It is Only A Trifle
by Mrs. Follen
"Be sure, my son," said Mr. Pratt, as he left his counting room, in
Philadelphia, "be sure that you send that money to Mr. Reid to-day;
direct it carefully, and see that all is done in proper form and
"Yes, sir," replied George, "I will."
George fully intended to obey implicitly. He was, in the main,
desirous to do right; but he had one great fault. When he had a
small duty to perform, he was apt to say and think, "O, that is only
a trifle. Why should we lay so much stress on trifles?" He would
often say, when any one found fault with him for the neglect of a
small duty, "I am sure it is only a trifle."
George, as soon as he had finished something he was about, wrote the
letter according to the directions given him, carefully enclosed the
money in it, nicely folded and sealed it. Just as he was preparing
to direct it, a young man opened the door of the counting room in
great haste, and begged him to go with him that moment, to speak to
some one who was then passing.
"I can direct and carry the letter," said George's younger brother;
"I know to whom it is to go, and I can send it just as well as you."
George had a slight feeling in his heart that he ought not to leave
this letter to any one to direct; but his brother again said, "I
should think I could do such a trifling thing as that; I can surely
direct a letter, though I cannot write one yet."
Frank was the younger apprentice, and was anxious to get forward and
do what George did.
"Well," said George, "you may do it, but be sure you do it right.
John Reid, you know, is the name;" and he went with his companion.
"It is only a trifle," he said to himself, as he remembered his
father's charge. "I have done all that is really important. It is of
little consequence who directs and carries the letter." So he chased
away the slight cloud that hung over his mind as he left the
counting room with his friend.
These slight clouds that rise in the soul's horizon, so prophetic,
so full of mercy or of terror as we regard or slight them! "Why do
we not learn their meaning? Why are they not ever messengers of love
and peace to us? Had George stopped and considered, perhaps he would
not have done as he did, perhaps he would not have called this duty
a trifle, and would not have left the counting room till he had
performed every tittle of his father's command.
The letter was directed and sent. Frank did as well as he knew how.
When George returned, he asked, "Have you directed the letter to Mr.
"Yes, I have, and carried it to the office."
"Did you enclose that money to Mr. Reid, George?" asked his father,
when he next saw him.
"Yes, sir," George replied, with a slight hesitation, which,
however, he soon got over; "for," said he to himself, "I enclosed
the money carefully; what does it matter whether Frank or I directed
the letter?" So he spoke out freely to his father.
"All right, father; the letter is on its way to Ohio."
Unfortunately his father had not noticed his hesitation, was
satisfied, and asked no further questions.
Again George checked the monitions of his conscience. Again he said
to himself, "It's only a trifle." He had yet to learn that no duty
is a trifle.
Weeks passed, and there was no acknowledgment of the money. At last
a letter arrived from Mr. Reid to Mr. Pratt, requesting him, if
convenient, to pay the two hundred dollars promised to him some
Mr. Reid was a poor man, to whom two hundred dollars was an
Mr. Pratt again questioned his son, and was again assured that the
money had been sent, and wrote to Mr. Reid accordingly, advising him
to inquire at the post office.
There happened to be a young man in the office, by the name of Harry
Brown, whose mother was a widow. She was poor, and a stranger in the
town. Her son had obtained his place on account of his quick
intelligence, and because he could also write a very good hand.
Strong suspicions fell upon him. He was questioned about the letter,
and at last Mr. Reid accused him of the theft.
The young man's indignation was uncontrollable; he turned white with
anger; he could not speak; he stammered and clenched his fists, and
at last burst into tears and left the office.
All this was taken for the agony of detected guilt and neither the
postmaster nor Mr. Reid attempted to stop him, for neither of them
wished to have him punished, and they hoped to recover the money by
We will now change the scene. Let us enter this small, neat cottage.
There are but two rooms on the floor. One is kitchen and parlor, the
other a bed room. A sort of ladder in one corner intimates that in
the small attic is also a sleeping place. A small table is spread
for two people; it is very clean and nice, but every thing that you
see indicates poverty. An old woman, with a sweet but sorrowful
countenance, sits by the small window, looking anxiously out of it
for some one who you might suppose was to share her simple meal with
her, which stood nicely covered up at the fire, awaiting his
arrival. She is talking to herself.
"One treasure is yet left me in this world—my noble, beautiful,
brave son. God bless him; for him I am willing to live. There he
comes; how fast he runs! but how red and heated he looks! What is
the matter, Harry? what has happened?" she exclaimed, as he entered;
"are you sick?"
"Yes, Mother, and I shall never be well again. I have been accused
of stealing, and Mr. Reid and the postmaster both believe it. I
cannot live here any longer. I have just come from the recruiting
office; I have enlisted for the Mexican war, and I hope I shall be
shot; I go the day after to-morrow. I will never be seen here again.
To think that any one should dare to accuse me of theft! Why did I
not knock him down? I hate the world, I hate all mankind, I hate
life, I want to die. If it were not for you, Mother, I believe I
should kill myself. O Mother, Mother! how can I live?" And the poor
fellow laid his head in his mother's lap and wept bitterly.
