could not be
a fire-fly,-the hour was too early, and the air too light. It
might be a piece of glass,-but with that strange sort of
assuredness which comes to one sometimes, Sam Dodd felt
quite certain that it was not. Had anybody else seen it-
would anybody else see it ? Sam heard no more of the lady's
words, and saw nothing, thought of nothing, but that one
point of glitter among the grass. How should he get be-
tween it and everybody else, without attracting attention ?
Sam swung himself round his pillar, and sat down on the
floor of the porch for a minute, and sidled along to the steps;
then slowly and carelessly and by degrees slid down from one
step to another, until he sat on the lowest one of all, kicking
his bare feet over that very tuft of grass. But he did
not venture to give a single look at the bright sparkle that
lay twinkling in its depths. Not then. On the contrary,
he turned himself quite about, leaning on his elbow, and
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 77
looking up the steps at the lady; listening now with close
attention; giving it as his opinion that nobody need go to
the King's feast who was not a mind to. And as he said
that, Sam swung his foot a little farther off the step, stretch-
ing down until it rested full in the middle of that very tuft
of grass where the sparkle lay; and then Sam felt quiet and
comfortable. A little impatient, perhaps, as the talk went
on ; a little angry to see how eagerly the rest of the children
listened; for now Sam had turned his heart all the other
way, and the sweet words of the story sounded sweet no
longer. Scowling, he sat there, eying little Molly, and
thinking how glad he was he had killed her kitten; but
when at last the others all knelt down around their teacher,
Sam's face cleared, and he began to whistle.
He rose up lazily, stretched himself, dropped his cap,
stooped to pick it up, and when Sam Dodd snapped his fin-
gers and turned away from the old church door, the bright
spot sparkled in the grass no longer.
It was strange though, that as he went rapidly off down the
hill, skulking through the bushes, and looking over his
shoulder about every other minute, the words of the lady
still rang in his ears,-or rather sounded there like some
soft whisper : God loves you all." He invites you all to
the great feast in His kingdom." We must ask Him to
help us, and bring us, for we are weak and He is strong."
Sam set his teeth and knit his brows, and did his best to
keep the words out of his mind, but they would come. As
he mused and walked along, more slowly now, the rest of
the children came helter-skelter down the hill.
For you could not expect these children to be quiet and
orderly, no matter what they had been hearing, or how they
had felt. Like those poor London outcasts who have slept
in boxes and corners till they cannot stretch themselves out
in a bed, so the Vinegar Hill youngsters would need long
training before they could give up their hop, skip, and jump,
and walk like ordinary people. Even Molly came along on
one foot, and Jemmy Lucas made the air ring with mews,
and barks, and crows, and cackles.
by bein' so spry ?"
"Ain't got nothing' said Sam, flushing very red.
o' yer business, ye little rascal."
Jemmy Lucas. He 's give away all his manners to poor
And you ain't never had none to give," said Sam Dodd,
dealing a cuff at the little boy. "But I say, chaps who
wants more cherries'n he can eat ?"
"Deary me !" said Peter Limp, with a slow, drawling
voice, why, ye know, Sam, we ain't none on us fond of 'em!
We's been fetched up delicate."
Guess your trees must ha' started up and blowed quite
sudden like, Sam," said Jemmy Lucas.
There 's the biggest lot down to Squire Townsend's you
ever did see," said Sam, not noticing either reply. Biggest
cherries too, and so ripe! Why, it's just all they can do to
keep theirselves from falling off the tree."
Oh! and did Squire T. ask us to come ?" said Jemmy
Lucas, opening his eyes very wide.
"Guess likely he did said Sam, with a laugh.
don't do sich things out o' stories, ye little fool.
like it," said Molly.
Maybe not," said Sam Dodd.
He ain't got nothing' to do
m, Sam, the King won't
" That ain't the point in
with Squire Townsend's
"The lady said He looked all the time, and He wouldn't
like it," persisted iMolly.
Do you want to get home head first, quicker'n you ever
did afore ?" said Sam Dodd, turning fiercely upon the child.
