The Lost Lamb Found
The time that Rosalie waited in the arbor seemed very, very long to her. Every minute was like an hour, and at the least sound she started from her seat, and looked down the gravel path. But it was only a bird, or a falling leaf, or some other trifling sound, which Rosalie’s anxious ears had exaggerated.
But at last, when the sound she had been listening for so long did really come, when footsteps were heard on the gravel path coming towards the arbor, Rosalie sat still, until they drew close, for in a moment all the fears she had had by the way returned upon her.
They were very quick and eager footsteps which Rosalie heard, and in another moment, almost before she knew that her Aunt Lucy had entered the arbour, she found herself locked in her arms.
“Oh, my little Rosalie,” said she, with a glad cry, “have I found you at last?”
For Jessie had told Mrs. Leslie that it was Norah’s child who was waiting to speak to her in the arbor.
Rosalie could not speak. For a long time after that she was too full of feeling for any words. And her Aunt Lucy could only say, over and over again, “My little Rosalie, have I found you at last?” It seemed to Rosalie more like what the Good Shepherd said of His lost sheep than anything she had ever heard before.
“Have you been looking for me, dear Aunt Lucy?” she said at last.
“Yes, darling, indeed I have!” said her aunt. “Ever since Jessie came back, I have been trying to find out where you were. I wanted so much to see your mother. But before I arrived at the place she was dead. I saw her grave, Rosalie, darling. I heard about her dying in the fair; and my husband found out where she was buried, and we went and stood by her grave. And ever since then, dear child, I have been looking for you. But I had lost all clue to you, and was almost giving it up in despair. But I’ve found you now, darling, and I am so very thankful!”
Then Rosalie opened her bag, and took out the precious letter. How her Aunt Lucy’s hand trembled as she opened it! It was like getting a letter from another world! And then she began to read, but her eyes were so full of tears that she could hardly see the words.
My Own Darling Sister,
I am writing this letter with the faint hope that Rosalie may one day give it to you. It ought not to be a faint hope, because I have turned it so often into a prayer. Oh, how many times have I thought of you, since last we met, how often in my dreams you have come to me and spoken to me!
I am too ill and too weak to write much, but I want to tell you that your many prayers for me have been answered at last. The lost sheep has been found, and has been carried back to the fold. I think I am the greatest sinner that ever lived, and yet I believe my sins are washed away in the blood of Jesus.
I would write more, but am too exhausted. But I want to ask you (if it is possible for you to do so) to save my sweet Rosalie from her mother’s fate. She is such a dear child. I know you would love her—and I am so very unhappy about leaving her among all these temptations.
I know I do not deserve any favor from you, and you cannot think what pain it gives me to think how often you have been asked for money in my name. That has been one of the greatest trials of my unhappy life.
But if you can save my little Rosalie, oh, dear sister, I think even in heaven I shall know it, and be more glad. I would ask you to do it, not for my sake, for I deserve nothing but shame and disgrace, but for the sake of Him who has said, “Whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.” (Matthew 18:5)
Your loving sister,
“When did your dear mother write the letter, Rosalie?” Aunt Lucy asked, as soon as she could speak after she had finished reading it.
Rosalie told her that it was written only a few days before her mother died. And then she put her hand inside her dress, and brought out the locket, which she laid in Mrs. Leslie’s hand.
“Do you remember that, Aunt Lucy?” she said.
“Yes, darling, I do,” said her aunt. “I gave that to your mother years ago, before she left home. I remember I saved up my money a very long time that I might buy it.”
“My mother did love that locket so much,” said the child. “She said she had promised you she would keep it as long as she lived. And I was to tell you she had kept her promise, and had hidden it away, lest any one should take it from her. I have tried so hard to keep it safe since she died. But we have been in a great big lodging house all the winter, and I was so afraid it would be found and taken from me.”
“Where is your father now, Rosalie?” asked her aunt anxiously.
“He’s dead,” said the child. “He has been dead more than a week.” And she told of the accident, and the death in the hospital.
“Then you are my little girl now, Rosalie,” said her Aunt Lucy—“my own little girl, and no one can take you from me.”
“Oh, dear Aunt Lucy, may I really stay?”