The poor mother—she spoke not, she did not weep; she laid her hands
upon her son's head, and looked up through the thin roof of her poor
cottage, far, far into the everlasting heavens, where alone are
peace and hope to be found. In her deep agony she called upon the
Almighty for aid. She looked like a marble image of despair.
"I must prepare to go," at last her son said; "I have enlisted, and
I must be ready. "What will you do with yourself, Mother?"
"Go with you, my child. Wherever you go, there I go too. I can cook
for the camp. You have done wrong, my son, in enlisting as a
soldier; why not come first to me? Your innocence will yet be
proved. Why were you so rash? All might have yet been well with us."
"I cannot bear it, Mother; I must go."
"Then I go with you; I will never desert you."
"But O, you will be killed with fatigue and exposure. Mother, dear
Mother, stay till I can get you a new home."
"I go, my son, where you go," said his mother; "my only home is with
In two days their few possessions were sold, and they were gone.
We will now return to the counting room where our TRUE story began.
Some months had passed; the father and son are there. "George," said
Mr. Pratt, "I cannot but fear you made some mistake about that
letter. Money is seldom stolen out of letters. Were you very
particular about the name and place in your direction?"
"The truth is, Sir, that Frank directed the letter; I wrote and
folded and sealed it; but just as I was going to direct it, Harry
Flint called me to speak to some one, and I let Frank direct it; but
I told him to be sure to direct it to Mr. John Reid, and I know he
did so, just as well as if I had seen it."
The father looked much displeased. "You did wrong, George, after my
"Why, Father, I am sure it was of no importance which of us did it.
That was only a trifle, I am sure. I told Frank the name, and he
knows where Mr. Reid lives. I should not think you would blame me
"I do blame you very much. You should not have left this to Frank. I
charged you to be very careful. This was your own duty, and you
should have performed it yourself. Your neglect will most likely
cost me two hundred dollars, for I shall send the money to Mr. Reid;
he of course is not to lose it. You cannot be sure that Frank
directed the letter correctly; he is not used to the work."
George began to feel that it was not a trifle to leave another
person to direct a letter of importance; he felt very sorry at the
thought of losing his father's money. Poor fellow! he had a worse
pain than this to endure.
The next morning, when the letters came from the post office, there
was one from Mr. Reid. The missing letter had at last arrived, and
the two hundred dollars were in it. The letter had been misdirected.
There was a mistake in the name of the place. The letter had been
sent to Washington, whence he had just received it, as the person
whose office it is to read these letters knew him personally, and so
could correct the mistake. He then related the sad story of the
clerk and his poor mother. He added that he went to the poor woman's
house the very day that he left the town, intending to satisfy his
mind upon the question of her son's guilt, of which he began to
doubt—intending, if he found the young man innocent, to take him
back into the office, and if not, to try to induce him to restore
the money, and go, to recover his character, to some other place, to
which he would have helped him to remove. He was too late. He found
the house empty. "I pity the person," he said, "who misdirected that
letter—he was the unconscious cause of the ruin of two excellent
beings. We may blame the young man's violence, and may call him
foolish and passionate; yet it was a deep hatred of even the
appearance of sin and shame that made him do so mad an action as to
enlist in a wicked war."
Mr. Pratt now read this letter to his son. George covered his face
to hide his shame and sorrow; his heart was ready to break with
agony. He groaned aloud. He spoke not one word.
George was suffering in silence the bitterest of all pains which a
good mind can endure,—that of being the cause of misery to others,
through one's own wrong-doing. After a few moments, he started up
and exclaimed, "I must send word to the poor fellow that the money
is found and his innocence proved; let me do what I can to repair
the evil I have caused. If I write to the postmaster and tell him
the story, he will take the poor fellow back again. I have some
money of my own, Father, to pay for the travelling expenses of the
boy and his mother. All perhaps may yet be right. I can work. I will
do any thing for them. Poor Harry Brown—so proud and so honest! O,
Father! I hate myself. But how shall I send him word? the post is
not certain; let me think. Bill Smith said he was going to the war,
if he could get money enough for his journey. He would take my
letter. I'll be after him, and get him off in no time."
Away flew George; he gave Bill Smith the money, told him the story,
and sent him off for that very night, George then wrote to the
postmaster, and implored him to write immediately to Harry, and
offer him again the place in the office. George went to bed with a
heavy heart, still with the hope that poor Harry had not been
Now let us follow Harry and his old mother to Mexico. Many weeks
have passed since we left George mourning his fault, and sending up
prayers for the life of poor Harry. It is a few days after a battle.
On the ground, in the corner of a small tent, lies a poor soldier.
Bandages stained with blood are lying about. The poor sufferer is
very pale, and his face shows marks of pain. An old woman, whose
face is full of anxious love, sits by his side and holds his hand.
