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A Stony Heart Softened

A Stony Heart Softened image
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It was ou the occasion of' tho meeting of the sewing circle, which was held that week at Mies Keziah Fletcher's, that the fruitiul subject of Mrs. Dentou's peeuliarities was brought up for about the fortieth time. AU the iuembers, with ihe exception ot' the minister'g wife, were present, and every one of them had somethiug to say of the poor woman whoee strange ways had caused her to beconie quite a ouriosity in Briarville. "It.'s my opinión such people ure best left alone," said Mrs. Prudeiiee Ran(iall, as she bit off her thread a Httlespitefully. "She's been a disgrace to the town ever since she's lived in it," said Mies Paulina Cowan. "I must confesa I haven't any patience with such queer ways." "Poor thiug! she'a seen a sight of trouble," said Miss Keziah, who was ever ready to pour oil on the troubled waters. "First her husband died of delirium tremens - " "Wortblees sot! She'ti orter o' been pleased to death to get rid of him," interrupted Miss Mattie Baker, throwiug her scissors on the table ïiear her, with considerable noise. "You won't get uo pity ior her out o' rbat, Keziahi" , "ïheu áhe lost two little girls with acarlët fevér,0 contiuued Miss Keziah, iiDheediug the iuterruption, "and oiily a year iater, her second boy died of typhoid. Öhe'd ooly oue ehild left ilun, nd that was her eldeat boy. She set so much More by him! I re member seeing her lnak at bim ouce asif fluí worshipped the very ground he trod on, and - " "Thai's it," interrupted Mrs Bliss, whose busband was one of the "pillare" in the church. "She thought more of him thau :he did of lser sa!vatiou, and he was tafceu from her, that. her hard heact might lie sotteued.' "But it seeiiss harder thau ever," said Mrs. Randall. "She won't listeu to words "f cooaforl nor anything elae. N ne eau rnake any impreseion ou htr. Miss Gowan here weut to her and told her liow we were all boni to paaB under the r..d which chastenelh, and that her Edgar'd been callerl from the evil to come. What. d'ye thiuk Mis. Dentón did? Hhe roae up Jibe a iury aud told Paulina she preferred to be left alone." "Yes," giggled Miss Cowan, hysterically, "she'd ratber have my room ibati my compauy, any day. nowsomever, I don't bear her any hard feelioV. I done what, I could tor her." "The minister's wit'e didu't get uo better treatmeut," said Mira Baker. "She sa! in Mrs. Denton's shanty most an hour talkin' of the niysterious wavs of Providence, an' everything being tbr our good, aud all flesh being grass, and so 011. An' Miss Demon she never spoke a word frono tirst to last, but lay ou ihe sofy, with her ejes set an' nrsver said good-by when Mrs. Bounce went away. impertineuce! Au' I went there too. 1 didn't want to be behind the rest of the folks in doin' my I told about the3e affliotious being sent for our good; aa' she must bow her ueck lo the yoke and beud her back to the burelen. She laugbed at rae! yes, she done just tbat." "She wouldn't even =ee tue," said Mrs. Peckham, a tal!, sharp featured woman with a hri.'l voice. "I saw her at the window, but she wouldn t opeu the door, no matter how loud I knocked. But I scattered tracts all the way down the walk, and I hope they done her good." "Miss Keziah, you aiu't beeD, I believe," said Miss Baker. "Wel), don't tjo; it's time wasted. Her heart's as hard as a stuit.'1 "No," said Miss Keziab, laying dovm her work as she spoke. "I haven't been to ne her. You kuow I was away to Helmstone when her Edgar had the fever, and since I've been back the rheumatis' has been that bad I couldn't go anywhere. But now I'ru a trifle belter, I'll take my turn." "What's the use? What can you do? Haven't we done everythiog?1' h orused the ladies. "I think I shall ask her to tea," said Mise Keziah, thoughtfully. "Ask her to tea!" repeated a halldozen astonished listeners. "Ye; uone of you tried that, I be lieve." answered Miss Keziab. "She wcu't come," said Mrs. Biiss "Perhaps not; but all the same il won't do no harm t ) ask her." "I hope you'll try to sof'ten her hearí, and bring her to prayer meetin' Thursday uieht," said Mrs. Cowan Miss Keziah made noanswer, but a peculiar look crossed her homely, good-natured face - a look Misa Pauline did not quite underataud. 