' TIE BIRD THAT WE NURSE IS THE BIRD THAT WE LOVE'
THE GARRET HOME .
LOVE IS THE ONLY GOLD .
GOLDEN DREAMS .
.A DECISION .
VISITING DAY AT THE HOSPITAL .
DARK AS MY DOOM 38
HARD TO BEAR 50
OUT OF THE RIGHT ROAD 58
GOLD SPOILS ALL. 64
GLOOM UPON GLEAM 7
GLEAM UPON GLOOM 79
WANDERING WITHOUT HOPE 85
HOME ONCE MORE 90
S11j 7-2 'Ube 3irO that we nurse is
the iJBrb that we tove.'
ATT was out on his own account, on
an exploring expedition. From
his cradle, I was going to say,
-little Matt never knew the
comfort of a cradle-from his
infancy, he indulged in an
independent spirit. As soon
as he could crawl he was to be
seen creeping backwards down-
stairs, or crawling on hands and
knees up-stairs. He was a daring child. The
wonder is that on that dark and narrow winding
staircase he was never trodden on, never crushed
beneath the many heavy feet passing up and down;
but he never was, somehow people got used to
finding the small creature there, and learned to look
6 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
out for him. Some returned his sorry silent smile
with a pat and a kind word, others passed on without
But this was long ago. Matt is quite grown up
now. At least he thinks so; he can count six cold
dreary winters. In his home in the cheerless court he
knew very little about glad summer, or sweet spring.
He was six years old this very day, when he started
off on his own account. He would have known
nothing about his birthday, but for Ilda,-Ilda was
his sister, a poor crippled girl older than he was by
some years; old enough, as was of necessity her fate,
to act a mother's part towards little Matt. He was
the one bright spot in her saddened life. Her real
name was Matilda, but before Matt could speak
plainly, he always called her 'Ilda,' and so it came
to pass that everybody else learned to call her
Matt was out on his own account. It was Sunday
afternoon. The blue sky overhead, for not a ray of
sun ever found its way down into the depths of
Goater's Court, the narrow court where Matt lived,
had tempted him to stray beyond its dreary limits.
The broad thoroughfares, bright with life and light,
appeared in his eyes quite like another world, and
lured him on and on, until he was far from his own
home. On his way he picked up a small stick, and
as good luck would have it, a bit of twine too. His
ready wit soon converted them into a make-believe
whip; boy-like he loved a whip. Armed with it he
cared for nothing, thought of nothing else, but went
walking on flipping the whip and beating the air all
THE BIRD WE LOVE.
Although it was Sunday, poor little Matt knew
nothing of that holy day, except that people shut their
shops, and so it was no use for him to hang about
the doors with the chance of drawing pity from the
hearts, and money from the purses of the wondrously
gay ladies and fine tall gentlemen, as they stepped
in and out of their smart carriages. Matt spoke far
more effectually with those large dark eyes of his
than he did with his winning little tongue. Few
could resist the silent appeal of his pity-asking eyes.
Sometimes he held match-boxes in his hands, hoping
to sell them, but the grand ladies would never touch
them. Matt knew nothing of Sunday, but he liked
to listen to the jangle of the many church bells, and
wondered what they meant, and where the sound
Presently he reached a broad street flooded with
golden sunshine. On either side stood large houses,
no poor tenements, and the pavements were thronged
with well-dressed persons, such as he rarely met;
there was not one little ragged boy like himself
amongst them; but Matt did not care for this, he
made up his small independent mind that he had as
much right there as anybody. He was getting just
a little bit tired, so he sat down on the curb-stone,
his Shoeless naked feet in the gutter, flipping
his mimic whip all the while, and watching the
stream of people as they passed along, thinking his
own thoughts and making his own remarks to
By chance he had sat down just opposite to a
church; afternoon service was going on. Presently
the pew-opener threw back the large double doors, a
8 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
few well-dressed persons came out, and then a stream
of Sunday school children, boys and girls, all clean
and tidily clothed, with bright and happy faces.
Matt left off flipping his whip, and gazed at them
* ,. ,. --I : ; i ,
- ,-.. I- ; -
; ,, ,* -
ilent wonder. He
, and half uncon-
)usly marked, the
trast between him-
and them; be-
U ,tll HlO UWY 11 1UI&C1.-
able rags and their tidy clothes; between his
unwashen face and their clean wholesome cheeks.
Matt wondered why he was not like. them, why he was
clad in rags, whilst they were so nicely dressed. His
young untaught mind could not tell, so he left the
mystery to smoulder there perhaps until some far-
THE BIRD WE LOVE. 9
off future, when the thought and its wonderings
might burst forth unquenched; to be worked out and
He watched the children until they were out of
sight, or had mingled with the passing crowd, and
he listened to their cheery ringing voices till the
sound died away. Then Matt got up from the curb-
stone, pulled his rags together, once more began to
flip his little whip, and started off in a don't care
style of independence, having quite made up his
mind that it did not much matter, for he was every
bit as jolly in his rags as those boys and girls were
in their smart clothes with hats and boots and shoes.
In a few minutes Matt himself was lost to sight
amidst the surging crowd going to and fro. That
evening when he got home he had something new to
tell Ilda, very much for them to talk over.
be Garret lbome.
.. OOR crippled Ildal there she lay
watching and waiting for Matt,
far from the outer world in the
gloom of a wretched garret,
lighted by one small window
half darkened by dust and dirt.
S The room was so small, there
was hardly space for much be-
sides the wretched trestle-bed
on which she was resting; a
ray of light straying in through
the window fell on her young withered face.
Poor crippled Ilda! she sighed as she listened to
all Matt had to tell her about the lots of tidy children
he had seen coming out of those big doors, and then
running off in the sunshine. She sighed again, and
wondered why she too should not run about, wondered
THE GARRET HOME.
how she should feel if she were a merry healthy child !
It must be so beautiful to be out in the sunshine, and
breathe the fresh breezes that drove the feathery little
clouds so quickly across the sky, so quickly out of her
sight. Ilda loved to watch them as they floated over
the dull red roofs and above the blackened chimneys,
and wished she were as free as they. She wondered
if she should ever get out of that dull garret ? ever
feel the glow of warm sunshine falling on her poor,
shivering, helpless limbs ? She did not covet the
smart clothes Matt spoke of; she would be quite con-
tent with her own ragged frock, if she could only
run about with Matt.
He saw the big tears rolling slowly down her
cheeks; he never guessed, and she did not tell him,
what thoughts had brought them into her eyes.
Ilda's cheeks were often wet with tears. She saw
Matt noticed them, and brushed them hastily away,
saying to herself, 'What's the use of crying?
crying ever so much, and ever so long, won't make
me able to walk.'
Matt felt quite sure that the big building the child-
ren came from couldn't be a workhouse, 'because,'
he said, 'lots of fine ladies and gentlemen came out
too. You know, Ilda, such sort o' folks don't have
nothing' to do with sich like places.' .
'Why, Matt, it must have been a church; how
silly of you not to guess that! and the boys and gals
were Sunday-school boys and gals; of course they
were. Mother used to tell me that when she was
little, like we, she used to go to Sunday-school.
She lived a long way off, all the way down in the
country, then, where there was green fields and flowers
12 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
and blackberries and nuts all growing in the
'What's green fields like, Ilda?'
'I've never seen them, Matt, but mother said they
was beautiful and smelt ever so sweet, and that they
were all over sunshine, not like the little patches that
come in at the window sometimes, and fall on the
floor. Oh, Matt, how I should like to.feel the sun-
shine, how nice and warm it would make one.'
'I say, Ilda, if you could walk, wouldn't we start
off, and see the green fields, and fill our pockets with
nuts and blackberries ?'
'Before father got so sick and bad, mother said
she'd take me down to the country, 'cause she thought
the nice fresh air would cure me; but she never did;
father grew worse and worse, and couldn't do no
work, and she had to put away most everything to
buy bread. That's why mother never went to church,
nor sent me to school. She couldn't abear to be seen
like a beggar, in rags and tatters.'
Ilda sighed as she looked down on her own ragged
clothes, and at poor little Matt's scanty covering and
shoeless feet, and wondered what her mother would
say, could she but see them !
'Mother said she was dying of a broken heart,'
continued Ilda. 'I don't know what that means-
she said it broke her heart to think of leaving us all
'Then why did she do it?' burst out little Matt.
"Cause she couldn't help it, Matt; she couldn't
scarce fetch her breath for ever so long, and then
she laid quite quiet, and was so dreadful cold, and
she shut her eyes so fast, she wouldn't look at me,
THE GARRET HOME.
and when I called ever so loud to her, and said,
" Mother! mother! do speak to me," she couldn't
speak, nor take any notice. Oh, Matt, how I
did cry when I found out mother was gone, and
wouldn't never come back again, and when I
thought how you and I was left all alone with
nobody to take care of us, and what hurt me so
dreadful, was, to think that mother didn't know
nothing about how sorry I was, and how bitterly I
'I can't remember nothing about all that, Ilda.'
'No, Matt, o' course you couldn't, you was but a
tiny little thing when mother died. You can't re-
member father neither, he died afore mother.'
'Well,' said Matt,' I don't see why mother and
father couldn't have stayed to take care of we.'
'You're so little, Matt, you can't understand such
things, and I don't know much about it; all I know
is, that when we've got to die we must go.'
Ilda's last words seemed to settle the question in
Matt's mind, and he took up his little whip and
began flogging the old chairs as seriously as if he
were driving a restive horse; presently, as if a sudden
idea had struck him, he explained,
'Ilda, do you s'pose if I was to walk ever so much
farther than I did to-day, that I should reach them
beautiful green fields ?'
I can't say, Matt. P'raps you might. But, Matt,
you'd never go all by yourself, and I couldn't go with
you, 'cause my poor legs is so crippled. You'd never
leave me, would you ? Besides, you'd be sure to lose
yourself, and never find your way home again.'
'.Trust me for that, Ilda.'
14 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
A feeling of intense sadness crept into poor Ilda's
heart, just as if it were sinking quite away, as the
thought flashed across her mind that the day might
come, perhaps must come, when Matt, if he lived to
be a grown-up man, would have to leave her, and
possibly go miles and miles away. Once more
unbidden tears floated over her eyes. She dashed
them hastily away lest Matt should notice she was
crying, and with a grim smile which she meant for
a laugh, told Matt that he had kept their Sunday
dinner waiting so long, they must turn it into a
'I'm dreadful hungry, Ilda; what have ye got
covered up so snug and warm under that ere cloth ?'
'We shall see, Matt; don't it smell good ?'
Matt gave a good long sniff.
'Awful nice, Ilda.'
Their Sunday dinner was a bone boiled with an
onion. Ilda had covered it up with a cloth to keep
it warm; the fire had gone out. It was not often
that Ilda indulged in such a 'rare good dinner,' as
Matt pronounced it to be, but as it was Matt's birth-
day, and Sunday into the bargain, she had stretched
a point, and spent quite a little fortune, she thought,
on a good large bone and an onion, with which she
managed to make something very like soup.
love is tbe on[0 0ol0.
ITTLE wonder that Matt grew up to
think and act independently,
left almost alone as he was in
Sthe world. To him father and
mother were nothing but dim un-
certain shadows, passing across
his earliest memories. Before
he reached his second year,
both his parents were dead, and
he was left to Ilda's sole charge.
Crippled and weak, it was a
heavy burden for her poor young shoulders to bear;
nevertheless she strove bravely to carry out her
dying mother's prayer that her helpless, orphaned
children might be kept out of the workhouse.
Very patiently, very bravely, Ilda fought against
16 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
pain and want to maintain their little garret home.
It was a hard struggle, but hardest of all the struggle
to stem the tide against the well-intentioned advice
of those about her, to give in and go to the house;
at all events, until Matt was able and old enough to
earn something to keep their bodies and souls to-
gether. But no. Her mother's words still rang in
her ears, and something seemed to tell her that if
once they went in, she, at all events, would never
come out again. An instinct, bred of honest respect-
ability, though now clothed in rags, made her dread
seeing poor little Matt a workhouse boy.
No doubt he was a sore and constant trial to her,
for from the very beginning his independent spirit
began to assert itself, and she lived in perpetual
dread of harm of some kind happening to him. By
dint of pushing herself along with a chair, Ilda
managed to get about the room, but she could
neither walk up nor down stairs, so that when he
was-once out of their-room, he was beyond her reach
and control. When she heard his voice in the court
below chattering with other children, she felt he was
so far safe; but as he grew older he was apt to stray
away, and she was never at rest or happy until she
heard his little shoeless feet pattering up the staircase.
It was but a scanty pittance Ilda could earn by
making and filling match-boxes-her mother had
taught'her how to do it-still that little helped to
eke out the paltry allowance made by the parish for
herself and Matt, and to save them from almost
starvation. Matt was the sole hope and joy of Ilda's'
After her mother's death there was no one on,
LOVE IS THE ONLY GOLD.
earth, besides little Matt, around whom her young
affections could entwine. He could not prevent her
life from being miserable, but she felt he could fill
the aching void. From that moment she loved him
with a deep and exclusive love, that made her cling
to him with all the intensity of heart-loneliness. He
was all the world to her, for of the world outside her
garret home she knew comparatively little or nothing.
