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and me. But is there really a prospect of our having a melodeon? And who is to play it?"

MISS ESSIE. There is just that-a prospect. I know where a second-hand melodeon-in perfect order, and really, as good as new-can be bought for fifty dollars. Mrs. Danforth promises to give ten, I will give as much more, and I mean to try my luck at begging, for the balance. Such an onslaught as I shall make on the double-barricaded pockets of our Shiloh farmers, next week!

MALA. There goes your cherished plan into fragments! Miss Essie will get the melodeon, and play it; and you will have neither lot, nor part, nor-worst of all!—credit, in the matter.

MISS ESSIE (with evident effort). And I have taken a vow that nobody shall escape me. Every man, woman, and child, that I meet is to be button-holed, and discoursed to upon the blessedness of giving. "Small sums thankfully received; large ones "-with incredulity! Have you either a large, or a small one, to give me, Miss Frost?

MALA. It is too much to be asked to assist in your own discomfiture! Since she has taken the work out of your hands, let her get through with it as best she can.

I (coldly). I don't know. I will think about it, Miss Volger.

Essie looked disappointed and chilled, and bent over her work, interweaving her needle in and out among the threads of a darn, with great precision and persistency. Ruth drove a nail or two, plainly with a divided mind, and then broke out afresh.

"I do hope we may get that melodeon! it would add so much to our services! But who will play it, Miss Volger?"

"I had thought of asking Miss Frost to do us that favor, while she stays in Shiloh," replied Essie, in a formal, spiritless way; "I have heard that her playing is something wonderful."

MALA (pricking up her ears). Ah! you are not to be ignored entirely, it appears! Perhaps you can afford to do something for them, after all.

BONA (with extreme severity). It is your glory, then, -not God's-which is in question!

I (reproachfully). You know I took so much pleasure in the prospect of making Him an offering of the melodeon! and that I reserved Uncle John's check for that express purpose!

BONA. An offering to Him! it looks more like an offer ing to Self! Otherwise you would rejoice to see that the Holy Spirit had stirred up another heart to activity in His service; and would willingly stand aside and give it way. So the Lord's work be done, according to His will, what can it matter who does it?

MALA. But, in many cases, you know you could do it so much better than any one else!

BONA. That you can never know. God, surely, understands the adaptations of His instruments to the end He has in view; and His strength can be made perfect in their weakness. Can you ever be sure that you have been taken into His counsels, and that your end and His, are the same?

I (gloomily). What, then, am I to do, in this matter?

BONA. Say, rather, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" Contribute, in your proportion, to the purchase of the melodeon; and save the balance of your check for any future needs, to which the parish may not so readily respond. MALA. It looks so much more generous to give fifty dollars in a lump, than to dole it out, little by little! BONA. Looks so to whom?-God?

Mala was, plainly, disconcerted.

BONA. Moreover, let Miss Essie play the melodeon, if she can do it tolerably, as no doubt she can. It is her rightful place, if she cares for it, not yours. Christian courtesy and humility alike demand that you, an outsider, should not thrust yourself, or allow yourself to be thrust,

into any position which can be filled as well, and more legitimately, by another. There is always enough of quiet, unostentatious, yet most true and laudable, service, to be done for God, which no one will dispute with you. Save your strength for the point where it is most needed. Strive to be, in the Church, what gravitation is, in nature,—itself unseen, but keeping all things, whether small or great, active or motionless, in their appropriate places and doing their appointed work.

I sat, gloomily unresponsive, staring out of the window. BONA (gathering her forces for a final assault). Perhaps the Christian grace, of all others the hardest to attain, is humility. To stand aside, when we have fought the battle well-nigh to the end, and let another bear off the spoils and the honors of victory; to sow prayerfully, and water patiently, and cheerfully resign the increase to an aftercomer;-these are the things which show the stuff we are made of! We can conceive-most reverently be it spoken! -that the Son of God Himself, if He had been required to give up His great work of redemption to an archangel; after He had meditated over it, and prepared for it, and "desired it with desire," from the silent reaches of eternity; would have felt a momentary unwillingness to resign,—not the praise, not the gratitude, not the glory,-but the tender joy of self-sacrifice, the deep-down, bitter-sweet delight of vicarious suffering, the thrilling ecstasy of success. He would have conquered it, you know!

But

There was a brief struggle. Then I brought my eyes and my thoughts back to the work in hand. As soon as I could command my voice, I said, as cordially as possible,—

"I have been thinking over that matter of the melodeon, Miss Essie; and when you have made your threatened assault on those pockets, will you do me the favor to let me know the amount of the deficiency?"

"Oh! certainly,-thank you!" she exclaimed, recovering her wonted ease and animation of manner, at once. But further conversation was stopped by a fresh arrival.

XXII.

DISCORDS.

[graphic]

HE new comers were Mrs. Burcham and Mrs. Shemnar, the one keen, brisk, alert, vigorous; the other slow, bland, smiling, and vapid. The former walked straight into the room, her sharp black eyes taking instant note of all that it contained; the latter sank down on a box just outside the door, complained of the heat, and fanned herself with her sun-bonnet, while her light blue eyes wandered slowly and halfabsently from one object to another.

Both looked surprised at sight of Ruth Winnot, and cach gave her a characteristic nod;-the one sharp and crisp as a gust of winter-wind, the other sultry and turbid as the breath of a morning in dog-days;--but neither made any remark. For which unexpected piece of consideration, or mark of indifference, or uncertainty how to deal with so unusual a fact, or whatever it might be, I was so grateful to them that I gave both an unwontedly cordial greeting. Which emboldened Mrs. Burcham (though it may be questioned if she stood in need of such encouragement, and would not have done the same thing without it) to come and bend over me, inspecting my work.

It is singular how spontaneous and inevitable is the tendency of some persons to arouse antagonism, provoke discussion, and elicit electrical sparks of ill-humor, wherever

they present themselves. The acrid quality of their own moral atmosphere diffuses itself insensibly around them, and is returned upon them again and again; as the air of a confined room continually comes back to be re-inhaled, and still farther corrupted, by lungs that have already vitiated its healthful, vitalizing properties. It is probable enough that these unfortunates never quite understand the nature or the cause of their infelicity, nor by what natural and inalterable laws their own uncomfortable moods are continually reflected back upon them, but go through life ascribing the opposition they excite and the ill-temper they evoke to causes entirely outside themselves. Either they believe that the world is, everywhere and always, the unlovely, bitter, hostile, and provoking thing they find it; or they fancy that it cherishes some unaccountable spite and rancor toward them, and grow ever sourer and more acrimonious thereby.

Mrs. Burcham belongs to this class. She not only has the gift of making herself disagreeable in a marked and peculiar degree; but the added power of detecting and bringing forth, as by the touch of a loadstone, all the latent disagreeableness of others. She and Mrs. Prescott rarely meet without a shower of sparks, as when steel strikes flint; Essie Volger often comes in collision with her in a way that evolves more clash than harmony; and more than once in Sewing Society matters, I have avoided irritating friction only by declining to enter into any discussions.

So innate, and apparently involuntary, is her propensity to oppose, to battle, to condemn, that I have been driven to account for it by the supposition that her ancestors must have sprung, somehow, from that hot-headed race of warriors which cropped up out of the ground wherein Cadmus had sown the dragon's teeth; and that the hereditary instincts have not been greatly weakened by a long interfusion of years and alien blood.

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