When angels weep, they weep not at the
Which shadows human hearts—not at the gloom,
The fading, and the sorrow, and the tomb:
They weep that man so little love doth know,
That he has still forgotten to be glad;
Sees not the land immortal; but is sad.—J. E. A. BROWN.
IT was only the
next day, just after they had returned from their usual outing, and
were seated at their afternoon meal, that they were startled by the
unannounced entrance of Tibbie Russell, independently carrying her
'Here I am!' she said, taking a seat as coolly as if she had
only come from next door, instead of from scores of miles away.
'I did without you after a fashion for more than twenty years,
Sarah—did not miss you a bit—but I can't do without you for more
than a week at a time now, and as you won't stay with must just
She was welcome enough. Before many hours had passed, she was on
quite friendly terms with Frederick Broome. She was not a woman whom
he would ever love and cling to, as he did to Sarah Russell; but
there was an intellectual, and as it were a social sympathy between
them. Honoured and affluent as her whole outward life had been, she
had somehow learned to look beneath the surface, from the very point
whence he had watched, as an orphaned outcast. Brighter seeming
circumstances had not blinded her to the difference between friends
and acquaintances, and she was as lonely in her old familiar place
as ever he had been on the strange shores of the Mississippi. Like
him, she had sounded the depth of judging all creation by the
poverty of her own existence, and as to him, so to her, Sarah
Russell had brought a revelation of God. But there the similarity
To his barren training and long uncultivated heart, that vision of
sacrificing love had been the first direct message from on high. God
had shown it to him, as God shows it to the little infant on its
mother's knee, who has nothing to do then but to gaze thereon and be
at peace. But Tibbie, as she had once said to Sarah, only beheld it
afar off—there was something between it and her heart: something
which her own life had placed there. She would never now be able to
see that glory, unless she could also enter into it. To see that a
thing is good, is the best light of God's universe, and yet to
refuse its dwelling with ourselves, is no faith that will help a
soul in this world or the next. It does not matter what creed we
merely say: God only hears the creed we live. We only really
believe what we would live and die for. Alas that so many of us who
would live and die for nothing at all, are yet ready to slay others,
whose real faith will not permit them to repeat some shibboleth in
the strictly orthodox fashion! For there is as real a martyrdom in
the world to-day as ever, though in the progress of things it takes
a finer and deadlier form, and souls are roasted instead of bodies,
and minds rather than limbs are cramped and distorted in gyves and
It is not the man who knows what he believes who persecutes those
who differ. His feet are treading safely on the rock below the
waters, and he can bear that the waves flow to and fro; assured
that they are in God's hands, that no truth will ever go down before
error, and that at the right time he will be willing and able to
part with anything that is not eternal truth. For him, God is the
same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; the one white light of the
universe, whether he be dimly seen in the twilight groves of the
dawning world, or on the altar of symbolism, soaring beyond the
logic of the theologian, or shining through the life of lowly and
ministering love—manifested everywhere, yet for ever beyond every
manifestation. Such a man is not afraid to find a broken shadow of
God among the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, and he knows that God's
praises will go on when his own favourite hymns are forgotten. He
knows that forms of belief for which nobler men than he have fought
and died, have yet passed and perished within the recorded memory of
man; in the widest sense, he accepts Paul's declaration that
prophecies shall fail, and tongues shall cease, and knowledge shall
vanish away, and knows that a cup of cold water shall be remembered
when creeds and covenants are forgotten, and that he is only working
for eternity when he is living in that charity that never faileth.
Tibbie Russell had never caught sight of the God who holds all
things in his hand. She had had but the partial glimpse of one view
of Him that comes to most of us. But on every side of God there is a
precept, which precept is the key which shall unlock the door to let
our souls out to wider light, 'This do, and thou shalt live,' in
the true sense of life, breath and sight and joy. If we advanced
through the precepts of Jesus to the doctrines of Paul and the
metaphysics of John, we might have less time and turn for
discussion, and yet arrive at a clearer understanding. But poor Tibbie had not taken up the key that was put into her life. It did
not look the right key, and she would not try it. She was sure there
was a better way forward, and she tried that, and lost herself. But Tibbie was more honest than most people; and when she lost
herself, she owned that she did not find God—that her own way had
proved but a maze, and that her light was darkness.
'There is something changed about you,' said Tibbie to Sarah, as
they started for a walk together one afternoon, a few days after
Tibbie's arrival. 'I can't make out what it is, but there is a
change. I am quite sure that you are not sorry that you took in the
stray. You've found an angel hanging over him, somehow.'
'God knows I have,' said Sarah solemnly. And then they walked for a
few minutes in silence.
'Do you know, Sarah,' said Tibbie abruptly, 'that lad, Broome, has a
curious likeness to my memory of your mysterious landlord?'
