The Baldwin Library
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THE AUTHOR OF "NELLIE AND ALICE."
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THE WHITE FEATHER.
" MARY-MARY ASHFORD, are you not
ready?" said the blithe voice of Rose
Stephenson, as she pushed open the door
of John Ashford's cottage one fine sunny
But the question did not receive any
answer just then, for Mary was busily
engaged hastily devouring her breakfast;
and her mouth was so full of bread and
butter, that to speak would have been im-
"My mother always has my breakfast
ready long before school time," Rose went
on, with a half reproachful glance at Mary's
elder sister, who was ironing at a table by
the window; "but you must make haste,
6 MARY ASHFORD,
Polly, or we shall be late; the quarter
chimes have just gone."
It is Mary's own fault she is late,"
replied her sister Jane, looking up for a
moment from her employment; her break-
fast has been waiting more than half an
hour, and Annie and Johnnie set off ten
"I am ready now," exclaimed Mary, as
she set down the mug she had just emptied,
and pushed back her chair with some noise.
Jane left her ironing, and gave Mary
her bag of books, and the little basket con-
taining the dinner of the three children.
As she did so, she could not help observing
something different in her sister's appearance.
Oh, Polly I" she exclaimed in a grieved
tone, it is no wonder you are late, if that
is what you have been doing Why, all
those curls must have taken you no end of
time to arrange; and it is a pity you have
spent it over them, for you know Miss
Maynard does not like you to go to school
with long curls hanging down your back;
so put them up in your net, there's a dear."
"Put them in my net after all the
trouble I have had to get them into order !
No, thank you, Jane, not if I know it!
Miss Maynard does not forbid them; and
besides she will not be there to-day."
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 7
Well, do come, Polly," put in Rose
impatiently; "Jane will keep you all day
talking if you stop to listen to her."
Jane made no answer, but with a sigh
returned to her ironing, and the two girls
went away together.
The school was situated at the entrance
of the next village, but it was not half a
mile distant; there was quite time for Rose
and Mary to reach it, if they had chosen to
walk even moderately quickly. But all
Rose's impatience seemed to have vanished
now that she had got Mary out of the sound
of her sister's voice; and stopping short,
and throwing down books and slate, she
exclaimed, I can make your hair so much
prettier, if you will only let me, Polly. I
took particular notice how Miss Egerton
had hers done on Sunday, that I might do
yours like it."
Mary's eyes brightened. To be in any
way like little Miss Egerton of the Hall
was worth stopping for.
Father likes my curls," she said, while
Rose's nimble fingers were busy among
them, "and mother did too, I know, though
she never said much; so I don't see what
right Jane has to object, or Miss Maynard
No, of course not," replied her com-
8 MARY ASHFORD,
panion; and if I were you, Mary, I
should not take one bit of notice what Jane
says; you are too old to be ruled by her.
And as for Miss Maynard, it is no business
of hers; mother says, if it was not that she
is afraid of losing her custom, I should
come to school with a wreath of roses round
my hat to-morrow, just to show that we
don't mind her."
Rose had taken a piece of scarlet velvet
from her own neck, and tied it round Mary's
head, and she now stood off at a little
distance to see the effect of her handiwork,
while the pretty face of her young friend
smiled upon her out of its surrounding of
soft brown curls.
There! that is lovely I" she exclaimed,
clapping her hands. I declare, Polly, if
you were only dressed as well as Miss
Egerton, you would look a thousand times
I wish I was," said Mary with a smile
and a sigh.
But just then the clock in the old church
tower struck the first stroke of nine, re-
minding the children that minutes had been
spending while they had been loitering, and
that it was already school time. Books
were gathered up again in a great hurry, and
the two girls set off to run as fast as possible.
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 9
But the outer door of the school was
shut when they reached it; it was always
closed during prayers, and those who came
after prayers were begun were considered
late; so they had to wait, with one or two
more, until prayers were over, and the door
was opened again, when they entered and
were obliged to place themselves at the
bottom of the class; but Mary was con-
scious of attracting a good deal of attention,
so she did not so very much care.
John Ashford, Mary's father, was a
blacksmith; he had a thriving business, for
there was no other in Farndale or in the
neighboring hamlet of Burnside. The
cottage he occupied stood at that end of
Farndale furthermost from the church, and
just at the turn of the road leading down
to Burnside, at the entrance of which was
Some six months before our story com-
mences John Ashford lost his wife; she
died rather suddenly, after but a few days'
illness; and Jane, the eldest daughter, was
hurriedly summoned home, just in time to
see her alive. Jane had been in service
four years, and it was with great reluctance
that she gave up her place and remained at
home, to manage the house and look after
her young brothers and sisters. Her mis-
10 MARY ASHFORD,
tress, too, was sorry to part with her, for
she was an old lady and rather difficult to
please, and the girl suited her; but Jane
knew she ought to come home, and she
But it was a sacrifice on her part, which
she often felt was not quite appreciated;
and if her father was exacting, or the chil-
dren tiresome, she was apt to grow down-
hearted and irritable; and that was not the
way to mend matters. But Jane was young
yet-scarcely sixteen, and daily and hourly
she felt the loss of the mother she had so
dearly loved. She was a good girl, though
her brothers and sisters considered her slow
and stupid, and she was really trying to
fulfil her duty and act uprightly and con-
Next in age to Jane came Tom, a lad of
fourteen, steady and trustworthy, and a
great help to his father, who was teaching
him his own trade. Then came Mary.
For four years she had been the eldest
daughter at home, and as such had been
put forward a great deal more than was
good for her; so that at the age of eleven
she considered herself of much more conse-
quence than her quiet, sedate sister. Mary
was the pet and pride of the whole family.
She was a very pretty child-there could be
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 11
no doubt of it; her regular features, and
her fair, pink and white complexion, and her
abundance of sunny brown hair, would
not have disgraced any lady; but unfortu-
nately Mary was fully aware of her beauty,
and attached undue importance to it, as the
time she wasted daily over the broken look-
ing-glass that hung on the wall of her little
bedroom fully proved.
When she was quite a child-almost from
her babyhood, in fact-her mother had in-
dulged a mother's pride by dressing up her
pretty daughter in finery most unsuited to
her station in life; she had begun to see her
error the last year or two, and had tried to
remedy it, but unsuccessfully. Mary had
imbibed such a love of dress, and such an
idea of her own importance, that it would
be difficult indeed to subdue the self-conceit
that had become a part of her nature.
Her father, too, encouraged her in it;
whenever he went to the neighboring town
he always brought back some little present
for Mary-either a showy ribbon, or some-
thing else equally unsuitable-little think-
ing what amount of harm he was doing to
his cherished little daughter. It seemed
useless, under these circumstances, for Jane
to attempt any counteracting influence. She
had tried, in a weak and small way, but
12 MARY ASHFORD,
Mary took no notice-it did not matter how
Jane dressed, of course, but she had an ap-
pearance to keep up.
The two little ones, Annie and Johnnie,
completed the family.
Mr. Maynard, the clergyman, had not
been long at Farndale. It was but little
more than a year since he and his sister
Alice came and settled down in the pretty
parsonage close by the old church. The
former vicar had been very old and infirm
for some time, and moreover was unmar-
ried, so that the influence of a lady seemed
much needed in the parish. And gentle
Alice Maynard was just the one to win
the affection of the people. She took a
great interest in the Ashford family, espe-
cially in Jane; perhaps because her own
position had been a somewhat. similar one,
for she too had been left motherless at an
early age, and had had the care and re-
sponsibility of younger brothers and sisters
devolving upon her; but they were all dis-
persed now, and her father being dead too,
Alice had found a home with her eldest
Mrs. Stephenson, Rose's mother, was, or
at least considered herself, one of the prin-
cipal inhabitants of Farndale, because she
kept the post-office and a small general-
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 13
shop, the only one in the place. There was
a rival one at Burnside, and many of the
people patronised that; for it was whispered
-and such reports are not often without
some foundation-that Mrs. Stephenson was
a sharp woman, and some of her practices
would not bear looking into too closely.
Rose was her only child; she was a great
friend of Mary Ashford, and praised and
admired her, and flattered her vanity a great
deal more than either Jane or Miss May-
14 MARY ASHFORD,
MARYASHFORDwas mistaken in her opinion
that Miss Maynard would not visit the school
that morning, for the Scripture lesson was
scarcely concluded, and the second class-of
which Mary and Rose were members-was
just sitting down to prepare their geography,
when the school-room door opened, and Miss
Maynard entered, accompanied by a young
lady, a stranger.
"Iam come on a pleasant errand this morn-
ing, children," she said, after speaking a few
words to Miss Pembroke, the schoolmistress.
"Next Wednesday-that is, to-morrow week
-will be Miss Egerton's birthday, and she
has asked her papa's permission to invite
you all to spend the afternoon in the park,
and take tea on the lawn. I told her I could
bring none but good children; so I hope you
will all try to be as good as you possibly can,
and I hope we shall have a happy day. I
think we shall, if we remember to put in
practice the golden rule-to do to others as
we would be done by."
There was a smile of pleasure on each face
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 15
as Miss Maynard glanced down the rows of
girls, and there was an answering smile on
hers as she added-
Then I think I may tell Miss Egerton
that her invitation is accepted ? "
Accepted? Certainly, and evidently with
great satisfaction. It was a new thing al-
together, for these children were not used
to annual treats, as most village children
are now; and besides, Miss Egerton was
a point of great attraction to all the little
The Hall had been unoccupied for some
years, for Mr. Egerton and his wife and child
had been travelling abroad, on account of
Mrs. Egerton's delicate health; but it had
not been of much use, and they had come
home now to settle there.
The young heiress was thought much of,
and any little girl who had seen her, or could
describe her dress or appearance, was raised
for the time being into some importance, so
that it was no wonder that the invitation was
hailed with delight.
While Miss Maynard was speaking, her
companion had been gazing with some in-
terest at the different faces and expressions
of the thirty girls who were assembled in the
room. She now turned to her friend, and
exclaimed, in an animated whisper, but quite
16 MARY ASHFORD,
loud enough to be heard by every one in the
silence that prevailed-
Oh, Alice, do tell me, who is that remark-
ably pretty girl? If she had only been born
a gentleman's child, she would be lovely."
Miss Maynard held up her finger with a
warning "Hush !" but not before Mary Ash-
ford had raised her head and found that the
stranger's eyes were fixed admiringly upon
her. A sudden flush of gratified vanity
spread to her very brow.
No further notice was taken by Miss
Maynard of her friend's question, but she
turned to Miss Pembroke, and asked several
questions concerning her pupils, and then
she went about amongst them, saying a kind
word to each as she passed.