In her crippled condition of body, she had scarcely
ever left the house; at least, not since the attack of
fever which spared her life, but deprived her almost
entirely of the use of her limbs.
Matt knew nothing of all Ilda's struggles; he
never guessed how courageously she faced the battle
of life. He loved her with all the impetuous fresh-
ness of child-love, but he never troubled his head
about the many heart-aches and heart-beatings
which his truant tricks and frequent long-absences
occasioned. He could not understand why she
should worry herself about him. If he did not give
a thought to her when he was away, he was full of
loving care for her when he returned, and would set
about busying himself to clean up the room in his own
original way, or bid her, with gleeful mirth, spread
open both her hands,palm to palm, that he might place
in them all the coppers he had earned. Sometimes,
wheif luck was uppermost and trade brisk, he would
pull out of his make-believe pocket a penny bun and
a savoury mutton pie.; but this was a rare occurrence,
for Ilda usually wanted all the pence to pay the rent.
--In this manner year after year passed by, until
Matt was quite a big boy, so he thought, nine
years old, and Ilda quite a grown-up little woman of
18 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
thirteen. One day, just about this time, Matt was
home much earlier than usual; he had had a run of
bad luck. He wondered how Ilda would look, and
what she would say when he told her he had only
sold two boxes of matches! He was not afraid she
would scold him; she rarely did that-never, indeed,
unless he deserved it-and it was not his fault that
nobody wanted to buy matches; but Matt could
bear least of all other things to disappoint Ilda, and
he knew, too well, it would be a bitter disappoint-
ment to her that day to receive no coppers, for had
she not biddenhim, that very morning whenhestarted,
to bring home a handful of pence, for to-morrow was
rent-day ? What a worrying day the eve of rent-
day always was to poor Ilda! and how very surely and
quickly it came round To her anxious mind there
seemed to be two rent days to one pay-day. Her
life appeared to her to be nothing but one long
Matt was sorely puzzled what to do. He had half
a mind not to go home, but to stay out, loitering
about, to see if he could pick up an odd job or so.
He could have a game of pitch-and-toss to pass the
time. Ilda would call that idling his time, and
reprove him for not coming home to help her; she
had always plenty for him to do. Just as he was
hesitating, Foxie came rushing towards him at full
pelt. Matt and everybody else called him 'Foxie,'
because he was such a sly and cunning boy, and
'Holloa, Matt!' he shouted, 'whatever's the
matter with you ? You look as dull and slow as a
ship in a calm.'
20 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
'I never saw a ship in a calm, so how can I tell
how it looks ?' replied Matt; 'all I know is, I shan't
go on selling matches, a chap can't nohow get a
living out of it.'
Of course he can't. Go to sea, that's awful jolly
work, that is.'
'How do you know it is, Foxie? you've never
been to sea.'
'I know I haven't; all the same, I'm going, there
ain't nothing ashore worth having.'
'That's true, Foxie. There ain't half the coppers
to be picked up as there used to be. Trade is bad-
can't be worse, I allow that; but what would Ilda
say if I was to go to sea ?'
'Who's Ilda, Matt? I guessed you were an
'So I am, because I can't remember no father
nor mother. Ilda's my crippled sister. She does
for me, and I kind of does for her. She'd just about
break her heart if I was to tell her, "Ilda, I'm off
I Nobody'll miss me when I'm off. I expect
they'll be glad enough when I weigh anchor. I
don't believe they'd cry if I never came back.
Foxie's most too much for 'em. You can't say I
haven't tried to help you; if you won't follow my
advice, it's your own fault, so here goes I'm off!'
HY Matt,' exclaimed Ilda, as
SMatt kicked open the door.
SWhy, whatever brings you
l home so early? Not that
I'm sorry to see you; it's
dull work to be alone all
day with only your own
thoughts for company. To-
morrow's rent-day; I was
hoping you'd bring home
coppers enough to square up.
Matt threw his small stock of match-boxes on the
'Haven't had no luck. I am tired of it, Ilda.
Foxie's been talking to me. He wants me to go to
sea; he's going ; he says it's a awful jolly life.'
'Oh, Matt! you'd never-leave me, would yer? I
22 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
should have to go into the house, because I couldn't
earn anything, and there would be nobody to help
'You shan't go there Ilda, that you shan't. I saw
some of the workhouse boys to-day walking two-and-
two-lots of them, and some of the girls too; they
were going holiday-keeping, I guess. Of course
they'd all got boots and shoes, and such like; but
there, I couldn't walk along so nice and quiet, it gave
me the fidgets to watch 'em. They seemed afraid to
look this way or that; their eyes were turned down
just as if they didn't dare take them up off their shoes.
As they were passing, up comes a soldier with his
cap cocked on one side, with a pipe in his mouth,
nice and independent; says I to myself, Matt, you'd
rather be a soldier, wouldn't you ? so I would, Ilda,
or a sailor, I shouldn't mind which.'
'Oh, Matt, don't have anything more to do with
Foxie, he puts such rubbish into your head. It
would break my heart to part with you, Matt; I'm
sure it would!'
Somehow, although Ilda talked about her heart
breaking, she did not look nearly so sad as usual; at
least so thought Matt; he could not make it out.
Presently, instead of tears, quite a little sparkle came
into her eyes-they did not look half so eager and
wistful as they did very often, and something like
the pale flush of a winter sunset-sky spread over her
thin wan cheek. What could it all mean? Well,
to-day it was Ilda's turn, a turn which came round
so rarely; it was her turn to have something fresh to
'Matt,' she said, her breath came and went so
quickly, she scarcely knew how to get the words
out. 'Matt, just you sit down and listen; I want
to tell you about somebody who's been here to see
Matt looked very much astonished. Nobody ever
came to see them. Who could this somebody be?
Before he- had time to make any remark, Ilda
continued, 'She's a mission woman, Matt, leastways
that's what she called herself, only I don't exactly
know what that means; I suppose it's somebody who
goes about and is kind to poor folk.'
'Nobody ain't never kind to we,' said Matt, seating
himself on the top of their little rickety table, and
swinging his naked feet. 'Nobody's kind to we, or
they'd have bought my matches, or gived me some
pennies. These wasn't anybody as didn't say they
hadn't got nothing' for me. That wasn't kind, now
was it ?'
'P'rhaps, Matt, they didn't guess how dreadfully
we was wanting some pennies. She was awfully
kind to me, that she was. You just listen. Afore
she corned in she knocked at the door-oh, what a
fluster I was in; I was all in a trimble like when I
heard her a-knockin' I thought 'twas Mrs. Dumby
come for her rent, or to give us notice to quit, but it
wasn't. 0' course I says, "Come in." I couldn't get
up fast enough to see who it was. As I said, it wasn't
Mrs. Dumby at all, but a nice-lookin' lady; only she
told me I wasn't to call her a lady, 'cause she wasn't
one, but only a mission woman. She was dressed so
nice, with her bonnet and mantle, and big bag and-'
'Niver you mind all about that, Ilda,' interrupted
Matt impatiently. 'I don't know nothing about
24 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
women's clothes; I want to hear.what she comed for,
and what she gived yer.'
'Well, Matt, first of all she asked who we was,
and who took care of us; so I told her we hadn't
nobody, only ourselves to look after us. And
then she wanted to know how long I'd been such a
cripple, and when I told her I wasn't born so,
and that 'twas all through having had such a bad
fever years and years ago, whatever'do you think
she said ? You'd never guess if you was to try ever
so hard, so I'll tell you. Why, she said, Matt, that
she thought she knew somebody who could cure me,
only I should have to go away and be put into some
If it's the house, Ilda, you shan't go there.'
'Oh, 'tisn't that sort of place, Matt. I think she
called it a hospital. She said it was full of poor
little cripples like me. She couldn't quite promise
I should go there, 'cause she wasn't sure there was
room for me, but she said she'd try very hard to get
me in. She's coming' again in a few days, and then
she'll be able to tell me more about it. Wouldn't it
be beautiful, Matt, if I could get the use of my legs
again, and run about with you ?'
Awful jolly,' said Matt.
'It would be awful jolly, Matt; only I am afraid
I should have to leave you alone Whatever would
you do all by yourself, I can't think. How could
you get along without your own Ilda?'
'Awful jolly!' was all Matt could say; a large
lump in his throat seemed to prevent his saying any-
thing more. Of course, poor little ignorant Matt
knew nothing of the law of sacrifice, the only bond
which can keep brothers and sisters at one; love is not
true, is not real, unless it be ever willing, ever ready
to make some sacrifice for the object of its affection.
Of course it could not be expected that Matt should
know anything of all this. He did not even know
it was selfish to wish in his inmost heart that the
mission woman had stayed away. Ilda guessed that
something of the sort was passing through his mind;
she saw it in his manner. Presently she said,-
'P'rhaps, Matt, I shan't go after all, so we needn't
talk about it now and make ourselves miserable.'
'What else did she talk about, Ilda ?'
'Oh, lots. When I told her we hadn't no father,
she said we had one up in heaven. Heaven, yer
know, Matt, is all the way off above the clouds and
the stars. She says we've got a Father up there who
knows all we wants, and that He cares for us more
than father ever did, and that He knows everything
that goes on-I mean even all the little things that
happen to us.'
'Perhaps He does, Ilda, but I never heard the like
of that before, and can't take it in. What else did
the lady say?'
'Oh, Matt, do listen. It seemed so grand to hear
her talk all about what's up above the sky, she put
it together so pretty. And then she asked our
Father-she called Him our Father, 'cause she said
He was as much ours as He was hers. Well, she
asked our Father to be good and kind to we, and to
make me well. She went down on her knees when
she spoke to Him, just as I've heard say people goes
down on their knees when they asks the Queen to
give 'em anything they wants. Oh, Matt, do you
26 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
know that somehow since she was here this garret
seems ever so much more cheerful-not near so dark
as it did before ?'
'I can't see no difference, Ilda,' said Matt, peep-
ing into the dark corners. 'But, I say, Ilda, if our
Father's up above them clouds and that bit of blue
sky, how could He hear what she said ? It's such a
long way up.
'I can't say, Matt. Only I'm quite sure she said
He could hear, 'cause she said He wasn't a long way
off; that He wasn't far from any one of us, and that
He was close to us when we was speaking to Him,
and askin' Him for anything.'
'I wish she'd ask for enoughh to, pay our rent,
that I do,' said Matt, looking with doleful eyes at
the little heap of unsold boxes of matches.
'I dare say she did, Matt, for just you look here-
there! What's that? A real silver shillin'! That'll
more than square up, won't it?'
'That's a regular go 1' exclaimed Matt, clapping
his hands, whilst he jumped off the table, and hopped
round and round on one shoeless foot.
'Now, Matt, isn't she a better friend to us than
Foxie ever was ?'
'Well, I suppose she is.'
The glitter of the silver shilling was a little dimmed
in Matt's eyes, for he could not rid his mind of the
thought that the mission woman was going to carry
away Ilda. To have her cured of her lameness, of
course, would be awful jolly, but how he was to live
alone he could not at all understand. He did not
seem to see his way clear to exist without Ilda in
ATT and Ilda were not kept long
in uncertainty and suspense.
Before many days had passed
the mission woman called again.
Ilda's heart beat very fast; she
scarcely knew whether to be
glad or sorry when she heard
the gentle knock at her door,
for she felt sure her visit this
time would decide her fate one
way or the other. Must she be content to spend her
days in dull monotony and pain, a life-long cripple-
content to catch scant glimpses only of the bright
blue sky between the over-hanging roofs ? Or would
her hard life be gladdened, though still a life of toil
amid squalidness; would it be gladdened by health
28 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
and strength, and the use of her limbs ? Oh, it
would be beautiful to be well again, and not only
in dreams, but perhaps really to see flowers grow
and blossom, to see green fields and leafy woods, to
have nothing but the wide sky over her head, with
nothing, no dingy roofs, to hide the soft feathery
cluu is thfey Silc "
along. All this.
seemed to pass through her mind in a moment of
time, just as all the events of a lifetime are said to
rush into a drowning man's mind.
llda's wistful eyes looked more eager, and her thin
face more pinched than usual, as the mission woman
lifted the latch and came in.
'Don't move, my poor child,' she said, as Ilda
made an effort to push a chair towards her. 'Don't
move; I will come.and sit down on the bed by your
side.' Taking Ilda's hand in hers, she continued,
'I am come to tell you that I have been fortunate
enough to obtain a letter of admission to the hospital.
It only now remains for you to decide whether or
not you would like to go there.'
Ilda was silent.
Haven't you turned the matter over in your own
mind, my dear? P'raps you haven't quite settled
what you would like to do E- Eh ?'
A faint flush on the cheek, and 'a tear in her eye,
was Ilda's only reply. All the charm and delight of
being made strong and well seemed to hide away,
when for the first time she came face to face with
the fact that she would have to leave poor little Matt
all by himself I At last she said, her voice half-choked
'Oh, it would be too beautiful to be well and
strong again-but little Matt, poor little Matt, what
would become of him when I am gone ? There would
be no one to look after him, no one to care for him !'
