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 Front Cover
 Front Matter
 Frontispiece
 Title Page
 Content
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Group Title: Hephzibah : a Christmas story for children
Title: Hephzibah
CITATION PAGE TURNER PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00062913/00001
 Material Information
Title: Hephzibah a Christmas story for children
Physical Description: 64 p. : ill. ; 19 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Field, Lucy
Griffith and Farran ( Publisher )
Wertheimer, Lea and Co ( Printer )
Publisher: Griffith and Farran
Place of Publication: London
Manufacturer: Wertheimer, Lea and Co.
Publication Date: 1870
 Subjects
Subject: Christian life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Orphans -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Poverty -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Charity -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Child abuse -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Theft -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Bldn -- 1870
Genre: novel   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: England -- London
 Notes
Statement of Responsibility: by Lucy Field.
Funding: Preservation and Access for American and British Children's Literature, 1870-1889 (NEH PA-50860-00).
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00062913
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002226145
notis - ALG6428
oclc - 52885144

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Cover 1
        Cover 2
    Front Matter
        Page 1
    Frontispiece
        Page 2
    Title Page
        Page 3
        Page 4
    Content
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
    Back Cover
        Cover 1
        Cover 2
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HEPHZIBAH:



A



CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN.



BY


LUCY FIELD.












LONDON:
GRIFFITH AND FARRAN,
SUCCESSORS TO NEWBERY ASD HARRIS,
CORNER OF ST. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD.
M.DCCC.LXX.


















































LONDON

PRINTED BY WERTHEIMER, LEA AND CO.

CIRCUS PLACE, FINSBURY CIRCUS.














HEPHZIBAH:

A OHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN.




"WHAT a mite of a child to be sure! said old
Dolly to herself, as she tethered her goat under her
mossy apple tree, and then stood looking across the
common. It was a large, bare common, with nothing
living in sight, except the mite of a child," and
the people she followed. These people, a man and
a woman, were approaching that way, and they were
black and ragged and stern-looking enough; and
stern and savage were the words and blows they
bestowed on their starved-looking donkey, stag-
gering along the white'track of a road before them,
and bearing across his back a bundle, of colour and
size much like some dirty old sack. The child who
had caused old Dolly's remark, resembled the donkey
in her half fed appearance. Her soiled and-blood-





6 HEPHZIBAH:

stained little feet twinkled wearily over the gravel
in her effort to keep up with her companions, who
took no notice whatever of her, nor of old Dolly
who watched them from her cottage door; but
divided their attention between the donkey on whom
their blows were bestowed, and the huge crust of
bread and slice of bacon each of them devoured as
they went.
Moved by the sight of the thin little labouring
figure behind them, old Dolly ran as fast as she
could to her cupboard and returned with a morsel
of bread, which she flung to the poor little way-
farer. Alas! The child struggled on, afraid of
being left behind, and conscious neither of the
friendly face of old Dolly, nor of the effort she made
to feed her. The bread lay untouched, till old
Dolly, after seeing the group grow smaller and
smaller, and finally disappear in the distance, 'went
and picked it up, with a sigh, and returned in-doors
to prepare her own humble meal.
The night was coming on wild and stormy, and
very soon old Dolly fastened up her creaky door, to
keep out the wind which rattled and whined.for an
entrance. It grew darker and darker, and the storm
raged fiercer and fiercer, so that old Dolly was glad
to creep to her poor little bed; and drawing the
patchwork counterpane and thin old blankets closer





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 7

round her, she shut her eyes and tried to go to
sleep.
Old Dolly had lived all her life in this poor little
hut, where her father and mother lived before her.
She had played there as long ago as she could
remember anything; and she never thought of being
afraid of being all alone there, young or old, though
any rough, strong man could have easily knocked
down her cottage, walls and roof and all, and have
buried her in its ruins. No, no, it is not worth
their while to take so much trouble for nothing,"
she would say to herself, with a smile, if any such
notion ever did cross her brain. The wind and the
rain, too, sounded often so strong and so fierce that
one might easily have fancied they would soon put
an end to the cottage and Dolly and all, when
raging as they were doing on the night in our story.
But Dolly said softly to herself, when the storm was
loudest: They are but God's servants; He has the
wind and the rain in the hollow of his hand, and
they wo'nt be sent to hurt a poor old body like me."
It will be seen by this that Dolly was not a
wicked old woman, though she was very poor, and
very ignorant too. Then, as she could not go to
sleep, and as the window 'and door rattled, and the
rain splashed down the chimney, she thought how
her father and mother had died and been carried





8 HEPHZIBAH :

away from that same very bed to be buried. Her
father was a hard sort of man, and Dolly's thoughts
did not rest long on him, but turned to her mother,
a gentle, patient soul, who never said a cross word
to any one in all her life. Thinking of her mother,
somehow Dolly grew wider and wider awake; and
lay staring at the dim, grey square of the little
window, where a grey curtain hung, to keep out
the sun when he came to shine on the world. The
grey curtain waved in the draught, and as Dolly's
eyes rested on it, she fancied she saw something
moving outside.
This made her sit up in her bed, and stare at the
window harder still than before. But her eyes
were old and dim, and they grew so tired- with
trying to see, that presently she lay down with a
weary sigh, and very nearly fell off to sleep, -
thinking again of her mother; dead so long ago.
Either sleeping or waking, she then fancied she
heard a faint little voice crying, Let me in; and
wider awake than before, she trembled a little, and
asked herself: "Is mother come back ?" But the
grey square of the window now showed plainly
even to her old and dim eyes, that a small figure
was perched outside, whether the figure of her
goat slipped from his tether, or of some other stray
creature frightened by the storm, she was at a loss





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 9

to guess, till again a plaintive cry of "I want to
come in," uttered in a thin, childish voice, settled
the question. Oh, gracious it must be a child,"
old Dolly exclaimed, bestirring herself hurriedly to
rise and open the little casement. In rushed the
wind and the rain pell-mell, and the old woman
shivered, as she strained her eyes to discern the
owner of the voice.
A dark little heap lay, just slipped down, under
the window,-and as neither sound nor motion
replied to her question of Who are you?" she
stretched out her hands, and, grasping the wet
bundle which lay there so still, with some difficulty
succeeded in dragging it in over the low window sill.
A child it was, sure enough, and a faint groan, as
Dolly deposited it on the.old hearth-rug, proved life
to be still beating in that poor, shrunken, pale little
starveling, though the eyes were closed, and the
thin blue lips also, and the two wasted hands were
rigid and stiff in their grasp of the tattered rags
which scarcely deserved the name of clothes.
Here was a serious business for old Dolly. Few
and scanty were the provisions at hand for fire, or
-food, or clothes. But the white little face did not
fail to move her heart; and the fire was presently
crackling on the hearth, the lost child, divested of
its rags and of some of its dirt, sat there on the floor,





10 HEPHZIBAH:

close before the kindling warmth, wrapped in the
blanket from the old woman's bed, and propped up
against the one chair which Dolly possessed. The
closed eyes had opened for one wandering, puzzled
look round the place; and then were again shut
wearily, as fixed and still as before. But Dolly
persevered without losing heart or hope; and at
length, having made some tea from her own little
precious store, she succeeded in inducing the parched
lips to open for a draught; and she watched with
immense delight the successful efforts to swallow,
which ensued. The languid, drooping head was
soon after raised, and the eyes fixed dreamily on the
withered old kindly face which was stooping over
her own.
The poor little soul was an eight or ten year old
girl, and she had soft grey eyes, and a. quanitity
of light, silky hair, now all dirty and draggled
with rain, hanging in masses over her shoulders
and neck. Dolly took the child from the ground,
and seated her upon her own knees, as she gave
her the rest of the hot, sugary tea she held in
her hand. Scarcely was the last drop swallowed
than the little one, who sat so contentedly to be fed,
sank quietly back in the old woman's arms in a
deep, refreshing sleep. Dolly laid her gently in the
bed by her side, not shrinking, as a delicate lady





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 11

would have done, from the touch of the poor neglected
child, but gathering her close in her arms. And so
the two slept, till the morning sun, having driven
away the wind and the rain, shone merrily in through
the blind, and roused old Dolly once more, but the
child slept on. The small room was tidied, and the
fire once more lighted, and one or two cracked and
ancient pieces of crockery set out on the rickety
table, ready for breakfast, with a piece of a loaf and
a little goat's milk.
Dolly took unusual pains to make everything
cheery and bright that morning, casting from time
to time, as she bustled about, earnest glances at the
bed, where the white little face, surrounded with
tangled hair, lay so very still. Sometimes she
stooped to listen, with her ear quite close to the
child's mouth, and when a gentle, soft, almost noise-
less breath just touched her own furrowed face, its
withered features shone with a quiet joy, and she
set herself to work again. Her household matters
done, the heap of rags she had hung up to dry when
she took them off the child were carefully examined,
but abandoned, even by Dolly's economy, as useless
for the purpose of clothing or warmth. Out of her
own slender stores she then hunted up one or two
articles, which she proceeded to alter and mend,
sitting down by the little window and fastening up





