WHEN Robby and Nellie were sitting in the twilight the next evening, Nellie said: "Robby, I have been thinking all day of what little Susie Monroe said last night, after she fell off the seat."
"What was that? "
"Have you forgotten? I am surprised if you have, for it seems to me those words ought to have sunk deep into any tender heart."
"Perhaps I did not hear it at all. You know I was sitting quite at the opposite end of the barge, and it may be that she didn't speak loud enough to have been heard where we were. I am sure my heart is tender enough to take note of suffering, if it is appealed to. You will have to tell me what it was."
"Why, the poor little dear said, when Mrs. Brown held her close in her loving arms: ' Oh, how nice. I never was hugged before.' Isn't it pitiful to think of a dear little girl like her with no one to love and care for her."
"Hasn't she a mother? I thought her father was dead, and her mother living."
"No, it is the other way. Her mother is dead, and her father living. But he is a poor, miserable, drunken father, that is worse than no father at all. I saw her one day with a bruised arm, where he had struck her while he was drunk."
"That's too bad!"
"I think it is."
"Any man must be a brute that could beat such a little, tender child as Susie."
"Don't you think she is a pretty child?"
"Well, Robby, I have been thinking that, perhaps, we might do something to make her little life pleasanter."
"What can we do, Nellie? You know I am always ready to help you carry out your plans, if I can."
"I don't know what you will say to this plan. It may not seem quite as easy to you as giving a Christmas party."
" Tell me, and. then I can judge."
"Well, I have been thinking that we might take Susie here to live with us."
"What! you and I adopt a child, Nellie? "
"Yes ; why not? It don't seem to me that she would be a great deal of expense to us. I could make over my clothing that I outgrow for her, and all the extra that we should have would be her food, and I am sure that wouldn't be very much. Just think how happy the poor little thing would be in the shelter of a home where she would be kindly treated."
"I know it, Nellie. But do you believe that we could really manage to take care of her?"
"Yes, Robby, I believe we could , for God would help us. He always helps when any one is trying to do well."
"I suppose He does; but I tell you it looks to me like a big undertaking for two children like you and I to adopt a child like Susie. Do you mean that we shall keep her for good and for all, till she is grown up to be a big woman? "
"Yes; why not ? "
" I don't know any reason why not, only I am afraid we don't know enough to bring up a child and teach her all that she needs to be taught.'"
"Mother will help us about the teaching.. If we can manage to support her, and love her as much as we ought to do, I think we shall get along very well."
" Of course we must talk with father and mother about it, before we decide."
"Yes, of course we will. But I know they will not object. It will be very nice for them to have Susie here with them when we are gone to school. She will save mother a great many steps in the course of a day. And then she is such a cheery little thing that I know we shall all be the happier for having her here."
"Shall we change her name, if we adopt her?"
"That we will consider farther on. I think I should like to have her name the same as ours; shouldn't you? "
"Yes, I should, if her father was willing."
"We are not sure that her father will be willing to let us have her at all; but if he is, I don't think he will object to our changing her name. It isn't a name that either of them can be very proud of, and I should think he would be quite willing to have it changed."
"Why, Nellie, it will be splendid if we can have Susie all for our own. Let's go and ask mother and father now about it."
Nellie was very willing, for she was quite as anxious to get the matter settled as Robby was. She did not hesitate, therefore, to be the one to present the plan when they came to the mother's room. She began at once:
"You remember the little girl, mother, that I told you about, that said last night, when Mrs. Brown held her loving arms around her, that 'she never was hugged before in her life' ? "
"Yes," Mrs. Quinby replied, "and my heart has ached for her ever since you told me that."
"Well, Robby and I have been talking it over, and we have come to the conclusion that we should like to bring that little girl here to live with us."
"Here?" said Mrs. Quinby, in surprise.
"Yes. We think it would be good for us all to have her here."
"But, my child, we are poor and sick ourselves. How can we take so great a responsibility as the maintaining of a child?"
"We are no poorer than Christ was, and he was all the time helping other people."
"I know; but in these times we must look the matter over very seriously before we take another mouth to feed. The child might suffer in our hands, and we have no right to let her do that."
"She cannot certainly suffer as much here as she does in her own home, or, I should say, in the place where she stays; it cannot be called. a home. I was there last week, and it would certainly make your heart ache if I were to tell you what I saw."
" I can imagine it, my dear; for I have seen those desolate rooms where the very poor of the cities are huddled. But we are not responsible for her suffering there, and we might feel as if we were, if she were suffering under our roof."
"I should not intend to have her suffer if she were here. We always have fire, by which she could be kept warm, and she has none at home. Rob- by and I feel quite sure that we could earn her food, and I would make her clothing out of what I outgrow."
"I see that you have every thing- planned, so I suppose you do not expect me to say no to your proposal; and I don"t think I have any right to say no, since you and Robby are the ones to bear all the burden of her support."
"Oh, thank you, mother. Robby and I are not going to consider it a burden at all; we are going to be so happy in our care of the child that nothing will seem a hardship that we do for her."
