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gestive of a happier abode, with the sole exception of the name. The whole place looked dingy in the extreme, and its inhabitants were mostly very poor, each owning but a single room, which in many cases measured little more than a good-sized cupboard.
But nevertheless one of those same small rooms was Betty's home, and she heaved a sigh of relief as, producing a key from the depths of her capacious pocket, she unlocked the door and set down her heavy load on the nearest chair. Then, fumbling for the matches, she lit a piece of candle stuck in the neck of an unused medicine bottle, and forthwith covered up her basket with a clean white cloth, and thrust it away out of sight beneath the bed. Next she sat down to rest, but not yet was her evening's work complete, and as a hollow cough proceeded from the adjoining room, she gazed in that direction, with an anxious expression on her rough, weatherbeaten face.
For on the other side of the wall lay a sick woman, Betty's sole remaining friend, and one whom she reverenced and loved with all the warmth of her generous heart. For ten long years had they dwelt side by side in that same house, and many was the time that Betty had received a trifling kindness from her neighbour's hands. Nor was she slow to repay the debt; and now that her friend lay weak and ill, she waited on her from day to day with all the little skill at her command. Nay, more than that; several times lately, when her own day's work was done, she had stood at her neighbour's wash-tub to preserve her the "wee bit washing" that was all her living. For her friend, Mrs. Leslie, was a washerwoman, not one who called at the houses of the wellto-do and carried back a heavy pile of white goods, but a humble washer for the poor, for those whose occupation in workshops and factories left but little time for domestic duties. Once she had been better off, and the neighbours thought her proud and reserved, and said " she kept herself to herself," because her ways were gentler and more refined than theirs. But an unsteady husband had been the cause of her quick descent in the social scale, and though his folly and intemperance brought on a comparatively early death, she had never been able to recover her lost position, and the last few years had been one hard fight with poverty, to keep out of the dreaded workhouse.
Still to her had come, in those days of difficulty and trial, the best knowledge that can come to any human being— the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, she was the daughter of a King, though no Court list would have owned her name, and her feet were almost on the threshold of His palace-home. A few more hours, and she would see Him in His beauty, and behold the land that is very far off.
But no such glowing vision of the future filled Betty's heart that evening, and, as another fit of coughing sounded on her ear, she rose from her seat, and taking down an old tin box from the shelf, carefully examined its contents. Three penny pieces, one halfpenny, and a sixpence; no amount of calculation could make them more. Betty fingered the coins with an uneasy mind, for the money belonged, not to her, but to her friend, and it represented the balance in hand of a few odd shillings sent her by a kindly employer the previous week. But the rent of her little room, one half-hundredweight of coals, and a few small necessaries, had quickly swallowed the remainder of the amount, and Betty knew of no other source from which Mrs. Leslie might expect a similar gift.
"She told me not to worry," muttered Betty to herself, "and it's true enough she's never wanted yet, though she's been uncommon short sometimes. Well, I'd give something for her easy way of minding things; I don't believe she frets no more than a child." And with an undefined hope that something would yet turn up, Betty put back the tin, the only cash-box she possessed, relocked her door on the outside, and, with the lighted candle in her hand, stepped along the narrow passage to her neighbour's room.
"It's only me, Mrs. Leslie; don't you be afeard," said Betty, gently opening the door and walking up to the bed in the corner. The light of her candle fell across the face of the sick woman, and despite its wrinkled and pallid appearance, there was something so calm and peaceful in its general expression that a little child might have leant over to kiss the hollow cheek.
Mrs. Leslie unclosed her eyes. "I thought I heard you come in, Betty, a while ago, and I'm main glad to see you; but it's early yet, the church clock struck nine not five minutes since. I've been listening to that clock all the evening."
Her voice sounded stronger than it had done for days, and for the moment Betty was deceived. "You're better the night, I'm thinking," she said briskly; "couldn't you eat something? I'd get a bit of fried fish, or a kipper, round the corner."
