7 7l 7
The Baldwin Library
THE BLACKBERRY GATI-IEREE.
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WHAT TRYING MAY DO.
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II I. '
the i shadows we le, it hd
IT was an Autumn evening. During the noon-
tide hours the air had been hot and close; but
now that the day was drawing to a close and
the shadows were lengthening, it had become
cool and pleasant, and mountain and valley,
field and hedgerow, castle and cot, were alike
bathed in the flood of golden light shed over
them by the slanting beams of the setting
sun. The wild rose and the woodbine flowers
6 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER ;
were gone from the hedges, but the scarlet
hip and the coral-like berries of the spindle-
tree were beginning to show themselves, and
rich hues of crimson, brown, and yellow were
already tinging the forest trees; the nightin-
gale was gone from the woods, but the gentle
song of the robin sounded sweetly through
the evening air, and the merry chirp of the
grasshopper was still occasionally heard by
the roadside. But those autumn sunbeams
fell upon other scenes than such as these.
They were the gift of God, who watches
with the same love the rich and the poor, the
lowly and those of high estate. Yes, those
same sunbeams, on the very evening of which
we have spoken, entered a dingy, crowded
town in one of the southern counties of Eng-
land, and after lighting up, as with a smile of
glory, the old gray church steeple which rose
from the midst of its dark, narrow streets,
found their way between high chimneys and
pointed gables, until they at length crept in at
a broken window on the second floor of a tall
house, situated in one of the least respectable
streets in its suburbs. The room was of mode-
rate size, the walls were black with smoke and
dirt; they had once been papered, but the pa-
per had mostly either fallen down with damp,
or been wantonly peeled off -and destroyed.
The fire-place was unswept, the floor un-
washed; while the few articles of furniture,
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 7
cooking utensils, &c., which the room con-
tained, were strewn about it in the most dis-
orderly and uncomfortable manner. In one
corner, not far from the fire-place, stood a
stump bedstead furnished with a straw mat-
tress, on which, covered with a ragged patch-
work quilt, lay a sleeping child, a girl, whose
pale face, uneasy breathing, and thin, wasted
limbs, told a sad tale of disease and suffering.
At the moment of which we speak, when the
sunbeams first came in at the window, the
room contained but one other inhabitant,
and that was another child, also a girl, ap-
parently a year or two older than the little
invalid; she was kneeling down before the
hearth, endeavouring, with the aid of sundry
bits of paper and stick, to kindle a small fire.
She started as the beautiful beams coming
suddenly across her eyes dazzled her with
their brightness, and then watched them as
by degrees they went along the floor, climbed
the bed, crossed the patchwork quilt, and
finally rested in the form of a long red streak
on the wall by the bedside. The sick child
had been sleeping nearly an hour; she now
opened her eyes, and for a minute or two
fixed them upon the gleam of sunshine with
a dreamy half-awake look; then she again
closed them, but after lying still for a short
time, aroused herself more thoroughly, and
endeavoured to raise herself on her elbow;
8 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
upon which, the other left off attending to
the fire, and going to the bedside pushed up
the bolster so that she might rest more com-
I wish I had some blackberries," said
the sick child, in a pining voice, and again
fixing her eyes upon the red streak; "I
dreamt we were in Green Lane, at Eastham,
gathering them as we used to."
"You can't remember that, can you?"
said the other, again turning round to attend
to the fire. Then after a pause she added,
coming back to the bedside, "Ah! I know
what it was made you think of it; it was that
red sunshine on the wall; the sun often used
to shine red when we went blackberrying in
I wish I had some," said the same peevish
voice; I want some blackberries:" and soon
a discontented cloud began to settle on the pale
brow, and big tears to roll down the thin,
Don't cry, Polly," said the -other in a
soothing tone, "you shall have some tea soon.
Mrs. M'Crower will be sure to bring us her tea-
leaves as soon as she has done with them, and
there's a bit of sugar in the basin; you shall
have that on your bread and butter if you're a
good girl. See, the fire's burning up, the
saucepan won't be a minute boiling when she
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 9
"I don't want any tea," replied the child;
"I want some blackberries."
Who were these two children ? They were
Bessie and Polly Clapton, and the wretched
room in which we have found them was
their home. When their poor mother was
alive, they had a different home to this; they
lived in a pretty little cottage on Eastham
Common, near the Green Lane in which
Polly dreamt that she was again gathering
blackberries. Poor Polly she must indeed
have had a good memory to recollect that
time, for she was but little more than four
years old when her mother died, and they
left Eastham in less than a year after, to take
up their abode in the dingy town where they
Their father was by trade a basket-maker.
During his wife's lifetime, Mark Clapton,
though he had faults, like his neighbours,
had been generally known as a sober, honest,
and industrious man; but after her death he
gradually contracted bad habits, and at length
fell into a vicious course of life, of which he
would at one time have been ashamed to
think. He had been a kind and affectionate
father to his children, but in this, as in other
things, he was now sadly changed; for, so
long as he could get money to spend upon
himself, he seemed to care very little what
became of them. Nor was this all; neglect
10 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
was often accompanied with harsh words
and cruel treatment; and the fatherly caress
and loving words of old times now gave way
but too frequently to the undeserved cor-
rection or the harsh reprimand, for faults
which his own wickedness daily helped to
foster and encourage.
About two years before the time when our
story commences, the two children had suf-
fered severely from a dreadful fever which
was then raging in the town: after it passed
off, Bessie, being naturally of a robust con-
stitution, soon recovered her usual strength;
but with Polly the case was different; the
fever settled in her limbs, so that she had
never since been able to walk, and this
affliction, together with the want of proper care
and nourishment, was not long in reducing her
to the peevish, fractious, and pitiable object
she now was.
Poor Polly! no one loved her, nobody
cared for her; nobody but Bessie. Almost
from their infancy, at the time when she was
a little chubby, rosy-faced child, she and
Bessie had agreed together and loved each
other as sisters should do; but since their
mother's death, and the change in their father
had deprived them of other love, their young
hearts seemed to have become day by day
more and more closely knit together. How
merciful was God to implant this holy af-
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 11
section in them! it was the only ray which
illumined -Polly's dreary and suffering life;
it was the only incitement which Bessie had
to keep her from constantly running in the
streets, and becoming in everything as ut-
terly low and degraded as the many unhappy
children by whom they were thronged. Polly
was constantly fretting and murmuring;
almost every one who saw her said she was
a cross, ill-tempered little thing; but Bessie
did not think so, for tu her she was always
grateful and affectionate. Bessie was a slat-
ternly, untidy girl; the other lodgers in the
house sometimes called her uncivil and rude;
but Polly did not think her so, for to her
she was never anything but gentle, patient,
Poor Bessie and Polly it was no wonder
that they were what they were, when we
consider how different a life they led to that
of many children. Mrs. M'Crower was the
woman at whose house they lodged; she was
a kind-hearted person, though somewhat
rough both in speech and manner. Every
night and morning they had the leaves out
of her tea-pot to boil up and make tea for
themselves, and this, with bread and butter,
bread and dripping, or sometimes dry bread,
was their constant, almost their only fare;
for although their father earned sufficient
money to enable him to keep a tidy home and
12 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
feed and clothe them decently, he was so
selfish, and spent so much upon himself, that
they seldom tasted anything else. Neither
of them had ever been to school: of course
Bessie could not leave Polly now; but had
Polly been quite well their father would
never have thought of sending them. No
one had ever taught them anything, not even
to say their prayers. Was it not sad to
think that they went to bed every night
without asking God to take care of them,
and to pardon the sins they had committed
during the day; that they rose every morning
without seeking his blessing, and beseeching
Him to guide them aright for the time to
Brought up in this way, you will not be
surprised that they had many and great
faults. Bessie thought nothing of telling an
untruth, or, when she had an opportunity, of
pilfering an apple from the stall which an
old woman kept at the corner of the street,
or of stealing a lump of sugar from Mrs.
M'Crower's basin, when she passed by her
room and saw it standing on the table, and
no one by to watch. Polly, too, thought it no
sin that she constantly indulged in peevish
murmurings and impatient complaints; she
had never heard of the patience of Him who
hath left us an example that we should
follow his steps she did not know that she
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 13
had a Father in heaven who loved her and
was afflicting her for her good, that He
might prepare her for Himself, and make
her meet to stand clothed in white with the
holy angels around his throne. No wonder,
then, that she and Bessie were not better
In due time Mrs. M'Crower brought in
the tea-leaves, and Polly again repeated her
wish for blackberries.
