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OUR SUNDAY AFTERNOONS.
SOME NOTABLE WOMEN OF THE BIBLE.
ARVEST was beginning in the fertile lands around Bethlehem in Judah. The golden barley was ripe, though as yet the sickle had hardly touched the bright corn, when two women might have been seen slowly taking their way along the narrow paths between the fields and vineyards, with their faces turned towards the little town.
As they drew near, it would become plain that one of them was much older than the other, while they both walked as those who were weary with a long journey.
As the two passed along, the people whom they met all noticed them, and asked who they were, but the travellers spoke to none, not even inquiring the way to the town, but taking the right track without hesitation, as if it had been long familiar to them. When they came nearer to Bethlehem, the women, who were gathered in groups, perhaps, round the well, looked at them more closely, and some of the elders among them whispered to each other, " It is Naomi." "This Naomi !"
The whisper passed round; some one ran on into the village with the news, and soon all Bethlehem was stirred by the tidings that Naomi had come back. No doubt there were some who asked, "Who is Naomi?" and perhaps if we listen to the story which many a mother told to her children that evening, we shall better understand why the coming of these two women should so move and excite the people of the place.
Naomi, they said, used to live in Bethlehem, where she was the wife of a prosperous sheepmaster, called Elimelech, and had two sons, strong active lads, who were already able to help their father in his daily toils, when a terrible famine came on the land, until the flocks which Elimelech and his sons tended were ready to die for lack of pasture.
Elimelech could not bear to see his flocks perish and his substance waste away, therefore he had gathered all together, and had gone out from his own people into the neighbouring land of Moab.
But though he could take with him wife and sons, flocks and herds, yet he shut himself out
from the near presence and blessing of the God of Israel, for Elimelech was now by his own choice dwelling amongst those who worshipped idols, and who even sacrificed their sons and daughters to these false gods.
Now and then in the course of the long years since Elimelech and his household had left their country, tidings of them had been brought to Bethlehem by some passing traveller, and each message had told of troubles and disasters.
Elimelech was dead; both his sons had broken the law of Israel by marrying heathen women of Moab; the family were growing poorer and poorer, and the last tidings told of the death of both sons without children, so that it would seem that the family which had forsaken Israel had no longer any place in the nation.
Naomi was come back alone, yet not alone, for this young woman on whom she leant was evidently one of her heathen daughters-in-law, and the buzz of comment and talk around the two women was far from friendly; and though many greeted Naomi by her name, no one seems to have offered her a shelter, or done for her any of those acts of kindness and hospitality so universal in the East even to strangers.
Naomi was too old and feeble for work, and Ruth, though young and strong, was friendless in a strange land. Yet the love which had made her give up everything rather than forsake her mother-in-law, was so strong a motive that it supplied the place of knowledge, and seems to have shown her at once one way in which she might save her mother from hunger. To us the way seems an easy and natural one, for in England we are used to think of gleaning as of pleasant holiday work, and we like to see the merry groups of women and children setting out to the fields, or returning with their loads of gathered corn, and we fancy their toil is all a delight. But to glean in the fields of Bethlehem can hardly have appeared as a holiday task to Ruth, but rather as a difficult and painful experiment. For in the part of Moab from which she came but little corn was grown; and the work of the fields would, of course, be unfamiliar. She must go about this new toil in her foreign dress, and the other gleaners would avoid her, or laugh at her speech and manners. There was real danger, too, that she might meet with some insult or rudeness from the reapers when they saw that she had no one with her to protect her.
And yet was this so? for, not long since, Ruth had said to Naomi, "Thy God shall be my God," and we may believe that there was a real and growing faith in her heart, that she was safe sheltered under the wings of the God of Israel; therefore, when Naomi had given permission, Ruth went forth fearlessly to her new task.
We feel that she went forth with a prayer that God would show her where she might glean. By Jewish law a stranger had a right to enter any field, and perhaps she chose the first in which reaping was going on. We must not picture these fields as small enclosures surrounded by walls and hedges, as is the case in England; for on these plains all the corn land, though it belonged to many owners, would look like one unbroken field, and the landmarks were only stones or pieces of wood, so that Ruth would not know whose reapers they were whom she followed.
