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Only that, being obliged at the same time to conduct the household arrangements of a large family, the methods of teaching she was often forced to adopt differed so widely from those of a well-ordered school, that a professional pedagogue might have wrung his hands in horror at witnessing them. It would sometimes happen, for instance, that while she stood busily engaged at the washing tub, we boys formed a circle round her, and jumping up and down in measured steps, recited, or rather sang, through the Latin declensions. She could seldom find quiet time for Bible history lessons in the day, so that this branch of study was mostly postponed until we lay in our beds in the evening. Then, sitting beside us, she would picture Bible scenes in such vivid colors that we were completely fascinated. When she did not appear quickly on these occasions we used to lie waiting in the greatest impatience, crying in a shrill key from time to time, "Mother, come tell us, tell us!" When very tired, she occasionally herself lay down to rest while narrating: but if she showed any symptoms of falling asleep and ceasing her tales, the young voices roused her with the ever-recurring question: "What then, mother?"
Once, feeling worn out, she was thus resting, while recounting the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus,2.1 and every moment seemed on the point of dropping off into slumber, so that the chorus of our voices sounded incessantly in urging her on. At length, quite overcome with drowsiness, she made one strong final effort to rouse her drooping faculties, and took up our question: "And then, the Saviour said 'O Nicodemus! you might just as well have come in the daytime.'"
At which assertion, we became aware that it was best to give up our delightful story for the time being, and let her rest in peace.
These lessons went on for some time, but she soon saw that it would be impossible for our education to flourish under such circumstances, and that we must be put into a proper school if we were to get forward in earnest. Our father, looking upon his very narrow means, would not hear of such a thing, and gave it as his opinion that an honest shoemaker was better off than a poor parson, and that unless one had means to educate the lads, it was much best to put them to a respectable trade.
Our mother, however, could not see the force of these arguments, and finally resolved to place her sons at school, trusting that God would help her to provide funds to carry them through a regular course of study. The two eldest, aged eleven and twelve, were thus dispatched to Leonberg, where, through the influence of a friend, who was glad to make some return for kindness she had once shown him, they gained admittance into a good and cheap boardinghouse. Our father, however, refused to contribute anything towards the expense incurred, and though only a small sum was required, the responsibility of providing it weighed heavily upon our mother. She could only obtain it by selling the produce of some fields attached to the parsonage, the management of which had always been left entirely to her care. Now, therefore, she made it her great object skillfully to husband these resources. She rarely hired laborers, but did the chief part of the field work herself, with the help of her daughters. At the same time, whilst continuing to supply the table as usual for my father, she and the children ate their frugal meals with the servants, their unvarying bill of fare being soup for breakfast, vegetables and dumplings for dinner, and sour milk with potatoes for supper. Meat was a luxury produced only on Sundays, and rare occasions. By means of such severe economy, she actually succeeded in supplying the requisite funds, though not always quite regularly. Now and then, blight, drought, or other trials of that sort disturbed the order of things: then distress prevailed, and good counsel would have been precious had we known where to go for it.
On one occasion, shortly before harvest, the fields stood thick with corn, and our mother had already calculated that their produce would suffice to meet all claims for the year. She was standing at the window casting the matter over in her mind, with great satisfaction, when her attention was suddenly caught by some heavy black clouds with white borders, drifting at a great rate across the summer sky. "It is a hailstorm!" she exclaimed in dismay, and quickly throwing up the window, she leaned out. Her eyes rested upon a frightful mass of wild storm cloud, covering the western horizon and approaching with rapid fury.
"O God!" she cried, "there comes an awful tempest, and what is to become of my corn!" The black masses rolled nearer and nearer, while the ominous rushing movement that precedes a storm began to rock the sultry air, and the dreaded hailstorms fell with violence. Half beside herself with anxiety about those fields lying at the eastern end of the valley, she now lifted her hands heavenward, and wringing them in terror cried, "Dear Father in heaven, what art Thou doing? Thou knowest I cannot manage to pay for my boys at school, without the produce of those fields! Oh! turn Thy hand, and do not let the hail blast my hopes!" Scarcely, however, had these words crossed her lips when she started, for it seemed to her as if a voice had whispered in her ear, "Is my arm shortened that it cannot help thee in other ways?" Abashed, she shrank into a quiet corner, and there entreated God to forgive her want of faith. In the meantime the storm passed. And now various neighbors hurried in, proclaiming that the whole valley lay thickly covered with hailstones, down to the very edge of the parsonage fields, but the latter had been quite spared. The storm had reached their border, and then suddenly taken another direction into the next valley. Moreover, that the whole village was in amazement, declaring that God had wrought a miracle for the sake of our mother whom He loved. She listened, silently adoring the goodness of the Lord, and vowing that henceforth her confidence should be only in Him.
2.1 John iii.
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