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your excellent education, this would be a distressing change indeed!”
Anna might have answered, “Certainly, my education has not been calculated to fit me for such a situation:” but it was far, very far from her thoughts to utter any thing of a reproachful kind to her parents at that time. Her answer was to this effect, while taking the hand of each parent, as she stood between them, and looking on the face of each by turns —“ If, my dear parents, there is such a thing as true religion; if our profession of the faith of our meek and holy Saviour is not a mere profession; if we are not living in the habitual breach of that commandment which saith, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain;' we ought not to hesitate about undertaking any duty which the Almighty, by circumstances, appears to prescribe to us. Did not our glorious Saviour, when on earth, take upon himself the form of a servant? and what, then, am I, that I should presume to think myself above the lowest offices of servitude? Remember, dear father, remember, beloved mother, that God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James iv. 6.)
Anna said much more to her parents to the same purport; but I have not time to repeat her many dutiful and earnest pleadings. Suffice it to say, she carried her point. The next day, the upper servant was informed that her services would be dispensed with at the end of the month; and the interval was employed by Anna in preparing for herself two dresses, fit for work, and yet so neat as not to discredit the daughter of a respectable farmer. She also made use of this interval for certain silent observations on the nature of sweeping, scouring, brushing, &c. of which she found herself not a little in need.
At length, the day of Mrs. Betty's departure arrived; and on the morrow Anna, arrayed in one of her new dresses, had cleaned the little parlour, lighted the fire, and arranged the breakfast-table with particular neatness, before her mother made her morning appearance, or her father came in from the field.
The parents were both affected by the neat and simple figure of their dear child. Mrs. Williams wept, with some feelings of mortification; but the farmer was un
feignedly delighted, declaring that he had never seen his Anna look so well.
Anna having previously arranged her work, found far less difficulty in executing it than she expected; and she had great pleasure in discovering that her new employments did not interfere with pious meditations, nor with the learning of portions of Scripture, nor with the singing of hymns. At twelve o'clock in the day, she had generally finished all those parts of her work which required a particular dress. At this hour she assumed her usual appearance, and was ready to sit down to her needle, with her mother, till it was time to lay the cloth for dinner: after which, and when she had replaced every thing in its order, she found leisure to visit her school, or some sick person, always returning in time to prepare tea. The evenings were spent in reading the Scripture.
Thus passed the first month of her gentle servitude: at which time she told her father, that she would not give up her place for any other service whatever; since she never had found herself so thoroughly happy before.
dear girl," said the old man, taking his child's hand, “if you are contented, I am sure I am: for though I have been a housekeeper, from first to last, these thirty years, I never had a servant I liked so well, or found so true and faithful to my interest. Besides, it does me good to see you going about with your
broom in your hand, so tightly dressed in your neat little
cap and blue apron."
But, not to enter too largely into the history of this family, I must be satisfied with saying, that Anna persevered for many months in the faithful discharge of the duties she had undertaken. Her mother unfortunately had an illness which deprived Anna of her assistance in the family for some weeks in the dead of winter ; during which period she found her duties somewhat more laborious, and particularly as her dear parent required considerable attention: but the fatigue which she experienced at that time only made her services afterwards appear more light and easy.
Although we have not lately mentioned the excellent Mr. Mills, yet he had not lost sight of Anna. Neither did he cease to encourage her in well doing, nor to
guard her from any error into which she might be likely to fall. And he was particularly careful to guard her against self-righteousness, very earnestly cautioning her to beware of taking to herself any merit for such imperfect works as she had been enabled to perform through the assistance of the Holy Spirit: and with these views he frequently reminded her of those words of our Lord — So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do. (Luke xvii. 10.)
Very little change took place in the state of Mr. Williams's circumstances or family arrangements during the summer: but early in the autumn, the farmer received a letter from the gentleman by whom he expected to lose his money, requesting to see him, in a few days, at L
Mr. Williams did not anticipate any favourable turn in his affairs from this letter, supposing only that he was called upon to hear a confirmation of his misfortune: however, he did not hesitate to meet the gentleman, and accordingly repaired to L- the evening before the appointed day.
