As Leroy was too young to drive the cows home in the evening, Bessie enjoyed many a long walk in search of them. One evening she had some difficulty in finding them. It was one of those evenings when everything is quiet and sound travels a long distance. After listening carefully for the tinkling of the cow-bells, Bessie was bewildered, for she could seemingly hear them in every direction. At last, thinking she had located the sound, she set out in that direction. When she had walked about two miles, she stopped to listen again. The bells were still tinkling, but they seemed to be just as far away. She knew, though, that the cows sometimes went a long distance. She had been following the road, but thinking the sound came from the woods, she started off in that direction. She saw that the sun was just going down behind the trees; that she was on an unfamiliar path, and was getting farther and farther from home. But she must get the cows, and on she went, stopping now and then to locate the sound of the bells.
She suddenly found herself standing upon a point of land where a deep, wide ravine extended on either side. The distance across the ravine she could not see on account of the shadow and the trees. What should she do? A few minutes previously she had thought about its being late, but had hoped to find the cows and to make them guide her home. This hope failing, she did not know what to do. The bells were still tinkling ahead of her; but she did not dare to try to cross the ravine in the darkness, now fast gathering around her, and how could she return through those dense woods! She thought of calling for help, but as quickly realized how useless the effort would be, since there were no houses near.
As she stood wondering what to do, these words from a psalm she had committed to memory a short time before, came to her mind: |If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.| Two more precious promises came to her mind: |I will guide thee with mine eye| and |He leadeth me beside still waters.| Oh, what encouragement those words were to Bessie! Surely God would guide her home. With a thankful heart, Bessie started to return. As she had passed through several clearings in her search for the cows, she had no little difficulty in finding her way; but the moon rose early and gave her considerable light, and as she neared home, she began to recognize some familiar objects.
But, in the meantime, how were her parents feeling? The cows returned early and were milked. Mrs. Worthington wondered why Bessie did not come with them, but thought she might have been delayed and would come soon. She prepared supper; but when she got it ready, Bessie was still absent.
|What can be keeping Bessie tonight?| Mrs. Worthington said anxiously to her husband. |She should have come home an hour ago.|
|Oh, I suppose she has stopped somewhere to play,| said Mr. Worthington carelessly.
|No; I don't think so,| replied his wife. |Bessie always tries to be prompt, and I'm afraid something has happened. If she doesn't come soon, you had better go to look for her.|
|Well, wait until dark,| said Mr. Worthington; |and, if she isn't here then, I'll get some men and we'll search in different directions. Did you notice which way she went!|
|No,| answered his wife, |but I think she went east.|
At dark Mr. Worthington started out with the searching party. Mrs. Worthington tried not to worry; but when nine o'clock passed and half-past nine came, she felt a great anxiety creeping into her heart. Many times she offered an earnest prayer for Bessie's protection. After putting Leroy to bed she stationed herself in front of the house to watch.
About ten o'clock some one returned to say that he could find no trace of Bessie.
With straining eyes, Mrs. Worthington looked in the direction in which Bessie had gone, and at last thought that she could see some one approaching. As the figure drew nearer, she could see that it was her child, and with a glad cry ran to meet her. |O Bessie,| cried the mother, |what has happened to detain you? Your father and a company of men are out searching the woods for you. Dear child, where have you been?|
Bessie was very tired and hungry; but she related all that had happened and said: |I'm sorry I couldn't go farther; for I believe the cows were just a short distance beyond the point where I turned back. But I did not dare to cross the swampy place and go into the woods on the other side.|
|Why, the cows have been home a long, long time, Bessie; and that is what had made your delay seem so strange,| said her mother. |But were you not afraid, dear, when you found that you were so far from home!|
Bessie explained how she had felt and how the Lord had encouraged her and helped her to be brave.
|What time was that?| asked her mother; and when she learned, she said, |Bessie, that was when I was so earnestly praying for you. Surely our God is a mighty God and one who is ever faithful.|
When the searching party returned, they were all glad to know that Bessie was safe at home.