.... .. ...
MURRAY AND GIBB, PRINTERS, EDINBURGH.
ruE FIELD BECAME ,TV N RSERYv.
BY AN OLD NURSE.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY JOHN LAWSON.
GRIFFITH AND FARRAN,
(SUCCtssoRS TO NEWBERY AND HARRIS,)
CORNER OF ST. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD.
f~k littlt onts.
EARLY TIMES, .
AWKWARD TIMES, 35
HAPPY TIMES, 6
TROUBLESOME TIMES, 105
CHRISTMAS ONCE UPON A TIME, 45
J AM an old nurse, and my name is Mrs. Stubbs!
I have always been fat, but am fatter still now,
because I am getting old.
I have wrinkles on my forehead, but plenty of colour
in my cheeks, which the little babies I have to nurse are
always fond of stroking; and I generally wear a rosette
of bright-coloured ribbon on the front of my cap, which
they laugh and crow at, and think me altogether very
handsome. I dress in soft warm stuffs in winter, and cool
cotton gowns in summer, and have always a soft lap and
plenty of kisses ready for all the children who like to
come to me. I have also a pocket in my dress, in which
I keep a little yellow horn box, filled with sugar plums.
But I do believe, that what makes the children like me
viii INTR OD AUCTION.
better than all the rest put together is, that, under the
wrinkles on my forehead, my head is brimful of quantities
of stories, and they say I' am a capital one at telling them.
If I am, I suppose it is because I have lived in nur-
series all my life, and know so much about children; and I
must say I never wish to live anywhere else. Drawing-
rooms are furnished with grander things certainly, and
school-rooms have more learning in them; but when the
children are good, and all goes well, the snuggest, cosiest,
merriest place in all the world, is, according to my way of
thinking, a comfortable nursery!
SHALL begin by telling you what I did myself,
when I was a little girl, and where I lived, and
how I first came to be a nurse. Well, though
I am Mrs. Stubbs now, with wrinkles on my forehead and
a rosette on my cap, once upon a time I was little Polly,
with shining curls and laughing eyes, and I lived with my
father and mother in a small farm-house, about a mile from
the old town of Laneton.
There was a beautiful green field before the house, with
a path right across it from our front door to the gate at the
other side, which led into the turnpike road. Such a
beautiful field it was! I don't think I ever see one quite
like it now,-full of buttercups and daisies in the summer,
and the hedges covered with blackberries in the autumn;
and a water-cress brook ran along one side, and our two
cows and a calf lived there, and our cocks and hens walked
about in it.
THE NURSERY TIMES.
There were only four rooms in our house : a large low
kitchen on one side of the passage as you went in at the
front door, and a large low parlour on the other, and above
them, two bedrooms, large also, but with sloping roofs, and
very cold in winter. You will see by this that there was
no nursery provided for me; and as my mother was almost
always busy in the kitchen washing and cooking, and
couldn't have children about; and as the parlour was kept
very tidy, and the door never opened except for company,
it came to pass that, as the field was safe and close to the
house, I was always turned into it, and it became my
nursery. A very sweet and pleasant one it was, too, in the
spring and summer; but when the frost and cold came, and
I was tired of making snowballs and snow-castles, I was
glad to creep into the kitchen with my doll in my arms, and
sit very good and quiet in the chimney-corner.
Almost from the first, my greatest pleasure was to have
anything like a doll, to nurse and take care of. When I
was only two years old, my mother used to tie a handker-
chief round a short piece of stick, and I would love it and
nurse it, as if it was the most beautiful doll you ever saw.
One day I was sitting with it by the gate at the end of our
field, when a lady passed by, and, seeing me so tender over
it, asked to look at my dolly, and she did laugh, as you will
believe; but a few days afterwards she came to our house,
and brought me a large wooden doll, which was for years
afterwards my chief treasure and delight.
I think all you young ladies, who can get the lovely
wax-dolls just like real babies now, would have laughed
even at my new one, if you had seen it; but it was as
good as any that could be got then, when wax-dolls and all
the beautiful toys they make noW-a-days were never seen
or heard of. It had a dark-brown wig on its head, with
hundreds of little curls in it, like a negro, and pink cheeks,
and painted black eyes, and long wooden arms and legs;
and was dressed in a red cloth frock, and had a hat on,
with a feather in it. I called it 'Jemima,' after the lady
who gave it to me; and was never tired, though it was a
heavy doll, of nursing and dandling and caring for it.
Sometimes a neighbour would come in to see my mother,
and bring a real baby, wrapped up in a shawl, in her arms;
and then I was allowed to have a peep at it, and it felt
so soft and warm when I kissed it, and would perhaps
pucker up its little face and begin to cry. And at such
times, when I went back to Jemima, I used to feel discon-
tented and angry with her, because she was always so cold
and quiet; and once, indeed, I was naughty enough to
pinch her very hard, to see if there was any way of making
her cry too; but afterwards I was sorry I had done this,
and loved her again more than ever.
I have told you about my pleasant green nursery-field
before our house: so I dare say you think there were
pleasant green fields behind our house too ; but no, it was
quite different to that. First, close up against the back
THE NURSERY TIMES.
windows came a little vegetable garden, full of potatoes and
herbs, and with edges of white pinks; and then all round, as
far as you could see, there was nothing but a great sheet of
water,-nothing, at least, except my father's mill, which stood
out in the middle of it, with only a little narrow raised walk,
with water on both sides, leading to it from our kitchen
garden. On one side of the walk was fresh water, and
father used sometimes to show me the little minnows dart-
ing about in it; but on the other side it was all salt water,
for, though the real sea was a good way off, yet this long
low piece of country for many miles was under water, and
in high tides it would rise quite over the little walk, and
then father had to row to the mill in a boat, night and
morning. Some people thought that so much water about
must make the place damp and unhealthy; but we were all
very well who lived in it; and though, when I was little, I
was not allowed to go out to the back of the house by
myself, for fear of getting into the mud or water, yet some-
times father would take me by the hand, and lead me down
the narrow walk, and let me spend many happy afternoons
with him at the mill.
It was a curious old place inside, and all the people
round about used to bring their corn there for father to
grind; and the water was always busy turning the wheels
with a great noise from morning till night. Sacks of flour
stood about everywhere, and the dust of the flour made
everything white. However clean and rosy father's face
and mine were when we went into the mill, we were as
white as snow all over when we came out again; and so
was the great boy Dick, who used to help grind the corn.
I never took Jemima there, because I did not like her red
coat to be dusted with the flour; besides, for a long time I
had another pet at the mill, not so like a real baby as she
was, and yet, from being alive, I sometimes thought I loved
it almost as well.
There were a great many mice at the mill, who came to
try and eat up the corn; sofather was obliged to keep a
great many cats, to try and eat them up instead. These
cats were all white, like everything else there; and they
used to walk about, with their red eyes and long whiskers,
looking very fierce.
One day when I was sitting on the step at the top of
the ladder, watching some men throw in great sacks of
wheat, I heard a little faint cry come from under one of
the sacks. Then I got off the ladder, and put my ear
down amongst the corn to try and find out where it came
from, and at last I felt sure I knew the exact spot; but
though I tried and tried, I was not strong enough to lift up
the sack. So I called Dick, who was very good-natured,
and, as he was not busy, he came directly and soon lifted it.
All the time I was listening, I kept thinking that the
cry I heard must come from one of the poor little mice,
who I had always felt sorry for, as I knew what fear
they must live in, on account of the cats with the whiskers.
THE NURSERY TIMES.
But what do you think we found instead ? Why, a nest
belonging to one of the very cats themselves, with three
little white kittens in it; and the smallest of the three had
its poor little leg broken, and was very much hurt by the
wheat falling on it.
I took it up and nursed it, and did all I could for it, and
Dick helped me bind up its leg; and then we moved it and
the other kittens to a nest in a safe place under the ladder.
After this, I used to coax father to let me go with him very
often to see my pet, and always took it a little milk in a jug;
and by and by, as it grew older, it was the prettiest, funni-
est, most playful little thing I ever saw, and jumped about
and ran after its tail, like all kittens everywhere; only, what
made it funnier to look at than all others was, that it jumped
about on three legs instead of four, as, though the hurt leg
gave it no pain then, it could never use it or put it to the
ground, and father used to laugh when he saw it, and call
it' Jig,' because of the little hop when it walked; and so
Dick and I called it Jig' too.
Though I had a great deal of play in my nursery-field
and at the mill, you must not think I did nothing but play;
for my dear mother began early to teach me my letters
and spelling, and to work a sampler.
I very seldom see samplers now; but when I was young,
all the little girls used to work them, that they might know
how to mark clothes neatly. They were little squares of
canvas; and in fine coloured sewing-silks the letters of the
alphabet were worked upon them in cross-stitch, and after
the letters came all the numbers up to 20, and then perhaps
some little yew trees or flowers, worked at the bottom, to
finish it off. And mother always promised that when I could
do a really beautiful one, she would have it framed and
hung up as an ornament in our parlour. I think I used to
try to do my best; but I was very slow at lessons, and
am afraid I gave a great deal of trouble. So, when I was
five years old, mother said she thought I should do better
There was no school then nearer to our house than the
one at Laneton, which was more than a mile off; and though
it was a straight road, mother did not like me to walk all
the way there and back by myself; so she was rather puzzled
how to manage, till one day Dick's mother, old Nanny, who
lived in a cottage in the next field to ours, said to her-
Why, you know, ma'am, I go into Laneton market with
my eggs and vegetables every week-day morning at nine
o'clock, and seldom start to come back till three; so your
Polly can always go along with me, and walk out again too,
if she will be sure to be at the Cross in good time before I
start home again.'
So mother went and spoke to the schoolmistress about
me; and the Monday morning after, I set off across our
field, in a pretty red jacket and white sun bonnet, for it was
the month of May, and with a little basket in my hand,
in which my dinner was carefully packed; for I was to be
8 THE NURSERY TIMES.
allowed, like the other children who came from a distance,
to have my dinner at the school.
I must also tell you that I carried Jemima in my arms,
and Dick had given me a new feather for her hat, out of
the cock's tail.
When father saw me going, he said, What, Polly, my
girl, are you taking dolly to school? I think you had better
leave her at home, for perhaps the governess won't let her
in.' But I laughed, and said, I must take poor Semima,
daddy,' and trotted off down the field. I felt rather proud
of going to school, because it made me feel so big; but yet,
when I came to the gate and looked round at the field, I
thought it was just the time I mostly began to make my
long daisy chains, and it all looked so sweet and sunny, I
scarcely liked to go. But I had no time to think much, for
up came Nanny with her donkey and her baskets, and said,
in rather a gruff tone, 'Come along, Polly; we're none too
early.' And I was soon running by her side, holding
Jemima very tight, and kissing her very often, because I
felt a little frightened,-all seemed so new, and it was a
great comfort to have her with me.
Nanny did not speak much to me on the road, and in
my own heart I thought her very cross; but I know now that
she was not cross, but only old and poor, and had many
When we got into the town, Nanny walked quicker, and
told me I must not stay looking into the shop windows, as
I should like to have done, but keep close to her side. And
soon we came to a beautiful old stone cross, in the middle
of the town; and under it and round it sat all the country-
women, with their fresh yellow butter arranged on clean
cloths, and their poultry, and eggs, and fruit, and flowers;
and the people of the town were round them, tasting and
buying their things-for it was the Market Cross.
Here Nanny left her basket to the care of a friend, and
told me to come with her, as, being my first day, she had
promised mother to see me to school herself. The school
was close by, and, as we went, she told me to remember
my way, that I might walk back again to the market by
myself, at three o'clock, when I should find her there, and
ready to take me home.
When Nanny opened the school door, I never thought
there were so many children in the world as I saw there;
and all their voices together, saying hymns and reading,
made such a buzz, that I was quite frightened and ready
Nanny only spoke a few words to the governess, and
hurried away. Then one of the teachers came up to me
and took off my bonnet and jacket, and hung them up on
some pegs that seemed full already of hundreds of bonnets
I let her do this very quietly; but when she took my
little basket out of my hand, and was going to put it on
a shelf with other baskets, I did not much like it, and
THE NURSERY TIMES.
said, 'That is my dinner, please. I want my dinner for
Then the teacher, who had a pleasant face, said, 'But
you do not want your dinner yet, Polly ? You would not
sit with it in your hands all the morning ? You shall have
it back again when the other little girls have theirs, at one
This contented me, and I gave up the basket; but
when she held out her hand again towards Jemima, I
thought she wanted her hat and shawl to hang up with
mine, so I began to take them off; but she said,' No; I
must have dolly just as she is, to put away till lessons are
over. Our little girls never have playthings in school-
time. Look at all those toys! I keep them quite safe till
they go away;' and she pointed to a shelf, on which were
lying tops, and apples, and balls, and marbles, that had
been taken from the little children's hands and pockets.
When I knew what the teacher really.wanted, I burst
.out crying, and said, 'You sall not have Semima. I am
Semima's mammy;' and I held her very tight. I thought
that the tops and marbles and such things were only toys,
but that Jemima was my baby, and I would not let her go.
But my crying was so loud that it was heard above the
voices of the other children; and at last the head governess
came, and ordered the doll to be taken away from me
directly, and for all my screaming she was torn out of my
arms. And when I dared look up to the shelf, I saw her
EARL Y TIMES. ii
hanging up on a nail by her sash, with her poor head and
legs dangling down, and looking so miserable, that I could
only sob, and moan, and cry.
