All the world must allow that Two-Shoes was not her real name. No; her father's name was Meanwell; and he was for many years a considerable farmer in the parish where Margery was born; but by the misfortunes which he met with in business, and the wicked persecutions of Sir Timothy Gripe, and an overgrown farmer called Graspall, he was effectually ruined.
The case was thus. The parish of Mouldwell, where they lived, had for many ages been let by the Lord of the Manor in twelve different farms, in which the tenants lived comfortably, brought up large families, and carefully supported the poor people who labored for them, until the estate by marriage and by death came into the hands of Sir Timothy.
This gentleman, who loved himself better than all his neighbors, thought it was less trouble to write one receipt for his rent than twelve, and Farmer Graspall offering to take all the farms as the leases expired, Sir Timothy agreed with him, and in process of time he was possessed of every farm but that occupied by Little Margery's father, which he also wanted; for as Mr. Meanwell was a charitable good man, he stood up for the poor at the parish meetings, and was unwilling to have them oppressed by Sir Timothy and this avaricious farmer.—Judge, O kind, humane, and courteous reader, what a terrible situation the poor must be in, when this covetous man was perpetual overseer, and everything for their maintenance was drawn from his hard heart and cruel hand. But he was not only perpetual overseer, but perpetual church-warden; and judge, O ye Christians, what state the church must be in, when supported by a man without religion or virtue. He was also perpetual surveyor of the highways, and what sort of roads he kept up for the convenience of travelers, those best knew who have had the misfortune to pass through that parish.—Complaints indeed were made, but to what purpose are complaints, when brought against a man who can hunt, drink, and smoke without the Lord of the Manor, who is also the Justice of the Peace?
The opposition which Little Margery's father made to this man's tyranny gave offense to Sir Timothy, who endeavored to force him out of his farm; and, to oblige him to throw up the lease, ordered both a brick kiln and a dog kennel to be erected in the farmer's orchard. This was contrary to the law, and a suit was commenced, in which Margery's father got the better. The same offense was again committed three different times, and as many actions brought, in all of which the farmer had a verdict, and cost paid him; but notwithstanding these advantages, the law was so expensive, that he was ruined in the contest, and obliged to give up all he had to his creditors: which effectually answered the purpose of Sir Timothy, who erected those nuisances in the farmer's orchard with that intention. Ah, my dear reader, we brag of liberty, and boast of our laws; but the blessings of the one, and the protection of the other, seldom fall to the lot of the poor; and especially when a rich man is their adversary. How, in the name of goodness, can a poor wretch obtain redress, when thirty pounds are insufficient to try his cause? Where is he to find money to fee counsel, or how can he plead his cause himself (even if he was permitted) when our laws are so obscure and so multiplied, that an abridgment of them cannot be contained in fifty volumes folio?
As soon as Mr. Meanwell had called together his creditors, Sir Timothy seized for a year's rent, and turned the farmer, his wife, Little Margery, and her brother out of doors, without any of the necessaries of life to support them.
This elated the heart of Mr. Graspall, this crowned his hopes, and filled the measure of his iniquity; for, besides gratifying his revenge, this man's overthrow gave him the sole dominion over the poor, whom he depressed and abused in a manner too horrible to mention.
Margery's father flew into another parish for succor, and all those who were able to move left their dwellings and sought employment elsewhere, as they found it would be impossible to live under the tyranny of two such people. The very old, the very lame, and the blind, were obliged to stay behind, and whether they were starved, or what became of them, history does not say, but the character of the great Sir Timothy, and avaricious tenant, were so infamous, that nobody would work for them by the day, and servants were afraid to engage themselves by the year, lest any unforeseen accident should leave them parishioners in a place where they knew they must perish miserably; so that great part of the land lay untilled for some years; which was deemed a just reward for such diabolical proceedings.
But what, says the reader, can occasion all this? do you intend this for children? Permit me to inform you, that this is not the book, sir mentioned in the title, but an introduction to that book; and it is intended, sir, not for that sort of children, but for children of six foot high, of which, as my friend has justly observed, there are many millions in the kingdom; and these reflections, sir, have been rendered necessary by the unaccountable and diabolical scheme which many gentlemen now give into, of laying a number of farms into one, and very often a whole parish into one farm; which in the end must reduce the common people to a stage of vassalage, worse than that under the barons of old, or of the clans in Scotland, and will in time depopulate the kingdom? but as you are tired of the subject I shall take myself away, and you may visit Little Margery.