"But you can't have any blackberries,"
said Mrs. M'Crower; "why, bless my heart,
they don't grow upon chimney-pots and brick
walls, do they? so drink your tea and eat
your bread and butter, like a good girl, and
don't lie there crying for what you can't
have: there's no sense in that."
"Please Mrs. M'Crower," said Bessie, fetch-
ing out the sugar-basin, "would you lend us
a bit of sugar till Saturday, we've only got
such a little ?"
Mrs. M'Crower, however, did not happen
to be in a humour to lend sugar.
No," she replied, you must do without
sugar, as I used to when I was a girl, and
went to service. I am not going to lend any
more sugar, especially to such a dirty, untidy
girl as you, Bessie; are you not ashamed of
yourself to see this room in such a state as it
is ? Why, I earned my own living before I
was as old as you ; and here you, with nothing
14 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
in the world else to do, can't keep one
room tidy; shame upon you to see such a
fire-place as that," she added, pointing to
"I should like to earn my own living, if I
knew how," said Bessie, rather pertly; "then
I'd take Polly away, and would'nt be beholden
Ah fine talking," said Mrs. M'Crower;
"when people won't do a little, they always
pretend that it's because they can't do a great
deal; why don't you try to get your living,
if you want to ? there's nothing to hinder you
but idleness, that I see." And, in a very
energetic manner, Mrs. M'Crower descended
the stairs to her own apartment.
I'm not idle," muttered Bessie to her-
self, as she scraped out the sugar-basin on to
Polly's bread and butter; and when I'm
a great girl I will get my living, see if I don't,
and go ever so far away from Mrs. M'Crower
This was Bessie's usual threat when Mrs.
M'Crower attempted to lecture her for her
untidy ways. Good Mrs. M'Crower, she
pitied the poor children from her heart, and
would willingly have done anything towards
bettering their condition, had she thought it
possible; but their case appeared so despe-
rate, that, beyond the daily donation of tea
leaves and an occasional lecture to Bessie, such
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 15
as we have just heard, she now seldom at-
tempted anything further.
Polly could not relish either the tea or the
sugared bread and butter that night, but all
the evening long kept still fretting for black-
At last their father came home, and by that
time she had fretted herself to sleep. He gave
Bessie some money and told her to go and buy
a loaf; she set off, but came back in a few
"Father," said she, you promised me
that penny again that Mrs. M'Crower gave
me last week for minding her baby. I want
"What do you want it for?" said he,
I want it to buy Polly some blackberries,"
she replied; "Ishe's been crying for some ever
so long, and I see a basketful just now in Mr.
Green's shop round the corner."
I daresay I'm going to give you a penny
to buy blackberries. There, take that," said
he, giving her a blow, "and fetch the bread
"I shan't," said Bessie, stamping her foot,
and looking fiercely at him; it's my penny,
and I will have it."
Will you ?" said he, giving her a much
heavier blow than before; "there, take that,
and see if you can learn to do as I tell you;"
16 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHEIER;
and roaring and screaming, partly with pain,
and partly with passion, Bessie once more set
out upon her errand.
There are few people in the world so poor
as not to have some one thing by which they
set great store. In Bessie's case, the one
thing was a certain new penny, which had
been one day given to her by an old gentle-
man for running after him with his spectacles,
which he had left on the baker's counter; he
had come in to pay his bill while she stood
there, and when he was gone, the baker,
seeing he had left his spectacles, told her to
run after him with them, and thus it was that
she became possessed of a new penny. She
had never seen one before, and had it been
made of gold instead of copper she could not
have thought it more beautiful than she did;
the idea of spending it never once crossed her
mind, but she put it in a little bag and kept
it under Polly's pillow, looking at it once now
and then by way of a great treat.
When she returned with the bread she was
still crying, but not daring to speak or
scarcely to move so long as her father was in
the room, she sat down upon Polly's bed
until he had eaten his supper, taken up the
candle, and gone away to his own little garret.
Then she undressed herself in the dark, and
lay down by her sister's side. After a while
she put her arms round her and kissed her,
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 17
thinking all the while how cruel and unkind
her father was not to give her back her penny
to buy the blackberries. She wished she
knew how to get another penny; Mrs.
M'Crower had said that she might earn
money if she tried, but how could she ?
She wished the baby would get cross and
want minding again ; but that was not likely,
for it had cut all its teeth, and could run
about and play with the other now. As
she lay turning over these thoughts in her
mind, a new idea all in a moment darted into
it. It was about her new penny. A new
penny would buy blackberries as well as an
old one. She felt for it under the pillow.
Yes, there it was quite safe. Should she
spend it? could she ? Her pretty new penny
that looked so bright and shining ? No, she
would not, she could not. Perhaps Polly
would have forgotten the blackberries by to-
morrow. And yet she had wanted them so
very much. Poor Polly! Yes, she would
spend it; perhaps some one would give her
another some day. She would carry it to
Mr. Green, and ask him for a pennyworth
of blackberries, directly after breakfast to-
morrow morning. Thinking this she fell
iYi. J ^1, ,,
*_- :_- -_.=
THE next morning a pretty pony carriage
stopped at the door of Mr. Green's shop. A
lady stepped out of it and went in, while
outside at one corner of the window stood a
little ragged girl, her eyes wandering in and
out, up and down among the different baskets
of fruit; in her hand she was turning over
and over again, occasionally looking at it, a
BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER. 19
bright new penny. The lady was Mrs.
Percy, the little ragged girl was Bessie
Clapton. The master of the shop came
forward to attend to his customer, and the
window being, like that of fruiterers' shops in
general, without glass, Bessie could distinctly
hear all that passed.
"Mr. Green," said the lady, "have you
any blackberry jam? my daughter is ill and
has taken a fancy for some. Her nurse bought
her a jar here, I believe, when she was a child,
so I thought you might perhaps have some
I'm sorry to say, ma'am, that I can't oblige
you," replied Mr. Green; "I used to have
it, for we always made it when we lived up
in the North, and when we came here my
wife liked to keep up the old custom, but we
haven't made any now for these three years or
more. The children don't bring any black-
berries to sell now."
"I am sorry, too," rejoined Mrs. Percy;
" perhaps if you should be making any in the
course of a week or two you will be kind
enough to let me know. I believe this is the
season for blackberries, and I suppose they
grow in this neighbourhood."
"None nearer than Eastham, ma'am, but
plenty on the common there, no doubt of it.
It's ten chances to one whether the children
bring any of their own accord, for now-a-days
20 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
children aren't like what they were when I
was a boy, and we were glad to earn a penny
any way we could; they're an idle set, ma'am,
depend upon it, terribly lazy, boys and girls
both; however, ma'am, I'll make a point of
inquiring and getting some for you if I
Thank you," said the lady; "I should
think the Eastham children would be very glad
to pick them for you if they knew you would
Yes, ma'am, maybe they would," re-
plied Mr. Green; "but then who's to go
and tell them so ? if people won't try to get a
living of themselves, it's my opinion they don't
deserve to be set at it by others; they're an
idle set, ma'am, depend upon it, are the chil-
dren now-a-days, boys and girls both. Why,
ma'am, if you'll beheve me, when I was a boy,
I've earned as much as four or five shillings a
week gathering blackberries and taking them
to Newcastle market."
The lady made some reply, which the little
girl did not hear; but as Mrs. Percy turned to
leave the shop Bessie caught, You will be
sure to let me know then, Mr. Green, if you
"Certainly, ma'am, certainly," replied Mr.
Green, with his best bow; I'll make a point
of it, ma'am;" and back he went to the farther
end of the shop, and began arranging several
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 21
baskets of apples, pears, and damsons, which
appeared to have been just brought in.
In children who are pushed about in the
world in the way to which Bessie was accus-
tomed, there is often a strange mixture of
childish ideas and grown-up thoughts. "I
wish I was a lady and rode in a carriage,"
said she to herself; as she saw Mrs. Percy's
little pony phaeton drive off. I should
have money enough to buy all the fruit in
this shop then for Polly, if I chose; but it's
no use wishing, I never shall be a lady, I
dare say." You are quite right, Bessie, it
was no use wishing. A little trying is worth
a great deal of wishing any day, and there-
fore it was that the next thought which came
into her mind was worth all the wishing
thoughts that ever were in the world.-
"Couldn't I go into the shop and ask Mr.