'I don't want nobody to care for me, Ilda, when
you's away. I always cares for myself, and most days
looks after myself when you're at home,' said Matt,
pushing open the door. He had been standing out-
side half afraid to come in, and so had overheard all
the mission woman had said. He was just going to
run off and leave Ilda to settle it all herself, but,
when he heard Ilda hesitating on his account, he
could not stand it any longer, but rushed headlong
into the discussion.
30 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
After a few more tears, it was all decided, that
Ilda should go into the hospital the following day
the mission woman promising she would come in
occasionally to look after Matt, and what to Matt's
way of thinking was best of all, promising to. pay
the rent of the room whilst Ilda was away.
Matt and Ilda both wished the next day would
not come so dreadfully quickly, but all the same it
did come very quickly, as all sad hours seem to come.
Grief never lags-joys-coming joys alone-seem to
be so very slow-footed!
Matt could scarcely believe his eyes when he saw
how nice Ilda looked, rigged out in the neat new
clothes provided for her by the mission woman. To
his mind she was smart enough for a little queen.
He could not enjoy the sight of her for many minutes,
for the cab was already at the entrance of the court
to convey her to the hospital. With a little help
from the woman of the house, Mrs. Dumby, Matt
managed to carry Ilda downstairs himself; she was
but a light weight, and he could not bear anybody
else to touch her. He seemed as if he wanted to
show people his willingness to do all he could for
her good. Poor Matt wished to appear very brave,
but it went very hard with him to part with Ilda,
and to say 'good-bye;' he could not stand there and
see the cab drive off, so all unknown to Ilda he ran
after it, and jumped up behind, intending to get
down again just before they reached the hospital.
Besides, Matt thought, it was a capital plan for
learning the way there, for the mission woman had
told him he would be allowed to go and see Ilda on
the visiting days. Matt had to hold on very tight,
A DECISION. 31
for the man drove fast, and turned sharply round
some of the corners. Matt had never had such a
long ride before, but he would not give in, in spite of
the boys calling to the driver to 'whip behind;' in
spite of the driver giving him two or three pretty
severe cuts with his whip. Of course, he never guessed
it was poor little Matt who was swinging on behind.
At last the cab drew up before some high iron
gates, in front of a large, but rather dreary-looking
red brick building. Nobody caught sight of Matt,
for he was down in a moment, and hidden away in a
corner, where Ilda could not see him, but where he
could watch poor Ilda taken out of the cab, and
carried up the long flight of stone steps into the
hospital, and then he lost sight of her. Poor Matt
he could be brave no longer; he sank down on the
pavement in a little heap, buried his face in his
hands, and cried as he had never cried before, from
very loneliness and real heart-ache.
It was quite late before he reached home, for he
thought it would be easier to grope his way up the
stairs in the dark, when nobody would notice him;
much less miserable to creep into his own corner in
the little garret, where he could only see a faint
glimmer of light through the small-window. The
room would not look so empty; he wouldn't be able
to see that Ilda was not there; but, in spite of all his
precautions, Matt could not help feeling he was alone.
For once in his life his independent spirit quailed
beneath the sense of loneliness. After a time, he
fell into a deep sleep, and for a while forgot all his
visiting lDav at the lbospital.
-ATT looked forward impatiently to
the first visiting day at the
hospital. He thought it would
never come round. He washed,
his face, and made as respect-
able an appearance as possible,
and bought a penny bunch of
flowers to give to Ilda; he
thought they would be a rare
treat for her, they looked so
lovely, and smelt so real sweet,' as he expressed it.
He would have liked to have taken her a cake or
something nice to eat, but he was told that would be
contrary to rules, so he contented himself with the
flowers; he kept on smelling them, that he might be
quite sure the scent was not gone. He reached the
VISITING DAY AT THE HOSPITAL.
hospital long before the time appointed for admit-
ting the friends of the patients, so he stationed him-
self where he could both see and hear a neighboring
church clock, in order that he might not lose a
moment, but be ready directly the clock struck three
to scamper up the grand stone steps. If anybody
had noticed him, they would probably have wondered
what made that small, ragged boy keep his eyes so
steadily fixed on the old stained face of the clock in the
grey stone tower; why or for whom he so tenderly
sheltered those few poor flowers from sun and wind.
Every face as it hurries past has a story graven on it,
though we may not be able to read it; happy is it if
sin and folly have not left their unmistakable and
disfiguring mark there. In Matt's face, weird though
it looked for his age, you seemed to read resolution
and honesty, but no one perhaps would have guessed
the kindness that lurked in the little beating heart
beneath that rough exterior; few would have read
his story right. Depend upon it there is oftentimes
a little bit of good to be found where we least expect
to find it, only we will not give ourselves the trouble
to search for it; in our harsh judgment of our fellow-
sinners we are too apt to cast them on one side as
bad all through. Never let us take for granted that
all the ragged little urchins who cross our paths are
hopeless thieves, and altogether incorrigible; rather
let us seek diligently for some germ of good, that we
may cultivate it, and nourish it, and make it meet,
through Christ's merits, for our Father's kingdom.
He makes the soft rain to fall as plentifully on the
little way-side wild flower as on the gayer and more
highly-prized garden flower. No less surely does
34 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
He watch over and care for the poor child in rags,
than He does for the pampered children in palaces.
'The poor ye have always with you,' are Christ's
own words, as if He meant to say, 'I have left them
in your charge, that ye may show your love to Me
through them.' It is perhaps little that we can do
for them, but if we only show sympathy, if we only
try to make their dull and patient lives brighter, if
we only offer 'the cup of cold water' to those for
whom Christ died, we may be sure that we are, though
very far behind, following our Great Example. Those
few poor flowers which Matt bought for Ilda carried
a gleam of gladness into her saddened life.
y Matt felt half lost and quite bewildered when he
Tound himself inside the hospital. Never before had
he seen any place so large and grand. It almost
frightened him to hear the echo of his own footsteps
as he crossed the spacious entrance-hall, and went up
the stone staircase, and along those lengthened pas-
sages they call corridors; and people's voices sounded
so strange and hollow, as they passed to and fro, he
wondered if his own voice would sound as queer, or
whether people who lived in such large houses had
large deep voices too. He could hardly believe that
his little Ilda was really staying in so grand a place;
he wondered how anybody could find the way about;
there were so niany turnings this way and that, and
such lots of doors. Matt thought it was lucky Ilda
had to be carried up, or she must have been lost; he
felt quite sure he should have been lost if the porter
had not led the way, and gone with him. By-and-
by they reached one of the women's wards; the porter
opened the door and pushed Matt inside, saying as
VISITING DAY AT THE HOSPITAL.
he did so, 'Mind, number six is the one you
'No I don't-I want Ilda,' replied Matt, but
before -the words were out of his mouth the porter
was gone, and Matt found himself standing alone,
not in the least knowing what to do or what to say.
All he could see was a long row of narrow beds on
either side of the large room, and in each people with
very pale faces, and lying so still and quiet, he fancied
they must be all dead. Matt could not make it out;
he was not in the least prepared to find Ilda in bed,
he thought he might see Ilda already able to run
about, or at all events sitting up in the nice clothes
the mission woman had given her. Ilda very soon,
of course, caught sight of Matt, and beckoned him to
come to her bedside; he felt as if his legs were tied,
just as one does sometimes in a dream, when one
tries to run and cannot move a step, and every eye
in all those endless-looking beds seemed to be staring
at him. The boards of the floor were so beautifully
clean and white, Matt was half afraid to walk on
them with his dusty feet, so he tip-toed across as
gingerly as if he were treading on spiders' webs.
Ilda looked very ill, but Matt did not notice it, as she
brightened up when she saw him.
Ilda told him he must not think she was ill
because she was in bed. The doctors only kept her
there that she might have perfect rest before they
could do anything for her. Ilda did not tell him
that they also said it would be a very long time
before she could go home again; she thought it would
dishearten him, and perhaps incline him to listen to
Foxie's advice and go off to sea. Ilda was so pleased
36 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
with the flowers, and said she should smell them
every day, and keep them for his sake, and the nurse,
who had already taken a great liking to Ilda, promised
she would bring her a little glass of water to put
'Oh,' said Matt, 'they ain't nothing to boast of,
only I thought you'd like 'em 'cause you was always
wishing we'd got some flowers in our window like
some of the other folk. I say, Ilda, when you come
out well won't we go down ever so far into the green
fields and get some regular jolly ones ? Foxie says
he gets handful of 'em when he goes to see his
Ilda did not like the sound of Foxie's name, but
she said nothing. Matt added, 'I'd have brought
you a cake, only I wasn't allowed to.'
'You dear old Matt It's very kind of you to think
of me; but I don't want no cakes here. I've lots
and lots of food. Now and then when I've more
than I seem to want, I do so wish you was with me
just to have a bit.'
Matt wished too he could have a bit, only he did
not say so. He did not want Ilda to guess how
hungry he felt sometimes.
After all Matt and Ilda did not seem to have much
to talk about. They were more than content, how-
ever, to look at each other. Matt very soon forgot
that there was anybody else in the ward besides
himself and Ilda,-by this time there were a great
many more persons, as nearly all the patients had
friends or relatives standing by their bedside, except
just here and there might be seen some poor creature
whom nobody came to visit, some lonely waif or stray
VISITING DAY AT THE HOSPITAL. 37
in the great city, far from home, or homeless and
friendless. Ilda thought how thankful she ought to
feel to have Matt to come and cheer her. Matt:was
thankful and happy too, judging from his quaint
little face, which seemed to smile all over with a sort
of convulsive twitch. Ilda wished those poor lonely
women had Matts of their own to visit them. She
would have offered them some of her flowers, only
she did not feel quite sure how Matt might like that.
* Matt was always amongst the earliest visitors in
the ward. He came so regularly, that after a while
the patients quite looked for the little fellow. It
would hardly have been like visiting-day if Matt
had failed to put in an appearance.
Ilda was satisfied as long as all went well with
Matt. Seeing him so often helped her to bear less
anxiously her forced absence from him and her home.
Dark as nip Doonm.
.Y-AND-BY Matt grew weary of
his everyday-life; it was dull
work to have nothing to do
but sell matches in the hot,
close streets, with never a
breath of fresh air; but what
could he do ? he never thought
of asking the mission woman
if she could find him any
employment. Foxie was always uppermost in his
mind; if he could only meet him he would be the
most likely person to put him up to some dodge for
getting a living. Matt did not quite seem to see
being a young sailor; he did not fancy being drowned,
as he had a vague idea all sailors must be sooner
or later; besides, he could not leave Ilda.
DARK AS MY DOOM.
'If I was drowned,' argued Matt with himself,
' why, there's this to be said for it, I shouldn't cost
nobody nothing to bury me.'
With this comforting thought, Matt rolled himself
up in his rags and fell asleep, quite content to leave
his future in Foxie's hands. In his ignorance Matt
knew no better; he knew nothing about prayer; he
had never been taught to pray,-he knew nothing of
God as his heavenly Father, nothing of His loving
care for all His children. Matt was something like
the swine feeding under wide-spreading oak trees;
they are ready enough to gobble up all the acorns,
and are never content till they have grubbed up all
the ground, to be quite sure they have got every one,
but they never once look up to the tree they fall
from. So Matt never once thought of looking up to
his heavenly Father, from whom all good things do
It happened that Foxie was the first person Matt
met the next morning. Matt was surprised to see
him, because he thought by this time he must be
gone to sea. Matt was turning out of the court where
he lived into the street, his hands full of match-
boxes; a sack thrown over his shoulder contained the
whole of his small stock. He hoped to sell them all,
and then, with a few coppers in his pocket, he
should be ready to make a new start of some sort.
Perhaps Foxie was bent on meeting Matt, for he was
loitering about the entrance of the court.
'At it still?' he said, with a sneer, catching sight
of the match-boxes.
'By the looks of it I s'pose I am,' replied Matt,
I thought you were off to sea?'
40 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
'So I ought to have been,' said Foxie, kicking
an oyster shell into the gutter in a do-nothing way.
'I should have been, but I and the captain fell out;
he was too inquisitive, and asked too many questions,
leastways I couldn't exactly answer them, so we split.'
'That's a regular go, ain't it?' said Matt, 'cause
you said it was an awful jolly life.'
Foxie was silent; it was a bad business. He could
not get a character, so of course the captain would
not engage him. He did not tell Matt this.
'You said, Foxie, going to sea would be awful
'Never mind that; all I know is, that there's
lots of ways of getting' your living a deal easier than
that; when a chap looks at it well in the face, it's no
Foxie stepped into the gutter, and tried to kick
the oyster shell out of it on to the pavement; he did
not succeed. He said, turning towards Matt,
'Look here, let me have some of your match-boxes,
and I'll try to sell them. Two's better than one.'
'I'm most tired of it, Foxie, I'm going to take to
'Well done, Matt, you speak like a man. Let's
be partners !'
Matt did not quite seem to see that, and said so.