When twelve o'clock came, most of the children ran
away to their homes in the town; but I and the others from
the country were turned into a playground, and shown a
room where we might eat our dinners. Then the teacher
came round and gave us each our basket; and Jemima was
taken down and given back to me, and I was told I might
play with her till two o'clock, when lessons began again.
I clasped her in my arms, and kissed her all over, and
then I thought and felt I would never see her hang upon
that nail again; so I looked up at the teacher, and said,
'Will you ever take her away and hang her any more ?'
She almost laughed, and said, 'Not till after dinner, my
dear; but then I must take her away again, because it will
Then I sat and sobbed, with Jemima in my arms. I
opened my basket, and looked at the nice bread, and
treacle, and pudding mother had put up for my dinner; but
I: could not eat anything, I was too sorry.
By and by, however, I left off sobbing, and began to
think; and then I left off thinking, and took my hands
away from my eyes, and began to peep all round, like the
little sly fox that I was, for I had thought of doing some-
thing that would save me and Jemima from any more
THE NURSERY TIMES.
I saw that some of the children were busy over their
baskets having dinner, and some were having a game by
the wicket gate in the wall, which led out of the play-
ground into the street; so I got up, and walked quietly
across the playground and out of the gate, and nobody
Oh how glad I felt when I was safe outside! And
then I trotted along the street till I came to the Market
Cross. There I could see amongst the basket-women old
Nanny's high-crowned black silk bonnet and scarlet cloak;
but I was on the other side of the street, and she did not
see me: so I thought I would run on, and tell mother all
my troubles myself, for fear Nanny might want to take me
back again to afternoon school. So on we went for about
half a mile along the road; and then I began to feel rather
tired and very hungry: so I sat down under the hedge,
and set Jemima opposite to me, and we had a very cosy
The next thing I began to do, was to feel rather uncom-
fortable as to what mother would say to it all; for as yet I
had never thought whether I was doing right or wrong, or
I could not have been so happy, and had only felt how
lucky I had been to save Jemima, and run away from
school so cleverly.
After dinner I walked on and on till I came to our own
gate; and then I ran across the field, and was soon in the
kitchen, where mother was busy ironing.
EARL Y TIMES.
She did indeed look surprised when she saw me.
'Whatever brings you here, Polly ? Is anything the
matter, child ?' she said in a startled voice. But when she
saw that I was safe and sound, and that no accident had
happened to me, she let me tell my story, which I began
bravely at first; but when I came to the part where I had
slipped out of the school gate, and ran so slyly past the
Cross that Nanny might not see me, I began to think it did
all seem very naughty, now it was over, and I was telling
When I had finished, mother said in a very grave tone,
'Well, Polly, I don't know whether you are ashamed of
yourself, but I am very much ashamed of you. You are
only five years old, and a little silly ignorant girl, but still
you ought to have known better than this. And if you
had been a little older, or if you ever do anything like it
again, I shall punish you very severely; and as it is, I
shall take Jemima away from you, and you will not be
allowed to see her for a week from to-day.' And mother
took her from me and went up-stairs; and I heard a
drawer open and shut, and a key turn. And when mother
came down again, I was sobbing bitterly.
'Why, what will the governess think ?' said mother.
'She will think I have never taught you well, or been a
good mother, or told you that Almighty God loves chil-
dren to obey those who He sets over them, and do what
they are bid. Yes, Polly, they will think very badly of
THE NURSERY TIMES.
me; and it is my little girl, who I love so, will make them
To hear this, made me cry more than ever; and yet it
was quite true. And I know now well enough that chil-
dren who really love or care for their mothers and nurses
try to be good, and show that they have been well
Oh! I was so sorry all that day. And when father
came in, he said it was a mercy I had got safely home, for
that sometimes herds of rough Welsh cattle were driven
along that road to market in numbers, and they might
trample on a little child alone, who had not much sense to
get out of their way. Then Dick had to be sent all the
way into the town to find old Nanny, and tell her I was
safe. And she had been to look for me at the school; and
finding I was not there, had become so frightened, that,
tired as she was after her day's work, she had been looking
and inquiring for me through all the streets of the town;
and that evening she declared she would have no more to
do with taking a thankless child to get her learning. Next
morning, however, when I went with mother to beg her to
forgive me, and promised never to do such a thing any
more, she looked kindly at me, and bent down to kiss me,
and said she was once a little girl herself, and did naughty
things like the rest sometimes; and she supposed she and
Neddy must take me to school all the same again, and try
and have me made a little wiser.
At this I felt very thankful. And my dear mother
walked with me all the way to Laneton herself that day,
and begged the governess to forgive me. And after this
all went well with me at school, and I tried hard to do
my best; and -the governess said she could not have
thought such a steady-headed little girl as I turned into
afterwards, could ever have run away from school the first
I need not tell you how glad I was when, at the end of
that week, mother unlocked the drawer, and took Jemima
out and returned her to me; and how dearly I loved
Jemima, and all dolls, and all babies, no heart but my own
When I was seven years old, a tall rough girl called
Rhoda Bolt came to school, who had a little baby sister of
nearly two years old; and this little sister had to go into
the infant school in another room, but she cried so bitterly
when she was put down there on a form by herself, that I
could not bear to hear her. I am sure the governess could
not bear it either; and yet she did not like to prevent the
little one coming to school, as the poor mother worked in
the fields, and had no one to take care of her unless Rhoda
stayed at home. One day, when the little creature was
sobbing and looking as if she longed to be taken in some
kind tender arms, the governess said, Rhoda, though it is
against the rule, I think I must let you go and fetch your
little sister, and she shall sit on your lap, or close by your
THE NURSERY TIMES.
side, in lesson-time, for I cannot bear to hear her cry so
Now, I had seen Rhoda often bring the child to school,
and knew that she was rough and cross to her, and that
it was more gentle arms her little heart longed for. I
thought, too, that Rhoda would not care to have the trouble
of her in lesson-time; and I was right, for though she was
obliged to go and fetch the child when the governess told
her, she only dragged hold of it rudely by the arm,
and the little thing began to cry more piteously than
ever. This was more than I could bear, and I jumped
up and ran straight to the governess's desk, and said,
'Please, ma'am, may little Alice sit next me, if Rhoda
does not want to have her, and I will take care of her in
The governess smiled kindly, and said, 'You are a very
little nurse, and I think one of the elder girls ought to have
had her; but, as you have asked, I will let you take care of
her, if I find you do your own lessons as well as usual, and
that it does not make you inattentive.' Rhoda was very
glad to hear this; so I ran into the next room and knelt
down by little pale Alice, and said, Come to me, darling, and
I will take care of you.' Then she lifted up her blue eyes,
tired with crying, and, whether she liked my brown curls, or
my rosy face, or a new frock I had on that day, which was
a white cotton ground with little pink and blue roses all
over it, I never knew; but, with a deep sigh, she slid down
EARL Y TIMES.
off the form, and put her little hand in mine, and then ran
by my side to the other room.
She was the very youngest child in the infant school,
and so poorly, too, that the governess knew she could do
no lessons till she was older, and so was very glad to see
her seated quietly by my side, learning to be still and do as
she was told, even if she learnt nothing else; and I grew to
love the little thing dearly, and never looked away from my
lessons or work, or did things carelessly, because she was
at my side.
Rhoda and some of the other girls used to tease me, and
call me The Little Nursemaid;' but I did not mind that.
And, as Alice was too weak to walk back to her mother's
house, at the far end of the town, a long way off, and as
Rhoda said she was too heavy for her to carry, she was
allowed to stay at school at dinner-time with the girls from
the country; and I used to take care of her then too, and
always called her 'my own little girl.'
By the time I grew to be eight years old, I was well
able to walk to school along the high road and take care of
myself; but I always went with Nanny, as I had done in
the old days, because I began to think I was getting helpful
to her in those walks, where she had once been so ready to
take care of me. For, as I grew taller and sturdier day by
day, and able to gather the blackberries from the branches
with a strong hand, Nanny grew weaker and more bent,
and her hands often trembled, and things that came easy
THE NURSERY TIMES.
to her once were getting quite a trouble; for she was more
than seventy years old.
And this Nanny, who, when first I saw her, I had
thought of only as a cross old woman, I had learned to
know and care for, and I longed to do all I could to help
her; but I am sorry to say that Neddy the donkey always
did all he could to give her trouble.
If she was in a hurry for market, and the baskets on his
back were full of nice butter and eggs, he would sometimes
begin to look about him, and scarcely move at all; and then
perhaps would catch sight of a nice fresh tuft of grass,
or ferns, on the bank opposite, and off he would start,
and poor Nanny's weak hands pulling at his bridle could
scarcely get him along. Once, indeed, she had been able
to make him do as she liked; but directly he knew the
difference, he was naughty enough to take advantage of it.
When I saw him at any of these tricks, I was strong
enough to help Nanny; and I would give him a great pull,
and then a little whipping with a stick, just to show I would
have my own way, and so he got on better, though I must
say Master Neddy often gave us both what Nanny called
'pecks of trouble.' Sometimes, too, I used tp help Nanny
very much,-as I had learned to do my sums nicely,-by
writing clearly down on the little slate she carried all that
she had sold in market-the number of pounds of butter,
and the quantity of eggs-and adding up the figures to see
that she had the money right in her leather purse; for she
had all her life tried to keep things exact, and when her
memory was not so good, still she liked it done.
One day I was talking to Nanny of my little girl at
school, and she said, 'Well, Polly, as she is your little girl,
I hope you try and teach her to be good all you can; for it
seems God has like given her to you at present. And in
her own home she hears no good; for those who should
teach her better have not the fear of God before their eyes,
and they say wicked words; and that poor little lamb, if
she lives, will soon begin to say them too. And you know,
Polly, there is something more to be done, when a little
one is about you who ought to know all good things, than
only to pet it, and be kind to it, and keep it from crying, as
you do little Alice.'
For the rest of that walk I was very thoughtful; and
when I got home, I told mother what Nanny had said, and
she too thought I must try hard to lead Alice to all the
good I could, and that, though she was very young, I
might be able to make her love God, and wish to be one of
His own children. So next day, in play-time, when my
little girl was sitting by my side, I began to talk to her, and
found that she had never been taught to say her prayers.
Then I began to say Gentle Jesus,' and make her say it
after me. And she soon learned it; and folded her little
hands and said it very sweetly, and promised she would try
never to forget to kneel down and say it to God before she
went to bed at night and when she got up in the morning.
THE NURSERY TIMES.
By and by she grew rosier and stronger; but at last a
day came that made me very sorrowful.
When I was nine years old, and Alice nearly four, the
governess called me to her, and said, 'Do you know, Polly,
that Alice is old enough, and knows how to behave well
enough now, to go and be taught in the infant school?
You have been like a kind little nurse and mother to her,
and I am sure she will always love you; but she will learn
her texts and hymns quicker and better with the other
children now. So you must let me see what a good child
you have made of her, and tell her that after to-day I shall
expect to see her with the other little ones.'
This was very hard to me to bear; for I knew how lost
I should feel without her at my side. But I knew it was
right; and in the afternoon I told' Alice. And though she
cried very much at first, she promised to be good and try
to do her lessons well, when she was put amongst the other
children next morning.
.I have told you very little about my own home lately;
but all went on as usual there, except that I was able to
help mother more with her work in the evenings, and that
'Jig' had grown a great deal,-in fact, she was a very
large white cat by this time. And on my last birthday
father had brought her in from the mill, with a bell tied
round her neck with blue ribbon, and given her to me as a
present. So she was our regular house cat, and a great pet
with us all,-a very idle pet, too, I am afraid, for she never
cared much to catch mice. I suppose with her three legs
she could not run after them fast enough; and so she almost
always lay amongst the geranium pots on the kitchen
window-sill, looking lazily,out at the bright green field on
sunny afternoons, and curled herself up in a ball in front of
the kitchen fire in the evenings.
Jemima, too, was much the same as ever, only she
looked paler, because the paint was a little gone off her
cheeks, and her red coat was not so bright a colour as it
used to be. I was still very fond of nursing her. But
when father saw me with her, he began to say, 'Why,
Polly, your hands are too useful to mother now to be taken
up dandling a doll;' and this made me think that I ought
soon to leave off playing with her. Then, too, little Alice
had seen Jemima. And once, when she had come over to
spend an afternoon with me at the farm, she seemed to have
quite a new joy added to her little life in playing with her;
for in her own poor home she had no playthings and no
pleasures. 'And from that day I made up my mind that,
whenever I did part with my dolly, I would give her to
Alice. And I knew that the lady who had given her to
me would like this too; for she had happened to come to
the farm the day Alice was with us, and, seeing her tender
ways with the doll, had said, 'When you have done with
Jemima, Polly, you could not find her a better mamma.
Still it was a great struggle to me to part with my first
baby, and I put off thinking of it from day to day. But
THE NURSERY TIMES.
when I came home from school on the afternoon when first
I knew that Alice could no more be 'my own little girl,' I
longed to give her some present that would make her
happy, and show how much I cared for her; and I had
nothing else to give that she would like half so well as
Jemima. Also I seemed to feel.and know more each day
that all my hands could do should be done to help that
dear mother who had so long done all for me, and who
worked so hard to keep our home comfortable; so I felt
very troubled that evening as my doll lay in my arms. I
knew I need not give her away unless I liked; but then all
my life I had been taught what was right. The clergyman
at our church, and the governess at the school, and my own
dear father and mother, and Nanny,-all had taught me,
and I knew it would, be most right now, to be unselfish,
and add a great pleasure to the life of little Alice, and put
away the temptation from myself of spending in playing
with a doll the time that could be better spent.