"'Cause if you do, just keep on, that 's all. And I won't
make you wait long, nuther.
off, you little
beggar! we wants none o' your preaching' !"
"Well, she 's a sight better'n you are, Sam Dodd,"
3 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
" Here you are," shouted Peter Limp, announcing his own
proach. Now then, Sammy, like to know what ye got
gen'ally over and above, ye know," said
if you 're goin' to
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 79
Jemmy Lucas. "And I ain't a-going to stand by and see
I'll pitch you down first, and save yer feeling's that way,"
said Sam, furiously. "Be off Come, Peter !"
But Peter hesitated.
Blessed if he ain't afeared too said Sam Dodd, with a
laugh. "Trees ain't so high, Peter; take good care on ye,
Peter. Fetch ye safe home to admirin' friends ; tuck ye up
all slick. Glad my daddy ain't so woundy particular as
"He don't care," said Peter, twisting his foot about on
the grass; hearing, as he answered Sam, little Molly's under-
O Peter the King wouldn't like it!"
SMust be his mammy, then!" said Sam Dodd. "She
ain't got used to havin' her dear boy out o' nights! What
will she ever do, supposin' he should ever grow up ? 'Tain't
likely, ye know, but still it don't hardly do to think o' how
wouldd be if he should. Run home, Pety-wouldn't wonder
if she wa'n't waiting' tea for ye this blessed minute."
And Sam turned away in the direction of Squire Town-
send's, and Peter followed him without another word.
IF boys-could be made sick with eating countless cherries,-
green ones, ripe ones,-stones and all,-then doubtless that
unpleasant consequence would have followed the bad night's
work of Sam Dodd and Peter Limp in Squire Townsend's
orchard. But no, they went about next day as usual, only
wearing such a meek look of extra virtue on their faces, as was
a sure sign they had been about some extra piece of mischief.
But no one at Vinegar Hill was likely to notice that. It was
also doubtless that they would have "caught it," as Squire
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
Townsend said, if only he could have caught them: that
small difficulty was in the way. He knew-and they knew
-that the thing was almost an impossibility. Large, and
stout, and slow, what chance had he of catching the spry
youngsters who went up and down his trees like squirrels,
and over his fence like cats, and pelted him with his own
cherries as he stood gazing from his own house door ? What
use to try to follow them ? Why, they would have caught
away the fruit from his very hand, if he had ventured out
into the orchard and succeeded in picking a little in the
darkness. The Squire could do nothing,-nothing but
groan and scold over his lost cherries and his injured trees.
For the ground was strewn with twigs and tufts of leaves,
wilting in the morning sun as it came up; and the trees were
hung with broken and twisted branches, some split down with
a hard pull, and some with a careless step. Cherries lay scat-
tered about by the handful, bruised and trodden underfoot;
and such traces were all Squire Townsend could find when he
went out next morning to lose his appetite before breakfast.
Certainly he had never felt less like inviting the Vinegar
Hill boys to come and live with him, than he did that day.
The young scamps !" he said over and over again, as he
walked through the orchard, for Sam and Peter had not con-
tented themselves with stripping one tree, but had tried as
many as possible. The little villains If I once had 'em
I'd thrash 'em within a half inch of their lives! and they
haven't left so much as a pocket-handkerchief to spot'em by!"
No, there was not a sign. Only One knew who were the
thieves; only one Eye had seen them, through the thick
branches, amid the darkness of the night; only one Ear had
heard their wicked words as they picked the cherries, speak-
ing low, lest Squire Townsend might hear.
Can any hide himself in secret places, that I shall not
see him ? saith the Lord." "There is not a word on my
tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether."
Yes, the Lord saw, and the Lord heard,-that same great
King who has said: Thou shalt not steal," 1 Thou shalt not
take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." The sin was far
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 81
more against Him than against Squire Townsend; and He
too was angry: God is angry with the wicked every day;"
but unlike Squire Townsend, He was "ready to forgive."
Ready to receive the little outcasts if they would come home
to Him, ready to blot out all their sins from His book, where
every one was written down, if only they had begged Him
earnestly to forgive them, for the Lord Jesus' sake.
