By Still Waters (3)

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CHAPTER IX.

There's a new echo sounding in my life.—J. E. A. BROWN.


'WELL, ma'am,' said Mrs. Stone to her mistress next morning, 'a happy New Year to you, and we've had our "first foot."  A real "first foot" too, though I always do count the first unexpected one, as one may say, and not the baker, or the butcher, or the post.  But this is real romantic.  The housebell rang, and the housekeeper she went, and there was a young gentleman.  I heard them parleying together, myself, ma'am, but didn't take no notice.  'Deed, I thought it was somebody or other that had been about the house before, for I kind of knew the voice.  And presently she shuts the door, and comes back and says she, "Well, I reckon our Mr. Halliwell is waking up at last—what with ladies sending him notes and nosegays at the end o' the year, and young gentlemen coming asking after him at the beginning, and leaving letters to be taken up."  The lad did not say he would call again, so I don't know what he expects—a fine-looking youth, but a bit too flustered to be over ceremonious.'

    'Let us hope that it will be a "first foot" that will bring new life to poor Mr. Halliwell,' Sarah answered, a remembrance of the youth she had seen in the last night's moonlight glinting strangely across her mind.  As she descended from her chamber to the dining-room, she found Mr. Halliwell's breakfast-tray standing on the hall slab.  The stranger's letter lay beside it.  As she passed, she paused, put her finger on the envelope, and looked at the superscription, to 'Frederick B. Halliwell, Esq.'  The handwriting was black and hasty.  It had been done vehemently—with a passionate burst of something long pent up—it was surely the outflow of a character for whom analogies must be found among volcanoes and cataracts rather than pastures and rivers.  Sarah Russell drew a long breath as she looked at it.  Alas for the town beneath the volcano!  Alas for the traveller who must shoot Niagara!  There is so much more profit and peace in the calm pasture lands and soft-flowing streams.  Yet men among them will dream of the burning hills and the roaring waterfalls, and think years of quiet toil among the one recompensed by one short visit among to the other!  How is it?  Ah, was there not a 'fervent melting' and a 'great rushing' among many elements before the sunny fields stood ready for harvest, and the rivers shimmered through, with a whisper like love's own?  And Nature yearns towards any remnant of the old Past that is so nearly absorbed just as the foreign-born son of an exiled race yearns towards the older homesteads and more primitive customs of his fathers' land, because these were when his race was there, and something of them is therefore in himself.  And so Sarah Russell sighed, for she was sure that the primal elements of serene and noble character, and the possibility of a grand history lay in rudimentary chaos in the mind whence issued that letter.

    'Ah well-a-day,' Mrs. Stone began, when she came into the dining-room to remove the breakfast; 'them old gentleman that's never seen you, ma'am, takes kinder to you than to some folks I guess he knows more about.  For he has sent that letter down-stairs again, and has just written across it, "Give this back when called for—no message."  He hasn't opened it.  I should have thought he might have felt opener like with them flowers smiling up at him off his table.  If he were like that poor paralysed critter that can't speak, maybe he'd be thankful for another chance.'

    'Ah, Mrs. Stone, we are richer and happier when we long for what we can't get, than when we throw away what we have,' said Sarah.  'The only real misery of wanting what we cannot get, is that we sometimes actually make that an excuse for throwing away what we possess.'

    'The housekeeper says when the young man comes she shall send the letter and the message up to him by the girl,' said Mrs. Stone; 'he were that eager and determined like that she can't bear having to give him such a plunge of cold water.  It's an ill way to turn off a " first foot," too,' added Mrs. Stone lugubriously.

    Sarah did not notice the last remark.  Sarah had a fortunate habit of not hearing when people made a note of evil omens.  It was a genuine habit—no mere convenient deafness.  It came about in this wise.  There is scarcely an evil omen which is not the outward expression of some spite, or negligence, or unsympathy.  The outward expression catches the common eye, and illogically fixes upon itself the logical consequences of the inner fact.  Sarah was one of those who see the inner fact, and therefore always concerned herself therewith when other people found occasion ignorantly to discover an evil omen.  In fact she had got to God's version of the old pagan idea of 'averting the omen'—to wit, 'be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.'  So before Mrs. Stone gave utterance to her presage, Sarah had thought that it was a bad beginning for the New Year, to turn some hungry heart empty away.  Yet what could she do?  How could she interfere?  But it was many years since Sarah had fully realised that Cain's question, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' was not recorded for our example.  As she had said to Tibbie, 'we are all of us each other's business,' and she would as soon have thought of standing quietly aside while a madman stabbed his child, or one blind man led another into a ditch, as of making no effort to arrest a cruel word or an unkind deed which should plant in one soul a pain perhaps not unmixed with sin, and leave in another a sin with certain pain sown in it.  What could she do?  Her thoughts always resolved themselves into questions, by which the vague wish to do right was crystallised to the point of present duty.  What will happen next?  The young man will come for his answer.  How will he take it?  He will take it so bitterly, that even the housekeeper would rather not witness his pain; and yet from his age, from the description of him, nay, from something about that very letter itself, it is unlikely that he will give any outward sign of suffering, so that the good woman's reluctance to confront him must arise wholly from her ignorant but intuitive psychometry.  Well, if he could impart the pang of his pain to a mind not pre-eminently acute or sympathetic, as the housekeeper clearly foresaw he would, might not a consciously sympathetic mind impart to his the balm of its longing to heal and comfort?  Surely.  Then she herself would see him and deliver the letter into his hands.  She would not go out and speak to him on the threshold of the house where he had perhaps hoped against hope for a welcome.  She would direct that the letter should be brought to her, and that when the youth returned he should be shown into her drawing-room.  Out of the mist of her human wish to save and help there loomed this small definite opportunity.  There is such in every nimbus of spiritual yearning or aspiration.  In the heart of the Idea, there is a Do this.'

    Unlike Tibbie, Sarah neither suspected herself, nor feared any suspicion, of a desire to solve the secret of Mr. Halliwell's seclusion.  If we relieve a starving fellow-creature, we are scarcer likely to mistrust that we only do so from a morbid curiosity to watch the effects of food on his famished frame, or to learn his account of the physiological sensations of extreme hunger.  To Sarah Russell's mind, the hunger and pains of the spiritual life were quite as real and bitter as those of the physical, and she sought to relieve them with the same frank unconsciousness, trusting as little in the one case to her own individual tact, as she would in the other, to her medical or surgical knowledge; but starting on the broad principle that anyhow kindness is as wholesome and necessary for the soul, as is bread and water for the body.

    Nor did Sarah Russell trouble herself what she should say, or what she should do, when her unknown visitor arrived.  She had had quite enough experience of life to know that all such fore-planning are sheer waste of time, and that all set speeches and arranged courses of actions are always to be known by their utter irrelevance.  Fancy a sailing vessel navigated quite irrespective of the way of the wind!  Fancy a barometer moving serenely on without respect to the drought or rain-fall of the season!  God's world is a spontaneous world, where to-morrow is not the same as yesterday, but better; and among growing things, anything that does not grow is soon left behind.  Sarah did not wear out herself and her thought by turning it over in her brain.  Rather, she laid it in her heart, and let it pervade and colour every corner; a method which has this advantage, that it leaves one's more mechanical mind at full liberty to perfectly superintend one's hands; and Sarah's industry had shaped all sorts of handiworks into parallels with all sorts of heart-incidents and experiences.  She always felt sure that her little industries were the better for the association; she had her fancies that the heart-histories were the better for the little industries.  This morning she was engaged in making up a worked bag, and the thickly embroidered canvas was very stiff to push the needle through, and the more she did so, the more rose her courage and her prayerful determination to defeat the unknown evil she had to contend with, and to set free the enslaved of habit and self-will.

    But the morning passed, and she took her early dinner and resumed her work till the evening shadows gathered too darkly for her to see any longer, and then she dropped it on her knee and sat between the twilight and the firelight.  Sarah Russell did not always call it waste of time to do this.  Not that she felt such pauses to be 'thinking times'—indeed she did all her thinking very unconsciously, and greatly distrusted any meditation that grated among her mental machinery.  She did not cultivate castles in the air or waking dreams.  She knew that the most refreshing sleep is that which leaves no memory for the awakening.  And taking that, as all physical things, as a type of something spiritual, she did not always lay such eager hold upon her own soul as to keep it from escaping at times into regions whence it brought nothing except a sense of refreshment and quietness.  Often had Tibbie aroused her with the quaint formula, 'A penny for your thoughts,' only to be told with a smile, 'I do not know where I was.'

