Faithfull Little Ruth
by Grace Greenwood
Little Ruth Mason sat one sweet June morning in the church-porch, by
the side of her old grandfather, who stood reverently leaning on his
staff, with his hat in his hand. They were both watching from that
ivied porch a touching and impressive scene,—the burial service in the
Mr. Mason had been for many years the sexton of the parish, and though
now too old to discharge the duties of the office, he felt such a
loving interest in the parish church, one of the finest in England,
that he could not keep away from it. Every day he visited the scene of
his old labors, and kindly gave the new sexton the benefit of his long
experience. Sometimes he might be seen kneeling in silent prayer in
the noble chancel, the sunlight that streamed through the stained
windows falling in tender glory on his venerable head. Sometimes he
would linger by the hour in the beautiful churchyard, beside the graves
of his wife, his son, and his son's wife, all the dear ones God had
given him, except one little granddaughter. This last remaining object
of his affection and care was a lovely and loving child, of a
peculiarly thoughtful mind, and of a sweet, constant, religious nature.
She had been carefully trained by a good grandmother, and was prudent
and industrious beyond her years. When not in the little village
school, she was almost always with her grandfather, his little
companion, pupil, and house-keeper.
This interesting orphan child was most kindly regarded by many of the
good village people. She seemed so lonely and helpless in the old
sexton's desolate cottage,—but a poor place at best. Yet she was
hardly an object of pity. Her father and mother had died in her
infancy, and after her first childish grieving for her grandmother was
past, she seemed quite happy and content with the care and
companionship of her grandfather. It was with difficulty that she had
been persuaded now and then to leave him to spend an afternoon at the
pleasant Rectory, when the Rector's kind wife sent for her, to amuse a
sickly little daughter, who was very fond of her, and in whom Ruth's
health, strength, and cheery spirit excited a pathetic wonder and
It was the burial of this child, poor little Lilly Kingsley, which Ruth
and her grandfather were beholding from the shadowy church-porch on
that lovely June morning. Mr. Mason stood with his head bowed,
intently listening to the solemn burial service, and reverently
wondering at the providence of God, which had passed by him, so old,
feeble, and almost useless, and taken from the good Rector and his wife
their one only darling.
Ruth had wept bitterly over the body of her little friend, as she had
seen it that morning, in the coffin, almost covered with white flowers,
and nearly as white as they; but now she watched the mournful
ceremonies with a rapt and eager interest, too profound for tears. Her
young spirit was struggling with the mystery of death, and thoughts of
immortality. She knew that the wasted little body let down into the
dark grave was not all of her poor playmate, and she strove to picture
a little angel like Lilly, only blooming, and happy, and free from
pain, borne upwards through the still summer night, by tender angels,
who looked back very pityingly on the grieving parents, bending over
the death-bed of their risen darling.
So lost was the child in these thoughts, that she did not speak nor
move till the service was over, and the weeping group that had stood by
the grave had passed out of the churchyard.
A few days after this funeral, little Ruth coming home from school,
found the Rector in earnest conversation with her grandfather. She
courtesied timidly to the clergyman, but he drew her to his knee,
looked kindly into her beautiful dark eyes, and said, "How would Ruth
like to live always at the Rectory, and fill the place of our little
Ruth's sweet face flushed with delight, and she answered, "O, sir, I
should dearly love such a beautiful home, and you would too, would
n't you, grandpapa?"
The Rector looked at Mr. Mason, and the old man, drawing the child to
him, said tenderly, "My dear little girl, your old grandfather cannot
leave this cottage, in which he was born, and in which he has always
lived, until he goes to his long home."
"Then I'll not go," cried Ruth, impulsively flinging her arms about
his neck. "I 'll never, never leave you. Who would take care of you
if I were gone?"
The Rector smiled; but the old man answered gravely, "I know I shall
miss you, dear, very much; but the Lord will care for me, and He it is
who has provided this home for my darling. I bless His name for His
loving-kindness. You have always been a good, obedient child to me,
and I know you will obey me, even when I send you away from me,—for
your best good, mind, my darling."
Ruth still wept, and begged to be allowed to stay with him; but her
grandfather was firm, and she yielded at last. He led her to the
Rectory, kissed and blessed her, and placed her in the arms of Mrs.
Kingsley, then hobbled out of the gate, and back to his desolate
cottage, as fast as his poor old limbs could carry him.
Ruth was very sad all the afternoon, though everybody was kind to her,
and her new mother strove tenderly to comfort her. As evening came on,
her heart would go back to the humble old home, and the white-haired,
feeble old man, who she knew must be thinking of her, and missing her
so sadly. At length, Mrs. Kingsley conducted her to a pleasant little
chamber, which was henceforth to be her own. The good lady helped her
to undress, put on her a dainty little ruffled nightgown, and knelt
with her by her bedside while she said her prayers. After praying in a
broken voice for her poor old grandpapa in his loneliness, the child
remembered to ask God's blessing on her new parents. After seeing her
in her snowy little bed, Mrs. Kingsley removed Ruth's clothes to a
closet near by, and brought out a complete suit of garments suited to
her new condition. They were very neat and pretty, and Ruth, who loved
all beautiful things, smiled on them through her tears, and reaching
out her hand, felt of them with simple, childish delight. Then a
strange, thoughtful look passing over her face, she said, "Mamma!"