“Why, Rosalie darling, I have been looking for you everywhere, and my only fear was that your father would not want to part with you. But now, before we talk any more, you must come in and see your uncle. He is very anxious to see you.”
Rosalie felt rather afraid again when her aunt said this, but she rose up to follow her into the house. And then she remembered the little kitten, which she covered with her shawl, and which was lying fast asleep under it in a corner of the arbor.
“Please, Aunt Lucy,” said Rosalie timidly, “is there a bird?”
“Where, dear?” said Mrs. Leslie, looking round her. “I don’t see one.”
“No, not here in the garden,” explained Rosalie. “I mean in your house.”
“No, there’s no bird, dear child. What made you think there was one?”
“Oh, I’m so glad, so very, very glad!” said Rosalie, with tears in her eyes. “Then, may I bring her?”
“Bring who, Rosalie dear? I don’t understand.”
“Oh, Aunt Lucy,” said the child, “don’t be angry. I have a little kit here under my shawl. She’s the dearest little kit; and we love each other so much, and if she had to go away from me I think she would die. She loved me when no one else in the lodging house did, except Betsey Ann. And if only she may come, I’ll never let her go in any of the best rooms, and I won’t let her be any trouble.” When she had said this, she lifted up the shawl, and brought out the black kitten, and looked up beseechingly into her aunt’s face.
“What a dear little kitten!” said her aunt. “May will be pleased with it, she is so fond of kittens. Only the other day I promised her I would get one. Bring her in, and she shall have some milk.”
A great load was lifted off little Rosalie’s heart when Mrs. Leslie said this, for it would have been a very great trial to her to part from her little friend.
Rosalie’s uncle received her very kindly, and said, with a pleasant smile, that he was glad the little prairie flower had been found at last, and was to blossom in his garden. Then she went upstairs with her Aunt Lucy to get ready for dinner. She thought she had never seen such a beautiful room as Mrs. Leslie’s bedroom. The windows looked out over the fields and trees to the blue hills beyond.
Then her aunt went to a wardrobe which stood at one end of the room, and brought out a parcel, which she opened, and inside Rosalie saw a beautiful little black dress very neatly and prettily made.
“This is a dress which came home last night for my little May,” said her aunt, “but I think it will fit you, dear. Will you try it on?”
“Oh, Aunt Lucy,” said Rosalie, “what a beautiful frock! but won’t May want it?”
“No; May is away from home,” said Mrs. Leslie. “She is staying with your Uncle Gerald. There will be plenty of time to have another made for her before she returns.”
Rosalie hardly knew herself in the new dress, and felt very shy at first. But it fitted her exactly, and her Aunt Lucy was very much pleased indeed.
Then Mrs. Leslie brought a black ribbon, and tied the precious locket round the little girl’s neck. There was no longer any need to hide it.
After this they went downstairs, and Rosalie had a place given her at dinner between her uncle and her aunt. Jessie looked very much astonished when she was told to put another knife and fork and plate on the table for Rosalie. But her mistress, seeing her surprised face, called her into another room, and in a few words told her who the little girl was, at the same time begging her, for Rosalie’s sake, not to mention to anyone in the village where and how she had seen the child before. This Jessie most willingly promised. “There was nothing she would not do for Rosalie’s sake,” she said. “For she would never have been there had it not been for Rosalie and her mother.”
That afternoon the child sat on a stool at her Aunt Lucy’s feet, and they had a long talk, which little Rosalie enjoyed more than words can tell. She gave her aunt a little history of her life, going back as far as she could remember. Oh, how eagerly Mrs. Leslie listened to anything about her poor sister! How many questions she asked, and how many tears she shed!
When Rosalie had finished, her aunt told her once more how glad and thankful she was to have her there, and more especially as she felt sure that her little Rosalie loved the Good Shepherd and tried to please Him, and therefore would never, never do any harm to her own little May, but would rather help her forward in all that was right.
The child slipped her hand in that of her Aunt Lucy when she said this, with a very loving and assuring smile. “So now, Rosalie dear, you must look upon me as your mother,” said Mrs. Leslie. “You must tell me all your troubles, and ask me for anything you want, just as you would have asked your own dear mother.”