    This time she was only aroused by Mrs. Stone throwing open the door, and with a mystified expression announcing--

    'The young gentleman gentleman, ma'am.'

    Sarah rose to her feet as the stranger came in.  And how was it?—who was it?  For this could not be Mr. Halliwell's visitor; but what could have brought her fellow-passenger from America, Mr. Frederick Broome, to call here upon her?  And besides, how did he know she was here?  Sarah caught the meaning of Mrs. Stone's mystification (as we catch many meanings) by feeling it herself.

    'Why, Mr. Broome,' she said, holding out her hand, 'I am very glad to see you!'

    'I thought I was not mistaken in the person who opened the door to me,' answered the youth.  'I did not think I was to have the pleasure of seeing you.'

    His dark, handsome shut face had so brightened with a hope that Sarah knew lay entirely behind their meeting, that she felt she must quench it at once, or her courage would go down.

    'You left a letter here this morning, I believe,' she observed.  Her voice fell low and quiet, like the first autumn leaves upon a grave.

    The light went out of the lad's face; the soul shut its doors and sat down in the inner darkness.  He said simply—

    'Yes, I did.'

    'I am afraid there is some mistake or something wrong,' Sarah went on gently.  'For this is, what Mr. Halliwell has sent down.'

    He took the letter, his own letter, and held it silently for two or three minutes.  Its stern endorsement could have taken but a second to comprehend.

    'Thank you,' he said presently.  'No, there is no mistake.  I understand.'

    And then he rose to go, but paused, with his white face turned towards the dank greenery of the little churchyard.  Sarah went up to him and put her hand upon his arm.

    'But there is a mistake,' she said, 'and you do not understand.  I know nothing beyond what is before us now; but I can say this, because I am quite sure of it.  Will you not sit down?'

    He looked at her stonily—perhaps the lines of the resolute young mouth just flickered a little—but he sat down.

    'I remember what you said at Liverpool, when I asked if you were going home,' said Sarah gently.

    He looked up at her with a sudden glance.  Why had she noticed his words?  Why had she remembered them?  The true memories and quick sympathies of a pure intuitive soul are a fragmentary revelation about the all-present, all-wise, all-powerful love of God—the glory of the sky reflected in a broken scrap of mirror.  The pity is that some see the reflection, and never look up to find whence it comes!

    'Is Mr. Halliwell a relation of yours?' asked Sarah.  'Do not answer if you would rather not.'

    'He is my mother's father,' said the young man, and bending forward, buried his face in his hands.

    His mother's father!  As if some link was broken, so that the relationship did not make him his grandfather.

    'Is your mother living,' Sarah asked very gently.

    He shook his head.

    'Or your father?' she added.

    'I never even saw him,' said the lad, with an icy composure.

    And then Sarah remembered the superscription of the letter, 'Frederick B. Halliwell.'  And the young man's name was 'Frederick Broome.'  There was a revelation in those names.

    'Has your mother been dead long?' Sarah again asked.

    'I do not know,' he answered.  'I was never told anything about her.  I have but one remembrance that I think is connected with her.'

    'And do you know your grandfather himself?' Sarah inquired.

    'No,' he answered, nothing more than that I was always given to understand it was he who kept me at school.'

    'You have not communicated with your grandfather before, since you have been England?' asked Sarah.

    'No,' he said, with a sudden fall of reserve.  'I had a reason for doing so on New Year's Day.'

    'And did you come over expressly to see him?' she inquired.

    'Yes,' he said, with a very slight hesitation.  'Yes.  I found business to bring me over because I wanted to come.  The business is done long ago.  I have waited here expressly for to-day.'

    'And have you been staying with anybody?' asked Sarah.

    'No,' he answered, 'I have lived at an hotel.  I gave up my rooms there this morning.'

    It flashed upon her that he had done this with a clinging hope that it made a good omen that a real home would be opened to take him in.  Ah, and the earthly parent had given a stone where bread had been expected, and alas, this young heart might understand the Heavenly Father in the inverted type.

    'Will you be my guest for a day or two?' said Sarah.  'You see there is an open welcome for you in your grandfather's house after all.  Do not you reject, in your turn.'

    'It is not his welcome,' observed the lad gloomily.

    'But you may have his God speed before you leave,' said Sarah cheerily.  'Stay here for tonight, at any rate.  I shall like to have a talk with you about America.'

    'I should like to stay,' answered the young man, with a dash of warmth in his manner.  'But I ought not to do so.  I have no right.'

    'No,' said Sarah, 'but you have a duty—the duty of accepting a kindness kindly.'

    Frederick Broome gave his head a curious little shake, and the shadow of a smile came out about his lips.

    'Where is your luggage?' asked Sarah briskly.

    'My portmanteau' (with emphasis on the word) 'is at a baker's in Crosier Street.  I left it there as I came along.'

    'I will send the servant for it,' Sarah replied; 'and now I must just go and give my housekeeper some directions.  You will, I hope, find some books to amuse you.  A dinner-tea will be ready in half an hour.'

    And the little lady bustled away to the womanly cares of linen closet and larder.

    Somebody had come to eat the dainties and to sleep in the spare room!  Not anybody whom she had expected; therefore, all the more, somebody whom God had sent.  And to Sarah Russell, God's care for any one was the pledge of his care for every one.  Out of the depths of a great despair, whose whole history nobody had ever heard, or could hear, she had looked up and seen stars and galaxies of a too far-off and tender glory for the eyes of those who walk on the level paths of life.  A light cloud might obscure them now and then for a moment, but they were always there.  Nor did her larger sight tempt her to a merely extended finality, but only taught her to say


There is much more beyond.


So that in the best sense she already had also possession of that 'much more.'


 
CHAPTER X.


A cry where there is none to hear
On hill or desert plain,
Returns in silence on the ear
In torture on the brain.—M
ACDONALD.


SARAH caused 'the dinner-tea' to be spread in the dining-room.  To Sarah's fancy a dinner-tea was the most social and enjoyable of compromises—its mingling of pretty china and bright silver, savoury meats, and toothsome sweets only serving to typify its mixture of dignified hospitality and chatty ease.

    As Tibbie had said, Sarah was not ignorant of human nature.  One of those touches which make the world akin had established a link between her and her almost stranger guest.  But she knew that more was needed for that utter melting reserve which makes confidence and helpfulness easy.  We may know a house is to be our home when we are brought to it, but even the great love which brings us does not make it so home-like as a few days of mere living in it.  A little talk about ordinary things, and we find out the friendly heart to which we may confide our secret, and which will cover it and keep it, like an egg laid in the warm wool of a nest.

    The young man, in his eager, impatient youthfulness, sat alone and wondered how he should speak when the lights and the tea came in—how he should explain the little details of his history to this woman who did not even know him.

    The lights and the tea came in, and Sarah with them, and lo! she began to talk about the events of their mutual voyage, and the gossip of their mutual passengers.  And in his thankfulness for her sympathy with his mood, and her wisdom in granting him this respite, Frederick Broome found the first reason why he should trust Sarah Russell.

    They spent the rest of the evening in the drawing-room.  Sarah knew they would be undisturbed.  For Tibbie was keeping New Year by attending a board meeting, where, as she herself wittily put it, 'she did no particular good, except that her very presence vindicated the rights of woman to equality with stupid men.'

    Still they went on only with pleasant, ordinary talk—talk that flows over the tragedies and heroism of life, as the green grass grows over graves.  Only every now and then there fell a silence, in one of which the slow step tottered across the room over head.

    'Is that—Mr. Halliwell?' asked the young man, under his breath.

    'Yes, that is poor Mr. Halliwell,' Sarah answered.

    'Of course you have seen him?' said Frederick, half interrogatively.

    'Why! did you not know that nobody sees him!' exclaimed Sarah.  'Not even the lawyer who manages his affairs.'

