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BENNIE, THE BREADWINNER,
A STORY OF LOWLY LIFE.
AUTHOR OF MARTIN DRAYTON'S SIN," ETC.
JOHN S. MARR & SONS,
51 DUNDAS STREET,
I. HOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED BY GRANDAD AND GRANNIE 5
II. BENNIE AND GRANDAD ALONE s 18
III. A GIFT LOST AND AN ACQUAINTANCE MADE 28
IV. BENNIE "RIGHTEOUS OVER-3IUCL' 38
V. WILLING HANDS AND A STOUT IEAIT 54
VI. A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD 65
VII. NIGH UNTO DEATH 85
VIII. FRIENDS TO THE RESCUE 101
IX. SUNSHINE AFTER STORM .. 118
BENNIE, THE BREADWINNER.
HOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED BY GRANDAD AND GRANNIE.
IN a small room on the top story of one of the houses in a
narrow East End thoroughfare, a poor woman lay dying.
On one side of her sat a grey-haired man-a cripple,
too, alas! and on the other side knelt a boy, apparently
about twelve years of age. A boy with a fresh face, merry
brown eyes, and curly hair, but just now Bennie's cheeks
were pale, and his eyes red and swollen with grief.
The woman-Grannie, as Bennie had always called her--
was speaking, but very slowly and laboriously, for she was
dying of a chest disease, and between every word she drew
"Bennie- he- took-you-in-when-you-were -a-
baby. He's-been-a-father-to-you. Take-care-of
him,-dear,-- wh en-I'm- gone. You-are-a-big-boy
now,-you-can- work-for-both. Promise-me you'll
6 HOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED.
Her eyes met Bennie's eagerly, in a searching, questioning
Grannie, I promise," replied the boy bravely, in spite of
the sobs that choked his voice. Don't be afraid but what
I'll take care of him."
She smiled quite happily.
"That's right, Bennie," she said, gasping for breath as
before. "And God will bless you; I know He will. All
these years He's been helping us along, and so He will you,
if you'll try to please Him. Never forget that, Bennie.
There's the big Bible. I give that to you, Bennie. Take
care of it; 'twas my mother's before 'twas mine."
Then her eyes sought her husband's.
John, dear, don't grieve for me. For your sake I wish
I could live a few years longer, but God knows best, and
Bennie will look after you. He will be the breadwinner
now; he has promised me he will. Don't you fret, dear,
and worry about things. It won't be for long. You'll
meet me in heaven, husband, won't you ?"
Oh, Bess, I'll try," he replied, and his voice was broken
and the tears rolled down his face; "but I can't help wishing
that God had taken me first. I don't know what'll become
of Bennie and me when you're gone."
A look of mental agony, which was more distressing to
witness than the expression of physical pains that rested
upon her face, passed over Grannie's features. She said no-
IHOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED. 7
thing, however. She closed her eyes, and presently seemed
to fall off into a slumber. The old man and the boy sat
watching in silence, not daring to speak for fear of disturb-
ing her, for she had scarcely slept at all ,diii1.- the few days
of her illness.
But now, as time passed on, her breathing became easier,
and Bennie could almost have declared that he saw a smile
upon her lips. At last she opened her eyes, and looking at
them, said, in quite a clear voice, "Never forget what you've
each promised me."
And with that she gave a quick gasp for breath, a long-
drawn sigh, and Bonnie, for the first time in his young life,
felt himself in the presence of the angel of death.
And who was Bennie ? Ah that was the question that
even Grannie could not have answered, and if you had asked
Bennie himself, he would only have shaken his head mourn-
fully, and said, I'm nobody's child." But I must go back a
few years in order that you may understand how he came
to be living with Grannie and Grandad," as he called the
kindhearted people who had adopted him.
John and Bessie Renton had married late in life. Bessie
had quite a nice little fortune in the savings' bank. She
had been a much respected servant, remaining in one family
from her girlhood, and every year she had put aside part of
her wages, till, when John Renton, a well-to-do artisan, won
from her a promise that she would marry him, he was looked
upon by his fellow-workmen as a very lucky fellow indeed.
8 HOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED.
They were very happy in the little house, which it was
the pride of Bessie's heart to make the picture of neatness
and cleanliness. There were times indeed when, as she sat
alone at her needle-work, she wished that it had not been
such an easy matter to keep it tidy, but that pattering feet
and mischievous fingers had sometimes soiled the spotless-
ness of her floors, and interfered with the exact order of her
furniture. But she was a brave woman, and would not
allow these thoughts to dwell long in her mind. Indeed, she
had need of good spirits if she would have her home to be
cheerful, for she soon discovered that her husband's disposi-
tion was not a happy one. He was often gloomy and de-
pressed, was always looking on the dark side of things,
anticipating troubles, or giving way to fits of melancholy.
Therefore, it would never have done had Bessie likewise
indulged in low spirits and despondency. On the contrary,
she took care that whatever might have been her thoughts
during her husband's absence, he should always be met with
a bright smile and welcoming word.
She had been married some -years when a circumstance
occurred that brought new joy and fresh interest to her life.
It happened in this way.
It was on one bitterly cold January evening that Bessie
and John, while sitting by their warm fireside, were disturbed
in their chat by the wailing of an infant from without. The
mournful sound ceased in a few minutes, but presently it
broke forth again, and there was something so sad, so plain-
tive in the cry, that Bessie rose, and going to the front door,
HOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED. 9
opened it. A sight met her gaze that for the moment
chilled her very blood. On the door-step lay a woman,
apparently lifeless; and feebly clinging to the cold breast,
which the fallen shawl and tattered gown left exposed to
the biting wind, was a tiny child whose face was almost as
ghastly as that of the mother to whom it clung.
The infant's cries had already drawn a policeman to the
spot, and Bessie, throwing her door wide open begged him
to bring in the two helpless creatures.
"It's no good to do that, ma'am," he answered. "The
workhouse is close by. It'll be better for you if I take her
and the little 'un straight there." Then looking at them
more attentively, he added, I guess I can carry the pair
of 'em, for they seem to be naught but skin and bones." So
saying, he stooped down, and taking up the mother and
child, he bore them off in his arms, while Bessie followed
them with her eyes till they disappeared in the darkness.
But Bessie could not sleep that night. Hour after hour
she lay and thought of the white pinched face of the little
'un." It haunted her, and her tender woman's heart was
full of sympathy for the poor little morsel of humanity.
What was its history, she wondered, and what was the
history of the mother to whose breast it had vainly clung
for warmth and nourishment. It was a stormy night, and
each time that the wind whistled around the house Bessie
shuddered, for she seemed to hear in the blasts those mourn-
ful, wailing cries that had pierced her ears when she and
her husband were sitting together by their warm and cosy
10 HOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED.
fireside. Ah! what a difference between her life and that
poor woman's, she thought. And yet, as conscience told
her, in spite of her comfortable home and her good husband,
who, with all his faults, loved his wife most truly, she had
often repined and been discontented. With shame and con-
trition Bessie resolved that henceforward there should be
no cause for such accusations. Then suddenly another
thought came into her head, and at that thought her heart
beat quickly, and even in the darkness and the cold she
felt the hot blood mount to her face. Oh if she might but
have that little baby, and bring it up as her own child!
She had so often longed to have a child about her. If John
zould but let her! But he was always grumbling as it was
that the money he earned was not sufficient to keep them
as comfortably as he could wish. There had been times
when, as Bessie knew to her sorrow, her husband had been
without work for weeks and weeks. Then, what with
John's discontented foreboding face continually in the
house, and the money in the savings' bank coming out in a
steady, continuous manner that soon promised the exhaus-
tion of their store, Bessie had found it hard indeed to sus-
tain even outward cheerfulness. However, there had al-
ways come a turn in their affairs; just when they seemed
to have arrived at their lowest ebb, matters had mended,
and all had been comfortable again. With all that in her
experience, Bessie doubted very much whether John would
allow her to burden herself with the care of a child. Never-
theless, she resolved to plead the cause that had taken so
theless, she resolved to plead on behalf of the little one,
HOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED. 11
She waited till John had finished his breakfast-she was
a wise woman there-before she unburdened her mind.
You can imagine her joy when, after a little hesitation, her
husband told her with a laugh that, if she could get the
child, she was welcome to keep it. You may be sure that
she lost no time in starting off to the workhouse. As she
expected, the mother was dead. Then she asked if she
might be allowed to adopt the baby, and, after a little delay,
the child was given her, for, though many inquiries were
made, no information respecting it or its mother could be
Great was Bessie's delight when, at length, she was per-
mitted to take the child to her home. When John came
in from work on the evening of its arrival he found his wife
kneeling by the side of a cradle that had been borrowed
from a neighbour. She turned her head as she heard her
"John, come ever so quietly and look at him," she said
in a whisper that was full of delight. "Though he is so
thin and white, he's a regular little beauty."
Then John, like Bessie, went down on his knees by the
cradle, and as he did so the baby opened its eyes-large
blue eyes they were, that looked all the larger and all the
bluer from contrast with the pale face in which they were
set-and fixed them upon John's face. Then a wan little smile
played around its lips, and it stretched out its little hands.
"That's the first time he's laughed, John, and it's for you,"
cried Bessie in a tone of happy excitement. Bosh !" said
12 HOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED.
John in masculine contempt for such a small matter as a
puling baby's smile; but, in spite of the word, a suspicious
moisture came into his eyes, and he bent still further over
the cradle to return baby's smile with one of his own.
Already baby looked better, and it had the faintest tinge
of pink upon its cheeks. Ah, poor little one! it had not
in its life before had such a nourishing, appetising meal as
that with which Bessie had fed it, and, thanks to the plenti-
ful supply of soft flannel which Bessie had bought, together
with many other small items necessary to a baby's well-
being, and which, of course, cost next to nothing-the "next
to nothing being the sum of money that Bessie had laid
aside for her new merino dress-there was a deliciously
comfortable feeling of warmth all over baby's limbs.
Well, there was never any talk of getting rid of baby.
He thrived wonderfully under Bessie's care, and losing the
starved, pinched appearance, he became rosy and strong.
No one ever came to claim him. He was evidently "no-
body's child." Nobody's child but God's. Who had sent the
little waif to be cared for by a lonely woman, whose home
he made happy with his pretty prattle and gentle ways.
There was a great discussion as to what his name should
be. Bessie wanted to call him Harry, after her only brother
who had died many years ago, but John said something
about a child of their old age-a kind of Benjamin." After
that Bessie thought no more of her own wish, and baby was
christened Benjamin, which, of course, was shortened into
HOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED. 13
It was not long before Bennic manifested two strong
capacities-one for loving, and another for mischief. So
soon as he could toddle about, Bessie found her hands full
indeed. Anything that he could clutch, Bennie would
clutch. Little fingers would pull at the flopping ends of
the table-cloth, and if Bessie's heavier touch had not arrested
the child's intention, destruction would have come upon cups
and saucers to the dire distress of Master Bennie's head.
He needed incessant watching, but Bessie found it pleasant
work, and the loving caresses he bestowed upon her, and
his soft baby-words of endearment, were rich payment for
all her trouble. She felt that she should never tire of hear-
ing him lisp, "grandad and "grannie," as she taught him
to call John and herself.
So time passed on till Bennie was four years old, and
then came a terrible cloud to darken Bessie's happiness.
John, while painting the sign of a public-house, missed his
footing and fell heavily to the pavement. He was taken up
insensible, and carried off to a hospital. Poor John! he
had broken his leg and several of his ribs. For many
days he hovered between life and death, and one sorrowful
morning he awoke from a long stupor to find that his right
leg had been amputated. Ah, that was bitter indeed Of
what use was life to him now ? he asked himself sorrow-
fully. He would never be able to work again. Better die
out of the way at once than be a burden upon others for
the remainder of his days. In his distress he begged the
doctors to leave him alone-not to be so cruel as to keep
14 HOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED.
him alive. But the doctors know their duty too well for
that. Their business was to fight with the enemy Death,
and not to give in till there was no shadow of hope for the
victory left. So, after weeks, nay, months, of tedious pain,
John was sent from the hospital a broken-down cripple,
whose hair, which before had only been sprinkled here and
there with a silver thread, was now quite white, and whose
pale face and bent form looked twenty years older than be-
fore that. dreadful accident.
But he was still John to Bessie, and she loved him in his
weakness fifty times more than she had in his strength.
He and she had now to change places. She became the
breadwinner, and bravely she set about the task. Thanks
to the early training of a careful mother, Bessie was an ex-
cellent needlewoman, as well as a good cook, so that out, or
at home, she could always work. It was when work fell
short, as it sometimes did, that Bessie's heart began to sink
with dread for the future. At such times she would often
think that, perhaps, she had done wrong in taking in the
little Bennie. Then would come to her memory those words
of the Lord Jesus, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one
of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
What an honour to have taken to her heart and home the Lord
Himself in the person of that little child No, Bessie never
regretted it for long, and John never once reproached her.
But John was a changed being from the day of his accident.
He seemed to have lost all pleasure in life, and to have be-
come suddenly an old man. Not that he was so fretful or
HOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED 13
irritable as formerly, but he was far more depressed in
spirits, and he would sit for hours in silence, drawing such
deep sighs that it went to Bessie's heart to hear them. His
old irritability of temper was far preferable to such gloomy
dejection. In vain she tried to rouse him from his melan-
choly. She wished she could find him some congenial em-
ployment, but the most he could do was to take a broom
and hobble forth on his one leg and his crutch to sweep a
i .. --i.', and things had come to a bad state before Bessie
would let him do that, you may be sure.
Of course their house had to be given up, and two rooms
were taken in a neighbourhood the only attraction of which
was the cheapness of its lodgings. Then began that struggle
for the means of existence which only ended with Bessie's
life. Early and late she worked, and as soon as Bennie was
old enough, she set him up in the "newspaper trade."
After that, every morning, wet or fine, Bennie's bright little
face might have been seen outside one of the Metropolitan
railway stations, where with a big bundle of newspapers
under his arm, he shouted at the top of his clear, shrill voice,
" Papers, morning' papers !" There was one thing that went
greatly against Bennie as regards his profession, and that
was his littleness. Though he was not lacking in strength,
he certainly was unusually short for his age. It was a great
grief to the child himself. "Why don't I grow, grannie ?"
he would ask, laying his curly brown head on her knee.