Green to let me go and pick the blackberries
for him, to make jam for the lady ? I know
where Eastham Common is well enough; it's
only about four miles off, and Polly wouldn't
mind being left while I went."
The next moment she was inside the door.
Mr. Green, however, judging from her ap-
pearance that it was not necessary for him to
be quite so polite to her as to his former
customer, ordered her, with very little cere-
mony, to "be off;" but seeing that she hesi-
tated, demanded in a still rougher tone what
22 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
she wanted. Children are generally frightened
at loud rough tones; Bessie was no exception
to the rule; and the consequence was, that
from an instinctive feeling (which in the
present instance, however, proved to be a
wrong one) that Mr. Green would perhaps
be better pleased if she offered to buy some-
thing first than if she asked the favour at
once, she replied-
A pennyworth of--of blackberries, if
you please, sir."
"Blackberries!" he repeated; "I've got
no blackberries, and if I had I shouldn't sell
them to such as you. Go and pick them for
yourself in the hedges if you want them. Why,
bless my heart," he added, bustling about his
shop, if I'd spent my pennies in that sort of
way when I was a boy, I shouldn't have had
many pounds now I guess. But it's just as
I said, there isn't a boy or girl worth having
now-a-days; you're a lazy set, all of you; no
wonder you're in rags and tatters," he added,
surveying Bessie from head to foot, "when
you're too idle to gather blackberries for
yourself; be off with you, will you ?" And
as he motioned with his arm, Bessie turned
round and went off. This speech had some-
what scared her; but as she walked along,
still turning over her new penny in her hand,
she could not help thinking how very foolish
she had been to ask Mr. Green for blackber-
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 23
ries, when she meant to have said apples or
damsons. He was a very cross man, she was
nearly sure of that, but at the same time it
was not what she meant to do, but what she
had done without meaning it, which had made
him so angry. Perhaps after all he might
be glad of some one to get blackberries for
him. Should she go back ? no, she was afraid;
she would go again in the afternoon: and
with this determination she went home and
related to Polly the unsuccessful issue of her
expedition. Polly was quite shocked at the
idea of Bessie having intended to spend the
new penny on her; "she was very glad,"
she said, "that Mr. Green hadn't got any
blackberries; but what were they, I wonder,
that you saw last night," she said.
"They were mulberries," said Bessie;
"I heard Mr. Green tell the lady that he
had some, but they're all gone now. Sup-
posing Mr. Green does let me go and pick
blackberries for him, shall you mind being left
all by yourself, Polly, while I'm away ?"
0 no," said Polly, "I shan't mind it a
bit, if you'll lift me on to the chair by the
window before you go. How soon shall you
set off, Bessie ?"
"I don't know," replied Bessie ; "perhaps
this afternoon, if it isn't too late."
"But why don't you go this morning ?"
24 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
Because I don't like to go back to Mr.
Green's just yet, for fear he should be cross
But, Bessie, don't you think if you were
to go and take some to him without asking
him first, perhaps he'd buy them ?"
Bessie's eyes sparkled. "What a good
thought, Polly !" she said; "I never thought
of that; Mrs. M'Crower says I am idle, and
Mr. Green said all the boys and girls were
idle; but if I did as you say, they couldn't
call me idle any more; shall I go and ask
Mrs. M'Crower ? No, I won't, sh'e was so
ill-natured, and wouldn't lend us a bit of sugar
But I think you had better," said Polly;
" perhaps she'd lend you a basket; we haven't
got one. Besides, she gives us the tea leaves
always, you know."
It is not to our purpose to record the con-
versation which took place on the subject
between Bessie and Mrs. M'Crower: suffice
it to say that the latter, happening fortunately
to be in a very good temper, expressed her-
self much pleased with Bessie's intended at-
tempt to get an honest living, and willingly
consented to lend her a basket for the occasion,
though not until she had washed her hands
and fhce, and made herself a bit decent, as she
termed it. This was soon done, and when,
after going up to bid Polly good-bye. she
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 25
again descended the stairs, Mrs. M'Crower
was standing at the door of her room with the
basket in her hand all ready fbr her.
Let me look at your hands and face,"
said she; "yes, they're nice and clean now,
and here's the basket. Put plenty of brakes in
the bottom, (you know what they are, don't
you? great big leaves like feathers,) to keep
the berries from squashing; I never could
bear squashed fruit of any sort. Then, when
you've filled the basket (don't put a lot of
bad ones in to make up), cover them over
with brakes at the top, and bring them to let
me look at them, and see they're all right,
before you take them to Mr. Green; if he
won't have them I will, that's all I've got to
say; I used to be very fond of blackberry
pudding when I was a girl."
In the afternoon, when the 'streak of red
sunlight came on the wall, Polly, again moved
back to her bed, was sitting up looking more
pleased than she had done for many a
long day. A nosegay of wild thyme, clover,
and daisies, lay by her side, and in her hand
she held a green fern leaf; full of the largest
and most beautiful blackberries that ever were
gathered. Bessie with hands and face (by
order of the indefatigable Mrs. M'Crower)
once more washed, with her basket on her
arm, was on her way to Mr. Green's. She
entered the shop with somewhat of a trem-
26 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
bling heart, fbr it was impossible that she
could quite forget her reception in the iorn-
ing. She looked round, but Mr. Green was
not there: in a few minutes, however, his wife
came in, and Bessie felt rather glad at this,
fbr she was a little plump woman, with so
good-natured a face that it was impossible for
any one to feel frightened at her; and when
she spoke, her kind manner quite re-assured
Well, my little girl," said she, and what
is it for you ?"
She set down her basket, and taking off
two or three of the fern leaves, began,-
"If you please, ma'am-if you please, I
thought the gentleman wanted some black-
"How came you to think that?" said
Mrs. Green; "we do want some, but I
don't think we ever bought any of you be-
No, ma'am, but I was outside this morn-
ing, and I heard a lady out of a carriage tell
Mr. Green that she wanted some blackberry
jam, and I heard Mr. Green say, ma'am,
that the boys and girls was all too idle now
to get blackberries, so I've been and picked
these on Eastham Common. They are all
ripe, ma'am, to the very bottom."
Well, you are a good girl," said Mrs.
Green, gently shaking the basket to prove
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 27
the truth of Bessie's words. I like to see
children industrious; but how is it that your
frock is so dirty and torn, and your feet so
untidy? I hope you washed your hands be-
fore you picked these ?"
Yes, ma'am, indeed I did," said Bessie,
holding them out; "and I've washed them
Mrs. Green, as the reader may at once
conclude, was a thoroughly kind-hearted
person: but she had her peculiarities; one of
them, and a very good one it was too, was
that she liked all children with whom she
had anything to do to go to school regu-
larly; she could not, she said, bear the
thought of their growing up like heathens.
She liked them to be taught their duty, and
then if they did not perform it afterwards,
the fault was their own, not hers.
"What is your name, and where do you
live ?" were her next questions to Bessie.
Bessie Clapton; and please, ma'am, I
live at No. 5, White Hart Court."
"That's not a very nice part," said Mrs.
Green. I hope you go to school. I don't
like to have anything to do with children
who don't go to school."
"Please, ma'am, I used to go every day
till my frock got so old and ragged; but I'm
going again as soon as ever I can get money
enough to buy a new one."
28 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
What a wicked story this was! But
Bessie thought it a very clever one. Mrs.
Green, not doubting the truth of what she
That is right: which school did you go
to, the one at the end of Richard Street ?"
Yes, ma'am," said Bessie with unfalter-
"Very well. I shall speak to Mrs. Percy
about you. She is the lady who wanted the
blackberries, and she often visits at that
school; if I find that you are a good girl,
and speak the truth, perhaps I may be able
to do something towards getting a frock for
you. I shall buy these," she continued; "we
give twopence a quart for them. I think
there are about two quarts here, that will be
fourpence," and after emptying the basket,
she handed Bessie the money.