When mother saw me so quiet with Jemima on my lap,
she asked me if anything was the matter. And when I told
her all that was in my heart and thoughts, she looked at me
with a kind sweet smile, and said, I see, Polly, my child,
that you are going to try and do your duty in the life
where God has placed you. And in our life there is plenty
of work to do, and not much time for play. So if you like
to give Jemima to Alice, do; and God bless my lass for
thinking so much about her mother.'
EARL Y TIlMES.
I felt ready to cry happy tears when I heard this; and
the parting was made easier than I ever thought it could
have been. And the next day, after school-time, I laid the
doll, carefully dressed, in Alice's arms.
She could scarcely believe it was really meant for her
at first, and I never saw her look so happy before, as when
she thanked me, and promised to love it day and night,
and never hurt it, or be careless; speaking in a quiet voice,
as if she was afraid of frightening it. Then she sat down
and looked at its eyes and hair and dress all over; and
then got up to kiss and thank me in her lisping voice again
and again. And though she was so young, I knew she
would love Jemima, and feel her as a comfort and com-
panion in her rough home. Twice I went away and turned
back. 'Oh, Alice!' I said, 'do remember that if her legs
knock together, all the paint will come off, for it is nearly
gone now;' and 'Do think about her hair, Alice, and not
let it rub too hard against your arm, or the curls will come
out.' And then I kissed both my little girls, and ran quickly
towards home, to hide the sobs I could not help.
I walked home by myself that day, for Nanny had
stayed away from market, and was helping at our house.
'And now,' I said, my doll and my little girl are gone, so
all my great pleasures are gone; but I will do as mother
says, I will try hard to do my duty in the life where God
has placed me.'
I little thought, when I said this, that the good God,
THE NURSER Y TIMES.
who knew all I cared for most, and knew that I had wished
to do right that day, was even then sending down from
heaven a dear little baby brother to be my pet of pets!
And when I reached home, no one can tell how full of sur-
prise and joy I was to find a new-born baby there, with a
little pink face and closed eyes, wrapped in a large shawl,
and lying on Nanny's lap; for she had stayed at home
from market on purpose to nurse him, she said, and that
she thought altogether he was not quite so troublesome as
I could scarcely sleep that night for happiness; and the
next morning, when father said, with a laughing face, 'I
suppose you won't care quite so much for Jig and Jemima,
now you have a baby of your own, Polly,' I really felt it
was true; and a happier girl than I was, could not have
been found in Laneton school that day.
In four weeks more I went to church with mother and
father, and Nanny, and our baby, and saw him christened,
and his name was Reuben; and I loved him better every
day. And in the mornings before I went to school, and in
the evenings after I came-back, he was never out of my
At last, when he was a year old, and I was ten, mother
settled that I must leave off going to school, and stop at
home with her, for she wanted me sadly to nurse little
Reuben. And by that time I could read my Bible well,
and write a round hand, and do my sums. And I had
worked the beautiful sampler, too; and it was framed and
hung in the parlour, as I had been promised long before.
I was still, however, to go to school on Sundays,-not
to Laneton, but to a little village called Team,' half a mile
from our house across the fields, where Miss Jemima's
brother was the clergyman, and where Miss Jemima herself
taught a class of young girls on Sunday, and had kindly
promised to teach me too.
I very well remember the first morning I stayed away
from Laneton school. After we were dressed, mother
gave me some thick slices of bread and treacle for break-
fast, and bid me go into the green field in front of our
house, and be a careful nurse to baby. For she did not
want us in the kitchen; and out at the back, where the
water lay, she told me never to think of going, for fear, by
some sad chance, the baby should tumble in.
So there I was again, in the old field that had been my
nursery; and now it was to be little Reuben's nursery too.
Well, no child could have wished for a prettier. It was a
fine warm June morning, and the daisies were wide awake
all over the grass, making such a soft sweet carpet; and for
its walls were the leafy hedges, where the great blackbirds
I had known so many years were singing; and for its
ceiling there was the bright blue sky, with scarcely a cloud
upon it. Oh, Reuben and I were very happy there that
day, and for many a day to come! And we saw something
of the world, too, from our nursery-field; for when I took
THE NURSERY TIMES.
him to the gate leading to the high road, we could watch
all the people pass, and on market-days it was very gay.
Now and then somebody would stop to look at Reuben,-
for he was such a pretty boy, with black eyes and rosy
cheeks,-and they would ask how old he was, and were
quite surprised, he was such a fine child for his age. And
seeing this, and that he looked so well and merry, mother
left him entirely to me; and I was a proud and happy little
By and by, however, his growing so big, which pleased
the people outside the gate, was rather a trouble to me, as
I found him dreadfully heavy to carry about; so then I
tried to teach him to walk as quickly as I could. And he
did get on his feet very soon, and moved about in an odd
tumbling fashion; and his little fat legs looked so crooked
and curious, that I could not help laughing at them. But
as he was stout and hearty, mother did not trouble about
his legs; for poor people have not much time to notice such
When Reuben was a year and a half old, I had another
little baby brother. He was born on St. Patrick's Day, and
christened Patrick; but father and all of us used to call him
He was a very different kind of baby to our first, being
small and delicate, with blue eyes and light hair. And as
I had done so well for Reuben, mother gave him to me to
take care of as soon as he was a month old; and then I
EARL Y TIMES.
began to be a nurse in good earnest. And though I loved
him dearly, this new baby was almost more than I could
manage; for he was often fretful. And sometimes, when I
could not get him quiet, I would sit and cry with him, and
wonder how I could ever have pinched Jemima and wished
to hear her make a noise; for I only longed for a quiet
baby then. After a time, however, our little Pat began to
know me, and he was very loving and gentle, and would do
everything I told him.
There were no railways in the days when I was a little
girl, and the people used to travel about in coaches; and at
eight o'clock every morning, and again at eight in the
evening, the London coaches always passed by our gate on
their way to and *from Laneton. Oh, such fine coaches
they were, painted red with yellow wheels, and with four
prancing horses, and with a man up behind, who blew upon
a loud horn as he passed by farm-houses and through
villages, to let the people know the coach was coming!
From the time Reuben was quite a baby, he would cry
to be taken to the gate, and held up to see these coaches
pass. And afterwards he ran as fast as his little tumbling
legs could go when he heard them coming, and would not
have missed seeing them for anything; and the new baby
had just the same fancy. So, if we were on the opposite
side of the field, I sometimes used to have a good race with
my two boys, to be in time to see the sight.
While the coach was passing, Reuben always watched
THE NURSERY TIMES.
the coachman and horses, and little Pat seemed only listen-
ing to the horn; for he was such a boy for music, that
sometimes he would hold up his finger to make us listen to
the birds singing; and he noticed every sweet sound he
heard. As for Reuben, his great game was to sit on the
top of an old poplar tree which had been blown down, and
lay along by the hedge in our field, and holding one of the
branches as a bridle, and a little switch as a whip, he would
pretend to be driving horses; and when Pat was older, and
could run about, he used to jump up behind, and pretend
to blow a horn through his fingers.
One day, father coming into the field, said to Reuben,
'Well, my boy, and what are you going to be when you are
a big man ?'
Then Reuben said, looking very fat and solemn, 'I sail
be a toatsman, dadda.'
So father took Pat in his arms, and said, 'Very well;
then little Pat must be the miller, and help me. And he
shall come and look at the mill now.' And he lifted him
on his shoulder, and carried him through the house, and
along the little path between the waters.
All this time Pat was smiling down upon me, for I had
taken Reuben's hand, and was following behind; but when
we went up the steps, and got into the mill, and heard the
loud roaring of the wheels and water, then he turned pale,
and screamed so loudly, that I was quite frightened. Father
tried to coax him to stay, but he only held out his arms to
me, sobbing sadly. And when I took him, he was shaking
all over. His little ears feared loud and ugly sounds as
much as they loved sweet and beautiful ones.
Dear father was not angry, but said Pat was a silly little
fellow, and would like the mill better by and by.
Then I whispered to Reuben that he ought to wish to
do what was right, and help dear father, and be a miller
when he was a man; so he looked up, and said, 'Dadda,
I'll come and whip the mill, and make it grind lots of corn
for you some day.'
And then father laughed, and sent us all back to the
field, where my little brothers were soon happy and at play
And while they played, I. used to read my book or
mend their clothes. And, as they grew older, I began to
teach them their letters and figures; and the little one was
quickest at his books, though Reuben was the boy for play.
All this time I never missed my own school learning
on Sunday afternoons; and I was very happy because I
knew I was a great help and comfort to mother. And she
often told me so, and I prayed to God every day that I
might always do right by the little ones.
I never forgot Alice, though I could scarcely ever see
her, for her mother had gone to live two miles away from
Laneton; but Nanny saw her now and then, and told me
that she was growing a sweet, gentle, little girl, and had
sent her love to me, and asked Nanny to tell me that she
THE NURSER Y TIMES.
loved Jemima more every day, and never forgot to say the
prayer I had taught her, and had learnt a great many new
hymns and texts.
Time passed on; and when I was fourteen years old,
and Reuben and Pat were beautiful well-grown boys (though
I am their sister who say so), a new infant school came
to be opened at Team, the little village I told you of,
where Miss Jemima lived; and, as it was not half a mile
from us, across a few pleasant fields, father and mother
thought the boys had better go and be taught there every
The first day I took them myself, with their little bags
of books across their shoulders; and when I fetched them
home in the afternoon, the governess said they had been
very good, and knew much more than she expected, and
that they must have had a patient sister to teach them.
I was so glad they had done well; and they were so
happy, and chatted all the way home. After this they used
to go. and come back by themselves, for we could watch
them on their way from our windows, and it was quite safe
through the open meadows.
They still used to play at coachman and guard on the
old poplar tree in the evenings, and still ran to the gate to
watch the coaches pass; and so the old field was as merry
as ever with their games and laughter in the evening-time;
but somehow I felt lost all day without them, and went
about my work quietly enough.
Father had had trouble too, for both our cows had died,
and corn was dear, so there was not much work for the mill
One morning when I came in from the garden at the
back of the house, where I had been hanging out the clothes
to dry, I found Miss Jemima talking to mother in the
kitchen, and, when I had made my curtsey, she said, 'We
have been talking about you, Polly; and now Reuben and
Patrick are gone to school, and old enough to do without
you, I have come to ask mother if she would like you to
go and be nursery-maid to my brother's little children.'
I looked first at mother, and then at Miss Jemima, and
said nothing; for I had never thought of going away from
home in all my life, and I did not know what to say. At
last I said, 'I do not think I could be spared, ma'am.'
Yes, Polly, my dear, if I thought it was to be for your
good, I should be able to spare you now,' said mother;
'and it may be best and right for you to go. I will speak
to your father about it in the evening; and thank you
kindly, ma'am,' said she, turning to Miss Jemima, 'for
having thought of our girl for the place.'
'Why, you see, Polly took good care of the first baby
I gave her, and she has been a kind nurse to her little
brothers since; and more than that, I believe she will try,
with God's help, to do what is right. So I thought I might
trust her about my little nieces and nephews.'
As she said this, Miss Jemima got up to go away, and
THE NURSER Y TIMES.
she smiled kindly at me, as I held the door open for her to
That evening, when I was in the field, I heard dear
father and mother talking a long time together, and I
knew it was about me they talked; and next day mother
told me it was settled that I was to go out and be a little
I had been thinking about it nearly all night; sometimes
thinking how fine a thing it would be to live in a gentle-
man's house, and earn money to help them at home; and
sometimes thinking I could never bear to be away from
them all, and from the old house and mill and field, I
knew and loved so well. But when I was told it was
really settled that I was to go, only these last thoughts
were in my heart, and the tears ran quickly down my
cheeks as I looked up at mother. But she would not let
me cry; and began to talk about the new clothes I must
have, and the new box to put them in, and told me that
Miss Jemima had promised I should spend a Sunday after-
noon at home once in every month. And then she told me
all she knew about the house I was to go to, and the little
children who lived in it, and their papa and mamma. The
house, she said, was four miles farther away from Laneton
than ours, along the same high road; and there were a good
many servants in it, and an old nurse, who I should have
to help in the care of three little children, two girls and a
boy; and the children's papa was brother to Miss Jemima
EARL Y TIMES.
and to the clergyman at Team. Hearing all this amused
me, and by and by I began to grow happier again.
One day soon after, I went to Laneton with mother and
Nanny. We chose a trunk for my clothes, and some pretty
lilac cotton gowns to wear in the nursery in the mornings,
and many other useful things.
And then the days passed very quickly by, till the last
evening in my old home came. All my things were packed,
and my trunk, covered with a canvas wrapper, brought down
stairs, and set by the gate that led into the road, so that it
might be ready to pop up on the coach in a minute.
The day I went in to do my shopping at Laneton, I
had spent a shilling of the money father had given me, on
presents for the boys. I chose a whip for Reuben, and a
horn for little Pat, as I thought they would have all they
wanted then for their game of coach and horses on the old
poplar tree. And this last evening, to their great joy, I
gave them their presents.
