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St. Nicholas Magazine for Boys and Girls, Vol. 5, January 1878, No. 3   By:

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[Illustration: TWO WAYS OF CARRYING THE MAIL. [See Letter Box.]]


VOL. V. JANUARY, 1878. No. 3.

[Copyright, 1877, by Scribner & Co.]


( A Story of the Middle Ages. )



In those old days, in that old city, they called the cathedral and they thought it the house of God. The cathedral was the Father's house for all, and therefore it was loved and honored, and enriched with lavish treasures of wealth and work, beyond any other father's house.

The cathedral was the Father's house, and, therefore, close to its gates might nestle the poor dwellings of the poor, too poor to find a shelter anywhere besides; because the central life and joy of the house of God was the suffering, self sacrificing Son of Man; and dearer to Him, now and forever, as when He was on earth, was the feeblest and most fallen human creature He had redeemed than the most glorious heavenly constellation of the universe He had made.

And so it happened that when Berthold, the stone carver, died, Magdalis, his young wife, and her two children, then scarcely more than babes, Gottlieb and little Lenichen, were suffered to make their home in the little wooden shed which had once sheltered a hermit, and which nestled into the recess close to the great western gate of the minster.

Thus, while inside from the lofty aisles pealed forth, night and day, the anthems of the choir, close outside, night and day, rose also, even more surely to God, the sighs of a sorrowful woman and the cries of little children whom all her toil could hardly supply with bread. Because, He hears the feeblest wail of want, though it comes not from a dove or even from a harmless sparrow, but a young raven. And He does not heed the sweetest anthem of the fullest choir, if it is a mere pomp of sound. Because, while the best love of His meanest creatures is precious to Him, the second best of His loftiest creatures is intolerable to Him. He heeds the shining of the drops of dew and the rustling of the blades of grass. But from creatures who can love he cannot accept the mere outside offering of creatures which can only make a pleasant sound.

All this, or such as this, the young mother Magdalis taught her babes as they could bear it.

For they needed such lessons.

The troubles of the world pressed on them very early, in the shape little children can understand little hands and feet nipped with frost, hunger and darkness and cold.

Not that the citizens of that city were hypocrites, singing the praises of God, whilst they let His dear Lazaruses vainly crave at His gates for their crumbs.

But Magdalis was very tender and timid, and a little proud; proud not for herself, but for her husband and his babes. And she was also feeble in health. She was an orphan herself, and she had married, against the will of her kindred in a far off city, the young stone carver, whose genius they did not appreciate, whose labor and skill had made life so rich and bright to them while he lived, and whose early death had left them all so desolate.

For his dear sake, she would not complain. For herself it had been easier to die, and for his babes she would not bring the shame of beggary on them. Better for them to enter into this life maimed of strength, she thought, by meager food, than tainted with the taint of beggary.

Rather, she thought, would their father himself have seen them go hungry to bed than deserve that the fingers of other children should be pointed scornfully at them as "the little beggars by the church door," the door of the church in which she gloried to think there were stones of his carving.

So she toiled on, carving for sale little devotional symbols crosses, and reliquaries, and lilies and lambs with the skill she had learnt from him, and teaching the little ones, as best she could, to love and work and suffer... Continue reading book >>

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