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After Long Years and Other Stories by  Agnes M. Dunne


 

 

THE UGLY TRINKET

THE OPEN DOOR

[233] RESPECTED and beloved by all her neighbors, Mrs. Linden, a rich widow, lived a solitary life in her grand, old castle.

One day some urgent business called her to the city of Antwerp. Here she was detained longer than she had expected, and during her stay she visited the principal points of interest, among them an old cathedral, famed far and wide for its beauty.

With deep reverence, she entered this time-honored house of worship. Its high, vaulted roof, its long rows of stately columns, its beautifully painted windows, the altar in the distance, and the twilight and the stillness of the holy place filled her with admiration and awe. In her heart arose a feeling of the nearness of God, and she knelt and prayed.

Then she passed slowly on, stopping often to study the wonderful paintings by the old masters, and the inscriptions upon tablets placed on the walls in memory of notable men and women long since passed away.

[234] Suddenly she stopped and read a tablet. It had been placed there in honor of a pious woman who had suffered much in her life, but had always striven to do good; and these words were written there: "She rests from her cares, and her good deeds live after her."

Mrs. Linden then and there resolved that as long as she lived she would bear all her troubles and trials patiently, and do good to all, so far as lay within her power.

As she neared the altar of this grand cathedral, she noticed a little girl eight years of age, clad in black, who was kneeling there and praying fervently. Her eyes were riveted on her hands, tightly clasped before her, so she noticed nothing of Mrs. Linden's presence. Tears were rolling down her cheeks and her face had a look of sorrow and reverence.

Mrs. Linden was at once moved to pity. She did not wish to disturb her, but as the child arose, she said softly: "You seem sad, my little one! Why do you cry?"

"I lost my father a year ago, and a few days ago they buried my mother," said the child, as the tears rolled the faster.

"And for what did you pray so earnestly?" asked Mrs. Linden.

"I asked for help. 'Tis true I have some relatives in the city, and I would like one of them to take me. The clergyman says that it is their [235] duty, but they do not want the trouble. I can't blame them, for they have children enough of their own."

"Poor child," said Mrs. Linden, "no wonder you feel sad."

"Truly, I was much sadder when I entered this cathedral," said the girl, "but all at once I feel much better."

These words pressed on Mrs. Linden's heart and she said, in a motherly way, "I think that God has answered your prayer. Come with me."

"But where? For I must return to my house."

"Let us go to the clergyman. I know him well, and I will ask his advice," continued Mrs. Linden. Then she offered her hand to the child, and led the way.

The aged clergyman arose with astonishment from his chair, as he saw the woman enter with this child.

Mrs. Linden explained to him how and where she had met the little one, at the same time asking the girl to step aside while she engaged the old man in quiet conversation.

"I have decided to adopt this little girl and be a mother to her. My own dear children died when they were infants and my heart tells me that I could give the love that I had for my own to this little orphan; but I would like you to advise me further. Do you think that my care would be given in vain?"

[236] "No," said the clergyman, "a greater deed of charity you could not do; nor could you easily find such a good, well-mannered child. Her parents were right-living people, and they gave this, their only daughter, a good training. Never will I forget her mother's last words: 'Father, I know that Thou wilt care for my little one, and send her another mother.' Her words are now being fulfilled. You have been sent to do this."

The old clergyman then called the little girl into the room, and said: "Amy, this good, kind woman wishes to be your mother. Do you want to go with her and be a good daughter to her?"

"Yes, yes," said Amy, and cried for joy.

"That is right," said the clergyman. "Be to this gracious woman, the new mother whom God has sent to you, as good and obedient a child as you were to your own mother. Remember that trouble and sorrow may come into your life, as they must come into every life; but if you pray with the same trust in God as you prayed to-day, help will surely be sent in the same way."

Her relatives were then summoned and acquainted with the fact, and not one of them objected; instead, they were very much pleased.

When Mrs. Linden said that she would take the child just as she stood there, and that they could have all of her clothing for their own children, they were more than delighted.

But Amy begged to keep just a few books which [237] her mother had given her, and which she cherished; and this wish was granted.

On the next morning, Mrs. Linden and Amy started for the castle home. The servant, who had expected them, had everything in readiness. After the evening meal had been served, Mrs. Linden showed Amy to her room.

Amy was charmed with her home and her new mother. With tears of thanks she prayed, and soon was fast asleep. When she awoke, she found the sun streaming into the room. She walked to the window and gazed out into the lovely, sunny grounds and wooded walks surrounding the castle. In the distance, she could see the spire of the grand cathedral.

After a few days, Mrs. Linden sent Amy to school. When she returned each afternoon, she helped in the garden and in the kitchen as much as her years would permit; for Mrs. Linden wished to train her to a useful, industrious life. Often, when the opportunity offered, she taught her to sew and knit and care for the house, something she thought that every girl should learn. Under the guidance of such a kind, loving woman, Amy grew to girlhood, simple and modest.

THE TEST

[238] Ten years passed by, filled with joy and happiness. Then suddenly Mrs. Linden became dangerously ill.

Amy nursed her foster-mother with the tenderest care and bestowed as much love upon her as if she were her own mother. She entered the sick room noiselessly; spoke in soft, gentle tones; opened and closed the doors without the least sound, so that Mrs. Linden preferred to have Amy rather than a nurse.