12 HEPHZIBAH:

the grey curtain, saying to herself, If the poor
thing do wake, she must be hungry, surely," and so
she let in the sunshine, which danced and sparkled
across the brick floor, and threw the shadows of
autumn leaves and the golden beams of its bright-
ness over the bed and the sleeping face on the pillow.
The child stirred and smiled, and murmured some
plaintive sounds, but did not wake; and old Dolly,
watching her till she subsided into motionless sleep
again, turned once more to her task.
Thus hours and hours went by. Outside, on the
common, flocks of geese came gabbling across the
green, and nibbling cattle cropped the sweetest
grass. Nannie, the goat, was untethered, and she,
too, wandered away, butting with her head at the
children who wanted to play with her, as they them-
selves loitered on the way to school. Now and then
a cart creaked and rumbled past the cottage door,
and still more rarely a carriage flashed by and away
in the distance, with burnished harness gleaming
bright on the well-groomed horse. None of these
noises did the sleeping child seem to hear, till all
at once she started up with a scream which
made Dolly drop her work, and spring to her
feet. The child sat up in the bed, straining her
eyes to some distant object, as she cried out as
if in an agony of fear, They're coming, I see





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 13

them; oh, don't let 'em take me, oh, don't!" And she
drew the bed clothes over herself, and lay trembling
beneath them, till the bed shook with her terror.
Speechless with amazement at this sudden outburst,
Dolly glanced from the bed to the window and
back to the bed, without finding a word to say in
reply. Far away, on the edge of the common, her
old eyes could just discern a slowly moving mass,
but she could not make out of what it consisted at
all. So she drew the bed clothes gently away,
and asked, "Who are you feared of my dear?"
caressing the poor little trembler, as she spoke. Of
Joe and of Meg. There they are, and if they find
me out, they will beat me so hard. Please, oh,
please, ma'am, hide me away." This was said first
with outstretched hand, pointing to the dark object
approaching from afar, and the passionate outcry
finished with hands clasped and raised to old Dolly
in earnest prayer.
Was you the child who went by here last night
with a man and a woman and a donkey; and you
running behind to keep up?" Dolly asked, as
sundry vague imaginations of having seen the child
before, became clearer to her mind. Yes, I always
have to run to keep up, and oh, my feet's so sore.
Don't let them find me, please, don't." Dolly's
heart ached at these repeated outcries of prayer,





14 HEPHZIBAH :

and terror and distress. "But aren't they your
father and mother, my lamb ?" old Dolly tenderly
inquired, smoothing back the child's hair as she
spoke, and looking straight into a pair of blue-grey
eyes, large and limpid and serious, which gazed
back as steadfastly up in her own. "No, oh, no,
they're not," cried the child, "Meg isn't mother to
me, she took me away to beg for her; and she says
I'm her child, but I aint."
Dolly looked and listened and believed without
doubting, as she met the gaze of those eyes. Lie
still, poor little dear," she said, smoothing the bed
into order, as she spoke. They shan't find you
out, if I can help it." And shs hung up her cloak
for a screen between the bed and the door; and
putting the child's rags out of sight, resumed her
place and her work, murmuring to herself, "Where
there's little enough for one, there'll be less for
two,-and where will I find anything to cover the
child from the cold? And I so old too, what if I
die and leave her alone? I fear I'm too venture-
some in this." She looked out across the common,
as these thoughts passed through her mind. Sure
enough the child's eyes were not mistaken. On
came the same group she had watched the evening
before; and the man swore terrible oaths, loud
enough to reach Dolly's ears, and he and the





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 15

woman showered blows on the donkey and abuse
on each other,-all just the same as before, only
now no poor little figure limped in painful haste
behind them, unable in her sad speed to see even
the morsel of food flung her by Dolly's friendly
hand. "If God clothes the grass of the field,
shall he not also clothe you, oh, ye of little faith?"
The old woman knew these words, and they came
to her now in her perplexity and doubt; and after
that she doubted no more, but took her stand on
the step of her door, which stood always open,
so that the thought of shutting it never entered
her mind. Indeed she would have considered such
a proceeding so unnatural as to be certain to attract
the attention she wished to avoid.
"P'raps that old witch has seen her?" quoth
Joe to the woman, as his eyes encountered Dolly,
standing on the threshold, and sewing as she stood.
Meg followed up the audible hint by asking aloud,
" Ha'ye seen ere a child what has strayed and got
lost, eh, missis ? Feigning by a sudden impulse to
be deaf, old Dolly responded only with a nod, and
a good day to the ill-looking tramps. But Joe
approaching his mouth to her ear shouted his ques-
tion louder, making one poor little heart beat faster
and faster in the small dark room within.
Lots of children, ay, lots to be sure," answered





16 HEPHZIBAH:

Dolly, surprised at her own quick invention, and
maintaining as stolid an air of indifference as she
knew how to assume. Joe swore more frightfully
than ever, and Meg took up the discourse. We've
missed a slip of a lassie," she. shouted into old
Dolly's ear. No great loss, to be sure, but she'll
grow to be worth her victuals, and is sharp enough
too. We took her for pity, you see, neighbour: for
Joe and me haint none of our own. Now when we
come this way about Christmas time, we'll give a
trifle to any as has found and kep' the child. Do
you hear ? "
Dolly nodded affirmatively, but maintained a pru-
dent silence; and as Joe, thundering out that no
good would come of talking to that deaf old fool,
impatiently drove his donkey onward, Meg wound
up her speech, saying at the top of her voice, "She's
sure to be near, and ye'll hear of her if she turns
up. So tell the folks as keep her we'll be back for
her come Christmas, d'ye hear? "
Again Dolly nodded in silence; and as the woman
hastened after the man, she stood, quite transfixed
by an adventure to her so desperate and unexpected,
and followed the retreating group with wide-open,
anxious eyes.
When they were too far for her sight to distinguish
their figures from the gorse on the common, and the





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 17

gabbling geese by the pools, she turned with a sigh,
a little overwhelmed by all that had so suddenly
occurred; and her startled glance fell on the child,
scantily covered by the old bed-quilt, standing in
the middle of the floor, her bare feet, and tangled
locks, and wild, staring looks, making her poor
wasted figure even more pitiable than before.
Old Dolly's wits were quite bewildered, and too
scared for speech; she looked down on this strange
and forlorn little being, as if some ghost had risen
at her feet. But the child speedily broke the silence;
for, throwing her arms round her protectress, she
burst into passionate words of gratitude and delight,
uttered amidst equally passionate sobbings, till Dolly
found herself hugging the little thing in her arms,
and trying to soothe her with such tender words as
Probably she had never used in all her life before;
but they were words which fell on eager ears and a
thirsting heart, and, nestling closer and closer, the
sobs quieted down, and at last the tears too ceased.
Dolly held her still clasped to her, as she asked,
"What is your name, my poor dear ?"
The qhild looked up and around, and then, point-
ing in the direction taken by Joe and Meg, she said,
in a frightened tone, They called me Bet, but that
is not my name."
"What is it, then?" Dolly repeated, gently; but
B





18 HEPHZIBAH:

the child looked bewildered, and leaned her head
against Dolly's shoulder, and spoke at last in a
dreamy, confused sort of way.
It's a long name as mother called me at home.
Hepsy, they called me, but that aint the name quite
right. It's in the big book though," she added,
suddenly raising herself and pointing to the large
old Bible, Dolly's sole library, which lay on a shelf,
as the child's keen eyes had discovered.
Ah, well!" answered Dolly, in a tone of relief,
"I am glad they named thee out of that book, for
I hope thou'lt be a good child, as is fit for one with
a Bible name. And now come thy way, and wrap
thyself up while I give thee a morsel to eat. It's not
Christian-like, to be sure, to sit to thy food all unco-
vered like that; but a bit you must eat, for I see you.
are more bones and skin than aught else; and then
wash thyself clean, and make this rough head of thine
smooth, and put on these things that I've sewed up
in some sort of cobble, till better can be done; and
you must learn to help me and yourself, as I don't
doubt but you'll try." For answer, the child seized
the withered old hand, which held up the newly-
prepared clothes to her view; and she caressed it,
fondly, lingeringly, as if she knew not how enough
to express her sense of well-being and love, till Dolly
ended the scene, but without any touch of harshness,