"If you can get any more to-morrow as
fine as these you may bring them; two
quarts are hardly enough for me to boil down
"There are plenty more, ma'am, quite as
fine," said Bessie, and taking the fourpence
in one hand and the basket in the other she
ran off in high glee. There was only one
thing which made her feel a little uneasy,-
it was those words of Mrs. Green's, "If you
speak the truth." It would assuredly be
found out that she had not done so, and then
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 29
suppose Mrs. Green should be offended, and
not buy any more blackberries? She wished
she had not said that she went to school; per-
haps she might have sold her blackberries
just the same if she had not. This was the
only reason why she felt sorry for having
spoken an untruth. She did not care about
having offended Him who is the Truth, by
what she had done; she only thought of the
mischief which her sin might perhaps bring
upon her own head. Dear young reader, I
hope you know better than this; poor Bessie
", I .
THE blackberry trade went on most prosper-
ously. Mr. Green bought all that Bessie
could bring him, for people seemed to have
taken a fancy for blackberry jam that year.
She never saw Mrs. Green again, so that she
could not be certain whether the falsehood
she had told about going to school had ever
been found out or not; but after a while she
BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER. 31
concluded that it had all been forgotten, and
that Mrs. Green had never mentioned the
matter to Mrs. Percy at all.
By Mrs. M'Crower's advice, instead of
spending the money which Mr. Green paid
her as she went on, she carried it all to her to
save up. Her father knew nothing about
it. To children who have kind, good parents,
it may seem a strange thing that neither she
nor Polly ever told him. Why did they
keep it a secret? Poor children! he was not
like a father to them; if he had known that
they had it, he would have taken it all and
spent it on himself. Bessie would have
liked to buy something with it at once, or
every now and then to have taken a little to
buy tarts and nice things for Polly. But
Mrs. M'Crower would not let her do this:
she well remembered how much the poor
children had suffered from cold and want
during the last winter, and therefore advised
Bessie to keep saving as long as she could,
saying that they would want it a great deal
more when the cold weather came than they
Winter did come at last, and the wisdom
of Mrs. M'Crower's advice was fully proved.
The blackberries were all gone, and Bessie
of course earned no more money: work be-
came slack at the basket factory in which
their father had been employed during the
32 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER ;
summer, and he had very seldom money
enough to get materials wherewith to work
at home. They were very badly off; but
Bessie and Polly suffered the most, their
father often contriving to pick up a meal
somehow, while they, poor children, were left
at home with scarcely a crust; for as long as
he could keep out of sight of their sufferings,
and get something for himself, he did not
care. They could both well remember the
time when he would not have done so, and
wondered sometimes what made him so dif-
ferent now. Polly, pining and fretful as she
often was, had a heart that unconsciously
yearned for a father's love; and Bessie,
though she often as it were in self-defence
defied him to his face, had beneath her rough
exterior a nature which would have rendered
willing obedience to the gentle training of
It was now that by degrees the little store
in Mrs. M'Crower's hands began gradually
to dwindle away; they must have bread,
the baker would no longer trust them, and
so penny after penny of it went for that.
One very cold morning,-it was near Christ-
mas-time, and Bessie knew that there was
but one sixpence of her money left,-her
father, to whom the store was still a secret,
sent her to the baker's to ask him once more
to trust them for another loaf; the man re-
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 33
fised, for they already owed him more than
he could afford to lose. She left the shop,
and hungry and faint at heart, turned her
steps towards home. As she slowly drew
near the large school-house at the end of
the street, she observed several girls going
in with armsful of holly and other ever-
greens. They seemed so happy and cheerful,
and the evergreens were so fresh and beauti-
ful, that, as any other child would do, she
paused for a moment to look at them. Then
came two more girls carrying a large tray
covered with a cloth; the wind, being rather
high, blew it partly off just as they passed
her, and she saw that the tray was filled
with buns, and dishes of cake cut up into
large slices. Can you wonder that she gazed
with a longing eye? Cold, excessive cold,
is sometimes enough of itself to make any
one cry; but Bessie was hungry and cold
too. She drew her old shawl round her, and
sitting down on the lowest step of the door
by which she saw the girls enter, began to
weep most bitterly. In a very short time
the door again opened; she heard it, and
starting up was about to run away as fast as
she could, for she did not like that any of
those happy girls should see how miserable
she was, when a hand was laid upon her
shoulder, and a kind voice said,-
34 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER,
What are you crying for, my dear; you
do not belong to the school, do you ?"
No one had ever spoken in this way to
Bessie before. She lifted up her streaming
eyes to the speaker's face. It was Mrs.
Percy; she was sure of it, for she remem-
bered her quite well.
"No, ma'am," she replied.
Tell me what is the matter," said the
lady; what are you crying for? has any
one been hurting you ?"
Her tears still flowed, she tried to answer,
but a choking sensation came in her throat,
and she could not.
"I shall not know how to help you if you
do not tell me what is the matter," said Mrs.
Percy. "Are you hungry, have you had
your breakfast ?"
I haven't had any breakfast," sobbed
Bessie at last.
Poor child !" said the lady, compassion-
ately, wait a moment, and I will get you a
slice of cake." She opened the door and
went in, but soon returned with a large slice
"What is your name ?" said she, as she
put it into Bessie's hand.
"Bessie Clapton, ma'am," said Bessie,
curtseying as she took the cake.
"Bessie Clapton," repeated Mrs. Percy;
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 35
"Bessie Clapton! I think I have heard
that name before." She then asked Bessie
several more questions, during which time
she observed that instead of eating the cake
she wrapped it up in one corner of her shawl,
as if intending to carry it away.
"I am afraid," she said, "that you are
not speaking the truth in all that you say;
if you were hungry you would have begun
to eat your cake, I think, instead of wrapping
it up in your shawl in that way."
The colour rushed into Bessie's face. She
had often told lies, but did not like to have
it thought that she did so, still less to be sus-
pected when she did not really deserve it.
We shall see in the end how it was that this
suspicion was brought upon her.
I was saving it to take to my little sister,
ma'am," she replied.
Still Mrs. Percy did not appear as though
she exactly believed her.
"Where do you say you live ?" said she.
No 5, White Hart Court, up two pair
of stairs, ma'am," replied Bessie.
"Very well. I have not time to talk any
longer to you now, but I shall make some
inquiries about you; and if I find that what
you have told me is the truth, perhaps I may
come and see you some day."
Notwithstanding cold and hunger, Bessie
36 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
returned home with a light heart. Her
father was gone out, and good Mrs. M'Crower,
finding that she had not succeeded in getting
a loaf, gave her and Polly each a basin of
nice warm broth: the cake they saved to
eat at night, not being at all sure that they
should get anything else for the rest of the
day. More than a week passed away, but
brought no Mrs. Percy. Bessie began to
think that she would not come at all. One
night a great deal of snow fell, and the
next morning her father said that he would
go out and see if he could earn a shilling
by helping the men who were employed
to clear it away in the streets. The children
were both glad when they heard the door
close behind him, for his manner towards
them was so harsh and surly, that they would
at any time much rather be by themselves
than have him with them. Bessie had nothing
to do, at least so she thought, though any
one accustomed to a home of only ordinary
decency would have said that she might have
found ample employment for at least two
or three hours, in cleaning and tidying the
room. However, she had done it after her
fashion, and was now seated before the
remnant of fire in the grate, poking the
ashes about with a bit of stick: it was a
very cold morning, and as they had no more
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 37
coals to make it up she had persuaded Polly
to keep in bed instead of getting up and
sitting by the fire as she generally did.
Presently a gentle tapping was heard at
the door. No one ever came to it but Mrs.
M'Crower, and she always opened it and
walked straight in. Who could it be? for
the moment she quite forgot Mrs. Percy.
She jumped up, and on opening it, to her
astonishment that lady stepped into the
Did you think I had forgotten you, and
should not come ?" said she, gently.
Bessie did not answer; she looked as she
felt, a little flustered.
I was afraid that you did not speak the
truth when I met you the other morning,"
continued Mrs. Percy; "but I have now
found out that you did. I will tell you pre-
sently what made me have so low an opinion
of you. Is this the little sister you spoke
of?" she added, going up to Polly's bed.
Yes, ma'am, this is Polly; she liked the
cake very. much, ma'am," said Bessie.
Have you been ill long, my poor child?"
said the lady, addressing Polly.
"Yes, ma'am, very long," replied Polly;
" ever since we had the fever."
And have you no father or mother ?"