    'I almost fancied something of the sort,' said the lad; 'but nothing so bad as that.  Do you know how long he has lived so?'

    'No,' Sarah replied.  'The people at the hotel opposite say there has been no change in their time, and they have been there fifteen years.  They know the change took place in their predecessor's time, but they do not know when.  The housekeeper has been here ten years, and everything was the same on the day of her arrival as it is now.  That is all I know—except, indeed, that a cousin of mine met him in society nearly twenty years ago.'

    'I shall be nineteen in a month or two,' said the lad gloomily.  'I suppose he cannot help cursing my birth.  I suppose there is no mistake as to what it means.'

    'You said you had one remembrance which you associated with your mother,' said Sarah, very gently.

    'Yes,' he answered.  'But it is almost like a dream.  I could not have been more than four years old.  I don't remember anything that went before.  My life seems to begin at that day.  I see a kitchen with a stone floor, and a tall, pale woman who always said "Hush!" and I am sitting just outside the edge of the little rug before the fire, and there is an old woman in a red and yellow shawl, who has just come in, and my hat is put on and a shawl wrapped round me, and I am taken away with her in a coach.  It is for a long, long drive through country roads, and it is raining, and the damp comes through the old coach, and I have a tooth which aches, and I cry, and the old woman gives me a slap and shakes me.  And at last we drive within walls and stop before a door, and I am lifted out and taken to a room where there is a lady with curls and three or four women in caps.  They took me to the lady, and she kissed me, and hugged me, and cried over me.  There was a great doll, almost as big as me, lying on the sofa.  They take me away very soon, and as I am carried out of the room I see that she is hugging and kissing the big doll.  And I am taken back to the stone kitchen and the tall woman, and after that I remember myself constantly sitting at the edge of the rug and thinking over the drive, and the great house, and the lady.  I never lose memory from that day.'

    'And did you stay in that place long?' asked Sarah.

    'I was eight when I left it,' he replied.  'I had gone to school every day for three years before I left there.  I liked going to school, only I saw that whenever people noticed me they generally whispered to each other.  From there I went to a boarding-school.  I found out that it was a peculiar school, where children were sent who could not very well be received at other establishments.  Some of us were there for our own sins, and some for the sins of our parents.  We had peculiar histories to tell each other.  The boy who slept with me was the son of a man who had been hanged.  Nearly all of us stayed there all the year round, and scarcely anybody came to see any of us.  There I was led to what I conceive is a right conclusion, that that great house was a madhouse, and my poor mother a patient.'

    Sarah's heart ached.  Oh, poor little flock of lambs, dropped in the cold, unmothered and outcast, losing all because you wanted most, how could one bear to think of you without faith in the Good Shepherd, who giveth his life for the sheep and goeth into the wilderness after the stray?  And how can one bear to think of that Good Shepherd without giving up one's life with His life, and following Him on His search?

    'When I was fifteen I was sent abroad,' pursued Mr. Broome.  'Our schoolmaster helped most of us to our settlement in life.  He was always "in communication with parties able to introduce young gentlemen to suitable modes of life, according to individual tastes and position."  The negotiations for these introductions were always carried on quite privately, and nothing was known further than that so and so had got an appointment with a Gold Coast merchant, or such an one was going out to a farmer in Australia.  But some of the boys got inklings from their own side of the transaction, and it used to be whispered that very smart sums were paid with some of them, and that the schoolmaster got a percentage.  There was a kind of pride about those sums,' said Frederick Broome, looking up with a sad elderly smile for such a handsome young face.  'When one is to be got out of the way, it is a kind of rank to be "worth somebody's while to give a good deal to get one out of the way." '

    What an outgoing into life!  What influences to surround organizations peculiarly open to evil!  For what class of people would they be who voluntarily put themselves into contact with infamy, for sake of profit?  What class of people are they who serve for mere hire in Lazar-houses and dissecting-rooms?  The free Christ-love can touch and heal a leprosy without tainting itself, but the leprosy of Naaman goes with his gifts to Gehazi!

    'I think there were more pains taken in setting me out in life than most of the others,' Frederick went on.  'I gathered an idea from many things that the schoolmaster was instructed to take special pains to get me placed outside the limits of his ordinary "connection," and that his profit did not depend wholly on the percentage of the premium.  I presume I had to thank Mr. Halliwell for that.'

    And as he paused, the slow step tottered overhead.

    He went on talking in a more desultory way, about his voyage out, and his office work in New York.  The world had opened to him so.  It had turned to him but its dreariest phases of travelling and boarding-house experience, yet at its very barest table, he had seen feasts in which he had no share.  He who has no bread yearns to the half loaf of his neighbour.  He, homeless, was not thrown before a mirage of homes not open to him, but most of the other homeless ones about him either had homes somewhere, or at least had had them.  Sarah could understand the sickness of heart that a few poor photographs or an occasional letter would bring to one who had not even so much or rather so little.  Yet better the sigh of an awakened longing than the stagnation which did not even know what made it so dreary.  The young man did not say anything of this kind of suffering, perhaps he did not quite comprehend it himself, but Sarah could read it between the lines of such remarks as these:

    'I was very lonely, I did not seem able to settle down.  There seemed nothing to settle to.  I did not care for that kind of life, and there was no reason why I should try to care for it.  I thought I might as well have more change and movement.'

    Poor heart, with no tendril safely struck before it was aware!  Such have grievous temptation to go rolling hither and thither, not pausing to strike a tendril anywhere; and besides they generally roll on stony ground that has no welcome for tendrils!

    And then the lad went on to speak of his wanderings and adventures.  He told them only in the driest and plainest way, but there were names in the story which strangely stirred Sarah Russell's heart.  Only names of rivers which no poet has ever sung—only names of places not yet glorified by any known heroism.  Ah, but everything in God's world is sacred to some heart—everything has some place in that boundless city of love, whose builder and maker is God.  Some stranger's careless word thrills you and me, reader, as those musical names thrilled Sarah Russell.  A silence falls on us as we go along the street—we have passed a notice announcing when the next mail goes to Australia.  Those mails took letters from us once upon a time: those letters they will take never more.  But perhaps it is not even a gentle silence which falls upon us; perhaps we only speak to our companion the more kindly.  Or, in an old prayer-book we come across a spray of maiden hair, saved from a little bunch of flowers which was given us and taken, oh so tenderly, one summer morning years and years ago.  The dried maiden hair is yellow and withered—as withered as the passionate fancy of that temporal earthly youth which is not the eternal childhood which beholds the face of the Father in Heaven.  The hands that gave and took it have unclasped for ever.  They each do their work, not very far apart maybe, but they never touch.  They never stretch out to touch; and therefore they are little likely to clasp again in that wide heaven where only like will draw to like, out of all ages and peoples and tongues.  Yet the lives are not the same as if the vain passionate fancy had never been, and something crystallized in them stirs at sight of the yellow maiden hair in the old prayer-book.

    Sarah Russell gave no sign while the lad went through his narration ; very likely he thought that, quite naturally, it was not very interesting to her. Just once or twice, perhaps, she did really find it hard to keep her thoughts to the story before her. It was so strange that a fact, a new human interest, should come to her from the very places where her prayers and thoughts went daily. Was it on their spiritual telegraph that this was sent her? She could make no 'answer' out of this.  But Sarah Russell was always content to wait, assured that much that seems incongruous in the dense atmosphere of this life, will be seen as perfect harmony in the better light of the life which is to come.  She had a clear consciousness that many things have inner meanings, which give them inner relationships and inner fitness for their place, and in this, even saw possible solutions of many of the old mystic legends, wherein natural objects have beautiful and appropriate part.  Does not all mankind reach after this, in emblematic art, and even in the lowly, fanciful language of flowers?  Perhaps the spiritual signification of things will be a science in the spiritual world.

    But in spite of all the dreamy hintings that would come and go across the boy's story, Sarah caught enough of it to realise that it was somewhere in his wanderings that his purpose of returning to his grandfather's house had struck root and grown.  He did not say much about it, did not dwell on any longings or questionings that had led to it.  It seemed to rise up suddenly, or in the words uttered with a solemnity falling across his face,

    'Something determined me to come to England, and to come here as soon as I possibly could.'