'Miss Keziah'll bn w'ae to make uo promisee," said Mis. Bliss. "It stands to reasoa that she won't succeed where all the rest of us have failed. Oue might as well talk to a átono na to Mrs. Dentón." Mirs Keziah sigheri and beul her eyes upon her work. She had kuowu what sufFaring waa once, and knew that, vvhile sorrow and pain Boften sowe natures, thpy harden and embitter others. Mrs. Deiii.on lived eutirely alone on ilie outskirts of the villnge, in a iitik-, weatherbeaten house, bought when slu: came to Briarville, ttn yeard before. Wewls grew tall and rank in ihe yanl, the sunken steps leadiog tn the door were half burieil in the i . , the gato fallen to-the ground; iu fact, everythiog about tho place spoke oí' luin and decay. "Not a very eheerful place, oertainly," inuttered Miss Keziab, as. the day followiug the meetiDg of the sewing circle, ahe drove up to the widow Denton's and hitched her horse to the tutnble-down fence which partially niclo3ed the yard. "Now, Hetty, you sit tight slill lili I como back, and don't start, old Moll." Hetty was a diminutive nieco of Miss Keziah's, a goldeu-haired, blueeyed child of six years of age, who had been left to her aunt as the sole legacy oí an ouly sister. Miss Keziah walked up the grassgrown path and knocked boldly on Mra. Deutou's door. Before her knuokles had f'airly left ii, the door was flung open by Mrs. Dentou herself, who stood iileutly regarding her viaitor, wiih an xpression of resentmeut and indiguatinn. "Hüw d'ye do, Miss' Dentón? l'in Keziah Fletoher. Perhaps you've heard teil of rue before. I was at Helmstone a considerable spell, an' 3Ínce I' gol; back I've beeu laid up witb rheurnatiz or I' have callcd before. I come to aee if you'd take tea to nay house t night. I'll inake you eoniförtable, a,.d it'll be a aorfc o' ehange i'or you." Mrs. Dentón made no repiy. She stood staring at her visitor as If she had not heard the woids. Then her eyes wandered to the gate, and feil at iast upon the spring wagon and its sniall occupant, whose golden curls were escaped from the close calicó sun-bonnet wbich shielded her pretty face trom the noonday sun. "Is that your child?'' she asked abruptly, bat without Uking her 2aze from Hetty. ïhere was a hungry, yearniug look iu her eye3 as she spoke, a tremor in her voice. "Land sakes! No indeed!" ejaculated Miss Keziah, with virtuous horror in her tone. "I never was marricd. The ouly man I ever carea a straw lor was drowned at sea, and those that cared for me was moBtly niercc'iiary in their views. Hetty 's my sister Jane'í cbild. Jane, sho aied al, Hel ms tone, some six aröntli6 liack Come, wou't yen jump ín the wagon tmd go with iae? I didn't 'low to be disappointed in having you to tea, so I made all ready for jou." "Y=s, I'll couie," said Mts. Dentou, withdrawing her yaze from Hetty ,who wns grasping the reius with ludicroua earuestness, as ii the steadiness of old Molí depended entirely upon her. 8he went into tüu huuse and put on au (ld-fashioned straw bonnet and a black merino shawl. Then she waiked down the path and clitnbed into the wagon aftï-r Miss Keziah, without utteriug a wor4. "You forgot to iock the door," Baid the caroful spinster as she took the reins from Hetty's little hands. A bitter smile curled Mrs. Denton's lips. "I never Iock it,"sbesaid; "thero is nothing in the houac wortb ntealing" The two women jogged aloug the quiet country road, witb the child between thoni, Miss Keziah talkiug on different subjects iu her kind, sensible, whole-hearted way. She did not allude to her visitor's sorrows, nor did she mention the visitg paid to the lonely cottage by other members o! the sewing circle. A man took the horse when they entered Miss Keziah 's farm, which was a mile from the center of the town, and one of the finest in the country. It was well cultivated, well stocked with fruits of various kinds, and iis buildings were all eomfbrtable and roomy, the house itself being built of stooe, in a substantial, old-fashioned manner. Miss Keziah led the