When she came to Mary Ashford, she
bent down over her shoulder, and said, in a
low tone, "Miss Pembroke tells me you were
late this morning, Mary, and I do not won-
der; you have spent your time in something
else rather than preparing for school. I wish
you would think a little more about your
duties, and a little less about your appear-
ance; these curls are not fit for you, and I
am sure Jane would tell you so."
Mary tossed back the offending curls, and
muttered that she did not care.
"No,"repeatedMiss Maynard, sadly, "you
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 17
do not care, but the time will come when
you will care. Beauty will not last for ever,
Mary; and if you do not lay up something
of more value now, you will regret it when
it is too late."
But Miss Maynard's words fell on a deaf
ear. Mary's mind was so taken up with the
remark she had heard that she could think
of nothing else.
Helen," said Miss Maynard, laying her
hand on her friend's shoulder when they had
left the school, do you know you have done
a great deal of mischief this morning?"
"What, by the question I asked you? I
have not the least idea what harm it could
do; but my tongue runs too fast some-
times; I cannot keep it in bounds, you
Not always," replied Miss Maynard, as
she smiled at the lively face of the fresh
young girl, "but I am sorry you could not
control it this morning. I do not wonder,
though, that Mary Ashford should strike
your fancy; she is a pretty child-I cannot
deny that; yet I would rather she had been
plain, or even ugly, than as she is; and yet
I ought not to say that. He who made her
knew what was best, and I trust, as she
grows older, she may see the folly of her
present vanity; but she has quite sufficient
18 MARY ASHFORD,
sense of her own beauty to spoil her and
make her conceited."
"I am sorry I said anything, then,"replied
Helen Lane. But do not trouble about it,
Alice; the child will soon forget it, and
there will be no harm done."
But there was more harm done than even
Miss Maynard imagined.
Mary sat at her desk with her atlas before
her, and her geography book in her hand, but
she was not learning her lesson. She was
thinking; and if her thoughts had been put
into words, they would have been somewhat
after this fashion:-
Then I am pretty It is not only I who
think so; it seems strangers are struck with
me. Oh, if I only had been born a gentle-
man's child! I do wish I had. If I were
in Miss Egerton's place now, how delightful
it would be I should be dressed so nicely,
and I should have my hair curled without
being found fault with, and I should have a
servant to wait upon me and to dress me,
and I should have no lessons to learn, and
nothing to do but just try to look as pretty
as ever I could. I can do that now, and I
will. If strangers do notice me, they shall
see that I take a pride in my appearance.
It is a shame I have to wear such a shabby
frock as this is, and I won't any longer. I
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 19
shall tell Jane so; it is not fit to be seen;
really, I was quite ashamed of it when I saw
the lady admiring me so. And I must have
something pretty and nice for Wednesday.
I should like to be equal to Miss Egerton if
I. could, for 1 am sure I am a great deal
prettier. Rose said so this morning, and
any one would say so who saw us together."
Mary's thoughts ran on in this unprofit-
able strain for some time longer, until she
was recalled to present duties by the sound
of Miss Pembroke's voice summoning her
class to repeat their lesson. Of course Mary
knew not a single word of it. It was not
much trouble to her to learn when she chose,
and she generally exerted her powers suffi-
ciently to keep her place at the top of the
class; but this morning was an exception;
the very first question asked she could not
answer, and Rose was no better, so it passed
on to the third.
What a look of anger and revenge Mary
gave Margaret Bevan as she slowly and re-
luctantly gave place to her! But before
the lesson was finished Mary was the last of
all, and she received a severe reproof from
Miss Pembroke for her carelessness and
Margaret Bevan, who had so innocently
offended Mary Ashford, was not a favourite
20 MARY ASHFORD,
in the school. She was a shy, reserved girl,
and kept aloof from her companions, partly,
perhaps, because she was irregular in her
attendance, as it was not always she could
be spared from home, so that she did not
make many acquaintances among her school-
fellows; and partly because they, especially
Mary and Rose, laughed at her and teased
her, and she resented it. But there was a
glow of pleasure on her pale face this morn-
ing, for it was very rarely she was first in
Twelve o'clock struck from the old church
tower, and Miss Pembroke's pupils were re-
leased, and came bounding out of the school-
room. Tongues which had for so long been
compelled to be silent made very good use of
Mary called her little sister Annie, and,
giving her the basket, bade her find Johnnie
and give him his dinner, and take the other
into the class-room, and wait there until she
came; and then she and Rose went off to-
gether to the playground. They were talk-
ing eagerly, as indeed were all the rest of
the girls, of the invitation they had received
"Aunt Sarah is making me a white frock,"
said Rose; she has been at it such a long
time; I hope she will have finished it by
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 21
Wednesday; I shall beg her to try. It will
be such a beauty, Mary, and would have
cost such lots of money to buy, Aunt
I wish I might have a white frock too,"
said Mary; "if I can find father in a good
humour, I shall coax him to buy me one."
But it will cost such a great deal," re-
Oh," said Mary, consequentially,"father
could afford it very well-I don't fear about
that-and I think he will like me to go well
dressed on Wednesday. I know Jane will
try to make me wear my lilac print, but I
am sure I shall not submit to that."
And a very good thing if she does," said
Hannah Smith, the eldest girl in the school,
who was passing, and heard Mary's speech;
"it would be the most suitable thing for you
to wear. You know Miss Maynard likes to
see us dressed neat and clean, but not fine."
You had better keep your opinion until
it is asked for, Hannah, which it won't be in
a hurry," was Rose's saucy reply.
"Maggie Bevan," called Mary, as Mar-
garet slowly came in sight, pray what
are you going to wear on the important
occasion of Miss Egerton's party? Of
course you will have a new dress. Or
perhaps, if you wash the one you have on
22 MARY ASHFORD,
once or twice more, it will be nice and white
by that time."
Margaret's face flushed crimson, and she
turned round to give Mary some angry
reply, when a shout of laughter from both
the girls greeted her. Her frock was an
old faded print, washed almost white, as
Mary had said; but on the side now turned
towards her companions was a large piece
of very dark lilac, which certainly presented
a very decided contrast to the rest of the
Yes," continued Mary, mockingly, that
will do very nicely indeed; in fact it will
be just the thing: pray go in that, Peggie
Patch. And your bonnet too, it must have
been your grandmother's for certain, but it
is no worse for that."
The playground by this time was almost
full, for all the girls had assembled there to
listen to what was going on; and the name
"Peggie Patch was taken up, and passed
from mouth to mouth, amid bursts of derisive
laughter. Hannah Smith's voice alone cried
for pity on the poor tormented girl.
As for Margaret, it was more than she
could bear. She turned round in fury upon
her chief persecutor, Mary; seized the hat
which she was carelessly swinging by one
string, wrenched it from her grasp, leaving
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 23
the string in her hand, and throwing it on
the ground trampled it down flat; while,
not content with that, she snatched the end
of the scarlet velvet which hung from Mary's
head; and not heeding, or not caring that
with it she had grasped one of the much-
prized curls, gave it a most violent pull.
Mary uttered a piercing scream, so
alarming that it brought Miss Pembroke
in hot haste from her cottage close by, where
she had been quietly eating her dinner, to
know what was the matter.
Margaret, Margaret, what is this? she
said, laying her hand on the shoulder of the
excited girl: you are in a terrible passion;
take care what you are doing. What is the
cause of it all ?"
But Margaret's passion had spent itself,
and at the sound of Miss Pembroke's voice
she burst into tears, and sobbed out, Mary
Ashford called me Peggie Patch. It is not
my fault if my frock is patched; father
cannot afford to buy me a new one; and
mother said that would look better than
"A great deal better, Maggie; it is
nothing to be ashamed of. But you must
try and bear a laugh, and not get so angry
as I saw you just now: you quite frightened
24 MARY ASHFORD,
"It was all Mary's and Rose's fault,
Ma'am," put in Hannah Smith; "they are
always teasing poor Maggie."
I am ashamed of you, Mary and Rose,"
said Miss Pembroke severely; "you ought
to know better. Because a girl is poorer
and more scantily clothed than yourselves,
is that a reason why you should torment her
and make her miserable? Go, both of you,
into the class room, and eat your dinner
quietly; and if I hear any more of this, I
shall report you to Miss Maynard. And
you, Maggie, go straight home; and do not
let such a little thing make you so angry
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 25
MARGARET BEVAN'S home was an unpre-
tending looking cottage in the back street
of Burnside; but poor and humble as it
was, the flag before the door, and the brass
handle, were as bright and clean as rubbing
and scrubbing could make them; and
through the tiny window the midday sun
shone as clearly as through the plate-glass
windows of Farndale Hall.
Joe and Susan Bevan were very poor
as regards this world's goods; and they
often found it a hard struggle to provide
food and clothing for their seven little ones.
They had begun life with fair prospects;
but a long and serious illness of the husband
and father had swallowed up all the little
savings, and just as he was recovering
Susan fell into delicate health; and for the
last two years she had been able to do very
little in the house, so that Margaret was very
useful in keeping everything in order, and
looking after the younger children. But if
earthly wealth was denied them, they had
what was far better-the humble hope that
26 MARY ASHFORD,
when this life was ended, they would inherit
a heavenly treasure that fadeth not away.
The tears were still in Margaret's eyes
when she reached the door of her home.
She had not gone straight there, as Miss
Pembroke told her; when fairly out of
sight of the school she crossed over a stile
into a field, and there, free from observation,
threw herself on the grass and burst into a
storm of sobs-partly passion and partly
grief. At last she rose, and went slowly
home; but before opening the door she
dried her eyes, and tried to look just as usual.
The two youngest children were playing
on the floor, and she almost stumbled over
one of them as she went up to her mother,
who was sitting in an arm-chair by the
window, her face nearly as white as the
pillow that supported her.
"How are you, mother ?" she asked, in a
voice that would quiver in spite of her; I
hope you have not wanted anything."
No, dear; you placed everything I
could possibly want within reach. But
you are late, Maggie: you have not been
in disgrace with your lessons, I hope "
No, mother," replied Margaret; and
then she moved away, and taking off her
poor despised bonnet, laid it carefully on
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 27
Mrs. Bevan watched her daughter wist-
fully as she went about, putting some more
coals on the fire, looking after the dinner in
the oven (which was nothing but potatoes
stewed with onions, but for all that it
wanted attending to), and setting the table for
dinner. When all was done, and Margaret
had packed most of the stew into a basket,
and given it to one of her little brothers to
carry to her father in the field, then Mrs.
Bevan called her to her.
"Maggie, what is the matter?" she
asked, looking up into the face that was
still flushed from her recent excitement.
