‘I had a sister once, just like little Nan,’ she said, with a sob, ’and she minded me of her. Miss Anne told me she was singing somewhere among the angels, and I thought she’d look like little Nan. But I’m afraid I shall never go where she is; I’m so bad.’
‘We’ll teach thee how to be good,’ answered Martha. ’Thee come to me, Bess, and I’ll teach thee the hymns, and the singing, and how to make pikelets, and keep the house clean on a week-day. I’m going to love my enemies, and do good to them that hate me; so don’t thee be shy-like. We’ll be friends like Stephen and Tim; and weren’t they enemies afore Stephen learned to read?’
That night, as Stephen lay down to sleep, he said to himself, ’I’m glad Black Bess came to eat pikelets with Martha. My chapter says, “Whosoever shall do the commandments, and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Perhaps Martha and me will be called great in heaven, if we teach Bess how to do God’s commandments.’
The old shaft.
Black Bess began to visit the cinder-hill cabin very often. But there was a fatal mistake, which poor Stephen, in his simplicity and single-heartedness, was a long time in discovering. Martha herself had not truly set out on the path of obedience to God’s commandments; and it was not possible that she could teach Bess how to keep them. A Christian cannot be like a finger-post, which only points the way to a place, but never goes there itself. She could teach Bess the words of the hymn, and the tunes they were sung to; but she could tell her nothing of the feeling of praise and love to the Saviour with which Stephen sang them, and out of which all true obedience must flow. With her lips she could say, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit,’ and ‘Blessed are the meek,’ and ‘Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness;’ but she cared for none of these things, and felt none of their blessedness in her own soul; and Bess very quickly found out that she would far rather talk about other matters. And because our hearts, which are foolish, and deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, soon grow weary of good, but are ever ready to delight in evil, it came to pass that, instead of Martha teaching poor ignorant Bess how to do God’s will, Bess was leading her into all sorts of folly and wickedness.