'What I mean, Matt, is this. I don't want none of
your matches; they ain't in my line. I mean that
you and I should make a fresh start; we've neither of
us got anything to do that pays. A fellow who's got
to keep hisself must look to that. That's what I
always say to myself'
Matt was silent. What would Ilda think of his
DARK AS MY DOOM.
joining Foxie ? She wouldn't know anything about
what he was doing, now she was in the hospital;
besides, he needn't settle anything then and there.
He would think it over; there could not be any harm
in thinking of it.
But there was harm, only Matt was too ignorant
to see it. To think over anything wrong is harmful,
for it is very likely that thinking will lead to doing.
'The thought of foolishness is sin.'
Neither Foxie nor Matt said a word more about
becoming partners, although the idea was not given
up. The two boys had a merry time of it. Foxie
being a good salesman, they managed to sell the
whole of Matt's stock of matches. When Matt got
home he found he had not gained much after all, for
Foxie had made him stand treat for their supper,
and this had swallowed up Matt's profits. When
they parted, Matt returned to his solitary garret.
Foxie picked up a lodging where he could.
Things did not look promising when Matt awoke
the next morning; the empty sack was on the
floor, all the match-boxes gone, and he had no money
to buy any more! Almost before he rubbed open
his sleepy eyes Foxie appeared; he had heard of an
awfully good job for them both.
It's a rare bit of luck, Matt Foxie rubbed the
dirty palms of his hands together in anticipation
of a windfall.
'Can't go now,' said Matt, swinging his legs
independently. He was sitting on the table, more
than half determined to have nothing to do with
Foxie. The empty sack stared him in the face.
'Can't go now.'
42 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
'Can't go I why not? you haven't got anything
better, I warrant.'
'It's hospital afternoon,' persisted Matt.
What's hospital afternoon ?'
'It's visiting day, and I always go to see Ilda.'
'Oh, never mind that; she won't miss ye.' Matt
'Oh, well, I can't wait here all day whilst you're
making up your mind. If you won't come it's your
Foxie carried the day.
'Where's the harm ?' thought Matt. 'I shall be
home in lots of time to go to the hospital; besides, I
can tell Ilda all about it.'
He said, 'Foxie-I'll go.'
'Ah! ah! Matt, I guessed you was too much of
a man to give in. Catch up your sack and come
'It's' empty,' said Matt reproachfully. 'It'sempty.'
'I know that; so much the better, we shan't want
match-boxes. A sack is most always handy.'
Matt did not feel happy as he paced along by
Foxie's side. He seemed as if he had lost his
independence. Foxie was a masterful boy, and would
have his own way. Matt felt that already, and it
did not suit him, for all his short life he had been
a law unto himself.
The boys walked a considerable distance through
a part of London quite new to Matt, but Foxie was
never at a loss which turn to take. By-and-by
they threaded their way through a maze of dirty
narrow streets full of the dirtiest, shabbiest shops,
filled with old clothes of every description.
DARK AS MY DOOM.
'Where be we agoin'?' asked Matt, not liking
the appearance of the neighbourhood.
'Leave that to me,' said Foxie sharply.
At last Foxie came to a standstill.
'Here we are!' exclaimed Foxie. 'This is Soper's
Buildings. All we've got to do now is to hit upon
the old boy's shop.'
Who's the old boy ?' asked Matt.
Mr. Asser; he's an old Jew., You'll have to call
him Mr. Asser to his face-behid his back, he's the
"old boy," or anything you like.'
'It's a queer-looking place; why, there's nothing
but old clothes,' said Matt.
'Of course there isn't. You'll see bags and bags
of 'em before you be done with it. Don't you see
bags of old clothes mean money? You'll have to
sortl,'em, or something of that sort. Hush! hush!'
Matt was going to make some remark. 'Hush!
he'll hear yer! The old boy's a-peeping out of his
There stood the old Jew. Only his head was
visible, his body was hidden behind the second-
hand clothes hanging on the sides of his shop door.
It was a small, dark, wizened face, the nose thick and
large, but aquiline, beak-like. On his shoulders fell
his lank rusty grey hair, and rested there. Over his
breast hung a flowing grey beard. He was short,
and his figure bent, perhaps with the weight of the
heavy bags of old clothes which he had been carrying
for eight and thirty years and more.
Here, boys, here !' exclaimed the old man with a
strong German-Jew accent, waving his lean long-
fingered band. He had been on the look-out for
DARK AS MY DOOM.
them for some time, and began to be half afraid they
had been caught up by a rival dealer in old clothes.
Matt did not like the appearance of things, and
wished he had never come near the place.
'Come along, boys, step in quick.' So saying,
Mr. Asser took hold of the boys by the shoulder, and
pushed them inside, whether they would or not.
Matt thought it was a 'queer place.'
/ 'Listen, boys, to what I've got to say. Old do'
line isn't what it was. Where we make one pound
now, twenty years ago we made five pounds. People
wear cheap clothes now, pity, pity!'--He shook his
head slowly-' and folks undersell us, and take all
the trade away. They've no pity for me; they say,
" Old Jew, go back to Jerusalem." I say No." I
leave that place for the Rabbis. I shan't better
myself by changing London for Jerusalem. I came
from Germany. I've been for many years going
about, here, there, and everywhere. I made a little
money'-he put the tips of his fingers almost close
to each other to express how very little-' and then
set up for myself here. You see, boys, it isn't a bad
trade;' he looked round the shop and pointed to the
heaps of old clothes. 'It's a good trade to learn,
you require no capital.' Matt wondered what that
meant. 'I don't go hawking now; I've given that
up, that's what I want a sharp lad for.' Foxie
looked his sharpest; the shop was so dark the ex-
pression was lost upon the old man. 'I want him
to go round the streets and old squares; they are the
best pitches; you know what I mean by the best
pitches'-he fixed his dull, blear eyes on Foxie-
'to buy old do'. I'd give a sharp boy-let me see
46 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
-Mr. Asser, old do' business isn't what it was-I'd
give a very sharp boy'-both boys held their breath
-'I'd give-take care, Mr. Asser, you will ruin
yourself-I'd give ten shillings the month; that is
very fine pay, very.' He clutched hold of Foxie's
arm. 'Will you serve me for that? I will give you
board and lodgin' into the bargain; there's plenty of
sleeping room under that counter for one dozen
boys.' Foxie nodded his head, and said he waswilling.
'Ten shillings the month,' repeated Mr. Asser;
'for that you must go round the pitches and buy
old do'. Sharp boy never gives more than he can
help. Very sharp boy asks no questions about
what he buys; he takes it all into the bargain.
Then I touch them up, make them look like new,
and poor old Jew don't get thirty shillings for a
whole suit. Little enough, ain't it?'
He shook his head mournfully, and stroked his
Matt wondered what he was to receive.
'And you, little one, you shall have five shillings
the month. Eh?'
Matt felt and looked disappointed; the old man
guessed his thoughts, and exclaimed,
'What! Five shillings and board and lodging
not enough? I never! And all that for doing
nothing but mind the shop, and sort old do' when it
comes in; that very amusing, because you never
know what comes next! For the first month I will
give you instead of money a whole suit of clothes,
very nice ones, p'raps a little bit too big; that is good
for a growing boy. I will just sell your own rags to
DARK AS MY DOOM. 47
Matt was half inclined to say he would not stop, but
Foxie nudged his elbow, whispering behind his hand,
'Times is bad, Matt, you'd best-take his offer.'
Matt remembered his empty sack, and told Mr.
Asser that would do very well for the present. 'And
now,' said Matt to himself, 'I'll go and tell Ilda.'
Matt cast a sly glance at his sleeping quarters under
the counter; he did not see room for a dozen boys, as
the old Jew had described it, but to have a roof over
his head was more than boys of his class could boast of.
'And now, Mr. Asser,' he said 'I'll go to see Ilda-'
'What!' exclaimed the old man, 'stop, "stop;
what is that you are saying ?'
'Going? What do you mean? You are my boy.!
you cannot go away. I should like to see you go.
All those bags must be sorted, that is your work;
you go away and leave me to do it myself? Oh no.'
Whilst Matt was looking away, the old man con-
trived to lock the shop door, slipping the key into
his deep side pocket.
Matt cut but a sorry figure in the old clothes Mr.
Asser looked out for him; he didn't fancy himself in
them a bit. He said,
'These here ain't a fit.'
'Not a fit! Bless me! What does a growing
boy like you want with a fit ? You will very soon fill
them out-very soon want a man's suit. Why do
you stand idling there ? You grumble about your
beautiful clothes, you no good to nobody, you go
Gladly would Matt have taken him at his word,
but, as he found out, it was but an empty threat.
48 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE
Matt thought selling matches dull and dreary
work, emptying and sorting bag after bag of rags
and old clothes was much worse. Everything had to
be examined and well shaken, lest some lurking coin
or treasure had been overlooked. Many a time the
old man had found loose money or other articles of
more or less value in the pockets of left-off clothes.
He always quieted his conscience with the thought,
'Poor old Jew gave a very honest price, so all he
finds he takes into the bargain.' He never hinted
anything of the kind to Matt, lest he should pocket
the money himself. Matt was only too glad to
shuffle the clothes quickly away; the eagle-eyed old
man was too sharp for him, and the things had often
to be caught back again.
'Bless me! You call yourself sharp; I call you
very stupid. You are not worth half five shillings.'
He shook his head out of pity to himself.
Matt wished over and over again that Mr. Asser
would dismiss him, but he never did.
It was quite late before the shop was closed, and
Matt sent out to put up the shutters. A good deal
of business was transacted by gaslight; one flickering
jet was all the light Mr. Asser indulged in. He
preferred anything to broad daylight. Very little
sunshine ever found its way over his threshold, or
through his small darkened windows. Touched-up
clothes looked best in a dim- light. It was not his
fault if people found out spots and blemishes when
they looked at them at home. .Then. again, persons
who dealt with him did not care to be. seen going
in or coming out of the old Jew's shop with mys-
terious bundles under their.- rhs ::IA fact, the chief
DARK AS MY DOOM.
part of his trade was carried on by the dusky glimmer
of that one gas-light. Matt heard nothing of what
went on, for customers were shown into a small inner
room, not much larger than a cupboard, and there
the bargain was struck. If those four walls could
speak, they would tell many a tale of woe! Of
aching hearts selling, for half its value, the very coat
off their backs to satisfy the hungry cravings of their
starving children, or perhaps to purchase some scanty
comfort for a sick or dying wife. Those walls could
tell of hard hearts, sin-hardened-of consciences that
never prick-dead consciences-of dealers in dark
unlawful deeds, who sought out the old Jew in that
inner room, to rid themselves at any cost of their ill-
gotten goods. They knew full well he would drive a
hard bargain, but as a set-off he asked no questions.
Matt saw nothing more of Foxie that day. He and
Mr. Asser seemed perfectly to understand each other.
No doubt he was out doing his master's bidding;
he did not even return there to sleep. Matt wished
he had, for it was dismal work sleeping alone in the
dingy shop under the counter, half smothered in its
close stifling atmosphere. All night Matt heard the
rats running round and round between the walls. A
hundred times he wished he was in his own shabby
garret. The old man slept in the inner room. Matt
did not dare awaken him, but he longed to ask him
if the rats ever came out into the shop. Once in a
half-frightened low tone he called 'Mr. Asser,' but
the only reply he got was, 'They are mine! they are
mine!' Matt supposed he owned the rats as well as
the old clothes.
tbarb to Jear.
LDA fixed her eager eyes long and
earnestly on the door of the ward
each time it opened, expecting as
usual to see Matt's familiar figure.
But when he did not appear
amongst the first comers, a feel-
ing of dread crept over her which
seemed to tell her she would not
see him that afternoon. The
friends of the patients came and
w nt away, but no Matt. It was the first time
since her admittance into the hospital that he
had been absent. He had come so regularly and
HARD TO BEAR.
punctually, the patients in the ward. quite missed
the little ragged fellow, and felt .sorry that poor
Ilda should be disappointed. People in an hospital
soon learn to sympathize with each other's suffer-
ings; it is the only topic of,conversation in which
they have an interest' in common. Ilda's gentle
patience won for her many friends. The nurse
felt especially for her, for she knew so well that
Matt's visits were the one solitary golden thread on
which the dull and dreary days of her life were strung.
'Wherever's that little idle brother of yours gone
to, my dear ? I seem quite to miss the patter of his
bare feet, that I do; of course he may come yet, but
if he don't look sharp he won't have time to. say a
word.' As she spoke nurse turned her eyes towards
the clock, and found it had already warned the hour
for clearing the visitors out of the ward.
'I'm sure he won't come now,' replied Ilda
mournfully. 'Something's the matter, or he'd never
stay away. Matt isn't a cruel boy; he was never
that. It would be cruel to leave me all alone,
wouldn't it, nurse ?'
'I daresay, dear, lying as you do day after day on
this bed, things look different to you than to strong
and healthy folks. I shouldn't have thought of
calling it cruel. Boys will be boys. I know they
will, for I've had boys of my own, and they were as
idle as any little chaps you'd meet with. I daresay
your Matt got idling and playing about with some
boys in the street, and forgot how the time went.'
Ilda hoped Foxie had not enticed him away.
'He promised he'd bring me some flowers to-day.
Matt knows how I love flowers.'
