“I have been trying all day,” said Mrs. Bell, “to think of something that I could do for you, to help you or to relieve you in some way or other; but I can not think of any thing at all that I can do.”
“Yes,” said Mary Erskine, “there is one thing that you could do for me, that would be a very great kindness, a very great kindness indeed.”
“What is it?” asked Mrs. Bell.
“I am afraid that you will think it is too much for me to ask.”
“No,” said Mrs. Bell, “what is it?”
Mary Erskine hesitated a moment, and then said,
“To let Mary Bell come and stay here with me, a few days.”
“Do you mean all night, too?” asked Mrs. Bell.
“Yes,” said Mary Erskine, “all the time.”
“Why, you have got two children to take care of now,” replied Mrs. Bell, “and nobody to help you. I should have thought that you would have sooner asked me to take Bella home with me.”
“No,” said Mary Erskine. “I should like to have Mary Bell here, very much, for a few days.”
“Well,” said Mrs. Bell, “she shall certainly come. I will send her, to-morrow morning.”
MARY BELL IN THE WOODS.
Mary Erskine had a bible in her house, although she could not read it. When Albert was alive he was accustomed to read a chapter every evening, just before bed-time, and then he and Mary Erskine would kneel down together, by the settle which stood in the corner, while he repeated his evening prayer. This short season of devotion was always a great source of enjoyment to Mary Erskine. If she was tired and troubled, it soothed and quieted her mind. If she was sorrowful, it comforted her. If she was happy, it seemed to make her happiness more deep and unalloyed.
Mary Erskine could not read the bible, but she could repeat a considerable number of texts and verses from it, and she knew, too, the prayer, which Albert had been accustomed to offer, almost by heart. So after Mrs. Bell had gone home, as described in the last chapter, and after she herself had undressed the children and put them to bed, and had finished all the other labors and duties of the day, she took the bible down from its shelf, and seating herself upon the settle, so as to see by the light of the fire, as Albert had been accustomed to do, she opened the book, and then began to repeat such verses as she could remember. At length she closed the book, and laying it down upon the seat of the settle, in imitation of Albert’s custom, she kneeled down before it, and repeated the prayer. The use of the bible itself, in this service, was of course a mere form:—but there is sometimes a great deal of spiritual good to be derived from a form, when the heart is in it, to give it meaning and life. Mary Erskine went to bed comforted and happy; and she slept peacefully through each one of the three periods of repose, into which the care of an infant by a mother usually divides the night.