"'Tisn't nice to be such a little chap, and I can't sell my
papers like them as are bigger." As Bennie grew older,
16 HOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED.
though, small as he was, he managed to hold his own. He
gave some of the chaps a taste of his fighting powers,
whereupon he rose in their estimation, and they gave it as
their opinion, that "if he was a little 'un, he was a rare
It grieved grannie that he should be sent so young to
work in the streets, where he must of necessity come into
contact with bad characters. She feared that their influence
would counteract her own, but she prayed that her Bennie,
though in the world indeed, might b3 kept from the evil,
and she did all she could to show him the blessedness and
beauty of what was true and right and pure, and to point
out the contrary loathsomeness of unholy deeds and
thoughts. She taught him to read, sent him both to Sun-
day school and to an evening school, and tried to make him
particular in his manners and his speech; for the greater
part of grannie's life had been spent among the quality,"
and consequently her own manners and speech were much
above her rank in life. And, above all, she told him never
to foul his lips with bad language, and so constantly did
she urge the sinfulness of this, that Bennie himself soon
began to view it as a great wickedness. Once, when he
was quite a little fellow, he had uttered a dreadful oath-in
entire ignorance of its jM..!jii. of course-but he never
forgot the look of pale horror on grannie's face, nor how
long and seriously she talked to him that evening when
she came into his room to tuck him up, and to give him the
usual good-night's kiss.
HOW BENNIE WAS ADOPTED. 17
So the years passed on. From a happy, light-hearted
child, Bennie grew a sober, thoughtful boy, with a weight
of responsibility resting upon him that happily falls to the
lot of few of his age; for he knew that, but for the help
that his earnings brought to grannie and grandad, they
must surely have starved. As it was, they were often
obliged to move to cheaper lodgings, till at last we find
them in the one room and the closet-the latter, though
very small, answering the purpose of a sleeping-room for
Bennie-at the top of a house in a close, narrow court that
hardly deserved the name of Fenmill Street. They had
lived there for a year or two when, on one bitter night in
January, grannie caught cold in returning home from a
day's work in a gentleman's house; inflammation of the
lungs set in, and in a few days she had uttered those last
tender words to her husband and adopted child, with which
this chapter began. So it came to pass that grandad and
Bennie-the old man and the young boy-found themselves
alone in the wide, wide world.
BENNIE AND GRANDAD ALONE.
IT was the evening after the funeral. The silence, broken
only by a bitter sigh or a stifled sob from grandad, had
lasted so long that Bennie felt he could bear it no longer.
He rose from his chair, and kneeling down by grandad's
side, began gently to stroke the old withered hands. But
grandad's tears only flowed the faster.
"Ah, Bennie! he said presently, "I don't know what'll
become of you and me, now that she's gone. There's hard
lines in store for us, I'm thinking."
The silence had been so long and so dreary, that even the
voice of the old man, sorrowful as it was, seemed in some
degree to lessen the oppressive feeling at Bennie's heart.
"But, grandad," he said, earnestly, "I'm old enough to
take care of myself and you too. Why, I'm twelve, and
there's no end of things I can turn my hand to, to earn
a penny. Never fear but what I'll earn enough for us both.
There'll be no need for you to sweep again, I dare say.
'Tisn't much that we want, you know, grandad.'
"You'd be surprised to find what a lot it costs to keep
BENNIE AND GRANDAD ALONE. 19
two folks going, Bennie," replied grandad, shaking his
head mournfully. There's Qte rent; that must be paid,
whatever happens. Then there's bread; we can't do
without that either; and there's fire and clothes, and heaps
of things, Bennie, that she always saw to. I don't see
anything for us but to starve or go to the workhouse," and
grandad finished his speech with a sob.
"You shan't do either while I'm alive, grandad," said
Bennic, trying to speak cheerfully, and every year I shall
grow bigger and older, you know. Now, to-morrow I shall
be off like a shot for the papers, and you see if I don't
make two shillings' profit at the very least, before I get
back at night. You must stop at home, you know, grandad,
and keep the room tidy, for somebody must do that."
"Yes, yes, that's about all an old cripple like me's fit for,"
said grandad. "Oh, Bennie!" he added, putting his arm
around the boy's neck, that's what grieves me so, to think
that 'twas she that did the work that I ought to have done.
There was she slaving her life away to feed an old bit of
lumber that was no good to anybody."
"But you couldn't help it, you know, grandad," said
Bennie, trying to think of something that was comforting.
"It wasn't your fault. And she didn't mind working for
you; she liked it. It only fretted her when she couldn't
get the work to do. Oh, don't cry so, grandad," he added, for
the old man's tears had burst out afresh; do be comforted."
But grandad's tears were fain to have their own way, and
Bennie, fearing that whatever he said would only make
20 BENNIE AND GRANDAD ALONE.
matters worse, sat in silence, only showing his sympathy by
his gentle caresses. Yet Bennie's heart was aching too
with a great sense of loneliness, and with a dreadful feeling
of responsibility. Poor child, he was sorely in need himself
of that sympathy which he was bestowing upon another !
"The best thing for me would be to die," said grandad,
after a while. "I'm only fit to sweep a crossing, and I can't
even do that, when I get an attack of rheumatism."
"But, grandad, what should I do, if you died too ?"
asked Bennie. "I shouldn't have anybody in the whole
world then to love me." That thought unloosed the flood-
gates of the boy's tears, and burying his face on grandad's
knee, he sobbed as if his heart would break.
It did good in one sense. It roused grandad from the
contemplation of his own personal sorrow, and forced him to
become a comforter in his turn.
"There, there, my pretty," he said, calling Bennie by an
old pet name that had been dropped for years, "don't take
on. I'll do my best for your sake. You and me must stick
to each other, Bennie, come what may. Perhaps after all
things mayn't be so bad."
Bennie raised his head and brushed away his tears,
vexed with himself for having given way to such weakness.
"No, no, grandad, I know they won't. Why, I declare,"
he went on, brightening up rapidly, "if there isn't eight
striking from the church-clock. It's time we had supper,
and there's the fire out and not a thing ready. Just you
make up the fire, grandad, while I run out for a loaf and a
BENNIE AND GRANDAD ALONE. 21
herring and an ounce of tea," and jumping up with alacrity
Bennie reached his cap from its peg.
"There's the box with the money in," said grandad, point-
ing to a little tin canister on the mantle-shelf. Then he
added anxiously, as Bennie took a shilling from it, There
isn't much left, is there, Bonnie ? "
"Lots, grandad. Enough to keep us like princes for
weeks, even if I shouldn't earn a penny," Bennie said with
a little laugh.
"But you haven't any idea how soon money goes," said
"Yes, I have, but of course I shall earn some," Bennie
went on, "and we'll put this by, we'll call it our bank.
Fancy that, grandad, money in a balnk, like the rich folks
have. We won't touch it unless we're obliged, will we ?"
and Bennie, with a desperate effort, once more displayed a
smiling face to grandad.
"But how much is there, Bennie ?" the old man again
"Why here's ten shillings in gold. You know the lady
who came to see grannie the day before-" but Bennie was
on dangerous ground, and he broke off hastily with a husky
cough. "And here's half-a-crown," he continued, as soon as
he could speak clearly, "and a shilling, and a sixpence, and
ever so many pennies. I shall have to take some to buy
the papers with to-morrow, but I'll put it back at night.
Yoi won't mind that, will you, grandad ?"
"It's nought to me, Bennie, what you do with it," replied
22 BENNIE AND GRANDAD ALONE.
grandad gloomily. "You'll earn it, so I have no right to say
Bennie sighed. It was hard work to bear up against the
depressing influence of grandad's despondency. But grannie
in her time had found it so, as Bennie knew full well.
What she had borne he could bear, and in dying had she not
charged him always to be gentle and patient with grandad,
and had not he promised her that he would ? Ah yes, and
God helping him he would keep that promise faithfully.
So now without a word he put on his cap, ran down the
long, steep staircase into the noisy street below, and was
back before grandad had succeeded in making the fire
Bennie's run in the street, though it was short, did him a
great deal of good. With much alacrity he proceeded to
make a cheerful blaze and put the kettle upon it. He then
drew up the little round table close to the fire, and set out
the plates and tea-cups. Then the herring-a nice plump
one-was split open in the same manner as he had seen
grannie do them, and grandad held one half on a fork before
the fire, while Bennie toasted the other. Very soon the
fish was spluttering away in a most appetising manner, and
for the first time for many sorrowful days Bennie felt really
hungry. Then when the kettle boiled he poured some
water upon a tiny pinch of tea. It was hardly -iih.-: i", to
colour the water, but Bennie knew that he must be economi-
cal. He would not have indulged in the luxury of the
herring had it not been that he hoped to coax grandad's
BENNIE AND GRANDAD ALONE. 23
appetite with it. And really grandad, though he ate but a
very small piece of fish, seemed to enjoy it.
Supper over, Bennie washed up the plates and dishes and
made all tidy again. Then he and grandad undressed
themselves and got into the big bed in the corner which
had once belonged to grannie and grandad; Bennie, as I
said before, having occupied the little closet adjoining. But
now that he and grandad were alone they decided that the
large room would be sufficient for them. Besides, the rent
would not be so high then, though when they came to speak
about it to their landlady, Mrs. James, she would scarcely
make any difference at all, for she said there would be no
chance of letting the closet without an additional room.
I'Nevertheless, she took off a small sum from their rent, and
Bennie was happier, for he felt that every penny saved was
a penny earned.
But before the boy lay down to sleep that night he knelt
down to pray as grannie had always taught him to do, and
burying his head in the bedclothes, he shut out all sights
and sounds, and prayed from the depths of his heart that
God would help him "to take care of grandad."
He was up very early on the following morning, long and
long before it was light. He had none too much time
though; for there was breakfast to get, the room to tidy,
and grandad to leave comfortably sitting in his chair by the
fire before he could leave the house. But Bennie was
wonderfully handy at household work, and quickly got
through his tasks. In a very little while he had a fire
24 BENNIE AND GRANDAD ALONE.
burning, and the porridge simmering in a saucepan upon it.
He stirred it round and round, till it was done to a nicety.
This served them for the meal. Then he washed the plates.
put the cinders carefully together in the grate, placed gran-
dad in a chair, and was off like a shot to business.
That day was a fortunate one for Bennie. Before he trotted
home to grandad at mid-day he had sold six dozen news-
papers, a transaction that gave him a clear profit of eighteen-
pence; for he bought his papers at ninepence the dozen, and of
course sold them at a penny each. That was luck indeed;
lie rarely did so well as that. Perhaps it was the piece of
rusty crape in his hat and his pale, wistful face that attracted
the attention of the passers-by, and caused them-half-un-
consciously to themselves-suddenly to remember that as a
paper must be bought sometime during the day, it might
just as well be bought at once as later on. Bennie hoped
that he should sell another six dozen in the evening, which
would bring him three shillings for his day's work. Alh! if
only he could earn that every day, he and grandad would
indeed be comfortably off. He went home feeling quite
light-hearted. Indeed, he had been so busy all the morning
that lie had had no time for sorrowful thoughts, for Bennie,
if he wished for any success at all in the sale of his papers,
was obliged to be constantly on the alert. He had to study
the faces of the passers-by in order to be ready to make a
sudden dart if he saw a probable customer. Indeed, this
wasi quite an accomplishment with Bennie. He could read
people's faces in a moment. There were dreaming, absent-
BENNIE AND GRANDAD ALONE. 25
looking countenances, the owners of which had to be roused
from their apathy to a knowledge of their own existence by
Bennie's startling but courteous, "Papers, morning' papers !
Telegraph, sir ? Daily News, sir ?" Other people there
were who always appeared to be walking for a wager, and
as these neither slackened their speed nor spoke a word,
but simply looked their requirements in a hurried glance,
Bonnie had to rush from his corner and hold out a paper;
and in a moment, by some marvellous piece of legerdemain,
the paper was gone from Bennie's hand, and a penny was
occupying its place. Then again it was necessary to keep
an eye on the cabs and omnibuses, and sometimes Bennie
would be obliged to run for two or three minutes beside a
vehicle, while the customer within it searched his pockets
for the coin to pay for the paper. Bennie's short legs had
to move briskly if he would not lose the bargain.
But Bennie was not so fortunate in the evening. He sold
only two dozen papers; happily there was no stock left on
hand. However, he had earned two shillings, and that was
very fair indeed.
So the days passed on, sometimes prosperously, sometimes
badly for Bennie. Winter gave place to p!,'>, but still
grandad sat silently all day long in his room in Fenmill
Street, scarcely moving or speaking, only brightening up
when Bennie came home at night, though even then he was
rarely seen to smile. It made the boy's heart ache to see
him getting thinner and thinner, and to hear his weary
sighs. Had Bonnie impressed upon grandad the necessity
26 BENNIE AND GRANDAD
of earning a share of their common funds, it would have been
better for both. It would have roused grandad from the
childishness and melancholy into which he was fast sinking,
but Bennie did not know that. It pleased him that he
should earn enough for both. That grannie knew all about
it-knew that he was trying to keep his promise-Bennio
felt sure. She would not have asked grandad to go out to
his sweeping, Bennie thought, and neither would he. It
was a great mistake, and when at last Bennie himself began
to see how the long hours of loneliness, in which he would
sit brooding over his wife's death, were telling upon the old
man's health and spirits, he tried to rouse him, and begged
him to go out into the open air, if it were only for a walk.
But no, grandad shook his head and declined.
Immediately upon grannie's death Bennie had given up
both his evening and Sunday school, but he continued to
go to church, as he had always been accustomed to do, on a
Sunday afternoon and evening. Very soon, however, he
thought he ought also to give up the afternoon service, in
order that he might sit with grandad and read aloud to him;
for there was no time for that in the week. Then when
warmer weather came, Bennie tried again to coax grandad
to go out for a walk with him. Grandad objected very
strongly at first, but Bennie persevered, and one afternoon
he descended the stairs in triumph, with grandad following;
and the neighbours, seeing them pass, nodded their heads to
each other and said, "Well, I never, if that ain't the first
time the old man's been out since his wife died." Grandad
BENNIE AND GRANDAD ALONE. 27
shrank from their notice, and would gladly have taken
refuge again indoors had Bennie permitted it. But Bennie
had fought hard for the victory that he had gained, and he
did not mean to lose the advantage. He kept a tight hold
of grandad's hand, and led him away from their own neigh-
bourhood into a pleasanter part. And really grandad felt
all the better for his walk, as Bennie made him confess; he
took his tea that evening with a better appetite, and joined
in the conversation with more than monosyllables.
After that, whenever the weather was fine enough, Bennie
and grandad took a walk on a Sunday afternoon, and the
boy was delighted to see that on the whole grandad im-
proved in health and spirits. Yet he said no word of re-
suming his old employment, and Bennie would not ask it,
though, poor child, he found it hard at times to make both
ends meet. There was no dependence to be placed on such
a fluctuating trade as his, and often there was a dead loss
in papers left on hand. Yet he did not tell grandad of his
troubles; but toiled patiently on without sympathy or en-
couragement. And the old man never inquired into matters;
he seemed even to forget that the bread which he ate cost
labour and money to procure.
c -_ .
