The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Wee Raimy; or, Nobody Told Me

by E. Seeley,
Author of "Only a Dog," "Easydale," &c.
Volume 3, 1892/93, pgs. 511-521

[Edis Searle published many books, including True Stories for Little People, Hetty's Resolve, Paulina's Ambition presumably using E. Seeley as a pen name.]

[The following short sketch is a child's story, but one that is not intended for child readers. It is addressed to those to whom the sacred charge of children is entrusted, to those who love them, and believe in the heaven that is prepared for them. It is intended to suggest the inquiry, Are we doing all we can for those little ones whose angels do always behold the Face of our Father who is in Heaven?]

Chapter II. "Are You Densely Ignorant?"

There was no creeping or climbing on the occasion of Rhoda's next meeting with her little friend. Mademoiselle had her own notions of propriety; nurse objected to frocks stained with moss and lichen, and Mrs. Court said: "Rhoda must not be a tomboy." So the days went by, and Raimy watched in vain for another glimpse of the bright face at the top of the wall. Once or twice, when taking a short, dull walk with Sarah, he caught a glimpse of his little friend driving with her mother in the big manor carriage, and his face flushed when he saw that she always kissed her hand and nodded to him; but the courage to return her greeting was always wanting to little Raimy, and Mrs. Court more than once remarked: "What a dull, stupid little boy he is, Rhoda;" and the child's only defence was: "He isn't always so, mother."

Little as either of them guessed it, just the same thought was in Raimy's mind: "I'm so stupid, I never know what to do and say; if my mother could come back, perhaps she would teach me."

But one day, pity mingling with contempt in Mrs. Court's mind, she said: "It would really be a charity to have that dull little boy here sometimes to play with Rhoda"; and a polite little note having been dispatched to the Rectory, Raimy, having been subjected to much soap and water and pomatum by Sarah, made a very scared and miserable appearance at the Manor. If the truth were known, I believe he had cried and begged to be allowed to stay at home; but this was not to be. The Rector had said, "Make the child tidy and send him"; and accordingly the deed was done. And Rhoda, whose blue eyes were gifted with unusually keen sight, was not slow to read the history of the past hour, and the prompt inquiry, "Why didn't you want to come, Raimy?" made the little boy more shamefaced than ever.

"Well, you see, Rhoda," he said timidly, "I don't know anybody here except you."

"Well, what then? It's best to know everybody, and then you'll never feel like that. But you've come to play with me, and Mademoiselle had a headache, and nurse has gone to see her sister; so there's nobody but mother and me. Daddy don't count."

"Doesn't count?" echoed Raimy.

"Why, no; you couldn't be afraid of him, he's such a good old soul, you know. Now, mother's different; she's a centre."

"A what, Rhoda?"

"A centre. I don't know what it means; but she always says when she's in town: 'Being the centre of a large circle, my time is not my own;' and when she is here, she says: 'Being the centre of all charities'--and something else. I can't remember the word--' I have not a minute I can all my own.'"

"That must be dreadful," said Raimy, with wide open eyes. "Can't she help being a centre? I wouldn't be."

"No, but, Raimy, do you know, I do believe she likes it. It's bad for me, though, because, you see, if I ask her to read stories to me, she has not a minute to spare; and last Sunday, when I wanted to ask her something about the chapter your father read in church, she was busy with those big girls from the farms, and she couldn't bear to have me in the room; she said I made such a fuss, I addled her brains."

"Why does she have those big girls, then; little girls are much nicer?"

"She teaches them out of the Bible, and she tells daddy they are densely ignorant. Last Sunday they hadn't the least idea who the Amalekites were, and she said to daddy, 'Isn't it shocking?' and daddy said, 'Shocking!' But do you know, Raimy, I don't believe daddy knew his own self, for he got up and walked away, just as if he was afraid mother would ask him."

"I don't know," said Raimy dolefully.

"Oh, never mind, it doesn't matter; I know they're a kind of birds, but I don't think they live in England. Mademoiselle hadn't the least idea, for I asked her."