    And in all his further story of later wanderings, one could trace the influence of the mysterious 'something'—the passive watching for an opportunity to obey it.  Sarah asked no question, she knew that there might be an answer which could be given—she knew equally well that there might not.  There are strange stars that appear in each of our skies; but some of us are looking downwards and do not see; and some of us who see, do not follow.  There are strange voices which whisper into each of our nights, only some of us never answer, 'Speak, Lord, for thy servant hearth,' but go to sleep, convinced that it is really only some Eli calling in his dotage.  There are strange footsteps that draw near each of our dwellings, but some of us, when we hear them, go out and shut our door.

    It might have been an incident, or a word, or a sudden impulse in the secret soul that had started him on his quest.  Sarah asked no question, for she knew that whichever it was, it was not what it seemed.  As death is not what it seems, so neither is life.  Sarah knew that much of her own history had been written by hands which had not been very visible among its Pages.  God shows results, He does not always display processes.  A time comes when the fruit is meet to be gathered, and we may take it then, and do with it as we will.  But let us not pursue the botany of 'waste and ruin' among fruit blossoms.  Great writers seldom care to tell the stories they mean to write.  But there comes a time when we may hear the beginning of a story without risk of spoiling its end, because the end is ended quite, as far as it relates to the brain whence it issues.  We can tell some of the tragedies and comedies and mysteries of our lives, because our soul has cast them off, and folded them up to give away, as we bestow old garments.  But the present must remain the thing we 'scarcely tell to any'—nay, the thing we cannot tell—because we do not know it ourselves.  It must first recede from us.  In heaven we shall find out many secrets.

    'Did you like life on the shores of the Mississippi?' asked Sarah dreamily.

    'Yes,' he said.  'I know it is wild and rough, and hard and low, often.  But people are generally either really bad or really good.  It does not pay much there to seem what one is not.  And character stands out there, and most people above a certain line of cultivation are characters and have histories.  All the quarters of the world, and almost every form of breeding, will be represented round one hotel table.'

    'I know,' said Sarah, 'I know.'

    'You were never there?' he asked.

    'Oh, no,' she said, 'I was never there.'

    'One gets hints of something one can hardly work out; at least, that I can't work out yet,' the lad went on.  'One feels them stirring and stirring when one comes back to the older civilisations.  I've known men that had been counted religious men in England or the old States—I've seen their church-membership cards, and their good books—who have left off every form of godliness when they came there.  And I've known others—not a great many perhaps, but many—who have been sent out as scapegraces, that were breaking their families' hearts, who have presently taken to all sorts of ways of trying to be good.  "I wouldn't go to church at home," one of them told me once; "but here I'd grow a downright devil if I didn't.  But when I write home and tell my mother I go, I know she only thinks I say so because she's too far off to find out the lie." '

    'Oh, what a pity!' said Sarah.

    'It seems to me,' young Broome continued thoughtfully, 'as if some people think they know all about life, when they only know about as little as they can hold between their finger and thumb.  I've heard sermons and read tracts that I don't think could have been written if their authors had heard some stories and seen some death-beds that I have heard and seen.

    'Perhaps not,' Sarah frankly admitted.  You see no man was, is, or ever will be infallible.  Nobody can know everything, and therefore he is the wisest man who is always conscious that on every point there is surely much beyond his present knowledge or experience.  O what a miserable thing it would be to come to the end of one's pasture, and no more growing!  One would have only grown fat and flourishing to be starved at last.  But I daresay you read most of the tracts and sermons you refer to, before you heard the histories and saw the death-beds?'

    'Yes, indeed,' said Frederick Broome, with his haughty face, 'I have had no patience to read them since.'

    'I know that many such are very hard and narrow,' said Sarah, 'very, very different to the good news which Jesus brought, of our Father in heaven.  And we need not trouble ourselves at all about them, for it is as little children that we must enter into the kingdom, and no little child could understand or learn from them.  But having said all this, I must go on to say, that if you read them again by the light of your larger experience, you would find something new about perhaps even the very hardest and narrowest of them—very darkly hidden perhaps under very conventional phrases, maybe not at all understood by the writers.  But you would see it—unless indeed your experience had been as vain as that of that royal race who "forgot nothing and remembered nothing." '

    'Ah, but we know what they meant themselves,' Frederick answered, 'and we must take them at their own meaning.'

    'Must we?' said Sarah.  'First, how can we be quite sure what they did mean?  Language gets new shades of meaning every ten years, and many words have different shades of meaning for different individuals.  I know myself that I have a habit of saying, "I have a right to do so and so," where most people would say, "It is my duty to do so and so."  Secondly, I think meaning never ends.  The greater the work the more new meanings will always keep sprouting from it.  A thought is written, a poem is sung, and then years after another thought is born, another poem is sung, and this enters into relation with the other, and the two are not the same as either would be alone.  If any word is alive, it is like life: the individual enters identity a child, even then in a relationship which he does not yet realise, that of a son, then he becomes a brother, a friend, a husband, a father, a citizen, a cosmopolitan—always the same individual, yet always different, and each growth not destroying, but developing and absorbing the previous growths.  But I am speaking this of vital words, and I know quite well that many of the tracts and sermons you speak of are not these, and that the very utmost you can expect of them is to see upon them a reflection of any crowing thought or experience of your own, rather than any response from within them.'

    'Well,' said young Broome, 'I will say that all the religion that is left me—no, not that, I never had any more—is that there is a Deity, who sees deeper than men and judges differently, and that all we have to do is to live as well as we can in obedience to the laws which are written by nature on the face of society.'

    Sarah looked grave, but she only said, 'If we live up to the light we have, however dim it be, we may be sure it will increase.'  Then she asked, with apparent inconsequence, 'I wonder what made you defer coming here till New Year's Day?'

    Perhaps it was the abruptness of the remark which rather disconcerted the young man, as he answered rather disconnectedly, 'Oh, many things—it was a date which—besides I thought Mr. Halliwell might feel more—I thought it he was ever likely to think of me, it was then—and it would make it easier, perhaps.'

    'You thought he might have longed for you,' said Sarah very quietly.  And be sure he has, although he has spurned you now.  Many hearts long for what they spurn, because they do not understand.  But God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.'

    And then there was a silence, till Sarah returned to his stories of travel by asking

    'Did you keep your health well while you were on the shores of the Mississippi?  One always associates that region with fever and ague.'

    'I was very fortunate,' answered the youth.  'I had two or three chills, but very slight.  Whilst I was at Cape Girardeau the cholera broke out there, but I escaped.  People died off in flocks.  It was very awful, but very different to what is written in many books; yet I don't think I believed in a God at all till then: I'd only never thought enough on the matter to contradict what I was told!'

    And then Mrs. Stone and the servant came with their Bibles.

    That night Sarah read the fifth chapter of Matthew's Gospel, and offered up Jesus' own prayer to 'Our Father.'  That was all.

    She bade her unexpected guest 'good night' at the door of the spare room.  It stood open,—the candles on the toilet-table letting out a glow of soft brightness from its rosy curtains.  The warm light fell on the lad's face as he glanced towards it, and to Sarah's soul it seemed to bring out there a picture of a whitewashed 'hotel' room, sparely set with cheap jerky American furniture, and with something stretched out, long and still, on the bed.  He had been talking of the fatal pestilence at Cape Girardeau; perhaps he remembered some such death scene, as he gazed at the warm snuggery waiting to welcome him.

    He went in, and he went round the room and looked at the pictures.  Then he took up the Bible which Tibbie had taken up, and looked at the initials over which she had wondered.  He looked at them again, holding the book close to the candle.  There was no mistake about them; they were certainly

    'J. S. D.'

    'Well, it is a curious coincidence,' he said to himself, laying down the book; 'but that is all.  The handwriting is quite different.'

    'It is almost a pity that prayer is nothing,' he said to himself, standing still in the midst of his bed-room.  It was not quite easy to believe that either, while that little lady was saying the "Our Father."  I used to pray "God bless" the old schoolmaster and his wife, whom I wanted to curse, and now it is no use saying, "God bless this lady."  I think I'll do it though, and let it take its chance

    'Please God, bless Miss Sarah Russell.'


 
CHAPTER XI.


'You've helped me more than I've helped you;
 I hope there's some kind soul to do
    As much for Max,' she said.—A
NON.