"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth
them that fear Him."
Ah, they did not fear Him, these children, not in any way;
and they never thought of coming to Him for forgiveness.
On the contrary, Sam Dodd got up next morning in par-
ticularly good spirits, and began at once to plan new wicked
deeds for the next night; for, children, if the devil is once
welcomed into a boy's-or a man's-heart, he keeps very
busy there, you may be sure.
Sam got his breakfast, and then he found a sunny place
on the hill-side, and there stretched himself out on the
grass to plan and think and help the devil all he could.
The devil proposed things, and Sam consented; the devil
caught away the good seed out of Sam's heart, but that was
because Sam had not guarded it and watched it, and driven
him away. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you;'
but "he that committeth sin "-welcomes it, yields to it-
becomes thenceforth the servant of sin."
Sam stretched himself out in the sunlight, at his ease,
feeling quite secure against interruptions ; for it was early
yet, and the habit of Vinegar Hill was mostly to be up all
night, and then sleep all the morning; and after a little
satisfied chuckling over last night's work, another thought
came over him. Cautiously looking round to make sure
that he was alone, Sam put his hand in his pocket and drew
forth a small gold pencil; holding it up before his eyes as
he lay there, working the slide back and forth with much
satisfaction. The large end of the pencil was not gold, but
something brighter still; and presently Sam began to twirl
it round and round, to see this bright end sparkle, and flash,
and dance in the sunbeams; shielding it a little, too, with
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
his other hand, lest perchance the sparkling gleam might
glance off too far, and reach some other eye among the
bushes. It was wonderfully pretty!-that clear, white
glitter, which every now and then seemed to take to itself
all the colours of the rainbow; and soon Sam became so
absorbed in admiration that he forgot all about everything
and everybody else, till suddenly a weak little voice cried
out at his elbow-
"0 Sam Dodd! what has you got?"
"Nothin' for you; and none o' your business, neither !"
said Sam, slipping the pencil into his pocket, and dealing
the child a cuff as he started up; "take that, if you want it.
What are you after at this time o' day, ye little thief ?"
I ain't a thief," said Molly, dodging his hand; "I ain't
after nothing And I ain't a-goin' to do nothing' bad, Sam
Dodd, never no more."
"Oh you ain't! said Sam, with the intensest scorn.
"No," said Molly, I's afraid; 'cause the King looks
right down in among the bushes. What was that you's
got, Sam ? Let's see it."
"Guess I will!" said Sam, scowling at her. "Sich
things ain't good for little beggars' eyes, d'ye see i"
"Well, but let's see it," persisted Molly. "Why, it's
almost as bright as the lady's!"
"Most as bright!" Sam repeated. "Her'n ain't a ten-
penny nail alongsidee o' this. Now, Molly Limp, I ain't
a-goin' to have all the brats in Vinegar Hill coming' round to
look; so if you just tell one on 'em-nor nobody else-as
how I've got things as is worth looking' at, there won't be
two inches o' you left standing' not ten minutes after. D'ye
understand 7 No more ain't I a-goin' to have you snoopin'
round. Take herself off! Clear out! or I'll let ye try how
it feels without waiting. "
Molly vanished, almost before the words were well out,
slipping away among the bushes as noiselessly as she had
come, but Sam's fun was over. He tucked away the pen-
cil in the deep recesses of his pocket, and moved off mutter-
ing and grumbling to himself, and threatening vengeance
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 83
upon Molly Limp and the whole race of small children to
which she belonged. All day he kept rather away from
people-out of sight, though watching everything that went
on; now curled among the bushes, now stowed away in a
leafy tree-top; dodging into the house when he got hungry,
and bringing out his slice of bread and meat the back way,
to eat it in some unseen corner. The wicked flee when no
However, the day went quietly by; and when in the after-
noon thick clouds came gathering up, and it began to rain,
Sam came down from his perch in a more composed state of
mind, shook himself clear of the rain-drops, and went into
the house to supper.
