« السابقةمتابعة »
“ Thank you."
beaven for taking care of her and blessing her through the year which was just over, nor ask Him to help her to be a good girl during the day. If she had done so she would have been more strong, calm, and patient than she felt as she walked into the breakfast-room.
She gave one quick glance around, but no parcel for her was visible. The space on the table in front of her chair looked just as usual. There was no sign of any special pleasure waiting for ber. And I am sorry to say that as Alice comprehended this, her temper returned in all its force, and she felt as if she could quarrel with everybody.
“Good morning, Alice.” “Good morning, papa." “Many happy returns of the day." Edith came eagerly to her sister, and kissed her. “I wish you many happy returns of the day, Alice dear." “You need not take the trouble,” said Alice, ungraciously. “I do not care about birthdays. I wish I had not one to-day."
" But it is Easter Monday, you know; and you are sure to be happy."
“I am sure to be miserable."
At that moment Alice's mother entered the room; but her little girl did not go toward her, and put her arms around her, as if glad to receive a birthday kiss. She stood coldly apart, looking very sullen and uncomfortable.
“ Alice, darling, I wish you many happy returns of the day. I hope it will be a happy day, without any clouds, and the beginning of a happy year."
Alice looked into her mother's kind, loving face, and for a moment felt ashamed of the ill-feelings which were in her heart. She knew that she ought to trust her mother. She might have felt quite sure that if there were no presents provided for her there was some good reason for the omission. But she chose to feel angry and ill-used, and only gave her mother a half-hearted kiss in response to her kind words.
The next to greet her was her brother Charlie.
“Hurrah! who has a birthday ? Many happy returns, Alie! Is it not capital to have a birthday on Easter Monday ?”
Charlie caught his sister in his arms, and tried to swing her round; but Alice resented that as if it were a great liberty. A“ Do not be foolish, Charlie. I am not in a dancing humour,
I and do not choose to be lifted about against my will.”
“I say, Alie, that is not a fit speech for such a day as this."
“ You speak of the day as if it were something wonderful. But I cannot see that it is. For my part, I do not care about having my birthday on Easter Monday. It is none the better for it; and, in fact, I care for nothing."
“Heigho! Something is the matter with our Alie! Never mind; you will be better presently. Breakfast is a good thing for the temper."
But Alie felt no better after breakfast than before. She kept thinking that everybody was unkind to her, that nobody loved her, and that she was one of the most miserable little girls in the world.
She declined her brother's invitation to go to the woods, and search for primroses and violets. She did not care to help her mother make a birthday cake ; and, when her sister offered to lend her a pretty story-book to read, she said “No,” without even add. ing a *Thank you” to it.
CHAPTER II.-THE FIRST LESSON. Alice could not well continue in an ill-humour through the whole of the day, because on Easter Monday all the children met together in the Town Hall to sing some Easter hymns. Everybody esteemed this to be a great treat, and many preparations were made for it beforehand. Every teacher had his or her class to practise the pieces ; every Sunday-school had a rehearsal; every girl and boy went about at home singing the hymns so as to know them quite perfectly before the day arrived.
Alice knew them all. She was fond of singing, and caught up the words and melodies very quickly; and she had looked forward to the afternoon of this day when the festival would be held as eagerly as to the morning on which she expected to receive a present.
For a few moments she felt as if she would rather remain at home. Because she could not have all she wished, she almost decided to have no pleasure. But that would have been so foolish that I am glad to tell you she did not yield to the feeling long.
"Alice, it is time to get ready," said her sister. “I do not know that I shall go, Edith.”
“ Not go ? Surely you do not think of what you are saying. I am sure you will be very sorry afterward if you miss the treat. I am going to dress at once.”
No one seemed much to mind Alice's ill-humour at that time; only her mother looked grave and sad whenever their eyes happened to meet, and that disturbed Alice's conscience a little. So when Mrs. Russell said she had better at once dress, that she might not be late, Alice did as her mother told her.
- Not that I shall enjoy the afternoon,” she said to herself, in an injured tone. “I do not care about going; buč, if I refuse to go, I shall give mamma occasion to be angry with me; and I will not do that. I will try to be good to her, though she has disappointed me so greatly."
Alice almost persuaded herself that her conduct was blameless but if she had thought of the spirit wbich was moving her, she must have known that to be altogether wrong. And God looks more at the spirit than at the actions and words. If our hearts are wrong notbing can be right.
Alice went to the festival. The afternoon was splendid. The sun shone, the wind was soft and warm, and though a few clouds passed to and fro across the blue sky, no rain fell that day.
As soon as Alice stepped out, and felt the air upon her face, her disappointment and ill-humour seemed to pass away. After all, it Only
was Easter Monday, and a time when most people were happy. Alice felt as if she ought to be happy too, in such a bright world, where there was so much joy.
When she arrived at the hall, she found that thousands were there before her. And very pretty they looked, with their bright hats and dresses, and happy, smiling faces. Alice soon forgot that it was her birthday, and that she had received no presents, when she saw them. For all the boys and girls who were there looked as if they had a holiday, and intended to make the most they could of it. As soon as Alice went in, a number of her friends and companions greeted her with words of welcome. Very soon the singing commenced. Alice had a good voice, and she was very fond of using it, so she mingled her songs with the rest, while the peace and joy of the occasion stole over her spirit. But a line of one of the hymns reminded her of her own naughty conduct, and brought the tears to her eyes.
“I am ashamed of myself. I have been so bad that I do not deserve to be happy," she thought. “I have not cared about Easter Monday, and the Saviour's death and resurrection. I have been so occupied with thoughts of myself that I have forgotten Him. I wonder if He will forgive me.”