A GIFT LOST AND AN ACQUAINTANCE MADE.
WHiEN Bennie deprived himself of his evening classes and
Sunday school he lost much of the pleasure of his life, but
there was still one source left from which he never ceased to
derive gratification. This was a certain shop not far from
Fenmill Street, in which were birds of all sorts and sizes,
squirrels, rabbits, guinea-pigs, and, indeed, nearly all kinds
of pet animals.
To stand outside the window and watch the animals was
an intense delight to Bonnie, and so often was he there, that
the owner of the shop, Mr. Macleish, soon became familiar
with his face. He inquired his name and asked where he
lived. Then sometimes, when not very busy, he would
speak to the boy, and tell him amusing anecdotes about the
animals, to all of which Bennie listened with great attention
and eyes bright with interest.
Coming home one beautiful night in spring, Bennie stayed
his steps as usual to have a look at his favourites. He was
just turning away, when Mr. Macleish came to the door and
A GIFT LOST AND AN ACQUAINTANCE MADE. 29
showed him a little white mouse in a very pretty eage.
Bonnie peeped in, and ventured to stroke the little creature
softly with one finger.
I suppose you wouldn't object to have him for your
own, would you, Bennie ?" Mr. Macleish asked slyly.
"No, that I wouldn't," answered Bennie promptly. Then
he went on wistfully. "But I can't buy him. 1 haven't the
money, if he were ever so cheap."
Well, now," said Mr. Macleish with pretended gravity,
" supposing I were to let you have him, box and all, for six-
pence ? What do you say to that ?"
Bennie looked down on the ground and calculated ways
and means. He would like to have that little white mouse
so much. What company he would be and sixpence wasn't
so much after all. Then Bennie thought of the short allow-
ance of bread that he and grandad had been obliged to live
upon lately. No, no, it could not be.
"I can't indeed, sir," he said sighing as he looked once
more at the mouse, though I know he's very cheap."
Mr. Macleish broke out into a laugh, loud but kind.
Bless the child," he said, do you think I want your six-
pence ? Why, the cage alone is worth treble that. I only
asked you to hear what you'd say. Here, take the creature
and welcome. I have watched you many times, my lad,
when you have been looking at the birds and things here,
and I know by the expression in your face that you'd like
to have a live thing of your own."
Surprise and joy literally took away Bennie's power of
30 A GIFT LOST AND AN ACQUAINTANCE MADE.
speech, but the sparkling eyes and trembling hands were
thanks enough for the kind-hearted Mr. Macleish.
Bennie walked towards home as quickly as the careful
handling of the mouse would allow him, occasionally lifting
the lid of the cage to take a peep at the wee mousie within.
He was just in the act of refreshing his eyes with one of
these peeps, when a scream of terror smote upon his ear.
Before he could close the cage and raise his eyes to discover
the cause of the uproar, he was knocked down on his knees
by a child who, with wild shrieks and flying hair, came
rushing along the pavement, while behind her, but at some
little distance, a woman ran in pursuit. With a hasty ex-
pression of impatience at the slight delay that Bennie had
occasioned her, the child rushed on, little guessing what
mischief she had done; for the violent push that Bennie
had received had struck the cage from his hand, the lid
had flown wide open, and, alas, for his owner Mr. Mousie
had lost no time in effecting his escape. In a moment,
Bennie sprang to his feet, and doubtless he would have
succeeded in capturing his treasure, had not a sudden blow
from a heavy stick sent him again on his knees, and made
him shriek out with surprise and pain.
"I'll teach you to call me names, you young varmint you!
I'll break every bone in your body, if you ever dares do it
again "-and another, and yet another blow descended
heavily upon Bennie's unoffending back.
Almost paralysed with fright at the sudden and unex-
pected onset, Bennie received several blows before he could
A GIFT LOST AND AN ACQUAINTANCE MADE. 31
collect presence of mind to jump aside. Then, with flashing
eyes and quivering lips, forgetting, in his passion, even the
empty cage upon the pavement, he cried,
What do you mean by hitting me like that, I'd like to
The woman bent down close to him. There was no need
of the red, bloated face to tell Bennie she was the worse for
drink. The horrible fumes of stale spirits were in her
breath as she peered into his eyes.
Why, 'taint Jett, arter all. 'Tis some young ragamuffin
of a boy. Here, you, did you see a gal run by half a
minute ago ? and she shook him roughly by the collar.
But by this time Bennie had fully collected his senses
and had all his wits about him. He had recognized in his
assailant the wretched imnate of a neighboring house,
whose drunken broils were a nuisance to all around. Jett
was the daughter of the man with whom she lived, and it
was a well-known fact that the little girl met with very
rough usage at the hands of the woman who was supposed
to act the part of a mother to her.
"You'd best make sure of your mark, before you touch
me again," said Bennie, drawing up his small figure to its
full height, "or it may be the worse for you. As sure as
your name's Moll Maddock, I'll tell my grandfather of what
If Bennie knew her, she did not know him. This allu-
sion to "grandfather," and an indescribable something
about the boy-an air of importance and superiority, it
32 A GIFT LOST AND AN ACQUAINTANCE MADE.
seemed to her, though in reality, it was but the fearless
bearing and manly courage that come of living a pure and
noble life-made her alter her tone. She began to whine,
" I thought 'twas that wicked Jett. She'll be the death o'
me some day, I knows she will. I didn't mean to hurt you,
my boy. Here's a penny for you. Best go home, and say
nothing' to nobody."
"No, thank you," said Bennie, drawing back in disgust.
Then he picked up the cage, groped about in the gutter,
and carefully moved some small heaps of decayed vegetable
matter in the vain hope of recovering his mouse.
The woman lingered a minute. Then the drink seemed
suddenly to overpower her; for she reeled, and would have
fallen, had she not grasped a lamp-post for support. Pre-
sently she took her hands from it, and turning, walked
with unsteady steps to her home.
Poor Bennie He did not give up that search for a long
while. The striking of eleven o'clock recalled him to a
sense of the lateness of the hour. He must go now, or
grandad would be anxious about him. With a deep sigh of
disappointment he cast a last glance around.
"What have you lost, little 'un ?"
Bennie looked up and recognized Jett. A feeling of great
anger came into his heart. It was all through her that he
had lost his mouse.
"'Twas your fault," he exclaimed passionately. "You
nearly knocked me down, and the lid flew open, and the
mouse ran out, and --" but already Bennie repented of his
A GIFT LOST AND AN ACQUAINTANCE MADE. 33
anger. The deed was done; it could not be undone. Of
what use were words ?
"Well?" said Jett, interrogatively.
"Well," replied Bennie more quietly, "your mother came
up-Moll Maddock-and she thought I was you, and hit me
with a stick, and before I could get away, the mouse was gone."
"She hit you? what made her do that ? gasped Jett.
"Why I tell you, she thought I was you," he replied. "Now
then, don't stand in my way," and Bennie, once more for-
getting his better self in his keen disappointment over the
lost mouse, pushed Jett roughly aside.
But Jett was not to be silenced by a harsh word. Poor
child, she was so accustomed to them that she passed them
"Oh," she said, and the hard expression faded from her
white face, and the fierce light from her eyes as she spoke-
"Oh I'm real sorry-that I am. But I'll stay out all night
and look for your mouse. What colour is he?"
No, no, you mustn't do that," said Bennie with a half
smile; for her genuine sorrow and repentance would have
touched a harder heart than his. "Besides he's gone for
good. I have looked ever so long for him already. Per-
haps," he went on, "I'll buy another some day. Then it
won't matter so much."
Buy another. Was it a white one, then ? "
Bennie nodded; he did not care to waste more words on
the subject than was absolutely necessary.
"What, one of them little white mice as have got pink
34 A GIFT LOST AND AN ACQUAINTANCE MADE.
eyes ? Jett asked. Oh, I'm so sorry. I wish I could give
him back to you, I do," and to Bonnie's surprise she burst
into a torrent of tears. Then in a moment she exclaimed,
"Oh I wish you'd hit me, or knock me down, or some-
thing." There was a world of passionate entreaty in her
voice, and to Bennie's amazement she bent down before
him, and waited for the blow which she doubted not would
be bestowed. What an odd child she was! Bennie began
to laugh and to forget his trouble.
"What good would that do?" he asked. "Besides, he
added proudly, "I shouldn't like to hit a girl."
"Shouldn't you?" she said, half wistfully, half in surprise.
Then, thinking of something that might make matters even,
she cried out joyously,
But I'm a lot bigger than you if I am a girl."
Poor Bennie, it was hard for him to be taunted with his
shortness of stature by a little member of the feminine sex.
His face, even in the darkness, burnt with a sudden flush.
"I'm a lot bigger, ain't I ?" Jett asked again, when she
found that Bennie made no particular haste to answer her.
Well, no, not so very much," he said stoutly after a
lyinute's pause, during which he had glanced up at Jett's
head, and found it to be only three or four inches above his
own. "And I dare say I'm older. I'm twelve and past. How
old are you ?"
I don't know," replied Jett, with a sorrowful shake of her
head. "About ten I think. But since mother died I've
lost count, and nobody tells me nothing now."
A GIFT LOST AND AN ACQUAINTANCE MADE. 35
Wasn't she your mother ?" Bennic asked, indicating with
jerk of his head the direction in which Moll had walked
"No, mother died ever so long ago," said Jett. Moll's
lived with father ever since, but she ain't no mother of
mine. Oh she's a regular old hag, she is, and I hate her-"
and Jett's black eyes were blazing again in a moment like
two red-hot coals.
"You shouldn't call people names," said Bennie, feeling it
incumbent upon him to check this fiery young creature's
fury, though hardly knowing how to act for the best. Then
he thought to himself, If Grannie were here, I know what
she'd say." Whereupon Bennie adopted the tones and man-
ners of a virtuous old man. And you shouldn't hate
folks either, Jett. It makes God angry."
Jett's passion changed again. She burst into a roar of
"Oh, I say, don't come your parson's tales with me. God
don't care, not He, else why'd He let me be knocked about,
and half killed, and starved ? If He did care, He'd fling
down one of them gold stones as they say heaven's paved
with to the poor folks down here as ain't got so much as a
copper. I believe 'tis all a parcel of lies, and that there
ain't no God at all."
Bennie stood aghast. Grannie's christian training had
taught him to believe in God as he believed in his own
"Oh," he said earnestly, "there is a God. I know there
36 A GIFT LOST AND AN ACQUAINTANCE MADE.
is. Besides, don't you know how He sent His son to die for
us, because we had been wicked and-and--"
Bennie broke off hastily, finding it difficult to explain
what after all he felt, rather than understood.
"What, Him that they calls Jesus ?" Jett asked.
"I don't believe one of the stories they tell about Him,"
returned the sceptical Jett. "'Tisn't likely anybody would
give himself a lot of pain, and then let himself be killed for
a lot of people that hated him."
Bennie was just beginning an argument that would im-
mediately convince Jett how very wrong her opinions were,
when the clock struck the half hour after eleven. With a
pang of remorse he thought of grandad.
"I must go now," lie said, suddenly breaking off the con-
versation. Good-bye, Jett-" and he walked hastily away.
A little brown hand on his sleeve detained him. He
turned to meet Jett's big, black eyes, sad, wistful, and full
of tears. How quickly she changed her moods; she was
never five minutes the same, but Bennie liked the present
Jett the best.
"I'm that sorry about your mouse," she said humbly.
"Don't buy another just yet, will you? I guess I shall find
him somewhere. Promise me you won't buy another till
I've had a good search."
"All right, I won't," said Bennie, "but I know you won't
find him. I think he fell down the drain."
"I will find him," said Jett defiantly, "see if I don't."
A GIFF LOST AND AN ACQUAINTANCE MADE. 37
Then she let Bennie walk away without another word.
In a very few minutes he was at home. As he closed the
door behind him, he noticed a little figure just outside with
a white face and a pair of black eyes. Bennie felt half in-
clined to administer a mild reproof to the child for not
having gone straight home; but as he paused with the half-
closed door in his hand she scudded away, and the last that
Bennie saw of her was her streaming black hair as she flew
like the wind down the street.
Bennie hoped that she had gone home at last, but a
sudden thought struck him that Jett would hardly venture
to return to the drunken woman whom she hated so in-
tensely. He wished he had asked what she intended to do.
Perhaps she had no supper. She had looked hungry
enough, poor child. If lie could give her nothing else, lie
might have given her a bit of bread. He wished he had
thought of it.
However, Jett was gone, and Bennie forgot her in chatting
to grandad, and giving him his supper.
It was not till long afterwards that the boy learnt that
Jett had spent the whole night in the street, searching in
the wet gutter and among the heaps of rubbish for his
mouse. At last-but that was after daylight had appeared
-she curled herself up upon a friendly door-step, and slept
there in the cold of the early morning until a milkman,
going on his rounds with his can, roughly awoke her, and
told her harshly to "get off home."
Alas for Jett! and alas for the place that she called home!
BENNIE "RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCH."
Fon many mornings after that, Bennie was very reluctant
to go by Mr. Macleish's shop. He felt sure that he would
inquire how the mouse was going on, and what would he
think of his carelessness, when he heard that he had lost
him even before arriving home ? And then Bennie had no
particular desire to see those other little mice, whose white
fur and pink eyes would so remind him of the one he had
possessed for so short a time. He resolved that he would
buy another on the very next "lucky day that he had,
and then explain to Mr. Macleish how he came to lose his
mouse. Meanwhile he carefully avoided the shop, and Mr.
Macleish, who had taken a great fancy to Bennie, wondered
why it was that he never came to watch his animals, or to
have a chat with him now.
It was, perhaps, a fortnight after the loss of the mouse,
that Bennie, coming home earlier than usual one night, was
greeted by a little figure that rose from the doorstep as he
approached it. Bennie saw at once that it was Jett.
"I'm so glad you're come," she said eagerly and excitedly.
BENNIE RIGHTEOUSS OVER-MUCII." 39
" I've been waiting here over so long. I've got him for you
at last. Here he is." So saying, she held out to Bennie
a tiny wooden box.
"You don't mean to say that you've found the little
creature, after all this time?" asked Bennie, in astonish-
"No," said Jett, "of course, 'tain't the same- not the same
as you lost, I mean. 'Tis another. I bought him for you
to-night. You don't mind," she went on anxiously, "that
he ain't just the same one as you lost, do you ? "
"No, no," said Bennie, "I don't mind about that. And
he's a real beauty, too," he added, as he cautiously lifted the
lid, and looked in at the little mouse.
Oh, I'm so glad, so glad," said Jett, jumping about in
her joy. "And now you'll forgive me, won't you ? "
Why," replied Bennie, smiling pleasantly in her face;
"I did forgive you that night, Jett. I was only angry for a
minute just at first. I think it's very kind of you to bring
me this one. I can't tell you how much obliged I am to
you for it."