The young man lifts the old withered hand to his lips and kisses it;
he looks up through the thin canvas of his tent, and says, "Thank
God, dear Mother, that you are here with me now to take care of me,
else I think I should die. Forgive my rashness; if I live will yet
be a good son to you. I knew was not a thief, and that ought to have
been enough for me. I was wrong to be so angry, and to forget you,
whom I ought to have staid by and taken care of, as I promised
father I would. Forgive me, dear Mother. Perhaps I shall be a better
man with one leg than I was with two."
While the poor fellow, who had lost his leg the first day he went to
battle, was slowly uttering these words, the tears were running fast
down the hollow cheeks of his old mother, but gentle, quiet tears,
as though the heart of her who shed them was resigned and peaceful.
"I thank God for your life, my son. Your fighting days are over;
they have been short; but usefulness and happiness are yet before
you, though you go through life maimed. I shall yet see you smiling
and happy again in our cottage, your innocence proved, your place
restored, and friends all around you."
"How can that be?" said Harry; "there is only my word and character
as evidence of my honesty. I cannot go back to the old place—never,
never, Mother. What shall I do? Better die than live disgraced."
"Have no fear, Harry; I have none. I am sure all will be well, and
your honesty proved. So go to sleep, as the surgeon directed. Have
faith; you have shown courage." His mother smoothed the clothes over
him, and gently stroked his hand, and he was silent, and fell
Presently, the surgeon looked in. He was a kind-hearted man, and
knew their story. He said softly, "When the boy wakes I have some
news for him that will do him more good than I can."
Harry, who was just waking, started and exclaimed, "What news? tell
me this minute! is the money found?"
"Come, Mr. Gunpowder, keep quiet, if you please, or you'll not hear
any thing from me."
"Yes, yes; I am as quiet as a lamb, only be quick. Tell me the
"Well, here are two letters that a great six foot chap has brought,
not for your lambship, Mr. Harry, but for your good mother, who
takes things like a rational being."
He gave the letters to the mother and left the tent, saying with a
smile, "Don't be too happy."
The letter from the postmaster was to ask Harry's pardon for the
injustice, and to offer the place in the office. "There is no one,"
it concluded, "I could trust as I can you."
The other was from George, as follows:—
"DEAR MR. BROWN: My neglect of my duty in directing a letter was the
real cause of the suspicion that fell upon you. I can never forgive
myself. I can hardly hope you can forgive me. If you will be
generous enough to try to do so, you will make me less unhappy. If
you accept the sum I enclose you to meet the expenses of your
journey, I shall be less miserable. By taking it you will prove that
you pity and forgive me,—the unintentional cause of so much evil to
you and your excellent mother." George enclosed a check for five
hundred dollars, all he had saved from his earnings as a clerk for
the two years past.
"Thank Heaven, my innocence is proved!" said the honest fellow.
"But, Mother, I don't want the money."
"It is kinder to take it," said the mother.
Harry submitted. Ere long, he was able to move on crutches. He and
his mother were again in their little cottage. Harry received the
heartiest welcome from his towns-people when he was seen again with
his one leg in his place in the post-office.
George often went to the town. His first visit was always to Mrs.
Brown. He treated her as if she were his mother, and her son was to
him as a brother. He was often heard to say, "The sound of Harry
Brown's crutches always reminds me sorrowfully that when there is a
duty to perform involving the rights of others we should never say,
It is only a trifle."
"It seems to me," said Frank, "that I should never have been happy
again to have caused so much misery by the neglect of my duty; and
yet, Mother, it did seem a trifle."
"My mother," replied Mrs. Chilton, "said to me, when I was a girl,
Never consider any duty, ever so great, as too difficult, or any,
ever so small, as too trifling. I have never forgotten her words,
and though I have not always been faithful to this lesson, it has
often saved me from wrong-doing and its consequent unhappiness."
After a short silence, Mrs. Chilton said to her boys, The next story
is not so painful, but it illustrates the same truth—that, in
matters of conscience, nothing is trifling. You shall now hear how
happy a good conscience can make one even under the severest trials.
One pleasant afternoon, my friend and I were seated in the neat
little room which served old Susan Vincent for parlor, kitchen, and
bed-room. She was sitting in a nice arm-chair which her infirmities
made necessary for her comfort. A kind friend had sent it to her.
She had on a nice clean gingham gown, a handkerchief crossed on her
neck, in the fashion of the Shakers, and a plain cap, as white as
the driven snow, covered her silver locks. A little round table,
polished by frequent scouring, stood beside her; on it was her
knitting work, Baxter's Saints' Rest, and the Bible; the last lay
open before her. She was reading in it when we entered. As her door
was open and she did not hear very quickly, we had an opportunity of
observing her before she perceived us. There was that deep interest
in her manner of reading this holy book, as she was leaning over it
with her spectacles on, entirely absorbed, that made her resemble a
person who was examining a title deed to an estate which was to make
her the heir of uncounted treasures. She was indeed reading with her
whole soul the proofs she there found of her claim to an inheritance
that makes all earthly riches seem poor indeed.
"I am glad to see you, dear," was her affectionate welcome to me;
"do I know this lady with you?"
"No," I answered; "she is my friend whom I told you the other day I
should bring to see you."
"I am glad to see her if she is your friend," she replied.