Care and discontent shortened the days of Little Margery's father. He was forced from his family, and seized with a violent fever in a place where Dr. James's powder was not to be had, and where he died miserably. Margery's poor mother survived the loss of her husband but a few days, and died of a broken heart, leaving Margery and her little brother to the wide world; but, poor woman, it would have melted your heart to have seen how frequently she heaved her head, while she lay speechless, to survey with languishing looks her little orphans, as much as to say, "Do Tommy, do Margery, come with me." They cried, poor things, and she sighed away her soul; and I hope is happy.
It would both have excited your pity, and have done your heart good, to have seen how these two little ones were so fond of each other, and how hand in hand they trotted about.
They were both very ragged, and Tommy had no shoes, and Margery had but one. They had nothing, poor things, to support them (not being in their own parish) but what they picked from the hedges, or got from the poor people, and they lay every night in a barn. Their relations took no notice of them; no, they were rich, and ashamed to own such a poor little ragged girl as Margery, and such a dirty little curly pated boy as Tommy. Our relations and friends seldom take notice of us when we are poor; but as we grow rich they grow fond. And this will always be the case, while people love money better than they do God Almighty. But such wicked folks who love nothing but money and are proud and despise the poor, never come to any good in the end, as we shall see by and by.
Mr. Smith was a very worthy clergyman, who lived in the parish where Little Margery and Tommy were born; and having a relation come to see him, who was a charitable good man, he sent for these children to him. The gentleman ordered Little Margery a new pair of shoes, gave Mr. Smith some money to buy her clothes; and said he would take Tommy and make him a little sailor.
After some days the gentleman intended to go to London, and take little Tommy with him, of whom you will know more by and by, for we shall at a proper time present you with his history, his travels and adventures.
The parting between these little children was very affecting. Tommy cried, and they kissed each other an hundred times: at last Tommy thus wiped off her tears with the end of his jacket, and bid her cry no more, for that he would come to her again when he returned from sea.
As soon as Little Margery got up in the morning, which was very early, she ran all round the village, crying for her brother; and after some time returned greatly distressed.
However, at this instant, the shoemaker very opportunely came in with the new shoes, for which she had been measured by the gentleman's order.
Nothing could have supported Little Margery under the affliction she was in for the loss of her brother, but the pleasure she took in her Two-shoes. She ran out to Mrs. Smith as soon as they were put on, and stroking down her ragged apron thus cried out, "Two-Shoes, Ma'am, see Two-Shoes." And so she behaved to all the people she met, and by that means obtained the name of Goody Two-Shoes.
Little Margery was very happy in being with Mr. and Mrs. Smith, who were very charitable and good to her, and had agreed to bring her up with their family; but as soon as that tyrant of the parish, that Graspall, heard of her being there, he applied first to Mr. Smith, and threatened to reduce his tithes if he kept her; and after that he spoke to Sir Timothy, who sent Mr. Smith a peremptory message by his servant, that he should send back Meanwell's girl to be kept by her relations, and not harbor her in the parish. This so distressed Mr. Smith, that he shed tears and cried, "Lord have mercy on the poor!"
The prayers of the righteous fly upwards, and reach unto the throne of heaven, as will be seen by the sequel.
Mrs. Smith was also greatly concerned at being thus obliged to discard poor Little Margery. She kissed her, and cried, as did also Mr. Smith, but they were obliged to send her away, for the people who had ruined her father could at any time have ruined them.
Little Margery saw how good and how wise Mr. Smith was, and concluded that this was owing to his great learning, therefore she wanted of all things to learn to read. For this purpose she used to meet the little boys as they came from school, borrow their books, and sit down and read till they returned. By this means she got more learning than any of her playmates, and laid the following scheme for instructing those who were more ignorant than herself. She found that only the following letters were required to spell all the words; but as some of these letters are large, and some small, she with her knife cut out of several pieces of wood ten sets of each of these:—
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z.