Jett was happy-serenely, blissfully happy. Evidently
she was in no hurry to go either. Bennie wished she would
not linger; he longed to run away, and put the mouse into
the pretty varnished cage upstairs. Then his conscience
smote him. Was it kind to wish her gone when she had
brought him such a welcome gift ? He wondered whether
grandad would be vexed if he invited Jett into their room.
It would please her to see the antics of the mouse, which
40 BENNIE "RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCII."
would perhaps run round and round the wheel that was
fixed inside the cage.
Would you like to come in and see me put him in the
cage that I've got ? he asked, but with so much hesitation,
that the invitation was certainly wanting in cordiality.
That, however, was lost upon Jett.
"Oh wouldn't I ?" she said joyfully, and then Bennie
led the way, while she followed as gravely and as sedately
as her happy feet would let her.
Grandad was sitting in the dark, as was his custom. "Is
that you, Bennie ?" he asked, as Bennie opened the door
and came in.
Yes, grandad," he replied, "and here's a little girl. It's
Jett. Don't you remember I told you how she pushed
against me and made me lose the mouse that Mr. Maclcish
gave me? She's brought me another one," and Bennie began
groping about for the matches.
It was some little while before he could find them, then
when they were found, he suddenly recollected that their
last bit of candle had been burnt on the previous even-
"We haven't any candles left," he said, I must run out
and buy two or three. Wait a minute, Jett, I won't be
long." With that Bennie ran quickly downstairs and out
into the street.
The moon was at its full. A ray of its silvery light fell
through the window upon the floor. It enabled Jett, now
that her eyes had become accustomed to the darkness, to
BENNIE RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCI." 41
distinguish the form of an old man seated in an arm-chair
by the empty fire-place.
She went up to him and laid her little hand gently upon
Grandad had taken little notice of what Bennie had said
to him. If he heard it at all, he had attached no meaning
to it. The touch of the child, who, unconsciously to him,
had been standing for some minutes by his side, startled
him considerably. He drew a quick breath and called out
Who is it ? What do you want ?"
"It's me-Jett," she replied, rather frightened herself for
being the cause of fright to him, "and I don't want nothing."
Oh," he said, not much enlightened by her explanation.
But Jett was by no means shy; she recovered herself
Old man," she said, addressing grandad by a name that
was more truthful than polite-"old man, is that your boy?"
What, Bennie ?" he asked, still bewildered.
"Yes, that's what you called him when we came in. Is
he your boy ?"
Yes, yes," he replied hastily ; leastwayss," he added as
he bethought himself, he is not anybody's child more than
Jett stared, puzzled in her turn. Such logic was incom-
prehensible to her.
"He's a nice boy," she said so gravely and thoughtfully
that grandad did not feel certain whether she was speaking
42 BENNIE "RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCH."
to herself, or addressing the remark to him; but as Jett
paused, as if waiting a reply, he answered :
"Yes, he's a good boy is Bennie. I don't know what
would have become of me if it hadn't been for him. Ever
since my poor Bess went I've--" But grandad's voice
failed him. He had never spoken to anybody quite in this
way before since grannie's death, and the words seemed to
Jett understood that quiver in his voice if she did not
understand the exact meaning of his words. With quick,
but silent sympathy, she took his hand and began gently to
It pleased grandad that she should do so. Then, when he
had recovered himself, he said,
What's your name, little girl ?"
"I'm Jett," she answered again, "and I live with father
and Moll Maddock, but-" and her voice changed suddenly,
"I hate 'em, I hate 'em both, and I wish they were dead."
Such an unexpected outburst of passion from the child
who a moment before had been all gentleness and tender-
ness, quite took grandad's breath away, at the same time it
induced him to take an unusual interest in the troubles and
emotions of another. Grandad's thoughts were generally
occupied with himself.
But what makes you hate them, Jett ?" he said, looking
at her closely, and trying to distinguish her face in the dim
light. "Arn't they good to you ? "
"Father is, when he ain't drunk," Jett answered, but
^ - ` '- ^ ^ F ^
BENNIE RIGHTEOUS OVER-M3UCH." 43
Moll, she's always beating me, and kicking me, whether she's
drunk or not."
Moll isn't your mother, then, Jett ?"
No, mother's dead," she replied shortly and sadly.
So Jett had lost her mother, and he had lost his wife!
Grandad felt as though Jett had tugged at a little cord that
was fastened to a tender place in his own heart.
"Poor little girl!" he said kindly. Then he began to
stroke her long black hair, and at the almost forgotten touch
of a loving caress, Jett thought that her heart must break.
Laying her head upon grandad's knee she burst into a flood
For a few moments nothing was heard but Jett's sobs, for
grandad did not know what to say to comfort her. Then
the door flew open, and in rushed Bennie.
"I thought I should never get served," he exclaimed, "the
shop was full of customers, and they kept me waiting till
nearly last. But there," he added, we'll soon have a light
now," and suiting the action to the word, he struck a match,
and applied it to the candle.
Bennie's thoughts were so full of his mouse, that he did
not notice the tears that were still running down Jett's face.
She had stifled her sobs when she heard him come in.
And now Bennie placed the box and the cage side by side
on the table; the lids of both were withdrawn, and there
was nothing for the mouse to do but step from one to the
other. But mousie was in no hurry, and meant to take his
time. Jett forgot her griefs as she watched him peep from
44 BENNIE RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCH."
the box into the more commodious two-roomed habitation
beyond. His little bright eyes took a cautious survey of the
new premises, then, after a minute's indecision as to whether
to advance or retire, mousie made up his mind, and with a
sudden dart, bolted into his new home, while Bennie shut
the door, and removed the box in triumph.
"Oh, ain't he a little love ?" cried Jett in the gladness of
her heart. And then, as she saw what joy she had given
Bennie, Jett felt that she had atoned for her sin, and in that
knowledge found infinite content.
"Yes, that he is," said Bennie heartily, "I do think now
I come to look at him that he's prettier than the one I lost."
"Oh, I'm so glad," again cried Jett. "I asked the man
for a rare good 'un. He said sixpence was a good price, and
that I should have my money's worth." And Jett fairly
clapped her hands for joy.
"Did he cost sixpence ?" cried Bennie. Oh, Jett, you
shouldn't have spent so much for me. However did you
get such a lot of money as that "
Jett burst into a merry peal of laughter. Such a game,"
she cried. "Listen, and I'll tell you. I knew 'twas no
manner of use to ask Moll for a penny, so I just kept quiet
and bided my time. To-night, just as luck'd have it, in
comes Moll as drunk as could be. She'd only have beat me
if she'd seen me, so I hid behind the table till she was fast
asleep. I saw her take some money out of her pocket and
put it on the table. There was some coppers, and a shilling
and a sixpence. Now's my time, thinks I, so as soon as
BENNIE RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCH." 45
she was asleep and snoring, I slipped out, took up the six-
pence and bolted. Then I ran straight to Macleish's shop
without stopping, and bought the mouse for you, Bennie,"
and Jett began to jump and dance about the room.
It was a minute or two before Bennie could find words to
express his horror at what she had done.
"And you stole the money that you paid for him! Oh
how could you ?" he said in grave disgust and horror.
Jett stopped her wild gambols to laugh again. She
would not have done so had she seen the expression on
Why, 'twas easy enough," she said lightly. "Moll was
fast asleep, and wouldn't have woke if I'd let the poker fall.
Maybe she'll beat me when she finds she's a sixpence short.
She wouldn't believe me if I told her I didn't take it, so its
no good to try that on. But I don't care if she does beat
"You're a wicked, bad girl, Jett, to steal," said Bennie
solemnly, and then he paused, for at that awful voice Jett
turned and looked, and lo! the gladness all faded from her
face and the happy light from her eyes. She stood, white
and trembling, before the small boy's righteous wrath, as
though a thunderbolt had fallen at her feet.
"I thought you were a good girl, Jett," the same dreadful
voice went on to say, "and 'twas only Moll that was wicked,
but its zuorse to steal than to get drunk. And you tell lies,
too. You had no right to bring this mouse here at all. He
wasn't yours to bring, for you bought him with money that
46 BENNIE "RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCH."
didn't belong to you-money that you, stole. I must take
him back to the shop this very minute, and you'll have to
come too, for you must tell Mr. Macleish all about it, and
ask him to give you back Moll's sixpence."
Jett looked at him in dismay and consternation. "But,
I couldn't," she gasped; "perhaps he'd tell a policeman-"
and oh, the look of agony, and fear, and disappointment in
her small drawn face. GiC-,ii.l ], tears fell for very sym-
pathy as he watched her. But Bennie was unmoved.
"Jett," he said, with great harshness and cruelty, as she
and grandad thought, "Jett, you must do it. You have
done a dreadful thing, and before you can ask God to for-
give you, you must tell Mr. Macleish about it, and give back
the money to Moll."
Jett's face brightened with the rapidity of lightning.
"I don't want God to forgive me," she said eagerly, hop-
ing to find a means of escape. If that were the great griev-
ance, it was a matter of utter indifference to her. That
don't signify." Then summoning up her courage-for she
was greatly afraid of him-she flung her arms around
Bennie's neck, and cried, "Oh, Bennie, do take the mouse,
and don't say nothing more about it."
But Bennie was not to be won over by any such endear-
ments. He pushed her off, saying simply,
"I can't take it now; you know that. Come, Jett, you
must go with me to Mr. Macleish's," and putting on his hat
he beckoned her to follow him.
But Jett was as resolute in her way as Bennie was in
BENNIE "RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCH." 47
his. She was not going to be led off quite so easily as all
that, to have her guilt made public. Very terrible results
might be the consequence of such imprudence. Why, she
might be taken off to prison very possibly. She had heard
of younger children than herself being sent there. To
escape the laws of justice was Jett's prevailing idea-she
would, indeed, be worse than an idiot if she were to allow
herself to be meekly led before her accusers to receive what-
ever punishment they chose to inflict. She shrank back.
"I won't go," she said resolutely, and now by her quick
broken utterance and rapid breath, grandad and Bonnie
guessed that there was a tempest arising. "I tell you I
uon't go. I hate you, Bennie, and if I hadn't made you lose
your mouse and let you get my beating, I'd-I'd tear your
hair, and scratch your face, for I hate you, and you are a
bad-" Here a torrent of foul names were hurled at
Bennie, so foul, indeed, that I should be sorry to have to
write them. Then she rushed from the room and almost
flew down the stairs.
Bennie, bewildered by Jett's passionate vehemence and
accusations, sat down to regain self-possession. He would
have been glad of a few minutes' quiet thought, but grandad,
who had taken a vast interest in the altercation all through,
began talking in an unusually excited manner. Had Bennie
known her long ? What a little vixen she was, and what a
tongue she'd got to be sure !
Bennie wished that grandad would have shown a little
more indignation at her sin, but he did not seem to see it in
48 BENNIE RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCH."
so heinous a light as he did. Bennie answered his questions
moodily; he had an unpleasant piece of work before him,
and he was thinking how best to go through it.
Presently he rose; without a word he put on his cap, and
taking the cage under his arm made straight for Mr.
Fortunately for Bennie there were no customers, so Mr.
Macleish was able to give his full attention to Bennie's story.
As it was, he found some difficulty in understanding it. He
blew a long whistle when at last Bennie came to the end.
"I remember," he said thoughtfully. "'Twas a white-
faced child, with long black hair; and mighty particular she
was to have a good article for her money." Then he smiled
to himself. A big man was Mr. Macleish, tall and stout in
body, and large and tender in heart.
You're a good boy, Bennie," he continued after a minute's
pause, to bring the mouse back, and I respect you for what
you have done. But don't you be too hard on that wee
lassie. Depend upon it, she has never been taught the dif-
ference between right and wrong. 'Twas out of pure love
for you, and from a wish to atone, for what after all was no
fault of hers, that she took the money and bought the
"But she ought not to have done it; that doesn't make it
right," Bennie maintained with knitted brows. There were
no half ways and half measures with Bennie. She was a tltief
and nothing could alter the fact; nevertheless he was greatly
relieved to find that Mr. Macleish treated the matter so
BENNIE "RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCH." 49
lightly. Feeling far happier than when he had entered the
shop, he turned to go.
Wait a bit, Bennie," said Mr. Macleish. "Don't be in a
hurry. You are getting yourself out of a nasty fix and
leaving me in a worse one. What's to be done with this
sixpence now ? The mouse isn't yours any more than the
money is mine." Mr. Macleish rubbed his head and looked
Jett must give back the sixpence to Moll of course,"
said Bennie decidedly.
"Do you know where she lives, my lad ?"
"Yes," replied Bennie, but not very willingly, for he
feared that Mr. Macleish would ask him to take the money
to Jett. His fears were doomed to be realized.
"Well, then," said Mr. Macleish, "suppose you just step
round, and leave it with a word to Moll, by way of explanation.
But I wouldn't say too much about Jett if I were you,"
he added kindly. I shouldn't like the child to get into a -
row about it. I guess Moll would'nt stop at a blow or
Bonnie didn't like the errand, but his conscience told him
that he ought to comply with Mr. Macleish's request. He
picked up the sixpence, and was once more preparing to
leave the shop when again he was stopped.
"Here, Bennie, don't leave the mouse behind," said Mr.
Macleish kindly. "You're welcome to him. If you had
come back and told me you had lost the other I should have
given you another directly."
50 BENNIE RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCH."
"Oh, no, thank you," said Bennie drawing back. "I
don't like,-I couldn't."
And I say, yes," interrupted Mr. Macleish, shutting the
unfortunate mouse once more in a small wooden box. "No,
you needn't thank me, Bennie. 'Tisn't worth it. Now
good night to you, and don't be too hard upon that little
lassie." Then he added gravely, "You're a good boy and an
honest one, but you know, Bennie, you may have a tempta-
tion some day that'll be too strong for you. Think of that,
my lad, when you see her, and remember she's got no good
mother to train her."
With lagging steps, and feeling very averse to the task
before him, Bennie made his way to the house in which Moll
lived; still more slowly he ascended the stairs to her
There was no answer in reply to his knock, so after wait-
ing a little he opened the door and walked in.
What a sight met his eye! Lying on the floor with her
head on an old stool was Moll still fast asleep in her drunken
fit. The noise of her snoring blended with the sound of deep
drawn sobs, which proceeded from a little figure in the cor-
ner. So huddled up, and so still was it, that at first Bennie
did not know it was Jett, but when he became accustomed
to the dim light that the solitary candle gave, he saw that
it was indeed the little girl. He stepped quietly across to
where she crouched and softly called her by her name.
The miserable scene, the sorrowful, heart-broken sobs
touched Bennie as nothing else had done, and he began to
BENNIE "RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCH." 51
feel sorry for the little sinner. But Jett neither moved nor
spoke in answer to his gentle call.
