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Clouds and Sunshine by A.L.O.E.

Charles Doe A.L.O.E.

“Clouds and Sunshine” on Proverbs 10:28, is written by Charlotte Maria Tucker (A.L.O.E.) is from “Precepts in Practice,” and is about counting blessings.


“The hope of the righteous shall be gladness.”—Proverbs 10:28.

“It will rain, I tell you!—it will rain!” cried Priscilla; “it always does when one wishes it to be fine! So you need not put on your bonnet, Lucy; there will be no boating for us today.”

“It is not raining one drop,—the grass is quite dry,” replied Lucy, running for the twentieth time to the door.

“But the seaweed that hangs there is quite soft and damp, and that is a sure sign of rain. Only see these black, heavy clouds!”

“Only see that dear little bit of bright blue between them! I think, Priscilla, that you are always looking out for clouds. I never notice them at all till the rain begins to drop!”

“That is because you are a thoughtless, foolish little thing!” observed her sister, with a kind of scornful pity.

“Well, I’m glad that I’m not so wise as you; I’d rather be merry than wise,” was the laughing Lucy’s reply.

This time, however, it appeared that the elder sister was the mistaken one. The patch of blue in the sky, to Lucy’s delight, became larger and larger; the sun shone out cheerfully; and, no longer afraid of the weather, both girls set out on their walk towards Ryde. They were there to meet their uncle, a boatman, who had promised them a row over the water to Portsmouth, where he was to show them the docks and feast them with cakes; and as the girls had never been to England before, having been both born and brought up in the Isle of Wight, they had both looked forward to this expedition for a very long time, though with different feelings, according to their different dispositions. Lucy was all delight at the thought of the pleasure,—Priscilla all fear lest anything should occur to prevent their being able to enjoy it.

They made their way over the fields,—the one mirthful, the other grave. They shortened part of the distance by passing along a lane; and a lovely lane it was, all adorned with wild flowers.

“I like this path so much!” cried the happy little Lucy. “Such beautiful plants grow in the hedges, that were I not in a very great hurry to get on, I should gather a splendid nosegay on the way!”

“I do not like this path at all,” replied her elder sister; “it is so narrow, one is caught every minute by the thorns.”

“Ah, Priscilla! you are always looking out for thorns! I never think of them till I find myself caught.”

“That is because you are a silly, giddy child!” was Priscilla’s contemptuous reply.

It will be easily seen, from this short conversation, that however wise Priscilla might be in the eyes of other people, or in her own, she was not the most pleasant companion in the world. She was considered a very sensible girl, one possessing reflection beyond her years; and in some respects she deserved the character. She was wise in keeping clear of evil society; she was wise in performing her daily duties, and in not expecting too much from the world: but she was not wise in ever casting a shade of gloom over what Providence intended to be bright; she was not wise in ever meeting misfortune half way,—in always looking at the dark side of every event, and seeming as though she thought it almost a sin to be happy! In truth, in these matters, by taking the opposite extreme, Priscilla was just as foolish as her sister. The one, eager after pleasure, often met with disappointment: the other, fearing disappointment, scarce knew pleasure at all.

There was the same difference between them on the subject of religion, in which both had been carefully instructed. Lucy was too easily carried away by amusement: with a warm heart, but a giddy and thoughtless spirit, she too often, alas! neglected the one thing needful for the passing diversion of the hour. Priscilla never forgot her Bible reading or her prayer; but both were too often a mere matter of form. She would not for any temptation have worked, bought or sold, on the Sabbath; but she never considered it a delight. Priscilla quite put aside the command in the Bible, Rejoice ever more; and again I say unto you, Rejoice; while her sister forgot, in her heedless mirth, that it is also written, Rejoice with trembling. The one girl knew too little of the fear of the Lord; the other was a stranger to his love.

At length the sisters reached the shore, and saw before them the sparkling waves of the sea. On the waters large men-of-war were lying at anchor;—little boats were floating on the sunny tide, some moving on steadily, as their line of oars rose and fell; others speeding along with graceful motion, like butterflies spreading their silver wings. Amongst the many boats which were plying here and there, and those which were fastened to the pier, Priscilla and Lucy vainly searched for the “Nautilus,” which was that which belonged to their uncle. As with anxious looks they proceeded along the shore, exclamations of impatience bursting from their lips, they were approached by an old friend of their uncle’s whom they had seen several times before.