I knew how very sorry they were that I was going
away, for they had thrown their arms round me, and
said they would hold me so tight, and cry so loud, that,
when it came to the time, no one should be able to
take me. But somehow, when they knew they were to
have a holiday, which I had begged for them, and when
they saw their presents, and heard say that the coach
was really to be stopped at our own -gate for me to go
away in, they began to think it was a great day after all.
THE NURSERY TIMES.
When eight o'clock in the evening came, and I passed with
father and mother out of our front door, and down the path
across our dear old field, what do you think these young
brothers of mine (who had said they would cry so loud, and
hold me so tight) were doing? Why, Reuben was seated
astride on my trunk, whipping it very hard, and saying
'Gee up' to it; and Pat was standing behind blowing the
horn, till his little fat cheeks were all puffed up and rosy.
I felt almost hurt to see this, as I thought it seemed as
if they could not care so very much about my going; but
just then the sound of the real horn was heard, and it was
scarcely a minute before the coach was stopped, and my
box lifted on the top of it.. And oh, when they saw that,
my little brothers ran after and clung to me, and hugged
me, and I could tell well enough, in both little faces, all
their trouble and their love.
But there was no waiting. I could only give them
each a last kiss; and then father helped me into the coach,
and told the guard to set me and my box down at Upton
Lodge as he passed.
There were other people in the coach, but they did not
notice me, as I drew back into the corner, feeling very
strange and shy.
And so my 'Early Times' were over, and of the times
to come I knew nothing then; but a good God has brought
me safely through them all, and spared me to tell you
stories about them now.
SHY girl I was, as the guard opened the coach
door, and giving a loud ring at the back-door
bell of Upton Lodge, set me and my box down
before it, and a page-boy, with silver buttons on his jacket,
came running out.
Now, I had never seen a page-boy before, and I thought,
as he was so nicely dressed, perhaps he was one of the
young gentlemen of the family; so I said 'Sir' to him
whenever I spoke, until I noticed he was laughing, and
saying Ma'am' to me in a mocking voice, which made me
feel very uncomfortable; and when he lifted up my box,
and carried it whistling into the passage, I saw my mistake,
and knew that he was a little servant lad.
You see I had scarcely ever been inside a gentleman's
When Miss Jemima taught me at Team Rectory on
Sunday, I never went into her rooms, but into a large one
THE NURSERY TIMES.
out of the kitchen, where she came to teach us; and we
had lived so quiet and countrified in our own dear old
home, that, except for going into Laneton and seeing the
shops and houses there, I knew nothing of the world.
If you wish to know what I was like, and how I was
dressed that first evening in my new place, I will tell you.
Well, my hair was as brown as when my early times began,
but no more curls were to be seen; it was brushed smoothly
back behind my ears; and I had on a white net cap with
plaited borders round my face, and a brown ribbon tied it
neatly under my chin. You have never seen those nice
white caps: they are old-fashioned! but, for all that, they
are neater and prettier than any I see now-a-days, to my
fancy. My cheeks were not so soft and rosy as they used
to be, for the sun and wind in our field had tanned and
roughed them. And my dress was of plain brown stuff,
with a large white collar and cuffs; and, though I was not
pretty, I have heard I was a nice steady-looking girl enough,
for, plenty to do, and plenty to think about, had made me
look and feel much older than I really was.
A housemaid soon came and showed me up-stairs into
the sitting nursery, where Mrs. Mee, the head nurse, sat.
She was very pleasant and comfortable-looking, and spoke
to me kindly, and said I looked older than she had expected,
and asked me what my name was. When I said 'Polly,'
she asked if I had not another name; so I remembered,
and told her that the real name I had been christened was
A AWKWARD TIMES.
'Mary,' though they always called me 'Polly' at home.
And then she said she thought 'Mary' would be the best
name for me to be called in my new place. So you see
little Polly with her brown curls and her early times went
away together; and now it is about Mary, the tidy nursery-
maid in the white cap, that I must tell you.
It was such a pretty sitting nursery I found myself in,
with a bright cheerful fire and pictures on the walls, and a
warm carpet and curtains, and out of it there opened two
In the first and largest one, there was a bed for nurse,
and a little cot by the side of it, in which slept the youngest
child, Master Herbert; and when it came to my bed-time,
nurse let me peep at him, as she took me through that room
to the inner one, where I was to sleep myself. He looked
such a dear little fellow, with fair hair and long dark eye-
lashes drooping on his pink cheeks; and by his side, with
one little hand resting on it, as if he was afraid it would be
taken away from him while he slept, was a great wooden
elephant, which nurse said had been given to him lately,
and he could not bear to part with it, even for a moment.
I admired Master Herbert very much; and nurse said,
'Yes, bless him Though he is but three years old, that
child tries to be good, and so he is the best and least
trouble of them all. And now, Mary, this is where you are
to sleep,' and, passing into the inner room, she pointed to an
empty bed in one corner of it, by the window.
THE NURSERY TIMES.
On the other side of this room were two small beds
close together, in each of which I could see a little head
covered with very black hair resting on the pillow; and
nurse held the candle so that I might have a good look at
the little sleeping girls the black hair belonged to. They
were very much alike, and had pleasant faces.
Nurse told me that Miss Mabel, the eldest, was eight
years old, and Miss Minna, the youngest, only six; and that
they were both full of mischief, and gave her plenty of
After this, Mrs. Mee bid me good night, and told me
she should call me at half-past six in the morning, that I
might get the nursery swept and the breakfast things laid,
in good time to help her dress the children.
When I was left alone that night, oh! I felt so strange,
and so longing for mother's kiss, and feeling I should never
be able to go on all by myself; but then I knelt down and said
my prayers, and, as I went on saying them, I felt quieter.
They were the old prayers I had said to my Father in
heaven so long, and I knew He was as close to me here as
He had been at home. So then I got into bed, and said, as
I lay down, Good night! God bless you, father and mother,
and Reuben and my little Pat;' and the tears ran down my
cheeks, but soon I began only to think what a delicious
comfortable bed I was in, and how different to my little
hard mattress at home. And then I looked round at the
pretty paper with flowers on it, and the little white beds,
;hI,7 / I
'I KNELT DOWN AND SAID MY PRAYERS.'
A WK WARD TIMES.
and thought, Oh, how good and happy these children must
be, with everything done to make them so comfortable!'
And then I left off thinking altogether, and was soon fast
Early next morning, before it was light, I was half
awoke by a noise in the room; and, looking up, I saw the
two little black heads in the small beds opposite pop down
under the bed-clothes in a great hurry, and I knew it must
have been the little girls talking together that had awoke
me. As, however, they seemed so shy of me, I thought I
had better not speak to them till nurse came in; so I shut
my eyes and laid my head down on the pillow again.
In a few minutes I heard a voice coming from Miss
Minna's bed say, Is see aseep again, do you sink ?' for though
Miss Minna was six years old, she could not speak her
words at all plainly. Then Miss Mabel popped up her
head, and said,'' Oh yes, her eyes are quite shut now;' and
then both young ladies came to the ends of their beds, and
I knew they were looking at me, to see what I was like.
At last Miss Mabel said, I don't think she looks as if
she would be cross; do you, Minna?'
'Yes, I sink see looks very corss-corsser than Geen.'
I did not know who Geen' was then, but afterwards I
knew she meant Green the gardener, who was often obliged
to be angry with Miss Minna because she ran across his
flower-beds, or spilt his seeds, if she found a paper bag of
them about anywhere.
THE NURSERY TIMES.
I was sorry to hear she thought I looked so cross, but
hoped it was only her fancy, and that she would like me
better by and by; for I remembered that in the looking-
glass, though my mouth was wide and my skin brown, I
certainly looked very good-natured.
Just then the clock on the stairs chimed half-past six,
and nurse opened the door.
I think she must have heard the children talking, for as
she came in she said, 'Hightum! titum! if there is any
talking here, I know what I shall do.' And at this both
heads sank down under the clothes, and there was great
quiet in the room. And then I got out of bed, and began
putting on my things.
When I told you how I was dressed the night before, I
wonder I forgot to say that I had on grey stockings, and a
pair of quite new leather shoes; for these shoes were my
great delight, and I could not help feeling proud of them.
Those I had worn at home were so old, that mother had
settled I should have two new pairs to come to my situation
in. So the day we did the shopping in Laneton, we went
to a working shoemaker at the Cross, and he took my
measure, and made and sent home two pairs of shoes,
which we all thought beautiful. They were both of thick
leather, with very stout soles, like country folks' wear; and
the in-door ones had buckles in front. They cost a great
deal, almost more than dear mother could spare; but she
said, Never mind, Polly. They are made large, and they
will last for years; and perhaps you will be able to buy the
next you want out of your own wages.
You will not wonder, then, that I was proud of these
shoes, and longer putting them on that morning than all my
When I was dressed, I went to the sitting nursery, and
Mrs. Mee showed me how to lay the breakfast things, and
how she liked the room swept and dusted.
At home we had only had one broom, and one scrub-
bing-brush, and one duster, to do all the cleaning; but here
there were so many brooms and brushes, I was quite
puzzled. There were two or three different ones to clean
the grate with, and then there was a little broom for tidying
the hearth, and another to sweep the crumbs into a dust-
pan; and I thought I should never remember them all
apart, and use the right ones at the right times; but I
tried to do it as well as I could, though I know I was very
When breakfast was laid, and the fire lit, and the room
done, nurse told me to come and help her dress the chil-
dren. But there were so many things to put on them, and
so many strings to tie, and Miss Minna danced about so
while I was dressing her, that I did it very badly. And I
think nurse was glad to get rid of me, and do it all herself,
.for she said, 'Now, Mary, I can finish here, and you had
better go and get Master Herbert's bath ready. The cold
water is in; so you have only to add some hot from the
THE NURSERY TIMES.
kettle, and make it a nice warmth; and then you can put
him in, and I will come and wash him in a minute.'
I was quite at home with the kettle, for I had always
had a great deal to do with one; so I thought I could do
all this very nicely. And when it boiled, I poured plenty
out of it into the cold water in the bath. Then I felt it,
and it did not seem at all too hot to my hand; but I quite
forgot that my rough red hand, which had been used to all
weathers, and to washing clothes in scalding water, was
very different to Master Herbert's delicate skin. So I
went to his bed, and took the dear little boy out, and
carried him across the room; and he seemed so gentle and
quiet to what the other children were, and put up his little
face to kiss me. Then I took off his night-dress, and, stir-
ring the water with one hand, I popped him down right in
the middle of his bath.
But oh, my trouble! when I heard him begin to scream
loudly with pain; and before I could take him out of the
water, nurse was in the room, and he was cuddled up sobbing
in her arms, while she scolded me and coaxed him by turns.
'However came you to put the dear child in hot water
like that, Mary?' she said. 'I thought you had washed
little brothers of your own before now, and knew better.'
'Oh, ma'am,' I said, feeling very unhappy, 'I always
washed them in cold water from the pump; and I thought,
as it wasn't too hot for my hand, the water to-day would
have been the right warmth for Master Herbert.'
'Then you ought to be ashamed for not knowing better,'
said nurse. 'Girls about nurseries always were, and always
will be, more trouble than they're worth. And never you
try to wash Master Herbert again.'
By and by, however, when she saw how sorry I was,
and that her dear boy was more frightened than hurt,-for
though the water had been much too hot, the pain soon
went off,-she spoke kindly to me again. Still I knew that
she was afraid of trusting the children to me, to do anything
for, and that I was no help to her. And this, when I had
so longed to be helpful and useful, was very hard to bear.
I knew it would never do for a nursery-maid to begin
to cry, and yet my tears seemed in my throat, and nearly
choked me; and I was afraid to laugh at some of the funny
things the children said at breakfast-time, for fear my laugh-
ing should turn to sobs.
After breakfast, nurse told me to go and make the beds in
the room where I slept, and then sweep it, and set it all tidy.
I got on very well with this till I came to the wash-
hand stand; and then, when I had emptied the basins, and
filled the jugs and bottle with fresh water, I could not help
looking with delight at the neat little china boxes on each
side, which held the young ladies' tooth-brushes and pieces
'How different,' I thought, 'to what we have at home,
where the jug and basin stands on the top of a chest of
drawers, and my tooth-brush on a piece of paper at the side !'
THE NURSERY TIMES.
As I was thinking this, I caught sight of a little long-
shaped brush by itself in one of the boxes, and took it up,
wondering what it could be for. It cannot be a tooth-
brush,' I thought, 'because it has no long handle.' And
then I suddenly remembered how, when I was doing the
nursery, I had found so many kinds of brooms and brushes
to clean with. 'Oh, I know what it must be for,' I said to
myself, quite pleased at my cleverness in finding out; 'why,
it must be to clean the wash-hand stand with. How con-
venient everything is, to be sure, in gentlefolks' houses!'
So I lifted off the china, and began to scrub away at the
top of the stand, which was painted stone-colour, with a
When I had nearly done, I heard nurse bringing the
children up-stairs from seeing their mamma; but I went on
with my work, hoping nurse would see that, if I had been
stupid in the morning in not finding out what the different
brushes were meant for, I was making up for it now.
The two young ladies opened the door, and ran in
together, saying, 'Mary, please put on our hats, for nurse
says we may go out in the garden;' but directly Miss
Mabel saw what I was doing, she ran back to the door
again, calling out, 'Nurse, nurse! come quick! Mary is
scrubbing the washing-stand with my new nail-brush!'