"Jett," he said again in rather a louder voice.
This time Jett raised her head. She stared at Bennie,
half frightened for a minute. Then, when she recognized
him, she shrank back, as though he had been Moll herself.
Bennie saw the movement. It wounded him that she
would not let him come near her.
"It's only me,-Bennie, you know," and his voice was
so kind and so forgiving that Jett shrank from him no longer."
"Look here, Jett; I've been to Mr. Macleish, and got back the
sixpence, and he isn't a bit angry with you. So now you
can put it with the rest of the money, and Moll need never
know anything about it. You needn't fret about the mouse
either, Jett," he continued, softly stroking her hand, "for Mr.
Macleish says I am to keep him, and you shall come and see
him run round in his cage as often as you like."
Jett hardly seemed to realize to its full extent the good
news that Bennie had brought her; but that Bennie was
kind again, had smiled in her face, and had patted her hand
were enough for her. Love and sympathy were her's once
more. Gradually her sobs died away, and a faint smile
played around her lips.
'" I'm so glad," she said simply. Then as she looked at him
a great longing came suddenly into her heart, and she burst
"Oh, Bennie, kiss me, and let me be your little sister; for
since mother died I ain't had nobody to love me, nor to kiss
52 BENNIE "RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCH."
me. And I do love you so, Bennie, and that old man as you
Bennie stooped down and did as she had desired. He was
not the least bit angry with her now, but still he felt it to be
his duty-and Bennie never allowed anything to interfere
with duty-to "improve the occasion."
Jett," he said, stroking her hair, I will always love you
if you will only be good, but you musn't steal, and you
mustn't tell lies."
Then giving her another kiss-this time a voluntary one
-he got up and went out of the room, while Jett watched
him with wistful, hungry eyes, saying softly to herself,
"I'll be good, oh, I will be good, and then he'll love me ever
so much, and I won't steal, and I won't tell lies, no, never
And then she, too, rose from that dirty floor, and going
to the wretched heap of straw and rags which she called
"bed," she threw herself-prayerless, alas!-upon it. Yet
even in her sleep a happy smile would now and again hover
around her parted lips, and she would murmur, "I'll be
good, for Bennie says he'll love me then."
Bennie went home with an unwonted feeling of light-
heartedness. He had done a disagreeable duty bravely. It
had ended far better than he had dared to hope, and above
all, he had healed Jett's wounded heart and made her happy.
Grandad made no remark concerning the occurrences of
the past evening, but lie listened gravely to Bonnie's account
of what he had dune. Then he said, with a strangely sweet
BENNIE "RIGHTEOUS OVER-MUCH." 53
smile upon his wrinkled face, "Don't you think you were a
bit too angry with her, Bennie ? I can't help thinking of
that story in the Bible about the servant who owed his lord
a lot of money, and his lord forgave him the debt. But
that servant wouldn't forgive the man who owed him
money, and when the lord heard of that, he took back his
forgiveness, and had the unjust servant put into prison.
Seems to me, Bennie, that if we don't forgive Jett, we shall
be something like that wicked servant."
It was a long speech for grandad to make, indeed Bennie
never remembered having heard him say so much at once
before. He lay and pondered it in his heart long after the
old man had fallen asleep. Both Mr. Macleish and grandad
had blamed him, and almost in the same words. Surely
then he had been too severe upon Jett. He had forgotten,
till Mr. Macleish reminded him of the fact, that she was a
little untaught, ignorant child, who had never known a
mother's loving care. Then, when he remembered the kind
of people with whom she was obliged to live, and the
wretchedness, and dirt, and want to which she was sub-
jected, he ceased to wonder at Jett's wickedness, and began
to pity where before he had condemned. For the future, he
resolved he would be very kind and gentle to Jett whatever
dreadful things she might take into her head to do. Having
made up his mind to this, Bennie felt at peace with himself,
and he too fell happily asleep.
WILLING HANDS AND A STOUT HEART.
JETT was by no means tardy in taking advantage of Bennie's
invitation to run in and see the mouse as often as she liked,
and she did like very often. Scarcely a day passed without
a visit from the child, and she and grandad soon became
fast friends. She had no fear of him, and would sit at his
feet and chat about her own affairs, and listen to what
grandad had to say in return, as if she had known him for
years. He enjoyed it amazingly, her conversation-some-
times as simple as a baby's, sometimes. old and cunning
beyond her years-never failed to interest and amuse him,
and he was quite disappointed when she did not come in.
Jett was equally fond of Bennie, but in a different way.
She was shy of him. He was so good in Jett's eyes that
she was afraid to talk with him freely as she did with
grandad, with that little unholy tongue of hers. He was
Jett's hero, and she worshipped in silence and afar off, not
daring to approach nearer.
It was not only Bennie's highly moral character that had
such an influence over the little girl, but the sense of his
WILLING HANDS AND A STOUT HEART. 55
profound accomplishments was so awe-inspiring as almost
to take away Jett's breath whenever she thought about it.
Bonnie could read as well as a parson any day; and then
he could write too. When that fact was first made known
to Jett, with flushing checks and an eager voice she said,
"Oh Bennie, do write to me, for nobody never sent me a
letter in all my life."
Bennie was very willing to oblige her. It is pleasant to
all of us to be of some importance and consequence in the
eyes of our fellow-men, and Bennie shared that feeling in
common with the rest of humanity.
Unfortunately, there were no writing materials at hand.
The only necessary that Bennie possessed was a pen. How-
ever, Mrs. James very kindly gave him a sheet of paper, and
lent him her ink-bottle. Then he set to work. In delicate
up-strokes and unmistakable down-strokes, with many a
clever twist and turn, Bennie wrote some odd-looking letters
that spelt, as he told her-" Dear Jett."
Having got so far, Bennie was at a loss what to say next.
With knitted brows he gazed at the ceiling, then stared
at the floor, while Jett stood by with bated breath,
trembling for the fate of her letter. Then who should
come to the rescue but grandad. He called out as if with
"Why, Bennie, the proper thing to put next is-' this
comes hoping you are well, as it leaves me at present.' "
With immense relief, Bennie seized his pen and wrote.
Then he paused, and looked inquiringly at grandad for
56 WILLING HANDS AND A STOUT HEART.
further orders. Grandad nodded his head and went on
So no more now from your affectionate-"
"Yes," said Bennie, as with some little difficulty he came
to the end of "affectionate." Then he eyed it with per-
plexity and dissatisfaction, for the spelling of so long a word
was by no means an easy task to him. He felt convinced
there was a mistake somewhere, though where the mistake
was Bennie could not have told for the life of him. Yes,
grandad, what next ? he asked.
Well, yotu know best about that, I should think," said
grandad, scratching his head thoughtfully. "I remember
writing to Bessie once "-how his voice trembled as he
uttered the seldom-mentioned name!-"and I said, 'your
affectionate husband.' But I don't see how you can put
that, Bennie, because you aren't Jett's husband, are you ?"
Bennie shook his head most energetically, while Jett
watched first one and then the other, not daring to speak,
lest any irrelevant remark of hers might interrupt the im-
Grandad had caught her spirit, and to him too this
writing of a letter was a matter of profound interest.
"It's a bit awkward, isn't it, Bennie ?" he went on in a
few minutes, ceasing to scratch his head in despair of find-
ing aid in that process. "You see you aren't her husband,
nor you aren't her father-" Bennie's head went to work in
a more emphatically negative manner than ever; "you
aren't her brother, nor you aren't her anything that I can see.
WILLING HANDS AND A STOUT HEART. 57
Now if you were writing to me, you know, Bennie, there's
lots of things you could put. You could put-let me see-
you could put your affectionate-your affectionate-" But
here again there seemed a difficulty-" Why, dash it,
Bennie," the old man cried, "it zeems that you aren't
anything real to me either for the matter of that. Why,
wkat are you, Bennie ?" Grandad stared perfectly be-
Bennie was silent. The conversation had taken a pain-
ful turn for him. So he was nothing real to anybody after
all! Just a waif and a stray, with no relations and no
rightful belongings as other people had. Bennie heaved a
sorrowful sigh, and Jett, ever quick and watchful to see the
least change in him, noticed how sad he looked.
"But, Bennie," she said, "you can put 'your affectionate
brother,' for don't you remember as how you promised to let
me be your sister? It wouldn't be a lie, would it ? she
added timidly, fearing that her hero might object even to
such light falsity on conscientious motives.
But Bennie saw nothing wrong in her reasoning, and to
her great joy "brother" was written. Then the letter
being finished, was carefully folded, and oh the pride and
the joy with which Jett carried it home in her bosom.
She treasured it, and caressed it, and talked to it, as though
it had been a living thing; for had not Bennie's hand
written it, and had not grandad told lim to put down some
beautiful words that meant that Bennie loved her and was
58 WILLING HANDS AND A STOUT HEART.
As the summer advanced grandad improved wonderfully
in health and spirits. It was partly owing to that great
healer of our sorrows, Time, and in a greater measure still
to enlivening society, for what with Jett's frequent visits
and the mouse, which it was his duty to feed and tend
during Bennie's absence, the old man rarely felt the days to
be long or dreary now.
But matters were going badly with Bennie the bread-
winner; for the hot summer months were not so prosperous
as some of the others. Nearly all his regular customers
were out of town, and he had to turn his hand to other
things besides the newspaper trade. Had it been dirty
weather he would have taken grandad's broom and swept a
crossing, but he knew it would not answer when the roads
were so hot with the burning sun, that the water from the
water-carts dried up almost as soon as it was put down. So
he could only lounge about the streets, keeping an anxious
look-out for anybody who might be wanting a bag carried,
or a cab called, or an omnibus hailed.
However, they managed to live somehow. Bennie went
on his way with willing hands and a stout heart, taking com-
fort from the knowledge that grandad was wonderfully better,
and from the hope that when the autumn came, the old man
would perhaps be well enough to sweep his crossing again.
Grandad little guessed how money matters were troubling
Bennie. How should he, when Bennie never told him ? He
was very happy at home with Jett, who had provided him
with a new and pleasant occupation.
WILLING HANDS AND A STOUT HEART. 59
One day she had asked him to teach her to read. At first
he had hesitated, not from unwillingness, but from a doubt
as to his own capability as a teacher. Then, feeling how
pleasant it would be to hear the child's sweet voice spelling
out the words at his knee, he consented. In order, however,
that Jett might quite understand that he did not consider
himself proficient in the art of training the youthful intel-
lect, he said,
"But I'm no scholar, you know, Jett. Now, there's
Bennie, he can read fine."
But Jett shook her head when Bennie was mentioned.
She preferred grandad for her teacher. She begged, too,
that it might be a secret between them, for she was anxious
that Bennie should know nothing about it until she had
learnt all that grandad could teach her. And grandad had
willingly promised, and entered into the fun of the thing
with great glee.
But alas there came a speedy and unexpected interrup-
tion to the pleasant intercourse between the old man and
the little child.
He was sitting by the window one afternoon, with the
open Bible, from which Jett was to have her lesson, resting
upon his knee, when she rushed into the room. She was
greatly excited, the tears were streaming down her face,
and her hair was in a mass of tangle.
"Why, my pretty," said grandad soothingly, what's the
"Oh! grandad," sobbed Jett in anguish of soul, "we're
60 WILLING HANDS AND A STOUT HEART.
going away; we're going away from here-ever so far away,
and perhaps I'll never see you again-no, never again." So
saying she threw herself down upon the floor by his side,
her whole frame convulsed with sobs.
"Going away, my pet," grandad repeated in great con-
sternation. "Why, how's that ?"
"Moll says so," she replied. "Father's been and done
something dreadful wicked, and they're afraid he'll be found
out, so we're going away on the quiet, Moll says, right to
t'other side of London."
Poor little thing, then !" said grandad, patting her head;
but he didn't say more than that just then, for he had a pain
at his heart as if somebody had pricked it with a sharp
"Tell Bennie all about it," Jett sobbed presently. Then
rising, she kissed grandad, and prepared to go.
But Jett," he said, it isn't such a long way off that you
are going, is it? Couldn't you come over sometimes and
see Bennie and me ?"
"Yes, that I will," she said earnestly, and then she
clenched her hands tightly, stamped her foot, and added
passionately, "I'll come, I'll come-if I die for it."
Grandad gave a little start. Jett was beyond his com-
prehension when she was seized with these fits of excite-
ment, and she was greatly excited now. She stood with
her teeth pressed closely together, her eyes flashed, and a
look of great determination came into her face.
If anybody had told Bennie a few months before how
WILLING HANDS AND A STOUT HEART. 61
sorry he would be to hear that Jett had left them, and how
disappointed to know that he would have no more of her
visits, he would not have believed it. Yet, as he listened
that evening to grandad's story, the world seemed all at once
to become blank and dreary, and it brought back to his
memory, with an almost overwhelming force, the terrible
first grief occasioned by grannie's death.
Grandad missed her more than Bennie, as was natural.
He had so enjoyed teaching her to read. And this he had
done with good ability, too, or else Jett had proved an
apt pupil; for she had made wonderful progress in so short
a time. Then he had told her Bible stories, and talked to
her almost as grannie would have talked. And Jett was be-
ginning to grow a different child; tidier in her appearance ;
quieter in her manners; more refined in her language; while
a certain expression of slyness and cunning in her face was
replaced by a sweeter, gentler, and more thoughtful look
that did grandad's heart good to see. It was marvellous
what influence each had had upon the other, and how
tenderly they loved one another. Not that grandad loved
Bennie the less because he had given Jett such a warm
place in his heart. His love for Bennie was of a different
nature, that was all. Bennie took care of him ; he took care
of Jett. There lay the difference.
Jett's promised visit was a matter of great anticipation,
but she seemed in no hurry to pay it, or perhaps the dis-
tance was so great that she could not. It was on a Sunday
afternoon that both grandad and Bennie expected that she
62 WILLING HANDS AND A STOUT HEART.
would most likely come; but as Sunday after Sunday went
by and no Jett appeared, they ceased to talk of her hoped-
for arrival. At last, when the summer had quite gone and
the cold weather had set in, they began to fear that some-
thing had occurred to take her far away from London, or
surely they would have seen her. Jett was not the kind of
child to forget old friends very readily. Bennie felt sure
that she was kept from them by some cause which she had
no power to prevent. He wished grandad had remembered
to inquire in what neighbourhood she was going to live, that
he might have gone to the place and endeavoured to find
her; but grandad had forgotten to do this, and he looked so
distressed when Bennie spoke of it, that Bennie never again
even said that he wished he knew where Jett was living,
lest grandad might think he was reproaching him.
There was yet another circumstance that increased
Bennie's sense of loneliness at this time.