52 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
Now did he ? p'raps he couldn't, meet with any
cheap enough to suit his purse.' Nurse tried to
make Ilda laugh at the idea of his having a purse;
she did not succeed. 'P'raps he couldn't get any;
it's late for flowers, and I expect Matt hasn't always
a spare penny.'
He'd come, flowers or no flowers, I'm sure he
would; that makes me certain something bad has
'Of course there's lots of things, my dear, that
happens to boys; but if IPwas you, I'd put on a
cheerful face, and not go looking on the worst side.
Boys are that venturesome, if they hadn't cats' lives
there wouldn't be a livin' boy; what with getting'
drowned and run over, and-there-I'm sure many's
the times my blood has run cold in my veins to see
em running by the side of busses and carriages,
a-tumblin' head-over-heels just for the sake of a
copper! And I've said to myself, "There's a job for
we." And your Matt, as you say, is that independent,
that there's no knowing what he's up to; it wouldn't
be a wonder if he got his head, to say nothing of his
little spare body, jammed under a wheel.'
Ilda winced at the thought, and covered her eyes
at the bare possibility of such a catastrophe happen-
ing to poor Matt.
'Now dear, I must go and get the tea ready.
Hark! 'tis striking four! he can't come now. Cheer
up! and don't let me see any more tears when I
come back. Visiting day '11 soon be round again,
and then Matt will be sure to turn up.
In spite of nurse's injunctions, Ilda buried her
face in her pillow and had a good cry. When nurse
HARD TO BEAR.
came back, the tears were all wiped away; but her
red-rimmed wistful eyes told their own tale. Nurse
saw the guilty traces; she said nothing, she pitied
Ilda, and thought she should have cried too if she
were in Ilda's place. There is One, our Heavenly
Father, who is always touched with the feeling of
our sorrows and infirmities; it was to Him Ilda was
being led step by step, just as a little tottering child
is taught to walk, first this foot and then that, until,
all peril over, it reaches its father's arms and is safe.
Ilda was being led on this wise through suffering-
bodily suffering. When she entered the hospital
she had much to suffer; the doctors feared lest her
small stock of strength would utterly fail under the
necessary treatment, but after a time she rallied and
seemed on a fair way to recovery. It was during
those long dreary hours of pain and weary restless-
ness that the good mission woman, who had got her
into the hospital, visited her from time to time, and
talked to her of Jesus.
'You are very suffering to-day, I fear, Ilda,' she
said, as she came to her bed-side. 'I can see it in
'Can you?' said Ilda. 'I don't want anybody
to know how bad I feel, because it's unkind to com-
plain and make it dull for others, so I try to hide
my pain; but you always seem as if you could look
into me-through and through.'
'I can only guess at your sufferings, my poor child;
I only judge by your face-I may be wrong, but
Jesus knows every ache and pain that we suffer.'
You told me Jesus died to save us from all our
sins; but you said, after He had done that, He went
54 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
back again to His home in heaven. That's such a
long way off. Can He see all the way down into
this sick ward ?'
. 'Yes, dear child, that He can; and what is much
more comforting, He does. He not only sees all we
suffer, but He feels for us and with us.'
'Feels for us ? not for poor me ?'
Ilda held her breath for very wonder.
'Yes, He feels for you and for me, and for every-
body in this ward. Jesus suffered every earthly
pain that He might be able to understand what we
suffer. Yes; He suffered-suffered greater agonies
than it is possible for any of us t6: s le r. He wvas a
suffering Saviour, that He might be able to sym-
pathize with us. He suffered on the cross for our
sins; He took our nature upon Him. He became
like one of us, only He was without sin. He bore
the punishment of our sins-in our stead, the inno-
cent for the guilty. If we would be like Jesus, we
too must suffer-be made perfect through suffering.
We needn't look beyond this ward for proofs that
this is a world of suffering. Blessed are those whose
sufferings are sanctified to the good of their souls.'
'It's beautiful to think Jesus-knows all about our
pain. I think somehow I shall be able to bear it
better, now Jesus feels for me. I shouldn't like
Him to see me peevish and impatient, or to make
Him sad after all He has suffered for me; only my
poor legs ache so dreadful sometimes, I can't help
'Tell Jesus of your pain, dear, and He will give
you rest if it be His will.'
'Nurse says she hopes the pain will soon be less,
HARD TO BEAR.
and p'raps go quite away. Wouldn't that be grand?
It will be Jesus who takes it away, won't it?'
'Yes, dear, it will. There is a happy time coming
when we shall never suffer any more, when we go to
'I shouldn't know myself without all my aches
and pains,' said Ilda, sighing as she thought of all
she was still suffering.
'You remind me, Ilda, of a poor old man who had
suffered agonies all his life from a bad leg. When
I told him he would never feel a throb of pain in
heaven, he exclaimed, "Dear I dear! I shan't believe
I'm myself with two whole legs !"'
'Don't the angels feel pain ?' asked Ilda.
'No; they are pure spirits, and therefore cannot
suffer. That is why they cannot sympathize with
us as Jesus does. As I said, there isn't a throb of
agony or woe that He doesn't feel. Just as our
heads feel every pain in our bodies, so Jesus, who is
our Head, feels every pain that we the members of
His body undergo. The angels rejoice with us. Our
Bible tells us so,-there is joy with the angels over
one sinner that repenteth; but they understand
nothing of suffering-that is a mystery to them. I
once heard of a grand picture, in a foreign land, in
which a beautiful angel is represented as playing
with the crown of thorns which had fallen from the
head of Jesus.'
'Please tell me about it. How I should like to
see a picture of a real angel !'
'I will try to describe it just as it was told to me.
It was a very sad scene, for there was the empty
cross-fhe body of Jesus had just been taken down
56 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
to be laid in the new tomb in the beautiful garden,
the stains of the bloody sweat were left on the cross;
in front stood the angel in a white robe pure and
dazzling. She held the crown of thorns in one hand,
with the other she was pressing the spines, thorns
we call them, to see if it would hurt her fingers;
but she could feel no pain! That is why we shall
never feel a throb of pain, or shed a tear in heaven,
because our sinful nature will have been, through
the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, so changed
that we shall be like the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.'
'Oh dear, dear! How I wish Matt was here. I
wish he could hear you talk; poor boy, he knows
nothing about Jesus, nothing of heaven. I did once
try to tell him that you said we had a Father up in
heaven who was ever so kind to poor children, but
he said he'd never heard the like of it before, and
couldn't understand what I was talking' about. He
would not even listen. I'm so ignorant I can't put
words together properly. I think if you spoke to him
he'd be able to make it all out quite easy. 'Twas
all a sort of puzzle to me when first you tried to
teach me, but now it seems just as clear as if I saw
it all with my eyes.'
'I can never catch Matt at home, so I have had
no opportunity of talking to him. I have been
several times to the house to pay the rent, but Matt
has always been out.'
The mission woman did not tell Ilda that the last
time she called she heard that Matt went off one
morning with a boy he called Foxie, and had never
been seen since.
'You must pray for poor Matt, Ilda. Ask Jesus
HARD TO BEAR.
to go and seek the lost sheep and bring him into
the fold; tell Jesus that the poor boy doesn't know
his way home-ask Him to take Matt by the hand
and lead him back, as you have been led-'
'Through suffering,' said Ilda, in a half whisper.
'It would be better for him to suffer ever so much
than never to find Jesus.'
'Yes, dear child, that is true, our Bible tells us so.
If we would be called to eternal glory by Jesus
Christ, who Himself was made perfect through
suffering, we too must suffer. The God of all grace,
who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ
Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you
perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.
Ilda was silent; she sighed deeply. She felt the
conscious blessedness of the kingdom of God set up
in her own heart, and she longed for Matt to find
what she herself had found-but oh, if it might be
without his suffering some great pain I If she heard
that he had met with a terrible accident, she would
blame herself for having almost courted suffering for
him as the means of leading him to Jesus.
That night, in the quiet stillness of the ward, when
there was no sound but the heavy breathing of the
patients, Ilda turned her wistful face heavenwards;
lifting up her heart, she asked Jesus to go and fetch
poor Matt, and lead him home.
EANWHILE Matt lived on with
the old Jew. To Matt's way
S of thinking, he was not doing
S badly. He had become used
to the rats; he had almost for-
gotten them. They never ven-
tured near him. He began even
to persuade himself that it was
rather cheerful than otherwise
to hear them careering round
and round the shop, fast and noisily, as with the
regular tramp of a troop of cavalry. Besides, boy-
like, he slept soundly from the moment he curled him-
self up under the counter, until his master kicked him
awake the next morning. Half awake, Matt was very
soon to be seen,with Mr. Asser at his heels, taking down
Out of the V~igbt 100b.
OUT OF THE RIGHT ROAD. 59
the outside shutters. This done, Matt had to trim
the door, which meant hanging up the old clothes on
each side of it. Matt had never yet been able to get
home, or even to see Ilda. Mr. Asser always said
he was too busy to spare him until the evening, and
then of course it was too late. This.did not trouble
Matt, as he had sent a message to Ilda, telling her
where he was, and why he could not visit her, by a
woman who came into the shop one day, and said
she had a daughter in the same hospital, and she
believed, in the same ward. Matt never knew the
woman had made a mistake in the hospital, and that
therefore his message did not reach Ilda. On the
whole, the old Jew was not an unkind or austere
master. As long as Matt served his purpose, he
meant to keep him, but he never paid him without
a struggle. As he pulled the old sample bag which
held his money out of his pocket, it seemed to cause
him as much agony as if he were drawing the very
life-blood out of his heart. Matt fancied himself rich
when he received a real silverhalf-crown, his first wages.
Foxie was already promoted. Instead of toiling
along with a sack of old rags at his back, Mr. Asser
had provided him with a truck and a bell, such a
shrill-sounding one, to warn people of his approach,
and to bid them be ready with anything they had to
dispose of. Once or twice, when Foxie expected a
heavyload, Mr. Asser allowed Matt to go round the
pitches with him. Matt enjoyed this; it was such
fun to have nothing' to do but keep on ringing the
bell. Foxie was fast getting the whip hand of him,
whispering into his ear evil counsels and sore
temptations. Matt was a ready listener. When he
60 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
shewed Foxie the first half-crown he had earned as
wages, he expected Foxie's eyes would sparkle at the
sight of it, but he was disappointed.
'Well ? what of that?' asked Foxie, in a don't-
care, off-hand tone, as if half-crowns were quite
familiar to him.
It's half-a-crown ain't that awful good ?'
'No, I don't see much in half-a-crown. I pick
up lots more than my wages. I couldn't live on
them; it wouldn't pay. What I find, I keep. I
found this here in a pocket the other day. I ain't
clever enough to pick pockets. I found it amongst
the old clothes I was gathering the other day for Mr.
Asser. I shan't say nothing to the old boy about it
-mind you don't.'
'Tisn't yours,' said Matt.
'Mind your own business. Mr. Asser takes
precious good care not to tell anybody when he
meets with a bit of luck like that, so why should I ?
He taught me the dodge by seeing him do it. He
can't complain, only if he knew I prigged what
wasn't mine-nor his either by good rights-he'd
come down pretty sharp upon me, so mind-don't
Matt was silent. He tried to persuade himself
Foxie was right, and he almost succeeded. Such is
the force of evil, and the danger of a bad example.
Whilst Ilda was praying for Matt that he might
be sought and found, he seemed to be going further
and further out of the right road.
One day, not long after this, Matt was sorting
some old clothes. He felt something in one of the
pockets; he thrust his hand in, deep down, and there
62 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
he found a shilling. Foxie's words, What I find, I
keep,'. still rang in his ears-it is so easy to remem-
ber bad advice-why not slip it into his own pocket ?
He could do it easily, for at that moment his master
was turning his back, and reckoning what he had
given for those very clothes, chuckling over the hard
bargain he had driven. Matt could easily slip the
money into his own pocket, and nobody be the wiser.
As he thought, his fingers itched to do it. Happily
for him, he was led away from the temptation; the
shilling slipped out of his clumsy fingers-so Foxie
would have called them-down on to the floor! The
old Jew's quick ears caught the sound in a moment.
To him the jingle of money was sweet as music; he
turned sharply round, exclaiming,
'What's that I hear? What? Money? You
have no right with money. Bad boy! You are
going to cheat me, you good-for-nothing boy! Give
me the money directly, and turn out your pockets, or
I will fetch the police.'
In vain Matt protested he was innocent; that he
meant to give him the money when he had picked
it up. The old Jew stormed. Dishonest himself,
he suspected everybody else. He would not listen
to Matt, but gave him a sound box on the ear, which
almost sent him reeling on to the floor. The poor
boy's heart was hardened. Foxie's advice was good
after all, so Matt argued within himself; the next
time"he found anything, if he had the opportunity,
he would keep it.
Matt was drifting fast away into Foxie's dishonest
ways; his conscience, almost dead, sleeping a death-
sleep. The devil likes to see consciences sound
OUT OF THE RIGHT ROAD.
asleep. He never rouses a.sleeping conscience. He
says, 'Don't wake him-let him alone, let him sleep
on to the end.' Our prayer should ever be-
'Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death-
spiritual death.' Poor Matt knew nothing of prayer,
and so Matt's conscience slept on.
