Just then she saw the Fords passing at a little distance on their way to church, and it occurred to her that she would go too; and perhaps Jesus would hear her there, and show her how she was to be made good. So she started up, and was speedily on the other side of the ravine, almost overtaking the Fords before they reached the village. The service was beginning when she crept stealthily into one of the farthest back seats, half afraid lest she was doing wrong in thus trespassing where she had no right. Then, crouched in a corner, with her face bent forward and her elf-locks half covering her eyes, she listened with intense earnestness, trying to take in all she could of what was so new, yet already not unfamiliar to her, and half disposed to think that the kindly-looking gentleman who stood there and spoke in such solemn tones might be Jesus Himself.
Let not the more favoured ones, on whom from their cradles the blessed light of divine truth has steadily shone, smile at this poor child’s ignorance, but rather try to show their gratitude for higher privileges, by seeking to impart some of the light shed on them so abundantly to those who are still wandering in darkness.
On Nelly’s listening heart Mr. Raymond’s sermon did not fall so fruitlessly as some might have expected. For God is, for all, the hearer and answerer of prayer, and He never leaves unheard the weakest cry to Him. As the lonely child once more sought her comfortless home, she felt a stirring of new hope within her, and scarcely minded her mother’s rough words when she demanded, “What have you been doing out so late? No good, I am sure!”
Mrs. Connor had been enlarging, among sympathizing friends, on the hardship of her having to support her husband’s child when he did so little himself for his family. “My goodness! all he gives us wouldn’t half pay Nelly’s board,” she had declared; and as her grievances were still fresh in her mind, she greeted her step-child with even more asperity than usual.
But as Nelly crept away to her hard little bed, perhaps some angel, sent to minister to the motherless child, may have known that the “good-for-nothing,” ignorant little girl, oppressed with the feeling of her own sinfulness, and full of the thought of her new-found heavenly Friend, was nearer the kingdom of heaven than the petted, admired, winning Stella Brooke, who had never yet learned her need of the Saviour, who came “not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”