'He has a good reason to believe that he is Mr. Halliwell's
daughter's son,' Sarah answered calmly.
'What! Miriam Halliwell!' cried Tibbie. 'Did she get married then? I
knew there was some mystery about her; but I always thought she
died. What a strange, wild girl she was! I used to think she might
have been a very fine woman if she had been among other people; but
she was the sort that cannot rest among mere morning calls and
fashion-books, and there was nothing else lawfully suggested to the
poor thing. It always struck me that she had been forbidden so much
because it was "improper," that she found was not wrong, that she
had almost come to think that the "improper" must be right. I
never knew her well personally, but I heard a great deal of her. You
see I knew other members of the family. The fact is, Miriam Halliwell was the kind of girl for whom it is salvation when they
have to earn their own living, and to honestly battle through all
sorts of adventure and temptation. It is dreadful when such are shut
up in a kind of hot-house to manufacture their own work and
adventures in its stifling atmosphere.'
'Did you ever hear of a Mr. Denison, Tibbie?' asked Sarah.
'What! a gentleman who came from America!' said Tibbie. 'Oh yes. I
saw him once or twice. Miriam Halliwell made no secret of her
determination to make a conquest of him. He used to seem as if he
tried to break away, but could not. There was merciless blood in
those Halliwells,' said Tibbie bitterly, 'and now some of them know
what it is to find no mercy!'
'What! do you like to think of God as if He were a blood relation of
theirs?' asked Sarah.
'Now, that is turning on me in the way that I turn on Jane,' said
'It is the way that we all need to be turned upon sometimes,' Sarah
observed. 'Else the spots of our own diseased nature float before
our vision, and we mistake them for elements in God's sunlight.'
'And did Miriam marry John Denison at last?' said Tibbie presently.
'I can fancy her father's rage; for the Halliwells looked for money
and birth, and God knows what, in matches. So I suppose it was a
clandestine affair, followed by all sorts of disgrace and misery. I
thought I remembered a vague report that Miriam was in a lunatic
'There seems to have been no marriage,' said Sarah; 'but don't,
don't talk about it. It is not healthful for our souls to go down
among dead sins. Let us only seek to undo their bitter fruits, as
would those who planted them, could their hands still labour in this
outward world. Let us undo the evil of those who have gone before,
as we hope that some will be raised to undo our evil, witting or
'It always strikes me forcibly,' said Tibbie, 'that those who do
least evil themselves, find most work in undoing other people's.'
'Ah! but our very good turns to evil,' answered Sarah. 'It turns to
evil, unless somebody else takes it in hand and keeps it alive. Let
us be pitiful, as we hope for pitifulness.'
'Ah! if you only knew all my life,' said Tibbie. 'I got no pity; and
not me only, but one whom I loved better than myself. Since that
day, Sarah, I have loved nobody—not God, nor man, nor myself—only
you, just a
little. You brought back a dash of the old feeling, and it was so
pleasant that I came running down here after you!'
'Poor Tibbie!' said Sarah, 'and there's such a lot of love shut up
in you, if you would only let it out.'
'I said I would tell you my story some day,' Tibbie went on. 'You
remember that picture? Why should not I tell you now?'
They were walking by the sea on the top of the West Cliff. It was
one of those quiet afternoons, which in very early spring often
follow a bright morning. The grey sea was washing quietly out, pale
as the sky above it, except that where the sky met it, there was a
line of yellow light. Tibbie's eyes went out to this light—it was no
unfitting type of the one vanishing joy of her existence.
'The man whom I loved, and who loved me,' she said, 'was the son of
your landlord's sister. Of his sister, remember. His father, whom I
never knew, must have been of quite another breed. For my Robert was
How bitter her voice grew in the very utterance of the name!
'That woman did not like me,' she said. From the very first, she did
not like me. I knew why. She would never have liked any woman whom
her son had loved. She wanted him to marry her niece, Miriam, who
was, of course, of the best birth in the world, being a Halliwell,
and who would be rich beside. But she had a deeper secret reason. She knew that Robert could never love Miriam, and that therefore she
need never be jealous of her. And she liked me less because she knew
I could read her like a book. She might deceive her own eyes about
herself, but she could see herself in mine.'
'But if you had seen the truth, and yet a better truth behind it,
she would have seen that too,' said Sarah.
'I'm not an angel,' returned. Tibbie and oh! she used to torment me
till I could scarcely endure myself. She knew that my father had
kept a shop, so she used to make the term "shopkeeper" her form for
whatever was mean, and low, and grovelling. I used to curb my
passion over that insolence, but then it would break out at last,
over something else, and she would talk at me about patience and
submission, and a meek and loving spirit. Oh, Sarah, I have often
wondered how Jesus can bear to hear how His words are taken up and
'Is not that only what we were saying?' asked Sarah, that the very
good that is left behind may be turned to evil, unless its spirit is
kept alive by those who follow.'