But she could see the band of young men working busily under an overseer, while behind them followed a line of maidens whose task it was to bind into sheaves the corn as soon as it fell from the sickle.
"I pray you let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves," she said humbly to the overseer, and then when he had granted permission, she busied herself with her new task.
The morning breeze blew cold when the gleaning began, but soon the sun rose high, and the direct rays poured down hot and burning over the fields.
She wrought on until the noonday sun drove her for shelter into the shed where the reapers ate; and presently, either while she was still there, or after she had returned to her gleaning, Ruth heard a little stir among the reapers, and looking up saw that the owner of the land had just come into the field. She knew that this tall strong man, who looked so brave and soldierly, must be the owner, for she heard his greeting to the reapers, "The Lord be with you," and their kindly reply, "The Lord bless thee." She saw, too, the quick inquiring glance which he turned on all about him, singling out her unfamiliar face, and, as it seemed, asking the overseer who this stranger was. This was not all, for presently Ruth was startled by hearing his voice close beside her.
"My daughter," he said-and she must have wondered that he should speak so kindly to a poor stranger from Moab-as he went on to bid her welcome to his fields, and to the stores which were provided for the reapers.
Very wonderful must it all have seemed to Ruth; she had but just begun to pray to the God of Israel, but just begun to trust in Him, and had she not already been guided, protected, and comforted?
She was too modest and humble to doubt whether she should accept the kindness; rather she took it gladly and thankfully, and when next the reapers sat down to eat she too had a place amongst them. There was no fear of any rude word, for the master had given strict command that Ruth should be treated with all respect; and moreover, was he not himself present, with his own hand passing to her the dish of parched corn, and bidding her dip her bread in the vessel of vinegar and oil which was' placed in the midst? But Ruth could not eat all that was set before her. She thought of her mother, faint and unfed at home, and longed to share with her some of the corn and bread, and she laid them aside until evening.
The owner's quick eye noticed this action also, and it moved him still more, so that he bade his reapers drop loose corn in her way, and let her gather even before the sheaves were bound. Helped in this manner it is no wonder that when in the cool evening Ruth beat out her gathered store with a stick, she found that she had more than fifty pounds of barley, enough to support Naomi and herself for five days. Her arms, though tired, did not feel the load too heavy, and carrying this welcome supply and the food which she had reserved, Ruth went towards Bethlehem, to the house in which Naomi had watched alone all day.
Watched and prayed, we cannot doubt; and now we can picture the old woman looking eagerly and anxiously from the door to welcome her only companion and friend. Naomi had gleaned so often in those fields that she knew at once that no diligence on Ruth's part could have gathered so much had she not been helped, and her first question was, in what fields her daughter had wrought. Ruth could not describe the fields, but she knew the name of the owner, the tall brave man who had been so gentle and generous to her, and she told Naomi that it was an Israelite named Boaz who had shown her this kindness. As soon as Naomi heard the name her heart rejoiced. It was known to her as that of a kinsman of her husband's, and Naomi felt assured that God would, through this kinsman, send them the help they both so greatly needed.
And so indeed it fell out. We have no space to tell in detail the rest of the story-how Ruth gleaned first in the barley and then in the wheat fields of Boaz, through all those summer days, gathering, by the favour of the owner, large stores for her mother, and protected by the same kindness from all interference, or any rude word from her fellow-workers; how, when gleaning-time was over, and the days came in which the flail took the place of the sickle, Ruth found in Boaz not only a kind patron and kinsman, but a protector and a good true husband.
And now once more days of peace and plenty came to the desolate home. The ruined homestead was rebuilt, the fallow fields were tilled, for Boaz had bought the land; but when harvest fell again and the rich crops which waved over the fields of Bethlehem turned once more to russet, then Ruth was not to be seen amongst the gleaners.