Foxie and Matt became fast friends. Foxie was a
willing teacher, Matt an apt scholar. No wonder
Foxie found it easy to persuade him to see things in
his light. It suited Foxie's purpose to think evil
good, and good evil, and Matt knew no better.
Poor Ilda was set aside, and almost forgotten. Why
should she be angry with him ? Boys could, not be
tied to a girl's apron-strings; that was not the way
to get on. Boys had to earn their own living, and
must have their wits about them. They would
soon save enough money to set up on their own
account. Mr. Asser would have no right to interfere
with this scheme. Foxie knew of plenty of good
pitches without poaching on his. At the thought
of this Matt clapped his hands, and gave a long,
shrill, approving whistle.
'Wouldn't Ilda be surprised to see him with
truck and a bell all his own, with a pocketful of
coppers into the bargain.'
Matt went so far as to suggest to Foxie that they
ought to be on the look-out for a suitable truck
which they might buy.
'Time enough for that, Matt, when we've got the
money. You must have patience.'
Matt's countenance fell, and so did his spirits. He
did not like waiting, and thought patience a hard
lesson to learn.
Ool spoils all.
T was a stormy night. Wild clouds
/ chased each other across the
S sky. The moon shone with
V1\ bright but false promise through
the rifts in the dark clouds.
-. The rain beat petulantly against
the window-panes. The ill-fitting
shutters and the old shop-door
rattled as the fitful wind gusts swept
by whistling weird music through
every crack and cranny. The old Jew was sound
asleep in his back room, the roaring wind did not
disturb him. He slept more heavily than usual.
Nothing troubled him as long as he clutched
his cherished canvas-bag of money with a firm
GOLD SPOILS ALL.
miserly grasp. Constantly talking in his sleep, he
would mutter, 'It's mine,' his ruling passion, love
of money, strong even in sleep. A dim gas-light
flickered above his head; he never slept in the dark.
He had a vague idea that the shop-boy would rob
him or steal something out of the bags if he had no
light; perhaps his conscience troubled him. Be this
as it may, the light was never put out. It was so
placed that in a moment, if needs be, he could by
raising his arm turn it up to any height. Matt was
wide awake, crouched nose and-knees together under
the counter, not listening to the wind and rain; he
cared nothing for storms that night. He was busy
with his own thoughts, uneasy thoughts of a secret,
deep-laid plot, which Foxie had planned, and Matt
had promised to help him carry out. Matt was
not listening to the wind; he was straining his ear to
catch the sound of a long shrill whistle, the signal
that Foxie was waiting outside. Matt's heart beat
madly; he held his jacket tightly round his little
body, hoping that would keep it still; but it did not.
His heart went on beating, beating all the same.
How he wished he had never seen Foxie-never
listened to him, never promised-it was too late
now The shilling Foxie had given him to tempt
him seemed to burn his fingers when he touched it;
he wished it would burn a hole in his pocket, burn its
way out of it, and leave him free to be honest and
true! It all seemed to Matt like a horrid dream !
If he could only awake and find it was! The dim
gleam of gas-light streaming through the shop fell
on the rusty lock of the old door; the key was in the
lock, the old man left it there now; he thought he
66 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
could trust Matt-the key was in the lock, 'Why,
thought Matt, 'shouldn't I unlock the door and run
away ?' Quick as thought Matt swung his boots
over his shoulder and noiselessly tip-toed towards the
door, and reached it! One minute more he will be
safe and beyond Foxie's power. He turns the key-
hark! it is only the whistling of the wind! Matt
listens and holds his breath; it is Foxie Matt hears
the long shrill whistle, he is at the door; Matt is too
'Let me in, Matt,' whispered Foxie through the
key-hole. There was no need for Matt to obey him,
a sudden gust of wind forced the door open.
'Have ye done it?' said Foxie excitedly.
'Where's the bag with the money ? Be quick, you
little fool, or the wind will blow out the gas and
wake up the old fellow.'
'I couldn't do it, Foxie, I couldn't!' stammered
Foxie saw how things stood in a moment. The
prize was not yet his. The plot was not so easily
carried out as he had imagined. Pushing Matt aside
roughly, he crept stealthily into the back room. The
old Jew was muttering in his sleep, 'It's mine, mine!'
but the bag of money is no longer in his hand, it has
fallen down on the floor.
'Never was anything so lucky!' thought Foxie.
He stooped to seize the bag. 'Won't the old boy be
savage when he wakes up and finds all his money
gone ? and a jolly lot of it too.'
The bag was so heavy he couldn't pull it away;
he'd give one more good tug, it must come then-
no, in the dim light of the room he had not noticed
GOLD SPOILS ALL.
that although the bag was on the floor, it was
attached to the old man's arm by a strong but almost
invisible brass chain.
lit: tl, -i, hi
'i.,rus pull to
secure the money
had awakened him. Foxie would have rushed
to the door and made his escape, but Mr. Asser
jumped up and seized him by the arm.
'Ah ah! Foxie, I am not so easily robbed as you
think You Gentile dog, you meant to run off with
68 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
my money as easy as a cat with a mouse! Poor
old Jew is not such a big fool as that! Ah !- ah
Master Foxie, I have got you safe! You cannot get
away now. Ah! ah! I suppose little Matt let
you in, very nice-one little boy inside, one big boy
outside. I dare say he knows nothing about it; he is
sound asleep under the counter, ha! ha!' so saying,
the old man gave a good kick under the counter,
where he expected Matt was curled up, pretending
to be fast asleep, but no Matt was there; he had
rushed to the open door and escaped unobserved,
whilst Foxie was tip-toeing into the back room to
steal Mr. Asser's bag of money.
Mr. Asser looked narrowly round the shop, to be
sure that Matt was not hidden behind any of the
goods, and to satisfy himself that he had not run off
with any of his property. It was too dark to see
much; he did not care what was missing as long as
his precious canvas-bag was safe.
Foxie pretended to be very sorry for. what he had
done, for having frightened Mr. Asser; he tried hard
to persuade him that it was only a joke and a hoax,
and entreated the old man to let him off, promising,
if he would, never to do such a thing again; but Mr.
Asser would not listen to him.
'No, no! Master Foxie. Mr. Asser knows better
than to trust your promises; they would soon be
broken, and the poor old Jew robbed, and very likely
murdered! Of course Master Foxie would say he
was very sorry indeed; that it was only another joke
No, no! Mr. Asser has lived too long in this wicked
world to believe in such jokes. You meant to rob
the poor old Jew, and leave him a beggar! You say
you could not hurt a hair of my beard ? Very likely;
GOLD SPOILS ALL.
you are a kind-hearted boy, I dare say but you have
already done me bodily harm, you cracked the skin
of my wrist when you pulled so hard, and tried to
get my bag away; that is no joke! To break into
my shop was no joke; you say the wind blew open
the door ? no such thing. The wind is no blacksmith,
the wind cannot pick locks You say Matt did it ?
No, no! You tempted and' enticed that poor boy.
You want to make him as big a thief as yourself.
You told him to open the door, and then you and the
wind came in together. A very fine joke, no doubt.
You like a good joke, and so do I. My joke will be
to take you to the police court-no use to cry-'
The old man turned away his head and placed
his hand before his eyes. 'No use to cry; I will
have you up before the magistrate, and get you well
punished; it will just serve you right, just teach you,
Master Foxie, that honesty is the best policy.
People are very fond of saying all poor old Jews are
cheats; I will shew them that Gentile boys are worse,
that I will.'
Matt started off in a fast run when he was fairly
outside the old Jew's shop. He ran up this street
and down that, turning corners, never stopping to
take breath or think where he was going; never dar-
ing to look behind, lest he should see either Foxie or
the old Jew in hot pursuit. Matt cared not whither
he went, he would go anywhere rather than return
to the dirt and dust of the old clothes shop in that
glum and gloomy street. At last, completely tired
out, he sat down and fell asleep. When Matt awoke
at daybreak, he fancied he must have been dreaming.
Perhaps it was all an ugly dream. Perhaps after
all there was no- Mr. Asser, no old clothes shop.
70 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
Perhaps he dreamt he was to go quietly in the
dead of night into that back room, and steal the old
man's money; that Foxie was to wait for him outside
the shop, that they were to divide the money between
them and buy a truck, and-Matt rubbed his eyes
and thrust his hands into his pockets; they were
empty-no money there-only a shilling-the very
shilling Foxie gave him to tempt him to rob the old
man. It was no dream- it was all too true. Matt
wondered whether Foxie had got all the money him-
self without disturbing Mr. Asser-wondered what he
would do with it, wondered if he would be angry with
him for running away, wondered what would become
of Foxieif Mr. Assercaught him before he could escape;
very likely he would be sent to prison! A cold shiver
ran all down Matt's back at the thought of prison.
Foxie would be sure to say he gave Matt a shilling to
rob his master, and people would say he was as bad as
Foxie, and send him to prison too. Matt thought
he had better not sit any longer on that door-step, a
policeman might come by and notice him, and tell him
he had no business there. Matt had known many a
boy taken up by a policeman for 'not having no-
thing to do, and no home in particular,' so Matt
hurried on, as if bent on some especial errand. He
wished his errand was to go to the hospital to see
Ilda; he had lived such a queer life lately he scarcely
knew how the days and weeks went. He had almost
forgotten the days of the week, almost forgotten
which was the visiting day-that did not much
matter, for he felt as if he could not face Ilda. So
Matt hurried on no whither, till he found himself in
the, midst of a crowd outside a police-court. The
pavement was filled with groups of people, friends of
GOLD SPOILS ALL.
the prisoners, mostly women; a good many carried
babies. Some of their heads were tied up; all were
passionately arguing about the case to be heard,
from their own point of view. One or two rushed
into court ready with tragic gesture to give eager
evidence. Others went in quietly as listeners, or
from curiosity. Matt thought he would just like
to see what was going on, so he followed a woman,
and found himself in the so-called gallery, a square
box with benches, and capable of holding about
thirty persons. They were mostly friends of the
prisoners. In front of the gallery was a narrow
passage, where a very big policeman stood. Matt's
heart beat terribly when he saw him, and wished he
had not been so foolish as to venture into court.
There was no getting out, the gallery was so crowded;
being only a small boy, he had been pushed and
pushed aside until he became jammed up into a
corner. No doubt if Matt had had a good clean
conscience the policeman would not have looked
nearly so big. A bad conscience magnifies every-
thing and makes cowards of us all. Next to the
passage where the policeman stood was the prisoner's
dock, then an open space, with a table and seats for
the solicitors and clerks. The magistrates' desks and
seats were surrounded by red curtains. Matt
looked at the magistrate with a great deal of awe,
for the woman who sat next to him said,
'That's the man who's got the power to lock up
we poor folks, aye, and gentry too sometimes.'
Matt found it dull work listening to other people's
quarrels, but there was no getting out, so he leaned
arms on the front rail of the gallery, buried his face
in his hands, and almost fell asleep, he was so weary.
Gloom upon Bleam.
THE sound of a familiar voice soon
'That is mine, that is mine I'
muttered old Mr. Asser, as he
shuffled into the witness-box.
Matt raised his aching head, and
opened his heavy eyes, and then
hebeheld the old Jew! Strange
sight! but stranger still, in
the prisoners' dock stood Foxie !
Matt trembled all over. There was no escape. His
only hope was the darkness of the corner into which
he had been pushed. A very stout woman sat next
to him; in her eagerness to catch what was said, she
leaned forward, and hid him behind her ponderous
body. Matt shrunk back as far as possible, and held
GLOOM UPON CLEAM.
his breath. Matt felt he did not know how. The
court seemed to go round and round, and everybody
to be reeling about, and mixed up altogether. The
magistrate and the red curtains, the policeman and
Foxie, the old Jew's grey beard seemed to be growing
on everybody's chin but his own, and no wonder, for
Matt's head had turned giddy.
The sound of his own name soon brought Matt
to his senses. Mr. Asser was saying something
about 'that bad boy, Matt Tuffin,' having run away,
that he was an accomplice, and he only wished he
knew where to lay hands on him. Matt could have
sunk through the floor of the'gallery; he felt so afraid
the old Jew would look up and spy him out. Matt
heard very little more, he was so terrified. The case
was soon disposed of. Matt was quite clear on one
point, and thatwas,that the magistrate sentenced Foxie
to three months' imprisonment with hard labour.
'That just serves him right,' observed the stout
woman with satisfaction, addressing herself to nobody
in particular. As she spoke she drew herself back,
and, to Matt's great relief, he saw Mr. Asser shuffling
out of court, and out of sight. Foxie's case was the
last on; the court rose, and Matt was only too glad
to escape undiscovered. Just as he stepped out of
the door on to the pavement, he saw Foxie jumping
jauntily into the prisoners' van. There was a scowl on.
his face as he looked round on the jeering crowd. Matt
fancied that Foxie caught sight of him, for he jerked
his head familiarly on one side, and for the moment
his lips relaxed into a weird grin. The policeman
slammed the door, and Matt saw nothing more of Foxie.