A rainy day followed; and Sam, who was not too fond of
exposing himself, slept away a good many of the dripping
hours to recover from past fatigues. He lay there on his
little garret bed, dreaming and muttering in his sleep ; now
hearing the lady's sweet words of counsel, now stealing off
with the chickens from the farm, and then again having a
hand-to-hand fight with Squire Townsend for the cherries.
Then the scene changed once more; and he saw little Molly
picking her way along through the mud, holding up her
ragged frock to be out of reach of even a spatter, and say-
ing to him as she went along: "I ain't never goin' to do
nothing' bad, Sam Dodd, no more." And Sam thought he
stooped down to pick up a handful of mud to throw at her,
and she slipped away out of sight among the bushes, and he
had his handful of mud for his pains.
You may believe that with this sort of work going on in
his mind, Sam's sleep was neither very quiet nor very sweet;
and as he tossed and threw his arms about in his anger or
his fight, behold, the little gold pencil rolled out of his
pocket, working its way along through various other things,
and slipped softly down upon the floor. But Sam never
Now James Dodd's house had one characteristic common
to many of its class-there was not room enough in it for
the work to be done and the things to be stored there; and
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
thus it happened that every corner was in use, and every
room served more than one purpose. Especially was this
small garret of Sam's in demand; for it was out of sight
and out of reach to the comers and goers in the rooms
below. Here stood dark-looking chests, carefully locked
and corded, and pine boxes nailed up; while on the walls
and from the rafters hung all manner of odds and ends.
Hats of various dates and patterns, some new, some just
worth what in fact what had bought them-a glass of rum.
And whips were there to match the hats; and horse blan-
kets were aired there on certain days; and strings of
sleigh-bells waved and jingled when the wind rose at night,
and came pouring in through the old window frame or a
knot-hole in the clapboards. Ropes of onions hung, neck-
lace fashion, round suspicious looking muskets, and tried
vainly to give them an air of peace as well as of plenty;
while jugs, and kegs, and bottles were scattered and stored
in every direction. These were all empty; the full ones
James Dodd kept under most careful lock and key. But
this particular day, the rain being heavy and business rather
slack, James thought some profitable work might be accom-
plished in his cellar in the way of bottling, and mixing, and
racking off, and diluting. Up-stairs he went for an armful
of the empty jugs, and was in nowise astonished to find
Sam there asleep and dreaming-that was common enough.
But something else caught his eye, as instantly as it had
Sam's-something which down on the old floor, half under
the little bed, glowed, and sparkled, and gleamed out like a
live thing. How did it get there ? From Sam's pocket ?
" Most likely," as James Dodd said to himself, with a pretty
good appreciation of his son's tastes and habits ; and if so
it was no less certain that Sam would show good fight for
his prize ; and failing to get it back, might give a hint con-
cerning its whereabouts, which would be in the highest de-
gree inconvenient to his father. James Dodd knew all this;
and no cat could have been more stealthy than he in his
approach to the bed. Never taking his eyes for a moment
from Sam's face, the man crept nearer and nearer, reached
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 85
down his hand with that practised aim which needed not to
look,--well used to striking in the dark,-grasped the
pencil; and in another second was out of the room, with
his hands loaded with the black jugs. And Sam never
IT was the afternoon of that day when Mrs Kensett-unable
to go out herself-sent another message-bearer to invite the
children to her house to tea. Sam Dodd had slept well on
into the afternoon, and might have prolonged his nap until
the evening, had not one of the late sunbeams that came
glinting out to dance in the tree-tops, danced straight in
through the dusty window of his garret room. Very dusty
the window was, and very small, with cracks across it that
were out of all proportion large; and the spiders-the only
upholsterers that ever entered that room-had hung their
drapery about in an extremely fantastic and irregular way.
But there's wonderful power in the real thing-and the sun-
beam made its way through all obstructions, glorified the
cobwebs, made the dust look ashamed of itself, shone full
into Sam Dodd's face and waked him up : a clear beam of
light, despite the cracked window and the dim atmosphere.