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 19

by lifting the child to her chair, and rolling the
blanket well round her as she made her take some
bread, and gave her a good draught of milk.
Dolly soon found she was not mistaken in her
faith that the foundling would try and do her part.
The quickness of the child surprised her even more
than her love and devotion, and eager goodwill.
These last qualities Dolly knew more about; for God
had bestowed them on her, poor old soul as she was;
and they had furnished the only brightness and joy
her life ever knew. But Dolly herself was slow. As
child, as maiden, as well as in feeble age, she never
had won any race, nor performed any task by reason
of quickness or skill; but had succeeded by pains-
taking only. So she wondered, and never ceased to
wonder to see this slip of a child" get through so
much of the work of the day so quickly and well;
or to find how she learnt, almost without being
taught, every useful thing her old friend could show
her the way to do.
The autumn leaves hung on the tree by the
hut, when the child was received into its shelter-
ing warmth, and they still clung to the rustling
boughs when already the order of things within
the hut was quite changed. For now old Dolly
could often sit down and rest, or as she more often
chose to do, she could earn a little more money by





20 HEPHZIBAH:

mending and sewing and knitting for the farmers'
wives who knew her: and even for a few of the
people in the town. It took a long time for her to
go to the town, for it was five whole miles from the
common, so far, indeed, that the light of its lamps
in the sky shone over the gorse and the silent pools,
just like a great distant fire, when the sun was set,
and the night was dark. So Dolly could not often
go there;-and as for the child, she was afraid;-
and so was Dolly too. For now she had learnt to
love the little one so dearly that even the child her-
self could hardly dread the re-appearance of Joe
and of Meg more than the old woman did.
By some unspoken feeling between them, they
neither of them talked of these fears. Only now and
then the child, remembering Meg's *parting words,
would ask fearfully and in a whispered tone: How
long before Christmas comes, Granny?" Granny was
the name by which old Dolly desired to be called;
while she adopted for the child's, her own designation
of Hepsy," which the clergyman, when he called to
see her, told her must mean to be Hephzibah."
He was a kind as well as a learned man, and he
heard with interest all that Dolly had to tell of the
child. Nay, his eyes glistened with tender com-
passion, when the old woman told of Hepsy's suffer-
ings while with Joe and Meg, and more especially




A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 21

when he saw how the little thing clung in terror and
fondness to her protectress as the tale concluded
with the threat of those wild and savage people, that
they would be back at Christmas, and would find
and take her away.
He laid his hand on the trembling Hephzibah and
bade her take courage,-and trust in God who had
already given her a good friend and a home, and
who would raise up other help, if only she put her
faith in Him. The child gazed up in the face of the
clergyman in fixed attention, and it seemed to her
he spoke of some long forgotten, but once often re-
peated lesson. The little upward-turned counten-
ance seemed to the good clergyman one which pro-
mised obedience to his teaching, and as he took his
leave, he again laid a gentle hand on the child, and
said to her, smilingly: Remember this, little one,
that name of yours, 'Hephzibah,' means 'my delight
is in her'; do you understand ?" Hepsy nodded
and smiled in most intelligent affirmative. Then
you must mind and deserve your name and its
meaning, my dear, and try to be the delight of
One who is Father to us all, and then you will be
the delight of your good old friend as well."
So saying, he went away over the common, while
Hephzibah watched him in silent thought till she
saw old Dolly going with her bucket to the spring.




22 IEPHZIBAH :

Then Iepsy sprang before her and filled it, and
carried it in, smiling over her shoulder at Dolly
who followed remonstrating Nay, nay, child, Par-
son never meant you to do what is too hard for
your years; and it's a'most too much for me, with
that heavy old bucket; and you're such a slip of a
child."
Ay, but I am strong," answered Hepsy, "and
look how fat my arms are growing with all your
good food, Granny, dear! and she jumped on the
chair by Dolly's side that she might reach up to
give her a hug.
So went by the autumn days, and the storms of the
equinox came, with cold nights, and sometimes days
so cold that they were fain to shut the door of the
hut for warmth,-and then Hephzibah took longer
journeys round about from the shelter of Dolly's
roof that she might collect a good store of wood
for their winter use; but she never forgot to keep
a sharp look out on every side, lest the group of
figures she most dreaded to see should come upon her
unawares. One night the wind was so high that it
was a very long time before either the old woman or
the child could sleep. At length the frequent question
from Hepsy of "Are you asleep, Granny?" was
repeated no more, and listening to her regular
breathing, old Dolly, too, soon closed her eyes.





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 23

Against all habit and custom, Hepsy's slumber- was
soon broken, and she who almost invariably lay fast
locked in sleep from first shutting her eyes till Dolly
called her in the morning, now abruptly started up
in bed, wide awake, and staring at the darkness.
Also she felt herself trembling and shivering. Had
some horrible dream wakened her? She did not
know. But she resisted, not it must be owned, with-
out a struggle, the temptation of waking Dolly, and
listening to the roar of the wind, she sat and strained
every sense to catch she knew not what sight or
sound. Suddenly a noise in the hut almost made
her scream in her terror. But she was a brave little
soul, and she restrained the cry, and said to herself,
"What is it? and what is it like?" Well, it was a
fluttering, and a rustling, and a scratching kind of
noise; and Hepsy could not guess its cause.
But instinctively she felt that it was no sound
of any human sort;-and it had never occurred
to Hepsy to think about or be afraid of ghosts.
Now, however, when, at intervals, the same flutter-
ing, and rustling began again, she recalled all the
stories of ghosts which she had ever heard; and
shivering more than ever as she realized the near pre-
sence of something mysterious, and therefore awful,
"she could control herself no longer, but hung over
Dolly, and whispered in her ear: "Oh, Granny, dear,





24 HEPHZIBAH:

listen,-there is something in the room." Dolly
was alert and awake in a moment, and presently
the strange sounds recommended. "I'11 strike a
light and see, child," she said; "don't tremble and
shake like that. It won't harm us whatsoever it be;
--so lie down while I look about."
But this was more than Hepsy could muster
courage for; and she followed, holding Dolly fast,
while she groped for a light; and a terrible
start it gave her when the match flashed over
the floor and walls and ceiling, making every
familiar object quiver and wave to and fro.
But the candle soon cast a steady beam through
the narrow dwelling, each feature of which showed
exactly its usual appearance; not an article was
moved or altered one atom, nor was anything
strange to be anywhere discovered,-though Dolly
carefully examined the whole. The noise had ceased
as the light was kindled, but just as the old woman
was declaring it to be fancy only, and when she
was about to extinguish her candle, once more the
scratching and fluttering recommended so very close
to them both that it was not only Hepsy who started
and gave a tremulous look all round. Then, how-
ever, her young eyes caught sight of something
white in the chimney, and the sight was so reassur-
ing that she boldly ran closer still, and cried out in





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 25

great excitement: Here it is,-and it is a bonny
bird."
Out of the chimney, all grimed with soot, old
Dolly immediately drew a poor terrified pigeon,
and it must be confessed that she felt at first very
small pity for the intruder who had thus rudely
broken their sleep. But seeing how Hepsy hung
in tender commiseration over it, as she held it in
the gentlest of grasps, Dolly's kind heart relented,
and she waited patiently, all cold as she was, while
Hepsy wiped away the worst of the dirt, and on
the suggestion of Dolly, bestowed the poor pigeon
safely in an old covered basket, which done, they
again crept to bed,-though the noise of the restless
bird, and the cold, and the storm which still raged
outside, kept them long awake; and made Heph-
zibah creep, unrepulsed, quite close into Dolly's
arms, where she fell asleep, after murmuring in a
voice that seemed like music to the good old soul,
"You took me in, Granny, and now another poor
thing is come to you, because you're so kind."
After which speech of the child, there was no doubt
about letting the pigeon remain in peace, and it
became the delight of Hepsy, as she truly was
Dolly's delight.
Under the pigeon's wing, when Hepsy's little
fingers cleaned the white plumage next day, she