Now that the autumn had fairly set in he knew that the
night-school which he had once regularly attended would
be re-opened, and he decided that he would call in one even-
ing to speak to his old teacher, who hac told Bennie always
to come to him if he needed a friend's help or advice.
Having made up his mind that he would do this, Bennie
looked forward to the visit with a great deal of pleasure.
But alas! he met only with disappointment. The school
had disappeared, and on the spot where it had once stood a
number of workmen were putting down a new line of rail-
way. Bennie made many inquiries, but they all received
WILLING HANDS AND A STOUT HEART. 63
the same answer. Nobody knew anything at all about the
school. It might still be carried on in the neighblurhood,
and it might not; it was only known that back in the
summer the house had been pulled down to make room for
Bennie was deeply grieved, for he had liked his teacher,
and he had always felt that in case of any great trouble he
could have gone to him and asked for the help he needed.
He had so few friends that he could ill afford to lose one.
Now, besides grandad, he had only Mr. Macleish. There
was certainly the mouse, and though it could hardly be called
a friend, it was a very pleasant companion, and afforded
endless delight to its owner. Bennie taught it to do a
variety of tricks, such as running to the top of a stick and
fetching down a tiny flag, balancing a pen-holder on its
nose, and so on. These feats Bennie had seen performed by
trained mice in the streets, and he gave himself no rest till
he had made his own mouse equally accomplished. And a
very clever mouse it was, as Mr. Macleish said, when one
day Bennie carried the cage to the shop and made the little
animal perform his antics before the delighted eyes of his
"What's his name, Bennie ?" Mr. Macleish asked, as soon
as he could speak for laughing.
"Name !" said Bennie in astonishment, "why, I never
thought of giving him a name."
"Oh! but you should, because he's so clever," replied Mr.
Macleish, "I always give my clever animals a name to dis-
64 WILLING HANDS AND A STOUT HEART.
tinguish them from the rest. Why don't you call him
' Snowball,' or else Pinky "
"No, not 'Pinky,' said B3ennie decidedly. "I don't like
Well, then, have Snowball,'" said Mr. Macleish.
So Snowball he became, and somehow, though how or
why it was Bennie never could make out, the name Snow-
ball" always brought Jett to his mind, till at last one day
it struck him that Jett was another word for black, and
Snowball for white, and that in thinking of black one gener-
ally thought of white as its contrast. From that he fell to
thinking how once upon a time, when he had first known
Jett, he used to consider her very bad-very black-in her
wickedness, but now that she was no longer near them, and
the recollection of her gentler ways was so much stronger
than the memory of her unrighteous deeds, there seemed no
spot or blemish upon her character. Bennie supposed that
was it-anyhow it was the best explanation that he could
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD.
IT is close upon Christmas time. The shops in the London
streets wear their gayest and most festive appearance.
Many are the troops of warmly-clad children, who, with
merry voices, make the air ring with their laughter, as
escorted by loving parents, fond uncles, aunts, and cousins,
they enter those decked-out shops to be enriched with any-
thing and everything that their hearts can desire. What
big parcels they all carry, when after a long time spent
within the shop they once more step out on the pavement
How their bright eyes sparkle, how their merry feet dance
along as each rejoices in the gifts that he or she has re-
ceived And home they go, still gaily laughing, to richly
furnished homes, to warmth, to comfort. No lessons to
learn, no school-rules to keep, nothing disagreeable now to
do for a whole long month. Nothing but fun, and frolic,
and pleasure-nothing but countless joys, another beginning
before the last has ended. Ah, be happy children, for it is
Christmas time! Be happy in the love, and the care, and
the wealth that surrounds you; but forget not, children,
66 A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD.
amidst it all, that out in the streets, out in the cold, there
are othbr children-shivering, hungry children-to whom
one thousandth part of your happiness would be bliss un-
told. Ah, yes! many are the troops of little half-clad boys
and girls who cast wistful glances at those brilliant shops,
but they can only feed their hungry bodies and souls with
the vain longing that always increases and is never i K.
And when they creep back once more-crouching as they
go for shelter from the bitter blast-to their cold, desolate
homes, so bare of furniture, so void of warmth, do not they
seem all the darker and the more wretched from contrast
with those rare and beautiful things that they have beheld
with their eyes, but which aie not for them--" not for such
But it is Christmas time, and thank God that it is so, for
there is seldom a life so dreary, seldom a life so hard, seldom
a life so sin-steeped, that is not gladdened by some ray of
joy at the holy Christmas-tide. And it is meet that it
should be so; for was it not then that the Lord Jesus
Christ took upon Himself to become a little child, "A man
of sorrows and acquainted with grief," bearing every pang
and pain to which humanity is subject that He might re-
deem His fellow-men-might make them in one vast, holy
brotherhood, the sons of God the Father ?
Well, as I said before, Christmas was close at hand, and
Bennie was anxiously calculating the cost of a plum pud-
ding, a treat which he had set his heart upon giving grandad.
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD. 67
They had never been without a plum-pudding on Christ-
mas day yet, and Bennie determined that there should be
one this year, by some means or other. Besides, gTandad's
thoughts would naturally turn to last Christmas Day, when
grannie had been with them, bright and cheerful as she
always was. He must therefore do his utmost to make the
present Christmas as like those that were past as he possibly
could. Grannie's empty chair he could not fill-would that
he could! but he would endeavour to have a well-spread
table. Unfortunately his funds were far from flourishing,
but Christmas had not quite arrived yet, and Bennie was
hopeful of a piece of good luck before it came.
Grandad was very depressed and melancholy. It was
partly because he fretted after Jett, and also because the
season of the year reminded him of "Bess" more forcibly
than usual. Bennie guessed as much, and forebore to ask
questions, knowing that they would but make matters
It wanted only two clear days to Christmas, when, as
grandad and Bennie sat by the fireside eating their supper,
they became aware of a sudden commotion down below.
Doors were slammed, and loud exclamations of surprise and
horror were heard. As they paused to listen there came
the distant sound of a child's voice. It was not very dis-
tinct, but it reached grandad's ears. He dropped his knife
and fork to the floor, and said with a gasp, Hark, Bennie,
that sounds like Jett."
Bennie's -fork was stayed half way to his mouth, as he,
68 A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD.
too, listened breathlessly. Then in a moment Mrs. James
shouted up the stairs, "Here, Bennie, just you come down.
Here's Jett wants to see you."
Tell her to come up," shouted back grandad, in such a
powerful voice that it quite startled Bennie.
"She can't, for she's in such a plight as I never saw
mortal child in before," replied Mrs. James.
But Bennie had rushed off, and was down stairs before
she had finished speaking, while grandad followed as quickly
as his crutch would let him.
Yes, it was Jett right enough, but when Bennie saw her
he could not help crying out in terror, for Jett lay white and
still, and to all appearance dead on the floor. Her feet were
bare, except for the mud which covered them. The stones
had cut them cruelly, and the blood trickled from them,
making a little pool as she lay. What few rags she wore
were soaked with the rain that had been falling all day
without cessation. She had no hat, but round her head was
bound an old piece of linen, which, judging from the blood-
stains upon it, covered a wound of considerable extent.
Oh! Mrs. James, is she dead?" Bennie cried as soon as
he could speak.
"No, just gone off in a faint like," she answered. "I guess
'tis for want of food. Just move, Bennie," she added briskly,
"and I'll take her into the kitchen, and give her a drop of
something warm to drink."
But bytbhis time grandad was on the scene, and lo! at the
sight of Jett the big tears came rolling down his cheeks
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD. 69
and he began to sob like a little child. Jett had come back
to him at last, but he feared that she had come back-
Taki ig the child in her arms Mrs. James carried her into
the room and placed her in a chair before the fire. Then,
telling Bennie to support Jett's drooping head, she went to
her cupboard and took from it a dark green bottle. Putting
a little of its contents into a glass, she added about the same
quantity of hot water, and poured the mixture down Jett's
throat. Whatever it was it took good effect. Almost
instantly Jett opened her eyes. Then she drew a deep
breath, raised her head, and stared about her. Slowly her
senses returned to her, while the first words that greeted her
Oh Jett, I'm so glad you have come back."
Looking up she saw grandad standing on his crutch, and
putting out-stretched hands towards her. She recognized
him, and her white lips formed themselves into a happy smile.
"Grandad," she said, and her voice was so weak from ex-
haustion that he was obliged to incline hishead towards her,
and listen very attentively in order to catch the words-
"Grandad, they wouldn't let me come before. She swore
she'd kill me if I did. But I ran away last night, and
I walked and walked till I got here. You won't let her
take me away, will you ?
"No, no, Jett," grandad replied in a voice that trembled
with joy, "she shan't take you. You shall stop here always
along with Bennie and me." Then, with difficulty-for
70 A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD.
grandad was stiff with age and rheumatism-he knelt down
by her side, and laying the weary head with its blood-
stained hair upon his breast, he kissed her as tenderly as her
own mother would have done, calling her "his little girl"-
"his own Jett"--"his pretty one," and Jett nestled down
like a little tired dove beneath the parent wing, and with a
happy sigh lay there contented and at peace.
No one spoke for a few minutes. Bennie stood in the
back-ground, gazing with pitying eyes at the little woe-
begone figure in the chair, while Mrs. James bustled about
to get a bath for Jett. She made a good deal of noise over
it-unnecessary noise perhaps-but then her eyes were "a
bit dim somehow," and she couldn't see quite straight." "It
was very tiresome just when she was in a hurry," &c., &c.-
Mrs. James, you see, was not the woman to wear her heart
on her sleeve, to be pecked at by every passing jackdaw.
"There, there, Master Renton," she said, when all was in
readiness; "just you leave the child to me for awhile. I'll
give her a wash, which is just the thing she wants, and then
I'll bring her straight up to your room. You must take her
in; for what with all them children of mine, I haven't got a
corner to spare."
lMust take her in! Just as if he hadn't been longing and
praying that Jett would come back to him ever since that
miserable day when she wished him good-bye. Yes, indeed,
he would have given anybody "a piece of his mind" if they
had even tried to separate him from Jett just then. He
felt very much inclined to inform Mrs. James of that fact,
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD. 71
but second thoughts led him to see that she had intended
no personal affront.
So submissively, though with extreme reluctance, grandad
rose, and he and Bennie left the room. And all the while
Jett's eyes followed the old man's retreating form. Then at
the door he turned and said smilingly,
"Mrs. James will bring you up, my pretty, as soon as ever
you have had a wash. I'm only going on to make up the
fire and get things a bit comfortable."
"Bennie," called out Mrs. James before they were half-
way up the stairs," just you bring down a blanket, will
you, that I can wrap her in when she comes out of the
"To be sure, to be sure," grandad answered promptly, be-
fore Bennie could say a word, and he insisted upon himself
selecting the best and the thickest blanket they possessed.
This he sent down by Bennie, and then, with nervous,
trembling fingers, set to work and made up a much larger
fire than it was wise to do, considering the very small
amount of cash that there was in the "bank" upon the
mantle-piece. When that was done he fidgetted about the
room, trying to put things in order in a way that astonished
Bennie, for never before had grandad shown any concern as
to whether their room was tidy or otherwise.
But when at last Jett was carried in, she was too ill to
notice the preparations that had been made for her, too ill
even to notice the friends whom she loved so dearly. The
wound beneath the dirty bandage had proved to be a very
72 A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD.
severe one, and on the application of water had begun to
bleed with renewed violence. What with the loss of blood
and the fatigue she had undergone, Jett was in a very weak
state indeed. Mrs. James put her in bed, and there she lay
all night in a heavy stupor, rather than asleep. From time
to time she moaned as if in pain and uttered little cries of
fear. Her thoughts were evidently wandering, poor child,
for now and again she called out in terror to Moll to leave
off hitting her," or that she was afraid that Moll would kill
her." Then the terrified tone would be exchanged for a
low, tender voice of love, as she muttered something about
" grandad and Bennie and the mouse."
Grandad sat by her side the whole night long, and when
she grew wilder than usual, he would whisper gently,
"Hush, my pretty, there's no harm can come to you now,
for you're here safe along with grandad and Bennie." The
tones of his voice would seem to change the current of her
rambling thoughts, for she would lie quietly then for a while,
and when next she spoke the terror and fear would be gone
from her voice. Towards morning she became calmer, and
presently fell quietly asleep.
Bennie spent the night on the floor, with an old shawl for a
pillow, and he slept as soundly there as he would have done
on the softest bed; for Bennie's daily work was long and
tiring, and that is the best preparation for sound and healthy
slumber. He awoke to find grandad bustling about and
vainly endeavouring to light a fire.
"Bennie," he said, when he noticed that Bennie was
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD. 73
rubbing his eyes and trying hard to open them "Bennie,
have we got any tea ?"
Bennie shook his head.
"What had we best do then, Bennie ?" grandad asked in
an anxious voice. "She hasn't had anything to eat for ever
so long, you may depend. She ought to have something.
She's been that bad all night, but she's sleeping nicely now,
the pretty lamb. I wish I'd something for her," he said
again wistfully. Then he appealed to Bennie for help as he
always did in a difficulty. What shall we do, Bennie ?
Can't you think of something ?"
"Ill go down and ask Mrs. James to lend me a pinch of
tea, if you like, grandad," he said ; "just enough to make a
little drop for her, you know. But I think she ought to
have sop. Grannie always used to give me sop when I was
Grandad's face brightened. Bennie always knew the best
thing to do. He would act upon his suggestion at once.
"How is it made, Bennie ?" he asked eagerly. "Sop is
the very thing for her."
"Why grannie used to get some nice crumby bread,"
replied Bennie, "and pour some hot milk over it, and then
beat it together with a spoon. But we haven't got any
milk you know, grandad," he said with a mournful shake of
his head, and five has only just struck, so we shall have to
wait ever so long before we can make sop."
Again grandad looked dumfoundered.
"We might make it with hot water instead of milk,"
74 A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD.
Bennie suggested after a moment's consideration. "I dare-
say it would be very good."
Then they set to work, and a teacupful of steaming sop
was soon ready for Jett.
Grandad awoke her. With his arm around her, he
supported her in a sitting position; then fed her with
a spoon as if she had been a baby. How she thanked
him with those big black eyes of hers! She was almost too
weak to speak.
"Is it sweet enough, Jett? he asked.
"I'd like some sugar," she said faintly, and grandad
anxious to please her, and delighted to hear her voice again,
emptied the contents of the little sugar basin into Jett's cup.
Bennie looked on in dismay. He did not grudge it her;
pray do not think that. But he knew that he could not
afford to buy more sugar before Christmas. There would
be no plum-pudding, he said to himself with a little sigh of
disappointment, and he felt that he ought to speak seriously
to grandad, and make him understand how very low their
funds were. If he would be extravagant, there was nothing
but ruin and starvation before them. And yet, it seemed so
unkind to say anything that would mar his present happi-
ness. Bennie hated the task that he had set himself to do.