Mrs. Leslie shook her head. "I don't want anything," she said; "but I'm out of pain now, thank God. And something seems to tell me I shan't be here much longer .... perhaps to-night.... and I want to say a few things to you first. I've been laying and thinking over them .... I don't think I shall live till morning."
Betty would have protested, but another look at the face of her dying neighbour checked the words on her tongue. After all, it was but the realisation of her own worst fears, and, with a choking sensation in her throat, she turned away to attend to the fire that was getting low. Next she busied herself about the room, but there was little there for her to do. With the exception of a huge bundle of shavings, brought home on Betty's shoulders the previous day, the space was mainly divided between a small rickety table, several washing-tubs, and two wooden chairs, the one without a back, the other with a piece of deal nailed across to form the seat. Three or four cups and saucers, a teakettle, saucepan, and a few small etcasteras made up the remainder of the furniture. Betty made a faint pretence of putting these various articles straight; then, having no further excuse for lingering about the room, she returned once more to the bedside of her dying friend.
Mrs. Leslie had watched her somewhat noisy movements with tear-moistened eyes; she understood their meaning. "You mustn't fret, Betty," she said, feebly clasping the large rough hand ; "you mustn't fret. You've been a good friend to me, you have. A lot of trouble I've given you, and you've never said a word about it."
"You'd have done the same for me," said Betty. "When I sprained my foot that time, and couldn't go out selling, it was you who kept me from starving quite," and unable longer to restrain her tears, she broke into heavy sobs, and rocked herself to and fro on the tumbledown chair.
Mrs. Leslie lay silent a few minutes, scarcely less affected than her companion. But the time was fleeting fast, and she had much to say.
"Betty," she began at last, in a low, firm tone, "Betty, you mustn't take on so ; it's all right. I'm going to heaven, where Jesus is. I wish I'd talked more to you about it all, but mind you come too, and it's the same way for us both. I'm not good, no more than you; but 'Christ died for the ungodly,' and that is all my hope. I used to try so hard; I thought I'd got to earn heaven, but the more I tried, the worse I'd seem. Then He came and showed me what He'd done. I thought I saw Him on the cross, as clearly as I see you, and I heard Him say, 'It is finished,' and what could I do, when He'd done all? I gave myself clean away to Him, there and then. I just said, ' Dear Lord, if Thou wantest such a poor sinner as I've been, here I am, take me, for Thou bid'st me come, and now I see Thee as Thou art, I cannot stay away.' And he took me just as I was. At nights I used to lie awake, and think over the hymn I never understood till then. Sometimes I'd say it aloud, for I knew that He was listening:
"'Just as I am—without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me.
Just as I am—Thou wilt receive,
"I know the words," said Betty; "it's what my mother used to say, and she learnt them me."
"Aye, and they're beautiful," said her friend. "Just as I am, that was how I came at last, and He took me in. Folks used to wonder after that, because I never feared; but why should I? Hadn't I heard him say, 'Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out'? And wasn't His word enough? It would have been an insult like, to answer back, 'But, Lord, I am not sure that Thoul't keep Thy promise.' And all through these years since, I can't tell you what He's been to me. Jacob called the place where the Lord met him the House of God, and I've sometimes called this room my Bethel, my House of God, for surely He's been often here. And oh ! the comfort he has brought me. I didn't fret at being poor, like I used; He was worse off than me, for He'd no roof to shelter Him. And when I was in want, didn't He say, 'Your Father knoweth ye have need of all these things.' If I'd only a penny left, He knew that too, and I was never troubled; that would have been an insult too; for hadn't I His promise,' My God shall supply all your need.' I've always told Him everything, and if I've felt lonesome, I've heard Him say, ' There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.' And He's never left me. He said He never would, and now He's taking me away at last, and I'm glad to go, and yet. . . and yet... I feel so ashamed of myself, I scarcely ever spoke to any of them all. I always meant to; I did try once or twice, but the neighbours shut me up, and somehow after that I seldom tried again: How I wish I'd been more faithful! But it's too late now."
"I stopped you, I know," sobbed Betty; "I shied some orange-peel at ye once; 'twas when you first come here."
"I'd forgotten it, I had; but you've let me talk to you