"I am afraid you don't realize all that is involved in bringing up a child. But I will not discourage you, if you have really made up your minds that you wish to undertake it."
"I don't think we ought to consider any thing as a burden that we are able to do for others, do you, mother? Christ did not complain of his work, when he went about doing good. I think he enjoyed being able to minister to others, and found his highest happiness in carrying what we should call heavy burdens."
"You are right there, my child. Christ was cheerful in all his ways of serving; and you children have certainly come very close to him, when you have been planning making a home for this desolate child. He said: "Whatsoever you have done unto one of the least of these little- ones ye have done it unto me.' Now, if you do really bring little Susie to live with us, we will all try and think of her as one of Christ's little ones. We will forget, as fast as we can, that she was born and reared in Baker's Alley. We will not call her our child, but always think and speak of her as Christ's little one."
"That will be beautiful, mother, for we shall be reminded then always of our duty to our Saviour, when we are doing any thing for Susie, and that will make all duty easier."
"Shall we bring her at once, mother?" Robby asked, eagerly.
"Yes. If we are going to take her, I don't know why we should not do it to-day, as well as on any later . day. She is suffering so much where she is, that we ought not to let those troubled hours multiply in her life, if we feel ourselves able to take her out of the terrible circumstances surrounding her."
"Oh, good," said Robby; ""she shall sleep under this roof this very night."
"Don't be too sure, my boy. You know we haven't her father's consent yet, and of course we are not to take her without that. We will not fix our hearts too strongly upon it until we know for a certainty that we can have the child."
"I was just thinking," said Mr. Quinby, "" that you were " counting your chickens before they were hatched.' I shall wait till I see the child here, before I begin to rely upon the joy she is to give me."
"But she will be a real comfort to you, father," said Nellie; ""because her little feet can serve you in so many ways."
"I don't doubt it, if she comes; but I will see her here before I begin to enjoy her."
"Very well. Robby and I will go this very afternoon and bring her, if the father is willing; and we will all hope that a new joy will come to us with her coming."
So the matter was considered settled, and the kindly hearts of Mr. and Mrs. Quinby had entered fully into the plan of their children. Though the undertaking was a large one, and one involving much responsibility, it was yet not impossible of accomplishment, and the parents felt that in this matter it was their duty to forward as much as possible all attempts on the part of their children to live the Christ-life.
ROBBY was in so much of a hurry to get away that he wanted dinner served at half- past eleven, and was quite restless with Nellie's calmer manner. She moved on in her usual placid way, not correcting his impatience with words, but with that so much better and more effectual method, the force of a good example.
Working on quietly, she brought dinner to the table at precisely twelve o"clock, and gathered the family to partake of it, with an entirely unmoved spirit, though Robby had said more impatient words in the half-hour preceding the noon than he ought to have spoken in a half-year.
And, when seated at table, she did not reproach her brother for the carelessness which his haste brought. She quietly replaced the napkin, when he had dropped the one provided for him into the soup tureen, and passed him a cup of cold water to soothe the pain of his burned mouth, when he thoughtlessly tried swallowing the boiling soup without cooling it.
She thoroughly pitied his trouble- creating haste, but, wisely knowing that words then spoken would only increase the fire of his spirit, she concluded that the burnt mouth, was enough for a boy to bear at one time, and refrained from adding to the heat of his temper.
After dinner was over, and the house set in order for the afternoon, Nellie dressed herself in her prettiest garments, for she said to Robby:
"We must try and make ourselves as attractive as possible to our little girl, if we are going to win her to come with us for life."
"Why,'" Robby replied, " I guess there will be no danger about her willingness to come. She must be glad enough, I'm sure, to escape the horrors of that den in Baker's Alley where she has been staying."
"She may be glad to get out of that miserable place, but that is not all that is needed. If we would make her life what it ought to be, we must make her happy to get into this home."
"Why, I should think that would be easy enough."
"It may, or may not be, Robby. The change will be very great to her. She will enjoy much that she will find in our home, but we must not forget that we shall be more concerned than any inanimate things in. the making of her happiness or unhappiness."
"I am sure I am going to try as hard as I can to make her happy."
"Well, Robby, let us begin to-day, and say to ourselves, and to each other, that we will, if God is willing to trust us with the care of a little child, be better than we ever have been in our whole lives, in order to prove ourselves worthy of the trust."
"You'll see how hard I'll try," said Robby, and with these last preparatory words the children crossed the threshold of their home, and set out to seek the little one whose training was to occupy so many of the after hours of their lives.
Arrived at Baker's Alley, they found their way up the dark, broken staircase that led to the room where Susie lived. As they approached it they heard the sound of blows; and oaths, mingled with the pitiful cries of the child, drowned their rapping on the door, so that no call to admit them came.
Nellie was not disposed to stand waiting long under these circumstances, and she lifted the latch and entered.
The brutal, drunken father stood with his arm uplifted to give another blow, but seeing that there were lookers-on he held the arm still, and shut his lips on the half-uttered oath that was escaping them.