As Mr. Williams had never been at L without calling on Mrs. Parker, he thought he could not deviate from his usual custom on this occasion, although the agitation of his mind about his affairs would have led him to prefer a quiet seat in the corner of the travellers' room at the inn. Accordingly, having put on a clean shirt, and combed his grey hair, he walked to Mrs. Parker's; and being told that the family were at home, he was ushered into a handsome drawing-room, where he was soon joined by Miss Parker, who, receiving him with considerable warmth and liveliness of manner, insisted upon his drinking tea in her mother's dressing-room: for Mrs. Parker's weak and languid state had not permitted her for some years to come down stairs.
Mr. Williams, though still in low spirits, followed Miss Parker up stairs, and was introduced into an elegant dressing-room, where he found the old lady with her younger daughter, who was at this time one of the most fashionable young women in the town of L In addition to these two persons, there was in the room
an elderly lady, of fine carriage and great vivacity, who received Mr. Williams as a very old friend, although the good man did not recollect ever to have seen her in his life before: she soon, however, made out her pretensions to his friendship, by informing him that she had been well acquainted with his charming little daughter, when at school.
This lady, whose name was Humphreys, was a kind of oracle among the more serious
She was made acquainted with every anecdote which any body else knew, and her advice was considered of such high authority as not to be appealed from.
After certain compliments had passed on all sides, and many peculiarly tender enquiries had been made after the health and spirits of dear Miss Anna, Mr. Williams was permitted to take the refreshment of tea; and in the mean time, Mrs. Humphreys gave him an ample account of the many changes which had taken place in
- during the last twelve months.
When tea was over, Miss Parker, assuming a peculiar gravity of countenance, said, that she hoped her dear Anna was really well; adding, that she had been very uneasy about her lately, not only from a certain indescribable kind of constraint which had run through her letters, but also from a report made to her by a friend, who had accidently seen the young lady, and described her as looking very thin and dejected.
The farmer coloured at this unexpected remark, and, with the apprehension of a father tremblingly alive to the welfare of an only child, tried to recollect if there lately had been any thing in Anna's appearance which could have given any probable ground for such report. But as his daughter had appeared remarkably well and blooming during the whole summer, he did not know what to think; nor could he conceive upon
what ground this observation was made. But he was not long left to form vague conjectures; for Mrs. Humphreys, taking the hint from Miss Parker, presently ventured, in plain terms, to call the good man to account for allowing his daughter to work like a common servant, and very freely to blame him for taking such an advantage of her Christian humility and filial submission.
Mr. Williams defended himself as well as he could by
pleading necessity, the eagerness of his child to undertake the duty, and her uncommon good health since she had undertaken it.
Miss Parker and Mrs. Humphreys both represented to him that Miss Anna's birth, education, talents, and personal accomplishments, all rendered her quite above the office of a common housemaid; and that if her religious feelings had induced her to make such a sacrifice of herself, her parents' discretion should have equally urged them to prevent it.
The farmer repeated some of those arguments by which his daughter had laboured to convince him that a true Christian can never be too humble; and thence he proceeded to express his steady persuasion that a Christian in deed, and not in word only, could never think any duty beneath him, however poor and mean it might appear in the eyes of the world.
Mr. Williams's arguments, however, had no effect upon his opponents, who affirmed that they had nothing to do with the case in question; that Christians of course would be led by their principles to exert themselves beyond their strength, and that it became their friends to see that they did not overstep the bounds of propriety, and destroy their constitutions by their labours of love.
Mrs. Humphreys then alleged, as an instance of what they had just asserted, that even Miss Parker had actually at one time quite overdone herself by her extraordinary exertions, and probably would have shortened her days, had not she ventured to interfere and insist upon her young friend's sparing herself.
Mr. Williams having had presence of mind to ascertain by enquiry that Anna herself had made no complaints of her present situation, took his leave, and returned to his inn far more unhappy than he had left it; the conversation he had heard having filled his mind with vague terrors about Anna's health. On this subject he had felt no alarm before: but now he began to suspect that, if Anna should hereafter be afflicted with illness, (and who is not liable to such visitations?) the world might not only blame him as the cause, but that perhaps he might not be able wholly to clear himself of the charge.
The next day, however, brought unlooked-for comfort