"I want you, Susan, if you are strong enough to-day, to repeat to my
friend that little account of yourself that you were once kind
enough to give me."
"What, the whole story?" said Susan, "beginning at the beginning, as
the children say?"
Susan was silent a minute or two, as if to collect her thoughts, and
then said, I have always believed, that, though it seemed strange
that such a good-for-nothing creature as I am should be spared, and
others taken away, that, may be, I was left to give my testimony for
some good purpose, and that my experience might do some good to poor
"It is a straight and thorny road,
And mortal spirits tire and faint;
But they forget the mighty God
Who feeds the strength of every saint."
Susan knew half the hymn book by heart, and loved to repeat hymns so
well, that she could hardly have told her story without this
preface. She immediately began as follows:—
"My father, who was a sailor, lost his life at sea when I was two
years old; my mother never had very good health, and about six years
afterward she fell into a consumption. She lived only a year after
she was taken sick. I was too young to remember much of her, but I
have a distinct recollection of seeing her often sitting by a little
stand like this, with an open Bible upon it; and once I was struck
with her looking up to heaven with her hands clasped for a long time
as if she were praying, and then looking at me, and then at the
book; and I saw big tears rolling down her cheeks. She called me to
her, and said, with an earnest but broken voice, God save my child
from the evil that is in the world! and give her the testimony of a
These words I could not forget, for the next day she died. We forget
many things in this world, ladies, but the words of a dying mother
we cannot help remembering. This was the first time I had ever seen
death, but there was such a peaceful, happy expression in my
mother's face, that it did not seem very terrible to me, till I
found they were going to carry her away; indeed, I think I must have
believed it was sleep, and expected her to awake; for, when they
took her from me, I was half out of my senses, and screamed for them
to leave me my mother.
A kind old lady, a friend to my mother, took me in her lap and put
her arms round me, and tried to soothe and comfort me. She told me
my mother had gone to heaven; that it was only her body that was
dead; but that her soul was living, and was gone to heaven. "She
will never be sick or unhappy any more; she is gone to God, and she
will live forever with Jesus Christ and all good beings."
"But I want to see her," said I.
"You will see her again, I doubt not, my child, if you are good,"
the old lady said. Perhaps I should not have remembered so exactly
what she said, if she had not frequently repeated the same thing to
me, and if I had not loved my mother so much.
This excellent lady took me home with her, and it was to her
goodness I owe every thing. She had lost nearly all her property by
the failure of a merchant to whom she had lent money; she had
supported herself by taking boarders. I was perfectly destitute; my
mother had made out to get a living by taking in sewing, but left
nothing. The last year of her life she could not have got along
without my assistance, and what was given her by her charitable
neighbors; and for the last three months she could not even make her
bed, or clean her own room, or do her little cooking, without my
help. And O, how happy I was when I was helping my dear mother! Now
at this moment, when I am so old, and forget so many things, how
well I remember her and all she said! It seems as if I could hear
her say, "What should I do without you, my dear Susan." It seems to
me as if I would rather live over again those days, when I was
trying to help and comfort my sick mother, than any of my whole
life. Children are not aware how much they can do for their parents,
nor do they know what a blessed remembrance it will be to them to
think that they have lessened the sufferings of a sick mother. All
the riches in the world would not afford them such happiness.
Mrs. Brown, the kind lady who took me home, told me that she would
send me to school, and that I should have a home at her house; but
that, as she was very poor, she should expect me to exert myself
when I was not at school, and do all I could to help in the house;
and that I must improve my time at school. She gave me a great deal
of good advice, and told me I must not imitate the bad conduct that
I might see; and that I must never do any thing without asking my
conscience whether it was right to do it. I remember she asked me if
I knew what my conscience was. I was not quite sure that I did; so I
said, I did not know whether I did. Then she asked me if I ever
remembered doing wrong.
"O yes, ma'am," I said; "I never shall forget playing with my
mother's bottle of cough drops, when she told me not to, and
spilling them all out. I did not tell her of it at first, and she
could not get any more till next day; and every time she coughed, it
seemed as if my heart would break; and I hated myself, and could not
bear it at all till I told her I had played with the bottle and
spilled the drops."
"It was your conscience, Susan," the old lady said, "that was so
troubled; it was your conscience that said you must tell your
mother; this is God's witness in your heart; always do as that
directs you, and come what will, Susan, you can bear it."