Nellie did not wait for him to speak first to her, but stepping into the room bravely, she said:
"Mr. Monroe, if this little girl troubles you so much, I wish you would give her to me."
This was a very cunning way of addressing the angry man. In his drunken and half-conscious state, he could not be reasoned with. To have criticised his action, or blamed him for his brutality, would only have made him more brutal, and perhaps would have transferred the blows from Susie to the person interfering.
But Nellie's method of speaking seemed to throw the blame on Susie, and this pleased him, and he replied:
"She's the torment of my life, every minute getting into some trouble to vex me."
Nellie saw that she was on the right track, and she went on in a sympathetic tone to say:
"I know that the care of a little girl must be a great tax upon a man when there is no mother to help him with the care. I thought of that when I learned that Susie's mother was dead, and my brother Robby and I have come to ask you to give the care up to us. Will you let us take Susie home with us?"
"What do you want of her?"
"We want to try and make her good and happy in our pleasant home, and, if you will let her go with us, we will promise you that we will take good care of her, and she shall never want for any thing."
"Take her along; if you want her,"' said the brutal man, giving the poor little sobbing thing a rude push toward the door where Nellie and Robby were standing.
Nellie did not wait for a second permission, but gathered the trembling child in her arms and ran down the staircase.
She feared that the father had not been in earnest in what he had said, and that he would call after her to bring the child back to him. But the angry man was glad to have the object of his anger out of his sight, and sinking away into the drunken stupor, which was creeping over him when he gave the consent, he soon forgot Susie and the children that were the means of taking her from him.
Nellie hurried her as rapidly as possible out of the alley, never stopping to ask her any questions until she was quite out of reach of the father's voice.
She was very happy in the thought that she had escaped without being questioned herself. Mr. Monroe had not asked her who she was, or where she lived, and now he would not be likely to find them out. There was every probability that they would have Susie quite to themselves, and be able to bring her up, according to their own judgment of best ways, without being interfered with by a father who had forfeited his right to that sacred name by his brutality and self-indulgence.
Susie could not at once stop her sobbing. She had been badly bruised by the beating. She was confused by falling suddenly into the hands of comparative strangers. She did not know where she was going, and the poor little heart found its natural overflow in tears.
Robby and Nellie took turns in carrying her, for, at the first of her fright and excitement, it seemed that the strength was all gone from her own little feet.
She was a heavy burden, but they were so glad to have her that they were not at all disposed to complain. Robby said:
"You don't think, do you, Nellie, that Susie is going to always seem as much of a weight for us to carry as she is to-day?"
'"No, Robby. We shall not be always carrying her in our arms, as we are now; and if we were, I suppose we should get used to the weight."
"Give her to me again," said Robby, trying to take her from Nellie's arms, though he had but just deposited. her there.
"Oh, no," said Nellie; "I have not carried her near my part." And she struggled to retain her hold of the child.
"Boys are stronger than girls," said Robby, " and it belongs to them to carry the heaviest burdens and to carry them longest," and while saying these words he struggled determinedly to take Susie from her arms.
"What's the trouble? Let me settle this dispute," said Mr. Brown, who had turned a street corner near where they were standing, and had come thus unexpectedly upon them.
"We were not disputing angrily," said Nellie. "Robby was trying to carry more than his half of this burden, and I was only trying to prevent it."
"But whose child is this? And why is she crying so?" said Mr. Brown.
"She is our child now," Nellie replied. "We have adopted her, and her crying is not because of any unkindness of ours, but because her own father has beaten her."
"Your child!" said Mr. Brown, in amazement. " What can you mean?"
"I mean," said Nellie, "that this little Susie had no mother to take care of her, and her father was worse than no father, and Robby and I thought that we could take her home with us and make her happy and bring her up to be a good little girl."
"Well! well! This is both amazing and amusing," said Mr. Brown.
"You and Robby are rather young to assume the responsibility of parents. And you have really adopted this little girl? "
"What will your father and mother say to this?"
"We have told them, sir, and they fully approved," said Robby.
"Then you didn't come suddenly to the decision?"
"No, sir," said Nellie. " We talked it all over at home before we came for Susie, and father and mother are quite willing."
"Very well," said Mr. Brown. "When I get over my astonishment I have no doubt I shall be quite willing, too; but just at present this seems a very extraordinary thing to me. Come right round to the house, and we will see what Mrs. Brown says to it, and then I will send you young foster- parents and your adopted child home in the carriage. I think you would find it rather more than you bargained for to carry this baby all the way in your arms."
Robby and Nellie were quite willing, as they felt almost sure of Mrs. Brown's approval, and they were not at all sorry that, in this accidental way, Mr. Brown had learned their plan and been brought to sanction it.
Now their future seemed quite clear to them, as all the persons concerned in their plan were consulted, and pledged to it. Susie seemed very surely their own little girl. They were very certain that they had been impelled by the best of motives in gathering in this lamb of the fold, and to have done one more deed that Christ would have done had he been on the earth, was enough to make both their hearts happy to the full.
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