Just so, children, you can shine anywhere people who are
real and true and noble, can always do their work, and do it
Poor Sam! that was not what he saw in the sunbeam,
though he started up, and leaning on his elbow, peered
eagerly out the window.
"1Well, I'm blessed if it hain't cleared off!" he said.
High time I cleared out-that bein' the case. Let's see-
what's to do ? Guess I'll take a turn up yonder and see
what's on foot at the church. Wonder now if she 'll be out ?
Won't see much o' me, anyhow."
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
And thus meditating, Sam came down his ladder stairway,
and then went with long, swift steps over the rain-bent grass
to the top of the church hill, finding the children at their
games as usual, but no lady there. As usual, too, Sam
joined in the play-teasing, helping, worrying, sneering,
making himself generally useful and disagreeable. But
when the messenger had come and given her message, and
little Molly had made her very incautious speech about the
pencil, and Sam had frightened the child nearly out of her
wits; then indeed he felt that he had serious work on hand.
At once he quitted all sight and sound of the other boys,
and went apart by himself to consider what he should do.
"The little fool!" Sam burst forth indignantly, "she
ain't got a quarter the sense o' that 'ere dead kitten o' hern!
Wouldn't wonder a cent now if she hadn't just done it a
purpose-all along o' that! She's got a proper scare for
once-that 's one thing-but how long 's it going to last, ye
see ? And I durstn't say too much to her ;-she's that sort
o' girl, drive her too hard, and she'll run round t'other way.
Then if she went and telled"
Sam thrust his hands in his pockets, and went wandering
round among the dusky bushes in the waning light; scowl-
ing and growling enough for ten boys larger than he.
There ain't no other way as I can see !" he said, at length.
"'Twon't never do to have the concern so handy just now.
I '11 have to give up carrying' it for a spell. Don't like to,
neither-I 've kinder got used to it." And with that, Sam's
fingers went lovingly to the little vest pocket where he had
kept his ill-gotten treasure. But the pocket was empty.
Sam felt of it outside, and felt of it in; and turned the
pocket out, and felt all the way down his vest, but no pen-
cil. Then he searched every other pocket of every sort that
he had about him, turning out their contents upon a bare,
flat stone, and looking eagerly. Plenty of other things came
forth into the twilight. Fish-hooks and marbles; snares;
stray coins; a pack of cards; a ball; a knot of twine; with
various small outfits for games and tricks, with which Sam
was wont to turn a dishonest penny now and then. A new
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 87
pocket-book appeared; a lady's ring; a roll of ribands ; but
no pencil. Sam thrust them all back again out of sight, and
with a savage exclamation of rage and disappointment, he
started up and hurried away to the place where Molly had
found him in the morning. The rain-drops sparkled yet, in
the parting gleams of day, but no other brilliance mingled
with theirs; no other jewel flashed up from among the
blades of grass. Sam looked and looked-then stood and
"I did have it, too, after that," he said. "If she's stole
it, 'twa'n't then." And Sam dashed off up the hill to the
church, there to spend more vain efforts, and work himself
into a greater fever than before. And then it was too dark
to even look.
Sam was in a rage. Not daring to ask anybody a single
question, not daring even to speak out loud his own chagrin,
the boy went muttering to himself words and curses that
would have startled any night wind but that which roamed
drearily among the bushes on Vinegar Hill. Mrs Limp,
patiently mending up the rags which her husband had as
yet reserved for his own use, heard a stone come crashing
through the one whole pane of glass in her little window.
Jemmy Lucas, musing on his broken door-step, was knocked
off into the darkness by a swift stick, whizzing by from some
unseen hand. But nobody thought much of such things at
Vinegar Hill; they were too common. Meek Mrs Limp
looked up from her work a moment, glad that the children
had gone to bed early, as she marked where the stone fell;
its coming so near her own head mattered very little-would
have mattered scarce more if it had taken her head off.
Jemmy Lucas picked himself up, cried a little, and went in
to tell his mother. And she, poor woman, had no better
remedy at hand than the one much in use among richer
people than she-" to kiss the place and make it well." So
Jemmy went to bed comforted; and Peter and little Molly
slept right on, unconscious of danger; and Sam Dodd went
tearing about like a tempest off the track.