But Alice knew enough of Him to be quite sure of that. the Sunday before she had learnt and repeated to her mother this verse: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteonsness.”
She thought of it now. And while the others were singing she lifted up her heart to Him, and told Him she bad sinned, and asked for His forgiveness. And then she was able to join in the Easter hymns with great joy and gladness.
So the afternoon passed pleasantly enough, and after the singing was over tea was provided.
Before tea Edith came towards Alice. “Are you enjoying it, dear?"
“Oh, yes, Edith, so much. But I do not deserve to have any pleasure-I have been so naughty."
Edith smiled kindly upon her sister.
“ Poor Alice! I think I know what was the matter. But you must be patient, dear. You may be sure that we want you to have a happy birthday.”
Edith looked wistfully at Alice, and as if she would like to have said more, only she did not dare. Alice smiled back at her sister.
“I know I ought to be patient,” she said ; " but I am just the most impatient girl in the world, I think."
At that moment her brother Charlie passed.
“ Well done! I am glad to see that our Alice bas ber own face on again, instead of a cloudy, cross face that looks as if it must belong to some one else,” said he.
Tea was ready, so there was no time for further conversation. But Alice felt quite happy and content. The only time the thought of her disappointment crossed her mind was when she heard another girl say, "I trust my mother for everything. I am quite sure she will not do anything wrong or unkind to me; and when she will
not let me have what I want I wait quietly until she does. She will give it to me sometime, unless it would do me harm to receive it."
Alice felt very much rebuked by this girl's words, and resolved that as soon as she went home she would go to her mother and ask for her forgiveness. So she was not sorry when the children were dismissed.
She was one of the first to leave, and she burried home.
“ Mamma,” she said, almost directly she entered the house, “I am so sorry for having grieved you this morning, as I know I must have done. Will you forgive me for being so naughty ?
“ What was it that made you so, Alice ? "
, you know I have always received a present upon the morning of my birthday, and so I quite expected one this morning; but when I looked everywhere and could not find one, I felt first disappointed, and then angry.”
“But you know, Alice, presents are things which we cannot claim.”
“ Yes, I understand that, mamma. Of course I had no right to anything extra ; for you are so kind to me every day that I ought to be quite satisfied. But yet I could not help expecting a birthday-gift."
“You were wrong to expect it, Alice. But you were even more wrong to be angry because it did not come.”'
" I feel that I was, mamma. “I think my little girl ought to trust her mother more.” “Oh! mamma, do forgive me! I know how wicked I have been."
Mrs. Russell took Alice in her arms, and kissed her, and made her feel that she was quite forgiven.
And ,” she said, “come with me to your room, for I have something to show you there."
Alice went with her mother, and oh! what a sight met her eyes! By the side of the bed was a large doll's cradle, covered with pretty furniture, with fringe and tassels, and everything that could make it complete. It had a quilt, two blankets, two sheets,
, a bolster and pillow, and bed and mattrass. But, best of all, it had a doll. A pretty baby-doll, almost as large as a real baby, lay in the cradle. It had flaxen hair, and blue eyes, and pink cheeks. It was dressed splendidly. It had on everything which a baby could require. It was dressed in a long white muslin robe, the front of which was embroidered, and every stitch of which was done as neatly and regularly as possible. On the foot of the cradle was a white satin hood, which, of course, baby would wear when she was taken for her first walk. A pair of pink-and-white woollen shoes were also placed on the cradle.
Now, Alice was not too old to love a doll. Indeed, she had often wished that she might have a real beauty, which would be too good for every-day use, and which she would need to take good care of. And here it was, looking more beautiful than even in her dreams she had fancied it would look.
Nor was this all.
Beside the cradle was a new writing-desk, lined with purple velvet, and furnished with all kinds of writing-paper, pens, and all other materials; and engraven on the lid Alice plainly saw these words
" ALICE RUSSELL,
She did not dare lift her eyes to the face of her mother, who was watching her so kindly. She felt as if she would like to hide herself away, where no one would see her. Of course, she was delighted with the beautiful presents; but she was thoroughly ashamed of herself. If her mother had scolded even punished her she would not have felt nearly as bad; but, as it was, she was overcome by a sense of her mother's goodness and her own unworthiness. She felt as if she could not bear it, and burst into tears of mingled sorrow and thankfulness.
Her mother let her cry for some minutes before she checked her; but when the sobs grew less violent she said, “Well, my darling, what do you think of your presents ?”
“I do not know how to thank you for them, mamma ; but I do not deserve, and I think I would rather not have them.'
“You must have them, Alice. You could not refuse to accept the presents which have given us great pleasure to provide for you."
“But, oh! mamma, I have been so very naughty and impatient.”
“Yes, I know you have, my child ; but this is a lesson in patience for you."
“I am afraid I have no patience, mamma.”
“Then it is time you tried to get some, We have all need of it every day. You will find that there is much waiting to be done in this life; and although impatient spirits fret and strive, and com. plain, they are obliged to wait too. You should have been more trustful this morning, and content to wait quietly. You might have known that I should not forget your birthday.”
“Yes, I might have done, mamma; I cannot think what made me feel so wickedly as I did. I wish I were better.”
“Do you, Alice ?”
“ Then you know to whom to apply for strength and goodness."
“ Yes; and I will ask Him, mother,” said Alice, in a whisper.
“ Do, my child. This has not been a very happy birthday, I fear."
“No; my evil temper has prevented that."
“But it may be a good birthday all the same; that is, it may leave good memories behind, if you make a determined and prayerful resolution that you will try to be more patient in future.”
“ I will try, mamma. I will ask God to give me all the lessons in patience which I need during the next year."
* They will not be all as pleasantly given as the one you have had to-day."