Was she not now the honoured wife of the prosperous Boaz? no longer called " the Moabitess," for she had accepted the faith of Israel, and was henceforth counted amongst God's chosen people. There was other work than gleaning henceforth for her and for Naomi; somewhere in the house of Boaz they might have been found, and in Naomi's arms there lay a little new-born infant, Ruth's son, loved by Naomi as if he were her own child. This son would bear her family name, inherit the lands of her husband Elimelech, and raise up the fallen family once more to its place in Israel. And now the women of Bethlehem, her old neigh
bours and friends, no longer stood aside from Naomi, but gathered round with sympathy and rejoicing, trying, it would seem, to make her forget how once in her sorrow they had neglected and forsaken her. Naomi was too thankful and happy to resent their past unkindness; rather she rejoiced in all which told her that her sin, so bitterly repented, was put away even from remembrance.
But for Ruth a yet higher blessing was in store, and her humble faithful love and service were wonderfully rewarded, so that even now, after more than three thousand years, we still think of her as one whom God has marked out for honour.
For in the Bible the name of Ruth is written not only in this beautiful story of her life, but it is to be read for ever in the list of those who were the ancestors, not only of David, but of Him who was the Son of David-of Him who said, "Whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in Heaven, the same is My mother, and sister, and brother."
Prize Scripture Questions.
13. (a) A man who was of importance amongst his countrymen, and gave his name to a city. (b) A woman, some members of whose family reported an evil that was in one of the Churches. (c) A man who acted as amanuensis for a writer of one of the books of the Bible. (d) A man whose sons tried to accomplish a work which they had no power to do. The initials of the names of the above form the name of a book of the New Testament.
14. To the name of a king slain by the Israelites prefix a vowel, and give the name of the father of a false prophet.
15. (a) A lying prophet, who destroyed a sign of bondage, which the Lord had commanded to be made. (b) A faithful Jew, who excelled the wise men of the country in which he lived. (c) An Israelite who joined in a covenant to begin to serve God anew. (d) The son of a noted musician. Give a name applying to each of the above.
16. To the name of a man who was punished for neglect of duty add one of the names applied to God, and so give the name of a great prophet.
17. To the name of a man who blessed a person whom he had previously misjudged prefix a letter, and give the name of the father-in-law of a woman upon whom great blessings were pronounced.
18. Give the name of a boy, belonging to a royal family, who escaped from a massacre, and taking refuge
in another country, afterwards became the husband of the king's sister-in-law.
19. (a) A place where were heard great rejoicings on the accession of a king; and (4) a river that flowed through a most fertile district. Give a name applying to each.
20. State what woman, who was one of several sisters, bore the same name as a city noted for its beauty, and in which died a child that was taken away in mercy.
21. Give the name of a god mentioned in the Bible, in whose temple a terrible deed was committed, one of the evil-doers bearing the same name as another god to which human sacrifices were offered.
22. Give a name applying to two men, one of whom was the father of a man who delivered the Israelites from great oppression; and the other the father of a man who, by his conduct towards his king, broke a commandment given by Moses.
23. From the name of one of the sons of a man whose near relation was to serve him take the name of a man who had an extraordinarily large bed. Prefix to the remaining letters the first part of the name of one of the princes of a foreign country who entered a great city as one of its conquerors, and so give the name of another conquering prince of the same country.
24. Give a name borne alike by two world-renowned people, and by a city spoken of in connection with a great event in the time of Joshua.
[Twelve "Prize Scripture Questions" are given each month; and a Guinea Book is awarded, at the end of every three months, to the competitor (between the ages of 14 and 16 inclusive) who sends in, during that time, the greatest number of Correct Answers, and References to the verses in the Bible containing them. (The above Questions (Nos. 13-24) are those for the second month of the present Competition.) In order that younger readers may take part in the Competition, there is a separate, or Junior Division in it for them; and in this division a Half-Guinea Book is offered to the Competitor under the age of 14 only, who sends in during that time the greatest number of Correct Answers and References to these Questions. Competitors under 14 cannot compete for the Guinea Book. Answers must be accompanied by certificates from Parents, Teachers, or other responsible persons, stating that they are the sole and unaided work of the Competitors; and the Answers to those published in this month's number must reach the Editor by the 7th of August (the 1oth for Competitors residing abroad). The names and addresses of the Prize-winners will be published in LITTLE FOLKS at the expiration of the three months. All Answers are to be addressed to "The Editor of LITTLE FOLKS, La Belle Sauvage Yard, Ludgate Hill, London, E.C.," and "Answers to Scripture Questions" must be written in the left-hand top corners of the envelopes containing them. The names of the Prize-winners and the Answers to the Questions in the Second Monthly Competition, will be found on p. 135 of this Number.]