Oh, I felt so ashamed, so disheartened, when Mrs. Mee
came panting in, saying, 'Bless the girl, what is she doing
now ?' And when I explained, she laughed so much, that,
A AWKWARD TIMES.
being fat, she had to sit down on a chair to rest herself
afterwards. And the tears ran down my cheeks in very
vexation, as I had to tell that I had never even seen a nail-
When Master Herbert saw my tears, he reached up to
kiss me, ant said, 'Never mind, Marely. I'll buy a pony
for you to ride some day.' For he had been promised one
himself, and was always looking to it, and thought such a
thing the greatest present he could give. He always put
me in mind of my little Pat at home, and I was very fond
And so my days went on. Almost every day at first
I did an awkward or a stupid thing, and was laughed at
or scolded for it. But often I said in my heart, 'Pray
God, do not let all this make me ill-tempered, but let me
be less awkward, and let me do my duty in the life where
Thou hast placed me.' And God heard me, because I
knew He would, and He helped me as I expected. Oh,
He helped me so often, and in so many ways, I could never
tell them all. But one has just this minute come into my
I think I told you about the boots I was so proud of,
and which cost dear mother so much. Well, from being
thick and strong, they were like many country-made boots,
and used to make a creaking noise as I walked about.
In our house there was no one to notice this except
myself. I used to like it, and think it a cheerful sound,
THE NURSERY TIMES.
as it reminded me what good strong boots I had got. But,
very soon after I came to Upton Lodge, Miss Minna, who
was a very quick child, noticed it, and said to me, 'Your
boots keek. I don't like seeking boots; and my mamma
don't like seeking boots.'
I must tell you that I very seldom saw my: mistress, as
she kept chiefly in her own rooms, not being strong or well;
and nurse used always to take the children to see her her-
self, many times in the day. But when I had been in my
new situation about a fortnight, as I was taking the chil-
dren up-stairs after their morning walk, Miss Minna, seeing
the door of her mamma's sitting-room ajar, pushed it open
and ran in; and a minute after she called out, 'Mary,
mamma wants to speak to you directly.' So I went down
again and knocked at the door.
'Come in, Mary,' said my mistress. 'I have been
wishing to tell you before that the creaking of your boots
disturbs me very much as you go up and down stairs. So
you mist put on another pair in the house, and be sure to
leave those off to-morrow.'
I cannot tell you how I felt when I heard this. I
remember looking round at the room-the pretty room,
with the sun peeping through the muslin curtains, and the
soft crimson carpet and arm-chairs, and the sweet scent of
the flowers coming in from the glass conservatory it opened
into-and then at my mistress's pale kind face, and think-
ing, Oh, she cannot tell how poor we are at home, and
that I cannot bear to ask mother for more, when she has
just given me all, and more than all she can spare.' But I
was very shy, and all I said was, 'I have only one other
pair of shoes, ma'am, and they creak too, I am afraid.'
'Well, then, we must not mind for a few days; but you
must write and ask your mother to get you some lighter
ones as soon as she can, Mary.' And then my mistress lay
back on her sofa, and I went out of the room.
This may seem a small thing to you, children, to have
given me the trouble it did; but that is because you have
all you want for your dress without any thought of your
own, and you would rather any day have a new toy than a
new cloak. But this is not the way with poor children; for
they have to think often about their clothing, and where
there is little money, it comes very hard to buy new.
I knew how my dear mother thought for us all, and
never of herself; and I knew that her own boots were
worn and old, while she had given me two new pairs; so I
thought I should be cruel to her if I wrote for more, and
yet what was I to do ?
In the midst of my trouble, in came nurse, with a pair of
nearly new thin black boots in her hands, and said, Mary,
mistress wants you to try on these boots. They are rather
too tight for her; and if they will fit you, she says you
may have them for the house, to save writing to your
The boots fitted me very well; and I felt truly thankful
THE NURSER Y TIMES.
to my heavenly Father for having relieved me from my
As time went on, nurse said I was growing much more
handy; and the children grew fond of me. I was trusted
to take them out in the garden in the mornings, and even
to walk with them in the lanes and fields round about.
And so I began to be a help in this house, as mother said
I had been in our own, which made me very happy, and
able to bear it better when I was sometimes awkward
The first Sunday in every month I spent at home,
as I had been promised; and happy Sundays they were.
Dear father and mother kept well, and seemed able to get
on without me; and Nanny was so glad to see me. I
was very proud of our boys, growing so straight and strong
and rosy, as I walked between them across the fields to
afternoon service at Team.
One Sunday I had a great piece of news to tell them at
home, which was that there was a new little baby boy at
the Lodge. The young ladies and Master Herbert were
delighted to have another little brother, and had done
nothing but talk about him since. I had seen him but
once for a few minutes, as he was scarcely two days old.
A nurse had gone over from Laneton to take care of him;
for Mrs. Mee had plenty to do with Master Herbert and
the young ladies.
When I told father the news, he said, 'Well, I really
A WK WARD TIMES.
think, Polly, the new babies come wherever you go, because
they know you will take such good care of them.'
I was not the only one to have something to tell that
day; for Reuben and Pat had their bit of news too. And
after- church-time they led me with great pride to a low
shelf by the stove in the back kitchen, and showed me,
curled up warm in a piece of old carpet, three of the
sweetest little white kittens I ever saw; and Jig hopped
round them, and purred, and rubbed herself against me, as
much as to say, 'Now, don't you think I am a very happy
mamma, to have a nest full of such little darlings ?' and I
did admire them very much.
And directly I saw them, it came into my mind that
Miss Mabel would like one for a pet. So mother promised
to choose out the prettiest, and send it to Upton Lodge,
when it was old enough to go out visiting.
I always thought about anything that would please Miss
Mabel, for I had grown to care for her very much,-she
had such an honest, true spirit, and so wished to try and do
what was right. And when she was wilful or passionate,
or if she vexed her dear mamma, she grieved so much over
it afterwards. And I must say she was often very much
tried by Miss Minna; for though I cared for her too, she
was the greatest little tease I ever came across.
I knew how bad a fault that was, and how much it
would make people dislike her as she grew older. So I
often talked to her about it, and tried to make her cure
THE NURSERY TIMES.
herself; and I need not tell you that her mamma and nurse
did the same. But, as she was not at all afraid of me, per-
haps I saw more of her in that way than any one else did.
Sometimes, when Miss Mabel was busy learning her
lessons, to say to her mamma next day, Miss Minna, if
she had finished hers first, would perhaps begin to hum a
little tune. Then Miss Mabel would say, 'Please, do not
do that, Minna. You know I cannot learn when you sing.'
Then Miss Minna would pretend to stop for a minute, and
then begin again, and say, 'Why, I am doing it so softly, it
cannot disturb you now. Just listen!' And then she
would go on humming, just so low that perhaps it could
scarcely be heard, and yet her mouth kept moving; and
she knew it worried Miss Mabel, and at last made her get
quite impatient. And so this child made her sister do
wrong as well as herself.
Even dear gentle Master Herbert she could not leave
alone. And I well remember, only a few weeks after that
Sunday when first I saw Jig's kittens, how tiresome and
teasing she was to him.
The nurse who came from Laneton to take care of the
new baby had gone away again by this time, and Mrs. Mee
did everything for him; so you may think how busy she
was, now she had four to manage. She was not often
able to come out with us in the garden before dinner; but
she knew I would be careful of Master Herbert, and take
him in to her if he was too cold, and keep him in the shade
A WK WARD TIMES.
when the sun was too hot, and do all I could to amuse
On the morning I am going to tell you about, he had
brought out his great wooden elephant, and pretended to
make it walk, and eat the grass. He was only three years
old, you know, and would have been very happy and
amused; but Miss Minna destroyed all his innocent peace
by her teasing ways.
'You know your "Ephant" cannot eat, Hebby,' she
began; 'because he has not got a real "mouf."' For though
she was older, Miss Minna could not speak any plainer yet,
than she did.
Yes he have got a mouf," you naughty girl; and a
booliful red mouf. Hastn't he, Mary?' And Master
Herbert pointed to the painted lips and fine white teeth of
'Yes, my dear,' I said, 'he has got all he is in want of.'
And my saying this brought the smile back to his face.
But a few minutes more, and the little tease began again,
and said something else to worry him; and at last I sent
her off to the other side of the garden, but watched her all
First she saw the cocks and hens in the yard, and,
standing by the fence which divided it from the lawn, she
began to call 'Chuck, chuck, chuck!' as if she was going to
feed them, and throw out her hands as if they were full of
corn; and when they came running from all parts of the
THE NURSER Y TIMES.
yard, she had nothing for them. And this she did over
and over again, and only laughed when they looked dis-
appointed and began to cackle angrily.
Then she caught sight of Green, the gardener, with his
wheelbarrow, and ran after him, pulling his things about,
till he was quite tired, and glad to get rid of her.
When we came in-doors, nurse said, 'I saw you from
the window, teasing the poor fowls, Miss Minna, and teas-
ing your dear brother too. But if you go on like this,
some day you will tease something that won't take it so
quietly, and will hurt you in return; and well you will
deserve it too.'
Very true nurse's words came, as you will hear.
Winter fell early that year; and long before Christmas
the ground was white with snow, and it was very cold
weather indeed. We could not go out much; but the
nursery was warm and snug-we had such bright fires in it.
And the children's dear mamma was better, and they were
often able to be with her now.
From our nursery window we could see a bit of the
high road, and watch the coaches and the people pass.
One afternoon, when I was standing near it, with baby in
my arms, and the other children at my side, Miss Mabel
said, 'Look, Mary, here comes a man in the snow. It is
all over him, and the wind blowing him about so; and yet,
look what care he takes of his basket! I wonder what is
A WK WAARD TIMES.
I looked up, and to my pleasure and surprise saw it was
Dick-our Dick from home-who used to be the good
steady boy, so kind to me, and who was now a good steady
young man, helping father with the farm and with the mill,
and trying to do his duty in life.
I ran round to the other window, which looked out on
the back gate, and hearing Dick ring the bell, I knew he
was coming to see me, so I asked nurse if I might go down
to him; and she took the baby from my arms, and bid me go.
I was very glad to see Dick, and very glad, too, to see
what he had brought in the basket,-which, as you will
have guessed, was the little white kitten.
Dick could scarcely wait a minute, because he had to
go on to the next village to take a message for father; and
when the servants asked him to wait and rest, and not go
out again in such a snow-storm, he laughed, and said that
snow never hurt him yet, and that he enjoyed all weathers.
Then he bid me good-bye, and carried many loving messages
from me to all at home, and by the time I was up-stairs
again, he was far off along the road in the snow.
You may think how the children crowded round me
when I brought the basket just as it was, all snowy on the
lid, into the warm nursery; and round the handle was a
piece of paper on which mother had written, 'For Miss
When we lifted the lid, and the dear little white kitten
was seen, with its bright eyes peering about, there was quite
THE NURSERY TIMES.
a burst of delight; and, as to Miss Mabel, I never saw her
so pleased with anything before. It was such a great
surprise to her, because, though I had told nurse and her
mamma, and they had given leave for her to have it, it had
been kept quite a secret from her.
It was the softest, gentlest little thing, and quite a
nursery kitten, for it was so accustomed to being in little
Pat's hands, that it liked to be played with and pulled
about by children, as long as it was not done roughly or
unkindly; even the dear baby seemed to notice it.
By and by, as it grew older, its ways were so funny, and
it had so many tricks, and amused us all, that Miss Mabel
and Master Herbert used to love and cuddle it;-and its
little paws were like velvet in their hands.
But, just as I expected, Miss Minna, after the first love
for it wore off, could not help teasing it. I had seen it
put the sharp little nails out of the velvet paws, and had
said, 'Take care, Miss Minna; if you tease her so, she will
surely scratch you.' But no warnings were of any use.
Soon the kitten began to know her from the other
children, and would run out of her way or hide itself, and
make a low growling noise when she came near to touch it,
instead of the pleased, comfortable purr always ready for
those who were kind to it.
One day after tea Miss Minna caught it, and stood by
the window holding it very tight with one hand, for fear it
should get away, while with the other she kept offering it a
A WK WARD TIMES.
piece of cake; but each time, directly Kitty put forward her
head, and opened her little mouth to take it, she snatched
it away, and gave her a pat on her nose instead; and so this
little tease teased the kitten.
I heard Miss Mabel say, Please, Minna, give her the
cake at once, or you will quite spoil her temper.' But before
the words were finished, Kitty, made angry beyond what it
could bear, had flown at Miss Minna, and given her two
deep scratches on her forehead, and with a loud cry she
jumped up and threw it from her, screaming out, Oh, you
wicked, cruel, little cat! you shall be whipped and sent
away. Oh, I am so hurt! so hurt!' And she began to
sob and cry bitterly.
Nurse hearing the noise, ran in from the next room,
and soon saw how it all was. No, Miss Minna,' she said,
' this is no fault of the poor kitten's; she shall not be
sent away: it all comes from your naughty teasing ways.