Oh, mother, nothing much: it is no use
bothering you with school troubles."
"I should be a great deal more bothered
if I did not know, Maggie; so sit down
here and tell me. You never keep anything
from mother, you know, and you must not
She made room for Margaret on the
little stool on which her feet rested, and
drawing her head on to her lap laid her
hand lovingly upon it, and said, "Now,
Maggie dear, tell me."
"Oh, mother !" exclaimed Margaret,
starting from the comfortable position in
which her. mother had placed her, and sitting
28 MARY ASHFORD,
upright, "the girls at school do tease me
so-about my dress, mother-and it is not
right-I am sure it cannot be right. Now
this morning Mary Ashford called me
Peggie Patch because of this; and I cannot
help it, it is not my fault. And all the
other girls took it up, and every one laughed
And my little girl lost her temper, was
it not so, Maggie ? said Mrs. Bevan gravely
"Yes, mother, I got angry: Miss Pem-
broke said I was in a terrible passion, and I
believe I was; I hardly knew what I did
to Mary. But it was enough to make me
angry, was it not, mother ?"
Quite enough, and more than enough
for any little girl'who lets her passions rule
her; but I hoped, Maggie, you were trying
to be watchful."
Margaret hung her head, and said nothing;
she knew she had not been watching that
"I think we shall find something here
that will help you, Maggie," continued Mrs.
Bevan, taking up a Bible that lay on a
little table beside her, and turning over its
leaves; "listen to this: 'Whose adorning
let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting
the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 29
putting on of apparel; but let it be the
hidden man of the heart, in that which is
not corruptible, even the ornament of a
meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight
of God of great price.' Dear Maggie, God
has seen fit to place us in such a position in
this world that we cannot have fine clothing,
even if we would; but, thank God, it is not
necessary. He does not mind what the
outside is, He looks at the inside-that is of
the most* consequence; and if that is right,
we need not care what others think of our
dress, so long as it is clean and decent."
I suppose the inside is not right, mother,
or else we should not mind it," said Maggie
thoughtfully. "What does it mean by a
meek and quiet spirit ?"
What do you think it means, Maggie ?"
Why, just quite contrary to what I was
this morning, I am afraid, mother; I am
afraid I have no ornament either inside or
"Bat the quiet spirit which is of such
price in God's sight is not to be bought,
Maggie; there is no money wanted there;
the rich and the poor may have it alike.
He is willing to give it to all who ask for
it-to all who wish for it. Will you ask
Him, my child, to make you meek and
30 MARY ASHFORD,
gentle, forgiving and not easily provoked,
which, I take it, is the quiet spirit spoken of?"
And which is not mine, mother, I am
sure-I wish it was."
"Watching and prayer will make it
yours, if you truly wish it, dear."
"Mother," said Margaret after a pause,
during which she had been gazing thought-
fully through the window, "is it wrong to
wish we were a little tiny bit richer? "
It is best not to wish it if we can help it,
Maggie dear; and indeed, I think it is
wrong to encourage it; for it is apt to make
one discontented, and that cannot be right;
for God gives us just as much or as little
as He thinks best. Shall I tell you what I
try to remember when I find myself wishing
things were different, and growing discon-
"But, mother!" interrupted Margaret,
"you are never that. You seem to me
always as cheerful and bright as possible.
I often wonder how you can be."
Ah, child; you don't know. I am afraid
I do repine very, very often; when I see little
faces growing sharp with cold, and scanty
food, and your father working, working,
early and late, to earn the little we do get,
while I can do nothing. But, then, as I
said, I try to remember that Jesus Christ,
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 31
when He was on earth, had not where to
lay His head, though He was Lord of all;
and that it was mainly poor people that re-
ceived Him-' poor in this world, but rich in
faith'-those are the best riches, Maggie;
for they will last the longest. But time is
passing; we must not talk any more now."
Margaret rose, and washed and put away
the few plates that had been used-for they
had been eating and talking too-swept up
the hearth and made all tidy, and then she
came again to her mother's side.
Can you spare me to go to school again
this afternoon, mother?" she asked a little
"Yes, dear child; I shall not want for
anything; and you must learn while you
May I put on my Sunday frock, mother?"
If you like, dear; but I think it would
be braver to go in that. It would look as
if you were ashamed of it if you change it;
and there is no need to be that-poverty is
no disgrace, Maggie. But you may please
yourself; put on the other if you would
Margaret said nothing, but went slowly
upstairs. By and by she came down again,
but she had not changed her dress; the
dark lilac patch stood out conspicuous still.
32 MARY ASHFORD,
She took up her old bonnet, and then went
and put her arms round her mother's
"Dear mother !" she whispered; Ihave
asked for the meek and quiet spirit; and I
do not think I shall mind if the girls do call
me Peggie Patch this afternoon; it is better
than a hole any day."
"Yes, dear; you have done wisely to
keep it on," was all Mrs. Bevan said in
reply; but she kissed her fondly, and an
earnest though voiceless prayer went up
from her mother's heart, that her child's
petition might be heard and answered.
It was just school-time when Margaret
reached the school-room, so that she had no
opportunity of speaking to anyone even had
she wished; but as she.walked to her place
a smile and a titter from all the girls greeted
her, and made her face go crimson. It was
checked, however, by the entrance of Miss
Pembroke, and nothing could be said then:
only Margaret knew that her name of
"Peggie Patch" was not forgotten, or likely
School was over, and Mary Ashford was
walking slowly homewards, carrying in her
hand the hat which had been so battered that
she quickly decided it was not fit to put on
her head; she was lingering, waiting for her
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 33
companion Rose, who had a little errand to
do for her mother at Burnside.
As she stood still for a minute, she felt a
hand put into hers, and looking round, saw
Margaret Bevan by her side.
Oh, Mary !" said Margaret, speaking
fast and frightened, before Mary could re-
pulse her; I ran after you to tell you how
sorry I am for what I did this morning."
Sorry! I should think you are!" replied
Mary scornfully, but without withdrawing
her hand; and so am I; you have quite
spoilt my hat-see, it is not fit to wear.
But I shall call you Peggy Patch again, or
any name I choose, in spite of you or Miss
Yes, I suppose you will. But it is an
old hat, is it not, Mary?" Margaret asked
timidly. If you will only let me have it,
I am sure I could do it up so nicely, it would
not be a bit the worse. Mrs. Smith gave our
Hannah an old one the other day, and I
did it up; and mother said I was clever,
and had made it look almost like a new one.
Do let me try yours, Mary ?" and the re-
quest was a very eager one.
Try mine, indeed!" exclaimed Mary in-
dignantly. What an idea! I'll tell you
what, Margaret Bevan, your hat making or
trimming may be very suitable for your
34 MARY ASHFORD,
sister-no doubt it is-but it would not be fit
for me to wear. I should be very sorry to be
seen in any of your handiwork !" and Mary
flung her hand out of Margaret's grasp, and
It was certainly a sign that Margaret was
really trying after a meek and quiet spirit,
that she did not utter an angry reply to
this speech; she only repeated, "I am very
Just then Rose came up, and the two
girls went on their way, talking and laugh-
ing-at her expense, Margaret knew.
"It is very, very hard to be meek and
gentle and forgiving," she said to herself, as
she too turned and went slowly homewards,
the tears gathering in her eyes, and stealing
in great big drops down her cheek; "very
hard, when the girls -Mary especially -
will be so provoking. But God knows how
hard it is; and mother said He would help
.me; so I mean to try to ornament the in-
side instead of the outside, and that will be
better than all the fine clothes in the world.
But, oh dear! it will be hard work to bear
it all patiently !" she added, with a deep
sigh, as the thought of how much she would
have to endure came up before her.
But Margaret would not have to bear the
burden alone. She hardly knew it, hardly
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 35
felt it then, but there was One near her
who was even now beginning to work in
her that patience in the midst of trial-
daily, hourly trial-that quietness of spirit
which is a true mark of His faithful ser-
36 MARY ASHFORD,
"FATHER will be in to tea'directly, Jane; he
told me to tell you so as I passed the forge,"
said Mary, as she entered the little kitchen.
" You don't look as if you would be ready
just yet, though," she added as she looked
And certainly the kitchen was anything
but tidy and comfortable; the floor was
dirty, and the grate looked as if it had not
been swept up all day.
"I have been busy ironing," was all Jane
said in reply; but she put down her iron
and began to set the cups and saucers for
tea, while Mary took out some muslin work
and sat down with it in a corner, without
offering to help her sister.
I declare, Jane," she exclaimed, after a
minute or two of silence, "if you haven't
forgotten to put the kettle on You are a
fine one to manage the house, certainly. Tea
won't be ready for ever so long, and father
is in a mighty hurry, I can tell you; he said
he had a deal of work to do this evening."
Then cannot you help me, Mary ?" re-
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 37
plied Jane, as she took up the kettle to
carry to the pump to fill; do put down
that silly work and cut the toast."
The toast will be ready by the time the
water boils without my help," said Mary;
and Jane said no more, but went out with
I suppose you have not heard the news,
Jane," Mary went on, when she returned.
"Miss Egerton has invited us all to the
Hall to-morrow week for her birthday."
All who ?"
"Why, all us school girls, of course," was
the impatient reply. We are to have tea
on the lawn, and it will be so jolly. I want
father to buy me a white frock for the occa-
sion; Rose says her aunt is making her one."
"I am sure father won't," said Jane
quickly; "you had better not ask him."
"But I shall though, for I have nothing
fit to go in if he does not."
Now, Jennie," said the cheery voice of
their father at the door; is tea ready?
because Tom and I are ready for it, and we
are as hungry as hunters."
It will not be very long, father, but-"
She was interrupted by an exclamation of
Why, I told Polly to tell you to have
38 MARY ASHFORD,
"Yes, and I did, father," said Mary, anxi-
ous to free herself from blame; but Jane
had not put the kettle on, so of course it
could not be ready."
Really, Jane, what are you good for?
I wonder what you do think of! At dinner
time it was just the same; one could not
eat the pie because you had forgotten to put
it into the oven soon enough. And as for
the kitchen, why, it is hardly fit for a decent
person to come into. Things never used to
be so; and I shall not stand it much longer,
Jane; if I cannot have a comfortable place
at my own fireside, I shall go somewhere
where I can."
It won't be long now, father," said Jane
in a choked voice.
Long or short, I cannot wait; but if
you can't give us tea, you can may be give
us some bread and water. We must be con-
tent with that to-night, Tom my lad."
Silently Jane put the bread and butter
on the table and brought a jug of water.