A ROOKERY IN THE SOUTHERN SEAS.
EW of the lonely isles of the great Antarctic Ocean are ever visited by human beings. To whalers and seal-hunters they offer at times a welcome harbour from the tempest's fury-for any shelter is better than none in a storm-but the rockbound shores of most of them are inhospitable. Still, though man rarely seeks their refuge, such as it is, it must not be supposed that these islands are untenanted. On the contrary, they are resorted to by innumerable sea-birds for nesting purposes, and amongst their most remarkable occupants are the awkwardlooking penguins, of whom it may be truly said. that their life is on the ocean wave, their home on the rolling deep. Indeed, so thoroughly adapted have they become to an aquatic existence that they are incapable of flight, their wings having, in the course of ages, been transformed into a kind of flipper or fin, by which they are enabled to traverse the sea with extraordinary rapidity. They bound through the water like porpoises, face the roughest weather bravely, and are not deterred by any gale from seeking the bottom in search of their food, which comprises crustaceans, small fishes, and marine vegetables. On land they display much less agility, walking in an erect posture with a clumsy waddle. When alarmed, however, it is stated that they throw themselves on their breasts, and shove themselves along with their wings and feet, using a somewhat similar action to that of swimming, and in this way they progress with such speed that it is difficult for a man to keep up with them.
The numbers of penguins forming these rookeries, as they are often called, are generally so enormous that it is impossible to estimate them with any degree of accuracy. Referring to the congregation of these birds on Macquarie Island, in the South Pacific Ocean, Dr. Bennett calculates roughly that day and night 30,000 or 40,000 of them are continually landing, and as many going
the moulting season, while their coats are uncomely, they repel each other with disgust; but when their plumage has reached its greatest beauty, it is little, if at all, inferior to that of Juno's bird. Like the peacock, too, they are quite sensible of the splendour of their attire, and exhibit their vanity in just as self-conscious a manner. "Their habit," says Weddell, "of frequently looking down their front and sides, in order to contemplate the perfection of their superior brilliancy, and to remove any speck that might sully it, is truly amusing to an
The families seem to dwell together in good fellowship and peace. When the hen is sitting, her mate is assiduous in his attentions, taking charge of the egg when she has occasion to leave it to feed or wash. The hen looks after her young one for a year, and has a fair share of maternal cares. Sometimes she has a good deal of trouble in prevailing upon her offspring to enter the water, and, as in the case of a few of our domestic animals, has to resort to stratagem to compel the youngster to swim. In such an event her usual plan is to entice the reluctant juvenile to the side of a rock, and then to push it into the sea, an operation which is repeated until the pupil elects to go into the water of its own accord. The mother has an eccentric habit which is said to afford human onlookers much diversion. Perching herself on a small eminence, she utters a series of noises having a pleasing resemblance to something between a quack and a bray, as if she were addressing the assembled penguins; her young one, placed a little lower, standing by her side the while. After "talking" for about a minute, she thrusts her head down and opens her mouth widely, so that the youngster may put its head into it and be fed. Then the perorating is renewed, and interrupted again in the same way and for the same purpose. This lasts for ten
The penguins are called "Johnnies" by the whalers, and I am afraid their numbers are seriously diminished after a visit from these seamen. The Rev. Mr. Eaton, who accompanied, as naturalist, the late Transit of Venus Expedition to Kerguelen Island, says that when pursued they run away uphill from the sea as fast as they can, pausing after a while to look back and take breath. The ascent is again resumed; but when they have become quite tired out they refuse to go any farther. If a boot be raised to push them over, the poor birds "greet it with deprecating sighs"; and if they should be thrown on their backs, they no