T was twilight. "Shadows from the fitful fire-light Danced upon the parlor wall." Soon, though, the evening lamps were lighted. There was every reason why all should be bright and merry, unless—well, there was a circle round the moon, and not one star was to be seen within the circle,—a sign, according to the kitchen authorities, that there would be rain the next day, —the very day of all the year when the young people of the house were to go on a chestnut-hunt. 

Every preparation had been made. And now if, after all, it should rain! Amy and Wallace sighed at the thought; but Sue and Rufus refused to entertain it for a moment. 

 “Nothing quite so bad could happen," they said. "If it does, we will never plan any fun again—no, not as long as we live!" 

"Don't cross the bridge till you come to it,' —which means, of course, ' Do not borrow trouble," said wise Uncle Ben. 

"Neither would I believe in all the weather-signs that I chanced to hear," added Stanley, a tall brother. 

But the mother said, "I must introduce you to my Shepherd of Salisbury Plain." Ann, who had just come in from the kitchen, gave a quick, bright look, which did not escape the keen eyes of Master Harry. 

"Who is the shepherd, mother?" he asked. 

"Does Ann know him?" 

Mrs. Rowland smiled, and answered, "I dare say that Ann knows much about Salisbury Plain." 

"Indeed, ma'am, I do," said Ann, with a beaming face, lingering a moment, while Mrs. Rowland told of the beautiful plain in England, near Ann's childhood home. 

"But, mother, who was the shepherd?" asked Sue. 

"He was introduced to me long ago, when I was a little girl. I had expected a delightful time, with a party of friends, on the river; but the rain came and spoiled everything, as I declared with tears and pouts and frowns. Even now I can fancy the touch of my mother's hand on my head, as she said, 'Come, little daughter, I want to show you something.' I followed her to her room, and stood by while she opened a curious little cabinet. 

I admired that cabinet, and was always especially delighted when my mother would unlock it, and give me a peep at the treasures inside. She opened a drawer that I had not noticed before. 

She took out a book with a little green cover, and showed me the title page, and the picture of a man with a shepherd's crook. 'Oh!'  I cried. Suppose that he is David, keeping his father's sheep; or perhaps he is Moses, in Midian; or—who knows?—he might be one of the shepherds who heard the heavenly music the night that Jesus was born.' Read, and find out about him, and come by and-by-and tell me how you like him,' said my mother. I took the little green book, inclined to look upon it as a treasure, if for no other reason, because it had been in the cabinet so long. I sat down in my little rocking chair on one side of the great open fire-place, forgetting all about the rain in my anxiety to make acquaintance with the man in the picture." 

"Was he really Moses, or David, or one of the shepherds of Bethlehem?" asked Amy. 

 “No; he was a man who lived about fifty years ago, on Salisbury Plain."  "Near Ann's home?" 

"Yes. I dare say that Ann would like to tell you about that plain some day,—how the turf grows over it; though I believe that lately the land has been portioned off into farms." 

"But, mother, what is there to tell about the shepherd?" 

"An English lady, Hannah More, considered some things about him so remarkable that she wrote the little book, and called it The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain." 

"Tell us what you read about him, that day, in your little rocking-chair by the great fire-place. I wish that we had an old-fashioned chimney-place where we could have a blazing log-fire!" exclaimed Sue. "Then a rainy day would not seem half so stupid." 

Mrs. Rowland smiled, and said, "I see that you need very much to know about my shepherd. First, I found that he 'wore a coat so covered with patches that no one, not even a boy with eyes as bright as Harry's, could tell which was coat and which was patch. His stockings, too, were darned with many-colored worsteds; and his shirt, though pure white, was coarse as the sails of a ship, and covered with darns and patches." 

"The poor fellow must have been ashamed of his clothes," said Wallace. 

"No; he was not in the least ashamed," said Mrs. Rowland. "He was delighted to have people see them, and admire the busy, careful wife who had put such neat work on them." 

"What more about him, mother?" 

"A gentleman, traveling over the plain, met him, and asked what kind of weather he thought it would be next day. It will be such weather as pleases me,' said the shepherd. How can you be sure?' asked the gentleman. 

Because,' answered the shepherd, it will be such weather as pleases God; and whatever pleases him pleases me.' The gentleman had never heard any one talk in that way. He resolved to ask a few more questions, to see if the shepherd were really such a man as this speech would make him appear. He found out that he lived across the plain, in a hovel, with one room above, one below, and scarcely a chimney; that his wife was sick nearly all the time, and that they had eight children. 

Poor man, what a hard life you must have! 'thought the gentleman. But when he said as much, the good shepherd looked at him with surprise, and spoke as though there were not a man in the world happier than he. `True,' he said, am often in the wet and cold, and I have no time to be lazy; but it is well to be busy. Besides, the troubles of my lot are not nearly so many, nor so great, as my Master suffered. When I am lonely,' he added, I can think over the Bible words that I have learned. I can look up, too, toward the stars, and thank God for his wonderful works.' As to his wife and children, he did not, seem able to praise them enough. They were always good and kind and busy, he said. The boys, who were very little, were still able to earn a penny by keeping the birds away from the farmer's corn, or by picking up stones. ' Anything is better than idleness, sir,' he said. 

If they did not get a penny for it, I should have them do it just the same, for the sake of giving them early habits of labor.' The little girls, who were not able to do hard work, would wander over the hills, and pick up little pieces of wool that the sheep had rubbed off their backs, and carry it home. The mother would card the wool, the girls would spin it, and the little boys would knit it into stockings at night, or while they were watching the neighbors' cows."  "What a way to get stockings!" exclaimed Sue. "I wonder how they managed about shoes." 

"In some ingenious way, no doubt. Indeed, the shepherd told the gentleman so many wonderful things that he resolved to visit the family, and judge of matters for himself. He was not disappointed. The more he saw of them the more he admired their cheerful, thankful spirit, and the more ashamed he felt of himself for worrying over what he called vexations and disappointments. It is a long story," continued Mrs. Rowland. "If it should rain tomorrow, we might have a good time reading it." 

If it should rain! They hoped that it would not. But, somehow, when they thought of the shepherd, with his sick wife and eight children, how they lived in a leaky cottage, and had to work so hard for shoes and stockings and dry bread, and yet were all the while so happy and thankful,—when they thought of this, they were ashamed to worry about the weather. Mrs. Rowland did not make any personal application of the story, which she had told. She left that to the keen heads and ready hearts of the children. But she saw that during the rest of the evening there was less of restlessness regarding the coming day, and a greater disposition to take contentedly whatever weather might come. 

Even Harry seemed to think more of the cheery Shepherd of Salisbury Plain than he did of tomorrow's projected chestnut expedition, while thoughtful Sue was evidently lost in a brown study. It was not till late in the evening that she came half shyly to her mother's side. 

"Mother," she said "do you know that I can-not help thinking of those lines that I recited in school last week:— 

Some murmur when their sky is clear 

And wholly bright to view, 

If one small speck of dark appear 

In their great heaven of blue. 

And some with thankful love are filled 

If but one streak of light, 

One ray of God's good mercy, gild 

The darkness of their night. 

In palaces are hearts that ask, 

In discontent and pride, 

Why life is such a dreary task, 

And all good things denied. 

And hearts in poorest huts admire 

How love has in their aid 

(Love that never seems to tire) 

Such rich provision made.' " 

—S. S. Times.