She could not have spoken--it was all she
could do to keep back her tears; she was
vexed enough at her own failure and want
of thought, without the added bitterness of
her father's words.
It was an uncomfortable meal, if meal it
could be called. The father and son ate
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 39
it in silence; but there was a cloud upon
the father's face which was not wont to be
there in former days. Jane returned to her
ironing, not even trying to improve the
state of things, for she felt it was of no use;
and Mary sat still in her corner with her
work in her hand. In a few minutes John
"Come, Tom," he said, in a dry hard
tone; we have a good hour's work, or
more, before us yet; and it is as well we
have, may be, for there's not much comfort
I'll be along directly, father," replied
Tom; and as John Ashford passed out, he
went up to Jane.
Oh, Jennie," he whispered, do try and
have a nice comfortable supper for father !
he will be very tired, I am sure."
"It is of no use trying; I can't please
him," said Jane, in a tone of most martyr-
Mary, meanwhile, had followed her father
out. She had an indistinct idea that this
was not a very fit time to ask a favour; but
she was too impatient to wait for a better, so
she ran up to him and said-
Oh, father, please, I want to ask you if
you will buy me a white frock for next
week. Miss Egerton has asked us all to
40 MARY ASHFORD,
tea on her birthday; and you would like
me to be nicely dressed, would you not,
I don't care anything about it," replied
John Ashford, for he was thoroughly out of
humour. But I shall not buy you a white
frock, I do know that; I have something
else to do with my money. And it would
be a great deal better for you, Mary, if, in-
stead of letting your head run upon dress
and such things, you would help to make
your home a little more habitable ;" and he
turned away, leaving Mary standing still in
It was something so very unusual for her
father to speak thus to her, that she could
not understand it.
It is all Jane's fault," she muttered to
herself as she went slowly back into the
house; but father will be sure to buy me
the frock-I know he will. I shall not ask
him any more."
Jane was sitting in an arm-chair with her
apron over her face, quietly crying, instead of
setting vigorously to work to remedy past de-
fects: she had no heart to do that. Mary said
nothing; but she found the water was boil-
ing, so she made the tea and a nice hot
buttered toast, and sat down to her meal
alone, without inviting her sister to join
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 41
her; if Jane did not choose to prepare it,
she did not see that she need eat it.
Before Mary had finished, the two little
children came in clamorous for their supper.
Jane rose then, and gave them their bread
and milk, and then she took them upstairs
Now Mary might have been a great help
to her sister if she only would; but she was
not in a humour to do anything useful that
evening; she would not even wash up and
put away the tea-things which she had been
the only one to use. She tried to persuade
herself that her muslin work was of more
consequence; for if her father really should
not get her the white frock, it must be done
by Wednesday. But she did not feel alto-
gether comfortable, as she sat down again
Jane had perhaps stayed upstairs longer
than she need, for she had only just come
down when her father put his head in at the
Oh, just the same state as before, I see.
Very well, Jane, it is plain you do not care
to please your father; and he slammed to
the door, and went away.
Soon afterwards Tom came in.
Oh, Jane, I am so sorry; father has
gone to the Black Swan' because he could
42 MARY ASHFORD,
not be comfortable at home; it is such a
Well, I suppose it is my fault. I had
better go back to service; Mrs. Robinson
would be glad of me again, and you would
all be better without me at home."
That I am sure we should! burst from
Mary; things never used to be so unplea-
sant when mother was living."
Well," put in Tom, suppose we all try
to-night to make them pleasanter. Polly
and I will help you to clean up the house;
will we not, Polly? if you will show me
what I am to do."
"But you have been hard at work all
day, Tom, and must be tired," said Jane,
with some compunction. "I should have
done it long since if I had had any encour-
agement; but one can't work when one
hasn't the heart," she added with tears in
You must make the heart now, then,"
said Tom cheerfully.
Mary declared herself too busy to help;
so she carried her chair and her work out of
Tom," said Jane, dropping the brush
she held, and laying her two hands on his
shoulders; I did not mean to be idle and
forgetful; but father was cross at dinner
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 43
time, and when he is, I always feel as if he
did not care whether I were here or not.
Oh, Tom, how I wish mother had lived "
"Ay," said Tom, echoing the sigh with
which Jane ended; we all miss her. But
we must not stand talking here, or we shall
never get done, Jane."
Nine o'clock struck, and Mary put away
her work and went to bed. Ten o'clock
came, and John Ashford's fireside was as
bright and as clean as any in Farndale; and
there was a tempting looking supper await-
ing him on the table; but he did not come,
and Jane and Tom sat and waited for him.
It was after eleven when the door opened
and he came in. Jane sprang to meet him;
she was going to ask for forgiveness, but
somehow her heart failed her before the
words were uttered, and she only asked him
to come to supper.
I do not want any," was the reply;
" another night you need not sit up for me,
Jane;" and he went upstairs without an-
John Ashford was a perfectly sober man,
but the merry and somewhat uproarious
circle assembled in the bar of the Black
Swan had a charm for him; and it was to
be feared that, having once joined it, he
would be led to repeat his visit.
44 MARY ASHFORD.
It was with a heavy heart that Jane went
to bed that night. She was hardly aware
herself of the full extent of the faults she
had committed; but she knew that she had
failed-lamentably failed-in her duty that
day; and it was a long time before sleep
visited her eyes, which were aching from
the tears she had shed. And it was with
a heavy heart that she rose in the morning;
but she stirred herself, and got breakfast
ready in time, which she did not always ac-
But when her father came to it she could
see with half a glance that he was still
vexed and moody. He hardly spoke at all,
and all Tom's efforts at conversation were
unsuccessful. Jane was too shy and timid
to say she was sorry for yesterday's failures;
so he passed to his work without anything
When Mary and the little ones had gone
to school, and Jane had the house to her-
self, she was ready to sit down and cry,
she was so unhappy! but she knew there
was work to be done, and that she must do
it, if she would not have things in the same
state again; but she set about it in such a
listless, unwilling manner, as made it twice
the trouble it ought to have been. Jane
wished Miss Maynard would come; and yet,
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 45
when a little later she saw her pass the
window, she almost dreaded a talk with her,
for she knew by past experience that Miss
Alice always would come to the bottom of
The bright smile of greeting with which
Miss Maynard entered looked as if nothing
unpleasant could long resist it; and even
Jane brightened up a little as she placed a
chair for her visitor.
"Well, Jane, all alone as usual. I am
come to see you a little, if I do not hinder
you; you must put me where I shall not
be in your way."
Jane assured her she would not be in the
way anywhere; and then she returned to
what she was doing, but the old wearied
look had come back to her face, and the
listless, unwilling manner to her hands and
feet. Miss Maynard watched her in silence
for a few minutes.
Jane," she said at last, there is some-
thing wrong. What is it? Can I help
Jane dropped a cloth she had in her hand,
with a start; and then the impulse seized
her to tell her kind friend everything.
"Oh, Miss Alice!" she exclaimed, "every-
thing is wrong, and I can never, never make
46 MARY ASHFORD,
Nay, Jane, nothing is so bad but that
it can be mended, if we only set to work in
real earnest to try. But tell me what it is
that is wrong in this particular case?"
And Jane, with some tears and sobs, told
all that had occurred. To do her justice,
she did hot try to hide her faults; but she
ended with, It seems, Miss Alice, as if I
never could please my father, and so it is no
"It seems to me, Jane, that you have
never really tried. You must let me tell
you plainly what I think; for the faults
that you consider small and trifling may
bring in their train very great evils, if they
are not checked. You would not wish your
father and your home to become like George
Mason's at the corner ?"
Jane looked horrified.
"Oh, Miss Alice, father would never be
a drunkard, like poor George !"
We will hope not. But, indeed, Jane,
you are going the way to make him so; if
you do not pay a little more attention to his
But what can I do, Miss Alice? No-
thing I do seems to please him."
No, Jane, because you do not put your
heart in your work. Do not you remember
St. Paul's injunction, 'Whatsoever ye do,
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 47
do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto
men'? Oh, Jane, there is the secret of your
failure; you have been thinking of your-
self-how little praise you get, and how
disagreeable the work is ; and you have for-
gotten that it is God who has given you it
to do, and that He is looking to see how you
do it. You recognized His voice in your
call home, and you obeyed it; but you have
forgotten that He expects you cheerfully to
fulfil the duties He has appointed."
I could do better if I had some encour-
agement, Miss Alice."
"And God has given you encourage-
ment, Jane-the hope of hearing, when the
cares and toils of life are over, the Well
done, good and faithful servant' of our
Lord. You may gain that blest reward, Jane.
It is for those who 'manfully fight under
His banner,' who cheerfully and patiently
fulfil their daily duties-be they great or
small-out of love to Him, and by the help
of His Holy Spirit."
Oh, Miss Alice," and Jane's eyes filled
with tears, "I do sometimes so wish to
please Him. Last year, when I was con-
firmed, it seemed as if I should always love
God, and always serve Him; but now it
does not seem of any use trying, for I feel
as if I can't do anything right."
48 MARY ASHFORD,
Because you have been trying of your-
self, Jane. You have been thinking too
much of yourself, and your own doings, in-
stead of looking away to Christ. Take each
day's duty, as it comes, to Him, and ask
Him to help you to perform it as He would
have it done; and then I think you will
be far happier and more cheerful; and I
am sure you will please your father. Here
is a little verse, I think, will be a help to
Do not look at life's long sorrow,
See how small each moment's pain;
God will help thee for to-morrow,
Every day begin again.
Every hour that fleets so slowly
Has its task to do or bear;
Luminous the crown, and holy,
If thou set each gem with care.
Yes, I think it will," replied Jane,
eagerly. "Will you please say it again,
Miss Alice; I should like to learn it ?"
Miss Maynard repeated it once or twice,
and then she rose to go. Jane put her
hand in hers.
"Thank you, Miss Alice," she said, ear-
nestly. "I see how it is now. My heart
has been away at service, and so I have
thought everything a trouble; but I will
try to bring it home." And then she added,
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 49
in a lower tone, and I will try not to for-
get what you have been saying."
Dear Jane, I can feel for you so well,
because I, too, know what it is to be left
with a weary weight of earthly care. But
I have learnt what I want you, too, to learn,
that it is a blessed cross that drives us to
It was surprising what a difference there
was in Jane's movements after Miss May-
nard was gone. She went about so brightly
and briskly, that her house work was done
quite early, and she had time to begin some
sewing, which had long wanted doing, but
which she had not had courage to begin
upon, there was such a great deal to be done.