A tempest of God's sending is terrible enough; the wind
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
that He bringeth out of His treasuries, the lightning which
come and say to Him, "Here we are ;" the marvellous thun-
der of His voice : yet whatever He prepares is good, and does
good. But those fierce human tempests, born of the hot
atmosphere of human passion, working their wild way un-
guided, unchecked-they are wholly and altogether evil; a
fear to everything that is called good.
I'm bound to be even with somebody, after this !" the
boy vowed in his heart, with many a bitter and foul word-
and lest perchance he might miss the right person, Sam took
up all the mischief he could think of, or that came in his
way. Softly he stole in among the horses that were in wait-
ing around his father's door, knotting their tying ropes in
untold complications-pulling, and twisting, and looping, till
even sober men would have found them a puzzle. One or
two he untied altogether, leaving the horses to make their
way home at their earliest convenience. Whips were taken
from some of the waggons and pitched far into the bushes ;
stones were laid on the seats of others; and at last, when
Sam Dodd had carried matters as far as even he thought
prudent, he went into the house to sit down and wait for
the fun. Sam had smoothed his face charmingly as he
crossed the threshold-a more sleepy, careless, stupid-look-
ing boy you need not wish to see; yet you have seldom seen
one, perhaps, more wide-awake; and even as he entered,
Sam found his clue. The men were there at their bad work
as usual, some in the chimney-corner, some round the table
playing cards; and with these last sat James Dodd. He
looked up as his son entered, a single glance through the
dim, smoky light; but it was enough. A good boy might
not have seen-an honest boy would not have understood-
the look ; but Sam caught and read it instantly. The co-
vert, searching, inquiring glance-half given, and as quickly
taken back-meant just this: his father had the pencil.
How he had got it, when, or where; how he had learned
anything about it in the first place; of all that, Sam could
guess nothing. But that Mrs Kensett's little diamond-headed
pencil lay even then in the dingy vest-pocket of James Dodd,
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 89
Sam knew as well as that it had reposed so lately in his own.
For the boy's sharp eyes detected a second glance, given not
at him, but at the pocket in question, after which James
Dodd went on with his work of cutting and dealing, and
never raised his eyes from the cards again.
Sam marched up to the table and sat down, watching the
game for a while; then yawned, drank off a glass of the
mixed poison, and said he guessed he would go to bed. But
once out of the room, with a fierce gesture of his fist towards
the closed door, Sam dismissed all appearance of fatigue or
of sleep ; and climbing to his garret, he sat down on one of
the old chests with his head in his hands, to think, study,
"THE unfruitful works of darkness," how aptly are they
named !-how surely he that doeth evil hateth the light."
"And what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole
world, and lose his own soul ?"
Very fruitless, so far, had been Sam Dodd's first gain of a
gold pencil, and fruitless enough were all his musings that
night as to how he should get it again. Very black and
dark grew his thoughts in consequence. But the evening
passed on-something must be done; and Sam resolved
that just so soon as the house was quiet and everybody
asleep, he would steal into his father's room, find out the
chair where his clothes lay, and then softly search out the
pencil, in whichever pocket it might lie hid.
"It's a plaguy thing to do!" Sam muttered to himself;
"but I don't see as there's nothing' else."
And even as he said it there came floating across his
"There's room in God's eternal love
To save thy precious soul."
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
Sam paused for an instant, holding his breath. But then
he started up, swung himself down the stairs, and dashed
into the public sitting-room, as if, of all things in the world,
he was most afraid of himself.
It was later than he thought. All the men were gone-
though how far they had got from the house might be
doubted, considering the state in which they left it, and the
state in which Sam had left their horses. But theroom was
quiet and empty. James Dodd stood there alone, and Sam's
entrance was clearly an interruption-though to what, Sam
could not tell. His father merely faced round upon him,
coolly inquiring "how many ghosts he'd seen now ?"
Thought you called," said Sam, gruffly.