26 HEPHZIBAH :

found a paper tied, and on it were written these
words: Expect us on the 12th." Hepsy pondered
much on this wonderful discovery; and old Dolly
told her that this, no doubt, was a "carrier-pigeon."
Thereupon Hepsy asked a, very great number of
questions, some of which Dolly could answer, and
many more she could not. But at any rate Hepsy
made out that the pigeon was sent on a message,
and that the paper she found under its wing was
intended to tell some one that some one else was
expected on the 12th of that month, which was the
month of October, and now she knew it was the
3rd;-and as Hepsy had some very good brains in
her little head, under all its bright mass of hair, she
could easily see that in nine more days the time
would come which was named in the note. And
more than this, her conscience told her that it would
be very right to let the carrier-pigeon fly off with
its message, instead of keeping it there. But it had
bruised itself in the chimney, or in the storm out-
side, and Hepsy persuaded herself for some days
that the pigeon must be nursed. And so effectually
did she nurse it, and pet it, that the bird was seldom
many minutes off her shoulder. She carefully kept
the door and window shut, when the pigeon was out
of its basket; and her intense pleasure in it recon-
ciled the old woman to so untidy an inmate. But





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 27

all the while, Hepsy, though she did not say a word,
was tormented at the thought that the pigeon ought
to carry the message, and that she ought, for this
purpose, to let it go free. Of this Dolly never thought,
being herself slow to put this and that together.
At last, when five days out of the nine were
gone, and the pigeon had no wounds at all left
for an excuse, and all its white feathers shone
burnished and splendid like a robe of white satin,
Hepsy's self-accusations became more than she could
bear. So she said to old Dolly: The bird is not
really mine, Granny, is it?" Dolly looked from her
needle at the child, who stood leaning on her knee,
and then she looked at the pretty silvery bird which
sat on Hepsy's shoulder, and pecked at her little
ear, as it peeped from amongst the gold of her hair.
As the old woman did not immediately reply,
Hepsy, in her eagerness, repeated her question, and
her eyes dwelt eagerly on the closed lips of old
Dolly, and on her serious,.but always kindly eyes:
"No, sure;" answered Dolly at length. You're
right eno' my lass, the pigeon is none of ours; but
what then ?"
Hepsy's eyes filled, but she bravely answered:
" Only I thought perhaps it should be set loose to
carry the paper."
"Expect us on the 12th," old Dolly read out





28 HEPHZIBAH:

thoughtfully, for the twentieth time at least, as
Hepsy held the said paper before her. "And
this is the 8th," continued she, in the same medi-
tative tone, and there -she paused, and looked
full in the eyes of the child, where the tears were
glistening still. Hepsy read that look quite as easily
as she would have understood the plainest speech.
She knew Dolly agreed with her conscience, but
that she could not bear to grieve her by putting this
into words.
So the child turned away, and went out at the
door of the hut, after pausing a minute while she
tied the paper in its old place under the wing of the
pigeon. Her favorite fluttered as the fresh air out-
side blew round her, and then took a little flight,
in a circle above the child's head, but only to return
to its perch on Hephzibah's shoulder.
Dolly had followed, and stood on the threshold
watching. How am I to make it go, Granny ?"
she asked sadly, and Dolly took the pigeon gently
in her hand and flung it high in the air. This time
the bird started off in right earnest. It flew round
in circle after circle, ever higher and higher, and then
away sped its silvery wings, away, away into the
far blue sky, till at last even Hepsy's eyes could
distinguish its form no more. That was a mournful
evening in the cottage on the common;-yet, the





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 29

child felt, and she wondered at herself for it, that she
did not wish she had kept the bird. Her heart, indeed,
ached, but her conscience tormented her no more.
Hepsy had now learnt to sew both quickly and
well, and she helped to add, in this and various
other small ways, to Dolly's slender means.
On the evening of the pigeon's departure she and
the old woman had long been sitting quite close to
the one dim candle, which the shortening autumn
days rendered necessary long before bed-time. Their
needles flew fast, but they were very silent. Once
or twice Dolly, who was little skilled in caresses,
smoothed down the bright wavy hair of the child
with a touch so tender that Hepsy had much ado to
keep back her tears. At last her self-command sud-
denly gave way. She threw down her sewing, sprang
impetuously on to Dolly's knee, and, throwing her
arms round her neck, laid her head on the kind old
woman's shoulder, and burst into tears.
My poor lamb!" said Dolly, soothingly. "Thou
hast but few pleasures; and now this one is gone,
poor little lass."
"Oh, not that!" answered Hepsy, in panting
eagerness. "I have so many, many pleasures,
Granny. Don't say they are few."
Dolly kissed her, and held her quietly without
saying more.





30 HEPHZIBAH:

Granny! the child began again, when after a
long time her sobs had worn themselves out, Do
you think, Granny, that I have a mother alive ?"
Dolly gazed in silent astonishment in the tear-
stained face, now raised up eagerly towards her own.
The electric kind of fashion in which Hepsy's young
brain worked, very often made Dolly, as she said to
herself, feel quite dazed, and as if her head turned
round. Seeing her old friend's puzzled look, Hepsy
went on with increasing animation. "Because 1
think that mother is alive; and since you have been
so kind and so very, very good to me, Granny, it
makes me remember mother. I never thought of
anything but my sore feet, and the cold, and being
hungry, till I came to you,-but now I seem to
remember mother."
"And I thought you were crying only for the
pigeon! exclaimed Dolly, with a naive expression
of surprise at her own stupidity, and of genuine
sympathy with Hepsy; together with a tender pride
in her darling's good heart and cleverness. "And so
I was. I was crying for the pigeon, Granny, and
for mother, and with joy and thankfulness to you,"
Hepsy burst out, almost relapsing into tears in her
sense of the inadequacy of speech. Don't you see,
Granny ? Can't you cry for joy and sorrow all at
once like that ?"





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 31

Dolly's answering smile was very beautiful to see,
though her old and wrinkled and weather-beaten face
had never, even in her young days, been fair to look
upon. The soul, pure and unselfish, looked out
through the battered walls of its earthly home, and
mCde the old face lovely, as the smile said plainly
how tears were over with her long ago; but not her
power of sympathy and of love. Just then a noise
at the window arrested them suddenly; and as they
listened breathlessly, it came again. Hepsy slid to
the floor and opened the window in the twinkling of
an eye. Both knew quite well, before their eyes con-
firmed it, that the pigeon was tapping against the
glass outside. In an instant it was on Hepsy's
shoulder, then in her arms, kissed, fondled, talked to
in raptures by the little one, who seemed to struggle
in vain to express half her delight.
Dolly closed the window; and, wiping her specta-
cles, sat down again to her work, scarcely less
pleased, in truth, than the child herself, as she
witnessed her darling's joy.
The note was still tied under the wing;-so again
the pigeon had failed in its task. But Hepsy never
thought of blaming it for this. She had no room
for anything but satisfaction in her little heart just
then.
Indeed, it was not till the 12th of October ac-





32 HEPHZIBAH:

tually arrived that she remembered that the written
message had never reached its proper destination
at all.
The 12th was a lovely autumn day. Blue and
still lay the arch of sky over the common ;-and as
blue looked the still pools amongst their rough fringe
of gorse and weeds. Hepsy went about her daily
tasks with a preoccupied mind; and the pigeon, now
a prisoner no more, fluttered from roof to tree; from
Hepsy's shoulder, as she went to the spring, to the
edge of the bucket, where delicately balanced on its
slender feet, it dipped into the clear water, first its
beak, and then its shining silvery head, while a
fountain-like shower of diamond drops flew round,
glittering in the sun, and Hepsy stood and watched.
"There comes a grand show, to be sure," Dolly
called from the door of the hut: and Hepsy, follow-
ing her eye, saw a splendid carriage, drawn by four
light-stepping, fiery steeds, whose burnished harness
sparkled till it dazzled the beholders. On it came,
across the common, and the geese flocked gabbling
away, as if offended at being so outshone, while the
humble horses who browsed the scanty herbage,
paused in their repast, and eyed their brilliant
brothers with a meek and philosophic gaze.
As the equipage approached, Dolly and the child -
could distinguish a handsome lady and a fair young





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 33

girl, rather older, apparently, than Hepsy, who sat
side by side within; and on the opposite seat a staid
and grave woman servant.
Just as they were close upon the hut, the pigeon,
startled by the noise of wheels, and clatter of hoofs,
took refuge on Hepsy's shoulder. The young lady's
eyes caught sight of the group thus formed, and
starting to her feet, she cried out, so that Hepsy and
Dolly both heard her words, "0 Mama, Mama, there
is my carrier-pigeon!"
The lady called to the coachman to stop; and the
eyes of the three in the carriage, of the dignified
coachman, and of the gorgeous servant behind, were
all fixed on Hepsy, as, blushing crimson, she never-
theless advanced with the bird.
Something in her action and look won the child
in the carriage at once, for she leaned towards
Hepsy with a gentle smile, and taking the pigeon
in her daintily gloved little hands, she said: "You
have taken care of my bird, I can see. But how
came it here ?"
Luckily for her presence of mind, Hepsy was so
fascinated by the exquisite face which was bent
towards her, that she forgot, for the moment, the
handsome lady, and carriage and servants. Inspired
with courage by the good-will of the sweet smile
bestowed upon her,--she told her tale, including her
C