"Rhoda," said Raimy solemnly, "are you densely ignorant?"

"About the Bible? Of course I am. I've got a beauty, but mother keeps it because it is too good for me to have yet; so I never read it. They read bits at prayers and in church, but I don't understand."

"I haven't got a Bible," replied Raimy, "but I can't read; so it doesn't matter. But I wish I knew what my prayer means?"

"Why don't you ask your father? He is a clergyman, and he's sure to know."

"I did ask," said Raimy mournfully, "but he was vexed and he didn't tell me. He said I ought to know."

"Well, then," exclaimed his little friend, jumping up, "I'll tell you what it is, Raimy; he doesn't know himself. I've found that out. When grown-up people say you ought to know, and don't explain, it's just because they can't. But it's a shame, and we'll find out, Raimy, you and I--see if we don't. Let's see, what is it you want to know?"

"I want to know what my prayer means--'for Christ's sake.' That the first thing, Rhoda."

"All right; let's see. Mademoiselle won't know, she always says, 'talk about the things religious with Madame votre mère,' so she does not know; and nurse won't know, because she goes to chapel, not to church, and mother says they are an ignorant set at that chapel; and mother, it's of no use to ask her, she'll say, 'Run away, Rhoda, and don't tease, child, I'm getting ready for my mothers' meeting, and can't stop to talk to you;' and daddy, dear old soul, I'm afraid he doesn't know much, because, you see, he always go to sleep in church. He can't help it, you know, because your father preaches such bad sermons, all the people are so glad when they are over. Why, Raimy, as soon as he has said the last words the people jump up and rush out as if the church was on fire."

"I know," said Raimy sadly. "I watch them coming out from the top of the steps. But don't you hear anything about Christ when you go to church, Rhoda?" "I hear the word very often, but I don't know much about it, because you see I don't often listen; but I think I will next Sunday, and try and find out all you want to know."

"Yes, do. Oh, what a nice dog!" And thereupon Raimy's anxieties and shyness were forgotten in the interest of seeing Rhoda's many possessions--her pony, some chickens, a black lamb, and a large and very friendly Scotch collie. Tea in the garden followed, feeding some ducks in a pond was the next excitement, and when bedtime came the little fellow was as sorry to go as he had been afraid to come.

"I shall come and see you next Saturday when mother goes out visiting, and you must persuade your nurse to give us our tea under that old mulberry-tree in the garden," Rhoda said as they parted. He escaped without seeing either the good old soul, Rhoda's father, or the mother, whom, under the strange description of a centre, he had vainly tried to picture to himself.

"Why did you let the little fellow go without bringing him to speak to me?" asked Mrs. Court of her little daughter when she came to bid her good-night.

The child, whose most striking characteristic was a reckless straightfowardness of speech, answered concisely, "Because I knew he did not want to come."

"Did he say so, my dear? He is shy, as may be plainly seen, but his father is a gentleman and his mother was of good family; probably the child has refined feelings though his training has been neglected. You should not encourage him to be rude."

"He isn't rude, and he didn't say he didn't want to come; but I knew it quite well. Mother, he is a little heathen, just like me."

"A heathen just like you, Rhoda. What a queer child you are! Who called you a heathen?"

"Nobody; I called myself a heathen because I'm just like the children that missionary man told us about, who came to lunch last week, and so is Raimy Austen, and so are Beatrice and Mary Cope, and my cousins at Weybridge, and all the little girls and boys I know. We know there's a God who made us, like the Great Spirit the North American chief talked about; but nobody teaches us about Him, except Mr. Austen in church, and we can't understand him one bit. If we were like the village children and went to school, we might learn something. Mr. Austen sees that the children in the school are taught; but oh, so much!" And Rhoda stopped, breathless.