When twelve o'clock came, and John
Ashford and Tom came in, there was a tidy,
comfortable kitchen, and a good dinner ready
for them; and Jane with a brighter face
than she had worn for many a day. Her
father brightened up too, and the meal was
a cheerful one. When it was ended, Jane
said, a little timidly-
Father, I am so sorry for yesterday. I
was idle and forgetful, and it was very
"Well, my lass," replied John Ashford,
kindly, you have improved to-day, and it
is a deal pleasanter. If you would be cheer-
50 MARY ASHFORD,
ful, Jennie, and not look as if you thought
everything you did for us a sore trial, we
should all be a deal happier."
I am going to try-indeed I am. And
father," she added, with some hesitation,
" you will not go to the Black Swan' at
"That depends upon you, Jennie. So
long as I can have a comfortable place in
my own home, I shall have no call to go
there; but if I cannot, I must go where I can."
Jane resolved that as far as she could
make it, home should be comfortable; and
it was a resolution backed by an earnest
prayer for grace to fulfil it.
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 51
IT was Friday, and Mary had eaten her
dinner quickly; for she had an errand to do
for Jane, and she wanted to be back again
to the class-room, to look over a lesson which
she had neglected to prepare the previous
The class-room was open to the children
between school-hours; but the large school-
room was not-at least it was always locked,
but the key was either left in the door, or
hung up on a nail beside it. But Miss
Pembroke trusted her pupils not to enter it,
and hitherto the girls had not betrayed her
trust. They were proud of it, and it was
regarded as a point of honour amongst them
not to touch the key, or open the door.
Mary's errand took her quite to the other
end of Burnside. She had to go to Mrs.
Smith's shop, for Jane had asked her to
bring half a pound of tea, as she was sure
that Mrs. Stephenson had given short weight
the last once or twice. Mary could hardly
have asked Rose to go with her on such a
52 MARY ASHFORD,
commission, even if she had been at school;
but Rose had gone to the neighboring town
to see her aunt, and to enquire if there was
any chance of her frock being done by
Wednesday; and also, as she privately in-
formed Mary, to buy some ribbon, with
which her mother was going to trim her hat.
And as Mary walked along, she could not
help wishing that she, too, could have some
new trimmings for hers. The black ribbon
she had worn ever since her mother's death
was getting very brown and shabby; but
she hardly liked to ask for that, as she had
asked for the frock.
Thus thinking, she reached Mrs. Smith's,
got her parcel of tea, paid down the half-
crown Jane had given her, and putting the
sixpence she received in change safely into
her pocket, went back as quickly as she
could to the school. The class-room was
empty when she reached it, for the rest of
the girls were out in the playground, so
Mary had it all to herself. She sat down
quietly in one corner, and began to learn
But presently a loud talking attracted
her attention, and she got up to the window
to see what it was all about. Some half
dozen of the girls had left the playground,
and were clustered round a man who was
displaying some very tempting articles which
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 53
he had in a box. Very pretty things they
looked to be, as far as Mary could see; but
he was almost beyond the range of that win-
dow. She could see much better from the
school-room, and she ran across the little
porch; but it was not until she reached the
door that she remembered entrance was for-
She was too eager, however, to stop now,
there could not be much harm in just going
in for a moment, she thought, as she took
the key from its nail; and if she locked the
door again, no one would be any the wiser.
She found she could see very well when
she had mounted a desk and put her face
close to the window.
The man was just then showing off to the
admiring gaze of the girls a white feather,
and, apparently, he was praising its beauty.
How Mary's eyes glistened at the sight,
and how she longed to possess it! but no
one was tempted to be a purchaser, and the
feather was put back, and the box packed
up, and the man turned away while the
girls dispersed. Mary resolved to run after
him and just ask the price of the feather-
not that she meant to buy it, for she had no
money-but she thought she would like to
have a nearer view of it; it would be so
very pretty in her hat, if she only could
have had it.
54 MARY ASHFORD,
She was getting down from the desk,
when her foot slipped, and to save herself
from falling, she stretched out her hand to
find something to take hold of; when, un-
fortunately, she knocked down a slate from
Miss Pembroke's desk which was close be-
side her, and with it a small flower glass
which always stood there, and which it was
the pleasure of some of the elder girls to
fill with fresh flowers every morning. Of
course the glass was broken, for the slate
fell upon it. Mary was very frightened at
what she had done; it would be sure to be
found out now that she had been there; for
even if she stayed to pick up the broken
glass, Miss Pembroke would be sure to miss
it, and enquire after it.
As she stood looking down on the floor,
her eye fell on the slate, and on the name
" M. Bevan" that was upon it, and her
face brightened directly. It was Maggie's
slate, so no one would suspect her, and it
would be better to leave it just as it was;
besides, she had not time to do anything else,
if she wanted to see the man. It would
have been all the same if it had been any-
one else's slate, but she could not help feel-
ing glad that it was Margaret's; for she
owed her a grudge since the day she had
injured her hat. So she ran out of the
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 55
school-room, and locked the door after her;
but in her hurry and confusion, she forgot
to take out the key and hang it on the nail
where she found it.
The man with his box was some little
distance down the road when Mary came
out; and it was a minute or two before
she could overtake him. He stopped, how-
ever, directly he saw her.
Do you want anything, my pretty
miss ? I have brooches and laces and vel-
vets-plenty of choice in all; and some
that would just suit you: a string of pearls
now, to twist amongst that beautiful brown
hair, would be just the thing."
Mary smiled and blushed, and she soon
found breath to answer.
Were you not showing the girls a white
feather just now? Will you let me just
look at that, please?"
To be sure I will," replied the man,
opening his box with eagerness; and a
real beauty it is. Now that would become
you splendidly; it would be a charming
contrast to your soft red cheeks."
Mary's eyes glistened.
But what is the price ?" she asked,
with some anxiety.
Only eighteenpence; it is a mere no-
thing for such a thing as this; you would
56 MARY ASHFORD,
not get it at a shop under three or four
shillings : it really is a great bargain. Come,
my pretty young lady, you will take it? "
Mary's heart beat high at the pedlar's
words; he must think her some one more
than she was, to call her a pretty young
lady." She took the feather in her hand,
and said hesitatingly-
But I have no money. At least," she
added, for she suddenly remembered the
change she had received from Mrs. Smith,
"at least, I have only sixpence; and that
would not be enough."
The man appeared to consider for a little
"Well," he said at length, I will tell
you what I will do. I do not like to dis-
appoint you, as you have set your heart on
the feather, and it will suit you so exactly;
so you shall give me the sixpence, and you
shall have it; and I shall be round here
again in a month, and you must give me
the shilling then. Mind, I would not do it
for any one but you; so you see what a
pretty face does."
Mary thanked him eagerly, gave him the
sixpence, and took the feather which he put
in paper for her.
Now you will remember the shilling;
I shall be here in a month, or it may be a
III,!r i 1 iI
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 59
day or two sooner, and I shall expect it
then. I shall trust you."
Yes, yes," replied Mary, without much
reflection; and the man went away, leav-
ing her standing in the road with her new
The next difficulty was what was to be
done with it. She could not take it back
to school with her-that was very certain;
for even if she crushed it into her pocket,
she might unwittingly draw it out again;
so she looked about for some safe hiding-
place. A little lower down the road was a
large old tree, with a hollow trunk; and
there Maryplaced her treasure: she thought
it would be quite safe there, if only it did
not rain; and it was a clear, bright summer
afternoon. And then she ran quickly back
again, and reached the school-door at the
same moment as Miss Pembroke: the rest
were all clustered round, waiting for ad-
Where have you been, Mary? Miss
I have been down the village on an
errand for Jane, if you please, ma'am," re-
plied Mary, dropping a low courtesy, and
colouring a little.
Miss Pembroke stood at the door, and
was about to open it; but, instead, she ut-
60 MARY ASHFORD,
tered an exclamation of surprise, and turned
round to her scholars.
Some one has been into the school-
room since I left it," she said severely. I
remember, perfectly, taking out the key
and hanging it on the nail, and here it is in
the lock; so of course some of you have
been in. Who is it ? "
No one spoke.
Who has broken the trust? who has
betrayed my confidence ? Miss Pembroke
went on: "some one must have done it,
and it will be much better to confess at
At last Hannah Smith ventured to say,
" I do not think anyone has been in, ma'am,
I do not think any of us would do such a
thing; we are too proud of your trusting
Then I suppose you would have me
believe that the key jumped off the nail,
and put itself into the door. I cannot quite
credit that, either. However, we must not
stop here all day;" and Miss Pembroke
opened the door and went in, followed by
the whole troop of scholars. But she
stopped short as soon as she saw the broken
glass and the slate on the floor, and turned
round with a somewhat triumphant look.
Now will you tell me no one has been
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 61
in the room? Here is a plain proof that
some one has disobeyed me, and I shall
most certainly find out who it is; so who-
ever is guilty had much better tell me at
Miss Pembroke glanced at the .faces of
the girls as she spoke; the colour rose in
several, but no one came forward to own
the fault. Mary was sorely frightened,
but she managed to look as unconcerned as
anyone; but she kept in the background,
and took care not to attract notice.
My pretty flower glass continued
Miss Pembroke, as she went towards her
desk. I am so very sorry it is broken;
for you all know how highly I prized it, as
the gift of a very dear lost friend. But I
am far more grieved to think that one of you
has disobeyed me, and has tried to deceive
me; but we shall easily find out who it is-
the slate will tell in a moment. Hannah,
come and take it up, and let me see whose
Hannah Smith came forward, and taking
up the slate, placed it in the hand of her
governess. Miss Pembroke looked very,
very grave and sorrowful when she saw the
M. Bevan! then it is you, Margaret?
Oh, I did not think you would have done
62 MARY ASHFORD,
such a thing. Come here, and tell me why
you have been so disobedient?"
Margaret Bevan started in surprise. She
had no idea or thought of its being her slate,
or that she should be suspected; and she
was so bewildered that she did not move
from where she stood, until Miss Pembroke
spoke again, more sternly than before:
Margaret, do you hear me ? I do not
wonder that you are ashamed of your con-
duct, and are unwilling to show yourself;
but come here."
And Margaret moved up slowly to the
upper end of the room, with crimson cheeks
and downcast eyes, and trembling so she
could hardly walk; for she knew that every
eye in the room was upon her. Miss Pem-
broke laid one hand on the child's shoulder,
and with the other raised her face, and told
her to look at her.
Now, Margaret," she said, "I want to
know why you came into the school-room
against my express orders; you must have
had some reason, and it will be much better
to tell me at once."
But Margaret twisted the corner of her
pinafore and did not speak.