34 HEPHZIBAH:

vain effort to send the ,pigeon once more on its
errand. She sighed, as she ended her story, for she
knew that now her favorite must go. But the
prancing horses had long to wait, pawing the ground,
before the fair girl in the carriage had asked half
the questions, or said half the kindly words she
wished to say to Hephzibah, who stood enslaved by
her beauty and grace, and never wearied of answer-
ing, or of telling the adventures of the pigeon in
all their minutest particulars.
At length the handsome lady, who had been
listening with a pleased smile, interrupted the two
young girls. Her voice was sweet and clear as a
bell, and even old Dolly, who kept respectfully
aloof, could hear all she said, though her hearing
was none of the sharpest. "We are delaying too
long, my little daughter, and I think you must now
have asked every possible question of this good
girl. Then addressing Hephzibah, she added, "Is
that your grandmother, my dear ?"
"Oh, no!" said Hepsy, with a loving glance at
old Dolly. But she is my best friend, and oh, so
good to me."
Then this will be for you to get her something
useful," the lady continued, leaning over the side of
her carriage and putting something in Hepsy's
hand, while, with a kind nod to her and to Dolly,





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 35

she bade the coachman drive on. But as he put his
horses in motion, Hepsy, looking down on what the
lady had placed in her little palm, saw it was gold;
and she sprang forward eagerly, holding it up.
Seeing her action, the coachman again drew his
reins, and Hepsy exclaimed, blushing and breathless,
"0 ma'am, you did not mean this, it is gold "
Yes, I did mean it," the lady replied. "My
little daughter is in your debt for the care of her
bird."
"But it was all pleasure for me," murmured
Hepsy, with a downcast and not quite satisfied look.
"Then take Mama's present for love of me," cried
the lovely little mistress of the pigeon, with a look
and tone that made Hepsy sparkle and brighten at
once.
The coachman touched the burnished sides of the
horses with his whip, and away flashed the grand
show," as Dolly had called it. Three or four minutes
more, and nothing at all of it was to be seen. All
had vanished like a brilliant dream. Beautiful ladies,
and snow-white pigeon, glancing equipage and
shining steeds. Not a sign was left, but the gold
coin in Hephzibah's hand, contemplating which, she
slowly followed Dolly into the hut.
"What is it, Granny?" she asked, as she laid
the money on the table. Why, bless the child, it is





36 HEPHZIBAH:

a whole golden sovereign," cried Dolly, surprised into
unwonted animation. "And how many shillings
then, Granny?" Hepsy gravely continued, with her
eyes on the money. Twenty shillings, my dear."
Dolly returned, smiling at the business-like pre-
occupation on the child's young face. Hepsy re-
mained mute, plunged, in truth, in profound and
abstruse calculation; so profound and prolonged
it proved, that the old woman gazed at her in
wonder, over her spectacles, though she forbore to
interrupt her cogitations.
Granny !" cried Hepsy, at length, as if relieved
by having solved some difficult problem, "When
may I go to the town ?"
Why, my dear, you know what we're both of
us afraid of; you can't have forgotten Joe and
Meg?"
Hepsy shuddered for answer. But all the same
she said, "Let me go just this once, Granny,
dear?"
To spend your money, I doubt, lass. You're
like the rest of the folk. One would think you feel
the gold burn in your pocket, as they say."
But Hepsy persisted, and prevailed; only she was
to wait till next market-day, when Dolly felt sure
that a farmer, who knew her, and passed that way




A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 37

to market, would take charge of the child, and
bring her safe back at night.
She expected that Hepsy would tell her what she
meant to do with the pound, and she waited
patiently till the very morning of the eventful day;
but Hepsy, on this point, continued dumb. When
she was dressed in her humble best, and waiting for
the farmer to appear, Dolly at length resolved to
touch on the important point.
Now, Hepsy, my dear, I know you're a sensible
child as can be; but that's a deal of money for you
to manage. Tell me how you are going to spend
it, and if you really mean to spend it all."
Don't make me tell, please, Granny," Hepsy
entreated.
"Ah, well, it's your own; but I doubt, child,
you mean to spend the most of it on me, and that
will vex me above a bit."
The child looked brightly up in the old woman's
face. But you see, Granny, the lady gave it me
for that. She said I was to get you something
useful with the money. Those were her very own
words."
Anyway, Hepsy, promise me that you will get
a something for yourself as well as me." And
Hepsy promised, as she jumped up eagerly on





38 HEPHZIBAH:

descrying the farmer's cart, which before long had
rumbled and jolted up to the door.
The farmer, and indeed all the poor people round,
knew about Hepsy, and respected old Dolly for
giving food and shelter to the child; he had
willingly undertaken to convey her to the market
town, and even volunteered to return in good time
that night for the sake of the child. He now lifted
her in and seated her on some sacks on the floor, so
that her little face just peered above the side of the
cart, and from her post she waved many and many
an adieu to Dolly and the goat, and the geese on
the common, who all seemed to her special and
intimate friends, now she was going, even for a short
time, away. She felt sad, indeed, at even this
short parting from a home so happy to her, and
troubled thoughts of her terrible wanderings with
Joe and Meg came across her, in this her first
removal from Dolly and the hut; for, except to go
to church on Sunday, when Dolly was always with
her, she had never yet been out of sight of the
common since she found a shelter in the midst of
its wild and rough desolation; nor did the farmer's
first observation tend much to chase her sorrowful
feelings away. He and all the neighbours knew
that the tramps who brought the child there,
had threatened to look her up and take her away,





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 39

"come Christmas," as the country saying is; so
he turned to his little passenger, and said, though
with not the slightest intention of disturbing her
peace, "You must keep a sharp look out, now
Christmas is getting so near, my child, for you
don't want to go on the tramp again, I reckon.
Now you be grown so neat and tidy like, it would
be a sin and a shame, to be sure."
Hepsy turned very pale, and shrank together in
the cart, at this speech, and the farmer, sorry for
the dismay he had caused, good-naturedly en-
deavoured to banish all unpleasant ideas by offering
some rosy-cheeked apples, which he drew from his
ample pockets.
She smiled, consoled by his kind intent, and soon
became engrossed in the excitement of new scenes
and sights, as they jogged along. The farmer
pointed out to her, from time to time, such objects
as, in his judgment, might interest and amuse. He
showed her the ruined remains of the gibbet where
once desperate criminals were hung, and the solitary
farm among a line of low hills where a maid-
servant murdered her mistress one Sunday morning,
when all the rest were at church. Then, turning to
more cheerful topics, he paused on a village green,
which they were passing through, and explained
how the Maypole was dressed' in the spring; and





40 HEPHZIBAH:

how the children feasted and danced there all the
merry May-day; and how the lords and ladies,
so he called the inmates of a noble old castle, which
stood on a height above, would come down to see
the village sports, and scatter sugar-plums for the
young ones to scramble after, and sometimes give
presents to the elder ones too.
To all this Repsy listened with most eager interest,
even venturing a timid question herself now and
then.
The castle, he said, was called Hawksleigh, and
the Lady and her young daughter were as beautiful
as ever any ladies could be; he did not believe,
indeed, that even the Queen herself and the
Princesses up at the Court could beat Lady Hawks-
leigh, and the little Countess, and he heard others
say the same.
Round eyed, and with open lips, Hepsy listened,
and would have liked the farmer to begin and tell
her all this over again, as soon as he ceased to
speak.
She gazed at the towers and battlements of
Hawksleigh Castle, as long as they were in sight,
and wondered what Lady Hawksleigh and the
young Countess could be like. Perhaps, she said
to herself, they were like the ladies who took away
the pigeon, and gave her the wonderful piece of





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 41

gold which was to enable her to go home that night
laden with so many treasures.
Fortunately for her unpractised powers of cal-
culation, the farmer had promised to deposit her
with a cousin of his, who turned out a motherly
friend, and, as Hepsy thought, a perfect paragon of
knowledge and skill, so that she was able, in spite
of her own inexperience, to lay out her money to
real advantage, before this day of wonders was
ended, and she was again seated among the farmer's
marketing, and on her way back to the common.
It would be far too long to tell of all Hepsy saw,
and all she thought about, while she was in the
town. Only this one important circumstance can
we here find room to record. When all her own
business was well accomplished, and she had been
regaled by the farmer's cousin upon what she
thought a most sumptuous repast, she was allowed
to watch from the door all the coming and going in
the street outside. It was the principal street in
the old market town, and was, Hepsy thought,
perfectly thronged with horses and carriages and
carts, and people on foot; and she never seemed as
if she could tire of watching the shifting crowd.
At last, among not a few gay-looking vehicles, what
did she espy, turning into the long street with a
sweep and a dash, but the very carriage which not