THERE is a glad sense, as well as a painful one, in which we 'know not what we do.'  We speak a few kind words to a stranger, that is all, but perhaps our cheery greeting gives his failing heart a fillip which saves the coroner from holding an inquest over him.  We give a little friendly advice, a mere hint about diet or dress, but it may save a life from decrepitude and many lives from bereavement.  Sometimes, however, circumstance reveals how much depended upon us, and what dire misery would have resulted had we failed in what presented itself as only a very slight and unobligatory duty.

    When Frederick Broome joined his hostess at the breakfast-table, his face had a sickly pallor, and his eyes were heavy and dark.

    'It was only a headache,' he said, 'he often had severe headaches; and perhaps he had caught a little cold.  It was nothing.'

    Sarah was quite willing to believe it was not much.  But directly after his breakfast, she sent him back to his bed-room, and made him stay there in quiet and darkness.  But when, as the day wore on, he grew no better, and Sarah began to suspect the appearance of other symptoms, to which her experience was not wholly a stranger, she took alarm, the more from his answers to a few pertinent questions she put.

    He owned that he had not felt well for some days, that he had had shivers and a sore throat, but persisted that these could have nothing to do with the present attack, because 'he had felt nothing of them all New Year's Day.'

    But Sarah better understood how mental excitement can suspend physical, and she said nothing, but she sent for a doctor.

    The physician spoke cheerily to the patient, but Sarah had seen many physicians in many sick-rooms, and could recognise the cheerfulness within, which means a very grave face outside the door.

    'Is the young gentleman any relation of yours, madam?' he asked kindly, as they descended together to the dining-room.

    'No,' said Sarah.  'We both travelled together from America, and he is now on a visit to me.'

    'Dear me!' the doctor said.  'Then I suppose he has no home near, nor could I advise his removal if he had.  But you must send for his friends.  This is the beginning of typhoid fever.'

    'There are no friends to be sent for,' said Sarah simply.  'You must give me all directions; I will do whatever can be done.'

    'It is rather hard for you,' said the doctor.  'Typhoid fever is one of the most anxious and trying of illnesses.  And this patient is in a low state to begin with.  Do I understand he has been living alone?'

    'Yes; travelling about alone,' Sarah answered.

    'Worse still.  I quite understand,' said the doctor.  'Been taking things as they come, fancying nothing mattered.  Eating anything, forgetting meals sometimes.  Catching colds and letting them go anyhow.  Worried and excited a little too, perhaps?'  This was put interrogatively.

    'Probably,' was all Sarah would admit.

    'Well, we must do our best,' said the doctor, adding significantly, 'It will mostly depend on the nursing.'

    Next day Frederick Broome was only half-conscious and quite incoherent.

    Sarah quietly made her preparations.  Her mind was always at home.  She knew her way—this way as well as others.  She had trodden it before, over and over again, and had sometimes returned rejoicing with the prey she had 'taken from the mighty,' and had sometimes returned alone, still rejoicing, because the prey had been taken for ever from the Destroyer.  Infinitely higher is the resurrection of Christ, than the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus or the son of the widow of Nain.

    Sarah had her sick-room dresses, cheerful, subdued washing stuffs, which were always put away with fresh cambric frills tacked about the throat and wrists.  She put one on, and then she cleared away the curtains of the bed, and the drapery of the toilet-table.  And then she was ready.

    She would be the nurse, and Mrs. Stone only the relief-guard, who would sit in the sickroom, while she took half-an-hour's brisk walk about the Hallowgate, and again in the early morning hours, when the patient was quietest, and Sarah could steal away for a short repose in her own chamber.

    'When there is illness in the house I can get as much rest in two or three hours as I do in whole nights at other times,' she said.  'I seem to go so far away in my sleep at those times.  It is as different from other sleep as a rest on a mountain-top is from a mere walk in the park.'

    She wrote to Tibbie, telling her that there was fever in the Hallowgate, and that there was no necessity for her coming there, and asking her to deliver the same warning to Jane, who might prefer to receive even the information indirectly.

    Tibbie arrived the next day, and as she happened to come up just as Sarah started for her half-hour's walk, they went away together.

    Sarah did not tell Tibbie everything; she kept in view the time when Tibbie and young Broome might meet the more easily for a little reservation.  We must keep a perfect friendship for each of our friends.  It was quite enough to tell Tibbie that she had made acquaintance with the lad on the steamer, that he had visited her, and that she had invited him to spend a few days under her roof, seeing he was a lonely stranger in London, and that at a time of year when loneliness is particularly trying.

    'And this fever is the angel you have entertained with the stranger,' was Tibbie's queer' remark.

    'Very likely,' was Sarah's calm response; 'true angels come in dark disguise at first, sometimes.  It is only the dense atmosphere of this earth closing round their glory.  They penetrate it by-and-by.'

    'I am not afraid of the fever for myself,' said Tibbie.  'I face fevers every day in my "courts and alleys," as Jane calls them.  I would offer to come and help you to nurse, only I have never nursed anybody in all my life.  I seem to make sick people worse, so I always clear myself out of the way.  I know other people who do the same thing, but who don't clear themselves out of the way.  But I do want to do something to help you.  I don't care a bit for this boy.  I know it is a very touching story, poor fellow; but while hundreds of people have to die in hotels and hospitals, he might just as well have been one of them.  But let me do something to help you.  I think you are throwing yourself away; but if you will, you must, and somehow I'd like to throw a bit of myself with you.  Invest in many ways, and then one does not lose all.  There's no knowing which bit of bread may not turn up after many days.'

    Sarah did not shrink from this strange form of sympathy.  The theory was hard and comfortless, the practical wish was right—the flower was sweet, though the bud was green and sour.

    'Will you go and call upon some poor people that I have been helping lately?' she said; 'some of your own poor people' (and she named the family with the paralyzed lodger); 'and will you go to see Jane for me, as well as for yourself?  You generally go once a week now; so go twice.'

    Tibbie made a grimace.  'I'm like Naarnan when he had the leprosy,' she said, 'the easy things are the hard ones to me.'

    'Go and do them,' said Sarah, 'and your heart will grow soft and smooth, like the heart of a little child.'

    'Well, I'll go to see the poor people,' said Tibbie; I that I can quite promise.  About Jane, I won't promise; but I've no doubt I shall be like the bad-behaved son in the parable who "afterwards repented and went."  But it will be done all for your sake, Sarah, remember.  Don't imagine it is sanctified by any higher motive.'

    Sarah smiled.  She said nothing, but thought within herself that some who are called to inherit the kingdom, because they have fed and clothed and visited the King thereof, know not that they have done so till He tells them, as He calls them in.

    'And there is something else,' she added.  'Buy a little bunch of flowers every Saturday, and let Mr. Halliwell's housekeeper take it up to him.  You see, if my patient were in great straits, I might forget, or I might send up infection too.  Poor old man!'

    Tibbie's face had two swift changes—a hardening and a softening.  They both faded swiftly, but perhaps a little of the softening stayed.

    'I will do it,' she said, as she parted from Sarah.  'I will certainly remember it.'

    Tibbie was really better than her word, and went to see Jane that evening.  If she acted from a very outward and inferior motive, she certainly got very dubious reward.  Let us hope the higher blessing was but reserved till the higher motive should be revealed.

    Jane wished Sarah would see that her own flesh and blood should have the first claim upon her.  She was sure she had bad enough headaches and fits of depression, and each ought to look after their own.  Then Sarah would be taking the fever, and expecting other people to look after her.  Well, at any rate, she could not, being an invalid herself.  Did Tibbie think typhoid was infectious?  She wondered if Sarah had made a will, and to whom she had left her money.  For her part, she thought riches had wings and flew away, and were only fit for moth and rust to corrupt, and if she only had another two hundred a-year, she would ask no more, for then she would be able to winter in Florence or the south of France.

    Poor Tibbie crept home, as she herself put it, 'possessed with a devil.'

    Meanwhile, Sarah carefully spared herself as much as she could, through the early stages of her visitor's illness.  She knew that a time would come when its necessities would demand sacrifices which she could ask from nobody but herself, and for which, therefore, she must husband her strength.