"My dear," said Mrs. Court, amazed, letting fall the pen which she had taken up to continue an article she was writing for a charitable society; it was needed immediately, but the torrent of Rhoda's words had driven away the thoughts which she was rapidly committing to paper, and she more than half wished that the child had not come in just at this moment to break the thread of her ideas, and disturb the flow of her earnest words. "My dear," she repeated, "what folly it is to talk in this way! You have a Christian home, religious parents and friends, and excellent governess, and though you may not understand Mr. Austen now while you are so young--and, indeed, he is not altogether an enlightened man--yet no doubt you will learn something from him when you are older. Now, run away, my dear, and don't talk rubbish."

And Rhoda went away, rebuked but not convinced, and when she went to bed she hunted up an old Bible from the schoolroom cupboard, and opening it, began to read. But the print was small, the paper old and yellow, and Rhoda, who was not a fluent reader for all her eight years, soon grew weary of her self-imposed task and put the book away. She had begun at the beginning and glanced down several pages. "But there is nothing about Christ here, and that's what Raimy wants to know, and I said we could find out, and so we will. But I'm afraid Saturday will come first, and he'll be disappointed again. Poor little Raimy! What a funny little man he is." And so thinking, Rhoda's reflections ended in sleep.

Two matters were much in her little friend's mind during the succeeding days, and as he played with his toad, fed his sick bird, and watched his caterpillars; he was ever and always asking himself, How could he manage to do his part towards the accomplishment of their great discovery, and how also could he carry out his little queen's behest, and induce Sarah to spread a little tea-table for them under the mulberry-tree. He was in the habit of getting his tea anywhere, sitting on the garden steps or at a corner of the kitchen table, and to have any ceremony about this meal would not, he feared, be at all pleasing in the eyes of Sarah.

Difficulties of this kind were apt to grow gigantic in Raimy's eyes, even to the point of keeping him awake at night. Would Sarah give them a real proper tea, such as she and cook had when they had friends to entertain, with proper cups and saucers, some thin bread-and-butter, and perhaps some cake or strawberries; or would she say she couldn't be bothered? Such were the little boy's apprehensions: how Rhoda would have laughed had she known it! All Saturday morning he was trying to screw his courage up to the point of making the necessary request to Sarah, restlessly following her from room to room, but always retreating when she remarked, as she did repeatedly, "What ails the child? He's like an uneasy ghost to-day." Then he would go back to the garden, and sitting on the steps by the sun-dial, wonder what he must do. It was while he was sitting thus, with his head on his hands and his elbows on his knees, that he heard the tones of the organ in the church hard by; the door was open, and the organist was practicing, and ever and anon his voice was heard accompanying the music. Raimy listened as he had done many a time before; he was fond of music, especially the soft, solemn music, such as that the organ was not giving forth. It ceased; then again broke out, and to Raimy's ear came the words mingling with the music, "Come unto Me, ye----" He lost the rest; the voice and music went on, now rising, now sinking; and ever and anon returned those words, "Come unto Me--Come unto Me."

Raimy got up; the little gate which separated the churchyard from the Rectory garden stood open, as did also the great door of the church; very quietly he crept along between the thick bushes, and yews, and cypresses, until he stood within the porch, and still the voice sang, "Come unto Me--Come unto Me." And into the quiet, cool shade of the church he passed. "God's house," the child whispered. Sarah had told him this with the design of frightening him into quietness on the rare occasions when she had taken him there, and, naturally timid, he had been only too ready to conceive an overwhelming fear of this unknown God. But that fear was for the time forgotten; the organ still played soft music, and Raimy sat himself down on a footstool by the font and listened. Suddenly his eyes were attracted by the bright colours of a window which had been recently placed in the church, in the side aisle, not far from the spot where he sat. In his favourite attitude, with his elbows on his knees and his chin on his hands, he gazed at this window. Raimy was a dreamy, thoughtful child, much given to gazing and wondering, but never in his short life had he found anything which so fixed his rapt attention as the Face that looked at him from that window.

The organ had ceased, the organist had gone away, and still Raimy sat and looked. From time to time his eyes wandered from the central figure to the babe nestled in the Saviour's arms, to the little ones standing by His knee; but they always returned to their steadfast gaze on His face, and rested there content.