The stout woman, Matt's neighbour in the gallery,
74 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
stood close to the van, with arms akimbo, to watch
it drive off; she was airing her opinion in a loud
voice, for the special benefit of the bystanders.
'It serves that wicked young chap just right, it
do. I only wish the other boy had been caught, and
clapped in too, for no one can call their property
their own, as long as there's such a lot of bad boys
running loose about the streets.'
'Well, yes,' said a man standing close by, with his
hands in his pockets, for safety sake, 'he deserved
it, but if his master had taught him by example, it's
a great deal better than precept; if he'd only set the
poor boy a good example, I guess he would never
have tried to steal that money, and never been in
that van. I ain't sure that the old Jew isn't the
most to blame after all. If the magistrate had
spoken a bit sharper to him, I should have liked him
all the better. The other boy, Matt Tuffin, may think
himself precious lucky to have got off free; he slipped
the collar nicely. I should hope he'll learn a lesson
from it, and keep his hands from picking and stealing.
It's always a bad job when a little chap goes snacks
with an older boy; mischief is sure to come of it.'
Matt heard so far, but no more; he was dreadfully
afraid that that man who seemed so familiar with his
name might somehow find out who he was, so he hur-
ried away, and was soon lost in the crowd of passers-by.
The old Jew shuffled home as quickly as those old
boots of his would allow him to go-muttering to
himself all the way. He was glad Foxie had got
three months' imprisonment and hard labour, it
would do him good, and was just the punishment
the boy deserved; but, on the other hand, he did
GLOOM UPON GLEAM.
not know what to do without him. Foxie suited his
purpose exactly, for he knew almost as well as he
did himself how to drive a good bargain. Mr. Asser
had lost Matt too; that was a bad job, he had got him so
very cheap. Perhaps he would return; if so, he would
forgive him, and take him back on trial-of course
with less wages, because he had-forgiven him, and so,
for the poor old Jew, good would come out of evil.
Day after day, old Mr. Asser stood at his shop-
door, looking up and down the street, watching and
waiting, hoping and fully expecting to see Matt
coming back; but he was disappointed, Matt never
turned up. Mr. Asser was at his wits' ends. No
Foxie to go round the pitches, the truck lying idle,
and the big bell silent, resting on it. No Matt to
look after the shop, no old clothes to sort! People
would think he was dead and buried, somebody else
would take his pitches, and then he must starve.
Matt too was at his wits' ends. As he wandered
along the dull grimy streets, it came home to him
fbr the first time in his short life that he was alone.
His independent spirit, which had hitherto served
him so bravely,-seemed to be well nigh broken. He
was vexed with himself-he had nobody else to
blame-for behaving unkindly to Ilda, and ungrate-
fully to Mr. Asser. He had lost his character, no-
body would take him without a character-he was
houseless, homeless, penniless-and almost a thief,
adrift on a pitiless world! Foxie had taught him
to think on stealing, until he found it easy to be
dishonest; on lying, until he cared little whether or
not he spoke the truth. He had never been led to
think on things bright, and brave, and beautiful;
76 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
little wonder then, that there was nothing bright,
and brave, and beautiful, in his thoughts or in his
ways. Now he even shrunk from his own conscience;
he was afraid to think of his own thoughts; he could
not look people in the face lest they should know
what he had almost done. No slave ever felt
the galling smart of chains more acutely than poor
little Matt felt the smart of being the slave of sin.
'Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves
servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey:
whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto
Matt felt dull, and everything around him looked
dull; he could not whistle and sing or do anything he
used to do; with an aching heart he sat down to
rest for a while on an empty cask, and reckoned up
the few pence left in his pocket; they must soon be
spent, and then what could he do? He had not a
friend, Foxie in prison and-Matt had half a mind
to go back to Mr. Asser, and ask him to forgive him
and take him back. Just as Matt was thinking
what to do, he fancied he saw, not very far off,
looming in smoky mist, the long stone outer wall of
the hospital, and above it the lofty building itself. A
clock was striking three. He would be just in time; it
was visiting day, he would go and see Ilda, and tell
her everything. He knew she would forgive him; she
would not mind his dirty face and hands; she loved
him too well to care about his shabby untidy appear-
ance. Ah, that is just how a repentant sinner should
act, go straight to Jesus for pardon; go just as he is,
with all his guilt and sin stains, and Jesus will receive
him, because He loves him.
The thought of seeing Ilda made Matt almost
GLOOM UPON GLEAM.
happy. He got up and ran as fast as he could, and
soon reached the large iron gates at the arched
entrance ofthecourt-yard. He shuffled eagerlyup the
long flight of steps. He was right, it was visiting day;
a woman told him so. His heart beat very quickly.
He is standing in the midst of a crowd of persons,
waiting to be admitted. The porter bids those who
have the right, to enter and pass on. At last Matt's
turn came; who did he wish to see ?'
'Ilda-my Ilda,' gasped Matt.
Ilda who ?' growled the porter.
My Ilda-Ilda Tuffin,' repeated Matt.
'Don't know such a name,' replied the man. He
happened to be a fresh porter. Matt had never seen
him before. 'Don't know such a name-but stop.
I'll look at the list of in-patients."
The porter disappeared for a few moments, and
then returned, and said,
'There's no name like Tuffin on the books.'
Ilda is here,' persisted Matt.
'She isn't here now, that's all I've got to say.
She must be gone, or dead-was she very ill?'
'Oh yes, she was dreadful bad; she couldn't walk,
nor nothing. '
If that's the case, 'tis ten to one she's dead; we've
had a lot of 'em die off lately. It does so happen
Matt could have dropped down dead too, on the
cold stones. He could neither speak nor move, his
eyes were fixed on the porter.
'What's the use of standing and staring at me, as
if it was my fault ?' said the man. 'If folks don't
know when their friends die, we can't help it; it isn't
for us to send and tell them.'
78 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
Matt wished he could see the nurse who was so
good to Ilda; she would tell him all about her, and
how she came to die, but he did not dare ask the
cross porter any more questions; besides, how could
he? he did not even know her name How Matt
envied the peoplewho were allowed to pass inside
the large doors His little cup of sorrow was full to
overflowing. He had come too late to see Ilda. With
aching head and heart, he went down the steps, out
of the arched gateway, into the street, and sat down
opposite the hospital. The very walls of the house
inside which he supposed Ilda died had a kind of
magic attraction to him. He seemed to fancy.he
saw her narrow coffin borne on men's shoulders come
out through those big gates; he had often seen
paupers' funerals, so he knew how it must have looked.
He sat on and on, half stupefied and stunned; by-
and-by the grey misty twilight crept over everything,
and the huge building melted into the darkness of
night. Lights gleamed through the. many windows
of the sick wards; Matt wondered which of them
was the room in which Ilda died. After a while
the poor weary child fell asleep. He did not wake
until the first pale streak of dawn arose above the
black edge of the stone copings of the lofty walls,
and then the early sunlight touched the soot-stained
stone-work of the old fountain in the quadrangle
garden. Matt saw it when the gates were opened,
and he watched the spreading sunshine, and the
upward shooting of its-golden rays, and listened to
the splash of the water as it fell in babbling showers
down into the big stone basin beneath the fountain;
he thought he could stay all day long looking at it
without feeling weary.
leam upon Gloom.
VERY night Ilda prayed earnestly
that Jesus would bring Matt to
see her in the hospital, but, as
we know, Matt never came
until it was too late. Still she
went on praying, for she said to
herself, 'Jesus may have to seek
for him ever so long before He
finds him. IfI leave off asking,
He may think I have forgotten
Matt, and don't care what becomes of him, and Jesus may
give up seeking for him; but if Jesus goes on seeking
for poor lost Matt, I know He will find him and bring
him home.' So Ilda never ceased praying for Matt.
All this time Ilda was gaining strength, until at
80 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
last she was able to walk across the ward. How
pleasant it would have been if she could have sur-
prised Matt by going to meet him at the door.
Matt's absence marred all the joy of her recovery.
It was to her as dead flies in the apothecary's oint-
ment. There are 'crosses for all shoulders,' and
.this was a heavy cross for poor Ilda to carry; but
she bore it bravely, believing all would still be well.
Sunday were bright gleams in her life in the
hospital; quiet resting-places in the slowly passing
weeks. From break of day there was a Sabbath
stillness; quiet in the Quadrangle, in the Museum
and in the Library. There was no clatter of carts
and carriages, no noise of horses' hoofs, no hum of
students' voices in the corridors. Later, there was a
stir of people and the sound of voices, as the patients
went down the stairs into the hospital chapel. Ilda
was amongst the number. As they passed through
the corridors, how she longed to linger just to look at
the beautiful large pictures hanging on the walls,
especially one, the Pool of Bethesda. She thought
she should never tire of looking at that; the water
seemed quite to move as the sunshine fell on it.
Then there was the lovely angel going down into
the Pool, and the miserable cripple, who had no man,
when the water was troubled, to put him in. Ilda
felt so sorry for him. She knew what it was to be
crippled and friendless with no one to help her, until
the good mission woman came, angel-like, and placed
her in the hospital. The chaplain had preached
about that exquisite Gospel story, and told them
that the poor cripple was made whole by Jesus; so
Ilda felt it was Jesus who had enabled her to walk.
82' A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
The organ was being played as the nurses and
the. patients entered the chapel; the bells outside
ceased ringing, and the service began. Many of the
patients had bandaged heads, some crept slowly on
crutches, they all looked ill; but it was good for them
to be there, to listen to the simple service and join in
heart, if not with voice, in God's praises. It was good
for them to be there, to raise their thoughts from
the misery of their earthly lot to the peace and rest
of heaven. It was good for them to be there, to have
the guilt of sin in God's sight brought home to their
consciences; to be told of God's readiness to pardon
them for the sake of Jesus Christ, who shed His blood
to wash away the sin of the world; to hear of the love
of God and of the sympathy of Jesus in all their
sorrow and suffering; to have the blessed assurance,
that although their pain and anguish may not be
taken away, yet that it will be turned into joy and
gladness if borne in a right spirit. It was good for
them to be there, that they might feel that they had
souls as well as bodies, souls that would never die, but
live for ever either in endless joy or misery.
Ilda found it good to be there. To pray for all
sick persons and young children; that was like
beseeching the good Lord to defend and provide for
poor Matt. The hymns too seemed exactly as if
they were made on purpose for her. She had found
a Friend when she thought she had not one left, now
Matt was dead or lost.
I've found a Friend, oh such a Friend !
He loved me ere I knew Him!
He. drew me with the cords of love,
And then He bound me to Him.
GLEAM UPON GLOOM. 83
I've found a Friend, oh such a Friend !
He bled, He died to save me;
And not alone the gift of life,
But His own self He gave me.'
At last the day came for Ilda to leave the hospital
as cured, if cure it could be called.
She was no longer a helpless cripple, but she was
very thin, and there was a premature look of old age
about her countenance, produced by privation and
suffering, which gave her almost an unearthly appear-
ance. Still she could walk, and that was an untold
blessing to her. She might now hope to get into
the sweet fresh country, and feel the cool springing
grass beneath her feet, if she had only Matt to go
The mission woman did all she could to make her
garret-home look cheerful, but with all her pains it
was very forlorn. The room was full.of smoke; the
fire would not burn. The poor woman was blowing
at it with all her might and main, but the few.
black coals and the bits of damp green wood only
smouldered and smoked. At last, a tiny pale flame
found its way up the chimney, but still it did not
look cheerful. The mission woman was so dis-
appointed, she meant to receive Ilda with a. bright
fire and a singing kettle, ready to make a nice cup of
tea, which she had provided at her own expense.
As it was, she and Ilda had a good cry. Ilda cried
because there was no Matt to welcome her home.
She had nursed a vague hope that she should find
Matt sitting as usual on the old table, swinging his
legs. No wonder then that she cried when she found
no Matt there, the room looked so dreary and empty.
84 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
The mission woman stayed as late as she could with
Ilda, and then she was obliged to leave her alone
with her flickering candle. Ilda sat up long after all
the other lodgers had gone to bed; her elbows rested
on the table, her hands supporting her head. A piece
of newspaper was spread out on the table in front of
her; she had picked it up from the floor. The mission
woman brought it to light the fire. Ilda was not-
reading it, her thoughts were too sad and full of
Matt to care to spell over a torn bit of newspaper
which could contain nothing to concern her. .The
candle was fast burning down into the socket; unless*
she were quick it would not last until she could get
into bed. The grave-toned clock in a neighboring
church struck twelve; she had no idea it was so late;
she began to fold up the piece of paper, it would do
to light her fire the next morning. As she passed her
hand over it her eyes fell on a short paragraph, and
she read the name of 'Matt Tuffin!' A faintness
came over her, and the lines seemed mixed together
in terrible confusion; before she recovered the shock
the candle went out, and she was left in darkness,
except where the stars in their glory shone through
the small window, as if to lead her lonely heart to
her home in heaven. As she looked they seemed to
smile upon her
Jlailtering witbout ibope.