And having got an old spelling book, she made her companions set up all the words they wanted to spell, and after that she taught them to compose sentences. "You know what a sentence is, my dear; 'I will be good,' is a sentence; and is made up, as you see, of several words."
I once went her rounds with her, and was highly diverted, as you may see, if you please to look into the next chapter.
It was about seven o'clock in the morning when we set out on this important business, and the first house we came to was Farmer Wilson's. Here Margery stopped, and ran up to the door, tap, tap, tap. "Who's there?" "Only Little Goody Two-Shoes," answered Margery, "come to teach Billy." "Oh! Little Goody," says Mrs. Wilson, with pleasure in her face, "I am glad to see you. Billy wants you sadly, for he has learned his lesson." Then out came the little boy. "How do, Doody Two-Shoes," says he, not able to speak plain. Yet this little boy had learned all his letters; for she threw down this alphabet mixed together thus:—
b d f h k m o q s u w y x f a c e g i l n p r t v z j,
And he picked them up, called them by their right names, and put them all in order thus:—
a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z.
The next place we came to was Farmer Simpson's.
"Bow, wow, wow," says the dog at the door. "Sirrah," says his mistress, "what do you bark at Little Two-Shoes; come in Madge; here, Sally wants you sadly, she has learned all her lessons."
"Yes, that's what I have," replied the little one, in the country manner: and immediately taking the letters she set up these syllables:—
ba be bi bob u, ca ce ci co cu,
da de di do du, fa fe fi fo fu,
and gave them their exact sounds as she composed them.
After this, Little Two-Shoes taught her to spell words of one syllable, and she soon set up pear, plumb, top, ball, pin, puss, dog, hog, fawn, buck, doe, lamb, sheep, ram, cow, bull, cock, hen, and many more.
The next place we came to was Gaffer Cook's cottage. Here a number of poor children were met to learn, who all came round Little Margery at once, and having pulled out her letters, asked the little boy next her, what he had for dinner? Who answered, "Bread" (the poor children in many places live very hard). "Well, then," says she, "set up the first letter." He put up the B, to which the next added r, and the next e, the next a, the next d, and it stood thus, Bread.
And what had you, Polly Comb, for your dinner? "Apple Pie," answered the little girl: upon which the next in turn set up a great A, the two next a p each, and so on, till the two words Apple and Pie were united and stood thus, Apple Pie.
The next had potatoes, the next beef and turnips, which were spelled, with many others, till the game of spelling was finished. She then set them another task, and we proceeded.
The next place we came to was Farmer Thomson's, where there was a great many little ones waiting for her.
"So, Little Mrs. Goody Two-Shoes," says one of them, "where have you been so long?" "I have been teaching," says she, "longer than I intended, and am, I am afraid, come too soon for you now." "No, but indeed you are not," replied the other: "for I have got my lesson, and so has Sally Dawson, and so has Harry Wilson, and so have we all;" and they capered about as if they were overjoyed to see her. "Why then," says she, "you are all very good, and God Almighty will love you; so let us begin our lessons." They all huddled round her, and though at the other place they were employed about words and syllables, here we had people of much greater understanding who dealt only in sentences.
The letters being brought upon the table, one of the little ones set up the following sentence.
"The Lord have mercy upon us, and grant that I may be always good, and say my prayers, and love the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my strength; and honor the king and all good men in authority under him."
Then the next took the letters, and composed this sentence.
"Lord have mercy upon me, and grant that I may love my neighbor as myself, and do unto all men as I would have them do unto me, and tell no lies! but be honest and just in all my dealings."
He that would thrive,
Must rise by five.
He that hath thriven.
May lay till seven.
Truth may be blamed
But can't be shamed.
Tell me with whom you go,
And I'll tell what you do.
A friend in your need,
Is a friend indeed.
They never can be wise,
Who good counsel despise.