"Was it because you wished to alter the
sum on your slate before I saw it? Or
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 63
perhaps you were tempted to try to copy
the answer from the book ? Was that it,
Margaret certainly had wished she had
had her slate; for she had discovered that
her sum was wrong just as the school-bell
rang before dinner; but she had not the
most distant idea of going into the forbidden
school-room to get it. So at last she took
courage to look up and say, "I have not
been here at all, ma'am; I have not seen my
slate since I put it on your desk till now."
Then Miss Pembroke looked very grave
and stern indeed.
Oh, Margaret I this is worse than all; to
tell a lie to hide your other fault. It was
bad enough to disobey me; but it is far
worse to deny it as you are now doing."
And then Miss Pembroke spoke very
seriously to the whole school on the sin of
lying, how hateful it was in God's sight,
and how He had signally manifested His
anger against it.
When the usual lessons were at length
begun, Margaret.was placed by herself; for
Miss Pembroke said she could not allow her
to sit with the other children. When the
bell for closing was rung, she was bidden to
stay behind the rest.
64 MARY ASHFORD
When the room was emptied of all but
herself and her little pupil, Miss Pembroke
again called her to her.
Now, Margaret, do you still persist in
denying your fault? You have had time
for reflection, and you surely will tell me
now, that you were tempted and disobeyed
me; or perhaps you had really forgotten
that it was disobedience. Come, I will not
be hard upon you, if you will only own
Margaret burst into tears; but she could
only repeat that she had never been into the
"Oh, Margaret! I did not think you
could be so hardened. I could not have
believed it if I had not heard it myself.
You, with the excellent home training you
have had, to persist in this gross and bare-
faced falsehood. Your mother will be very
grieved when she hears of it. I shall tell
Miss Maynard the whole story; and I shall
feel it my duty to suggest that you be de-
prived of the pleasure of attending Miss
Egerton's party; and I am sure she will
agree with me, for she said that none but
good children were to go."
Miss Pembroke then marked a few verses
in the Bible, which Margaret was to learn
and repeat to her on Monday morning; and
0R, THE WHITE FEATHER. 65
then she bade her go quietly home and think
over her conduct.
When Margaret left the school-room, and
turned down the village street, she was met
by nearly the whole of her companions, who
had been waiting for her. Poor Margaret
was instantly surrounded, and called all
manner of unpleasant names.
But that which the girls seemed to feel
most was, that she had broken the trust;
they had all given their word, and she had
dishonoured it. Miss Pembroke would not
trust any of them any more.
Nasty little sneak they said. Our
honour is gone just through her." And
even Hannah Smith joined in the general
At last poor Margaret managed to get
free from them; and then she ran home as
fast as ever she could.
66 MARY ASHFORD,
IT was not long before Margaret had sobbed
out her grief and trouble in her mother's
ear. Mrs. Bevan was much distressed that
her child should be even suspected of having
told a lie; but she bade her cheer up, and
bear the trial bravely.
Then, mother, oh, mother I" exclaimed
Margaret, with a sigh, as if a great weight
had been removed from her heart, "you
think I spoke the truth! you don't believe
that I should say what was not true!"
No, my child, no. You say you were
not in the school-room, and that is enough
for me. I am sure you have not disobeyed
Miss Pembroke; and I think she will find
it out some day, Maggie. But you say it
was your slate that was found on the floor,
so it was not much wonder she should blame
All the girls think I did it, mother; and
Miss Pembroke said she should tell Miss
Alice, and she will think me wicked too;
when I would, oh, I would confess anything
rather than tell a lie. It is very hard to
OR, THE WHITE WEATHER. 67
hear, is it not? "-and Margaret's eyes again
filled with tears as she raised them to her
"Yes, dear Maggie; it is hard to bear.
But I am sure you would far rather bear
the false accusation than be the girl who
has done it, and who is seeking to shield
herself by allowing you to be blamed. And
I hope and believe the trial will pass away
soon. Miss Pembroke cannot long think
you guilty, Maggie."
They were still talking on the subject
when Joe Bevan entered.
"Why, Peg?" he exclaimed, cheerily,
"how is this ?-crying ?--nothing is wrong,
surely P "
Margaret sprang up, and threw her arms
round his neck; but she left her mother to
tell what troubled her. The father looked
Let me look at you, Maggie," he said,
raising her head from his shoulder, and
gazing into her face for a minute.
"There is no falsehood there," he said.
"You could not look at me like that, and
tell me a lie. But, Maggie, you made me
very anxious for a little while. I could
forgive anything better than a lie. Thank
God, you are innocent!"
"Dear father," said Margaret, since you
68 MARY ASHFORD,
and mother believe me, I will try not to
care what other people think. I wonder if
it ever will be found out who went into the
school-room, or whether Miss Pembroke
will always think it was me."
Oh, it will be known some cdy," said
Mrs. Bevan, cheerfully; "and in the
mean time try not to let it trouble you,
Margaret was very thankful that the next
day was Saturday; for she never could be
spared from home to attend school on a
Saturday; and she felt it would have been
a great trial to meet her companions again
so soon, and to listen to the taunts and hard
words they would be sure to shower upon
her. However, she took her Bible to learn
the verses Miss Pembroke had marked for
her: they were from the 17th to the 22nd
in the twelfth chapter of Proverbs; then she
would have them ready by Monday came.
"What are you doing, Maggie?" asked
Margaret read the verses aloud in a some-
what choking voice.
Give me the book," said her father, in
reply ; and he rapidly turned over the leaves.
" Here, Margaret, here is something else for
you to learn."
And Margaret read: "If, when ye do
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. C9
well and suffer for it, ye bear it patiently,
this is acceptable with God."
"Thank you, father," she said, smiling
through her tears.
That night, when Margaret had assisted
her mother to undress, as she always did,
she knelt down by her bed, and whispered,
as she gave her a good night kiss, I shall
need the meek and quiet spirit more than
ever now, mother."
But while Margaret Bevan was thus
bearing the sorrow of unjust accusation, how
fared it with Mary, the real culprit ?
She had not lingered with the rest to
await Margaret's appearance; but the mo-
ment school was over, and she could escape
observation, she ran to the tree where she
had hidden her new purchase. It was all
right, just as she had left it; and hastily
thrusting it into her pocket, she ran as fast
as she could towards home.
The little kitchen was bright and clean
when she entered, and Jane was sitting by
the window at work. Mary was hastening
on upstairs without stopping, for she wanted
to find a place of safety for her feather, when
her sister spoke.
"Wait a moment, Mary; I have some-
thing to show you."
Mary waited impatiently; but Jane was
70 MARY ASHFORD,
not long before she brought from the inner
room Mary's Sunday hat, newly trimmed
with bright violet ribbon. Mary's eyes
sparkled when she saw it.
Oh, Jane, wherever has that come from?
how pretty it is!"
Father has been to the town this morn-
ing, and he bought this ribbon for you; and
I have trimmed the hat. I had only just
finished it before you came."
That was very good of you, Jane; it
looks lovely I And has father bought me a
white frock too? I asked him to."
No, Mary. I think you must make up
your mind to do without the white frock.
Besides, you know," she continued, a little
hesitatingly, dear mother has only been
dead six months; and we ought to wear
our black frocks a year. I felt almost sorry
to take off the black ribbon from your hat."
Oh, as for that," was Mary's reply, I
need only wear the white one just on Wed-
nesday. I could put it away then, until we
went out of black; and I still think father
will buy me one."
Then you do not care much about the
hat," said Jane, with a sigh; for she felt
that her sisterly effort to prepare a pleasant
surprise was scarcely appreciated.
Oh yes, I do, very much indeed; an'd
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 71
you have trimmed it very nicely. Thank
you for doing it, Jane. I will take it, and
put it away;" and she ran upstairs, glad to
Certainly Mary did care about her hat.
She was very pleased with the new trim-
ming, and she thought the white feather
would be a beautiful contrast, as she put it,
for a moment, in the front of the hat, when
she was alone in her own room. But for
the present the feather found a hiding
place deep down in a drawer, quite out of
Mary had not thought much yet about
her manner of obtaining it. She had it, and
that was enough for the present; the other
would come by-and-by.
Did you get the tea for me at Mrs.
Smith's, Polly ?" Jane enquired, when she
came down again.
Mary started. She had forgotten all
about the tea; but she produced it from her
school-bag, sincerely hoping that Jane would
not remember to ask for the change. Jane
did remember, however; and Mary had to
invent an excuse on the spur of the moment.
Tea had risen. Mrs. Smith said it was
half a crown the half pound now."
"Dear me, that is very strange. We
must keep to Mrs. Stephenson then, if that
72 MARY ASHFORD,
be it; for I cannot afford to pay so much as
Mary felt somewhat uncomfortable during
the evening. She knew very well that she
had acted very wrongly that day in more
ways than one; but she hoped her evil con-
duct would never be discovered. At pre-
sent there was not much fear that it would;
for Miss Pembroke firmly believed the silent
witness of Margaret Bevan's slate, and no
one was likely to undeceive her, for the very
good reason that no one knew anything dif-
ferent, but Mary herself. So dismissing
thus all anxiety on that point, Mary gave
herself up to pleasant thoughts about her
feather; and the sensation she should cause
on Wednesday when she appeared with it
in the front of her hat.
Monday and Tuesday passed without
much incident. Margaret came to school
on the Monday morning, but no one took
any notice of her. Miss Pembroke was very
grave and stern, and hardly spoke to her at
all; and her companions shunned her, or if
they spoke at all, it was but to utter harsh
and bitter words, so that poor Margaret was
very unhappy, and found it hard indeed to
bear patiently such unmerited punishment.
Mary, as usual, was loudest in her taunts;
for she thought the more she blamed Mar-
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 73
garet, the less likely she was to be blamed
But Mary's mind was ill at ease. Her
own conscience accused her so loudly of un-
kindness and cowardice towards her com-
panion, that she feared in every look and
word that others were going to accuse her
likewise. But the two days passed, and
still Margaret was under the cloud of Miss
It was Tuesday evening, and Miss May-
nard had been visiting one or two cottages
lying at the most distant outskirts of Burn-
side. She was returning slowly through the
village when a small hand was put into
hers, and turning, she saw Margaret Bevan.
Well, Maggie," she said, with her usual
If you please, ma'am, I wanted to ask
you if I am to go to the Hall to-morrow?"
Yes, of course; why should you not go?"
"You said none but good children were
to go; and Miss Pembroke does not think
I am good."
"Not good? How is that, Maggie ?"
Then Miss Pembroke has not told you,
Miss Alice, and you don't know anything
about it? She said she should tell you, and
that you would not allow me to go to-
74 MARY ASHFORD,
"Tell me yourself, Maggie. What is it?"
