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Janet's Sewing-Machine, and the Lessons
it Taught. IVE o'clock! They'll be here soon !” Ana Janet
White stirred the fire to its brightest glow, put one or two neat-handed touches in passing to the com
fortably-spread tea-table, and sat down again to her work. “I've nearly got these muffatees finished for
James,” she said to herself, as her knitting-needle sped busily; "and then there'll be a little present for 'em all. What a happy Christmas it's going to be !”
It was Christmas Eve, that time of joy 'and good-will, when the echo of the angels' Bethlehem song is heard ringing in so many homes on earth ; and in James White's home this year it was sounding merrily. It had not been so in years that were past. James White had, soon after his marriage, been led, step by step, into the sad habit of drunkenness, and that had shut the door against all joy, either at Christmas or any other time. Janet had been industrious and thrifty, and, for the sake of her three boys, she had worked bravely to keep the home together. But how hard the work was only a drunkard's wife knows.
James could not but notice her brave efforts to repair the ruin he was working, and really kind-hearted as he washe made many good resolutions, only to break them again the next time he passed the “Green Dragon," or was invited by a comrade to “have a glass.” And so things went on, the home getting barer, the little boys' clothes shabbier, and Janet's face whiter, all because of that terrible publichouse at the corner. Janet had wondered that she did not give way altogether; perhaps she would have done so but for the boys, brave, sturdy little fellows, whom their mother's struggles made thoughtful and helpful and unselfish beyond their years, and whose love kept her from the paralysis of despair.
And another comfort had quietly crept into her heart and brought with it an unseen strength and hope. She had been asked to attend a mothers' meeting just commenced in the neighbourhood, and from week to week she heard words about the Lord Jesus Christ as a Friend and Helper and Saviour, which to her burdened spirit seemed wonderfully
She had often thought, when wearily bearing her troubles, that no one cared for her except the little lads, who were almost powerless, and whom she was sorry to bring under the shadow of the dark cloud. Now she was
told of a Friend so loving and sympathising that He shared in every sorrow and affliction of His people, and had promised that if they called on Him in the day of trouble He would deliver them.
Still, there was a feeling of strangeness at her heart. This Friend, would He love her? It was “His people” He cared for. Who were His people ? and could she get to be one of them? These were questions she daily pondered, but she knew no one who could answer them except the lady at the meeting, and Janet was too timid to ask her.
Then a day came when the town missionary was present, and gave a simple, earnest address to the women, and, attracted no doubt by Janet's tearful, wistful face, he shook hands with her as she went out, asked for her address, and promised to visit her in her own home.
When he came, there was no further difficulty in telling her troubles, and getting the information she wanted about the Lord Jesus. Mr. Gray was full of the wise, kindly tact that fitted him to advise and sympathise, and to so ready a learner as Janet it was easy to teach the way of faith. He showed her that the "people” of the Lord Jesus were those whom He had saved from their sins; that He had died on the cross to be punished in their place, and had thus purchased the right to save them; and that all He required of her in coming to Him was a simple confidence that He would not cast her out; and that when, in this simple way, she ventured her soul on His salvation, He would breathe into her heart a calm peace which was the voice of the Spirit crying, “Abba, Father ! ”
And Janet, as she listened to this true gospel, and earnestly joined in the prayers with which Mr. Gray always accompanied his instructions, was able to “behold the Lamb of God, who beareth away the sin of the world,” and, looking unto Him penitently and believingly, she was saved.
James could not understand the quiet peace that often overspread his wife's countenance, but he was softened by an unconscious influence that a life “hid with Christ in
God" diffused through the home; and gradually he began
; to take an interest in Mr. Gray's visits, when he “ dropped in " at tea-time, and finally was induced by him to go to a temperance meeting and sign the pledge.
This had occurred some ten months before the Christmas Eve of which I write ; and my readers can understand how, from that time, under Janet's good management, the home became brighter and more comfortable. Her only remaining anxiety was that James was so satisfied with the result of his temperance pledge that he rested there, without ever looking up to the Saviour who had done so much for her, and in whose friendship she was daily finding increasing satisfaction.
But her thoughts of the past were cut short now by the sound of familiar steps and voices, and going quickly to the door, she opened it, and looked out. The boys, who had been in a state of very unusual excitement all the afternoon, had asked leave to go and meet “father” as he came from work, and now, in the dim light, she could see them clustering round him, and all trying to help in carrying a bulky parcel.
“ There's mother !” was the cry of the young voices, as Janet's head was seen outside the door. “Go in, mother, please go in and sit down;" and as Janet lingered, Teddy, the youngest, ran forward, and, taking his mother's hand, dragged her rather unceremoniously back into the kitchen, and coaxed her into her chair, whilst Jack, following, seized a small round table and placed it in front of her, as a barricade.
“Now, father, all's ready, come in," the two boys shouted, standing like sentinels on each side of the chair, whilst Janet laughingly wondered what was coming.
James had meanwhile taken the string from the parcel on the door-step, and now he and Benjamin solemnly bore it in between them and placed it on the table before Janet.
“Take off the paper, mother ! " screamed the boys; but as Janet's trembling fingers almost failed her, the little hands tore it away and disclosed to view—a good-looking sewing-machine! Whereupon time was given to Janet to recover herself, by the three boys joining hands and executing a kind of war-dance round the room in the exuberance of their glee.
“What does it mean? It can't be for me," said Janet, at length looking at her husband.
“No mistake about that, my girl, all bought, and paid for, and brought home for the best wife and mother in all B.” said James, with a deeply-moved face. “ You don't think I haven't been watching how you've slaved for us all and made the home pleasant whether you had things to do it with or not! And months ago the boys and I began to plot about this, and I just threw my pipe away, and put the price of the baccy into this bag, and I've been lucky with overtime, and the money for that has gone into the bag too, and the lads, bless 'em, have brought me many a copper for
mother's fund;' and it's astonishing, when you begin to put by, how it mounts up; and so that's your Christmas-box, and I hope you'll like it.”
Then the boys clambered round their mother, and kissed and hugged her till she was nearly suffocated, but came out from it all with a face very red indeed, but very radiant, and James, to stop her broken thanks, declared himself famishing for tea.
What a happy meal it was ! The young voices chiming in so merrily with the rattle of cups and saucers; and it was scarcely over when a tap at the door was succeeded by the entrance of Mr. Gray, who was always a welcome guest. Of course the sewing-machine was exhibited, but Janet soon found that he had been in the secret, and had recommended the purchase of this particular kind. “It is like one my wife has used for a year, and she likes it exceedingly," he said, “so I can teach you how to work it;" and he quickly explained to his delighted audience the different parts and their use.
“ He'll be preaching a sermon about it next thing,” said James, in a laughing undertone to his wife. “I believe he could make a text out of a fire-shovel.” But Janet's atten