'Oh, Sarah!' cried Tibbie; 'I know that all I am saying sounds very
little and trifling. You can't put these things into words: words
won't say them. You have to live them. But, oh! Sarah, will it make
you understand if I say that I have never needed to be convinced
that there is a place of spiritual misery, because I know it by
dreadful experience, having lived in it even in the flesh?'
'I do understand, darling,' said Sarah gently. 'I have had my time,
too, though not such a dreadful one as yours. But remember, that
dark knowledge has its silver lining—its other side. When hell is
found to be a condition more than a place, the same truth holds good
'Oh, Sarah!' Tibbie went on, scarcely heeding her cousin's words,
but gazing with terrible dry eyes towards that bright line in sky
and sea; 'but that woman showed Robert all the evil that was in me! She put in the evil, and then she drew it out, and showed it to him. She built up a kind of wall between us, which I could not pass, and
I think he could not pass it either; but he used to look at me with
a long, wondering glance that I could not answer. And then he grew
ill. I knew what ailed him. I have so often known those secrets,
Sarah. That is one reason why I have shunned sick rooms, for I have
seen such terrible truths standing in them, which yet I dared not
utter. What is the use of prescribing superficial remedies for a
seeming fever, or a consumption, when you know the bodily disorder
is but the outward expression of a pain or cramp in the spirit,
caused by somebody who is standing near, perhaps supposed to be the
sufferer's ministering angel? I could have cured many people if I
might have said to them, "Get away from your relations, or your
guardian, or your nurse." I knew that Robert was dying of the woman
to whom he had once owed life.'
'Perhaps it was the effect she produced on you that hurt him,'
pleaded Sarah. When I have been in crowded places with people whom I
knew suffered in bad atmospheres, I have felt the sense of
suffocation, even at times when they did not.'
'She worked me up into a dreadful pitch of excitement one day,' said
Tibbie, and next day she wrote me a note, saying that she and Robert
both felt that it was good neither for him nor for me to see each
other while he was in such a weak state, and that she was quite sure
I would respect his wishes. I know his alleged share in it was a
lie, though maybe she had extracted some words from him which she
had twisted to her purpose. And very likely she did make him hate
me. She would make him feel I did him harm—as I daresay I did—and
then, of course, he would hate me.'
'Oh no, no,' interrupted Sarah.
'I don't suppose she thought he would die,' Tibbie went on drearily.
'I have no doubt she thought he would live, and that we would be
quietly separated, and that she would keep an undivided power over
him, and gain all her own ends. I wrote to him. God knows whether he
got those letters. Never a sign came from him. He was confined to
his room by that time, and she was with him night and day, and he
was at her mercy. I wonder if she did think he would die! I almost
think she could have borne to face even that, since it would keep
him from me. She only wanted to keep her sole power, and if she
could not keep another from sharing it, except by losing it
altogether, I don't doubt she would have candidly chosen the latter
alternative. I myself can almost understand preferring it. For it
was easier for me to bear my torture and loneliness once I knew that
she was lonely too.'
Sarah gave a cry, as of sharp pain. Was she not looking on the
saddest sight of the universe—a soul overcome of evil, instead of
overcoming evil with good?
'When he was dead,' Tibbie pursued, with a fall in her voice that
was yet no softening I could almost have gone and humbled myself
even to her, for just one more look upon his face. One evening, the
last before the funeral, I walked that street till midnight, torn to
pieces between a desire to go in at any cost, and a horror of
humiliating myself to that woman. Why, she would have only gloated
over my grief, for it was grief for what was hers. He had died her
son, and nothing—nothing at all to me. And even afterwards, when I
felt that there was a void round my life into which nothing else
could enter, I could have almost gone to her and asked to be allowed
to love her for the sake of the old bitter nearness. It was so
dreadful to have nothing; for I have nothing. In the creed, I
mutter that I believe in "the resurrection and the life;" but there
is no resurrection of Robert for me. I can never hear his voice in
the present or future, I can never see his face with angelic glory on
it. It always comes to my memory as I saw it last, pale, with sad
and hungering eyes, and meek voice asking me to be patient. I can
never feel what he would think and say about the work I am doing in
the east-end. I suppose he really lives somewhere, far, far away,
where he has escaped all recollection of the girl who came into his
life, and made no happiness for it or her own. But to me, he is
really dead and buried in the grave—gone vanished utterly—except for
the longing he has left behind him.'
