Mary Lee returned to her father’s house after a two years’ stay with her uncle Kent. The little children were quite overjoyed. For the first week or so Mary was regarded [as] something in the light of a visitor.
By and by she began to take her appropriate place in the family circle, and bear the burden of family duty. Her parents rejoiced to behold much which was truly excellent and lovely in her principles and her practice. One defect soon appeared, which threatened some unhappiness: Mary was secretly dissatisfied with her home. Small it certainly was compared with her uncle’s, and she yearned for the elegant and expensive furniture, for the costly decorations and thousand luxuries which she had been accustomed to see and to enjoy there. The small air-tight stove was too black and cheerless; the old flag-bottomed chairs were very unfashionable; her room was not carpeted, and she complained that the floor was cold.
One day, when Mary had been moaning over her unfashionable cloak, her father returned home in the forenoon, and asked her to ride with him. She gladly accepted the proposal, although she did not think her hat was fit to wear, especially as her father suggested he might make a call somewhere.
It was a beautiful January day. The fields lay covered with pure, untrodden snow. The twigs and boughs reflected a sparkling radiance from their frosty crust. The air seemed filled with a thousand brilliants, and the deep cold stillness of the country was only broken by the dropping icicle or the distant sleigh-bell. Mary was much exhilarated, both by the magnificence of the snow scene and her father’s pleasant conversation. They rode long upon the beaten path, when he attempted to force his way into an almost untrodden track. They emerged from a snow-bank here only to plunge into another there.
“O, father, where are we going?” exclaimed Mary.
“To call at a friend’s house,” answered her father, and, as they rode on, Mary discovered a roof and a chimney on a slope not very far off.
“Why, father, is it a hut you’re going to?” The strong horse found some difficulty in making his way from the main path to the house. They reached the door. The steps were unshovelled. The snow had been soiled by no human step, and no signs of active life were visible since the storm.
“I’m sure nobody lives here,” said Mary, as her father jumped out of the sleigh, and, making a path with his feet, lifted the latch of the door. He entered and disappeared for a few minutes. “Is this the call father meant to make!” thought Mary, surveying the building. The next moment he was by her side. “Come, Mary, let me take you in my arms, child, and carry you in; the snow is pretty deep.”
What a scene did Mary behold! Two children were crouched beside a few sticks of green wood, which they were in vain attempting to kindle; their blue legs and purple arms were covered with a thin calico. A few potato parings lay upon the hearth, which one seemed greedily chewing. “What a privilege to be a Christian!” and Mary, turning suddenly, beheld the skinny arm of a woman extended from a low bed. “Oh, Mr. Lee, I knew God would not forsake us.” Tears glistened in her gray, sunken eye, and even the white hairs which were scattered on the forehead, as Mary afterwards declared, seemed like a halo around that dry, withered face, golden with the emotions of a thankful heart.
“This severe cold has set in so suddenly, we feared you might be in want, and have come to help you,” said Mr. Lee, kindly taking the sick woman’s hand; “you have been ill again. This is my Mary, Mrs. Jones,” and he drew Mary towards the bed.
“God bless you, my dear; God bless you, for leaving your warm home to come and see an old one like me,” said the woman in a broken voice; “and are you going to be like your father, finding out the sick and relieving the poor? Oh, Miss Mary, it’s your father that denies himself for his Master’s cause. It is not he that spends his money gewgawing [on ornaments]; nobody that’s suffering comes to him without finding help some way; it’s I that know that, indeed;” and her voice choked, and her eyes blinded, and she covered her face as if in silent prayer. Meanwhile Mr. Lee was aiding the children’s efforts about the fire. “We’ve got in four potatoes there, sir,” said one, “and they ain’t warm yet.” As in disappointment he thrust his fingers into the cold ashes. “Oh, sir, don’t you think they will roast to-day?” turning his peaked, disquieted face as he made the anxious inquiry. “If you do not have potatoes, you shall have something, my child,” said Mr. Lee, patting the boy on the head. “Shall we? Oh!” he exclaimed earnestly. The good man then went out to the sleigh and bore in a basket filled with objects for immediate comfort. “The Lord be praised!” ejaculated the aged Christian: “that’s he, that’s deacon Lee!” “Grandmother, you prayed, and you told us to pray, for God only could help us, and you always said He would,” exclaimed the children, running from the bed to the basket, and the basket to the bed, in grateful ecstasy.
Mary looked on in tearful silence. It was a scene she was not soon to forget. To her full heart her father seemed like an angel, ministering indeed to the heirs of salvation. “What a privilege it was to bless that suffering family,” said Mary, with deep emotion, as they rode over the ice-bound bridge at the foot of the hill.
“By denying myself the luxuries of life, Mary, I have been enabled to do this. Our home has all the necessaries of life. Now, Mary, you have grown up, and have a voice in the family arrangements. Do you choose that we shall buy costly furniture, splendid decorations for our house, or shall we use our earnings as God has prospered us, in relieving the distressed, seeking out the suffering, and aiding the great plans of doing good which are everywhere to advance our Redeemer’s cause?”
“Let me be like you, father!” exclaimed Mary, stricken to the heart, when she remembered how much pain she must have caused him.
“Deny yourself, and thus imitate the example of your Redeemer, my Mary,” said the father, with deep solemnity.
From that day Mary rejoiced in her home, and was often found in many humbler homes, bearing the blessed fruits of Christian charity and love.
The Youth’s Instructor, October, 1855.