I was so grateful to my kind friend for her tender care of me, that
I attended to all she said to me, and never forgot it; and it has
been the source of happiness to me through life. I had not been long
in the school before I had a trial of my conscience, and I thank Him
who is the giver of all strength that I resisted this first
One day the schoolmistress left her penknife open upon her desk,
when she went out of her room during the recess; nearly all the
girls took it into their hands to look at it, for it had a number of
blades, and was rather curious; some of them tried the knife to see
how sharp it was. We had been told not to meddle with her things,
and all of us knew it was wrong; as I was one of the small girls, I
did not get a chance to look at it till all had seen it; but, when
the others ran out to the play ground, and I was left alone, I went
to the desk, and took up the knife, and opened and shut all the
blades; but instead of leaving the one open which I found so, I left
open another blade, just put it on the edge of my nail, to see how
very sharp it was, and then laid it down, and ran after the rest of
When the schoolmistress came in, she immediately saw that we had
taken up her knife. "Some one," said she, "has been using my knife;
I am sure of it, because the blade that I left open is shut, and
another is open, and it is gapped; who has done it?" Not a girl
spoke; I thought that I was the only one who had opened and shut the
blades, but I knew I had not gapped either of them. I knew that all
the others had taken up the knife; I was afraid to speak; I did not
like to take the whole blame, and I was silent as the other girls
After waiting a few minutes, our teacher said, "As none of you
choose to confess who has done this, I shall have to punish the
innocent with the guilty; I shall take away a merit from all of you,
except those few girls who, I feel sure, would not disobey me."
There were only five girls in the school who did not lose a merit,
and I was one of the number. As she named them over, and gave her
reasons for believing them innocent, when she came to me, she said,
"Little Susan Vincent has been so orderly and so good ever since she
has been here, that I am sure it was not she that did it, and, if
she had, I am sure she would confess it."
I felt as if I was choking; I put my head clear down so that no one
could see my face; but the girls, who had none of them seen me touch
the knife, thought that my modesty made me appear so much confused;
no one but God and myself knew that I had a guilty conscience. I
felt too dreadfully to speak then; I thought of nothing else all
school time; I missed in all my lessons, for I did not attend to any
thing that was said to me. The schoolmistress thought I was sick,
and I went home miserable enough.
As I went along, I thought over all that Mrs. Brown had said to me
about conscience, and I understood then what she meant by the voice
of God in the heart. No one accused me, but I felt like a criminal;
every one thought well of me; my schoolmistress and companions all
loved me; but I despised and hated myself. I felt as if God was
displeased with me.
As usual, I went directly to Mrs. Brown to ask what she had for me
to do. "What's the matter, Susan?" said she; "you don't look right;
have you been naughty, or are you sick, child?"
I could not bear to have her speak so kindly to me when I did not
deserve it, and I burst into tears; I loved her like a mother, and I
told her all.
"And now, Susan, what are you going to do?"
"I want you, ma'am, to tell the schoolmistress."
"Better tell her yourself," she answered.
After thinking a while, I said that I would; and then my conscience
was a little easier. I went a little before the time, that I might
see her alone. When I came in, I found a friend of hers with her,
and I heard my mistress whisper, "This is my dear little orphan
girl." She called me to her, and took me up in her lap. "Well,
honest little Sue," said she, "why don't you look up in my face, as
you know you always do?"
This was too much for me; I burst into tears, and put my hands over
"What's the matter, Susan?" said she.
As soon as I could speak, I said, "I did open the knife; I was
wicked when you thought I was good, for I did not tell the truth; I
opened and shut all the blades, and I cut a notch on my nail with
one, and then I did not tell you of it when you asked who opened
it." When I had got it all out, I felt better; it seemed as if a
great load was taken off of my heart.
In a few minutes, my kind friend said to me, "I am sorry you did
wrong, Susan; but I am very glad to see that you have a tender
conscience, and that it has made you come and confess your faults; I
am very glad that you are so sorry; it is a bad sign when children
think they are happy, after they have done wrong. I trust, my dear
Susan, that you have suffered so much, that you will never commit
such a fault again; it was only foolish and disobedient to take up
my knife, but it was very wrong not to tell me, when I asked who did
it, and let me punish so many girls for your offence."
I saw that she thought I was the only one that had touched the
knife, and believed me worse than I was; and then I felt what a
difference there was between a good and an evil conscience; for it
did not trouble me half so much that she thought me worse than I
really was, as to see that she thought me better.
Then she said, "You must, Susan, confess before the whole school
that it was you that took my knife."
While she was speaking, the girls came in. I had cried so much that
I could hardly speak; and my good friend said that, as I was a
little girl, she would speak for me.
As soon as she said that I had confessed that it was I that took the
knife, almost every girl in the school cried out, "It was not little
Susan, it was I!" "It was not Sue, it was I!" was heard all round
the room. This made me feel bold enough to speak, and I said,
"Yes, I did take it up when you were all out on the play ground; I
opened and shut all the blades, and cut a little notch on my nail."
"And so did I!" "And so did I!" was heard from a number of voices.
"And we took it up first," said all the girls.
When there was silence, the schoolmistress told us that she was glad
to see that, though we had done wrong in the morning, we were trying
now to do right, and repair our fault; that although we had not
obeyed conscience then, we were acting as it directed us now.
"And are you not all happier?" said she. "Yes," they all said. "And
is not God good, to put this feeling in your hearts, that makes you
unhappy when you do wrong, and happy when you do right? Follow this
guide, children, and it will lead you to heaven."
It may seem strange that a child, hardly nine years old, should
remember all that was said at such a time; but I suffered a great
deal before I confessed my fault, for I was a little proud of my
good character at school, and my suffering made me remember.