And Margaret told her story, gently and
quietly, though the tears gathered in her
eyes several times, and she had to pause to
wipe them away. Miss Maynard did not in-
terrupt her; but when she had finished, she
"Yes, Maggie, I have heard it all from
Miss Pembroke; but I did not intend to
mention it to you until to-morrow was
Margaret looked up eagerly.
Then, Miss Alice, you meant me to go,
and you do not think I told a lie ?"
Yes, Margaret, I meant you to go; and
I do not think you told a lie. If I thought
so, I should most certainly agree with Miss
Pembroke that you ought to stay at home
to-morrow. But, Maggie, I have never
found you say what was untrue, and I know
you have been taught the great sin of lying,
so, though appearances are against you, I
feel sure you have spoken the truth."
Oh, Miss Alice, I am so glad! I was
quite afraid you, too, would think me wicked.
I do not know how my slate came to be on
the floor; but I am very sure I was not in
"That is enough, Maggie. I am sure
you would not so constantly deny it if you
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 75
had. But the slate could not come there
without hands; some one must have been
The slate might have fallen of itself,
Miss Alice; but 1 do not think it did; and
I am sure the key could not get into the
door by itself."
And you do not at all know who it was,
I do not know," replied Margaret, hesi-
tatingly. I think I could guess, but I am
not sure, so I would rather not say, please,
Miss Alice; for I might put it upon the
wrong person, and then I should make them
suffer just as much as I do."
Miss Alice did not press her; but after a
little more talk she sent Margaret home
quite pleased by a repeated assurance ot
her trust and confidence in her.
76 MARY ASHFORD,
WEDNESDAY morning came, clear and
bright as any birthday morning need be.
The hot June sun shone full into the room
at Farndale Hall where Mabel Egerton
was sitting alone. The room had some
appearance of a school-room; but it was
fitted up with much elegance and taste; and
evidently with thoughtful care, by a fond
father for an only child. The pictures on
the walls, and the handsomely bound books
in the bookcase, were well chosen, and no
little girl need have wished for a more com-
fortable and luxurious apartment in which
to pursue her studies; and if Mary Ashford
could have seen the young heiress just then,
surrounded with so much comfort and
luxury, I fear she would have envied her
more than she did already.
But the look on Mabel Egerton's face
was scarcely in keeping with the brightness
within and without. A cloud of discontent
was on her brow, as she sat, half reclining,
on a sofa by the window. She held a book
in her hand, but her attention was all given
to the scene on the lawn below, where
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 77
servants were busy putting up the tables for
the tea, under the direction of Mr. Egerton
himself. Once she rose, and throwing
down her book, ran to the door; but with
the handle in her hand she hesitated.
Then she slowly relinquished it, and as
slowly returned and picked up her despised
volume; saying as she did so-
No, I will not go. I promised Alice I
would try to be obedient, and I will. But
if I said one word to papa, I know he
would bid me come at once."
And then she drew an easy chair to the
table, and putting her book before her,
looked as if she was going to employ herself
vigorously with its contents. But her
thoughts soon wandered again; and she was
no nearer learning her lesson than ever.
Mabel's present difficulty was a French
lesson, which was not originally intended to
interferewith herbirthday pleasures. Itought
to have been done the preceding afternoon,
but Mabel, in a fit of perverseness, would
not learn it, and so it was left until to-day.
Mabel Egerton, as an only child, was
somewhat spoilt. During her parents' resi-
dence abroad she had been allowed to do
pretty much as she pleased. Her edu-
cation had been rather neglected : she
had had masters for various branches of
78 MARY ASHFORD,
studies, but had never been kept very close
to anything. Now, however, that Mr.
Egerton was settled at Farndale, this wild
kind of liberty could not be allowed; and a
governess was provided for Miss Egerton.
This governess was a daily torment to
Mabel; and I think Miss Thompson would
have said that Mabel was an equal torment
to her. She was a very grave, sedate
person; hardly fitted to control a high-
spirited child like Mabel; and as she felt
her pupil was very backward for her age,
she perhaps pressed her lessons too much
upon her, and made her dislike instead of
enjoy them. Mabel rebelled openly against
her authority. Mr. Egerton did not in-
terfere, and his wife was too ill to do so; so
that things were in a far from satisfactory
state when Alice Maynard stepped in, and
sought to smooth the troubled waters.
By-and-by Mabel heard the door of her
room open, and guessing it was her gover-
ness, she did not look up, but seemed too
much engrossed with her lesson to notice any-
thing. But when a voice said close beside
her, "Will you not speak to me, Mabel?"
she started up then to see Miss Maynard,
and throwing her arms round her neck,
hugged and kissed her most enthusiastically,
until Alice laughingly begged her to desist.
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 79
"I came to give you my hearty birthday
greetings, dear Mabel; and I expected to
find you on the lawn with your papa; but
he said he had not seen you since breakfast,
so I came to seek for you here."
I should have been out if it had not
been for you, Alice," was the reply.
For me! why, surely I could not have
anything to do with it ? "
Oh! yes, you had. Miss Thompson said
I was to learn this horrid old French lesson
before I left this room; but I am sure I
should not have stayed here if it had not
been for the thought of you, and the grieved
look you always put on when you hear of
my being disobedient. So there, Alice; I
hope I have proved my point to your
I wish you would learn to obey from a
better motive than my approval or disap-
proval, Mabel darling. But how is it that
this lesson has to be done on your birthday
morning ? I thought I understood Miss
Thompson you were to have a whole holi-
I suppose it is my own fault that I have
not. This lesson belonged to yesterday;
but I did not learn it then, so it has dropped
And if I ask Miss Thompson to allow
80 MARY ASHFORD,
it to be put off until to-morrow, will you
promise to learn it then, Mabel? "
"Yes, indeed I will," replied Mabel
eagerly. If I had said a word to papa,"
she went on, "I know I should not have
had to do it at all. But you said I ought
not to do that, so I meant to learn it: I
really did, Alice."
Well, dear, we will ask Miss Thompson
if your good intentions may be deferred
Miss Maynard went in search of Miss
Thompson, and soon returned with her to
"If I allow you to leave this lesson,
Mabel, I shall expect it learnt quite per-
Yes," replied Mabel; but in a very dif-
ferent tone from that in which she had
spoken to her friend.
Very well then, you may put 'away
your book; but only because Miss Maynard
wishes it, not by any means for your own
good behaviour;" and Miss Thompson de-
parted stiffly and gravely, and looking as
if it were not at all her wish that the lesson
was not learnt.
"I do not like her, and I never shall
like her! burst impetuously from Mabel's
lips as the door closed. Is she not cold and
disagreeable, Alice ?"
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 81
"My dear Mabel, is it not you who
make her so? Do you ever try to please
her? do you ever render her anything but a
forced obedience, and not always even that ?"
"It is impossible. Now if it was you,
Alice, I would be so very good, I would
never give you one bit of trouble. But I
declare, this morning I was wishing I was
one of the village children-the blacksmith's
daughter, for instance-then I should not
have to trouble my brains with this horrid
old French rubbish! "
"And I am sure, Mary, the blacksmith's
daughter envies Mabel Egerton: so what if
you were to change places ? But seriously,
Mabel dear, your duty at present is to
learn all you can, that you may be fitted
for the important position you will most
probably one day occupy; you may not like
it very much, dear, but it is the work God
has given you to do. So suppose you
begin with this birthday to try to do it as
well and as cheerfully as ever you can. I
am sure both you and Miss Thompson will
be happier if you do."
Well, I really will try, Alice. But I
want you, please, to help me to put the
names of the girls upon their presents."
Mabel went to a closet, and turned out a
great many useful articles of clothing which
82 MARY ASHFORD,
-I was going to say she had made, but it
was not many stitches that she had put in-
they had been made,though,by some one, and
Mabel was going to give them to the school
children. She and Alice were busy for some
time fixing each child's name to the garment
most suited for her. There was, too, a book
for each, which had likewise to have a name
written in it, so that Alice and Mabel had a
long morning's work.
As soon as Mary Ashford had eaten her
early dinner, she ran upstairs to dress.
That was always a work of some importance,
but it was much more so to-day, especially
as she had the white feather to put into her
hat. She had been crying most of the
morning because her father had not bought
her the white frock she had so much wished
for; but she had made up her mind now to
the disappointment, and prepared to dress
herself to as much advantage as possible in
what she had. When she was quite ready
she went down again. Jane was not in the
kitchen, so she hoped to steal out unob-
served; but her sister called to her from
the parlour to come and let her look at her.
Of course the feather was the first thing on
which Jane's eyes rested.
Oh, Polly, where did you get that
feather ? It is a beauty, but not at all suit-
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 83
able for you to wear; and the hat looked a
great deal better without it. Go and take
it out again, pray dear. I am sure Miss
Alice will not like to see you with it."
Mary coloured up in a moment.
"I know it is a beauty. Miss Egerton
herself will not have a finer one; and I
mean to wear it to-day, in spite of you or
Miss Alice either."
But where did you get it, Mary?"
But Mary was gone; and Jane had to
wait for an answer-if she ever got any
answer at all.
Rose was waiting for Mary at the corner
of the road. She had on her white frock,
which her aunt had managed to finish in
time; and as she displayed it to Mary's ad-
miring eyes, Mary could not help feeling a
little annoyed at the contrast her own black
one presented; but then she had her feather,
which attracted Rose's notice immediately.
The girls assembled in the school-room at
two o'clock. When they had all arrived,
Miss Maynard came in, and called Margaret
Bevan up to where she and Miss Pembroke
stood at the upper end of the room.
"Now, children," she said, "I dare say
some of you-perhaps all of you, with
one exception-think that Margaret Bevan
ought not to join you to-day; and most
84 MARY ASHFORD,
certainly if she had disobeyed Miss Pem-
broke, and told a lie, she ought not. But
I do not think she has, and until it is proved
against her, we pught not to judge her or
punish her. I said, with one exception;
that one must be the girl who did enter this
room last Friday. Which of you that was,
I cannot say, for I cannot see into your
hearts; but God can. He knows who is so
mean and cowardly as to allow another to
be suspected and punished for what she has
done. Oh, children, will you not tell me?
which of you is guilty ?"
Miss Maynard had spoken very solemnly,
and when she paused there was a deep
silence; the girls looked from one to another,
but no one spoke, so she went on.
However, I firmly believe that Mar-
garet is innocent; and I hope you will all
treat her as usual; nay, even more kindly,
because of your unjust suspicions. And,
Miss Pembroke, I think for the future it
would be wiser not to trust the children
with the key of the school-room."
