THE LOST CHILDREN *
WHEN they moved into the new house in the country, the children's father told them not to play in the woods behind the barn.
"It is a wide stretch of forest," he said, "and you might wander about for days."
"But we could always turn round and come straight home," said Roger.
"That is just the trouble," said his father. "It is almost impossible to follow a straight path in the woods. You would keep on going round and round. The only thing for you to do is to stay within sight of the house."
A day or two later Roger was picking flowers near the brook when he saw a glimmer of pink among the low bushes at the edge of the woods.
"That looks like Nannie's apron," he said to himself uneasily. "She must have run away. I shall have to go and bring her back."
It was a long run across the field, but the little pink apron was still in sight when Roger came to the path that led into the woods. Nannie gave a shout when she saw brother Roger This was a fine game to play, and away she ran, while hot and breathless the little boy toiled after her.
"Stop, Nannie, please stop!" he called, but she would not or could not hear him, and they were soon quite out of sight of home. The path grew rough and was lost in a tangle of vines and briars, so that Nannie was glad to stop and let Roger catch hold of her hand at the foot of a great beech-tree
"Now we'll go back," he said, but, alas! this proved to be impossible. Nannie's fleeing feet had dodged among trees and stumps until all traces of the path had been left far behind
"Never mind!" said Roger, stoutly," we'll find it in a minute." And Nannie trudged cheerfully along with her chubby hand fast in his.
It was growing late in the afternoon, and the woods began to seem chilly and damp. Roger looked at Nannie's thin cotton frock and went on a little faster. It seemed to him that they had been walking, a long time when they came to the same great beech where he had overtaken Nannie. He was sure that it was the same, for a dead branch hung down from it, covered with dry leaves. It was just as his father had said: they had been going in a circle instead of straight ahead, and they were no nearer home than before.
"What shall I do?" thought Roger, his frightened heart going pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, against his blue blouse. "If we go on, we'll tire ourselves out, and Nannie is too big for me to carry very far."
Nannie's weary feet were already dragging heavily along, and now she began to cry, sitting down in despair at the foot of the great tree. Roger dropped on his knees beside her. He was only a little boy, and he felt very weak and helpless. His mother had taught him to ask God every night to help him to be good: now he would ask that he might be brave.
"Dear God," he said earnestly, "help me not to get frightened, for that makes Nannie cry. And please show me the way home."
If Roger had hoped that the trees would open before him and let him see the way to go, he was disappointed. The wind sang softly in the leaves over his head, the birds were twittering in the distance, a tiny squirrel scurried across a fallen tree and sat watching them with his bright eyes, but nothing else happened. Yet. somehow, Roger felt better, and the woods no longer seemed frightful, but only a big, green, happy place where little creatures could run about without fear. Roger put his arm around Nannie and comforted her until her tears were dry, while the sunlight glancing through the trees fell warm upon them both. Suddenly he remembered that every evening his father and mother watched the sunset from the front porch. His home then must lie between him and the sun, since the woods were directly behind the house and the sun went down directly in front of it.
"Come, Nannie," he cried joyfully. "Brother knows the way now. See the sun through the trees. Our home is over there. Let's go and find it."
Nannie had unbounded faith in Roger, and again they started off bravely. This time all went well. It seemed only a little time before they were safe at home again.
"I asked God to help me, and I tried as hard as I could myself," he said to his mother.
"That is the best way to pray, little son," she told him "God helps those who help themselves."