Jennie Browning by Unknown
The light of a beautiful Sabbath was fast fading, and the last golden
gleams fell softly upon the form of a light-haired little girl who sat
by a cottage window, her head leaning upon her hand as if in deep
The sun had departed like a grand old monarch, leaving behind him a
glory of purple and gold more beautiful than his own full splendor. Yet
the little girl saw nothing of all this beauty. She was thinking of the
story in the Sabbath school book she had been reading,—the story of a
child's life; and she wondered if all that happened in the story could
be really true.
Jennie was pondering in her troubled brain a question which the reading
of the book had brought. What could it be? Evidently it was not to be
answered easily, for her face only grew more clouded, until at last she
resolved to ask the help of some wiser mind.
Fortunately, Jennie knew that she had but to make her perplexities
known to her mother and they would all be explained in the clearest way;
so, seating herself in her rocking-chair by her mother's side, she
"Mamma, I want you to tell me something."
"Well, dear, what is it?"
"I've just finished my Sabbath school book, you know, and it's just
perfectly lovely; all about the sweetest little girl; only she was
always doing so many kind things for everybody; and I've been trying to
think what's the reason little girls in books always have so many
chances for doing good, and little girls like me, who are out of books,
don't have any at all."
"Not any at all?" questioned the mother. "Is that really so?"
"Well, no, not quite, I suppose," said Jennie, "but then they are just
nothing but the tiniest little bits of things. There's never anything
big and splendid for real little girls like me to do.
"Now, Susy Chrystie, in the story, took her little sister May out for a
walk, and just while they were crossing a bridge, May pulled her hand
away from Susy's, and tried to walk on the edge, just as close as she
could; but in about one second her foot slipped, and she would have
fallen off into the water if her sister hadn't jumped right to her, and
caught hold of her dress, and pulled her back all safe.
"Now just think, mamma," said Jennie, her blue eyes opening widely as
she spoke, "Susy Chrystie saved her little sister's life; wasn't that a
splendid, big something to do?"
"Yes, my dear, that was a brave thing for a little girl to do, for even
an older person might have been too frightened by seeing the danger May
was in, to act quickly; but if my little Jennie will always try to keep
quite still, and never scream when any sudden fright comes to her, she
too may be able to think quickly of the best way in which to help
herself or others."
"But, mamma, you know that nothing ever does happen to me; and besides,
I haven't any little sister or brother."
"Never mind, my child, if you will do carefully everything you do
understand, and obey cheerfully even when you cannot see why you should,
you will please your heavenly Father and give me comfort and pleasure,
and perhaps some day you may have a chance to do something brave."
Jennie's face grew brighter, as it always did when she had confided her
griefs to mamma, and for many days she watched and waited anxiously,
thinking that at any time something might happen.
And so it did; for one day a letter came from Jennie's aunt, Mrs.
Graham, saying she would come and spend a few days with her sister, and
bring with her little Willie, a boy about two years old.
Of course they were very welcome, and Jennie greatly enjoyed playing
with her cousin. He was a charming fellow, but very fond of having his
own way; and one of his great enjoyments was to plunge two chubby hands
into Jennie's thick, light hair, and pull it with all his might.
Of course this was a short-lived pleasure when any older person saw him,
but when they were alone, Jennie would endure the pain patiently until
she could coax the little fellow to let go.
She never gave him a cross word, and when the nurse would say
impatiently, "Indade, thin, Miss Jennie, it's a wonder ye don't just
shlap his hands!" she would answer gravely, "Oh, no, he's so much
littler than I am."
Yet Jennie was not perfect, and though she generally tried to do what
was right, sometimes, like the rest of the world, she wanted to do what
she knew was wrong.
One bright afternoon, when she was playing in the yard, her mother
"Your aunt and I must ride to the station directly, to meet uncle and
your father, and I would like to have you go quietly into the nursery
and sit there until Maggie returns from an errand; it will not be long."
"But Willie is sound asleep, mamma, he doesn't want me," said Jennie,
who was anxious to stay out of doors.
"Yes, dear, I know it, but we shall feel safer to have some one in the
room, even if he is asleep; something may happen if he is alone."
Jennie, however, was so unwilling to sit quietly in the house that even
these familiar words did not attract her, but with slow steps and a
sullen face, she obeyed her mother's wishes.
She knew quite well how slight a thing she had been asked to do, and
although at another time she would not have objected, just now, when she
wanted to do something else, it seemed very hard to give up her own
Her conscience was so disagreeable, too, for it would keep saying all
the time, "I am ashamed of you, Jennie Browning! Can't you do this for
your kind mamma, even if you do want to do something else?" How tiresome
it all was, and how she wished she could "just do as she liked!"
Thoughts like these were filling Jennie's mind as she stood looking out
of the nursery window; but all at once she was aroused by the strong
smell of burning woolen.
Turning quickly, the child grew almost rigid with fear as she saw, just
in front of her, a small flame burst out from the rug before the fire,
and not far from the crib where Willie lay sleeping. In an instant,
however, the thought "What shall I do?" was followed by the remembrance
of what her mother had often said, "If in any way your dress should ever
take fire, you must try to smother it at once; never run away, but throw
yourself down, or wrap yourself in anything to be found."
Remembering this, she hastily caught up the other end of the rug, which
was large and heavy, and threw it over the flame. This quite
extinguished it, for it had only just started into life when Jennie saw
it; but in her zeal she tore off the bedspread and blankets, crowning
all with two large pillows upon which she seated herself, for by this
time the child was so confused that she hardly knew whether it was the
rug or her own dress which had taken fire.
Now she wanted to see somebody, and, not daring to move, she began to
scream. This wakened Willie, who added his voice to the uproar, and soon
brought the bewildered nurse to the rescue.
In less than an hour the carriage returned, and Jennie was kissed and
praised more than she had ever been in all her happy life, by her
parents and her aunt and uncle; for they saw quickly what had happened,
and trembled to think what might have been.
That night as Mrs. Graham bent to give Jennie her good-night kiss, she
whispered, "May God bless you, my thoughtful little niece, for you have
saved your cousin's life to-day!"
"Why, did I really?" thought Jennie; "how glad, how glad I am; for if I
hadn't been there, the fire would have caught the crib, and oh, that
would have been awful!"
Then, as memory brought the scene more clearly before her, and she
recollected how her conscience had fairly pushed her into the room, her
little face grew red with shame, and she softly said, "I will never
fight with conscience again, for if I had had my own way, I could never
have saved poor Willie's life."
PAST AND FUTURE
The past is lost to us—the book is sealed,
By mortal ne'er to be unclosed again;
The past is gone—beyond all human power
To change the record of but one short hour,
Though since repented of in tears and pain.
The future lies before us—a fair page,
Whereon 'tis ours to write whate'er we will!
Then let us pause in case our careless hand
Shall make a stain which will forever stand,
Through endless time a silent witness still.
'Tis not enough to keep the pages pure,
And let them ever but a blank remain;
Each leaf in turn should on its surface bear
Some writing that shall stand out clear and fair,
To prove our lives have not been spent in vain.