I told you something like this would happen if you went on
so. And now let me see your scratches.' The smarting
pain was going off a little now, and Miss Minna held up
It was a curious mark indeed Kitty had made. She
had given one scratch across her forehead, and another
straight down, just like this T, which, as you see, is a
'Well, to be sure,' said nurse, Kitty has marked you
with a true mark indeed-" T for tease. It is a deep
THE NURSERY TIMES.
mark, too, and will be some time before it goes away; and
everybody who looks at you will see it, and I hope indeed,
Miss Minna, it will cure your fault, and be a lesson to you
all your life long.'
When Miss Minna heard this, all crying and sobbing as
she was, she ran to the looking-glass, and when she saw
the great 'T' plainly marked on her forehead, she put up
her hand as if she would try and rub it out; but there was
no doing that, it was painful even to touch, and where
pussy had put it, there it must be left. And when her
mamma saw it, she said as nurse had done, and could feel
no sorrow for her little girl.
Oh, it was a great disgrace to Minna, and greatly she felt
it. For a long time she could scarcely look any one in the
face, and felt very angry with Kitty; but afterwards her
mamma talked to her a great deal about it, and her spirit
changed, and she began to feel really sorry for her fault,
and we all saw she was trying hard to cure herself of it.
Then, instead of worrying her little brother or the baby,
she began to amuse and make them happy; and was so
kind to the kitten, that it would come and play with her
as readily as the rest.
She often used to look in the glass, when she got up in
the morning, and say, 'Mary, do you think the mark is
going away now ?' but I could not say it was. For nearly
a year, there was that great 'T' for 'Tease' plainly to be
seen upon her forehead. And then by degrees it grew less
A WK WARD TIMES.
and less, and I used to fancy it faded away as she got the
better of her fault. However, that could only be fancy, I
suppose. Even when I went away from these children, two
years after that, if Miss Minna became hot with standing
before the fire, the mark came out very faintly on her fore-
head again, as if to show it was still there.
When the baby was about a year old, and a beautiful,
fine, bouncing boy, Master Herbert grew very weak and
poorly. He could not bear nurse out of his sight, so she
used to stay at home with him a great deal; and when I
went out with the young ladies in the garden, the baby also
was given into my charge, and I used to spread a shawl on
the grass for him to creep about on. And then we picked
buttercups and daisies, which we tossed on the shawl for
him to play with; and he was as happy as a little prince.
I do think my Awkward Times were ofer. Nurse
said she had made me nearly as steady about children as
she was herself, and that she should not be afraid of my
doing well by any baby if tle land. Very sorry she was
to part with me, when, after I had been at Upton Lodge
for three years and a half, my mistress settled that she
did not wish to keep a nursery-maid any longer, as then a
governess came to live in the house and take care of the
young ladies;,and as Master Herbert had grown strong
and well, and baby was nearly three years old, Mrs. Mee
could do all that was to be done for them and herself. My
master and mistress made me a present of a handsome new
THE NURSERY TIMES.
Bible, and I do think every one in the house was sorry; but
so it was obliged to be. And so one fine spring morning
the coach stopped at the back gate of Upton Lodge, and
picked up me and my box, to set us down before the dear
old home once more. And then two little coloured pocket-
handkerchiefs I well knew, tied to sticks and stuck in the
gate, fluttered as flags in the wind, and told me I was
expected with joy by two dear boys, who at the sound of
the wheels came running down the path to meet me; and,
in seeing them, and dear father and mother and all, I got
much better of my trouble at leaving the children I had
lived with so long.
After this I stayed at home for more than three years,
as mother was poorly and wanted me to help her: and in
that time there were many changes. Nanny, dear old
Nanny, who had grown very old by this time, died in
peace, and was buried in the little churchyard across the
meadows. I hope I was able to be a' comfort to her in
her last days; for, when she could no longer get up, or walk
about, I used to go to her cottage, morning and evening,
and read the Bible to her, and keep all her little things neat
and tidy, as she liked to have them; for though Dick was
a good son, and did all he could, girls and women ought to
be more handy at doing things for the sick than men and
boys can be.
As for my dear boys, they both did well in their different
ways. Reuben really loved hard work, and had plenty of
A AWKWARD TIMES.
it to do in helping father at the mill. And when I looked
at his sun-burnt healthy face, I thanked God he was such a
fine strong fellow.
And little Pat, my little Pat, there was not much hard
work in him certainly: slight and fair as when he was a
baby, his mother's pet and mine, and fonder of music and
singing than anything in the world besides,-first the six-
penny trumpet, then a Jew's harp, and then an accordion,
were his chief friends. Just before my three years at
home were over, and when he was nearly eleven, Miss
Jemima heard him singing in our field as she passed down
the road, and spoke about him to her clergyman brother;
and he let him go as one of the singing-boys at the little
church at Team. So then Pat was very happy, and he
used to go and practise twice in the week, and on Sundays
I could hear his sweet voice clear above the rest, as he sang
psalms of praise to his Father in heaven.
Nurse and the dear children from Upton Lodge came
to see me while I was at home.
Their mamma set them all down at our gate as she
went into Laneton shopping, early on a summer morning,
when our fields were gold with cowslips; and picked them
up again in the carriage as she passed back in the evening.
And pleasant hours they spent between, looking over the
mill, and gathering great baskets full of cowslips to take
home, and having new milk and home-made seed cake
in our best parlour. And they saw Jig, too, their own
60 THE NURSER Y TIMES.
kitten's mother, which was a great interest, as you will
They were all very much grown, and the mark was
quite gone from off Miss Minna's forehead; and nurse
told me the fault of teasing was also quite gone out of
At the end of the three years, dear mother grew strong
and well. She and father thought it better I should go
out into the world again, and earn a little money for my-
self. They had no fear about my not doing very well, for
I had gained a good character, and my Awkward Times
HE next time I was a nurse (and a happy time it
was), I went to take care of three dear little
girls, called Ada and Milly and Grace Lee, who
lived in Laneton in one of the old houses near the cathedral.
Their dear mamma died soon after her little baby Grace
was born. Their papa, who was one of the clergymen of
the cathedral, was a great deal out of doors on business,
and amongst his poor people; so he wanted some one who
would love and take care of his little girls, and be to them
like a mother and a nurse in one.
At first I was thought scarcely old enough for this; but
when Mr. Gray heard more about me, that I had been
under such a good nurse as Mrs. Mee for so many years,
he was willing I should go and try how I could manage.
I was no longer Mary, the shy young nursemaid, then,
but 'Mrs. Stubbs,' the head-nurse, with a girl under me to
help with the children.
THE NURSER Y TIMES.
I still wore my nice white caps tied under my chin, and
neat lilac cotton or dark stuff gowns, for I never cared for
fine clothes or gay colours; and I had a still graver look on
my face, for in those years at home, when dear mother was
ill, all the cares of the house had fallen on me.
I first saw my new children at about six o'clock on a
summer evening, when their last nurse was packed up, and
dressed in her travelling things, only waiting to go till I
When I came into the nursery, she put the baby into
my arms; and then, after speaking a few words to me, went
away, and so I was left alone with my three little ones.
Miss Ada was four years old, Milly three, and baby only
three months; and sweeter children to look at I never saw,
-all with dark brown eyes and fair waving hair (for even
baby had some hair), and all very much alike.. The two
eldest were dressed in the deep black frocks, and baby in
the deep black ribbons, which told that their dear mamma
was gone away from them for ever.
The baby came to me that first evening as if I was an
old friend; and when I undressed her, and put her gently in
a nice warm bath, she looked in my face as if she liked me,
and cooed and laughed so prettily: she was such a little
tiny thing then, not larger than many a wax-doll I have
seen since. And, when her little night-gown was on, I
gave her to Matilda, the nursemaid, to hold while I un-
dressed the other children.
HAPPY Y TIMES.
Miss Milly came to me shyly enough, and kept her eyes
fixed on the fire, as if she was half afraid of a new nurse.
But there was no fear about Miss Ada, when it was her
turn; she looked up in my face, and looked at me all-
over with serious large eyes, as if to see exactly what I
When both children were undressed, I told them it was
time to say their prayers. Then Miss Milly knelt down
and said hers, yawning, and seeming tired nearly all the
time. When Miss Ada began, she was more careless
still, pulling about my apron with her fingers, and looking
all round the room now and then, forgetting almost every
word she had to say.
I was sorry at heart to see this; for I knew these chil-
dren's mamma had loved God all her life, and their papa
did the same.
'My dears,' I said, 'do you know you have been talking
to God Almighty, who lives above the sky, in heaven ?'
They both looked up in my face with their large dark
eyes, as if they knew I was sorry, but said nothing.
Then Matilda, the nursery-maid,-who was a quick-
looking girl of twelve, but whose ways and manners did not
please me from the first,-said, I am sure, poor children,
they get so tired when it comes to bed-time, that I do not
wonder they cannot say their prayers well.' This Miss
Ada caught up and repeated directly, 'We is so tired, we
cannot say our prayers very well.'
THE NURSER Y TIMES.
I did not notice Matilda's wrong and careless words
then, but took both children on my lap, and said, 'Are you
too tired, when night comes, to say "Thank you" to the
good God who has taken care of you and loved you all day
long, and to ask Him to take care of you and bless you to-
night ? And are you too tired to ask Him to take you to
heaven, where your dear mamma is, when you die ?' As I
spoke her mamma's name, Miss Ada's little face looked
grieved all over, and she said, 'I do love my mamma, and I
love gentle Jesus;' and I saw the dear child had not forgotten
her mamma, and with the memory of her came the memory
of those sweet words too, and of all she used to teach her.
Then in simple words I told the children how Almighty
God listens to and loves every word a little child says to
Him from its heart, even if it is only, '0 God, make me
good,' or, 'Pray, God, bless me and take care of me;' and
how He will always love and keep them for His own, if
they really ask and beg it: but to kneel down and say
words without thinking, those were not prayers to Him at
all. And I told them that, doing like this, children lose
the grace and love of God, and grow careless, and naughty,
My little girls understood me, and they knelt down
again, and, clasping their hands, said after me the old verse
their mamma had taught them, beginning 'Gentle Jesus;'
and there was no yawning or looking about that time.
Then I took them one by one, and laid them in their
little beds in the night nursery-baby in a pretty crib close
by the side of the bed I was to sleep in, and the other
children each in a bed with white curtains on the opposite
side of the room; then I felt quite happy, and like an
old hen who has all her little chickens safe under her wing,
and I began to look about me a little, to see what my
new home was like.
The two nurseries were large, low, old-fashioned rooms,
not opening out of one another with a door, but divided by
a wide passage.
There were three windows in each of them; those in
the night nursery looking. over the large, square, walled-in
garden at the back of the house, in which I could see
by the evening light curious-shaped borders full of old-
fashioned bright-coloured flowers, and here and there,
growing up amongst them all, were the strong.trunks of
many fig-trees, whose spreading branches made a pleasant
green shade over all the garden.
When I went back into the sitting nursery,. I pulled
aside one of the window-blinds, and looked out to see what
I could see there, to the front of the house; and, dear me,
how beautiful it all looked, to be sure!
There, just on the opposite side of the quiet road
which ran along in front of the house, called Cloister Lane,'
stood the old cathedral, with its heavy tower in the midst,
and the carved stone figures about it. All the stars were
out, and the moon was shining as clear as could be.
THE NURSERY TIMES.
Cloister Lane was not a very long one. On each side
of it stood the houses of the cathedral clergymen, and at
each end was an old stone archway: one with its gates
always open, leading through it to the town; and the other
with closed gates, leading to beautiful gardens, with the
ruins of an old abbey in the midst of them.
Mr. Gray's was the last house in the lane, so we were
quite close to the abbey gardens; and there was no house
exactly opposite ours, so there was nothing to hide the
beautiful old cathedral from our eyes.
'Well,' I thought to myself as I looked out, 'what a
beautiful, peaceful place this seems, to be sure! If my
children are only as good as they look, we shall have happy
times here.' Just then I heard Matilda come into the room,
and I thought it right to tell her, very kindly, how grieved
I had been to hear her speak so lightly as she did about
the children being tired and careless over their prayers.
You are old enough, Matilda,' I said, 'to know the
harm of it, more than they do yet, and I was very much
hurt to hear you.' When I said this, instead of seeming
sorry and humble, Matilda spoke very pertly; but I had
not time to say more to her, for the housemaid came up to
tell me that my master wished to see me in his study. I
went down stairs and knocked at the door; a pleasant voice
said Come in;' and I stood in another old-fashioned, large,
low room, something like my nurseries, but with shelves
all round the walls, with hundreds of books on them, and
with crimson curtains drawn across the windows, and a
lamp burning on the table. My master sat by the table.
He had been reading, but he shut up his book and turned
towards me when I came in. He had a sorrowful look on
his face, thinking as he often did, I dare say, of the dear
children's mamma, whom he had so lately lost; but when
he spoke, he had a sweet smile too, and very kind and
pleasant he was to me.
He said how much he was trusting me in giving his
little girls into my care, and how he hoped above all other
things I would try to make them good, true children, loving
God, and trying to do right; and that, from what he had
heard of me, he thought he might count on this. He said
the last nurse had been careless with them in many ways,
and so he had thought it best she should leave; and that
she had engaged Mati'.:a. who, he feared, from something
he had heard, was not so good a girl as he should like to
have about his children; but that I must watch her ways,
and look out for another nursery-maid if I was not satisfied.
Indeed, he left all in my hands.
