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Black Yarn and Blue
Written 1875

by Charlotte Maria Tucker

Softly outside Mary's cottage fell the rain, the gentle April rain. And round and round went the wheel within the cottage where Mary sat at her spinning. Never did her husband wear a pair of socks that was not of Mary's spinning and knitting. The hum of the cottager's busy wheel was a pleasant sound, and cheerful and bright looked Mary's face as she busily spun her blue yarn.

But the face of her son Jemmy was neither cheerful nor bright, as he sat with his crutches beside him, in front of the fire, with his back turned towards his mother. First Jemmy yawned, then yawned again, and then he took to sighing, and his sigh had so dreary a sound that it drew the attention of Mary.

"What are you thinking of, Jemmy, my lad?" asked the mother, stopping the wheel for a minute.

"I am thinking of all my troubles," was the mournful reply, uttered slowly and in a tone most plaintive.

"Well, the accident to your leg was a great trouble, but the poor leg is getting better. The doctor says that you will soon throw your crutches away," observed Mary cheerfully, and round again went her wheel.

"I was not thinking of great troubles, but of little troubles," said Jemmy, "this has been an unlucky day. It rains when I want to go out."

"Oh! the blessed rain, which will do the country such good!" interrupted his mother.

"And I've lost my silver penny," continued Jemmy. "I cannot find it, though I've hunted in every nook and cranny."

"Certainly that is no great trouble," laughed Mary, "wait till I've spun this yarn and I'll help you to look for your silver penny. And what is your next trouble, my boy?"

"That pretty plant which the gardener gave me is dying. It is curling up all its leaves," sighed doleful Jemmy, glancing towards a flower pot which stood on the sill.

"I daresay that it only wants a little water," said Mary. "See how the spring shower is making the fields and hedges green! Your poor prisoner in the flower pot has not had a drop to drink since yesterday, when you brought it home. Have you any more troubles, my boy?" The question was so playfully asked that Jemmy felt rather ashamed of his sighing and grumbling.

"Only that Tom is unkind. He is always teasing me to come out and fly the kite with him, when he knows that I have a lame leg. He said, when he went out this morning, that my coddling at home was all nonsense. That he'll make a bonfire of my crutches some day and that I never shall miss them! It was very, very unkind."

"Tom is a little too fond of joking, but I really don't see anything in that joke to set you sighing," said Mary, laughing. "My dear boy, you are much too ready to set that brain of yours spinning gloomy thoughts. Suppose4 that I were to put black wool upon my wheel, what should I spin but black yarn and your father would have nought but black stockings to wear. Why should one choose a dark color when it costs nothing to have a cheerful one? So with the yarn of thought. Take something pleasant to think of, something bright to turn round and round in your mind. Suppose now that, instead of your troubles, big or little, you take to counting up all the kindnesses which yoyu have received since yesterday morning."

Jemmy had shifted his position, so that he was now sitting looking at his mother and a sight of her cheerful face was in itself enought to brighten him up a little. Still it was rather in a grumbling manner that he replied, "I don't know what kindnesses I have to count up. No one is ever kind to me, except, of course, you and my father."

"We count for something," cried Mary. "But think a little longer, my lad. Turn your wheel round a little faster," and the spinner suited her action to her words.

"Well, Tom did mend my kite this morning. I suppose that you would call that kind," observed Jemmy.

"Now were you not needlessly spinning black yarn instead of blue, when you thought of Tom's rough joke instead of his real act of kindness?" asked Mary.

"And perhaps it was kind in the gardener to give me that plant, only it's dying now," said Jemmy.

"It was not dying when he gave it. I've seldom seen a prettier flower. Have you no other kind deeds to remember?" asked his mother.

It was a new thing to Jemmy to count up kindnesses instead of troubles and he rubbed his forehead, as if rather perplexed.

"My grandfather gave me a shilling yesterday," he said at last, "and that was a kindness."

"And you chose to think more of the penny lost than of the shilling received! How fond some people are of choosing the black yarn!" cried Mary.

"There's no one else that has done anything kind to me. I can remember nothing more," said Jemmy, after a moment's reflection.

"I can remember something for you, then. Who taught you reading and spelling yesterday afternoon?"

"Oh, Sarah May," answered the boy. "But that is nothing new. She has done that ever since the hurt in my leg stopped my going to school."

"Yes, she has shown kindness to you every day for the last ten weeks and therefore you have forgotten to think of it as kindness at all. O Jemmy, Jemmy, here is a sad choosing of the black yarn instead of the blue!"

"Teaching me costs Sarah nothing," began Jemmy, but he stopped short, for he could not help feeling a little ashamed of such ungrateful words.

"That is an odd thing to say!" cried Mary. "Does not teaching cost Sarah trouble and time. And is it not for time and trouble that every workman and workwoman is paid, except those who, like Sarah, take to helping others from kindness? I know that Sarah went in her old dress to church last Sunday, because she had not had time to make up her new one. I know that she has stopped at home to teach you, when she might have been enjoying a pleasant walk with her brother. I suppose that my lame laddie thinks so little of all this kindness because Sarah is good and patient, and never grumbles at small troubles like somebody that I know."

Mary went on with her spinning faster than before, leaving Jemmy to turn over in him mind her little reproof. Perhaps the yarn of his thoughts was dark enought at first, for Jemmy was mortified to find what a silly, discontented, ungrateful boy he had been. He sat silent for several minutes and then saying, "I had better water that plant," he rose from his seat, and went slowly up to the water jug, which stood in a corner of the room.

As soon as Jemmy had lifted the jug, he uttered an exclamation of pleasure. "Oh, here is my silver penny!" he cried. "It has been lying all the time under the jug!"

And in the jug all the time had been lying the water which was all that was needed to make the delicate plant revive, stretch out again its curling leaves and lift up its drooping blossoms. Jemmy felt pleasure in watering his flower. To do so, he thought, was almost like giving drink to a thirsty animal.

Jemmy was all the more pleased, because he had a little plan in his mind, which he carried out on the following day. When his mother had set him to count the kindnesses which he had received, she had taught him also to feel grateful for them. But the little spinning wheel of his brain did not rest there, nor stop till Jemmy had found out some way of showing that he was grateful. It was indeed but little that the lame boy could do, but when he carried to Sarah May a nosegay of all his best flowers, and saw her smile of pleasure as she received it, a joyful sense of having done what was kind and right filled the heart of the grateful boy. The yarn of Jemmy's thoughts then seemed to have become as clear and blue as the sky.

Dear reader, what thoughts is your little brain now spinning? When you gratefully remember kindnesses from earthly friends, blue and bright is the hue of your thoughts, but when you are also thankful for all the countless blessings bestowed by your Heavenly Friend, then the thread is all turned into gold!

Edited by Pam Takahashi
Proofed by Deborah Gardner


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