way into her sitting room, and helped her visitor to take offher bounet and shawl. "Have this easy chair, Miss' DeutoD," she said with great cordiality, "and make yourself at home I've got to see to supper, but I guess Hetty eau atuuso you a spell. Hetty, mind you're gond while I'm gone." She left the room, and was aboent nearly halfan hour. Wheu she returned Mrs. Dentón had Hetty on her lap, and was telliög her a fairy story. The first smile the poor womau'a face had worn for Dearly a year rushed on it as she looked up at Miss Keziah's entrauce, and eaid : "She reminds me so much of my little Bertha. Yovi can't teil the good it does me just to hold her in my arma - they have been empty so lone. " A deej) sigh followed the words. ''I'm glad shehasn'tbothereilyou," said Miss Keziah, cheerfully, "but now come in to tea. I guess yoa're pretty nigh famished a waitin'for it." A sumptuous repast was in ness. Broiled chicken, cold ham, light biscuit, apples, grapes and cookies, composed the bill of fare, concluding with every variety of sweetraeat and condiment, preserves, pickles, honey and chee?e. MissKeziahcould not have prepared a better feast had she been expecting a bishop to tea, instead of a poor widow, whose stony heart she wished to suften. With a cordial sinile the spinster motioned her gaast lo a seat, and af'ter putting Hetty iu a high ehair, ahe reverently asked a blessing. "I did not put up aá mauy kiuda of preserves as usual this year," she obsf-rved, as she helped Mrs. Dentón to plum jelly; "I aint tho woman Í used to be by a long way. Rheumatiz does lay hold on a body so. I'tn in bed or on my erutchwH half Lhe time. J kalkerlate I'll have to givo up my farm if Í don't begin to inend. T did reckon on ha ving Jane here to mauage for me; but, poor thing, tho fever carried ber oiFall at onco, just as -iiie'd got rid o' thai, ornerjr husband of here. I'd hato to give up, thougb. Jane and me was both bom here, and I lever knowed no other home." Wheu supper was over, tho two vvomen walked about the yard, made a tour of the garden, and admired the cows as they carne leisurely up to the )arn to be milkcd. ïheu Mrs. Denton remarked that it waegrowing late and she must laurry hume. "What's lhe need o' your goin'?" asked Mins Keziah. "I've got four iu iuuuua, a'j'i wuuiu uu iiau il hey wero all full. Suppose you stay with me all night?" Mrs.Denton hesitated. She thought ot' her lonely, neglected house, peo)led with the ghosts of her dead chilIren, and contrasted it with the 31'ight, horaelike place where a ohild's weet voice made music. "Do stay," said little Hetty, olingng to-the visitor's dress. This decided the poor, heart-broken woman. "I will, uud thauk you tbr asking me, Miss Keziah. I have net deserved such kindness." ïhat night, after Hetty weut to bed, ,he two women sat and talked in the arge sitting room, which au open wood fire made cheerful and pleasant. Gradually Mrs. Dentón was led to peak of her children, all now resting u their narrow graves in the village cemetery. She spoke of their uniform juodness aad luve for herself, but said ittle of her grief at losing thöiii. Her voice sounded harsh and straago t ) Miss Keziah, who underctcod. the efort for control the woman was makng. "Poor soul, you've had a sight o rouble, I kuow," the spinster said "oftly, as she put her hands tenderly on those of her guest, which were clasped hard together. There was a deep sileuee for a few nomeuts, unbroken save by the tickng of the eight-day elook ik the corïer. Then euddeuly Mrs. Dentón hrew herself at Miss Keziah's feet, aud broke into bitter weeping, Hoarse obs tore their way from her breast, and her frame saook with the violenco of her emotioi). The restraint, tho elf-control of years, was brokendouü. The heart hardened for bo long fouud relief at last in passionate sobs and ;ries. Miss Keziah said nothing, but tcnierly alroked away from the hot foreïead the thick hair grown gray with sorrow, "You aro so diflërent from the rest," said Mra. Dentón, when at last she ïad arown calm enoügh to speak. The others who have come to me have driven me nearly rnad with uneeemly advice. Not one of them knew what I sufl'ered, not one of