42 HEPHZIBAH:

very many days before stood by old Dolly's hut
on the common.
On it came, creating a prodigious stir and com-
motion even on this busy market-day, and within
sat two ladies, the very same two, as Hepsy presently
knew; that handsome lady, and her lovely little
daughter too. The farmer's cousin looked out over
Hepsy's head, and observed, as the carriage dashed
by, That be my Lady Hawksleigh, of Hawksleigh
Castle, my dear; and the sweet little beauty beside
her is her daughter, Lady Jane."
Hepsy, as was her habit, drank in all she heard;
but herself spoke not a word. This, then, was what
a ladyship was like She registered the fact in her
mind, raising the class of ladyships in general into
some very angelic standard indeed.
The day of wonders, like all days, whether won-
derful or not, came at last to an end. It was some
long time after the street lamps were lighted, when
the farmer came in his cart to the door; and as
Hepsy sat sleepily in her place on the floor, and
the farmer, with many a crack of his whip, left the
town behind him, all she had seen seemed to the
child mingled up in a many-coloured dream in her
mind, and, indeed, most likely many a dream did
mix with reality in her busy, but weary, brain.
A rough road, full of deep ruts, roused her with





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 43

a series of jolts, which seemed to shake every bone
in her little body loose; and she knelt up to ease
herself by a change of position, and looked at the
stars overhead, across whose bright faces heavy
clouds were hurrying fast.
A loud vociferation, from a strong, coarse voice
near at hand, called her attention back; and, to her
speechless dismay, she plainly saw, under a few
bushes by the side of the road, a well-known and
dreaded group.
Yes, there was the poor thin donkey browsing by
the struggling light of a gipsy fire, which gleamed
over his shaggy hide; and there was the iron pot,
she had so often been forced to tend, hanging over
the horrid flames, which painted yet more horribly
than reality itself the faces of Joe and Meg, as they
crouched for warmth in its beams. Hepsy shuddered,
and hid herself hastily in the cart. The farmer,
little suspecting, indeed, who these vagrants were,
yet cracked his whip, and made all speed to remove
himself from such undesirable neighbours.
It seemed to Hepsy, however, as if in an instant
she should be dragged from her hiding-place, and
delivered over to misery once more.
But the cart jogged steadily on, and she remained
quite unobserved, and when, at last, she ventured a
timid glance behind, not an object broke the silence





44 HEPHZIBAH:

and darkness, except the wind in a few scattered
trees, and the hurrying clouds over head. With a
sigh of the deepest relief, she lay down at the
bottom of the cart, and stirred no more till she
got out at Dolly's door, and heard the old woman
and the farmer exchange their friendly greetings,
scarcely daring to believe she was really safe there
again; nor was she quite herself till the door was
shut, and before even she displayed her treasures,
she had told old Dolly who it was that had
appeared to her in the dark road. To the old
woman's gentle soothing she expanded, however,
like a flower to the sun.
God will help us, my lamb," said Dolly, and
Hepsy said a thankful "Yes," and turned with a
lightened heart to open her parcels, and tell her
day's events.
Now, to our young readers, who live in wealthy
and well-supplied houses, and who never knew a
real need unfulfilled, it will be most likely rather
disappointing to hear that the chief articles which
Hepsy produced before Dolly's delighted eyes were
first a warm dress and a flannel petticoat for Dolly
herself. On these, indeed, the bulk of Lady Hawks-
leigh's gift had been spent. But there was, besides,
a neat piece of print for Hepsy, and a parcel con-
taining some tea and sugar. Altogether Dolly was





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 45

more than satisfied that the golden sovereign had
been well and judiciously spent; and ever disposed
to attribute all sorts of talents and perfections to
her darling Hepsy, it required many repeated dis-
claimers and explanations from her, before she
satisfied herself that Dolly understood how much
she really owed to the farmer and to his cousin's
kindness and help.
Happy days followed, while the pieces of stuff
were converted into their respective garments; and
though a fashionable dressmaker would have smiled
contemptuously, neither the old woman nor the
child could see a single fault in the joint result of
their labours.
Over these hours of thankful industry the remem-
brance of Joe and Meg still hung always like a
dark and threatening shadow. Dolly could not
endure that the child should be many minutes out
of her sight. Hepsy, indeed, soon came, with the
happy confidence of childhood, to be less constantly
uneasy than her old friend was for her.
Six weeks or more still intervened between then
and Christmas, and Hepsy maintained they must
be safe till then; and that her dreaded tyrants,
though recently so near, might wander many a
mile away before the time they appointed for their
return.





46 HEPHZIBAH :

It was almost the end of November, and almost
at the closing in of the [day, when, as Hepsy
drew water from the spring, and was quite engrossed
by the task, she felt a light touch on her shoulder.
The bucket slid from her grasp, as she looked round
in startled amaze. She saw no one, indeed, near,
and wondering, nay trembling a little at she knew
not what, she continued to gaze around, when a
fluttering in the dim air roused quite other feelings.
She uttered a cry of joy, and her old favorite, the
silver-white pigeon, rested on her shoulder, and
pecked at her ear.
Caressing it fondly, Hepsy ran into the cottage
and showed Dolly the bird. Under its wing a paper
was tied, larger a great deal than the note she found
there before. It was shining, thin paper, of a lovely
pink, and on the outside Hepsy soon made out these
words,-
To the little girl who took care of this bird."
Beautifully neat and clean, and easy to read, were
these words which were seen inside, when the care-
fully-folded note was opened and smoothed:-
"I who write, am the owner of the pigeon, and
shall always be obliged to you for it. I and Mama
have heard all your story from your clergyman,
whom Mama knows very well. Mama says she
wishes to help to prevent any one from taking you





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 47

away; and oh! so do I. So I send you my pigeon,
who has now been taught to carry letters, and will,
I hope, bring this safe. I and my nurse want to
come and see you again. But send off the pigeon
to-morrow that we may see if he comes back here
safe; and please try and write me a little note. I
cannot help thinking, by your face, you can write.
My name is Jane, and yours, I know, is Hephzibah,
which is a very hard name to spell."
So ran the elegantly-written note, which Hepsy
knew, and told Dolly, with a mixture of awe and
delight, was written by no less a person than a
Countess, for such, she remembered, the lovely
Lady Jane was called.
Her own reply was, indeed, a momentous affair.
In the first place, it was no easy thing to find a nice
bit of paper, and worthy of such a destination. But
the writing and spelling! Ah, that was a still more
serious matter. However, the desire lent skill
enough; for where there's a will there's a way; and
at length, before Hepsy laid her head on the pillow,
her letter, which ran as follows, lay ready for de-
spatch on the morrow, while the pigeon slept peace-
ably in its old quarters once more:-
Hephzibah "-and here we must confess that
Lady Jane's own note taught Hepsy first how
to spell her name correctly. "Hephzibah is





48 HEPHZIBAH:

very, very thankful, and would be more so than
ever if Lady Jane comes to see her and Granny
again."
She felt much ashamed of her poverty of language
and, indeed, had made half a score attempts on
her slate, before she resigned herself to let this last
one go. But go it did the next day, the pigeon
setting off with a steady and business-like flight,
which seemed to assert it was, in fact, at last pro-
perly educated for the task.
With joy and delight Hepsy watched it now;
none of her old heart-ache troubled her as before,
when the distant sky blotted it out from her sight.
Dolly, it is true, regarded all this as innocent child's
play, and put no faith whatever in the pigeon as a
messenger of real and trustworthy importance. But
she forbore to shake Hepsy's faith, by making any
doubtful remark; and the child, on her part, con-
sidered herself as perfectly safe, if the beautiful
Ladies of Hawksleigh really had resolved to protect
her from the terrible Joe and Meg.
Every day she said to herself, Will they come
to-day ?" But November went, and December came,
and no Lady Jane had as yet appeared.
All at once, one snowy morning, when the com-
mon lay patched in places with white, and in others
bare and brown, while Hepsy brought in wood from