    He was only conscious for a few minutes at time now; long enough to just say some saddening words, not long enough to receive a cheering cheering answer.

    He would lie very quiet sometimes.  At others he was restless and delirious, murmuring names and broken ideas which thrilled through and through Sarah's tender woman heart.

    It is not to be supposed that such a woman as this, sitting silent hour after hour, by what might so soon be a dying bed, did not cast many a thought 'before and after.'  Jane wrote her a letter (which she begged her not to answer, one never knew how subtle infection was!) in which she 'ventured to remind Sarah of her responsibility in endeavouring to obtain some assuring and satisfactory expression of belief from a soul so soon to be launched upon the dark ocean of eternity.'  That letter gave Sarah an hour's acute pain; not for Frederick, but for Jane!  Poor Jane, did she really mean to launch herself in such a leaky boat as any 'expression of belief?'

    Of theology, but a very little is written, and what is written is generally dead, being severed from the love which should be its root, by being written in discussion, or put dogmatically, or preached in 'strife and contention.'  It is written by men in the prime of life, whose mothers have long been dead, who have yet no little children in heaven, who have forgotten that Jesus did not teach a creed, but a prayer, and did not find the type of a saint in a Doctor of Divinity, but in a little child.  There is another theology, which is seldom written; which grows in the meditations of quiet women watching in sick-rooms; in the glad dream of the young mother with her baby at her breast; in the bold, unshrinking thought of those who work for the Lord in dark places; in those martyred lives that look up steadfastly into heaven and see the glory of God.  It may be that this theology has most to do with the spiritual life after all: when we are in great soul-stress, it is upon the twenty-seventh Psalm, and the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus' last talk with his disciples, that we fall back.  We do not say the catechism with our last breath, but only 'Into thy hands I commend my spirit.'  The greatest divine returns to the babe's prayer and the babe's hymn.  The spoken theology is the class-book of the school; the silent theology is the hushing of the child upon the Father's breast.

    Sarah sat by that sad sick-bed, and said to herself that the Father knew all about it—the Father who wastes nothing, not even a single leaf.  It was not for her to puzzle, it was for her to trust.  It was not for her to ask why some lives were so full, so overflowing with love, while this poor life had had no endearment save that poor mad woman's one crazed caress.  It was only for her to give it all the love she could, and to be assured that this outcast life was as precious in God's sight as that of any cherished heir.  It was not for her to question God's dealings.  It was for her not to judge them unworthily, but to lift her heart to the glorious faith that they must be for the best of each and all.

    There was one name which came constantly into the lad's ravings—a name he had not named when he narrated his history, a name which made Sarah's brow to flush, and her heart to swell.

    'Denison.'  'John Denison.'  'Syme Denison.'

    'I will do what you tell me, Denison, of course I will, when you have been so kind to me.'

    And Sarah leaned back in her chair, and thanked God for the unknown 'cup of cold water' which had been given and received in some wild town on the Mississippi.  She did not wish to be wiser and juster than Jesus, and He had said that such should in nowise lose their reward.  And if the King takes the kindness done to another as done to himself, may He not take the gratitude and loving service it evokes as also to Him?  If this starved heart had been so ready to do the bidding of a man who had been kind, would it not be as ready to do the bidding of God if it knew how kind He is?  Is not thankfulness for the crumb but a narrower thanksgiving for the harvest-field?  How could Frederick Broome understand what the word 'Father' means?  We learn heavenly things from earthly types, and Frederick Broome's sole type of providing care had been one from which he could at best make out but a cold and distant Deity, who gave food and clothing and discipline, but no smile, no shelter, no love.  But would a father spurn his children, because in foreign lands false teachers had taught them that he was a stranger?  'Ifs ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him!'  And what is asking?  Must it be a prayer in words?  May it not be also the eager grasping of the first mortal shadow of the Immortal Love?  Said not Paul, 'If haply they might feel after Him?'

    'John Syme Denison.'  Strange that this waif should bring her the name that she had not heard for years and years, and that she never breathed except in her prayers, and oh, those prayers of Sarah Russell's went on all day long!  She might never hear any more.  This poor clouded brain might only clear far beyond her questionings.  Never mind.  From a lost life, which had mingled once with her life—one of those sad divided lives, half of which seems able to rise so high, and half to be drawn to the very lowest—there had come to her a token from the upper half.  He had been kind!  'God bless him,' she said in her heart; 'John Syme Denison was never anything but kind to me, and all that is happiest in my life would not have been without him.'

    Some people cannot be injured.  The smitten cheek only blushes; the broken heart only pours forth treasures; the lonely life goes into the very heart of God.  But let us take the more care lest we injure.  In the next world we shall have to see the martyrs' crowns that we have made.

    The darkest days came presently to the sickroom.  One way or the other, it would be over soon.  Sarah never left the bedside now, except for five minutes' breath of air at the staircase window that faced the sunset.

    Should she let Mr. Halliwell know that his grandson was still under his roof, wrestling on the very edge of life?  She decided no.  It was too late for the poor boy himself to derive any comfort from his grandfather's recognition.  And such recognition, if obtained under such circumstances, could now only be a vain remorse or a false satisfaction to the old man.  Sarah did not have much faith in death-bed reconciliations—new pieces of cloth patched on old garments.  Perhaps it was because Death itself never seemed to her such an ending and putting far away as it does to some people.

    The doctor came and went.  'One can never predicate in this disease,' he said.  'But we must be prepared.  You must be ready for a shock; he may go in a moment at last.'

    'Miss Sarah'll go and kill herself,' sobbed Mrs. Stone, 'a-doing everything that his own mother could for a poor cretur that's as helpless and as senseless as a babe new born.  And that poor paralytic's gone at last, Miss Tibbie says, dead and buried all of a suddent, as they do with poor folks.  And his name were Smith; leastways that was all the name they knew.  Miss Sarah won't come out of Mr. Broome's room, though she'll let me help her.  She's afraid of his being taken while she's away.  If angels come for sick folk, as they say, I reckon they might take Miss Sarah for one of their-selves.  I'd never want no better angel than Miss Sarah myself.  I'd be clean scared at better ones.  They say that poor paralytic said something about his wife just afore he went.  They'd never heard anything of her before.  Ah, I reckon there's a many thinks o' things they don't name.  I shouldn't wonder but my poor man was sorry about me in his heart.  I hope he made sure I'd forgive him—if there was anything to forgive.  I reckon we all want forgiving among each other somehow.  But I can't make out Miss Sarah.  She have got a kind of look inside her face, that's something like the sunset on the outside of it.  She's that bright; and yet she's never left that room for four days, nor put her head down on anything softer than a sofy pillow.'

    Ah, but it is not on down couches and in the soft places of life that we dream of a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reaching to heaven, and behold the angels of the Lord ascending and descending on it, and the Lord God standing above it.

    The broad sunny river flows restlessly; the great lakes in the level lands of the West are sometimes as stormy as any sea, but where mountains rise highest and steepest, there always is the still water.'


 
CHAPTER XII.


We must be only joined in pains divine
Of spirits blent in mutual memories.

 THE SPANISH GYPSEY.


'HE is saved: if he only regains strength ever so gradually, he is saved.  And he owes his life to you, madam.  Under any ordinary conditions he must have died.'

    It was a sweet spring day when the doctor said this, standing beside Sarah at the stair-case window.  Yes, a spring day, though it was still January; but spring will come into winter sometimes, just as heaven may come into the earth-life.

    'God is very good to me,' said Sarah, looking up with swimming eyes.  The doctor did not very much believe in God—he could not reconcile the God of the theologians with the God whose hand he saw in nature, and he had not worked out the puzzle, but simply left it, an unsolved problem.  But as he looked at Sarah's glorified face and heard her words, he did verily believe in her God.  And that momentary belief returned to him over and over again afterwards, an olive branch which he had found on the waste of waters.  He had often heard God praised for temporal blessings, and for spiritual blessings (whose utter beatitude he had sometimes had reason to doubt).  He had even heard Him praised for pain, and affliction, and trial.  But he had never before heard Him praised for weariness, and anguish, and wasting, borne for the sake of another.  It was a revelation to him.  Not that he could define it.  No true revelation can ever be defined by words.  They fall off it as the body falls from the rising spirit, and they bear its similitude for a while, and then they must be buried out of sight, that fresh flowers and new crops may grow from their decay.