He told me that he wished the children to be brought
down to prayers in his study every morning at eight o'clock,
and that he liked to have them with him twice a day as well,
-after his breakfast in the morning, and again before his six
o'clock dinner in the evening. Sometimes, nurse,' he said,
' I take them out with me for a treat, but not very often, for
my walks are generally in the town, so they are better with
THE NURSERY TIMES.
you; and you cannot take them to a nicer place in the
mornings than the abbey gardens, where I have leave for
them to go ; but you must be careful that they never touch
the fruit or flowers, or our leave will be taken away.'
The great wish I had always had, when I was a little
girl, to do my duty in life, grew stronger every year now;
and when I went up-stairs again, and looked at those dear
children fast asleep in their little beds, I felt what a great
duty God had set before me, and a true love for them came
into my heart; and, with His help, I did my best for their
good in the seven years I served them.
Those abbey gardens were my children's great delight.
At about eleven o'clock every fine summer morning, after
they had had breakfast, and seen their papa, and done their
little lessons with me, we all went there, and stayed till
nearly dinner-time, at one o'clock. The ruins of the old
abbey stood in one corner, covered with ivy, and the win-
dows of the house where the Dean lived, and of the palace
where the Bishop lived, looked into them from the same
side; so only a few people, who had houses in Cloister
Lane, were given leave to go into them, as they were
meant to be kept very quiet and orderly.
The gardens were large enough, however, for my chil-
dren to run about and play in to their heart's content,
without disturbing anybody; and there were beautiful large
patches of lawn, with shady trees on them, and broad gravel
walks, and, what they liked better still, slopes of soft velvety
grass, which they could roll down, from the top to the
bottom. And I am sure, if ever their merry laughter rose
up and got in at the windows of the palace, and into the ears
of the kind old Bishop and the grave Dean, it must have
done them good, and made them feel merry to hear it.
Indeed, I know the Bishop liked my little girls with the
golden hair, as he called them; for whenever he came
through the gardens and saw them, he used to come and
talk, and take the two eldest by the hand, and let them
walk with him all down the gravel path to the gateway;
and once he gave Miss Milly a ride across the lawn in the
Towards the end of that summer something happened
which troubled me very much. Matilda, the nursery-
maid, or Matty,' as the children called her, often did things
that made me feel very much displeased with her. Not
stupid things, such as I had done in my awkward days;
for if it had been only that, I should have been sorry for
her, remembering what I had once been myself. No, it
was not that, for she was a quick, clever girl, and might
have been a help and comfort in any house; but what I
began to see was, that her ways were not true, and honest,
Yet I did not like to send her away in a hurry, hoping
she would change for the better; and I talked to her, and
did all I could to make her so.
One day when we were in the abbey gardens I saw
THE NURSERY TIMES.
Miss Ada with a tulip in her hands, and found out that
Matilda had gathered and given it to her, though she knew
it was forbidden that any flower there should be touched.
I was very vexed with her, and she said she would never
do such a thing again. But I felt I could trust my good
little children themselves better than this great girl of
twelve; so I called them, and explained that they must
never touch the fruit or flowers in that garden at all-not
even if it was offered to them, as their papa did not wish it.
Then they both said, No, nurse, we never will;' and I
felt they would keep their word, for there was not a day I
did not talk to and teach them, and they began to love
what was right.
After this they used to keep near me in the gardens, for
I did not feel happy in their running about with Matilda,
apart from me.
One morning, however, baby was fretful, cutting her
teeth; so I was obliged to stay at home with her, and, not
liking the young ladies to lose their walk, and hoping
Matilda was growing more to be trusted, I let them go out
for an hour in the abbey gardens with her.
They came back at the right time, and all went on as
usual till the afternoon, when we came in from our walk;
and then, when Matilda was gone down stairs for the rest
of the evening to do some ironing, and I was folding up the
children's little thread gloves, I saw a red fruit stain upon
the thumb and fingers of the pair Miss Ada had worn.
Now, there was a large plot of raspberry bushes in one
corner of the abbey gardens, and I knew they were covered
with ripe red fruit, for we had noticed them a few days
before. I knew too how fond Miss Ada was of rasp-
berries; and when it came into my thoughts that she had
been gathering and eating them, I could almost have cried.
Oh dear,' I thought, 'after all my teaching! and she,
seeming so good and true, and my eldest one, who I thought
would lead the others right, greedy and disobedient! dis-
obedient and greedy! It couldn't be much worse if she
had never had any teaching at all. I would give twenty
pounds,' I thought, if I had it, to know that she was not
so.' But there was no waiting: I must know and find out
Miss Ada,' I said, 'come here! What are these stains
on your gloves ?'
She grew red all over her face, but said nothing, though
she did not look down or look away. 'Come,' I said, 'you
must speak, and tell me what they are.'
'Raspberries, nursey,' she said slowly.
'Then,' I said, 'you have been disobedient and greedy;
and, what is far worse, you have broken your word. Oh,
Miss Ada, I cannot believe it!'
No, nurse, I have not done all that; please do not say
it. I never picked one, and I did not eat one.' And Miss
Ada burst out crying, but still looking ip at me with her
clear truthful eyes.
THE NURSER Y TIMES.
If you did not pick a raspberry, how came your gloves
to be stained like this, Miss ?' I said sternly.
I cannot tell, I cannot tell. Oh, nurse, don't be angry!'
I am very much hurt and pained,' I said. But go
into the next room, and stay there by yourself, Miss Ada,
and think about it all, and I shall come to you again later
in the evening.' Then I took her into the next room,
which was an unfurnished and unused one, and left her
sitting on a box by the window; and I could hear my poor
child's sobs as I shut her in, and came back with a troubled
mind to the nursery.
Not long before, I had been thinking to myself that there
could be nothing much worse than being disobedient and
greedy; but now those faults seemed as nothing, compared
to the dread I felt that Miss Ada might have told a story.
But as I hushed baby in my arms, and thought it all
over, that dread seemed to go quite away. It was not
because I supposed my little girls had no faults, for I knew
all children have them, but because such a fault as story-
telling-such a mean, wicked fault-I seemed to know,
could not belong or have anything to do with my good,
honest-hearted little girls. So, though I thought it all very
strange, I grew more restful in my mind.
Matilda was still down stairs, but I noticed that Miss
Milly stood about, near her toy cupboard, not playing with
anything, and looking very down-hearted and unhappy.
I knew she was always a little like that when her sister
was in disgrace, for they loved each other dearly; but when
more than two hours passed, and she scarcely looked up or
moved, and when tea came could not eat her bread and
butter, I began to think something more than usual was
the matter: so I said, 'Come to me, Miss Milly my darling,
and tell me what you are troubling about.' She threw down
her toys, and putting up both her hands to her face, darted
across the room, and nestled her head in my lap with a
She was very shy always, and it was difficult for her
to tell her feelings; but, after a little coaxing, she said
suddenly, Poor Ada, nurse Matty told her not to tell.'
And then she went on crying.
Baby was asleep by this time, so I laid her in her crib;
and then taking Miss Milly by the hand, led her into the
room where her sister sat crying by the window. I am
afraid,' I said, 'that Matilda is not good and true, and has
tried to put deceit into my little girls' hearts; but they must
not be afraid of telling me all that has happened as if I was
their own mamma.'
Then Miss Ada looked up, and told me that Matilda
had gathered some raspberries in the abbey gardens that
morning, and put them in her hands; and at first she said
she thought of eating them, they looked so nice and ripe;
but when Matty said, Mind, you are not to tell nurse or
your papa that I gave you any,' she knew how wrong it
would be to touch them, and threw them all away out of
THE NURSERY TIMES.
her hand. 'And, nurse,' she said, looking up to me, 'you
will see them all there on the ground by the bushes if you
look, and then you will know I say true.'
I do not want to look, my darling,' I said; you have
neither of you ever told me a story yet, and so I can trust
you, and your word is enough for me.'
But, oh, don't scold Matty,' said both the children; for
though Matilda was often very sharp with them, they could
not bear to think of her in trouble.
I kissed them, and said how glad I was that they had
spoken openly, and had done what was right. And then I
undressed and put them to bed myself, for they were sorry
and tired with all that had happened.
That evening I went to their papa in his study, and told
him all; and he felt as I did, that Matilda, who at twelve
years old could be so deceitful and wicked, was not a girl
he could ever allow to be about his children again. Still
he was sorry for her mother, who was poor, and did not
like to turn her from his house at once; so he said she
might stay and help cook do the rough work in the kitchen
for a month longer, and then find another place of the same
kind. And, Mrs. Stubbs,' said my master, you must look
about, and try and find a nice good girl to be your nursery-
maid, as quickly as you can.'
After this, for more than a fortnight, I did everything
for the children myself, for Matilda was never allowed to
come to our rooms at all ; but from the night nursery
window we could see her in the yard sometimes, cleaning
the stones and carrying buckets of water, and doing all the
rough kitchen work, and she looked up longingly at the
window, wishing herself in the nice warm nursery again,
instead of down there in the cold and wet, many a time in
the day, I'll be bound.
Several girls came to see me, to try and get the nurse-
maid's place; but it was not very easy to fix upon one I
thought I should like about my children.
At last one evening there came a young woman, whose
face I liked directly, it looked so gentle, and she was so
neatly dressed, and had such a sweet voice. She told me
she was eighteen years old, and had been living as nurse for
three years in a large farm-house, and that her last mistress
would speak very well for her; and that if I took her, she
would try hard to do her duty. She said her mother had
died lately; and she was dressed in black.
Then I took her to see my master; and he liked her
look as much as I did, and thought I could not do better
than write to her last mistress, and if she could speak well
for her, take her as my nursery-maid.
As she was going out of the hall door, I said, 'Dear me,
I have forgotten to ask your name;' then she took a pencil
out of her pocket, and wrote on a card I gave her, in a neat
hand, 'Alice Bolt.' Now, did you ever hear of such a
surprise as that? I stood still looking at her, and could
scarcely believe it at first; but as I looked, I quite wondered
THE NURSERY TIMES.
that I had not known it from the beginning, for through her
dark brown hair I seemed to see the light shade rising, and
through her eyes the same look coming that I had known
so well in my first little girl, all those many years ago in
Then I took hold of her hand, and said, I know you
again now, but you do not remember me.' And she didn't.
But when I told her my name, the tears were in her eyes
that minute, and she took my hand, and said, 'Oh, I have
to thank you for so much! I should have been very different
now, but for your teaching me the first good things I ever
heard so long ago.'
I think you will have guessed what happened by this
time. Alice's old mistress spoke well of her; my master
wished me to engage her; and my children were delighted
indeed to have the little girl I had told them about so often
for their new nursemaid.
Ah! how pleasant it was to me to think that the texts
and hymns I had taught her long before, when I never
thought to hear them again, would help to make my own
children good, and my own nursery happy.
God was very good, to show me so plainly that the good
I had tried to do, even when I was a poor ignorant little
girl, had not been useless.
Time passed on; summer turned to winter, and snow
lay thick on the abbey gardens, and wrapped up the old
cathedral all in white, 'to keep the carved figures of the old
men and little children warm,' as Miss Milly used to say;
and baby Grace grew bigger and my little girls grew better
with every month that passed, and, come cold or heat, wind
or snow, there was always sunshine in our happy nursery.
Now and then, whenever I was able, I went home to
see dear mother and all of them; but there was nothing new
to tell there, except that Reuben was getting as clever as
his father at the mill, and Pat's voice was praised by all the
One day, two summers after I went to Cloister Lane
(Miss Ada was eight years old then), Pat came to bring me
a large bag of cowslips he had gathered on our fields, and
which I meant to make some wine with. The young ladies
came down into the kitchen to see them turned out on to
trays, and to get some nice bunches to take back to Alice in
the nursery, who knew how to make them into balls.
When Miss Ada had chosen hers, she whispered to me,
' Nurse, do ask Pat to sing us a song;' for she had heard all
about him and his singing from me many a time.
I knew Pat would be too shy to stand up and sing
before them all at once, like that; so I said, 'The young
ladies want to hear you sing, Pat, and they are going up-
stairs to the nursery again with me now; so, as soon as you
think we are there, you come round under our window, and
sing just as you do the "Waits" to the folks at Christmas.'
Going up-stairs, the children met their papa, and Miss Ada
caught hold of him, and said, 'Oh, papa, please come with
THE NURSERY TIMES.
us to the nursery window and hear Pat sing,' and then
the others begged too; so their papa went up with them,
and in a minute we were all at the window listening for
And soon it rose up! very sweetly and softly at first, as
if he was a little afraid, but louder and stronger as he went
on from one beautiful hymn to another.
'Oh, nurse,' said Miss Ada, 'how I should like to hear
Pat's voice in our cathedral! I am sure it would be more
beautiful than any of the other choristers; and should not
you like it too, dear papa ?' she said.
Mr. Lee did not answer her just then, but turning to
me, said, 'This brother of yours would have a beautiful
voice indeed, nurse, if he were well taught. I suppose he
is very fond of music. What does he do at home ?'
'Well, sir,' I said, smiling, he does very little besides
sing.' And then I told him that father and mother were
often anxious about Pat, because, as he was not very strong
and did not seem clever at regular work, they were afraid
when he grew up he would not be able to earn money
enough to keep him.
'Well, bring him up here and let me have a talk with
him, nurse,' said Mr. Lee. So I called my boy, and set the
blue silk handkerchief mother had tied round his throat
straight, and pulled out the bows, and ran my hand through
his wavy hair to keep it off his fair sunburnt face, and
brought him to my master. And there he stood shyly by
HA PP Y TIMES.
the door, pulling his cap about in his hands, and looking
such a regular country boy in his stout fustian suit.