HEN Ilda opened her eyes the
next morning all the stars
were gone. Instead of their
cheery brightness, a cold
grey light crept over the
roofs, through the hundred
blackened chimneys, into
the small window, filling the
lonely garret with dreari-
ness. Ilda could scarcely
collect her thoughts; she hardly knew where
she was or what had happened. One thing was
certain, she was alone; the crumpled bit of paper
on the table soon brought everything back to her
mind. She had read Matt's name; she was sure
86 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
of that. In another moment her poor trembling
fingers were holding it. She ran her finger swiftly
down the lines to guide her eager eyes lest she
should miss Matt's name; when she came to it she
soon found out what had happened. It was Foxie,
not Matt, who had been taken up and found guilty
of attempting to rob his master; but she saw too
clearly that Matt was implicated in the business.
There could be no doubt that Foxie had enticed
Matt away, and induced him to follow his own evil
course. But what had become of Matt? It was a
comfort to think he was no longer Foxie's companion,
but then there were lots of bad boys like Foxie, only
too willing to make Matt as wicked as themselves.
Born with a love of a good name, Ilda could not
bear the thought of poor Matt's disgrace; but what
could she do ? She yearned to rescue him, that she
might carry into his hard life something of the light
and love which now gladdened hers. She said to
herself, 'What is my love for Matt worth, if I am
content to sit here and do nothing? What is the
use of love if it isn't ready to do and dare anything
to help those who are in any kind of need or danger ?
God has given me the use of my legs, I will go and
try to find Matt, and bring him home.' Ilda made
up her mind first of all to go to Mr. Asser, and ask
him if he could.tell her anything about Matt; it was
a long way, but what would it matter if she died on
the road, no one would miss her ?
Ilda drank some cold tea and ate a" morsel of bread,
and then she put some cake and bread and butter
which the mission woman had given her into a small
basket to take with her, as she could not tell when
WANDERING WITHOUT HOPE.
she would reach home again. It was so strange that
she should pick up that bit of paper and read it, that
she was sure it was all God's doing-just as if Jesus
had bid her go. Presently there was a gentle knock
at her door, and a kind, 'May I come in?' The
good mission woman had come to see how she was
'You are up and about early, my dear!' she
exclaimed, finding Ilda with her hat and cloak on.
'I expected to find you in bed. I thought I'd just
step in to light your fire and boil your kettle. I've
brought a faggot, for I knew I used all the bits of
wood in your cupboard last night trying to make the
tiresome fire burn, and I left some paper. Where
are your matches, dear?'
It's that bit of paper-it's all through that paper
that I'm going,' gasped Ilda.
'That bit of paper, Ilda ? Whatever has come
over you? Where were you going?'
'Read it I only read it,' said Ilda, taking it out of
the body of her dress, where she had put it for
safety. 'Read it! you'll know then why I'm going.
I can't rest here quietly whilst Matt is wandering
about homeless. He's ashamed to come back. I
know he is, he can't face me. We were always ever
so poor, and sometimes most starving-there was ho
disgrace in that-but we were honest through it all.
Mother told me so a hundred times.- 3_h! it would
have broken her heart if she had thought her little
Matt would turn out a thief, and now, if he does, it
will break mine.'
It did not take long for the mission woman to read
the whole account of Foxie's appearance and com-
88 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
mittal at the police court; but she could not see
what good Ilda would do by going to see Mr. Asser.
It was not probable that he knew anything about
Matt; however, as Ilda was bent on the errand, she
promised to go with her. It was arranged that they
should go by omnibus, as Ilda was not strong enough
to walk so far. They found the old Jew as.
usual standing, at his shop door, half hidden by
old clothes, looking up and down the street, mur-
muring to himself about the badness of trade. He
was just turning round to go inside his shop when
he caught sight of Ilda and her companion coming
along the street. He fancied they looked like cus-
tomers. They were casting their eyes about, as if
searching for something they wanted. He was not
far wrong; it was Mr. Asser they wished to see. He
rubbed the palms of his hands together with glee;
they itched at the thought of money.
Yes, he was Mr. Asser, what was their pleasure ?
What did they want ? He had old do' as good as
new for next to nothing.
The mission woman interrupting him, said, 'No,
it wasn't anything of that sort they wanted; they
only came to ask if he could tell them anything
about Matt Tuffin.'
'Oh yes!' exclaimed the old Jew, 'I can tell you
there is very much bad in him, and VERY little good.
He is good for nothing!'
'He didn't rob you; it was Foxie,' stammered
..-'No,' replied Mr. Asser, 'he was too much of a
coward, he ran away !'
'Matt isn't a coward'; he was never afraid of
WANDERING WITHOUT HOPE.
nothing,' said Ilda. 'HEe's an honest boy, I know
he is. He's my brother; we've always been -honest
folks. He wouldn't have wronged you bf a penny.
It was Foxie's doing. I said he'd be Matt's ruin.'
'I suppose you don't know where Matt is gone,'
put in the mission woman.
'I wish I did,' exclaimed the old Jew fiercely.
'He's gone off in a capital suit of my clothes. He's
a little villain, very sharp; like a puppy, you can
teach him anything. If he was to come back and
say, "I am very sorry, I ask your pardon, I will never
do the like again;" I would reply, "All right, I for-
give you this once. The sun shall not go down on
my wrath. There is your bed under the counter,
creep in; we will forget the past, and do better for
the time to come." Can't say anything handsomer.
It is very like forgiving seventy times seven, which
is what we ought to do.'
Ilda was disappointed not to be able to gain any
information respecting Matt's present whereabouts;
still it was a consolation to know Mr. Asser would take
him back, and did not accuse him of any actual theft.
It was useless to wander about in search of Matt, so
she and the mission woman went home again. Poor
Ilda's heart ached, but a voice seemed to whisper
hope to a heart too young for despair.
fbome once more.
SEAD-gone-echoed all day
S long in Matt's ears; sound-
ing as distinct and dismal
S as the slow toll-toll-of a
burial bell. Dead-gone
-those were the very words
used by the porter at the
hospital. There was no
hope for him, there could
be none. Matt had often
heard Ilda speak of persons who were dead as only
gone. He should never see her again; he would
never forgive himself, for how could he tell her now
that it was Foxie's fault, that he had led him away?
HOME ONCE MORE.
he was sure Ilda would have said it was nobody's
fault but his own, he needn't have gone with Foxie
unless he liked. If he could but see Ilda for even
one moment, to ask her to forgive him, and tell her
he was sorry-but that could never be now. Dead
-gone-he stuffed his fingers into his ears; but that
was no good-dead-gone-still echoed all around
him, and made him feel so miserable, he said to him-
self he would run away, only he did not know where
to go. Besides, what would have been the use of it ?
his trouble would go with him. He wished he knew
where they had buried Ilda; he would have put some
pretty flowers on her grave, and whispered quite
close to the cold earth, 'Ilda Ilda! Matt has brought
some flowers; he's very sorry, do forgive him;' perhaps
she would hear him-but he never thought of asking
where they had laid her. Like a guilty thing, poor
Matt crept along the drear unlovely streets, scarcely
earning enough by odd jobs to keep life in his little
body. He longed to go home-but he had no home
now. Still, he longed once more to see the old garret
he had once called home. Why should not he go ? he
could creep up the old staircase in the dark, just as he
used to do, only he should not hear Ilda's voice now-
he could creep up to the very top, and have just one
peep through the key-hole. Perhaps there would
'be a light in the room, then he would be able to see
all round; it would be almost as good as going inside.
No one would see him; if they did, he should not
care. They would know it was only 'Little Matt.'
It did not take long to reach the old court. It
looked drearier than ever, a thick rain was falling, the
old stone passage was miry, the gas lamp at the
92 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
entrance cast a flickering dull light through it; this
was all in Matt's favour,
it was too wet for idlers
to be lounging about, so
S \ he slipped in unnoticed.
II I I Matt tlrt h:),i-.r than
h, h i- ..i.. --.-r -me
i ] \, ,
,1 ,.:: ,,: .
5- ~ I--=f-
*sullen woe seemed to grow lighter every step
he took. Somehow he thought he was going
right at last. A man stood at the door smoking a
HOME ONCE MORE.
long clay pipe. Matt looked up in his face, a little
frightened, but the man took no notice of him,
so Matt dived down under his elbow, and crept in
between him and the door-post, and went on tip-toe
up-stairs. His heart beat so fast he had to take
one or two very deep gasps before he could fetch
his breath, and the tiresome boards cracked and
groaned at every step, although he trod as lightly as
possible-not that it mattered much, for all the doors
were shut, and he never met anybody all the way up.
Matt peeped through the key-hole, just as he
had planned he would. There was no candle burning,
only a dim light from the fire, so he could not see
much, but it looked, he thought, very like what it
used to be-presently, by the sudden flashing of a
flame, he saw the figure of a woman kneeling, the
palms of her thin hands were pressed together, her
face was turned away; very soon she arose from her
knees, and began half-repeating, half-singing:-
'I was a wand'ring sheep,
I did not love the fold;
I did not love my Shepherd's voice,
I would not be controlled.
I was a wayward child,
I did not love my home,
I did not love my Father's voice,
I loved afar to roam.
The Shepherd sought His sheep,
The Father sought His child,
They followed me o'er vale and hill,
O'er deserts waste and wild.
They found me nigh to death,
Famished, and faint and lone;
They bound me with the bands of love;
They saved the wandering one !
94 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
Jesus my Shepherd is,
'Twas He that loved my soul,
'Twas He that washed me in His blood,
'Twas He that made me whole.
'Twas He that sought the lost,
That found the wandering sheep,
'Twas He that brought me to the fold,
'Tis He that still doth keep.'
The sweet sounds rose slowly, something like a
gentle flute; Matt thought he had never heard any-
thing like it before. To be sure, he had never heard
the skylark sing; he used to think the street ballad-
singers, in his childish ignorance, very fine, but they
could not come up to this singing, and then too the
woman oddly enough seemed to be singing about
him, just as if she knew what he had been doing, and
exactly what he was. Matt had put his ear so close
to the key-hole when the woman began to sing that
he did not lose a word. Matt too, all the while, was
making up his mind what to do.
Ilda had told him in the hospital that good people
always knelt down and said their prayers and sang
hymns; why, it was just what this woman was doing,
so he settled she must be good, and if she was good
she wouldn't mind his going in to ask her if she
knew anything about Ilda, wouldn't object to his peep-
ing round the old room; perhaps she might want a
boy to help sell her matches, for he was sure he saw
some match-boxes lying scattered over the table.
Matt's fingers longed to lift the latch, longed to creep
in without knocking, but that he thought would be
rude, so he gave the door a sharp knock with his
knuckles. With a heavy heart and dull eye, Ilda,
for Ilda it was, although Matt did not know it, rose
HOME ONCE MORE.
to see who was there. It could not be anybody she
would care for; she is alone in the world now-
except Matt-but Matt would come in without
knocking. She opened the door, and there in the
dim twilight stood her lost Matt and Matt saw his
dead and gone Ilda!
Of what happened next, neither Matt nor Ilda had
ever any distinct recollection; all.they knew was that
they were locked in each other's arms, sobbing and
laughing by turns. At last Ilda said, 'Oh, Matt, I
was praying to our Father, and asking Him to send
Jesus to seek and save poor little lost Matt, and
bring him home. I've prayed so hard ever since you
left off coming to see me at the hospital; I was sure
Jesus would bring you home, only I was so impatient
I didn't like waiting so very, very long as it seemed
to me-and now He has done it! Jesus has led you
home, Matt; He found you wandering far away; He
has brought you back to the fold.'
'Then,' exclaimed Matt, 'you was singing about
me? I thought you was, only I didn't know 'twas
my Ilda; I couldn't tell how anybody else could
guess all about me-but, I say, Ilda, do, do say you
'I do, Matt; I forgave you long ago. Let us ask
Jesus to forgive you. He never says "No" to any
one who is really sorry, and comes to Him for pardon.
Oh, Matt when I was in the hospital all that long,
long time, I learnt such a deal about "our Father in
heaven," and about Jesus. Jesus is our Saviour.
Matt, that means that He died for poor sinners, for
you and for me, and everybody. He died that we
might be forgiven, and go and live with Him in His
96 A PEEP THROUGH THE KEYHOLE.
beautiful happy home in heaven--think of that,
Matt You will listen to me now, won't you ? If
you learn to love God and Jesus, you will always be
a good boy, for Jesus will help you to try never to be
naughty. You will try, won't you ?'
Matt was silent, his independent spirit was sub-
dued, and almost bewildered by the sense of relief,
and peaceful quiet of even his poor home, after
all the strain of want and misery and the many
buffetings he had gone through. Presently he sob-
'Now I'm fetched home, Ilda, I will try to be
ever so good; I'll never be such a bad boy again.'
Matt kept his word. Ilda was satisfied, her
prayers were answered.
The old Jew no longer stands at his shop-door
the shutters are up, he has no one to take them
down. In the small inner room he lies stretched on
his narrow trestle-bed. The gas-light burns dimly
above his head, shedding a lurid hue over his pale
features. One hand grasps his canvas-bag of money
firmly-nothing should separate him from that; with
his last breath he mutters, 'That is mine !' the bag
drops from his hand!-he is gone! His money all
JAMES MUIR, PRINTER, EDINBURGH.