If you please, ma'am, we've got a father;
we had a mother once, a long while ago, but
38 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
she's dead now," said Bessie; "father's gone
to see if he can get a job sweeping away the
Mrs. Percy looked round the comfortless
room. Bessie had sufficient natural polite-
ness to know that she ought to ask the lady
to sit down, so she dusted a chair with her
pinafore and offered it to her.
"You told me that your name was Bessie
Clapton," said Mrs. Percy, seating herself;
"are you the same Bessie Clapton who used
to get blackberries in the autumn for Mr.
Green at the fruit shop ?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Bessie, "I picked a
good many. Mr. Green used to give me
twopence a quart for them, but there haven't
been any now this long while."
"I suppose not," replied Mrs. Percy;
"but what was the reason," she continued,
speaking in a more severe and serious tone,
" that you told Mrs. Green so great a false-
hood as to say that you had been for some
time to the school at the end of Richard
Street, when you know that you never went
there in your life ?"
Bessie was thunderstruck. The remem-
brance of that lie had not crossed her mind
for some time, but now here it was brought
up before her face distinct as ever. She hung
down her head, and twisted her pinafore about
with her fingers, but did not answer.
on, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 39
"No one,' continued Mrs. Percy, "ever
yet gained in the end anything by lying; if
you had not told that falsehood, I should have
come to see you and your poor little sister
long ago; as it was, I thought that one part of
your story was most likely about as true as the
other, and therefore did not take the trouble
to find you out, as I should otherwise have
done. Do you understand this ?" she con-
tinued, speaking in her former gentle tone.
Bessie burst into tears.
I suppose," she added, you thought that
if Mrs. Green knew that you had never been
to school, she would have had a bad opinion of
you, and would not have bought your black
berries; was not that it ?"
"Yes, ma'am," said Bessie; and she sob-
bed out something about never telling a story
"I hope not," said Mrs. Percy; "you
must ask God to help you to speak the truth,
for we can none of us do what is right with-
out his help. Remember, you must never
do evil that good may come. I am not at
all sure that Mrs. Green would not have
bought your blackberries because you did
not go to school; as it was, she felt so dis-
pleased at your untruthfulness that she deter-
mined to take no notice of you. I hope it
will be a lesson to you, and that you will be
sorry for what you did."
40 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
Yes, ma'am," said Bessie, I'll never do
Mrs. Percy looked at her for a moment.
"Can you tell me," said she, at length, "why
you should never tell a lie ?"
"Because you said I wasn't to, ma'am,"
replied Bessie, very readily.
Mrs. Percy shook her head. That is not
the reason," said she. "The reason is be-
cause you are to dread offending the great God,
who hates the lying lip, and who has said that
He will punish all liars in everlasting fire, far
away from Himself and the bright angels who
stand around his throne; did you never hear
tnis before ?"
"No, ma'am," said Bessie, very timidly.
Mrs. Percy stayed and talked some time
longer, making many inquiries, and question-
ing Bessie very closely about her habits and
previous mode of life.
"So you have never been to school at
all," she said, as she rose to depart; "but
you do not wish to be always as ignorant
as you are now, do you? Should you not
like to learn to read, and write, and work, like
other little girls ?"
Bessie said that she should like to do so
Well," said Mrs. Percy, I do not think
you could at present leave your sister to
attend school in the week; but you might
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 41
come on Sunday; your father is at home then,
Yes, ma'am, he's always at home in the
morning; I could come then."
And so, after a little more talking, it was
agreed that Bessie should attend the Sunday
school. She and Polly sat for some time
after Mrs. Percy's departure talking over her
visit. Poor little things! it was something
so new to them to have any one to speak
kindly to, or to take an interest in them, that
they could hardly make it out. Polly won-
dered very much what Bessie would learn at
the Sunday school, whether the lady would
teach her herself, and whether she would have
to go to church; and Bessie began in great
distress to think how bent and shabby her
bonnet was, and how ragged and dingy she
should look among so many tidy girls. She
almost made up her mind to stay away after
all. What mind she came to at last we shall
see in the next chapter.
MRs. PERCY did not confine her kindness to
words. Before Sunday came, she had sent
them one day a jug of soup, and another, a
little rice pudding for Polly. How Polly
enjoyed that rice pudding Bessie declared
that- she would not taste a bit; but Polly in-
sisted upon it, and almost choked her once
by persisting in putting some into her mouth.
BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER. 43
Bessie, seeing how pleased Polly was with
that pudding, resolved at last to brave every-
thing,-old bonnet, shabby frock, and all, and
go to school. "If I do not," said she to
herself, "perhaps the lady will be offended,
and never send Polly another pudding."
This may seem to some a very low mo-
tive for going to school. Let those who
think so place themselves for a moment in
poor Bessie's situation, and ask, Should I
have done the same? Are my actions in
general as self-denying as this of this poor
neglected child ? Had Bessie made the cal-
culation for herself, the case would have been
very different, but she did not; self was out
of the question, she thought only of Polly.
To her astonishment, her father did not op-
pose her going; for, bad as he was, and much
as he neglected his children, Mark Clapton
had enough of a father's feeling left not to
wish to see them grow up to be as wicked
as he was himself; and though he would
never have taken the trouble of sending her
on his own account, he offered no objection to
her doing as Mrs. Percy wished.
Bessie's anticipations as to what she should
have to put up with on first going to school
were by no means without foundation. The
girls often made remarks upon her appear-
ance, and were not backward, whenever they
could get an opportunity, unseen by their
44 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
teachers, to laugh at her ignorance. They
did not consider that had they been placed
as she was they might perhaps have been far
less intelligent than Bessie.
It was no wonder that she did not like
school very well at first; and all that she
saw and heard was so strange and new that
it was some time before she could comprehend
everything she was taught; however, she
persevered, and by degrees began to under-
stand things much better. "I must try,"
she would say to herself, when anything ap-
peared very difficult; "as Mrs. M'Crower
says, there's nothing done without trying."
Her greatest drawback was the not being
able to read. But this made her more at-
tentive and more anxious to understand and
remember all that she heard. In the week,
too, she very often thought about what had
been taught her on the Sunday; unlike some
children, who seem to consider that what they
learn then is, like their Sunday frocks, in-
tended for that day alone, and not to be made
use of at any other time.
During the winter, her father sometimes,
that is, when he had money to buy wicker,
made baskets at home. One day, as Bessie
sat by the fire watching him at his work, it
struck her that if she could learn how to
make baskets, she might, perhaps, after a
time, earn a little money that way. Sihe
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 45
asked her father to teach her; but he was in
a cross mood, and told her that she had much
better clean the room and wash the clothes
than want to make baskets. The fact was,
he did not want the trouble of teaching her.
However, this did not discourage her; every
time he did any basket work she would
watch him narrowly, and when he left off
would carefully gather up all the little bits of
wicker which he had thrown away as useless.
Polly wanted to know what she meant to do
with them, but she looked very mysterious
and would not say; but at last, one day when
her father was gone out, she set to work, and
though she failed several times, at last suc-
ceeded ,in making a little flat basket, such as
always stood in Mr. Green's window, filled
with apples, pears, and different kinds of
fruit. In Polly's opinion Bessie was the
cleverest girl in the world. When it was
quite finished, she took it down to show it to
Mrs. M'Crower, who pronounced it to be quite
strong and well made.
Nothing like trying, is there, Bessie?"
she said, as she turned the basket about to
inspect it. "You look cleaner, too, to-day;
have you swept the room up ?"
"Yes, Mrs. M'Crower, and brushed the
fireplace, too," said Bessie.
"That's right; you'll get on after a bit, if
46 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
you're a good girl; and now what are you
going to.do with this little basket ?"
"I don't know," said Bessie. "I thought
if I could get some wicker to make some
more, perhaps Mr. Green would buy them of
me; but father has used all his wicker," she
added, mournfully, "and I've got no money
to buy any more."
Well now, I tell you what I'll do," said
Mrs. M'Crower, drawing a long breath;
" do you know where your father buys his
Yes," said Bessie, "I know the place
quite well; I went for some last week."
"Well then, I'll lend you a shilling, and
you shall go and get what you can for that,
and make it into baskets; and as soon as
ever you can, you shall pay me back the
Bessie thanked her kind friend many
times. In the course of a week several
little baskets were completed, and Bessie
once more presented herself at Mr. Green's
door. Mr. Green, of course, knew her again
directly; and as the baskets were well made,
and she asked a lower price than he had
ever given before, he at once purchased
them, and gave her an order for half-a-dozen
more of the same kind.