them could understand my grief. Wben my boy. my Eiigar, the last of all my children, was il!, no oue came near me - the disease was contagious, they said. I nursed him alone. Alone I saw him dio, and followed him to his grave. Could I believe their worda of sympathy after that? Ah, Miss Keziah, worda could give you no itk of all that I suffered. One by une my childreu were taken from me unül ouly Edgar was left. How I loved bim! How I depended upon him to atone for all that I had suffered. How I dreamed over him. Idledreame, foreshadowing happiness that never was t,o be mine. Then he waa takeu, and I was left tosink into deapair. I oaly wauted to die, to join the dear ones where no suffering could ever touch me. My heart yearoed forsympathy. I would have welcomed it. But those Luat carne to me camo beoause they thought it their duty, ut trorn love or kindness. Not one of them asked rae to her home, or tried to make me forget my sorrows in other things. No, they reminded me of them, aud preaehed patience and resignation." "They acted aceording to their light," said charitable Misa Keziah. "They have led easy, pleasant uves, and did not know how to deal with auch sorrow as yourü." "But you knew," said Mra. Dentón, in a low voice. "Yes," answered Miss Keziah, "I know, becauee I hávo suffered too." They sat talking by the fire till nearly midnight, and then retired to rest. Mrs. Dentón for the tírst time since Edgar's death offered up a rsilent bui earnest prayer, before she fell asleep. Her heart was no Jonger hardened. She did not go back to her cottage the next morning as she expected, íor Miss Keziah's rheumatism had beeu increased by her walk of the previous evening, and she was unable to leave her bed. For many days she was ut terly helpless, aud during that time was tenderly nursed by Mrs. Dentón who aiso made herself generally usefu in the house, and directed the work o the farm with care aud decisión ' When Miss Keziah got well she wa ; so much pleased with tho way thing ) had been managed during her enforcec ' idleness, that she made a proposiiion . to Mrs. Dentón. "Suppose you take the place of my sister Jane," she said, "andstay rigtit along with me. I eed somebody, as you see, and whal's the use of both oi us living lonely, when we can be compauy for eacb other as well as not? You would take a deal of comfort in Hetty. I believe you love her now inost as well as I do." "She seema like my own little Bertha oorae back to me,"said Mrs. Dentoi!. "But, ob, Miss Keziah, I ougbt not to accept your kindness. I have been so hard, so wicked, so rebellious, I do not deserve that suoh good things should corae to me." "Wo differ about that, but won't argue it," said Miss Keziah, "I want you, and you'd like to stay, so the thing is settled. You're my partner from this day on." The next Sunday the good people of Briarvillc were surprised to see Mrs. Dentón in Miss K.eziah's pew at church, and inattendance atprayerin the evening. "How did you mauage it?" asked Mrs. Bliss, as she stopped Miss Keziah in the vestibule of the church. "Oh, I asked her to tea as I said I was going to," answered Miss Keziah, "and I guess the preeervea kinder softened and sweetenerl her up," and she passed on to where Mv;. Dentón stood waiting to help her inio the spring wagon. Neither Mrs. Den toa nor Miss K;ziah ever regretted entering uto mrtuership. As the yeara went by, Miss Keziah i ' n wan iered how she should ever have managod tiie E without the hi; oí capable euer;etic woman. Mrs. Dentou was uever weary ot ivoiking for the comfuri aud prraperty of the friend wiio iiüii coaie to her n her hou' of need aud led her out of Uit clough of despair. And Lappidcss made ber a lifierent womau. She eartied at lasi, those lessons of paience aud resigna t ion that ssemed so lard and bitter in the first days of ler sorrow. Despair, rebellion and 'epining gave place in her heart to lope aud tenderness. She grew at ast to have only geutie, tender memmes of the lovt d ones who had lef f. iei', and she proved a kind, judicious 'uardiau for üttle Hütty,wheii warmïearted Miss Keziah had passed away.


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Ann Arbor Democrat