'Well, sir,' said my master, 'so you like to do very little
besides sing. In that you are like the birds; they do very
little except sing, you know; but then the birds live upon
fruit, and hips, and haws, and berries, which they find all
ready for them growing on bushes and hedges; and now
and then crumbs are thrown for them from nursery windows.
So they get on very well. But you want something more to
eat than hips and haws and bread crumbs: they would not
be near enough for you to keep fat upon; would they, now ?'
Please, sir, I likes bread, and cheese, and bacon,' said
Pat, with his eyes still on the carpet.
This took my young ladies' fancies, and they all began
'Well, my lad,' said Mr. Lee, 'my little girl there says
she should like to hear your voice in our beautiful cathedral.
Now, should you like it, if I could manage for you to be one
of the singing boys there-choristers we call them ? and if I
did that, you would be allowed to go to school; and be well
taught in music as well as other things; but you would have
to work hard at your music, for nothing can be done really
well without hard work. And then you would perhaps be
able to play the organ, or to sing so well that you might
earn money enough to live upon.'
Pat's blue eyes opened wide now, and lifted themselves
up from the carpet; but, as he did not speak, my master
THE NURSERY TIMES.
went on : I should not think of this for you, Pat, but that
I hear you wish to be a good boy and lead a good life; for
it is a high state to be called to take part like this in serving
God every day.'
'Please, sir,' said Pat with reverence, I like to sing
songs to God Almighty better than to any one else besides,
and I believe He always listens when I sings.'
'That He does, my boy,' said Mr. Lee, 'while your
heart goes with your words. And now, nurse, take Master
Pat down, and give him as much bread and cheese and
bacon as he likes to eat.' This I did, and oh! what spirits
the boy was in!
He had been to the cathedral service at Laneton long
ago, and had seen the choristers in their white robes, and
thought their singing was like the singing of angels. And
now, to think that he might be one amongst them, was
almost too much surprise and joy.
But so it happened; and, before a month was over, my
little Pat, or Patrick,' as we began to call him then, stood
amongst the choristers in his white robe, his voice rising as
high and clear as the best of them. And often I could not
help fixing my eyes upon his face, showing as it did in its
solemn look that he had not forgotten it was God in heaven
he was singing to. Father, and mother, and Reuben, all
walked over from the farm to hear their boy sing that
first Sunday; and my good master asked them to dine at
his house, and a happy day we had.
After that, Patrick walked into Laneton every morning
at eight o'clock, and home again late in the afternoon; and
I saw him only now and then, and at.cathedral service on
Sunday. But I often heard of him, that he was doing
well in the choristers' school, and working hard to get on
with his music and singing.
And my little girls, they worked hard and got on nicely
in their schoolroom too; for the elder ones had a school-
room and a kind governess by this time, and my baby Grace,
of three years old, was the only one I had left to teach.
When first I went to them, I taught the elder ones
myself; but after they could read and write, and do their
common sums nicely, they got beyond me and my teach-
ing, so their papa had looked about to find a governess
At first he thought of having one to live always in the
house; but when Miss Ada heard it, she said, 'Oh, papa,
what shall we do if we cannot have oui walks with nurse,
and be with nurse when lessons are over ?' And when Miss
Milly heard it, she put her hands to her face, and sat down
on the floor in her papa's study, and cried like a baby.
Then Mr. Lee called me to him, and said before them
both, Now, nurse, these young ladies love you and their
nursery so much that they are unhappy at the thought of a
governess coming to live in the house, because they would
be so much parted from you; so I will try and find a lady
who will come and teach them for a few hours in the morn-
THE NURSER Y TIMES.
ing and afternoon instead, as long as they get on well, and
learn their lessons for the next day by themselves as care-
fully and regularly as they would be obliged to do if their
governess was in the room.'
Upon hearing this, Miss Ada clapped her hands and
danced about, saying, 'Oh, thank you, thank you, you dear
good papa! we will try very hard to do our lessons well.'
And Miss Milly, when she heard it, took her hands from
her face, and ran to her papa, and looked up at him with
happy smiles. So in their different ways they both showed
how glad they were.
Well, soon after this the governess came. Her name
was Miss Barton, and a nice kind lady she was, but strict
about lessons; because, of course, it would have made her
very uncomfortable that the children she taught should not
turn out clever at their books. I must say they did their
best, and that she soon found out.
Miss Ada always practised her music for an hour before
breakfast every morning, on the grand piano in the hall
that her dear mamma used to play on; and, oh! how par-
ticular that child was to begin at the right minute, and go
on steadily and carefully till. the striking of the old clock
told her that the full hour was out. An oak staircase led
up from one side of the hall to the landing above, where our
nurseries were; and I could look over the bannisters right
down into it, with its warm turkey carpet in the middle of
the floor, and the shiny oak boards all round, and see my
ADA PRACTISING HER MUSIC.
HAPPY Y TIMES.
little one seated at the piano; and I could always hear her
playing, too, whichever room I was in.
Being only a nurse, I never knew much of music; but I
knew enough to tell how careful she was over playing her
notes right, and how she would do a tune or an exercise
over and over again till she got it as it ought to be.
Why, I have heard young ladies I have lived with since,
practise in quite another sort of fashion, and I can tell the
difference fast enough. They sit down and play a bit, and
then they yawn, and then they run to see what o'clock it is,
or shake an hour-glass to make the sand go quicker. And
that's how their hour passes. I often think, when they
get to be grown-up young ladies, and go to a party, and
are asked to play a tune, they must be sorry enough they
cannot do it nicely, or make any one care to listen to them.
And as Miss Ada did her music, so she did her other
lessons-carefully and well; and Miss Milly, though she
was not quite so forward, did hers well too; so there were
no complaints, and their schoolroom was as happy as their
I have told you of the old stone gateways at each end
of Cloister Lane, one leading to the pleasant gardens, and
the other to the busy town; but I must tell you now that
there was still another archway in the middle of the lane,
on the opposite side to our house, different to the others,
for it was low and plain, with no carved figures to ornament
it, and only a little ivy clinging to the old stones here and-
THE NURSER Y TIMES.
there; this archway led through a narrow lane into a square
court, old and quiet, paved with tiles, and having on every
side of it rows of small houses, all alike, with a door and
two windows in each.
Neat muslin blinds were in the windows, and many a
pretty fuschia and geranium rose up above them from the
flower-pots on the inside window-sill. But in every house
there was some one old, or some one ill, for these were the
almshouses where poor people are allowed to live without
paying rent, when they are not able to work for themselves.
I had been into almost every house, at one time or
another, to take little presents to them from my master;
and mostly I went in the evenings, when my children were
asleep, for I thought them too young to be any help in
houses where sickness and old age always were. But I
began to think, when Miss Ada was nine years old, and
Miss Milly so gentle and thoughtful for her years, that it
might be well for them, and well for these poor people, to
be brought together.
I thought about it all the more, from seeing how able
and helpful the children were that I saw about when I
went to the almshouses. Not that there were many chil-
dren there: only seven in all those twenty houses,-one
boy and six girls,-steady, old-fashioned, hard-working chil-
dren, not living in families together, merry and amused, but
each child in a separate house, taking care of, and doing its
best for, some one helpless from illness or old age, seldom
having any play or any pleasure, but, with thoughtful eyes
and busy hands, working their days away, and doing their
duty in the life where God had placed them.
This I liked to see. And I knew they were happy in
their way; but still I wished sometimes that they could
have a good game, or a nice treat, like other children.
There was one, little Polly' with brown eyes,-some-
thing like I used to be, I thought. She was ten years old,
and always dressed so neatly in dark-blue cotton frocks and
big checked aprons; and she took care of her old blind
grandmother, and helped her in and out of bed, and did the
house-work, and cooked their dinner, and looked like a very
small steady servant of thirty. Her grandmother's name
was Mrs. Roper, whose troubles often made her cross and
sharp with Polly; but the child went on all the same, and
seemed to know why it was, as well as any older person
would have done.
Then there was Robin, the only boy in the almshouses.
He was about ten too, and took the whole care of his old
greatuncle Paul, who had once been a verger in the cathe-
dral; but, perhaps from standing about so much upon the
stones, had taken cold in his limbs, and now that he was
old, his poor legs and arms were cramped up and useless
with rheumatism, and he lay all day, and all night long upon
his bed in the lowest room of his almshouse; and Robin
was his nurse, and cook, and housekeeper all in one.
That kept his days busy; and then, when he went to
THE NURSERY TIMES.
bed in the upper room at night, instead of being able to
lie there and sleep till morning, he would sometimes be
called up two or three times in the night by the sound of
his uncle's stick knocking against the wall, which was the
sign that Robin was wanted to make a poultice for the pain,
or to help lift or move his uncle; and, when he heard it,
down the stairs he pattered with his little bare feet and
white night-shirt, his hair all rough from his sleep, and his
face like a sunbeam, so anxious and ready to help, 'and
looking for all the world, Mrs. Stubbs, like that picture of
little Samuel up there on the wall,' said old Paul to me
many a time, with love and pride in his poor broken voice.
One other child, too, I seemed to know very well in the
almshouses : her name. was Dorcas.' And I was more
sorry for her than any of the others, because the old woman
she lived with and did for, was not her own relation-not a
grandmother or aunt, who, even if she said a sharp word
now and then, as Mrs. Roper did to Polly, would still have
had love and care for one who was her own; but poor little
Dorcas belonged to nobody, and had no home.
Her father and mother died when she was a baby.
They had no money, and so she was sent to the work-
house. There, with no one to care for her, she was taught
to read and write, and, at eleven years old, she was sent to
the almshouses to take care of an old woman who had no
relations of her own.
This old woman was so often scolding, that she went by
the name of Goody Grunt,' and most children ran out of
her way when they saw her coming; but little Dorcas could
not do this, but had to stay always with her in one little
room; and she often looked pale and careworn. Goody
was not ill and not very old, but she had hurt her leg, and
could not do much about the house for herself.
And now I have told you something about the alms-
houses and those who lived in them. I must go on again
about my own children.
Just when I was thinking it would be well to take them
with me when I paid my visits there sometimes, it hap-
pened one afternoon, when we were all coming home down
Cloister Lane, after a nice country walk, that Miss Ada
noticed the little archway for the first time to me.
She must, however, have noticed it in her own mind
before this, for she said, 'Nurse, I wonder how it is that so
many people pass up and down under the two big arch-
ways, and so very few ever go under the little arch; and I
have seen such queer old-fashioned-looking little children
go in and out there sometimes, not running and dancing
along as we do, but walking so steadily, with a basket or a
bundle, or resting under it with a great bucket or kettle in
their hands: I wish I knew where it leads to.'
I hope, Miss Ada,' I said, 'that you three sisters will
not grow up like the many who pass up and down, but like
the few who turn aside and go under the little archway.
There will always be one not far off from you, wherever
THE NURSERY TIMES.
you may live, if you only look out for it; and under it you
will find those whom God has asked you to take care of
'Then let us go under and see,' said Miss Ada.
'Are they the queer little girls we are to take care of,
It is "the poor" you are to take care of, my dear,' I
said; 'the poor and needy, whether they are little girls or
big people. They live near you, and have many pains, and
you can try and help them to some pleasures. Your dear
mamma often went under the little arch when she was here,
and so does your papa now.'
By this time we were at home; and when the children's
walking dresses were off, and they. came and sat round me
quietly, I told them all I have told you about the old people
and the children at the almshouses; and that evening their
papa gave leave that they should go with me on my visits
The very next day the children made friends with Polly,
and Robin, and Dorcas. First we went to see Mrs. Roper,
-poor old Mrs. Roper, who could not see us; but she was
pleased at the children's coming, and liked to hear their
voices. Miss Milly seemed very sorry she was blind, and
said, 'Sha'n't you ever open your eyes at all again, Mrs.
Not here, my dear; not down here, but in heaven above
I hope I shall: and so I pray the Lord every day. And
perhaps it is best as it is, for I might see what I didn't like
here. I dare say Polly doesn't set the China figures on the
mantle-shelf as straight as I did, or keep the tea-trays dusted
and the cupboard polished as they used to be when I had
my sight.' Hearing this,. Polly looked sad.
Oh, Mrs. Roper, it does seem all so tidy, and the figures
quite straight, and the cupboard shines like a looking-glass,'
said Miss Ada.
This seemed to please Mrs. Roper, and she said, 'Well,
miss, I don't mean that I would change my Polly for any-
body else's girl in the court, for she is a good girl as times
go, and she is a thrifty girl too, and every penny she ever
gets she puts in a box and saves to buy boots, and keep her
feet tidy for Sunday school, though she would often take
out a halfpenny to buy me an orange with, if I would let
her.' Hearing this, Polly looked glad again, and Mrs. Roper
said our visit had cheered her up a bit, for it was not often
that gentlefolks' children came to see her.
Then we went to three of the other houses, and then to
see old Paul, for Miss Milly to give him a piece of flannel
she had hemmed round that morning. He was in his bed
by the window, and full of aches and pains.
I am afraid you are not very well to-day, sir,' I said;
'have you had a bad night ?'
'Well, Mrs. Stubbs, you must ask my boy there; I
think he knows more about me than I do myself.'
Then Robin made his bow, and said, It is the east