Besides, Mrs. Brown often talked about conscience to me, and told me
that I must learn to govern myself, for that when she died, I should
have nothing but my character to depend upon; no guide but my Bible
and my conscience, and no protector but God.
When I was about fifteen years old, Mrs. Brown, my kind friend,
died, go sweetly and calmly that death in her seemed beautiful. I
sat by her side, after I had closed her eyes, and looked in her dear
face, till even my grief at losing her was quieted, and till I felt
what we learn in the good book, that the good never die. I felt sure
that her soul was with God.
After the funeral, I went out to inquire for a place, and soon found
one, for every one knew Mrs. Brown's regard for me.
I met with a great trouble at my first place; I was the chamber
maid, and the nursery maid was envious of me, because my mistress
liked me better than her. She often accused me of faults I did not
commit; but, when my mistress spoke to me, I looked and was so
innocent that she was convinced.
One morning my mistress sent for me; as soon as I saw her face I
knew that something very bad was the matter, for the tears came into
her eyes when she spoke to me. She told me that she was very sorry,
but that she could not keep me any longer; she was grieved to lose
me, but more for the cause.
I asked her to tell me the cause.
"I am afraid," she said, "indeed, Susan, I have a good reason to
believe, that you are not honest."
I do confess, ladies, that I was very angry; it seemed as if all the
blood in my body flew up into my face and head; I could not speak,
and I don't know but my confusion and anger together made me look
"I am glad," said she, "that you don't tell any falsehood about it;
you are welcome to stay here till you get a place."
By this time I could speak, and I said to her, "I am as innocent as
the child just born. I never took so much as a pin from any one; I
do not wish to stay a minute in your house; I would not stay in any
one's house who had accused me of dishonesty;" and I called upon my
mother and my friend Mrs. Brown, though I knew they could not answer
me, and I cried aloud like a child.
My mistress shed tears, and said she should not have accused me
without certain proofs of my dishonesty, and begged me to confess my
fault, and to stay till I got a place; but I told her I would not
stay another minute, and I went to my chamber and tied up my bundle,
and put on my bonnet and shawl, and walked straight off without
speaking to any one.
I had gone nearly a mile before I was at all calmed, and then, out
of breath, and miserable beyond words to tell, I sat down under an
old tree by the roadside. It was autumn; the tree was stripped of
its leaves, the wind sounded mournfully among the dead branches,
there were heavy dark clouds in the sky, and my heart was heavier
and darker than the clouds, and my sighs were sadder than the wind.
The place where I had been living was two miles from the village
where I had lived with Mrs. Brown, and I had taken the road to it,
though then she was not there to take me in; I had no relation in
the wide world; O, I never shall forget that dreary moment, and how
desolate I felt. I looked up into the sky, and called upon God, the
Father of the fatherless; I cried to him for help, and help came to
me, for I felt stronger and I grew composed; and then I remembered I
was innocent, and just then the sun broke out between two dark
clouds, and it looked to me like the pure bright eye of God, looking
right into my heart, and seeing my innocence; and then it seemed as
if my soul was full of light, and I went on my way to the village,
feeling as if I had no dreadful sorrow.
When I got into the village, I remembered my old schoolmistress, and
I knew that, though she was poor herself, she would share her bed
with me for a night at least, and I remembered that scripture, "Be
not anxious for the morrow."
It was dusk when I knocked at her door; and O, you know not, who
have never been without a happy home, how cheering to my heart was
the sound of her kind voice, saying, "Walk in." She was not very
quick sighted, and at first she took me for a stranger, till I said,
"It is I, Miss Howe; do you not know me?" She turned me towards the
light that was still left in the west, and in a second exclaimed,
"Why, it is little Sue, my orphan girl!" This was too much for me.
She put her arms round me, and I cried again like a child; but they
were not such bitter tears as I had shed before.
"What brought you here at this time?" said she, "and what is the
matter? But come take some supper first, and tell me afterwards; you
look very tired." She took off my bonnet, and made me sit down by
the fire, and finished getting her tea ready which she was preparing
when I came in, and made me drink a cup of it before she asked
another question, and then she said, "Now, Susan, tell me what is
the matter; something has happened, I know." Then I told her all
that I knew myself, for why my mistress had treated me so I could
When I had finished, she said, "Now, Susan, you will find the
advantage of a good character; if I did not believe that you would
starve sooner than steal or tell a falsehood, I should be afraid
about you now; but as it is, I do not feel uneasy, for I believe
that innocence always prevails. I will do the best I can for you; I
shall never forget the penknife; so, my child, do not cry any more,
and let us talk of other things; you shall have half of my bed and
whatever I have, till you can get a place to suit you; so, dear, do
not be downcast."
O, young ladies, you must know what it is to be alone in the world,
and to be accused wrongfully, to be able to know the blessing of
kindness, of true Christian charity; it seemed as if a voice had
said to my troubled heart, "Peace, be still."