After she had carried the borrowed shil-
oR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 47
ling back to Mrs. M'Crower, she found that
she had still eighteen-pence left for her trou-
ble. This was a prize indeed. By Mrs.
M'Crower's advice she told her father about
it, and asked him to buy her some more wicker.
He could not be angry with her, and so her
new trade of basket-making went on as pros-
perously as the old one of blackberry gather-
ing, with this advantage, that whereas that
could only last for a short time, this might
continue all the year round.
As one good thought often gives rise to
another, so is one good action often the
source from which many others spring. As
Bessie grew more industrious, she grew more
neat and cleanly, not only in her own per-
son, but in her household duties as well.
Polly's clothes and bed were much more
clean and comfortable than they used to be;
the room was kept in better order, the floor
swept every day, the fireplace brushed, and
the window, which at one time could hardly
be seen through, was now cleaned every
week. Mrs. Percy, whose kindness still con-
tinued, did not fail to observe this improve-
ment, and to commend Bessie fbr it. Poor
Polly, notwithstanding that Bessie's earnings
now often furnished her with little indul-
gences to which she had before been unac-
customed, grew thinner and paler than ever;
48 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
and one day Bessie overheard Mrs. M'Crower
say to Mrs. Brown, her other lodger, that
she was quite sure the poor child wouldn't
last many months longer. This made Bessie
very unhappy; but she determined not to
believe it; she could not bear to think of
losing Polly; and besides, since she had been
to the Sunday school and to church, she had
learnt to think differently of dying to what
she had ever done before.
Every Sunday evening she used to tell
Polly all that she could remember of what
she had learnt during the day. This was a
good plan, as it not only fixed her lessons
in her own mind, but taught Polly besides.
Once-Bessie had attended school about two
months then-they were sitting together as
usual. Bessie was not talking. She seemed
to be thinking very much about something,
when Polly broke the silence by saying-
"Bessie, tell me that story again about the
man they put in the lions' den."
I told you that last Sunday," said Bessie;
"wouldn't you like to have another ?"
0 yes," replied Polly; "but I didn't
think you knew another, except about Adam
and Eve in the garden. Do you know
another, Bessie ?"
I know what teacher told us to-day, and
last Sunday too," said Bessie, and the clergy-
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 49
man very often talks about it, too, only I can't
understand him quite so well."
"What's it about ?" said Polly.
"About Jesus Christ; you never heard of
Him, did you, Polly ?"
"No, I don't think so," replied Polly;
"was He a great king ?"
He was God's own Son," said Bessie,
reverently. "He lived in the world once.
He was born in a stable, and when he was a
little baby He slept in a manger, and all the
while He lived on earth He was very poor, and
often had not where to lay his head."
Polly was a child who thought a great deal.
Perhaps not being able to run about like other
children, and being left much alone, made her
do so ; she did not speak for a moment, then
"But, Bessie, how strange; I thought you
always told me that God lived ever so far
away, up above the sky."
"Yes," said Bessie, so He does; Jesus
Christ came down out of heaven to live upon
"Did He ?" said Polly; what did He do
it for, Bessie ?"
Because He loved us so much," said
Bessie; "He came down to die fbr us. He
needn't have done it unless He liked."
"Did Jesus Christ like to die then, Bessie?
50 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
did He like to come out of heaven? 0 dear,
I shouldn't like to die;" and the child gave
such a shudder that Bessie shuddered too as
Teacher says that He came down to die
instead of us. She says that if He hadn't we
should all have had to go into the flames and
be burnt for ever and ever."
"Oh, Bessie," said Polly, trying to raise
herself a little, "but not if we are good; it's
only wicked people, is it, that go into the
flames ? Don't good people all go to heaven ?"
"Teacher taught us a verse this morning
that says there's nobody quite good," said
Bessie; "nobody's good enough to go to
heaven without Jesus to help them; she says
that everybody does things that make God
angry with them sometimes."
Do they ?" said Polly; how does Jesus
help them then, Bessie ?"
Bessie looked puzzled. "I can't tell you
as well as our teacher does," she said, after a
pause, "but I think it was this: you know,
Polly, that when Adam and Eve ate the fruit
in the garden, they offended God; so that
they could not have gone to heaven, but must
have been punished for ever, and their chil-
dren too, because they also are guilty before
God; but God still loved men so very much,
that He sent Jesus Christ to suffer and die,
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 51
instead of their being punished. That's how
He helps them, I think."
"He must have been very kind," said
He is very kind," said Bessie; "and
teacher says that if we ask Him He will put
his Spirit into our hearts to make us good,
like Him; and that when He was on earth
He used to take the little children in his arms
and bless them."
"I wish He lived here now," said Polly,
"to love little children."
"But He does love them just as much now
as He did then," said Bessie; He is always
standing beside God's throne asking Him to
forgive them, and to hear their prayers. I
learnt a little hymn about that the other day.
"And He loves his little children,
And He pleadeth for them there,
Asking the great God of Heaven
That their sins may be forgiven:
And He hears their prayer."
"How pretty that is," said Polly; "can't
you tell me some more about Him, Bessie ?"
Bessie told what she could; told in her
own simple, untaught words the sweet story
of redeeming love; how the Lord of life laid
his glory by, and for the sake of lost and
52 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER.
ruined man, stooped from the throne of his
majesty to become a babe in the manger of
Bethlehem, how He was subject to his pa-
rents, then how He walked this earth, de-
spised and rejected of men, until at length
upon the Cross of Calvary He poured out his
precious blood for us~ and for our salvation.
Rude might her words have sounded on the
ear of human learning, but on that of the
worn and suffering child they fell soft as the
dew-drops of even, sweet and gentle as the
rain of summer on the parched and burning
earth. There lay poor Polly, a little raised,
resting on her elbow, her large blue eyes,
rendered by sickness more clear and lustrous,
fixed full on Bessie's face, listening for the
first time in her life to the account of a love,
which as yet she could hardly comprehend.
At last Bessie told how He was nailed to the
cross, how the cruel soldiers buffeted and
mocked Him, how all, even his dearest
friends, deserted Him, and how, even in his
last agony, He prayed for his murderers.
Polly did not say anything, but her blue eyes
filled with tears, and when Bessie came tc
bed she put her arms round her, and said,
"Bessie, dear, I'm so glad you went to the
Sunday-school." At that moment Bessie felt
rewarded a hundred-fold for all that she
endured for Polly's sake.
things beside. When her father, as was too
she must not return evil fr evil, -railing for,
,i. t c riwise b in a
BESSIE improved very much in her basket-
making, and, what was much better, she im-
proved in her temper, and in many other
things beside. When her father, as was too
often the case, spoke harshly and unkindly to
her, she did not as formerly stamp her feet
and look fiercely at him. She had learnt that
she must not return evil for evil, railing for
'railing, but contrariwise blessing; and now
54 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
she tried, though very. often her task was a
hard one, to put what she learnt into practice.
Bad as her father was, he could not help
seeing this change, nor could he avoid no-
ticing the alteration in her appearance. Her
clothes it is true were still very old, but the
holes in them were mended; her hair was
neatly combed off her face, and her pinafore
was washed much more frequently than it
once had been. Mark Clapton could not
help acknowledging these things to himself,
as well as the general change and improve-
ment in his home; but his disposition was so
sour and surly that he would not commend
her for it either by word or look. How
pleasant a word of encouragement would
have been to her, how grateful a smile or
a look of love to poor Polly But they had
neither; God was teaching them in his own
way to do well for the sake of doing well,
even though they might suffer for it.
Every morning when she was well enough,
Bessie used to carry Polly and set her in a
chair by the window, in order that she might
amuse herself by looking at the things and
people that passed by ; sometimes, if Bessie
thought she looked very pale, she would want
her to go back after she had been sitting
for a little; but Polly never would do so
until after twelve o'clock, and then she
seldom wished to stay any longer. Bessie
OR, WHAT TRYING ,MAY DO. 55
wondered what could be her reason for this,
so one day she asked her. It was then
"If you wait a little while I'll show you,
Bessie," she replied.
