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and began to feel uncomfortable at her exaggerated descriptions of the splendours of “Willow Lodge.”
“He had only one footman then,” continued my aunt, "and there was no lady's-maid, only a little sewing-girl who helped in the nursery. Lydia used to be able to dress hierself at that time.”
“ I think she dresses herself now," said Fanny, colouring.
“And how was it you were obliged to have a maid to dress you ? Did you get a gathered finger ?"
“No, aunt,” said poor Fanny, more and more confused. “She only came to help me once when we came in late from a ride."
“I see, child, you have been exaggerating, as usual. I wish you
could see that untruth is a very great sin.” “But it isn't untruth, indeed, aunt,” said I, beseechingly; “she has got into such a habit of embellishing that she hardly knows when she does it."
“You deceive yourselves, my dears, by the excuses you make,” said my aunt. “Call things by their right names. Every untruth is a sin, and we have no right to embellish our conversation with fanciful pictures while professing to describe what has really occurred.”
“I don't think there's any great harm in making a good story to amuse people,” said Fanny; and my aunt said no
Another time, when I was spending a few days with Aunt Priscilla, I was very much taken up with a book which had been borrowed from a circulating library.
“I should be glad, child, if you would read a little of that aloud to me,” said my aunt one morning.
“ It seems very interesting."
I was twenty-one, but it was my aunt's habit to call me « child.”
“I don't think you would like it, aunt,” I replied.
“Why not, my dear? I can enjoy a good story as well as anybody,” she said, briskly.
“ I'm afraid it's not a very good book, though there's not
much harm in it," I answered, and, putting it down, I took my sewing in hand, fearful that I had been thinking too much of my own pleasure and neglecting to amuse my aunt.
A little shadow rested on her face, and she said, repeating my words, “ Not much harm! Oh, what a device that is of our great enemy to beguile unstable souls !"
Soon afterwards she proposed that we should go out and invite my sister Fanny to spend the next day with us. Fanny was very pleased to come, for, though my aunt thought a great deal of what we called “ trifles," she was so kind and good we all loved her very dearly.
Aunt Priscilla had provided rather a curious dinner, as you shall hear.
When the meat was removed two dishes were placed on the table, one, a large pudding of plain rice, the other, a very little pudding not much bigger than a tea-cup, which my aunt said was very delicately flavoured.
“But before you eat any of it, my dears, I think I should tell you that I gave the cook leave to put a little poison in it.”
We both looked horrified, as you may suppose.
“There's very little poison, my dear. I don't think it would kill
you were to eat the whole of it. She has only put enough to give it a flavour."
But is it safe, aunt? Would you eat it ?"
Fanny and I declined to be made sick, too, and chose the plain rice-pudding. In fact, the other quite lost its attraction when we were told how it was flavoured.
“Will the servants eat it ?” asked Fanny.
“No, my servants have too much good sense," answered my aunt, shortly; "it will be put out of the way." “I wonder you had it made, aunt. Isn't it rather a waste ?"
I ventured to ask. Surely you did not think Fanny or I cared so much for eating as to risk being made ill ?”
“I see you care more for the health of your bodies than your souls,” said my aunt. “Fanny is not afraid to flavour her stories with untruth for the momentary pleasure of seeing people amused; and you, Jane, can spend hours over a book that is flavoured (slightly perhaps, but still flavoured) with poison. No great harm—this is what young people say, and the soul loses its health and sickens, and at last perhaps dies, from highly-flavoured, poisonous food, for which, if once indulged, it gets a craving."
Neither Fanny nor I have ever forgotten Aunt Priscilla's warning, and I think her little pudding was not wasted after all.
Opportunities. WAS listening some time ago to a sermon in one of our London churches, in which the minister spoke of the various opportunities God gives us for
good and for the avoidance of evil. He spoke of them as "jewels that lie by the wayside,” and he dwelt upon the sorrows of those who, when death comes to them, remember the jewels they have lost.
I noticed in the congregation a young woman who seemed deeply affected by what she heard : her careworn face bore traces of much mental suffering; and I thought as she listened with such marked attention, and seemed so overcome by her emotions, was she mourning over her lost jewels ?
A few weeks afterwards I was asked to visit a poor dying woman in one of the crowded London City streets. low pallet bed, in a cheerless room, I recognised the wasted features of the young woman who had attracted my notice in the church.
I saw that she was near death, and asked her, as she
eagerly looked at me, “ if she were prepared for the great change?"
“I do not know," she said ; they tell me God is very merciful, but oh! will He forgive me for my lost opportunities?"
I told her of God's never-failing mercy, and that if she were really sorrowful for her sins, He would, even now at the last hour, pardon her for His Son's sake. Her face brightened as I spoke, and still more when I read to her from God's Holy Word how He has promised that those who come to Him He will in no wise cast out.
But,” she said, “I am so great a sinner, and God gave me so many opportunities to turn back, but I would not.”
“Jesus Christ died to save you,” I told her. “Have you thought of that?"
“ Yes,” she said, “I know He died to save sinners, but I have never listened to Him; I have never tried to please Him."
“But will you not try now ?" I said ; “it is not too late ; it is never too late for God's mercy. You must bring your sins to Him: you must confess them to Him with a broken and contrite heart. He is able to save to the uttermost."
For some minutes she was silent, and seemed to be thinking of what I had said. At last she said, “It seems too good to be true for me.”
" But it is not. It is true for you as for every other sinner. You have neglected Christ for long, but He is ever ready to receive those that come to Him. Tell me wher you first knew yourself a great sinner, needing God's
“Some weeks ago," she replied. “I heard a sermon. It made me think of my past life. The minister spoke of the opportunities we all have for good, and I thought of all those I had lost. He spoke also of God's great mercy, but I felt that I was too bad to ask for His mercy.”
“Tell me of the opportunities He gave you, which you neglected.”
“ They were so many,” she said, sorrowfully, “I cannot remember them. Long ago I had a great temptation-ah! how long, and how hard I struggled against it; and in that time God gave me many opportunities to escape from it. But I was weak and sinful, and I would not listen to His voice calling me back. But even when I had made up my mind, He called me once more. It was on Sunday evening; I went to our little village church, and the sermon seemed all for me.
The clergyman said there might be some there that evening on the verge of evil-oh! let them turn back while there was yet time. I was unhappy, and I wept; I heard God's voice calling to me, but oh ! I would not listen, and then it was too late.”
Her sad tale was broken by sobs and tears, and when she had finished I tried to comfort her.
It was not too late, I told her, for repentance ; here was another opportunity God was giving her. Again He was calling her to come to Him now. She got a little comfort before I left, promising to come again and see her. I went the next day, and found her much more hopeful, and each day till her death ; and before that she had found peace through God's great mercy.
Dear reader, have you any“ lost jewels ?” Are you, even now, on the brink of a precipice? Do you hear God's voice calling to you to come back, ere it be too late? Have you lost opportunities for doing good, as well as for the avoidance of evil? Remember these opportunities are God's gifts ; each one is sent by Him as a trial of our love and trust in Him. If they are used as such they are seed sown to the Spirit, which will spring up into life everlasting.
But if they are neglected, will not every one be remembered in that great day when each one is called to account? “Be not deceived ; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” 1
How is it with you? Are you leaving these precious jewels by the wayside ?
i Gal. vi. 7.