A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 49

their little store at the back of the hut, she heard
voices, and peeping round the corner, saw Dolly
talking to a grand man, with a band of gold round
his hat, who sat proudly on a splendid horse.
Hepsy hung back for a moment, and in that moment
the man was gone, and she heard him say, as he
put his horse to a trot, In half an hour or an hour
I shall be back."
Running hastily in, Hepsy found the old woman
rubbing up her spectacles previous to inspecting
a paper which lay on the table before her. It was
from no less a person than Lady Hawksleigh her-
self, and proposed, in the kindest terms, that Dolly,
and her little adopted child should spend their
Christmas at the Castle. "' Then Hephzibah will
be out of harm's way," the Lady said, and you
will both have good Christmas cheer. If for any
reason you do not like my plan, send me word by
the servant who brings this note, for I have promised
my little daughter that she shall provide you some
Christmas fare, if you do not partake of ours here."
Now, Dolly was of the old, old school, and a
Ladyship was to her a very great person, and a very
great authority too; and as she and Hepsy made
out the words which this great Lady had taken the
trouble herself to write, it seemed to the old woman
that whatever the latter proposed must be done.
D





50 HEPHZIBAH:

She sighed, however, as she uttered some such view
of the case aloud, and Hepsy checked her own
exuberant joy at the sound of that sigh.
"Don't you want to go, Granny, dear?" she
anxiously inquired.
It will be safest for you, my lamb," was Dolly's
ambiguous reply; but she sighed again as she spoke.
Hepsy gravely waited for more, with a tender look
of inquiry, to which at length her old friend replied:
"It is foolish and selfish, only I am foolish, I
know. Yes; we had better do as the Lady is so
good as to say."
And Dolly got up in a fidget of nervous unrest, as
if she must immediately begin to prepare, she knew
not what, for such an overwhelming event, although
it wanted yet more than a week to Christmas-day.
Hepsy could not bear that the placid calm which
she had been always used to see in her old friend,
should thus be discomposed, and for her sake too.
She could not understand it all one bit, however;
for how could any one not wish to go to the Castle ?
And so she felt and looked ready to cry; which
Dolly perceiving, was at once herself again. She
sat down, and took the child on her knee, endeavour-
ing to put into words feelings which she herself
on her own part was scarcely able clearly to
define.





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 51

I never were a single Christmas-day in all my,
life away from here you see, my dear. Not that it
matters for that. Of course that be nothing. Only
then it seems somehow to me that for an old body
like me, poor, and as homely as ever can be, to find
myself up there at a grand Castle, and among lots
and lots of gentlemen, like him," and she pointed
over the common, the way the grand man with the
gold band round his hat had galloped across it.
" Lots and lots on 'em," she repeated, with dismay
increasing at her own picture, and smart serving-
maids in silks and that, and all, very like, making
game of me, as is very natural too, for it's quite
likely they never saw such a poor old creature
among them before."
Hepsy listened to all this, her cheeks flaming
scarlet, and her eyes flashing fire, at the conclusion
of Dolly's unusually lengthy discourse.
We will stay at home, Granny, please," said she,
when her friend had done. And Dolly was startled
quite out of her own train of thought at the look and
decided tone of the child. Nay, nay, never heed
what I said, my dear. After all, it don't matter a
bit; and it will for certain be safest for you."
"But I had much rather stay here, Granny; come
what will we will stay-and-you know you always
said God will help us."





52 HEPHZIBAH :

"Ay; but, perhaps, this is just the way He is
helping my lamb."
"You shall never go where anyone can laugh at
you, if I can help it, my own dear, good, kind
Granny," Hepsy exclaimed, in a burst of excite-
ment.
There he comes. And now I will tell him my-
self. I shall say you are too old to go to the Castle,
Granny."
And, without waiting for any further debate, Hepsy
flew off over the snow, and stopped breathless by
the side of the horse. She gave her answer with
what clearness of speech she could muster, and with
such words of grateful thanks as her powers could
supply. The man nodded his head, struck spurs to
his horse, and was gone.
A day or two later Lady Jane and her nurse really
did appear; and oh! how surprised were the old
woman and the child when they saw all that the
fair young Countess had brought.
This time it was not the great coach and four
which came prancing up to their door, but an
elegant pony-carriage, drawn by two little spirited
steeds, whose long, silky tails almost swept the
ground. The lovely little lady drove them herself,
and the nurse sat by her side, while a dapper little
groom, in top-boots and shining buttons, had a little





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 53

seat all for himself behind, whence he sprang down
like a flash of light, when his young lady drew her
reins, and stood at the ponies' heads as long as she
talked to the two at the cottage door.
But besides this fairy-looking equipage, there was
in attendance, behind, a light spring-cart, and this
contained wonders without end; and all these won-
ders found their way, by hook or by crook, under
the roof of the tiny old hut, which had certainly
never held such grand things before.
There was a neat deal box quite full of warm
and useful clothing; and another equally well filled
with tea, and sugar, and rice, and candles and soap,
and more such useful things than there is room to
set down. And these two boxes were stowed each
in a corner, serving as cupboards; for of cupboards
there was but one in the cottage, and that held the
few cracked old cups and plates. What, then, was
Hepsy's delight, when she turned, after helping to
place the two boxes safely in their place, to see that
the nurse had replaced these cracked old things with
a set of the brightest and prettiest crockery that
any cottage could have. "And now," said Lady
Jane, when the raptures of Dolly and the child sub-
sided sufficiently to enable them to bear new sur-
prise, now, Nurse, for the Christmas dinner."
And sure enough, all nicely stowed in a hamper,





54 HEPHZIBAH:

which was just lifted out of the cart,-they saw a
fine large goose, and some splendid mince-pies, and,
moreover, some bottles of wine.
Bless your sweet face!" old Dolly exclaimed,
unable to repress her genuine opinion about these
last; "I never tasted none in all my days, and I
dared'nt, least I should be real silly, you know."
The conclusion of her speech was addressed in a
lowered tone to the nurse, who, with an amused
smile, assured her that it would certainly do her
good to take just a little on Christmas-day, and the
rest might be kept as a medicine, if they were ill.
Dolly endeavoured to establish her own view
upon this one matter, but in vain. She was over-
ruled, and the bottles and hamper, with various
other contents, not hitherto named, such as apples,
and nuts, and cakes, destined more especially for
Hepsy herself, were placed inside with the rest.
Lastly, some sacks of coal were deposited by the
carter behind the hut, in the little yard where was
stored their stock of wood and turf-for coal was
another luxury undreamed of before-and which,
perhaps, found more favor in Dolly's eyes, now that
age had chilled her vigor, even than the more
attractive and splendid gifts already described.
While this scene was going on-Dolly curtsying
perpetually, and Hepsy, now laughing, now clapping





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 55

her hands, and now almost crying--as busy and
as notable as any grown woman, here, there, and
everywhere,-her cheeks flushed, and her eyes like
two great shining stars,-Lady Jane was looking on
with scarcely less delight, and carefully held on her
knee all the time a basket containing the pigeon,
as she sat in her carriage, with the dapper groom
keeping her ponies still.
Come here, Hepsy, please!" she called out, in
her sweet voice, when all was done; and she made
the blushing girl get in, and sit in the nurse's place,
by her side, while she thus went on:
The dear old pigeon can carry quite cleverly
now, and it brought your note; and a nice little
note it was. But this time the pigeon must spend
its Christmas with you; and mind, Hephzibah, and
do exactly as I say. I have written on this slip of
paper all ready-you see." And she showed the
words "Please come at once." "Now," she
resumed, take care and have this always ready,
and the pigeon too, and the instant there seems any
danger, you know what I mean, then tie the note in
its place and send the bird off. In less than an hour
we can send you help. Do you see?"
Hephzibah did see; and her face expressed this,
and her gratitude, and her perfect trust in both the





56 HEPHZIBAH:

lovely lady and her bird, more plainly than any
words could have done, and more eloquently too.
All that day at the cottage on the heath they
could do nothing but examine their riches over and
over again: and the next day was Christmas-eve.
Great was the cleaning and rubbing bestowed by
Dolly and Hepsy on the poor old hut, to make it
as worthy as possible of all it contained; though it
was at all times as clean and decent as its poverty
would allow. Bright holly and delicate mistletoe
were tastefully arranged by the child; and altogether
they hardly believed, after their labours were
finished, that this cheerfully-furnished and decorated
room was really the same as of old.
Often even in the night, Hephzibah awoke, and
tried, through the darkness, to descry the new
adornments which she knew were there: and she
rejoiced when the first streak of dawn set her lIrk-
ing fears at rest, and showed her that they were no'
dream.
Proudly and thankfully Dolly went, holding Hepsy
by the hand, both dressed in their handsome new
clothes, to attend the service at church the next
day; and, with grateful humility, answered the
kindly greetings to her and to Hepsy, when the
congregation issued from the porch. Then all went
their separate ways, to enjoy their Christmas cheer;





