Olive Thorn Miller Christmas Story - The Tell Tale Tile

The Tell Tale Tile: Olive Thorne Miller

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On each side of the fireplace was a row of tiles. They were Bible subjects, and Miss Bennett had often told Hetty the story of each one, and also the stories she used to make up about them when she was young. The one Hetty had her hand on now bore the picture of a woman standing before a closed door, and below her the words of the yellow bit of paper: “Look, and ye shall find.”

“I always felt there was something different about that,” said Hetty eagerly, “and you know you told me your father talked to you about it–about what to seek in the world when he was gone away, and other things.”

“Yes, so he did,” said Miss Bennett thoughtfully; “come to think of it, he said a great deal about it, and in a meaning way. I don’t understand it,” she said slowly, turning it over in her mind.

“I do!” cried Hetty, enthusiastically. “I believe you are to seek here! I believe it’s loose!” and she tried to shake it. “It is loose!” she cried excitedly. “Oh, Miss Bennett, may I take it out?”

Miss Bennett had turned deadly pale. “Yes,” she gasped, hardly knowing what she expected, or dared to hope.

A sudden push from Hetty’s strong fingers, and the tile slipped out at one side and fell to the floor. Behind it was an opening into the brickwork. Hetty thrust in her hand.

“There’s something in there!” she said in an awed tone.

“A light!” said Miss Bennett hoarsely.

There was not a candle in the house, but Hetty seized a brand from the fire, and held it up and looked in.

“It looks like bags–tied up,” she cried. “Oh, come here yourself!”

The old woman hobbled over and thrust her hand into the hole, bringing out what was once a bag, but which crumpled to pieces in her hands, and with it–oh, wonder!–a handful of gold pieces, which fell with a jingle on the hearth, and rolled every way.

“My father’s money! Oh, Hetty!” was all she could say, and she seized a chair to keep from falling, while Hetty was nearly wild, and talked like a crazy person.

“Oh, goody! goody! now you can have things to eat! and we can have a candle! and you won’t have to go to the poorhouse!”

“No, indeed, you dear child!” cried Miss Bennett who had found her voice. “Thanks to you–you blessing!–I shall be comfortable now the rest of my days. And you! oh! I shall never forget you! Through you has everything good come to me.”

“Oh, but you have been so good to me, dear Miss Bennett!”

“I should never have guessed it, you precious child! If it had not been for your quickness I should have died and never found it.”

“And if you hadn’t given me the box, it might have rusted away in that chest.”

“Thank God for everything, child! Take money out of my purse and go buy a candle. We need not save it for bread now. Oh, child!” she interrupted herself, “do you know, we shall have everything we want to-morrow. Go! Go! I want to see how much there is.”

The candle bought, the gold was taken out and counted, and proved to be more than enough to give Miss Bennett a comfortable income without touching the principal. It was put back, and the tile replaced, as the safest place to keep it till morning, when Miss Bennett intended to put it into a bank.

But though they went to bed, there was not a wink of sleep for Miss Bennett, for planning what she would do. There were a thousand things she wanted to do first. To get clothes for Hetty, to brighten up the old house, to hire a girl to relieve Hetty, so that the dear child should go to school, to train her into a noble woman–all her old ambitions and wishes for herself sprang into life for Hetty. For not a thought of her future life was separate from Hetty.

In a very short time everything was changed in Miss Bennett’s cottage. She had publicly adopted Hetty, and announced her as her heir. A girl had been installed in the kitchen, and Hetty, in pretty new clothes, had begun school. Fresh paint inside and out, with many new comforts, made the old house charming and bright. But nothing could change the pleasant and happy relations between the two friends, and a more contented and cheerful household could not be found anywhere.

Happiness is a wonderful doctor and Miss Bennett grew so much better, that she could travel, and when Hetty had finished school days, they saw a little of the world before they settled down to a quiet, useful life.

“Every comfort on earth I owe to you,” said Hetty, one day, when Miss Bennett had proposed some new thing to add to her enjoyment.

“Ah, dear Hetty! how much do I owe to you! But for you, I should, no doubt, be at this moment a shivering pauper in that terrible poorhouse, while some one else would be living in this dear old house. And it all comes,” she added softly, “of that one unselfish thought, of that one self-denial for others.”

~ “The Tell Tale Tile” Christmas story by ‘Olive Thorne Miller

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