[Illustration]

"Amy nursed her foster-mother with the tenderest care."

Often Amy would sit in the darkened room and watch over her charge during the long, weary hours of the night. Days and weeks passed, and the invalid grew no better; still Amy nursed her with the same untiring patience and care.

Mrs. Linden was very thankful that she had taken Amy into her home and heart, and realized it more and more each day, and said: "My dear Amy, you do so much for me. A daughter could do no more. God will reward you. I, too, will not forget you; and you shall see that I am not ungrateful."

Amy bade her speak no more about it.

Mrs. Linden said no more on the subject. After [239] a lingering illness, she became very weak, and at last passed away.

Amy cried as bitterly at this loss as she had done at the loss of her own mother.

In the course of the week, many of Mrs. Linden's rich relatives were summoned to the house, where her will was to be read. The lawyer unfolded the document, and Amy was greatly surprised to learn that her foster-mother had bequeathed to her five thousand dollars, with the instructions to choose from her treasures the costliest, as a remembrance.

The rich relatives were not pleased with this bequest, nor did they wish Amy to take any of the rings, pearls or jewels. Amy had never been covetous; and when she was told to select, she said: "It is not at all necessary for me to have a valuable remembrance. The smallest piece will suffice. Knowing that it comes from such a good woman, it will have great value in my eyes. It is more than enough that she has bequeathed to me such a large sum of money which I have not earned. Therefore, I choose the old, tarnished, clumsy locket which she held in her hand and wet with her tears as she bade me good-bye. This will be the most precious treasure for me, and I know her blessing will go with it."

One of the onlookers laughed and said to Amy: "What a silly girl. Why didn't you take the diamond ring? That ugly old locket, what good is [240] that? How ridiculous for you to choose such a worthless thing!"

But Amy was more than satisfied and perfectly contented; while the rich relatives quarreled over the distribution of the other trinkets and had more disappointment out of it than pleasure.

The relative to whom the castle had been bequeathed gave orders to Amy to find a new home. This she had in a measure expected, of course, but she did not know just where to go. At last the old gardener and his good, kind wife offered to share their home with her. She thanked them heartily and gladly accepted.

Amy now invested her money in a business house in the city, and although her income was not large, still she had enough for her simple wants.

One year went by in quietude and peace, in the simple surroundings of the old gardener's home. But as the new occupants of the castle no longer wished the services of a man as old as he was, he received orders to leave. This meant to give up his life-long work and the home which had become so dear to him.

"Be comforted," said Amy, "for I will collect my money and buy a little house near the city. Then I will take in some sewing, and we can all three still live together contentedly." They soon found a house which suited them exactly.

As Amy had not been able to get her money [241] from the merchant, they were obliged, for the time being, to borrow it from another man, to whom she promised payment when her money fell due.

The house was bought and renovated to suit them. It was small and simple, but ample for their wants. Amy kept the home bright and comfortable; flowers graced the windows, and the old people basked in the sunshine of her smiles and helpfulness.

Although they could see the castle in the distance, where they had spent so many years of their lives, and from which they had all three been so rudely cast, they never longed to return; for their little home was filled with happiness and contentment. As joy and sorrow, however, must change places with each other now and then here upon earth, so this little household was called upon to meet an unwelcome friend, "Trouble."

REVERSES

[242] One morning, after almost a year's sojourn in the little home, the news was brought that the large business house in the city where Amy had invested her money had failed, and that the whole amount was lost to her. The time was almost due to pay the debt on the house. Where would the money come from, now that they could no longer give security?

Sad, troubled days had dawned for them.

On the eve of the day when the payment on the house was due, Amy went up to the attic, where she could be alone and cry out her grief, and pray.

In her anxiety and nervousness, she clutched the old, ugly locket that hung from a chain—the little reminder of the time of her joys, her sorrows, her patience, her trust and her gratitude, while she lived with her good foster-mother.

In one moment of intense feeling, she pressed the locket tightly in an agony of grief. Lo! as she unfolded her hand in utter helplessness, the locket fell apart. Into her lap rolled one little stone after another. When she took them up to look at them, she discovered that each stone was a diamond, seemingly of great worth.

[243] She raised her thankful eyes to heaven and poured out her grateful heart. She paused, then gathering her treasure in her hands, she hastened with joyous steps to acquaint her two companions of her wonderful discovery.

The good, old people were overcome with joy, and thanked God, again and again. Then the old man said: "With the money that these jewels will bring you, you can pay for the house and still have enough left to keep you comfortably."

Early the next morning, Amy hurried to the clergyman, her very best friend, to show him the jewels and tell him how accidentally she had found them.

"May I," said she, "keep these costly jewels or must I return them to Mrs. Linden's heirs? I think they are the most valuable of all the trinkets that she left."

"No," said he, "the jewels belong to you. Mrs. Linden intended them for you, I am sure, when she gave you the right to choose first, and take the best. When you selected the least attractive trinket, you unknowingly chose a treasure which to you was only valuable because worn by the one whom you hold dearest. God sent you this secret treasure; and it is worth many thousand dollars, at least. Take it, sell it, and enjoy the benefits which you derive therefrom. But always keep the locket, as a memento of Mrs. Linden and her great benevolence."


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