As we were returning home, we saw a gentleman, who was very ill, sitting under a shady tree at the corner of the rookery. Though ill, he began to joke with Little Margery, and said, laughing, "So, Goody Two-Shoes, they tell me you are a cunning little baggage; pray can you tell me what I shall do to get well?" "Yes, sir," says she, "go to bed when your rooks do, and get up with them in the morning; earn, as they do, every day what you eat, and eat and drink no more than you earn: and you'll get health and keep it. What should induce the rooks to frequent gentlemen's houses, only but to tell them how to lead a prudent life? They never build under cottages or farm-houses, because they see that these people know how to live without their admonition.
Thus wealth and wit you may improve,
Taught by tenants of the grove."
The gentleman, laughing, gave Margery six pence, and told her she was a sensible hussy.
Who does not know Lady Ducklington, or who does not know that she was buried at this parish church? Well, I never saw a grander funeral in all my life: but the money they squandered away, would have been better laid out in little books for children, or in meat, drink, and clothes for the poor.
All the country round came to see the burying, and it was late before the corpse was interred. After which, in the night, or rather about two o'clock in the morning, the bells were heard to jingle in the steeple, which frightened the people prodigiously, who all thought it was Lady Ducklington's ghost dancing among the bell ropes. The people flocked to Will Dobbins, the clerk, and wanted him to go to see what it was; but William said he was sure it was a ghost, and that he would not offer to open the door. At length Mr. Long, the rector, hearing such an uproar in the village, went to the clerk, to know why he did not go into the church, and see who was there. "I go, sir?" says William, "why the ghost would frighten me out of my wits." Mrs. Dobbins too cried, and laying hold of her husband, said, he should not be eat up by the ghost. "A ghost, you blockhead," says Mr. Long in a pet, "did either of you ever see a ghost in a church, or know anybody that did?" "Yes," says the clerk, "my father did once in the shape of a windmill, and it walked all around the church in a trice, with jack boots on, and had a gun by its side, instead of a sword." "A fine picture of a ghost, truly," says Mr. Long; "give me the key of the church, you monkey; for I tell you there is no such thing now, whatever may have been formerly." Then taking the key, he went to the church, all the people following him. As soon as he had opened the door, what sort of a ghost do you think appeared? Why, Little Two-Shoes, who being weary had fallen asleep in one of the pews during the funeral service, and was shut in all night. She immediately asked Mr. Long's pardon for the trouble she had given him, told him she had been locked into the church, and said she should not have rung the bells, but that she was very cold, and hearing Farmer Boult's man go whistling by with his horses, she was in hopes he would have gone to the clerk for the key to let her out.
The people were ashamed to ask Little Madge any questions before Mr. Long, but as soon as he was gone, they all got round her to satisfy their curiosity, and desired she would give them a particular account of all that she had heard or seen.
"I went to the church, said she, as most of you did last night, to see the burying, and, being very weary, I sat me down in Mr. John's pew, and fell fast asleep. At eleven of the clock I awoke; which I believe was in some measure occasioned by the clock's striking, for I heard it. I started up, and could not at first tell where I was; but after some time I recollected the funeral, and soon found that I was shut in the church. It was dismal dark, and I could see nothing; but while I was standing in the pew, something jumped upon me behind, and laid, as I thought, its hands over my shoulders. I own I was a little afraid at first; however, I considered that I had always been constant at prayers, and at church, and that I had done nobody any harm, but had endeavored to do what good I could; and then thought I, what have I to fear? Yet I kneeled down to say my prayers. As soon as I was on my knees, something very cold, as cold as marble, aye, as cold as ice, touched my neck, which made me start; however, I continued my prayers, and having begged protection from Almighty God, I found my spirits come, and I was sensible I had nothing to fear; for God Almighty protects not only all those that are good, but also all those who endeavor to be good,—nothing can withstand the power, and exceed the goodness of God Almighty. Armed with the confidence of his protection, I walked down the church aisle, when I heard something pit, pat, pit, pat, pit, pat, come after me, and something touched my hand, which seemed as cold as a marble monument. I could not think what this was yet I knew that it could not hurt me, and therefore I made myself easy; but being very cold, and the church being paved with stones, which were very damp, I felt my way, as well as I could, to the pulpit; in doing which something rushed by me and almost threw me down. However, I was not frightened, for I knew that God Almighty would suffer nothing to hurt me.