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 57

and Dolly and Hepsy hastened over the common,
busied with thoughts of the goose to be roasted,
and the luxurious board to be spread.
The fire soon crackled on the hearth, and the
goose turned and turned in a knowing manner, just
in its warmest glow. Hepsy already had laid out
the table; -for they could never have enough of
gazing on its splendours; and she insisted, more-
over, in placing upon it a bottle of wine. There
were a dish of mince-pies! plates of apples and nuts
and cakes, and, in short, a repast was set out, as the
child remarked, quite fit for any prince.
The pigeon fluttered in and out, for the day
was not too cold for them to leave the door open,
and, indeed, with such unwonted cookeries going
on, a little fresh air was by no means amiss.
Hepsy looked all round with a scrutinizing
glance;-not an imperfection could she descry any-
where. The goose began to show a delicate tinge
of brown. A little more coal would be wanted,
however, and, shovel in hand, Hepsy went off to
the yard, with the pigeon fluttering round her. Her
shovel filled, she was just about to emerge from
amongst the wood and the turf, when, far away on
the verge of the common, a sight caught her eye,
which made her pause, and draw back. A few
minutes more and she was only too sure what it





58 HEPHZIBAH:

was. If she went into the hut, they would see her,
if even they had not seen her now. Still they were
not yet near. She. hoped she was still unseen. Poor
child I all her joy, all her pride in their Christmas
feast, all her happy preparations and brave decora-
tions, passed from her mind, as if such things had
never been. She forgot her own neat, warm dress,
her little feet strongly shod and protected from cold
and wet, and as she knew who was approaching with
a slow, but terrible, certainty, once more she felt
herself ragged and dirty, cold and half fed; and,
worse than all, daily assailed with curses and
blows, in place of kindness and love. All these
fearful feelings flashed through her mind in a
second, as she stood behind the wood-heap, shivering
in her terror. But there came to her remembrance
Dolly's oft-repeated words, God will help us, my
lamb!" Just then the pigeon stooped from its
flutterings, and alighted on her shoulder. He is
helping us," thought Hepsy; and, quick as thought,
she had tied the note, which she carried always
ready, just as Lady Jane had desired; threw the
pigeon cautiously up in the air, and saw it swiftly
sweep round and round and away. At the back of
the hut there was a rent in its wooden walls. Hepsy
knew this..chink well, for she and Dolly often spoke
to each otter by 'a4 means; and now, without

4 .i





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 59

losing an instant, she called to the old woman,
"Granny, Granny, listen !" Her tone, carefully
lowered as it was, instantly communicated the alarm
to Dolly. "Oh, my child, my'child !" she cried
back again, they are sure never coming now."
But, indeed, they are, Granny. Yet keep up your
heart. The pigeon is gone with the note. In less
than an hour the dear lady promised us help. I can
hide here. Shut the door fast, Granny, dear. They
will break it open, I doubt. God keep you from
harm. If they hurt a hair of your head, I must
come in; and I will."
Dolly heard this long speech without losing a
word. She went to the door and made it fast;
then to the window, and through it could clearly
see, even with her dim sight, that Hepsy was not
mistaken. She perceived, however, that the tramps
were still beyond the reach of her voice. So she
said to the child, "All shall be as you say, my
darling, and we will trust in God. But if we had
gone to the Castle, this would never have happened;
and so this one thing you must promise and do.
When they're once inside, as they surely will be at
the smell of the food,-mind me, and run for your
life. You can hide in the gravel pit, the way they
have come. Do you hear me, Hepsy, and will you
do this for me ? "





60 HEPHZIBAH:

The truth was that Dolly perfectly well knew the
child would, as she had said, come in, if these savage
people were, as was more than likely, rough and
brutal to her; and Hepsy, indeed, with this very
intention in her mind, at first absolutely refused
to go further. But Dolly's self-upbraidings for not
having placed her in safety were so heart-rending,
that at length her entreaties prevailed.
"Bless you, for a good child," Dolly whispered,
for now the sound of the donkey's feet, alternating
with Joe's loud voice, might be plainly distinguished
outside.
Make a long round, my lamb, and keep thyself
clear of the window and of the door, that thou may
not be seen; dost hear ?"
Hepsy's faint "yes" was barely audible, for at
that moment a loud shouting and battering began
at the door.
With presence of mind, inspired by her fears and
her love, Dolly paid no heed to this rude summons
until she had removed all signs that the feast was
laid there for two. Then she called through the
door, to know who was there; and hereupon a
parley ensued, which she prolonged to the utter-
most, knowing well that all depended on gaining
time, if, indeed, the pigeon could summon them aid
in this their direst and deepest need.





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 61

But Joe was not slow to sniff the smell of good
cheer, nor to convince himself that none was within
who could gainsay his forcing his way to help him-
self to the best he could find; for the feebleness of
age was easily detected in Dolly's replies to his
insolent demands; and he only waited till Meg had
gone to make sure no human aid could be seen
approaching far or near on the heath, when, with
one fierce kick, every bolt and latch gave way, and
he strode in, master of the place, while Meg stayed
behind only to fasten their donkey to a post.
Well was it that Dolly had exacted a promise from
Hepsy to fly; for the child could never have borne
to hear the scene that ensued.
The feast prepared for her old friend and her-
self did, indeed, prove important to them in a far
stronger sense than if it could have feasted them
both a whole year; for it mollified a little the
savage pair, and decided them to proceed to no
other business until they had eaten and drunken
their fill.
Dolly made little opposition to the rough orders
she received, but placed the smoking and savoury
goose before them, secretly rejoicing that she could
propitiate them thus.
Good wine, by my eyes!" cried Joe, as, extract-
ing the cork with his teeth, he put his nose to the





62 HEPHZIBAH :

neck of the bottle, and then filled a tumbler and
tossed it off, keeping fast hold of the bottle mean-
while.
Meg submitted until he had disposed in the same
way of a second tumbler, and then a fierce alterca-
tion ensued, which ended in her receiving sundry
blows indeed, but none of the wine.
Dolly turned away sickened; till Joe and his
wife, having eaten as much as they could, ordered
her forward to answer their questions, employing
themselves the while in packing up all they had left
undevoured.
The old woman made no attempt to deny it,
when the two tramps told her they knew from the
neighbours that Hepsy, or "Bet," as they called
her, had found a shelter with her. To her assertion
that the child was from home, they poured out
most frightful oaths, and declared the old witch told
lies.
The discovery of the box of new clothes, and
finally, of the tea and more wine, and other good
things, diverted the storm for a time, as it was no
easy matter so to arrange that they and the donkey
should suffice to prevent leaving anything worth
having behind. The possession of such a prize,
indeed, made them resolve to hasten away, and
abandon for the time the search for the child ; though





A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN. 63

they swore to come back and murder old Dolly
outright, if in a week they did not find Bet" was
ready for them. Then, tying the old woman in her
chair, lest she should contrive to summon help,
they loaded the donkey and themselves, and set off
as fast as they could. But justice was swifter than
they. The pigeon had swiftly done its part, and
help and punishment both were at hand.
From the gorse on the side of the old gravel pit,
the child beheld the departure of the thieves, but
her heart leaped with relief to see, at the same
moment, a large cavalcade dashing rapidly on from
the direction of Hawksleigh Castle.
Joe and Meg, it is true, had taken the opposite
road, and were hurrying on as fast as they could.
They were, however, impeded by the burden of
their stolen goods, and, not suspecting their evil
deed to be known, they fell an easy prey to their
pursuers, and were soon marching back with
pinioned arms in charge of the police. But these
messengers of justice were not all. A brilliant party,
assembled for Christmas at the Castle, had taken
horse or carriage on the arrival of the carrier-pigeon
to assist in this triumph of good over evil. Lady
Hawksleigh was there, and her child, and they lost
no time in entering the cottage, where Hepsy,
breathless with running, and with heart-rending





64 HEPHZIBAH: A CHRISTMAS STORY FOR CHILDREN.

grief, was struggling to undo the cruel cord which
bound her dear old friend.
And now our story is done: though Christmas-
day has but little passed its noon. We need only
say further that though Joe and Meg were soon fast
in their prison cell, .yet no choice was this time
given to Dolly or to Hephzibah herself. Both were
carried off by their friends, then and there. All
their goods were packed up, not forgetting the goat;
and if any one wishes to see where they live, they
must go to the East Lodge of Hawksleigh Castle;
and the little girl with bright golden hair who
comes to the gate, they may be sure, is no other
than Hephzibah.
In after years other changes and adventures befell
her, which some time we may relate to the young
readers of this tale.











WERTHEIMER, LEA AND CO., PRINTERS, FINSBIURY CIRCUS.










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