"I have found it out," he whispered. And, all other cares forgot, he lingered in the quiet church, till Rhoda, having sought him in vain all round the Rectory garden, and discovering the little gate open, came peeping into the church to ascertain if, by any chance, he might have strayed there.

Then he woke from his dream, and with his pale face all aglow, he came to meet her.

"Rhoda, Rhoda, come and sit here. I've found it out--I've found it out!"

"Found what? Oh, that picture? Yes, I saw it on Sunday. It's pretty. That's a dear little baby; I should like to kiss it."

"The baby--oh yes; but, Rhoda, look, look at His face. That is Christ. I know it is; and He doesn't tell the children to run away, but He says, 'Come unto Me,' as the man was singing when I came into church. See, He is holding out His hand to that boy who is frightened, and He says, 'Come unto Me.' He is so fond of children that God will make us good to please Him; that's what my prayer means--I'm quite sure of it, Rhoda. Aren't you sure to?" And the little fellow, astonished at his own eloquence, dropped his eyes, and became once more his own shy little self.

Rhoda did not feel so sure. "Somebody ought to tell us these things, Raimy," she said. "If that beautiful face is Christ's, and if He loves children so much as that, it's a shame that nobody ever told us so. But I'll ask daddy about that picture; he's never too busy to talk, and though he doesn't know much, he may know that, and he's such a good old soul."

"I know it now," said Raimy, with a strange confidence. "Do you want to go, Rhoda?"

"Yes; I want my tea. Have you settled about it, Raimy? There's such a nice place under the mulberry-tree."

No, Raimy had settled nothing.

"Well, then," said Rhoda, "I'll see it about it myself. Gentlemen don't understand such things. I'll go and find Sarah." And accordingly off she ran, and before long a small table was set under the trees, and a dainty set of china, which had long been stowed away on a top shelf in Sarah's pantry, was dusted and set out," that that child mayn't go home and make fun of our ways," as Sarah remarked; while Raimy, roused to unusual activity by his little friend's example, begged a plate of strawberries from the gardener, and thus the entertainment was complete.

Chapter III. Come Unto Me.

"Such a pity! But, my dear Mrs. Court, the Rector shuts himself up in his study, and trusts those servants of his implicitly, and they take no more heed to the poor child than if he was a cat or a dog; and so it's my firm belief he won't get over it."

"And how did it happen--how came the child to fall into the mill-stream?"

"Oh, that we shall never know. He was out walking with the housemaid, and she was talking, just for a minute, with a friend--one knows what that means--and she missed the child, and then saw him the next minute being whirled down the stream. It's almost a miracle he was got out before he was caught by the wheel; but as far as I can make out, the shock and the chill have been too much for the child--he was always weakly, and the nursing-- Well, how the Rector can trust those women, I can't imagine."

"How sad," said Mrs. Court; "poor little boy!" And the visitor spoke of other things, and went away.

The lady of the house accompanied her to the door, and was returning to her seat and her former occupation, when Rhoda, who had been busy over the manufacture of a doll's bonnet in one corner of the room, darted towards her.

"Mother, what does it mean? Is Raimy dying?"

"Well, dear, you heard what Mrs. Worth said; being the doctor's wife, she probably knows his opinion. But we must hope and pray that the poor little fellow may be spared."

"Daddy said a tumble into the water never did a boy any harm," Rhoda exclaimed. "Why should he die, mother?"

"He is a delicate child, and I fear he was longer in the water than they knew. But don't be unhappy, darling; I daresay your little friend will recover."

"May I go see him, mother?"

"No, certainly not. They would not let you see him; absolute quiet must be necessary--that I am certain."

"Then he has nobody to talk to him, only Sarah and cook, who won't care whether he dies or not; and his father, who sits and reads big books all day long, and never speaks to Raimy. Mother, let me go and talk to him."