Bessie did so, and at a few minutes past
twelve she saw the man who lived opposite
come home to his dinner. Three little chil-
dren ran out to meet him ; he took them up
in his arms and kissed them one by one, and
then went into the house carrying the young-
est astride on his shoulder.
"I'm almost sure I can remember when
father used to kiss us like that," said Polly,
"and I always like to stop and see them;
but, Bessie, we have a Father in heaven,
haven't we, who loves us?"
By the time summer came Bessie was be-
ginning to read short words very tolerably.
Several little books had been given to her at
school, and these she used to spell over and
over again at home, thus improving herself
very much. Mrs. Percy was still kind, often
sending Polly nice little things; one day
when she came she asked her if she should
like to go into a hospital and get cured, and
the next time she brought with her a doctor,
a very kind gentleman, who examined Polly,
and asked her a great many questions.
Bessie was afraid that he had come to say
that she must go away at once. He did not;
56 BESSIE, MHE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
but as he was going out of the door with
Mrs. Percy, she saw him shake his head, and
afterwards Mrs. M'Crower told her that he
said Polly would never get any better.
It was dreadful to her to hear this, and she
determined, as before, not to think about it.
" Polly will live a long while yet if I take
care of her," she said to herself. Still there
were times when she could not help seeing
that Polly was very much altered. Her poor
bones were almost through her skin, and she
had beside a dreadful cough and pain in her
side, from which she had not suffered before.
Yet she did not complain half so much as she
used to do; instead of always fretting and
whining, her face often, especially when
Bessie spoke to her or did anything for her,
wore a pleasant, happy smile, and sometimes,
though quite awake, she would lie perfectly
still for a long time together. One evening
Bessie had been relating to her, fbr about the
twentieth time, the history of Elijah and his
being taken up into heaven, for it was a
great favourite of Polly's, and she never
seemed to tire of hearing it. This time, how-
ever, she did not ask any questions or make
any remarks, but when Bessie had finished,
asked her if she would not soon come to
"Yes, if you want me to I will, Polly,"
she replied ; "I don't suppose father will be
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 57
in yet, but I can leave the candle on the
table ready for him."
"Will you say your prayers out loud to-
night, Bessie dear?" was the next request.
Bessie had learnt to say her prayers since
she had been to school, and had taught them
to Polly too, but when she, poor child, felt
very tired and weary, or her cough was very
troublesome, she would ask Bessie to say
hers out loud, so that she might hear them.
At these times Polly prayed with her heart
instead of with her lips. But God heard her
just the same. When Bessie rose from her
knees, she put the candle on the table ready
for her father, and got into bed. The sisters
usually slept locked in each other's arms, but
that night Polly seemed afraid lest Bessie
Put your arms round me and kiss me,
dear Bessie," said she.
Bessie did so, and she continued, in a low
voice-" Bessie, I've something I want to
What is it, dear ?" said Bessie.
"It's something I heard Mrs. M'Crower
say to Mrs. Brown just outside our door;
she said that the doctor who came that day
with Mrs. Percy said I should never get any
better; he thought I should die very soon;"
and her voice died away almost to a whisper.
Bessie burst into tears, and twining her
58 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER:
arms more closely around her, exclaimed-
"You shan't die, Polly, you'll get better.
I'll do anything in the world for you; you
Strange to say, Polly did not cry; she
only said, very quietly--" But I must die,
Bessie, the doctor said so."
Bessie still wept passionately. Polly kissed
her, and said-" Don't cry, Bessie, I don't
think I shall mind dying so much now; if
Jesus loves me I shan't, and I think He
does, Bessie; I very often ask Him to, and
to make me good; do you think He'll for-
give me, Bessie, for being naughty, and let
me go to heaven ?"
"I'm sure He will," said Bessie, en-
deavouring by a strong effort to stop her
tears; "but you're not naughty now, Polly;
you're good, I'm sure you are, you're never
cross and ill-tempered now."
"Yes, I am sometimes," said Polly, "and I
used to be so always. Should you be frightened
to die, do you think, Bessie ?'
"I don't know," said Bessie; "mother
died, you know."
"Yes, if I go to heaven I shall see her;
do you know, Bessie, before you went to
school and learnt about Jesus, and told me
how kind and good He was, I used to be so
frightened when I thought I should die:
sometimes it came into my head when I
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 59
woke up in the night, and I used to be all in
a tremble and feel for your hand, that I might
be quite sure I wasn't by myself."
"And don't you feel frightened now,
Polly ?" said Bessie.
I did at first. When I heard what Mrs.
M'Crower said, I lay and cried for ever so
long; but afterwards I thought of what the
lady at school told you when that little boy
died, that Jesus loved him, and so He took
him to live with Him. And then I asked
Him to love me too, and make me fit to go
to Him; and I think he does love me,
Bessie, for I haven't felt so very miserable
In this way they talked together, until at
length Polly fell asleep. Bessie lay awake some
time longer. What should she do if Polly
died? 0 what a sad, sad thought it was to her!
Poor, fractious, suffering Polly! she was
indeed right in thinking that her Saviour
loved her. Silently, and in a way that she
knew not, was He preparing her, by the aid
of the Holy Spirit, for that happy land,
where all tears are wiped away, where pain
and sorrow are never known. When Bessie
rose the next morning and went about her
daily duties, she still felt low and sad; she
had, it is true, for some time known what
the doctor had said, but as long as she
thought Polly was ignorant of it, she some-
60 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
how fancied that it could not come to pass.
Polly was everything to her, and though
other people said it would be a happy thing
when it pleased God to take her, she could not
When she went down stairs as usual, to get
some water for their breakfast, she heard Mrs.
M'Crower speaking very loudly to some one.
It was her father; she caught sight of him as
she leaned over the banisters. He said some-
thing, she could not tell exactly what, but she
caught Polly's name, and the words "when
the weather gets warmer."
I tell you she won't," replied Mrs.
M'Crower: "neither weather nor anything
else will ever make any difference to her
now; it's a cruel father you've been to her,
Mark Clapton, that's what I've got to say;
you know as well as I do what the doctor
said, that if she'd had proper care and
nourishment at first, she'd never have been
the poor little object she is now; shame on
you, I say, to go drinking and spending your
money as you do, leaving one poor child to
work for another ; why, if it hadn't been for
Bessie that poor thing would have been dead
long ago. I'd be sorry to have on my con-
science what you'll soon have on yours, 1 can
tell you that."
Bessie did not stay to hear any more; she
crept back and waited till she saw her father
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 61
go out. In the course of the morning Mrs.
M'Crower brought up a nice cup of broth
for Polly, saying that he had given her the
money to buy some meat to make it of, and
that she should have another by-and-by. In
the evening their father came home much
sooner than usual, and when he had been in
about half an hour a doctor came, but not
the same who had come with Mrs. Percy.
Bessie did not hear all that he said about
Polly, but she saw by his face that there was
no hope for her.
"It's of no use to give her medicine," said
he to her father, "the time for that is past
now; it seems to me that she has been very
much neglected at the first, or she would not
be in the state she is now."
The words went like a knife through Mark
Clapton's heart, for he knew they were true;
he felt as though he would that moment have
given anything he possessed to save his child.
He spoke more gently to her, and the next
morning and for several succeeding days she
really seemed a little better, at least she was
so very still and quiet, that those who watched
her less narrowly than Bessie thought her so.
She did not fret, asking first for one thing
and then fbr another, but seemed to wish for
nothing but that Bessie should sit close by
her side, talking to her and repeating again
little verses, hymns, and other things which
.62 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
she had learnt at school. Sometimes Mrs.
Percy would come, bringing her fruit or
some little nice thing, and would then stay
awhile and read or talk to her very kindly:
but though she always listened attentively,
and often remembered a good deal of what was
said, she liked no one to talk to her so well
as Bessie. As the prospect of losing her became
more certain, Bessie's love increased; she
thought nothing a trouble that she could do
for her either by day or by night, often getting
up very early in the morning to her basket-
making, in order that she might have more
time to sit by her during the day.
One afternoon,-it was again autumn, and
the sun was shining red on the wall as it had
done the year before,-they were thus to-
gether, when their father came in bringing a
bunch of grapes which he had bought for Polly.
It was unusual for him to come in at this time;
he stood by the bedside holding them for her
"Father," said she, in a weak, low voice,
" won't you kiss me?"