    There would be a long and anxious convalescence, something like the tender, wayward infancy of a new life.  And Sarah was as ready to give herself up to its claims and necessities, as ever mother could be to devote herself to her new-born babe.

    She did not forget the name that had been uttered in the wild delirium, but she was not willing to press any question upon the weakened brain of her invalid.  She could wait.  Nay, she felt as if she could wait for an eternity—such eternity as is within the compass of our human imaginations.  Love gives us strength to wait for ever, because it makes us partakers of that divine nature with whom a thousand years is as one day, and one day as a thousand years.

    It did not strike Sarah at the time, but she remembered it vividly afterwards, that just then the prayerful thought of her whole life had suddenly changed into a simple consciousness of peace and joy—much the difference that comes to our thoughts about friends who have been wandering, when we hear that they are settled down, where they can send sweet messages to us, and receive our loving messages in return.

    But she was conscious of a renewing of life within herself, which seemed to keep company with the renewal of life in her charge.  Every beautiful thing seemed more beautiful.  The pale spring sunshine seemed charged with a sacred song; the flowers which Tibbie sent for her table, with those for Mr. Halliwell, seemed more than flowers had seemed before.  Everybody seemed so kind, and bright, and tender.  Had her life lacked a glory, that this had been sent to it?  Nay, not so.  For ever and for ever, 'to whom hath shall be given.'  Those who have the most, have the 'much more.'

    As soon as the invalid could be removed, the two went off together to the seaside.  Sarah chose to go to Bournemouth.  She knew that there were softness and sunshine there, when winds were rough and bleak at other places; but what drew her most was what she heard of the pine woods by the sea.  Pine woods and the sea!  The shelter and the open!—the nook to rest in, and the boundless to gaze upon!  Could one find in nature a more beautiful symbol of God?

    Mrs. Stone went with them, and Tibbie went to the station to see them all off.  Jane sent, by her sister's hand, a foot-muff and a tract.  Frederick Broome found the foot-muff very agreeable on the journey, for the ground was white with frost as they passed through the New Forest.  Sarah read the tract herself; it was called, 'Sin, Wrath, and Hell,' and then she put it away, and a shadow that had fleeted over her face died in a smile as she thought of the Master's gentle parable about a waiting Father, and a Good Shepherd, and how He spoke to the sinful woman, and to Zaccheus, and to the thief on the cross; and the prayer that came to her lips was the Master's own prayer,

    'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'

    And then came quiet, quiet days.  The house in which they lived lay a little back from the sea, but the windows looked out upon it, and they could hear it singing and sighing, and roaring and moaning in that ceaseless anthem which seems to have a sympathy for every mood of the soul and every phase of life.  Sarah was not a 'musical woman' in the too common sense of the phrase.  She could perform on no instrument; she could not sing, except in unison with other voices.  But the old Greeks were wiser than we are; and in 'music' they included all beautiful things—poetry, legends, heroism, and, best of all, the secret of that harmony in which all creation is planned.  Perhaps the music of the next world will be that music which the inner ear catches when we are in our highest mood, and of which the most perfect earthly music seems but an imperfect expression.  There are many of us to whom it is no 'fond fancy' that there is music not only in voices, but in footsteps, in water, in every natural sound—nay, harmony rising above the discord of a noisy crowd in the street.  God is preparing all instruments for His praise, rearing everything for His glory, and those who know and love their Father can already hear the anthem beyond the tuning, and see within the scaffold the boundless dome of His Eternal Thought.

    She and Frederick Broome did not often talk much, or when they did they spoke of common daily things.  But often when she was walking beside his chair through the brown woodland ways, or sitting quietly in the fire. light while he rested on the sofa, he would look at her with that rapt glance which has been so often lifted to sacred images and pictures, and, alas! so often left to rest there, losing the signfication in the symbol.  But there was that in Frederick Broome's glance which seemed to say that he saw something else, through and beyond her, who in her fragile, second loveliness looked so like a spiritual Madonna, a mother of souls in heavenly places.  What had not Sarah Russell been to him?  And why had she been so?  What made her so?  WHO was shining through her?  Could he ever again think of God as the providing, punishing, unreconciled Deity that had been typified to his loveless childhood?  Was fie Power without Love?  Was He not rather Love in Power?  And the weary chilled young heart lifted itself from its husks, and said, 'I will arise and go to my Father, who is my Home.'

    He did not say this even to himself.  He only saw before him a Light in which his thoughts about everything grew gentler; in which he was sorry for his poor old grandfather, and wondered what he could do to be as little troublesome as possible to Miss Russell and Mrs. Stone; and at each kindly thought and each patient little action he felt the Light grow stronger and draw nearer.  Little did he know that it was really lighting up within himself! that Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

    They had had a long ramble through the woods, and then Sarah had read aloud to him from a poem by some nameless author who was just startling the sleepy world into the consciousness that inspiration is not dead—is still a voice of God among us, albeit men are so prone to think that the present must ever be content with a mere echo from the past.  Frederick was lying in his usual place on the sofa, and Sarah was seated on a low chair near the fire.  Twilight fell upon them there.  And when it was too dark to read more, they just kept silence.  Sarah thought that Frederick had fallen asleep.  She felt very weary.  There were times when the flesh failed a little after its long trial, when she felt as if same of the life restored to Frederick was some of her own surrendered for him.  She gently drew up another chair and raised her feet upon it, and nestled her head back in the pillow.  She did not know that Frederick was watching her from his dark corner, or not even such a slight token of weariness would have escaped her.  Just then a sudden flame leaped up in the dull fire and lit her face, making it shine out from the darkness white and worn.  Frederick Broome sprang up and sat erect.

 

"A long ramble through the woods."

 

"Frederick Broome sprang up and sat erect."


    'You are killing yourself over me,' he cried.  'My useless life has been saved twice, but surely I am not to cost my second saviour's life as I did my first?'

    Sarah started, and then she laughed.  'You are not killing me,' she said, 'or at least I enjoy the killing!  And I shan't be killed—I can't be killed—or I should have been killed long ago!'

    'Ah, but something must kill one at last,' said Frederick Broome sadly.  'My friend Denison had been through fire and shipwreck, and fever and murder, but he died at last of the cholera at Cape Girardeau!'

    Sarah Russell shaded her face with her hand, and her breath came hard and fast, and it almost seemed to her as if it was not merely Frederick Broome who was sitting in the dusk on the sofa.  Have we never known that feeling —as if some friend beside us was suddenly somebody else as well as himself, and knew all about joys and agonies and secrets that were acted out perhaps before he was born?

    Her own voice almost made her start again, it was so quiet compared with the rush in her heart.

    'Won't you tell me about this Mr. Denison?' was all she asked.

    'I did not know him very long,' said young Broome.  'We took a voyage down the Mississippi together and made friends on the boat.  He was years older than me.  I don't know why he took a fancy to me.'

    There was a pause.  He went on.

    'I was very much drawn to him.  And yet he was strange.  He used to be very moody at times, as if he forgot where he was and all about himself.  Other times, he was the pleasantest companion I ever had.  He used to give me good advice too, and somehow it did not seem to lose its effect, because he always said that it was advice he had not followed himself.  Plain, practical advice it always was.  If he found me in the cabin, hanging about where passengers were gambling, he would just put his hand on my shoulder and say, "Now you go straight out of this, on deck, and look at the stars."  And the same way about other things.'

    'And you kept up the acquaintance after the journey was done?' said Sarah, with her face still shaded.

    'Yes,' he answered.  'He used to call for me on Sunday evenings, and we would take long quiet walks together.  We've walked miles without speaking.  He never talked much on Sundays.  Once I asked him what he was thinking about, and he said, "I'm hearing a sermon."  And I said, "What is it about?"  And he said, "It is in a face which I shall never see again."  I felt somehow that he had an awful kind of life, and yet I did not like him a bit the less.'

    'Perhaps he had left it behind him at last,' said Sarah under her breath.

