The Stolen Orange by Unknown

"Mamma will never know," thought Flora Marshall to herself, as she took a large orange from the piled-up dish on the table, and, putting it in her pocket, went hastily up stairs.

She was expecting two or three little friends to spend the day with her, and had been busily arranging the doll her kind mother had given her; but while lingering about, waiting for them to come, she was tempted to take one of the oranges which had been placed on the table ready for dinner. She hurried from the room, but had not reached the top of the stairs before her brother's voice stopped her, calling, "Flora, Flora, make haste, I see some of your visitors coming in at the gate;" and directly after there was a knock at the door, and she could hear the voices of Kate and Effie Somers.

Flora ran quickly down stairs, but her face was flushed, and she felt miserable and ashamed as she met her young friends, and took them to the parlor to speak to her mamma.

[Illustration: <i>"Blindman's Buff"</i>]

Flora tried to laugh and talk as merrily as any of them, but she could not forget how wrong she had been; and the dish of oranges setting right before her on the table kept her fault ever in her mind. Besides this, not having been able to eat the orange she had taken, she was in constant fear lest she might draw it from her pocket with her handkerchief, and thus be covered with shame in the sight of her young friends.

Poor Flora! she had sinned against God, and against her kind mother, and had spoiled all her afternoon's pleasure for the sake of an orange. At dinner time she could not raise her head to meet her mother's glance, who saw that something was wrong with her, and who said very kindly, "Flora, dear, you are scarcely eating anything—are you not well?" This made Flora ready to cry with shame and repentance. Her conscience was too tender to allow her to be happy while her fault remained unconfessed.

All the afternoon they had merry games, in which everybody joined. They played "Lady's Toilet," "Hunt the Slipper," and many more such games, winding up with "Blindman's Buff." After this the little girls went home, and Flora was left alone with her papa and mama while the younger children were getting ready for bed.

Several times she had fancied she had dropped the orange in some of the rough movements of the games, and had gone more than once quietly into a corner of the room to feel in her pocket if it was still there. Yes, it was quite safe enough. "How could I be so wicked and so greedy?" thought Flora; "mama always gives me as much fruit as is best for me, and yet I have made myself a thief, and after all have not eaten the orange, or been able to put it back, and it has spoiled all my pleasure." She sat still, miserable and unhappy for a little longer, and then her resolution was made—she would tell her mama before she lay down to sleep that night. With a slow step and a beating heart she went toward the window where her mother was sitting. "Well, Flora," said Mrs. Marshall kindly, "you seem tired and out of spirits to-night; have you come to wish me good-night?"

[Illustration: <i>"Here it is, Mama."</i>]

"O mama!" sobbed Flora, "I have come to tell you how wicked I have been, and how very sorry and miserable I am;" and hiding her face in the folds of her mama's dress, she told the story.

"Here it is, mama," she said, drawing the orange from her pocket, "and I think I shall never see an orange again without remembering this bad afternoon."

Very gravely, but gently, her mother spoke to her about her sin, and the consequences it had brought upon her. "I shall not punish you, Flora," she said; "your own conscience has been a sufficient punishment. I have watched your pale, troubled face all the afternoon, and should have wondered what was wrong with you had I not seen you take the orange as I passed the door, which was slightly open. Knowing what you had done, I was not surprised that you seemed unhappy."

"But can you forgive me mama, and believe that I will never do such a thing again?"

"I will forgive you, Flora, because you have told me of your fault; but remember there is One above whose forgiveness you must seek as well as mine, whose eye is always upon you, and who is grieved when you do wrong. Go now, and before you sleep to-night ask God to pardon you, and cleanse you from this and every other sin for the sake of his Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ."

With a sorrowful, repentant heart Flora went to her room, and kneeling there asked God to forgive all her sins, and to help her for the future to resist temptation; but it was a long time before she forgot the stolen orange and how miserable she had been that afternoon.