“On the look-out, eh?” said the old sailor, as he came towards them. “You’ll not hail the ‘Nautilus’ today. Your uncle was engaged this morning by a gentleman to carry him round to the under-cliff in his boat; and I suspect that they’ll have ugly weather,” he added, turning his weather-beaten face towards the sea: “so he asked me to wait for you here, and tell you why he could not give you a row over the water; and, as he thought as how you might be a little disappointed, he sends you a shilling a-piece to make all straight.”

Tears burst from the eyes of little Lucy: she turned aside that the sailor might not see them. Delighted as she ever was at the prospect of pleasure, she never could bear to lose it; and every little disappointment appeared to her as a real and serious misfortune. Priscilla showed less vexation at losing her excursion, though she took the shilling with a discontented air; and her first words, as she turned to walk back with her sister, were as unjust as they were ungrateful to that good Providence that gives us so much even upon earth to enjoy.

“I knew that it would be so! it always happens thus!—if one expects a little pleasure, disappointment is sure to come!”

“How strange and unkind in my uncle!” said Lucy, still half crying; “and to think that these stupid shillings could make up for the loss of such a delightful treat!”

“We had better walk faster,” observed her prudent sister; “your blue bit of sky is quite disappearing now.”

“And these thorns are very annoying,” Lucy added fretfully, as, trying too hastily to free herself from a bramble, she tore a large hole in her dress.

“Life seems all full of clouds and of thorns,” observed Priscilla, in the tone of one who is conscious of uttering a very wise saying; “and to hope to find it anything else is folly only fit for a very little child. There!—was not that a drop of rain? Yes! another, and another!—and so large! That great cloud is going to burst just over our heads, and, as always happens, there is no place near where we could take shelter from a storm.”

“Oh! you are wrong there for once! there is Bertha Fielding’s cottage; it is a little, a very little out of our way, and I am sure that the good woman will make us welcome.”

Thither ran the two little girls in the rain, which was now falling thick and fast. A sudden flash of lightning quickened their steps, till, heated and breathless, they slackened their pace as they approached the neat little cot. There was the voice of a woman singing within,—a feeble, trembling voice, in which little melody was left; but its tones sounded earnest, as if coming from the heart, and from a heart that was cheerful and happy:—

“Content with this, I ask no more,
But to Thy care the rest resign;
Sick or in health, or rich or poor,
All shall be well if Thou art mine!”

The girls’ hasty tap silenced the hymn, and a kind voice bade them come in. The inside of the cottage was clean and neat, but its appearance bespoke great poverty. The clock, which had once merrily ticked on the white washed wall, was gone from its place; there was no arm-chair by the side of the fire; and many a treasured family piece of old china had disappeared from the wooden shelf. A pale, sickly-looking woman lay upon the bed, which was now almost the sole furniture of the little abode. Her countenance appeared worn with pain and with want; yet it still bore a peaceful, hopeful expression.

“May we wait here a little, till the shower is over?” said Priscilla, as she entered the cottage.

“Most heartily welcome,” replied Bertha. “I was rather inclined just now to feel sorry at the rain falling, as I suffer a good deal from the damp; but I was wrong, for it has brought me two visitors today, and that is a real pleasure in this lonely place.”

“I am afraid that you are very poorly?” said Lucy, approaching her kindly.

“I am quite laid up at present with rheumatism, my dear, and have been so for the last six weeks. I can scarcely rise from my bed.”

“What a misery to have to lie so long on your bed!” cried Priscilla, who had known something of illness.

“What a mercy to have a good bed to lie on!” replied the sufferer, with a patient smile.

“But you will recover before long, and be able to work again,” said Lucy, with kind interest in her looks.

“I hope so, if it please God,” answered Bertha.

“Ah!” cried Priscilla, “I daresay that you have been hoping and hoping all the time that you have been ill.”

“I always cherish hope, my dear.”

“Then you are disappointed every day of your life.”

“Oh no!” cried the sick woman, cheerfully; “my hope is firm and sure, and can never be disappointed!”

“That is impossible!” said Priscilla.

“Oh! tell me your secret!” cried Lucy, with animation. “I always am hoping too, but I so often find that I never can have what I hope for!”

“My secret is a very simple one,” replied Bertha. “I ask the Lord, for the sake of his blessed Son, to give me all that is good for me; and I hope—I more than hope, I feel certain—that the Lord hears and will grant my prayer.”

