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Age suitability 8 Plus
From Anyhow Stories by Lucy Lane Clifford.
Start of Story
LONG years ago, my children, all through a dreary
afternoon a child sat in a garret working a sampler.
Do you know what a sampler is ? It is a bit of
canvas on which are worked in cross-stitch some
words, and now and then some little pictures. Long
ago children were always taught to make them, so
that when they became women they might know
how to mark their table-cloths and pillow-cases and
all the linen of the house, for in those days no tidy
housewife had thought of writing her name in ink
upon her belongings.
The child's brother was busy at the other end of
the garret making a table. At Christmas time a
great lady had sent him a box of tools ; so with some
bits of wood his uncle the carpenter had given him
he set to work to make her a little table, just as a
mark of his gratitude, and to show her how useful
the tools would be and how well he meant to work
with them. And all the time he was cutting and
fitting and measuring the little bits of wood, he was
thinking of a book his father had once read to him.
The book was written by a wise man, and the wise
man had said that he who made the first perfect
thing of its kind, no matter how small or simple the
thing might be, had worked not merely for himself
but for the whole world. He left off for a moment
to wonder how this might be, and to think how grand
a thing it was to work for the world. " It is a
beautiful place," his father said on the day they had
read the book together, " and a grand thing to think
we have all of us the making of its furniture." Then
the boy looked up at the window and at the shoe-
maker's bench that stood by it, and at an unfinished
shoe, a little child's shoe, that was on the bench.
" Father takes so much trouble to work well," he said
to himself. " He often says that when one does well,
one does some good to the whole world, for one helps
to make it better ; and that when one does badly or
does wrong, one does it to the whole world and helps
to make it worse than one found it.
But," he added,
" that cannot be so always. How, for instance, can the
whole world know about a little shoe V Suddenly he
looked at his sister and noticed that the tears were
stealing down her face, though she tried to hide
them, and went bravely on with her sampler, working
the figures that made her name and age thus
AGED 7 YEARS.
He watched her and wondered. " If she works her
sampler well, will it be good for the whole world ?"
And then he saw her tears again, and in a moment
it seemed as if, of their own accord, his arms had
twined round her neck.
"What is the matter? "he asked softly. "You
dear little sister, why are you grieving ?"
" Daddy is so ill," she sobbed. " He will never be
" I will love you for him when he is gone," he
said. " I will take care of you just as he did ; I will
take care of you all my life." Then, though her
tears flowed faster, she was comforted.
" Oh, but I wish I could do something for him,
because I love him," she cried.
The boy was silent for a few minutes, and stood
thinking of all that their father had been to them.
Then he said
" We can't do anything for him now, but we will
do things all our lives for him."
Then while the children stood still close together
a woman entered. "You may come and see your
father," she said. "You must tread softly; he is
very ill." She looked round the room and saw the
chips of wood upon the floor.
" I put the room tidy ; you needn't have made
such a mess," she grumbled ; " I am tired enough."
But the boy only heard her as if in a dream, and as
if in a dream thought, " I will gather up all the bits
by and by, and put the room neat and straight ; "
and then with soft steps and grave faces the brother
and sister went to their father. He was lying on a
little bed in the back garret. The children looked
round at the whitewashed walls, then up at the little
shelf of books above their father's head, then down
at their father's face.
" My lass, is that you ? " the cobbler said. " And
what have you been doing ? "
"I have been making this," she answered, and
held up the sampler.
" And I have been making the little table," the
boy said, answering his father's look ; " it is a deal
of trouble to get the bits to fit in and lie flat."
" Never mind the trouble, dear lad," the cobbler said
gently, looking up at his boy's face ; it always told
him what was in the boy's heart just as the hands of
a clock told him the time that ticked and ticked
away behind it. " Never mind the trouble, lad," he
repeated ; " it's because you are sorry a bit to-day
that you feel it. You must not think of trouble if
you can only do a thing as well as it can be done
that is all the great men do."
" It's no use wasting his time over that table ; it is
sure to be covered by a cloth," the woman said. " It
would do just as well if he were quicker about it," and
she left the room. She was a lodger in the same house
with the cobbler, and was often puzzled at his ways.
When she had gone, the cobbler turned to his son
again. " Don't heed her, lad," he said. " Do your
best ; do it, lad, don't dream of doing it good work
lives for ever. It may go out of sight for a time ;
you mayn't see it or hear of it once it leaves your
hand ; you may get no honour by it, but that's no
matter ; good work lives on ; it doesn't matter what
it is, it lives on." And then, tired out, the cobbler
closed his eyes and slept so sweet a sleep, my
children, that he never knew waking more
The children were weary of sitting alone in the
twilight. They had nothing to say to each other ;
they could not see to work, and the sister's eyes
ached with crying, and the boy's heart ached with a
still sorer pain.
" Let us go to the garden," he said ; and hand in
hand they went down the stairs, treading softly and
slowly lest they should wake the cobbler from his
sleep. They sat on the stone steps that led to the
garden an untidy dirty garden, in which nothing
grew save a little creeper planted in a painted wooden
They looked at the creeper ; they could dimly
see the tendrils struggling to grow up and up just a
little way towards the garret window. They wondered
if it would grow as high as the shoemaker's bench in
the front room, and they thought of the little shoe
their daddy had begun to make for the child whose
name they did not know. The stars came out one
by one ; the little sister's eyes filled with tears when
she saw them, for it seemed to her that they had
changed since she had seen them last, or else that
she knew them better. They looked so soft and
kind, as if they saw her and were sorry, perhaps as
if they loved her just a little bit; and oh, they looked
so wise, as if in that great far-off from which they
shone all things were known and understood.
" Dear brother," she whispered, " I wonder if they
see the little shoe, and Daddy's face and Daddy's
books just above his head ? "
" I can't tell," the boy answered softly, " but I
think they know about them."
"Perhaps they knew Daddy loved us," she
" Perhaps they did," he answered with a sigh,
and then he said suddenly, "We have so many
things to do ; we must make a great many things
and send them into the world, because he loved us."
"Wouldn't it have mattered about them if he
had not loved us ? " she asked.
" Oh yes, it would have mattered, he answered ;
" but I don't think we could have done them, love
makes one so strong ; it helps one to do and to bear
so many things."
" Yes," she said softly, as they turned to leave the
garden, " we must make the world a great many things
and tell it Daddy sent them." She saw the wind stir
the creeper in the painted box, and she said to herself,
" Perhaps the little leaves can hear," and as she stood
on the top of the steps looking up at the sky once
more before she followed her brother into the house,
she thought, " Perhaps the dear stars know."