When Jett had finished her sop-and she ate every bit of
it-she lay down again, and in a few minutes her gentle,
regular breathing told them that she had fallen into a sound
and quiet slumber.
It was while grandad and Bennie were eating their break-
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD. 75
fast, which consisted of some bread-and not very much of
that-and milk and water, that Bennie said reluctantly,
Grandad, if Jett stops here long, I'm afraid we shall
have to go rather short sometimes."
Grandad's thoughts were likewise occupied with Jett
just then, but they flowed in such a different channel that
it was little wonder he did not catch the full import of
Eh, Bennie ?" he said, rousing himself to listen.
"Grandad," began Bennie again, and this time it was
harder work to say his say than before, "I'm afraid you'll
have to go without lots of things while Jett stays with us.
I don't mind for myself, but you arn't--"
Grandad only seemed to have heard the words "while
Jett stays," which implied that at a future period she would
go and leave them.
"But, Bennie, she can't ever go away again," he said in a
very determined manner. "Don't you see that her people
very nearly killed her, and that she was obliged to run to
us for protection. No, no, she'll never leave us now."
I wish I could earn a little more money," said Bennie
sorrowfully, and such a care-worn look came into his face;
" but somehow the newspaper trade seems worse than it
used to be."
Does it, Bennie ? said grandad gravely. "I didn't
know. Why didn't you tell me of it before ? "
"I didn't like to bother you, grandad, though I've often
wanted to tell you," replied Bennie. "It seemed a sham3
76 A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD.
to trouble you about it, when you always took just what I
gave you, whether 'twas much or little, and never grumbled
at all. But it's been an awful hard job to get along at times."
Here Bennie's feelings got the better of him. For months
he had kept his perplexities and his troubles locked up
in his own brave heart; he had spoken no syllable to any
human being, but now that he had given them words, and
received grandad's sympathy and interest, he was fain to
find relief in a burst of tears-to grandad's consternation he
put his head on the table and wept bitterly.
"Don't cry, Bennie; cheer up there's a good boy," said
grandad, more dismayed at the sight of the boy's grief
than at the trouble that occasioned it. He waited a few
minutes for his sobs to cease, then with his hand upon
Bennie's shoulder he continued, "I wish I'd known all this
before. I could have helped, I daresay. But I'll be off with
my broom again; that will bring us in a bit extra, and you
and I don't want much, so long as Jett has plenty, do we ?"
So it came to pass that no sooner had Bennie set off for
the day's business, than grandad went to Mrs. James, and
asked her to be kind enough to look in upon Jett occasion-
ally just to give her anything that she might want; for he
was going out to do a bit of sweeping, he said.
Now Mrs. James, who was a most industrious woman
herself and was always "hard at it" from morning to night,
liked nothing better than to see other people following her
example. She therefore willingly agreed to what grandad
asked of her, and gave him a smile of encouragement, and a
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD. 77
word of praise as he sallied forth with his broom under his
arm. As he slowly passed down the street, the people who
knew him stopped to speak to him, and to congratulate him
on his restoration to health and his former occupation, but all
that he said in reply was, Yes, yes, 'tis for Jett, you know,"
and hobbled on as fast as his lameness would allow him, while
they turned to stare at him and to say-some in amusement,
some in pity-" Why the poor old man's clean gone out of
Grandad little guessed what they said, and if he had
known he would not have cared. His mind was engrossed
by one subject only, and that was the little invalid at home.
A wonderful piece of good fortune befell him too. He
was working very diligently when a lady coming along,
recognized him as the old crossing-sweeper who had been
wont to sweep in the neighbourhood where she lived, and
whom she had missed for many a long day. She spoke
kindly to him, feeling in her pocket the while for any loose
coppers that might b2 there. Perhaps it was the weakened
tones of grandad's voice, or the thicker wrinkles on his face,
or his whitened hair; perhaps it was the touch of the holy
angels that go about the earth at Christmas-tide to open the
hearts of the rich towards their poorer brethren, that in-
duced her to alter her mind as to the value of her gift.
However that may be, something induced her to change her
first intention. She took out her purse, and gave grandad a
half-crown piece, kindly wishing him "a merry Christmas!"
Grandad went home at dusk a comparatively rich man,
78 A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD.
for besides the half-crown there were several coppers lying
cosily in the bottom of his pocket.
He stopped at a confectioner's to buy a couple of penny
sponge-cakes for Jett, then, with remarkable forethought,
purchased two ounces of tea and some sugar, and with these
packages went joyfully home.
He found Jett very much better. Mrs. James had given
her some dinner, and she had remained quietly in bed,
patiently waiting for grandad's return. Such a look of
gladness came into her face when at last he made his ap-
pearance; and as for him, he was so delighted to see her
so much better that he could scarcely get the tea for happi-
ness. Then, though grandad had eaten nothing but a dry
crust of bread since the morning, it was she who had a nice
strong cup of tea brought to her bedside before lie tasted a
drop himself. It was good to watch Jett eat those sponge-
cakes; every morsel of them disappeared. When she had
quite finished, but not till then, grandad sat down to his own
tea. He, too, was glad of the meal, for what with the un-
accustomed exertion of the day and the nursing of the
previous night he was quite tired out. So weary was he
indeed, that he fell fast asleep by Jett's bedside.
He was still sleeping when, late in the evening, Bennie
came in. Jett greeted him with a softly whispered "Hush!
hush! he's so tired. Don't wake him, Bennie." But the
noise of his footsteps ascending the' stairs had aroused
grandad, who, refreshed by his nap, began at once to tell
Bennie the events of the day.
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD. 79
Bennie was almost speechless with astonishment when he
heard of what grandad had been doing. He never thought
for one moment that he would start off there and then to
sweep a crossing. He was more than pleased to hear what
a rich gift grandad had received. A whole half-crown!
After all there would be a plum-pudding on Christmas day;
anyhow there need be no fasting. Bennie's spirits rose at
that exhilarating thought.
Jett was anxious to talk that night, and as she seemed
pretty well they let her explain to them the cause of her
long absence, and how at length she had returned to them
in such a terrible plight.
She did not know exactly, she said, what her father had
done, but she knew that the crime he had committed, and
which obliged him to quit the East End so suddenly, was a
very dreadful one. The police had been on his track, and
he barely succeeded in escaping them. However he got
safely to Kilburn, where he took every precaution to avoid
discovery. He changed his name, and as much as possible
his personal appearance, while Jett was forbidden to speak
of their former abode under pain of severe punishment.
She saw that her father was terribly in earnest, and for a
long time dared not ask for permission to pay a visit to her
friends in Fenmill Street. At last she summoned up her
courage, and with a trembling heart begged to be allowed
to do so. Her request was met with a torrent of abuse;
she was ordered never even to mention the name of Fenmill
Street again, and received a severe beating then and there'
80 A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD.
as a punishment for her presumption, and an earnest of what
would befall her if she endeavoured to carry out her desire.
Notwithstanding the command, Jett would even then
have stolen away had not another obstacle hindered her
and this was an obstacle of no small importance. Jett had
not the least idea of the way to Fenmill Street. They were
now living right out west in one of the worst streets of
Kilburn, where they had taken a room. They had come by
rail, so that she had had no single opportunity of taking
landmarks. True, she could inquire the road as she went,
but she was shy of asking people-some she doubted not
would send her out of her way from pure mischief, and some
from wickedness as she had often proved. To a policeman
she dared not apply. She had a vague feeling that her
father's guilt might be seen in her own face. Jett had some
little love left for him yet, or, if it were not love, it was in-
stinct, which would not allow her to betray him whom she
So Jett could do nothing but think of all the things that
she and grandad used to talk about in the pleasant days of
the past summer. Getting into a quiet corner she would sit
for hours and try to remember what he had said to her about
the good God who dwelt in heaven with His holy angels,
and the dear Lord Jesus who had once lived upon the earth
and had suffered many things for the sake of sinful people.
Tears came into her eyes when she thought of the bitter
taunts, the cruel blows, the thorny crown, and the terrible
death that He had received at the hands of those for whom
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD. 81
His blood would purchase life eternal. Yes, those were the
very words grandad had used-" life eternal." That meant,
he had told her, a life without end-though how ii,,,l;7;,,:
could never have no end was incomprehensible to Jett-
an endless life that would be spent in a beautiful place called
heaven, where there were no crowded dirty streets, no
hunger, no cold, no pain, where people never got drunk,
where little children were never beaten, but where there
were such lovely things that grandad said nobody here-no,
not even the rich folks who rode in carriages and wore fine
clothes, and had everything that their hearts could desire-
could even imagine how lovely they were. All this and
much more came back fresh and clear to Jett's memory.
She loved to think of it all; for in doing so she often forgot
her present lonely and sorrowful life.
From thinking so much and so seriously, Jett learned to
believe as a truth what in the first instance she had listened
to as a pretty fable. Perhaps God did care for poor folks
after all; perhaps He was sorry for them and would help
them if they asked Him; and the tiny glimmer of faith being
watered and tended by the Holy Spirit, grew into a calm
and certain belief, and Jett, ignorant and untaught as she
was, felt that God in some strange, mysterious way would
be a better friend to her than even grandad himself. So
she asked Him-clasping her hands as she did so, and look-
ing up into the silent depths of the blue sky where the
silvery stars sparkled like jewels-that He would grant her
one great desire and take her back to grandad. Then having
82 A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD.
breathed her prayer she waited patiently for its fulfil-
Yet Jett little thought that the answer had come when
she resolved that, whatever might be the consequences,
she would stay no longer with Moll and her father, but go
off at once to grandad and Bennie.
Moll one night came home terribly drunk. Jett had dis-
pleased her before she went out, and now when she returned
maddened with drink, and saw the child kneeling by the
fire vainly trying to warm herself by the scanty heat it
afforded, her wrath knew no bounds. She seized her by
her hair, and began to beat her fiercely with the handle of
the umbrella that she happened to have in her hand.
Naturally Jett struggled to get free, but she was held in a
tight grasp, and her endeavours only brought upon her in-
creased pain. Suddenly Moll relaxed her hold and Jett fell
heavily to the floor, her head pitching on a corner of the
fender. Delighted with her handiwork, Moll, with a loud
laugh of triumph, half fell, half threw herself into a chair,
and as usual when in a drunken fit was soon snoring loudly.
Meanwhile Jett lay unconscious, with a colourless face
and a bleeding head. When at length she came to her senses
she found herself in a pool of blood, and feeling so faint and
ill that she could hardly raise herself from the floor. As well
as she could she bound an old rag around her forehead, then
snatching up a piece of bread, and hardly daring to think of
what she was doing, Jett stole out of the house. One fixed
idea possessed her, and that was to search for grandad, even
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD. 83
if she lost her life in the attempt. All night long, in the
dark and the cold, she wandered in the streets. With the
dawn came rain, but Jett cared not. What were the cold
and the rain to her when she was going to grandad ? The
love and the welcome that she knew awaited her at her
journey's end sent a warm glow to her very heart; she did
not even feel how damp and wet her clothes had become,
nor how weary were her limbs.
So she bravely went on her way, venturing to inquire her
road of those whose faces told her that she might rely upon
the information they gave her; but the little feet flagged
more and more, and the pain and the throbbing in her head
made her so faint and giddy, that Jett was often obliged to rest.
At last she reached the neighbourhood that was so familiar
to her. Her strength then was barely sufficient to take her
to Mrs. James' door. We know what happened after that.
"You won't send me away, say you won't, grandad," said
Jett pleadingly, when she came to an end of her story.
"No, my pet, that I won't," he replied fondly. "You
shall stay here always and be my little girl."
"So I will," said Jett with great content. To live with
him always and to be his little girl! Jett could conceive of
no greater happiness.
But now there came to grandad's mind a possibility, nay, a
probability, that would make this arrangement null and void.
"Jett," he said, I won't let you go if I can help it, but
supposing your father comes over and fetches you. What
shall I do then ?"
84 A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR GRANDAD.
Oh, he won't; he datren't come here. He's afraid of the
perlice," she said decisively. "And if he did," she added,
"I'd never go back to Moll again."
There was that in her voice that caused grandad to try to
put a stop to the subject, for Mrs. James had told him on
no account to let Jett excite herself.
"There's no need to worry, my pretty," he said
soothingly, taking her little trembling hand in his. Come
what may, you won't go for a long while yet, that's certain."
Then hoping to divert her thoughts he added briskly, "Don't
you feel hungry now, Jett? Wouldn't you like your supper?"
But Jett would not be put off. The subject to her was
as serious as a matter of life or death. Promise you won't
let 'em take me away-promise me you won't," she cried
in a voice that was painful in its intensity, while her trem-
bling body showed how great was her agitation.
And grandad answered solemnly, "No, no, my pretty, I
won't. I never wilL"
With that Jett was satisfied, and so it was settled. And
I may as well say here that no inquiries ever were made for
Jett. Doubtlessly her father gave a very good guess as to
where she was; probably he found means to assure himself
of the correctness of his conjecture. Be that as it may,
either from fear of being himself discovered, or from a desire
to be rid of Jett and the expense that she entailed upon
him, he left her alone. Never from the day on which she
ran away did she see him again. No, she was "grandad's
little girl," which was infinitely preferable.
NIGH UNTO DEATH.
WHAT a happy Christmas the three spent to be sure!
Jett, who was fast recovering her strength, was able to get
up for the greater part of the day, and to eat a very good
share of the plum-pudding that Mrs. James had made for
them. They had meat too; fancy that! A very nice piece
of beef which Bennie thought they might afford to buy ; for
grandad, though he had received no such princely gift as
half-a-crown on the second day of his labours, had come
home with a nice little heap of coppers in his pocket. And
last, but not least, they had dessert. Didn't Jett's eyes
sparkle when she saw those three lovely oranges, and the
bag of nuts!
Then they had quite an entertainment after dinner; for
Bennie made Snowball go through his tricks. Jett shrieked
with laughter as she watched him. I need hardly say, that
he was rewarded with a little feast of such food as mice
Perhaps, though, the very best part of the whole of that
Christmas day to Jett was the evening, when grandad, quite
86 NIGH UNTO DEATH.
forgetting it had been a secret between them, asked if she
had forgotten all her reading.
No, Jett had not, and what was more she had so im-
proved herself during the past months, that she could take a
chapter from the New Testament and read it off, with only
spelling a word here and there. Grandad was delighted;
Bennie almost dumb with amazement; for he had not the
least idea that she was so much as acquainted with that first
stepping stone to knowledge-the alphabet.
Why, whoever taught you, Jett ?" cried grandad.
Oh I used to save up all the bits of paper that had reading
on them, and spell out the words," answered Jett with glee.