Directly after breakfast the next morning, Miss Howe left me; she
said she was going to take a short walk before school began, and
should soon return. She looked much pleased when she came back. "I
think," said she, "I have got a good place for you. It is at the
minister's; I heard they wanted some one; I went and told them all
about you, and they believe you are innocent. Mr. A—says he
remembers you in Mrs. Brown's sick chamber, but his wife thinks it
proper to go and see the lady you have been living with, and he will
come and see you this evening."
At first this made me feel very badly; my pride and my anger began
to rise, but after a while I conquered them. I remembered that no
one could take away my good conscience, and I could not think that I
should be forsaken.
I passed the day very comfortably, and even cheerfully; I sometimes
forgot that I had any trouble. Just after tea, the minister came in;
he shook hands very kindly with me, but he looked very serious, and
fixed his eye right in my face.
O, if I had not had a good conscience then, how could I have borne
that look! but it seemed to me as if I could feel my soul coming up
into my face, to tell its own innocence; I am sure my looks must
have said, I am not afraid, for I have done no wrong.
He seemed more satisfied, but he told me that he had been to Mrs.—,
where I had lived, and she had told him that the evidence was so
great of my dishonesty that she could not doubt it. She was only
sorry for me.
"We have determined," said he, "to try you; I cannot but hope that
you are what you seem, innocent; but time will show."
I had felt so proud of my character, that the idea of going upon
trial was hard for me to bear, and I just answered that I would go;
I was not as grateful as perhaps I ought to have been, for it was
very good in him to believe me innocent, in spite of all that was
told him against me, and I ought to have thanked him for his
compassion upon such a forlorn creature as I was then.
Many years after, I found out what I had been accused of, and I had
the satisfaction of having my innocence acknowledged. The morning of
the day when I left my mistress, she had received some money in
gold. She had counted all the pieces over very carefully, and was
about putting them away, when she was called suddenly out of the
room to see a friend at the door upon important business. It was
cold, and she called me, and sent me into the room for her shawl,
where I never even saw the gold.
Her brother, who had come with her friend, ran into the room to warm
himself while they were talking; he saw the gold, and, to tease his
sister, put one of the eagles into his pocket meaning to return it
the same day.
He was in a merchant's counting house, and that very day was sent
out of town upon important business, at only a minute's warning. He
was a careless fellow, and forgot his jest, and did not learn till
long afterwards its sad consequences.
My mistress, who knew that no one had entered the room but her
brother and I, and was certain of her accuracy in counting the
money, was convinced that I was a thief. She had believed some
ill-natured things the other servant, who disliked me, had said against
me, and had become ready to think ill of me. When, long after, this
lady found out her injustice, she took pains to declare my innocence
and to ask my forgiveness. But ladies should be careful not to
accuse poor girls wrongfully, and not to leave money about. Terrible
ruin may follow such carelessness.
After I had lived five years at the minister's, I married a
carpenter, a good man, whom my friends all liked; and, though I was
almost broken hearted at leaving my happy home, I was willing to
give up all for him.
And then new troubles and trials began. My husband was not very
successful at first, but I took in sewing, and we got along; we
loved each other, and were very happy. But about a year and a half
after our marriage, he had a fall from a house, and injured his
spine, and after a sickness of three months he died.
At the time he was brought home so dreadfully hurt, I had an infant
six weeks old; I was not very strong, and nursing my husband, and
the care of my infant, and my distress at his death, all together,
were too much for me; I had a severe illness. The doctor, who was a
very kind man, took care of me and sent me a nurse, who tended me
through the worst of my illness, and did not leave me till I was
able to crawl about, and help myself and take care of my poor baby,
who had been sadly neglected; for I was so sick that I required all
the nurse's attention; and now came my hardest trial.
One night in December, about three months after my husband's death,
I was sitting over my little fire late in the evening, reading my
Bible, in hopes that those words of comfort might quiet my grief,
when I was startled by a knock at the door, and my landlord entered.
He lived in the other part of the house in which he rented me one
room; I never liked this man, and at first I felt frightened, but in
a minute I got over it.
"I want the rent," he said.
"But you know," I said, "all my troubles, and that my poor husband
left nothing, that I have been sick, and that I have no money; I
shall soon be able to earn enough to pay you, if you will only take
pity on me and wait till I can."
"Well," said he, "one good turn deserves another; perhaps I'll
accommodate you if you will do something for me."
"If it is any thing I can do," I said, "I should be glad to do it,
and very thankful to you for your kindness in waiting for the rent."
He went into the other room and brought in a large bundle of laces
and silks and other valuable goods. "I want you," said he, "to open
your feather bed and put all these things into it; they are rightly
mine, but I have my reasons for wishing to hide them; some goods
have been stolen, and the constables are after them, and if they
were to see these they might seize them instead of those they are
searching for, and it would make a great bother."
I had no doubt they were stolen goods, and I said immediately that I
would not do what he wished me to, but as civilly as I could.
"I will," said he, "give you one of the pieces of cambric for your
trouble, and I will never ask you for this last quarter's rent; it
will be a great favor to me, for they know that you are sick, and
you have the credit of being very honest, and the things would not
be touched in your bed, and a great deal of trouble would be saved."