Mrs. Kingsley started. It was the first time she had heard that name
since her Lilly died, though she had asked Ruth to call her by it when
she was first brought to the Rectory. But she answered, with a smile,
"What, my daughter?"
"Why, mamma, laying off my faded clothes and putting on those lovely
new ones will be like Lilly, leaving the poor, pale body she used to
have, for her glorious angel body, won't it?"
"Yes, darling," replied the mother, to whose heart the simple
illustration brought a sweet, wonderful realization of the blessed
change; and as she stooped and kissed Ruth good night, a tear fell on
the little girl's cheek.
The adopted child slept tranquilly till nearly morning, when she awoke
suddenly, probably from a dream of the home she had left, but thinking
that she heard a voice above her, saying solemnly, "Ruth, little Ruth,
why hast thou forsaken My servant, thy grandfather?"
She was not frightened, yet she could not sleep again, but sat up in
her little bed, impatiently waiting for the day. In the first gray
light of dawn she rose, went to the closet, took out her old clothes,
and dressed herself in them, and casting scarcely a look on the new
clothes or round the sweet little chamber, she stole softly down
stairs. She found a housemaid in the hall, who, not knowing the plans
of her master and mistress in regard to the little girl, let her out,
and she ran swiftly home. She found the cottage door unfastened, for
the poor have little fear of burglars. Entering quietly, and finding
her grandpapa still asleep, she lay down by his side, and when he
awoke, her dear arms were about his neck, and her loving eyes smiling
into his. At first, he forgot she had been away; but after a moment,
he remembered, and exclaimed, "You here, little Ruth? Why did you come
back, against my wish?"
"Because the Lord sent me back," she answered, gravely.
"Why, child, what do you mean?" he asked.
"Grandpapa, dear, this is how it was: There was a voice, such a sweet
and solemn voice, that came and sounded right by me, in the darkness,
and it said, 'Ruth, little Ruth, why forsakest thou My servant, thy
grandfather?' and I was sure it was the Lord's voice, the very same
that spoke to little Samuel, and I could not stay after I heard it. I
will never leave you to live and die alone, even if the queen wants to
adopt me. Why, grandpapa, if God had meant you to be without me, He
would have taken me, instead of little Lilly Kingsley. So don't send
me away from you, dear grandpapa; it would be wicked."
The good old man, with tears in his dim eyes, replied, "No, my darling
little girl shall not be sent away again; it does seem to be the Lord's
will that you should stay with me as long as I stay."
And so she stayed,—the faithful little Ruth. Her good friends at the
Rectory were sorry to lose her, but not displeased with her, and were
more kind than ever to her and her grandfather. The next Sunday, as
she knelt with him among the poor, she was glad in her heart that she
was not shut away from him in the Rector's crimson-cushioned pew.
It was on a Sunday a few weeks later, that her grandfather, after their
frugal dinner, called her to go with him to the churchyard, saying, "A
year ago to-day, Ruth, your dear grandmother died; let us go and spend
an hour or two by her grave."
They took the family Bible, and read and talked a long time, sitting on
the daisied grass, under the pleasant shade of a willow. At last, the
good old man seemed to grow weary, and bowing his white head on the
grave, with one arm flung over it, he fell asleep while Ruth was
singing a hymn which her grandmother had taught her. Then Ruth stole
away, and wandered about the churchyard, reading the inscriptions on
the tombstones, till the people began to enter the church for evening
service. Then she returned to her grandfather, and touched him on the
shoulder, to wake him. But he did not move. She called his name, but
he did not seem to hear her. Just then the Rector came up, and seeing
Ruth's trouble, bent down to look into the face of the old man. He
raised the withered hand that lay on the mound, and held it a moment,
looking anxious and sad. When he laid it down, he put his arms about
Ruth, and said, tenderly, "My dear child, your grandfather is
awake—in Heaven. He will never wake on earth. The Lord has taken
With a piteous cry Ruth flung herself by the side of her dead
grandfather, and called him by many fond names, weeping bitterly; and
strong men wept in pity for her bereavement, and stood with uncovered
heads as her grandfather was lifted and borne to his old home.
From that old home he was carried forth to be laid by the side of his
dear old wife; but from that lonely cottage little Ruth was led
weeping, yet grateful, to her new home by the Rector and his wife,
henceforth to be to them a dear and cherished child. Few were the
tears she shed in that beautiful home, and tenderly were they wiped
away; and if the Lord ever spoke to her again in her peaceful little
chamber, through the darkness, it was in "the still, small voice" of
blessing, love, and comfort.