Well, I didn't-and you didn't," said his father, with
brief emphasis. And composedly laying off coat and vest,
James Dodd proceeded to take others from a closet and
equip himself in them. Sam looked on, wondering.
If anybody comes to the door while I'm out, you're not
to let 'em in," said Dodd, as he buttoned his coat. "So
just to save you trouble, I'll take the key. Better go back
and finish your nap, Sam. Playing' good boy' is hard
work." And, with a little mocking nod, he went out, lock-
ing the door behind him.
Sam set his teeth as he heard it, standing still in scowling
doubt. Then he ran to the back door, and after a glance at
its many bolts and bars, all securely drawn and in place,
turned off to a side window, and opened that. The next
instant he had let himself down, dropping softly on the
grass below. Then round the house like a deer; but there
was no trace nor sight nor sound of his father. It was so
late that even Vinegar Hill had taken to itself a sort of hush,
with part of its people asleep, and those who were abroad
moving with steps as noiseless as Sam's own. The moon
was beginning to silver the dark horizon ; the bushes waved
slightly in the summer air; the tree-toads cried and answered
each other; the night moved on. Again Sam stood still
in utter doubt and uncertainty, with not a sight nor a
sound to guide him. Then he went a little way down one
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 91
path, then a little way down another, then stood still once
"'Tain't a single spec' of use !" he said, despairingly,
"I've just lost my chance." And again, he could not tell
why, the sweet words came-
( There's room in heaven, among the choir,
And harps and crowns of gold."
That would not do! Sam darted off among the bushes,
doubling and turning as if some evil thing were after him.
But as he went, I am sure he did not know what made him
draw a long long breath, that had well-nigh been a sigh.
"I vow, I do s'pose I'm tired!" he said, bringing up
under the shadow of the bushes. Must be that as ails me.
And 'tain't no use-I said it warn't, to begin. Just as good
go back and get kinder sot up, and then ye see I'll know
where I am. He's fur enough, by this."
Softly and leisurely now Sam retraced his steps, reached
the house, went round to his window-and behold it was
shut! So were the other windows, and the doors-every
one. Shut and fastened. Sam would have thought little
of breaking a pane of glass, had one only been within his
reach; but the thick, long window shutters were almost as
impenetrable as the doors. Worst of all, as he peered
through the big key-hole from which James Dodd had so
carefully taken the key, Sam perceived that the key itself
hindered his view. And with that, even as he made sure of
the fact, his ears caught sound of a brilliant whistle inside
the door, which could have come from no throat but that of
James Dbdd himself.
Children, when the Lord brings His people into times of
trial and places of difficulty-and sometimes He does this-
He never leaves them there alone. He goes before them, He
stands by them, He holds them by the hand. But if ever
the devil tempts you, and you follow him, then you will
have many a chance to know how Sam Dodd felt that night.
Baffled, outwitted, laughed at; his treasure gone, his revenge
cut off-Sam felt as if his very wits had forsaken him, and
STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
his father had fooled him right through. He did not dare
knock, he did not dare give a harder pull at the window
shutters; and the open window of his little garret was hope-
lessly far above his reach. Now the light came gleaming
through cracks and keyholes, as James Dodd went whistling
round the house-then it shone full and strong from Sam's
own window. His father was looking for him !-making
sure he was not in. Then suddenly the light was kept back,
and from that same little window James Dodd's head and
shoulders leaned out into the moonlight. Sam shrank away
among the bushes, keeping carefully out of sight, and once
off at a safe distance, he threw himself down on the ground
and cried for rage. He had lost so much, and he had gained
Meanwhile, stealthy steps came up from another quarter,
and Sam was roused at last by a pretty smart application of
What's here ?" said the voice of Jem Crook. "'Tain't no-
body fainted 'long o' hevin' too many feeling's, I don't think."
"Leave a feller be, can't ye ? growled Sam.
Ha ha laughed Jem Crook, what's to pay now ?
Looking for small change in the grass, Sammy? Hain't
been no overturn o' one o' yer father's rich customers ? I
say, Sammy, let's go shares."