    'I took the cholera just as it was breaking out everywhere, and the hotel servants were all frightened, and I had lain on my bed for half a day with nobody to come near me.  It was just in the twilight that he came in.  I think I was only half conscious between pain and utter misery.  I don't think I thanked him.  It seemed quite natural that he should come.  Once I heard him say to himself, "Let me not see the death of the child."  I am sure he said it.  It was not a dream.  But dreams and realities were queerly mixed up.  I dreamed about that mad lady that night.  I thought that she and Mr. Denison were standing stretching their hands towards each other and weeping bitterly because they could not reach to clasp, but presently they waved them in farewell, and went off in different ways.  Is it not strange how in dreams we put together people who have never had anything to do with each other?'

    Sarah did not answer, but she shifted her hand a little, and took one long look at Frederick Broome.

    'He did not lie down for three days and three nights, and just as I was saved, he sickened, and there was nobody but me to wait upon him, and I couldn't,' said Frederick sadly.  'But he seemed to be glad to die!  He knew all about me.  I had told him about the madhouse, and the school, and Mr. Halliwell, and everything.  And he said two or three times, "Oh, why should you be with me, while that poor old man may be dying alone?"  I think I said some hard things of my grandfather, for he said, "Don't—don't—if you are not able to forgive him, you may be adding to the sin and pain of some whom you might wish to forgive."  Once he said, "When we fall below ourselves, we are punished by having to live below ourselves, for as we try to rise we often only stumble lower."  And he said, "There are angels and syrens, but it is the angels who keep their hold on the soul; the syrens seize the flesh, and it is left in their hand, like Joseph's garment with Potiphar's wife."  And then he turned on his pillow and stretched out his hand, and moaned, in a sort of wail, "O Miriam, O Miriam, you ought to have been better than me: you had it in you to be so much better, and your best and your worst were so mixed up together!  Forgive me, and may God make it up to you in his own time and way.  We met in the lower way, Miriam, and our paths part in the higher one, O Miriam, O Miriam!"

    'But the queer thing was,' Frederick went on after a slight pause, 'that just at the very last, when he was quite calm and quiet, he said to me, "Will you do something for my sake, my boy?"  And I said, "John Denison, I will do anything for one who has been so kind and good to me."  I thought it was something about his own family or affairs.  But he raised his head a little and looked strangely at me, and said, "Go back to England; and go to Mr. Halliwell's house in the Hallowgate, and tell him that John Syme Denison sent you—the only sign that he can give of his repentance—that the old man's last days be not desolate, and that his dying curse may not fall on the soul, as his living curse fell on the life.  Go on New Year's Day, Frederick.  He had something sent him once before on New Year's Day—something that was taken from him and spoiled, and in the new, there is often all that is good of the old—there might be always—for good never dies."  And I promised to go, as it would please him.  I was so ill and weak myself that I did not seem at all astonished at what was so strange, and I did not ask any questions.  He died about half an hour afterwards.  Just at the last, he said again, "You will go?"  And I said "Yes, for his sake."  And I asked, "Was he happy?"  And he looked up at me with a wonderful light in his eyes, and said, "No: God was too good to him to let him be happy yet; but it would all come right."  And then he died.  And do you know,' added Frederick, moving a little towards Miss Russell, and speaking with a tender awe in his voice, 'do you know, it was very odd that it never struck me at the time, but since, I have thought—that—he was my own father.'

    Sarah Russell said never a word.  Her eyes were shining with tears.  But she put out her hand, laid it gently on Frederick's, and folded his within it.

    'He saved me, and now you have saved me.  I owe my life to you two,' murmured the lad.

    And her heart was singing its Hallelujah!  This was the answer sent back to her on the cord of her prayer.  From the hope she had planted in heaven, a blossom had fallen softly into her earth-life.  It always does.  When we set our windows open that we may watch the distant dawn, one of its first rays enters our own chamber and glorifies it.

    If there be joy among the angels when a sinner repents, must there not also be joy among repentant sinners when an aroma of purest love rises from hearts they wounded, and kind hands take up the work they left undone, and set right its blunders?  Oh to have done evil and to see it turn to good, is a divine punishment for the evil-doer.

    She did not doubt that this was the child of him who had been her life's one love.  That there had been such a child, she had had a dim idea, but whether living or dead she had never known.  For she knew well enough that there had been a woman whose proud, passionate beauty had drawn him from his purer allegiance to herself.  The evil in him had been stronger than the good.  John Denison had gone out to America in the same ship with Sarah and her parents; he had shared with them all the first pangs of exile; he had filled a heart of that rare sort which is only filled once.  Then he had gone back to England for a while—his return was to make Sarah his bride.  But she had still the few scrawled lines in which, from across the sea, he had taken what he called his eternal farewell, bidding her forget one who was a devil incarnate, whose hell had already began, who had forfeited her, and gained nothing, not even a false note on the risky bank of Earthly Pleasure.

    She remembered it all as if it had happened yesterday.  The first wild days of darkness; the tortured determination to forget and ignore ;the secret voice within that whispered of a more excellent way.  She remembered the kind faces that were shadowed by her sorrow; the kind voices that spoke so severely for her sake.  And she remembered how the pain in her life went on working and working within itself, till she could no longer refuse to see that it was but a desire to forgive, and that the inner strife would cease the moment this was allowed to reign within her heart.  Oh she remembered a long, long wandering in a far off American forest when autumn was clothing the trees in gold and scarlet, when she cried out to God to forget her sorrow and suffering, to change them into her everlasting welfare, so that at least the sin against her need not be laid to the wanderer's charge.  And she remembered how her heart came back to her as the heart of a little child. She had entered into the secret of the universe—into harmony with the Higher Hand that will wait for ever to claim its own.  She had trodden the way of sacrifice, and entered in at the door of love.  Henceforth all things were new to her.  Henceforth she stood on God's side of all theology—in theology—in that secret place to which nothing of any creed ascends, except its share, be it small or great, of that love to God which works in love to man.

    There had been clouds often; clouds over faith and hope, but they had never reached that charity which is the highest of the three; for she had lifted her heart to unity with God, who keeps hold of a man in hell, and holds him in the uttermost parts of the sea.  There had been no further intercourse between the parted lovers.  Sarah knew that John Denison had presently returned to America; all the promise of his youth blighted and lost; she had read of him in the random, gossiping Yankee newspapers as a wild, ungodly man, whose vices and crimes were only blacker for the vagrant virtue that sometimes shot across them, like glints of sunshine over a gutter.  She never knew where a letter could reach him, or she would have written, brave and heedless of short-sighted criticism as any woman-angel could be.  Twice she had put advertisements into the paper of the locality which she believed he was haunting at the time.  Only the simple words 'I will never lose hope for you, John.'  Whether or not he had seen these, she would never know.

    It had been very bitter to her to leave the land which had been the scene of her short, sweet love-story, and of her long years of secret patience and prayer.  Everybody who had known of her life's tragedy had passed away, so that she clung the more to the old walls and long green aisles that had witnessed her innocent happiness and her martyr's triumph.  But God's finger had pointed so clearly in circumstances, that she had seen it was her distinct duty to obey, and return to the old country, that was now in its turn a strange land.  It had seemed like leaving her last earthly hope—the last shadow of earthly home.  And all the while she had only left a grave, and come out to new life and new duty.

    'Is it possible that you ever knew Mr. Denison?' asked Frederick, his hands still clasped in hers, and his voice very low and timid, as if he feared his own suggestion.

    'Yes, I did,' said Sarah, very quietly, and without removing her hand.  'What made you think so?'

    'It has come into my mind often,' said the lad.  'You see he talked about an "angel," and it struck me there couldn't be another like you.'

    Sarah shook her head, smiling a little.  'Oh yes,' she said, 'everybody has such "angels," and far better and stronger ones.'

    'I wonder how it was!' he went on, 'my poor mother! and poor grandfather.  How shocking it is.'

    'Let us leave them all with God, dear,' said Sarah.  'For God is love, and if people with very little wisdom, and love, and power, can help some crooked things to come straight, what cannot God do? for He is perfect wisdom, and power, and love.'

    That night when they said good night, Frederick Broome stooped and kissed Miss Russell's pale forehead, under its shade of silvered brown hair.  'I'm your child in a way, you know,' he said.  'And if mother knows—and I think she does—I'm sure she must be very glad.'



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