"Yes, ma'am, I have lost my confidence;
and I always mean to take the key with
But it was evident that Miss Pembroke
was scarcely pleased with the vyw Miss
Maynard had taken; she still firmly be-
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 85
lived in Margaret's guilt, as indeed did all
the girls-all but Mary.
Stay, Mary and Rose, I wish to speak
to you," said Miss Maynard, as the girls
were passing out. "If it were not that I
should be sorry to disappoint you of your
expected pleasure, I should send you both
home again, because of your unsuitable
dress. But I think you would have had
more enjoyment if you had tried to please
me better. I do not know about your
mother, Rose; but I am sure Jane would
not wish you, Mary, to come with this," she
added, touching the feather.
"I don't care a bit!" said Rose, with a
toss of her head, as the two girls followed
their companions; "you and I are the best
dressed girls amongst us by a long way,
Polly. It is very lucky you have managed
to get that feather; it gives a genteel air to
Yes," replied Mary, with a look of
gratified vanity; I think it looks very
But she altered her opinion in that respect
when she reached the grounds at Farndale
Hall, and saw Miss Egerton with her father
standing on the terrace to receive them.
Mary 4rew a deep sigh of disappointment
at the sight; for instead of her dress being
86 MARY ASHFORD,
equal to that of Miss Egerton, Mabel in
her blue silk dress and white jacket, and
the handsome blue feather in her hat, looked
as much superior to her as any young
lady need do. Mary had no more pleasure
in her own feather after that; she could
have thrown it away there and then, so
much was she annoyed.
But no one took any notice of her and
her annoyance; for after a few words of
greeting from Mr. Egerton, the children
were taken to the park, and were soon
engaged in various games and amusements.
Good-natured Helen Lane, who had accom-
panied Miss Maynard, made herself very
popular amongst the young folks by the
heartiness with which she entered into their
Mabel kept close to her friend Alice most
of the time; for Alice had undertaken the
care of her, as Miss Thompson was spending
the afternoon in Mrs. Egerton's room.
Mary Ashford was thoroughly out of
humour with herself and everybody; she
would join in no game, and would do
nothing. Rose stayed with her for a little
while, but even she soon grew tired, and ran
away to make the hen at hen and chickens,
and Mary was left to herself; she sat down
under a tree, and wished the day she had
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 89
so longed for was over. Presently Miss
Maynard and Mabel passed that way, and
seeing the disconsolate child, they stopped
to speak to her.
Why, Mary," said Miss Maynard,
kindly, what are you doing here all alone?
All the others are enjoying themselves;
why do you not join them?"
I do not want to play," replied Mary,
a little sullenly, and without looking up.
Then something must be wrong, Mary,
for you are generally merry enough, and
ready for anything."
But Mary did not answer, and Miss
Maynard went on: Come, get up, and
join yonder group of skippers; they will
have a rope for you, I have no doubt."
But Mary did not move; and after a
minute she exclaimed, I wish I was Miss
Egerton! and then I should not always have
to play with village children."
So that is your trouble, is it, Mary ?
Why only this morning I found Miss Eger-
ton wishing she was you."
Mary opened her blue eyes very wide with
astonishment, and looked up to where Mabel
stood beside her, blushing and laughing.
My dear children, both of you," Miss
Maynard went on, "you must try to be
contented with your station in life; you,
90 MARY ASHFORD,
Mary, especially-for I think Miss Eger-
ton's wish was only a whim of the moment
-but I fear envy has taken a deep hold of
your heart. It may be all very nice to be
amongst the rich and the great of the earth,
but if God has not put us there, we may be
sure it is not the place for us. But the
riches of His heavenly kingdom are within
the reach of all."
Just at that moment Helen Lane came
running up, all flushed with the exertions
she had been undergoing. She had come
with a petition from the girls that Miss
Egerton might be allowed to join them in
their play. Mr. Egerton had given consent,
so of course Alice had nothing to do but
give hers too; and Mabel went away with
Helen. Miss Maynard was not sorry to be
left alone with Mary, for she had long
wished to have a quiet talk with her, and
the present seemed a very good opportunity;
so she sat down beside her on the grass.
"Mary, my dear, shall I tell you why
you are not with the rest this afternoon ?"
Mary gave a startled look of enquiry,
but said nothing, and Miss Maynard went
on in reply to her look.
"You think I do not know; but I think
I do in part. You feel disappointed and
annoyed that you have not received more
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 91
attention-is not that it? I have noticed
for some time past, and it has grieved me-
you do not know how deeply, Mary, be-
cause you do not know how much I care
for you-I have noticed a growing vanity
in you. Mary, a pretty face is not the best
gift we can desire; it is a very perilous gift,
and in many cases proves a curse rather
than a blessing; and I am afraid you are
going the way to make yours so, if you do
not take care. You are cherishing a love
of finery-finery most unsuitable to your
station in life; and the desire after it will
go on increasing if you do not seek to check
it, until, it may be, you will be led into
dishonesty and sin to obtain it. You are old
enough now to see plainly, if you will notice,
how much more girls who dress becomingly
are respected by those whose opinion is
worth having, than one who spends every
penny she can spare, and more than that
sometimes, in cheap and tawdry finery.
And above all, Mary, we must not forget
that however much we may cherish and
adorn the body, that can never please the
great and good God. He looks at the heart,
and I fear yours has never been humbled in
the dust before Him."
Mary sat with her face buried in her
hands, but her cheeks were burning from the
92 MARY ASHFORD,
effects of Miss Maynard's words; she had
already been led into dishonesty and sin, if
Miss Alice had only known it; and oh, how
Mary wished she had never longed for or
seen the feather I it had brought her nothing
but pain; for this day, in which she had
hoped to shine, had been instead one of
mortification and grief. But she did not
say a word, and Miss Maynard went on.
Now, that feather, Mary, in which I
see you take so much pride; I do not know
how you have come by it, but I am quite
sure your sister would not buy it for you,
nor would she wish you to wear it; it is
most unsuitable for you, and I hope you
will never appear in it again. I suffered
you to come here to-day because I knew
what a disappointment it would be to you
to stay away; but indeed I shall not permit
it to be worn either at school or at church.
Instead of spending so much time and
thought upon your dress, Mary, I wish you
would try to cultivate that spirit of meek-
ness and humility which is of far higher
value in the sight of God than mere earthly
beauty. Will you promise me that you will
pray earnestly for grace to subdue the natural
pride and vanity which is so very visible in
A half-whispered "Yes" was all the
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 93
answer Mary gave, and there was silence
for a minute or two; then Miss Maynard
said in a lighter tone-
"But I have been talking very gravely
on this pleasure afternoon. I will not keep
you longer now; run away and enjoy your-
self as much as you can; but try and re-
member what I have been saying."
And Mary did go and play; but as to
enjoying herself, she felt that was quite out
of the question.
94 MARY ASHFORD,
MARY ASHFORD was not the only lonely
one amongst the groups of pleasure-seekers
that afternoon. In spite of Miss Maynard's
words the girls still held aloof from Mar-
garet Bevan; none of them would have her
with them, so she wandered off by herself,
and had a good cry over her trouble. She
tried to put a cheerful face on the matter
when at home, on her mother's account; but
that she felt it, and felt it deeply, was very
evident. Here, however, she could think
over it unobserved, and look as miserable
as she pleased.
"I wonder if I shall ever be quite cer-
tain who did it," she said to herself. I am
almost sure I know, but then I am not
quite; I hope it will be known some time.
But why, if Mary did it, she should lay the
blame on me I can't tell. But she did not
blame me; no one ever said a word then
but Miss Pembroke, but they all think I
did it. Oh, dear I how could they think I
would do anything so very wicked? And
still it looked as if I had when my slate was
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 95
found. Oh if I had only taken it with
me instead of leaving it there. How very
long these last few days have been! I don't
know how I shall bear it, if the girls treat
me much longer in this way. However,
Miss Alice believes me: that is one comfort.
And mother says Jesus knows all about the
And little Margaret buried her face in
her hands, and prayed earnestly for grace
to be patient. And He who beareth our
burdens drew near and comforted her.
By-and-by she felt the pressure of soft
arms round her neck, and looking up, she
found little Annie Ashford beside her.
"Maggie, why are you crying? Are you
No, not now," replied Margaret, smiling
through her tears.
It is very naughty of the girls to treat
you so; Miss Maynard said so, you know.
And I am sure you are a great deal better
than most of them."
Never mind, Annie dear. You and I
will have a little play by ourselves; and
we won't care for anyone."
Oh, that will be very nice, because the
big girls are so rough."
Margaret was comforted by little Annie's
sympathy, and the two had a game of hide
96 MARY ASHFORD,
and seek together, which lasted until they
were all summoned to tea.
Tea was spread on the lawn, and a very
bountiful repast it was, and the young guests
did not fail to do justice to it. Mrs. Egerton
lay on a sofa by the drawing-room window,
where she could see all that was going on,
and she seemed much interested in it.
When tea was over, the children went
back to the park, where they amused them-
selves until it was almost dusk, when they
were again assembled in front of the house
before going home.
Miss Egerton stood on the terrace with a
table beside her, on which were arranged the
gifts that had been prepared for the children.
Miss Maynard called the name of each child
in succession, but she received her present
from the hand of Miss Egerton herself.
There were books for all, but we need but
mention one or two of the other things.
To Rose was given a little silk handker-
chief for the neck, and to Mary a pair of
warm woollen gloves, while Margaret's pre-
sent was a black cloth jacket. It was very
gratefully received; for the best she had,
which she wore that day, was growing very
brown and threadbare.
And then the children departed, very tired,
but, with one or two exceptions, very much
OR, THE WHITE FEATHER. 97
pleased with the day's entertainment. When
outside the park gates, Rose threw up her
handkerchief with an air of disdain-
To think of Miss Egerton giving me a
thing like this Why, mother could buy a
dozen such any day !"
It is Miss Maynard's doing, you may be
sure; she would not let Miss Egerton give
us anything pretty," was Mary's reply; but
she regretted the minute after she had spoken
it, for Alice's words that afternoon had taken
hold upon her, though she would hardly own
it to herself.
"Well, Mary," said Jane, looking up
eagerly from her work as her sister entered
the little kitchen, have you had a pleasant
Oh yes, pleasant enough, but I am very
tired; and Mary flung her hat on the floor,
and, sitting down by the table, leaned her
head on her hand. Jane took up the despised
It is certainly a very pretty feather," she
said, smoothing it with her hand, but you
never told me who gave it you."
Mary started up angrily, and, snatching
the hat from her sister, tore out the feather
and threw it on the table, exclaiming-
"I wish you would be quiet about it!
What business is it of yours who gave it