"I will," said I, "keep the credit of being honest; I can have
nothing to do with any of these things; your conscience can best
tell whether they are honestly come by."
"Do you dare," said he, "to say I stole them?" in such a loud voice
as to wake up my poor baby and to make me start.
"I say nothing," I answered, "but that it is against my conscience
to do what you asked me to do."
He flew into a passion, and said, "Conscience or no conscience, you
do as I ask you to, or out of my house you go this very night."
"Not to-night," I said.
"Yes, to-night," he answered. "Do as I tell you, and you have no
rent to pay, and this piece of cambric is yours, and I am your
friend; but refuse me, and out of the house you go this very night;
I have warned you long enough to pay the rent."
I told him that I could not do what was against my conscience for
all the goods of this world, and that if he was so cruel as to turn
me out of doors, God would protect me and my child. "But," said I,
"are you not afraid to do such a wicked thing, it is so dark and
stormy, and my poor baby"—and at the thought that it had no father
to protect it, I burst into tears, and could not speak.
He was silent, and seemed to feel some pity. Presently he said,
"Well, you may stay till daylight, but then you must either hide
these things for me, or you must march. And I suppose it will not
worry your stomach to let these things stay here till then." So he
put the goods on a chair, and laid my cloak and bonnet upon them.
As soon as he was gone, and his door shut, I took the things and put
them all just outside of the door. I was too much troubled and
frightened to go to bed. At break of day he was in my room again.
"Will you do as I desire," said he, "or will you clear out? I'll
make you pay for putting these things on the dirty floor." He
stopped a minute. "Come, now, hide these things, and we are friends,
and no trouble about your rent, and all's right, you know."
I thank heaven that I never hesitated; it did not seem a possible
thing to me that I should assist this man in hiding his stolen
goods. I am certain that I should have rather died.
I cannot think now how it was that I felt so calm and so strong. I
collected together a small bundle of clothes, and tried to wrap up
my baby so that the cold air should not come to her; it seemed as if
I could hear my conscience say, "Be not afraid;" I felt as if I was
I left the house, determining to go from door to door till I found
some one to take me in. I was refused admittance at two or three;
and then I remembered a poor widow who had sent me broth when I was
sick, and I went to her. It was hardly daylight when I knocked;
there was a driving sleet, but my heart did not fail me, my God did
not forsake me.
It was some time before the good woman came down; I had taken my own
cloak to cover my dear baby, and I was wet to the skin, and had such
an ague fit from cold that I could hardly speak to beg shelter for
She took me in, she made a fire, and got me something hot to drink;
she took my child, and dried and warmed it, and put her and me to
I found that the fever I had just been cured of was returning; the
cold and wet was too much for my strength; I thought I might die,
and I told the kind widow my story, and the name of the clergyman
with whom I had lived in the country, and begged her if I should
grow worse to send for him, for I knew he would be my friend. It was
fortunate I did, for I grew ill very fast; I had a high fever, and
did not know afterwards what I said.
She sent for him. He came and told her that all I said was true; he
got me a nurse and physician, and gave the poor widow money for me,
and said he would pay all my expenses, and thanked her as much, she
told me afterwards, for her care of me as if I had been his own
After the fever left me, a severe rheumatism settled in my back,
which I had strained in lifting my husband. I have never since been
able to stand upright. But O, this was nothing to what I suffered
when they told me, when I was well enough to bear to hear it, they
told me that my baby, my little daughter,—I cannot bear now to
think of it,—she took cold too, and then the weaning her, and all,
it was too much for the little thing; my child went to God who gave
It seemed at first as if I should die; then I remembered that if I
had done as that wicked man wanted me to do, I should have perhaps
been well, my baby alive and well, and all might have seemed
prosperous; and did I regret that I had not saved her life and my
own health by acting against my conscience? no, not for a moment. I
had no longer a kind husband, I had lost my only child and my
health; and yet the light of God's blessing has ever been in my
heart; when I think of all my trials, and remember that I have kept
a conscience void of offence, O, I cannot tell you what peaceful
thoughts I have, what a strange joy I sometimes experience.
My kind friend, the minister, had me removed as soon as I was well
enough to his house, and got me this little room in the
neighborhood, where I have taken in sewing work, and have ever since
got a very good living.
When I inquired about my landlord, I found that the officers came
that morning, found the stolen goods, and carried him to prison. My
friend went to see him, and told him from me that as soon as I could
earn the money, I would pay him what I owed him. This I did with the
very first money I received. I went to see him, and took the rent to
him myself. He did not know me, the stoop had changed me so much.
Certainly, ladies, she added, I have met with what are called great
misfortunes; I have lost all that I loved best on earth, and I am a
cripple for life; but I still rejoice to think that my mother's
prayer has been heard for me; through the blessing of God I have
been saved from the evil that there is in the world, for I have ever
had the testimony of a good conscience.
The sun was setting before the old lady had finished her story; its
slanting beams streamed in through the narrow window, and fell on
the gray locks that were parted neatly on her forehead, and on her
bright, calm, uplifted eye, and gave a glow of youthful enthusiasm
and celestial brightness to her face.