“Please, Aunt Lucy,” said Rosalie gratefully, “I think the pasture is very green indeed.”
“What do you mean, my dear child?”
“I mean, Aunt Lucy, I have been very lonely and often very miserable lately. But the Good Shepherd has brought me at last to a very green pasture. Don’t you think He has?”
But Mrs. Leslie could only answer the little girl by taking her in her arms and kissing her.
That night, when Rosalie went upstairs to bed, Jessie came into her room to bring her some hot water.
“Oh, Jessie,” said Rosalie, “how are Maggie and the baby?”
“To think you remembered about them!” said Jessie. “They are quite well. Oh, you must see them soon.”
“Then they were all right when you got home?” said the child, “were they, Jessie?”
“Oh yes, God be thanked!” said Jessie. “I didn’t deserve it. Oh, how often I thought of those children when I lay awake those miserable nights in the circus! They had cried themselves to sleep, poor little things. When my mother came back, she found them lying asleep on the floor.”
“Wasn’t she very much frightened?” asked Rosalie.
“Yes, that she was,” said Jessie, with tears in her eyes. “She was so ill when I came home that I thought she would die. I thought she would die, and that I had killed her. She had hardly slept a wink since I went away; she was as thin as a ghost. I hardly should have know her anywhere else.”
“But what did she say when you came back?”
“Oh, she wasn’t angry a bit,” said Jessie. “Only she cried so, and was so glad to have me back, that it seemed almost worse to bear than if she had scolded. And then quite quickly she began to get better. But if I hadn’t come then, I believe she would have died.”
“Is she quite well now?” asked the child.
“Yes; quite strong and well again, and as bright as ever. She was so glad when Mrs. Leslie said I might come here and be her housemaid. My mother says it’s a grand thing to lie down to sleep at night feeling that her children are all safe, and she can never thank God enough for all He has done for me. I told her of you and your mother, and she prays for you every day, my mother does, that God may reward and bless you.”
The next morning, when Rosalie opened her eyes, she could not at first remember where she was. She had been dreaming she was in the dismal lodging house, and that Betsey Ann was touching her hand, and waking her for their ten minutes’ reading.
But when she looked up, it was only her little black kitten, which was feeling strange in its new home, and had crept up to her, and was licking her arm.
“Poor little kit!” said Rosalie, as she stroked it gently. “You don’t know where you are.” The kitten purred contentedly when its little mistress comforted it, and the child was at leisure to look round the room.
It was her cousin May’s little room; her Aunt Lucy had said she might sleep there until another room just like it was made ready for her. Rosalie was lying in a small and very pretty iron bedstead with white muslin hangings. She peeped out of her little nest into the room beyond.
Through the window she could see the fields and the trees and the blue hills, just as she had done from her Aunt Lucy’s windows. The furniture of the room was very neat and pretty, and Rosalie looked at it with admiring eyes. Over the washstand, and over the chest of drawers, and over the table were hung beautiful illustrated scriptures, and Rosalie read them one by one as she lay in bed. There was also a little bookcase full of May’s books, and a little wardrobe for May’s clothes. How much Rosalie wondered what her cousin was like, and how she wished the time would arrive for her to come home!
Then the little girl jumped out of bed, and went to the window to look out. The garden beneath her looked very lovely in the bright morning sunshine. The roses and geraniums and jessamine were just in their glory, and underneath the trees she could see patches of lovely ferns and mosses. How she wished her mother could have been there to see them also! She had always loved flowers so much.
Rosalie dressed herself, and went out into the garden. How sweet and peaceful everything seemed! She went to the gate—that gate which she had looked through a year before—and gazed out into the blue distance. As she was doing so, she heard the sound of wheels, and three or four caravans bound for Pendleton Fair went slowly down the road.
What a rush of feeling came over the child as she looked at them! Oh, how kind the Good Shepherd had been to her! Here she was, safe and sheltered in this quiet, happy home. She would never, never have to go to a fair or a theater again. Rosalie looked up at the blue sky above, and said from the bottom of her heart, “Oh, Good Shepherd, I do thank Thee very much for bringing me to the green pasture! Oh, help me to love Thee and please Thee more than ever! Amen.”