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offsprings of the fourth order of reptiles, that someone you knew had a deep-rooted hatred to idleness : granting too, that through no fault of his, this said inactivity was thus thrust upon him, until it became almost unbearable, what would you advise him to do?"
" Find something somewhere, of course!” without hesitation came the sharp-witted Trixie's answer. Dot was not in such a hurry. For she looked up into the man's face and inquired gently,
“Would it be absolutely needful for him to obtain work, and would the person implied be in good health ?”
“ The necessity of the work would be urgent : his health, although somewhat impaired by early trouble, good enough for ordinary pursuits."
" Then,” thoughtfully continued the child, "like my sister I would recommend that imaginary being to try his utmost to obtain employment. But I would suggest a great caution in the selection of it. For this reason : that if, as I imagine, such person would be upright and honourable, with a sensitiveness sharpened by previous experience of sorrow, any further disappointment in the finding of that work he sought (though it ate into his heart like à cankerworm) had better be bravely borne than the trial of further responsibility or worry in anything that was not truly honest. In the one case much trial would no doubt be his lot: in the other, to such an one as I presumably rightly picture, it would mean no less than bitter misery."
Great-heart was astonished. Then he took this small child in his arms and kissed her, saying, “You truly wonderful Dot, thus soon to have learnt so great an eloquence, so true and pure a wisdom.”
Trixie pouted, and said, jealously, as she shrugged her shoulders : “Rather high-flown, is it not ?"
Their mentor kissed her too. “ Do not be naughty, little one; you know you agree with Dot, though that sad green-eyed monster will try and make you contradict yourself. Is it not so, puss ?"
Trixie's conscience smote her : she smiled brightly and returned her friend's salutations.
Then Great-heart continued his questionings thus :
“Now, accepting Dot's deductions to be the only true ones, imagine such a character to have existed in the flesh. He finds as he thinks that honest work he seeks, and for a while falls to. The old troubles fade away and the man becomes another being, lighthearted once more, almost happy; then by degrees a horrible dread to fill his mind, that all is not right, that those in whom he has believed and put his faith do not deserve such trust; that, not content with plundering him, their victim, of the little all he has had to borrow to set himself right with the world, these people prove to be nothing more than rogues, vagabonds, swindlers, with lying tongues and honeyed words coaxing the hard-earned moneys from widows, orphans, friends, turning those natural gifts of personal appearance as given them by their Maker to such vile ends as these. Imagine this to have happened, and tell me what that upright man should have done?”
Trixie unhesitatingly exclaimed, “ Killed them !” “And you, little Dot, what say you ?"
Sadly, and with great precision of speech, she replied,
་ “ It would have been wicked to have done what my sister suggests, because under no provocation ought a mortal to attempt to remove that which belongs but to Him who, as He has the power to give, so alone possesses the right to take away, as may seem fit to Him. What, in my opinion, a good man would have done in like case, would have been this: he would have put all thought of his own loss of health or wealth aside, in the background. He would have set to work to try and aid those others you have spoken of by bringing these thieves to justice. The task would have been a hard one, I own, because, by assisting them, he would have been placed in a terribly trying position for one of his sensitive nature. The thought would arise in his mind, and torture him, that by chance he might be doing something mean or underhand, from which his feelings revolted, in thus, whilst still holding a place as their servant, undermining his employer's schemes, and bringing their ruin about their heads. But he would not have hesitated long ; nor I hope anyone else I know now, or ever may. Such men should deserve no earthly pity. As they had entrapped their victim by stealth, so too ought they to be taken. His position would have been one of peril likewise. For had such men ever got an inkling of what was passing, all their devilish cunning would have been brought to bear upon their would-be exterminator. They would have stopped at nothing to sweep him from their path. All this would have added to this good man's distress; yet, as I have told you, he would not have hesitated for long. This is how I think, nay, I feel sure, this one of God's creatures would have acted.”
“ Most marvellously-discerning water-nymph!” exclaimed Great-heart, when recovering from his extreme surprise he pressed the odd little lecturer to him.
Nor could Trixie disguise her astonishment at this outburst of eloquence on the part of her usually so reserved younger sister. She stared in dismay, then, childlike, placed her arm round the other's neck and kissed her tenderly. Trixie, with all her would be knowledge, was but as a baby compared to that one!
Presently Great-heart went on,
“You remember what I asked you at the commencement of the evening: to forget my identity with these little stories I am telling you ? Have you done so ?
done so ? Also, above all, that the mortal who found himself in this trouble resigned to his chastisement ?"
Again that wiseacre Trixie was impetuous in her reply,
Certainly; at least I have. And you, Dot?" as she glanced somewhat nervously at her sister.
A light seemed to burst in upon that one. She looked up with an extraordinary expression into the calm eyes of the man who caressed her. What she saw there seemed to confirm the conjecture in her busy little brain. For with a great cry of, “Oh, Great-heart, could it have been thus with you !" she flung her arms about him and wept.
He made no direct answer, simply saying : is enough to tell you.
to tell you. I could say more, but to what end? You have heard enough.”