"At last I found out the pulpit, and having shut the door, I laid me down on the mat and cushion to sleep; when something thrust and pulled the door, as I thought for admittance, which prevented my going to sleep. At last it cries, 'Bow, wow, wow;' and I concluded it must be Mr. Saunderson's dog, which had followed me from their house to church; so I opened the door, and called Snip, Snip, and the dog jumped upon me immediately. After this Snip and I lay down together, and had a comfortable nap; for when I awoke again it was almost light. I then walked up and down all the aisles of the church to keep myself warm; and though I went into the vaults, and trod on Lady Ducklington's coffin, I saw nothing, and I believe it was owing to the reason Mr. Long has given you, namely, that there is no such thing to be seen. As to my part, I would as soon lie all night in a church as in any other place; and I am sure that any little boy or girl, who is good and loves God Almighty, and keeps his commandments, may safely lie in the church, or the church yard, as anywhere else, if they take care not to be cold, for I am sure there are no things either to hurt or to frighten them; though any one possessed of fear might have taken Neighbor Saunderson's dog with his cold nose for a ghost; and if they had not been undeceived, as I was, would never have thought otherwise." All the company acknowledged the justness of the observation and thanked Little Two-Shoes for her advice.
After this, my dear children, I hope you will not believe any foolish stories that ignorant, weak or designing people may tell you about ghosts, for the tales of ghosts, witches, and fairies are the frolics of a distempered brain. No wise man ever saw either of them. Little Margery was not afraid; no she had good sense, and a good conscience, which is a cure for all these imaginary evils.
Some days after this, a more dreadful accident befell Little Madge. She happened to be coming late from teaching, when it rained, thundered, and lightened, and therefore she took shelter in a farmer's barn at a distance from the village. Soon after, the tempest drove in four thieves, who not seeing such a little creep-mouse girl as Two-Shoes, lay down on the hay next to her, and began to talk over their exploits, and to settle plans for future robberies. Little Margery, on hearing them, covered herself with straw. To be sure she was frightened, but her good sense taught her that the only security she had was in keeping herself concealed; therefore she lay very still, and breathed very softly. About four o'clock these wicked people came to a resolution to break both Sir William Dove's house and Sir Timothy Gripe's and by force of arms to carry off all their money, plate, and jewels; but as it was thought then too late, they all agreed to defer it till the next night. After laying this scheme, they all set out upon their pranks, which greatly rejoiced Margery, as it would any other little girl in her situation. Early in the morning she went to Sir William, and told him the whole of their conversation. Upon which he asked her name, then gave her something, and bid her call at his house the day following. She also went to Sir Timothy, notwithstanding he had used her so ill, for she knew it was her duty to do good for evil. As soon as he was informed who she was, he took no notice of her; upon which she desired to speak to Lady Gripe, and having informed her ladyship of the affair, she went away. This lady had more sense than her husband, which indeed is not a singular case; for instead of despising Little Margery and her information, she privately set people to guard the house. The robbers divided themselves, and went about the time mentioned to both houses, and were surprised by the guards and taken. Upon examining these wretches (one of which turned evidence), both Sir William and Sir Timothy found that they owed their lives to the discovery made by Little Margery; and the first took great notice of her, and would no longer let her lie in a barn; but Sir Timothy only said that he was ashamed to owe his life to the daughter of one who was his enemy; so true it is, "That a proud man seldom forgives those he has injured."
Mrs. Williams, who kept a college for instructing little gentlemen and ladies in the science of A, B, C, was at this time very old and infirm and wanted to decline this important trust. This being told to Sir William Dove, who lived in the parish, he sent for Mrs. Williams, and desired that she would examine Little Two-Shoes, and see whether she was qualified for the office. This was done, and Mrs. Williams made the following report in her favor, namely, that Little Margery was the best scholar, and had the best head and the best heart of any one she had examined. All the country had a great opinion of Mrs. Williams, and this character gave them also a great opinion of Mrs. Margery, for so we must now call her.
This Mrs. Margery thought the happiest period of her life; but more happiness was in store for her. God Almighty heaps up blessings for all those who love Him, and though for a time He may suffer them to be poor, and distressed, and hide his good purposes from human sight, yet in the end they are generally crowned with happiness here, and no one can doubt their being so hereafter.