He stooped down and kissed her.
You're not going out again, are you,
father ?" she said; won't you stop with me
Bessie was surprised to hear Polly say this,
for she had never before expressed any wish
for her father to be with her. He said no-
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 63
thing, but sitting by the bedside, took one of
the little, thin, wasted hands in his own.
The child fixed her large eyes upon him and
said, Father, I wish you'd always loved
me; you'll love Bessie, won't you, when I'm
dead? poor Bessie, she won't have anybody to
love her if you don't."
He gave a sort of start, then said in a husky
voice, You're not going to die, Polly, you'll
be better soon."
"No, I shan't," said Polly, with great
calmness; I don't want to get better now.
I'd rather go to heaven and see Jesus, and
hear the angels sing, as the lady read about
the other day. Dear Bessie," she added, sud-
denly drawing her hand from between her
father's, and throwing her arms round the
sobbing Bessie, "don't cry, you'll come too,
you know, some day; don't cry, Bessie."
But Bessie wept on for some minutes; then
she grew calmer, and Polly, after a violent fit
of coughing caused by the exertion, again sank
back on her pillow, and put one hand between
her father's, still holding Bessie's with the other.
For a time neither spoke, then Polly raised her-
self, and again looking in her father's face, said-
"Father, won't you be good and come
to heaven too ? Mother's there, isn't she?
Shouldn't you like to come, father?"
The hard man's heart was touched; he bent
over his child, and Bessie saw a large tear drop
on the coverlet.
64 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER.
"You will, won't you, father?" continued
Polly, in the same low, pleading tone; "you'll
ask Jesus to forgive you and make you good,
and let you come to heaven? Bessie can tell
you all about it; she told me : you'll love poor
Bessie, won't you, father ?"
He did not answer; he could not; but a con-
vulsive sob broke from him: he started from his
seat and walked towards the window.
Polly looked up in Bessie's face, and,
without attempting to raise herself, again
held out her arms, and once more the two
sisters lay twined together in a long and last
embrace. They kissed each other again and
again. "I know he will love you; teach
him to be good," whispered Polly; then her
arms gradually relaxed their hold. Bessie
heard a gentle sigh, she rose and looked at her:
her eyes were closed, her face was very white,
but a sweet smile rested on it. She stood
gazing for a minute or two, thinking that she
would again open her eyes and look up. But
she did not. Polly was dead!
In a few minutes her father returned from
the window and again took the little hand in
his own; then stooping and looking into her face,
exclaimed with a cry of remorse and anguish
which Bessie remembered for years, ".She is
gone !" and throwing himself on his knees by
the bed, burst into an agony of tears.
A WEEK passed away. During this time,
Mark Clapton went to his work as usual, but
when he came home Bessie hardly knew
what to make of him. He would sit for
hours in the evening looking at the little
narrow cofn, then he would snatch up his
hat and go out, as if he could not bear his
thoughts any longer. Some children would
have felt frightened at being left alone with
66 nESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER ;
the dead, but Bessie did not; indeed, she
rather liked it; she liked to lift up the coffin
lid and gaze at that dear pale face which still
wore the same smile that it did on the night
she died. A strange mixture of happiness
and misery would creep over her as she thus
gazed; happiness, to think that her dear
Polly was now for ever safe in the heavenly
land; misery, as she felt how utterly lonely
and bereaved she herself was. And then she
would kneel down by the side of the coffin,
and ask God, for Jesus' sake, to take her too
to heaven some day, that she might see her
dear Polly once more. She would pray for
her father too, that his heart might be changed,
and that he might learn to love good and
holy things. Simple, often brief, were her
petitions, but they were from her heart, and
therefore they doubtless found acceptance
with Him who judgeth not according to out-
ward appearance; for the Lord judgeth the
The day on which Polly was to be buried
was now come. From the time of her death
Bessie had wept but little, for grief does not
at all times vent itself in tears; but now
her sorrow had free way, and when she
saw the men come to carry the coffin away
she wept long and bitterly. Her father had
taken no notice about providing her with
any mourning, but her good friend Mrs.
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 67
M'Crower had bought her a black cotton
frock and black straw bontiet, telling her that
she must by degrees pay for them afterwards
out of her own earnings. She did not know
whether her father meant to go to the funeral,
until she saw that he had made himself a little
more decent than usual, and was standing
outside waiting for the men to put the coffin
on their shoulders. Then she went and stood
there too, and when they moved off walked
by his side, or rather a little behind him, to
the church. When the service was over, he
took hold of her hand for the first time for
many a long year, and led her home. She
thought that she heard him weep when the
earth was thrown upon the coffin, but she
was not sure.
O how desolate the room looked now that
Polly was indeed gone! Bessie threw herself
on the little bed, as though that could comfort
her, and wept convulsively. At that moment
she felt, more than she had ever done before,
the bitterness of having no one in the world
to love, no one to love her. Polly had loved
her, but she was gone, and there was none
other to take her place. Her father sat in
silence by the fire, his elbows on the table,
his head resting on his hands. Her sobs and
the steady ticking of the clock were the only
sounds which fell upon his ear. Presently
he lifted up his head and said,-
68 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERER;
She lifted her swollen eyelids and looked at.
"Bessie," he repeated, "come to me."
She obeyed, and went up to him, but not
quite close. He stretched out his hands,
lifted her up on his knee, and put both arms
round her. Again he spoke, but his voice
was so different to what it had ever
been before, that Bessie could scarcely
believe that it was really he who was
Bessie, my child," he said, "you must
not cry so. Won't you try and love me now
that poor Polly is gone ?"
She threw her arms round his neck as she
had done when she was a little child, and
wept and sobbed more than ever, but now
they were tears of joy, not of grief. After a
few minutes she raised her head and looked
timidly in his face.
Bessie," he said, "my poor Bessie, I've
been a cruel father to you, and I've killed,
yes, I've killed poor Polly; I don't deserve
that you should love me. Can you love me,
Father," she said, "father, I will love
you, indeed I will. Will you love me, father?
Will you be good, as Polly said ?"
He did not promise to do it in words, but
his after life showed how faithfully he kept
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 69
the vow then registered in heaven, that by
God's help he would repent truly of his
former sins, stedfastly purposing to lead a new
They sat thus together for a long while;
Bessie felt so happy, that she thought she
could have sat there for hours longer. At
last she slid down off his knee and prepared
his tea for him. After tea he told her to
fetch out her little books, that he might see
how well she could read. Bessie had never
thought this time would come, and when she
went to bed at night she felt as if she could
almost have thanked God for taking her
dear Polly away. She did thank Him for
having made her father so kind to her. She
prayed that she might be enabled to do what
was right for the time to come.
He went to work the next day. What
pains she took to make the room as neat and
comfortable as possible, and to have his tea
nicely prepared when he came home in the
evening! Again she brought out her books,
and showed him a little basket which she had
begun to make during the day..
He was much pleased with it, but kissed
her and said, I don't mean you to make any
more baskets, Bessie."
Not make any more baskets, father I I'd
rather make baskets than be idle."
70 BESSIE, THE BLACKBERRY GATHERI.B;
"I don't want you to be idle," he said,
" only I will make baskets and you shall go to
school; shouldn't you like that ?"
Bessie's eyes sparkled. 0 yes! indeed
[ should," she said; "may I go every day,
"Yes, every day; you shall go to Mrs.
Percy to-morrow and ask her how soon you
So Bessie's exertions, and poor Polly's
sufferings and death, did not pass by without
working the good which God meant each to
perform. From this time Mark Clapton be-
came an altered man, his home an altered
place. Bessie, by diligence and industry,
soon made such good progress at school, that
her companions, instead of ridiculing her
ignorance and despising her for her shabby
appearance, began to envy her the notice
and praise which were as frequently and de-
servedly bestowed as they were humbly and
After two or three years, her father's al-
tered course of life having enabled him to
save a little money, he determined to remove
to Eastham, and set up as a basket-maker on
his own account. Bessie had the offer of
several good places, if she would leave him
and go to service. She never wished to do
this, for she loved him dearly now; but once
OR, WHAT TRYING MAY DO. 71
she thought she would mention it to him in
order to see what he might think. Bessie,"
he said, you won't leave me, will you? I
don't know what will become of me if you
do;" and the subject was never spoken of
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