Sam swore at him, but deigned no other reply.
What ye lyin' there for, like a smashed toad ?" said Jem
"'Tain't none o' your business, if I take a likin' to sleeping'
out-doors, is it?" said Sam, raising himself on one elbow.
"It's so confounded hot inside o' all them winder shutters !"
Old Dodd inside said Jem.
"Well I wouldn't wonder if he did make it sort o' warm,
by spells," said Jem Crook. "Quite a lively notion o'
stirring' round, he has. Hows'ever, I ain't got time to attend
to him. Time I was getting' breakfast."
"Breakfast!" drawled Sam. "Didn't the poor boy get
no supper ?"
THE FOWLS OF THE AIR. 93
"Ah !" said Jem Crook. Won't go into partic'lars, fear
o' making' yer mouth water. But I finds I gets breakfast
easiest overnight, Sam Dodd. Ye see, new milk's partial
to my constitution,-and 'tain't nigh so handy to get it after
the cows has been druv home, as it is afore. Barnyard's
And folks is nearer," said Sam.
Jem Crook nodded.
Well, that ain't a bad idea, on the whole," said Sam,
getting up. I'm as dry as a brook bed myself. Which
way, Jem ?"
I'm a-going to the parson's this time," said Jem. "Find
it agrees with me to change cows pretty often."
"But the parson ain't got but one," said Sam, hesitating.
"No more he ain't," said Jem, carelessly. "Hope it's a
rood one. Come on !"7
And Sam did come on," though with a queer little feel-
ing of compunction.
The parson was nothing to him. Sam had never come
within range of even one of his kind words, and had stolen
his apples with immense satisfaction. But somehow now,
the parson and Mrs Kensett and the words of that hymn
had all got mixed up together in Sam's mind, and he could
not separate them, do what he would. Still some grains of
good lay hid in his heart, struggling to grow : still the fowls
of the air kept close watch to gather them up. Ah, had Sam
but watched against them !
If it's a good cow," said Jem Crook, as they walked
along, "then ye see there 'll be enough left from my break-
fast to -pay Widow Camp for the six cents she'll owe me
about that time."
Sam made no answer. His thoughts were busy again
with the King's feast, and the kind lady who had told him
of it, and the feast she had promised them herself at her
own house. Jem Crook glanced at him once or twice, but
for a while said nothing. Then he burst forth-
"I say, Sammy, what an uncommon, wonderful, A 1
woman that 'ere is, up to the church arternoons I vow
94 STORIES OF VINEGAR HILL.
I'm so fond of her I don't hardly know what to do. Time
seems long till afternoon comes. Days ss kinder long now,
ye know," Jem added, with a deep sigh.
Goin' there to-night ?" said Sam, abruptly.
Goin' where ? "
"Down to her house to tea."
"Ha ha ha !" said Jem Crook. Why, 'tis to-night,
ain't it ?-leastways s'posin' this was to-day--which it ain't.
To think o' my forgetting' an invite out to tea !"
"Well, are you going' ? said Sam, impatiently.
"Don't see as I can, noways," said Jem. "My best
company manners ain't come yet, Sam-express must ha'
broke down, likely. And there ain't none ready made about
town. Not as I knows on. And besides," added Jem,
dropping his voice to a confidential whisper, I never does
care so much about goin' out to tea when I has new milk
for breakfast. Kinder satisfies me like, for all day."
And Jem swung himself over the bars into the little
meadow where the parson's cow was feeding, and said no
IT was the day of the great tea-drinking at Mrs Kensett's,
and now afternoon had come, and the little ragged guests
were on their way, eager and shy and happy, to a wonderful
degree. Sam Dodd was not with them, you may remember,
nor Tim Wiggins, nor Jem Crook; but Sam watched them
every step of the way. Yet they never saw him. Under
cover of fences and hedgerows and bushes, he followed on;
though for just what use and purpose Sam could hardly
have told himself. Yet he followed, and when they were
once inside the house, he took post outside the garden,
watching till the back door should open, and the children
come forth that way. For Sam's quick eyes very soon spied