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TO THE CHILDEEN.
When I was a little child I used to sit in a little chair beside my mother, while she told me stories. ]STo stories have ever seemed since so beautiful as those; perhaps because, while I was still a little child, a day came after which I was to hear them no more. It was a cold, bleak, gloomy day, with a cutting wind sweeping over the bare fields. They sent my little brother and me to play at a distance from the house, so that we should not disturb our mother, for she was very ill. It was just beginning to grow dark, when a little servant-girl came to call us in. She was crying bitterly, and as we ran after her, we asked, "What is the matter, Susan?" But she only ran on, crying still, but not answering. "Why did I ask what was the matter? in my heart I knew what it must be, only too well—too well.
When we came into the house, everybody was crying. I knew why, but I could not say a word or shed a tear. But Tom said in a tone of fright and wonder, " How is mother?"
I think that for a moment no one heeded us; then our oldest brother came to us, his eyes red with weeping, and stood looking at us like a kind of Fate, while we stood waiting for the sword which was to pierce our hearts. Oh, I can remember just how the words sounded, to this day. "Children, your mother is in heaven!" Oh, my mother! my dear, dear mother!
Since that bleak day the world has never seemed the same to me. "While my mother lived it seemed beautiful to my childish eyes, and the world which she left behind her was the same world no more.
No more! as I sit here looking at the words, and thinking how in that one great loss all the world was changed to me, little voices come floating in from the garden beneath my window, and I know that little figures—as it might be me as I was then—■ are there at play, and I pray that great Father whose love is yet more infinite than a mother's love, that they may be long spared the great loss which came to me when I was yet a little child.
Those little children that I speak of have been often gathered around me, while I told them the stories which long ago my dear mother used to tell to me, and at such times I have sometimes forgotten that it is I who am telling, and that I am not listening, by my mother's side, a little child once more.
One day the thought came to me that I would gather their favorite stories in a little book, so that when I was not with them TO THE CHILDREN. 13
to tell them stories, they might read them for themselves. And these stories we can well believe to be most beautiful, since the great God guided the pens which wrote them. And when I came to tell them, I found they could be told in no words so simple and so beautiful, as in the words of the book which, because it is so beautiful, and so wise, and so beneficent, and so true, is called the BOOK OF BOOKS.