"When people are ill, Rhoda, they don't desire company or conversation; but I will call this afternoon, and find out how the poor child is."

"And take me, too, mother."

"We will see."

Rhoda went back to her doll's bonnet, and her mother resumed the consideration of some accounts for the village Provident Society which were of a rather complicated nature, but she was not to be left in peace. "That queer child," as Mrs. Court mentally described her daughter, was not so easily satisfied.

"Mother," she said, lying down the doll's bonnet, and fixing an earnest gaze on Mrs. Court, "if I had tumbled into the water and got a bad chill, and was going to die, what do you think would happen to me?"

Mrs. Court hesitated. "What do you mean, Rhoda?"

"Oh, mother, don't you see? If I died, if I went away from you, and daddy, and Mademoiselle--away out of this house, out of my nice little bedroom--away from my dolls, my pony, the dogs, and everything--where should I go, what would happen next."

Mrs. Court was silent, but Rhoda's eyes were on her, eagerly demanding an answer. At last she said, "You are asking a difficult question, my dear."

"Yes, mother, but you are clever; can't you answer me? If I were to die--and I may fall into a stream some day and be drowned right off--where should I go? Will it be an end of me altogether?"

"No, Rhoda, most certainly not."

"Then where shall I go? Mother, don't you care?"

"Rhoda, child, how you talk! Care!--you don't know how much. But your future, whether here or in another world, I must trust to God, and believe that since I have given my child to God, He will take care of her."

"I don't understand one bit," said Rhoda. "Don't you know any more than that, mother? Don't you know where I shall go when I die?"

There was a long silence. At last Rhoda uttered an impatient despairing exclamation, and her mother said: "I will try to make you understand Rhoda, if you will listen. Suppose that for some reason or other it was necessary for me to send you away from home, I might ask your Aunt Lucy to take charge of you, and take you away to the sea; but as I know and love your aunt very much, I might not make many inquiries about the place to which you were going, because I should trust her. In the same way, if you were to die, I should hope that our Saviour Christ had taken you to Himself; and so, though I should know very little about the place where you were, I should be sure you were safe with Him."

Rhoda listened eagerly, and Mrs. Court hoped the discussion was at an end; but no, the child was not satisfied, and before long, in her usual impetuous fashion out came the truth. "That is all very well for you, mother, but for me it would be very hard--to go away from daddy and you, and this beautiful place, all alone with some one I don't know at all. Raimy asked me some time ago who Christ was, and I couldn't tell. Mother, if you know Him, why don't you tell me all about Him."

There was no reply, and Rhoda went on: "You'd never put me on board a ship and send me to Africa or America with some stranger I'd never heard of. I'm sure you wouldn't."

"No, but I might send you with some dear friend whom I could trust with all my heart."

The child looked up.

"Mother, tell me all about Him first. Why shouldn't He be my friend too?" And while Rhonda was thus pouring out some of the thoughts and longing which her recent friendship with little Raymond Austen had produced, on his sick-bed the little boy was praying, "Let me go, let me go to the church; let me see His face. Will He put His arm round me, and draw me close, close, close?" And then, again starting as if in terror: "Oh, the water is going over my head. I can't see His face; but He calls, Come unto Me, come unto Me. Let me go, let me go." And when they hushed and soothed him, and bade him lie still, meekly as was his wont he lay back, saying piteously: "Nobody told me, nobody told me. I wanted to know; why did nobody tell me?"

"Tell you what, Raimy?" said his father; but the child looked beyond him as if seeing some one far away, repeating still, "Nobody told me."

"Told him what?" they asked each other, and no one guessed his meaning. "He is wandering," they said. "Oh, if he would but sleep."

"Sarah, Sarah, let me get up; I want to look for Him."

Lie still, little one, thou needst not seek. He is beside thee, close at hand, and lo! as He draws near, the eyelids close, the lips part in a loving smile, and the child sleeps. And why? He has taken him up in His arms, laid His hands upon and blessed him; for of such in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Proofread by LNL, August, 2023