" There was a woman as lived in our house, and when there
was a very hard word I'd go to her, and she'd tell me what
"That's right, dear, I'm so glad," said grandad heartily.
"I thought I'd be coming back some day, you know," Jett
said in an explanatory tone of voice, and I knew you'd be
glad if I could read to you, while Bennie was away. I can
write, too," she continued, blushing with pleasure and pride.
" I can make all the letters, and if you'd show me just a
little, Bennie, I guess I could write you a letter now."
So nothing would do but what grandad must get pen, ink,
and paper, and when these had been borrowed or found,
Jett sat down to give them a specimen of her skill in
caligraphy. The first thing she did was to repose her head
upon the table. Next her tongue came out to its' furthest
extent. After making these all-important preparations, Jett
NIGH UNTO DEATH. 87
began, grandad watching anxiously over her shoulder, while
Bennie stood close at her side to assist and instruct. Very
steadily and very crookedly and unevenly too did Jett's
pen move; but they were letters that she made, and in a
minute or two "Dear Bennie" appeared upon the paper in
huge letters, graced with many a blot.
By the time that was done Jett said she felt tired and
"too bad to do any more," so grandad took her on his knee,
and nursed her till she fell asleep. Then he and Bennie sat
by the fire-a very bright and large fire it was in honour of
the day-and talked together till bed-time.
Jett was the principal subject of their conversation. Mrs.
James had never let the tiny room next to theirs which
Bennie had occupied before grannie's death, so now it was
decided that she should be asked to let them have it again
at the same rent as formerly. Grandad said he meant to go
out every day to his sweeping, and that the first money he
could spare should be spent in getting some clothes for Jett.
So with words of love towards one poorer and more friend-
less than themselves, and with contemplated deeds of mercy
that brought purest happiness to their hearts, the last hour
of that Christmas day passed away-a day that had been
dreaded by them both, though each had forborne to whisper
his anticipations to the other.
Bennie went to bed on that Christmas night with new
strength for the present and fresh hope for the future. It
was well that it was so, for alas! the time was fast ap-
proaching when no ray of hope would gladden his despairing
88 NIGH UNTO DEATH.
heart. Meanwhile, sleep on, dear Bennie, unconscious of the
coming trial. See how the faint glow of the dying embers
ligh tens up his face, and puts golden tints into his bonnybrown
hair! Mark the smile that plays around his lips. Al! that is
because the Christmas chimes blend with his happy dreams
-those chimes that are pealing out their joy that the earth
has witnessed the birth of her Redeemer. Ring away, bells.
With all your might and main
"Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
And ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be."
In a week or so Jett was quite well again, and as happy
as the day was long. She informed grandad and Bennie
with great gravity that she meant to "keep the house tidy"
and "do the cooking" for the future. A capital little house-
wife she made too, and wonderfully she improved the ap-
pearance of the room. She scrubbed and swept as well as
her small strength would allow her. There was plenty of
NIGH UNTO DEATH. 89
it to do, for the cleaning had been much neglected since
grannie's death, and Jett had to go over her work several
times before she could perceive any marked difference be-
tween the washed and the unwashed. Sometimes Mrs.
James coming in would "lend her a hand" for a few
minutes-that is, she would do something that was quite be-
yond Jett's power to accomplish-and then leave her with
only the lighter work to complete. And really it was
astonishing how nice and fresh the room looked, and how
clean it smelt; and as for the window, why it was so bright
and clear that the room was as lig'it again, and grandad
could see to read as far off as the fire-place, as he sat there
on a Sunday afternoon. Grandad of course was delighted,
but perhaps the change in their abode gave Bennie even
more pleasure still. Thanks to grannie's training he loved
order and cleanliness, and it afforded untold rest and enjoy-
ment to him when, tired out and weary after a long day's
work, he came in at night to find a tidy room and a supper
neatly placed upon the table.
After supper, Jett had a reading and a writing lesson.
She made such rapid progress in the latter accomplishment
that the pupil bid fair to outstrip her master; but alas, these
happy times were of short duration !
The weather, which had been unusually mild, changed
suddenly at the end of January. The cold was intense.
For days the snow fell at intervals in blinding storms.
Grandad tried to make way against it, but it was of no avail.
He came home one night so terribly shaken and bruised by
90 NIGH UNTO DEATH.
a bad tumble he had had, that Bennie said he must not
go out again, and grandad, fearing that a worse accident
might happen, consented to stay in till the streets were less
slippery. But that good time was slow to come.
The frost only relaxed its severity to burst forth again in
renewed strength. Such intense cold may be borne easily
enough by the rich, nay, it may even be enjoyable, for their
luxurious homes and warm furs are but the more com-
fortable in contrast with the cold without. Then they have
servants to wait upon them and to warm the very at-
mosphere of the rooms which they will presently occupy.
They have carriages, too, to drive in, so that their dainty
feet may not be chilled by contact with the frozen snow.
But for the very poor-God pity them at such times! They
have not so much as an extra rag to protect their shivering
bodies-not so much as a shoe to cover their chilled feet,
and just when they have need of additional warmth and
food, the very nature of the weather often deprives them of
the miserable pittances that they have hitherto earned.
Grandad was now as keenly attentive to financial matters
as ever Bennie himself had been. Many an anxious glance
did he cast upon the tin canister on the mantel-piece.
Then with a deep sigh he would stretch forth his thin, cold
hands towards the fire-place, quite forgetting that now that
coal had risen in price, and money was so scarce, the grate
had to be empty for the greater part of the day. Poor
Jett, it troubled her! She understood well enough that
of necessity she was an expense to her friends; when they
NIGH UNTO DEATH. 91
could barely keep themselves it was cruel that they should
have the additional burden of herself. She went about her
work with a pale face and a heavy heart. It was rarely
now that even her voice disturbed the silence of the room,
only when grandad uttered one of his weary sighs she
would go to his side, and kneeling on the floor would throw
her arms around him and say what she could to comfort
him. How she wished it were in her power to earn money.
She offered to go out and beg for them, and with tears in
her eyes had implored them to let her, but neither grandad
nor Bennie would consent. Then Jett-with immense
difficulty and self-denial though-endeavoured to curb her
vigorous young appetite, and when grandad was not look-
ing she would place her slice of bread before him, and he,
little guessing what she had done, would take it and eat it
hungrily, while Jett watched him with a mixture of longing
and content, and tried to make herself believe that her
happiness in witnessing his enjoyment would fill her body
as well as her grateful little soul. But this did not go on
very long; for Bennie, with those dreadful eyes of his that
saw everything, noticed Jett's manceuvres, and turned a
deaf ear to her solemn declaration that she was "never a
bit hungry in cold weather." Hadn't he seen her pick up a
stray piece of orange peel that was lying frozen and dirty
just outside Mrs. James' door-step and eat it with the
eagerness of one half-famished; then how carefully she had
looked about for more, and how disappointed she appeared
when at length she gave up her search as useless. After
92 NIGH UNTO DEATH.
this he made her understand that it must be share and share
alike, and he gave grandad a hint which caused the old man
to be on the alert to see that Jett not only received, but ate
her portion, for he would never take a mouthful unless she
took one too. So Jett was obliged to eat, yet, hungry as
she was, she felt that every crumb would choke her. But
what could she do, poor child ? If she left grandad and
Bennie it would be but to wander in the streets till she died
of cold and starvation.
Still the weather remained unchanged-such a long con-
tinued frost had not been known for years-and still Bennie
went out bravely in the darkness and the cold of the early
morning. But all night ie lay awake trying to stifle that
horrible cough lest it should wake grandad, trying to forget
the gnawing emptiness of his stomach, trying to hope that
the morrow would bring warmer weather and better luck,
for times were bad and the newspaper trade was at its
lowest ebb. Even to the city men the possession of a paper
hardly compensated for the momentary chill occasioned by
the removal of theii' thick warm gloves while they searched
about in their pockets for a copper, and the poor clerks
with small means and large families thought twice before
they invested in a Globe or an Echo" to take home to
read by their firesides at night, for the children were many,
their appetites seemed almost inexhaustible, and even pence
were scarce in such weather as this.
Bennie had taken grandad's broom and tried to sweep a
crossing, but that was hard and ineffectual work when the
NIGH UNTO DEATH. 93
snow was so frozen to the ground that it required a man's
strength and a spade to remove it. Had Bennie possessed
that implement he would probably have earned many a
penny in clearing away the snow from the pavements, but
he could by no means afford to buy such an expensive article
as a spade. Indeed, his want of capital was one of the many
reasons why lie was doing so badly at the newspaper busi.
ness. He had now so small an amount to fall back upon
that he could only purchase about one-third of the usual
number of papers. It took him some time to dispose of
these; then, with the profit he had gained, he would buy a
loaf and run off with it to grandad and Jett, who sat shiver-
ing and starving at home. He would next shoulder the
broom, and taking up his position in some crowded thorough-
fare would try to earn a few pence from the passers-by.
But few and rare were the pennies bestowed upon him,
poor boy! And worst of all Bennie felt himself to be far
from well. Often and often he was so weak and faint that
lie was obliged to sit down and rest till the faintness had
passed and he could breathe easily again. Yet it was ill
weather in which to sit and rest in the streets. It was only
by brisk walking that the strong and thickly-clothed could
keep themselves warm. To Bennie, then, weak, half-starved,
half-clad, and motionless, the cold was terrible, enough to
freeze the very blood in his veins. The faintness having
passed, Bennie would get up and once more stagger on with
his broom, though the tears, which he had no power to re-
sist, almost blinded him, and his knees knocked together for
94 NIGH UNTO DEATH.
very feebleness. God forgive the thoughtless ones who
turned away from the pleading, piteous eyes which vainly
expressed that which the white lips were powerless to utter.
At home he said nothing-lhe hoped they had not noticed
that he was ill. Had he been able to deceive them with a
show of good spirits he would have done so, but he could
not even talk; he would go to bed immediately on his re-
turn, telling them that he was tired, and that he wanted to
get a good night's rest before the morrow came.
But grandad was not so blind as all that. He had noted
Bennie's sunken face and his unwonted quietness with an
anxious heart. Then one night his eyes were opened to the
fact that Bennie was very ill; for grandad, too cold to sleep,
heard the boy's terrible cough, and presently he heard some-
thing else that frightened him even more than the cough
had done-a deep sob, which Bennie vainly tried to stifle
by thrusting the blanket into his mouth.
A great fear and trembling took hold of grandad--suppos-
ing Bennie were to die! Oh how terrible that would be!
Something must be done. He must use every endeavour to
prevent such a calamity. What could he do? Then a
sudden idea occurred to him. It would cost much; it would
be a great sacrifice to him . but any cost was small,
any sacrifice insignificant in comparison to the dear life of his
adopted child. His conscience pricked him too. Had he not
neglected Bennie-grannie's boy, whom she had lovedso much
-since he had taken the little Jett to his heart and home ?
Ah, surely he had! Tears of repentance rolled down his
NIGH UNTO DEATH. 95
withered cheeks as he lay and longed for the daylight to come
that he might put into practice the resolution he had made.
When morning at length dawned he tried to persuade
Bennie to remain at home that day, but no, Bennie would
not hear of it. He felt quite well, he said, and he must be in
his old place with his papers as usual, or somebody else
would step in and occupy his post.
No sooner had he gone than grandad went to Mrs. James
and told her very sorrowfully, but very resolutely, that he
found he must part with some of his furniture.
What do you think had best go, Mrs. James ?" he asked
"I'm real sorry for you, that I am,"saidMrs. James with ready
sympathy, "but perhaps it's no more than you ought to do."
Yes, yes," said grandad somewhat impatiently; for had
he not just said that he was determined it should be done ?
And Bennie looks that bad," went on Mrs. James, taking
no notice of grandad's irritability, that I can't abear to see
him. I must say it, even if it offends you, Master Renton,"
she continued significantly, "but it's bad having extra
mouths to fill, when there's less than usual to feed them as
has a right to be fed."
Grandad understood the insinuation, and instantly re-
"You mean about Jett," he said angrily. Then as he re-
membered the truthfulness and justice of his landlady's re-
mark, his anger died away, and he added plaintively, But
I can't send her away now. I'd sooner starve myself."
96 NIGH UNTO DEATH.
"No need to do that," said Mrs. James cheerfully, and by
the change of her voice, grandad knew that he had her
sympathy again. "Just you sell a thing or two, and get a
bit of meat for Bennie. That'll set him up. I'd get some
bones and a few bits of mutton and make a stew if I were
you. Let me see," she continued, going back to the original
subject of their conversation, "you want to know what
you'd best pawn, don't you ?"
Well, there's the chairs; they aren't bad; you've got five,
so you can make shift to go without one of them. Then
you've got a tidy looking-glass above the mantel. I don't
see what earthly use that can be to you or Bennie, and Jett
don't want it, that's a sure thing. I'd let that go as well, if
I were you."
Grandad sighed. That looking-glass was the only article
left of the furniture that had once ornamented a pretty, com-
fortable sitting-room in a house that was far away from that
dirty, noisy street.
"I should think that would be enough for once," said Mrs.
James, finding that grandad was silent.
"Yes, yes," he said hurriedly, "I expect those two things
will be enough." He couldn't bear to go on talking any longer.
At this rate Mrs. James would sweep away every thing that
he possessed, and leave him nothing but bare walls and an
And very bare and strange the room did look when the
mirror-which was a quaint, old fashioned one, and good of
NIGH UNTO DEATH. 97
its kind-had disappeared. Grandad could not bear to
glance at the vacant place above the mantel-piece, and still
more painful were the recollections that its removal awakened
in the old man's memory.
The glass had hung above the mantel-piece when Bessie
-a comely bride, and pleasant to look upon in spite of the
silver hairs that here and there mingled with the black-
had first taught him what it was to have a loving and faith-
ful wife to rule his home, and bless him with her sympathy
and gentleness. How often he had watched the reflection
of her neat person and smiling face in the glass that was
gone from him now, perhaps for ever. Why, he himself had
danced the baby Bennie before it, while Bennie had
crowed with delight at the sight of that other baby jumping
about in that other dada's arms. But when he thought of
Bennie he felt sorry no longer that the mirror was gone, and
he rose with alacrity to take a peep at the pot of simmering
stew just to see that it was "going on all right."
Presently Bennie's weary feet were heard ascending the long
flights of stairs. What long rests they took between each
step, and what a hollow-sounding cough he had! How pale
he looked, too, when at last he entered the room! He
didn't even smile at them-and for Bennie not to smile
was a rarity indeed-he just sank down in a chair, closed
his eyes, and neither moved nor spoke.
"Jett, quick, get him some stew," cried grandad in alarm.
As promptly as she could Jett ladled out a basinful of the
steaming soup. Then she put a spoonful of it to Bennie's