“Yet you are sent poverty and pain,” said Priscilla.

“I firmly believe that both poverty and pain will work together for my good, and that I shall suffer from neither of them one moment longer than the all-wise Father knows to be best for his child.”

“Yet you must be very miserable now?” said Priscilla, glancing round on the almost comfortless abode, and then at its suffering inmate.

“Miserable: oh no; that is no word for a Christian! When I think of my deserts, and then of all that is left me, I should think it a sin to be miserable!”

“A sin!” repeated Priscilla, in surprise; “and what have you to make you anything else?”

“Some comforts even of this earth. I have never yet gone one day quite without food; God has till now provided me with daily bread. I have a roof over my head, and some kind friends, and one friend”—here she laid her hand on a Bible—“that casts sunshine over the darkest trial. My hearing and my eye sight are spared to me,—how great a blessing is this! Then I have sweet thoughts to cheer me as I lie here in pain. I trust that, through my Saviour, my sins have been forgiven,—is that no cause for happiness? I trust that every hour brings me nearer to a home where there shall be no more sorrow, or crying, or pain,—is that no cause for happiness? I believe that my gracious God is with me even here, to support my courage and keep me from falling,—is that no cause for happiness? Oh! well may I count up my mercies! well may I thank Him who bestowed them all!—the Rock of my strength and my salvation!” Tears filled her eyes as she spoke, but not tears of sorrow: The hope of the righteous shall be gladness.

Priscilla sighed. When she contrasted her lot with that of this poor woman,—her peevish discontent, her cold, heartless service, with Bertha’s loving, grateful, happy spirit,—she felt abashed and humbled in her own eyes.

“The rain is over,” she said, turning to the door. “I am sure that we are much obliged to you, Bertha; and I shall often think over what you have said.”

Lucy glided to her sister and whispered a few words to her, at the same time pressing something into her hand. “You speak for me,” was all that could be overheard. Priscilla’s smile was brighter than usual.

“We happen to have been given a little money,” she said, going up to Bertha with Lucy; “we have no real wants ourselves, and we should be glad, very glad, if you would spend it in getting any little comfort for yourself.”

“May the Almighty bless you for your kindness, dear children!” cried Bertha, fervently clasping her hands. “It is he who has sent you here today. He knew that I had not a crust left in my cottage,—that I had no earthly means of procuring one. He has answered my prayer. I hoped in him, and he has not disappointed my hope. But I cannot deprive you of both shillings,” she added; “it is too much—”

“Oh no!” exclaimed Priscilla; “we will never touch that money again!”

“Prissy,” said Lucy gaily to her sister, as they hastened along the wet path, not complaining when their shoes were fixed in the mire, and showers of moisture dropped on them from the trees, “I am almost glad now that we were disappointed of our treat; I think that it was a good thing after all.”

“Yes; and I am glad that the shower came, though we dreaded it so much.”

“I daresay that if we looked at things as poor Bertha looks, we should find a great deal to make us glad.”

“Glad, and thankful besides,” said Priscilla.

“Ah! you are thinking less of the thorns and the clouds!”

“I see that earthly joys and earthly sorrows are mixed, like the lovely wild flowers with the brambles; so that we should not care too much for the one, nor fret too much at the other. And as, when dark clouds roll over the sky, we yet know that the blue heaven is always beyond, we may look through all troubles with a sure glad hope.”

“And the hope of the righteous shall be gladness!” said Lucy.

Oh! who should be joyful and glad,
If not those whom the Saviour hath loved;
Who, living or dying, their happiness rest
On the Rock which can never be moved?
What have we, as sinners, deserved?
What hath God in his graciousness given?
Let us love him and serve him, rejoicing below,
As we hope to do always in heaven.

Can myriads of glittering lights
E’er equal the brightness of day?
Or all that the world holds of pleasure and wealth
The joys of religion outweigh?
What have we, as sinners, deserved?
What hath God in his graciousness given?
Let us love him and serve him, rejoicing below,
As we hope to do always in heaven.

Shall we murmur at pains or at grief,
If our God be our father and friend?
Those pains,—they can bring us but nearer to him;
That grief,—oh! how soon it will end!
What have we, as sinners, deserved?
What hath God in his graciousness given?
Let us love him and serve him, rejoicing below,
As we hope to do always in heaven.

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