'It is not he who is in the grave, Tibbie,' said Sarah. 'It is
'And at last she died too, a poor miserable old woman!' Tibbie went
on, with a power of triumphant hatred in the pitying term. 'I knew
that her niece had come to some unfortunate end, and I know that she
and her brother, your landlord, quarrelled and never met. Their two
unbridled prides and passions were left to rend each other at last. Oh, she was a wicked woman,' Tibbie cried vehemently, 'she had the
heart of a murderer under her hypocrisy and propriety. I have ceased
to believe in capital punishment because I know it doesn't reach the
worst sinners. I might have been a good, gentle, happy woman. She
has made me what I am!'
'And you have let her make you what you are,' sighed Sarah. 'The
evil in her was so much stronger than the good in you. But it is not
too late to forgive her even now. Poor thing, she must have been so
'She never asked forgiveness,' said Tibbie sternly. 'The Bible does
not say that we need give it unasked. And if it did, I shouldn't
care, for it would not be fair. What! forgive her? Let her wreck
my life, and then escape her punishment? Never, Sarah. God is just. That has been my one cry these long dreary twenty years.'
'Oh, Tibbie, God is just,' cried Sarah, and our finite minds can
never grasp that infinite truth, and He bids us only try to touch it
through the other truth—that God is Love, and Oh, Tibbie,
forgiveness sometimes makes us repent, makes us realize that we have
repented, though we would not own it before. And do you think
punishment ends when repentance begins? Why, Tibbie, the only real
punishment, the punishment that helps us out of our sins, no matter
how painful it is to tear them off, only begins then. That is God's
discipline, Tibbie. All else is only cause and effect, the evil are
unhappy, the hating are hateful. Oh, Tibbie, which should you think
was a man's greatest triumph, that his enemy, misunderstanding him,
should be left tearing and defacing his image and character, or that
by some gentle word or deed he should so change that enemy's
feeling, that what he had abhorred should become his pattern, and he
should never forgive himself for the evil he had wrought before he
'Well, she did not ask forgiveness of either God or man,' said
Tibbie stubbornly. 'She did not know she needed it. Her eyes were holden that she could not see—and—and I'm glad it was so.'
'Is it a gladness that you can share with God?' asked Sarah very
sorrowfully. 'And are you quite sure that you know all God knows?'
Tibbie did not seem to hear her cousin's words; but no sooner had
passionate indignation risen to its highest, than the revulsion of
her better nature set in.
'Oh that it was with me as in times past!' she cried. 'O God, O God! How can He let such things be?'
'Tibbie,' said Sarah very gravely, '"Let no man say when he is
tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted with evil,
neither tempteth He any man. But every man is tempted when he is
drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." All that has happened has
only shown you what was in your heart: it has put nothing there. It
has only drawn forth the hidden enemy, and given you a chance of
They had just returned to the door of their home, and Tibbie paused
on the threshold to say―
"Well, at any rate, now you know all about me. Now you know why I
don't feel it any use to join in Jesus' prayer, "Forgive us our
trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us." He was
different to us: He was the Son of God as well as the Son of Man,
and He was without sin—we cannot be expected to follow his words and
obey his precepts without some modification.'
Sarah looked up at her cousin with an illumination on her quiet
face. 'Does not Paul say, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God
they are sons of God?"' she asked.
'Ah, but that is figurative—that means in a sense,' said Tibbie.
'The truth figured is never less than the figure, but always
infinitely more,' Sarah answered. And then they parted, each to her
own chamber, and met again in the parlour at tea-time and spent the
evening in their usual way, Sarah reading a little aloud, and Tibbie
singing two or three songs, for though there was no piano in the
hired apartment, Tibbie was one of those rare people who can sing
without the support of an instrument. Tibbie did not generally
in society, she said she had never sung to anybody but herself for
nearly twenty years, till her cousin Sarah came home. And Sarah's
eyes were almost ready to fill with tears, at the picture of Tibbie
sitting alone in that unhomely home of hers, among the tokens of
unloving beneficence, singing the weird strange songs of loss and
desolation, in which she seemed to delight.
The next day was to be the last of their stay at Bournemouth.
Frederick was fairly established in strength, and they were all to
return to London by the forenoon train. Tibbie was her ordinary self
at breakfast-time—perhaps just a little quieter than usual. But when
the two cousins were alone, finishing off the last of their packing,
Tibbie turned to Sarah and said—
'I had a horror of a night! Yes,' she went on slowly, after a
moment's pause. 'A dreamed that I had killed somebody. I don't know
who it was. I don't know how I did it. But the dreadfullest part
was, that I was not shocked or sorry. I said to myself that it was
quite just, and what the dead person deserved, and that all
I had to do more was to take care that I was not punished, for it
would be quite unfair that I should suffer for ridding the world of
such a wretch! I was quite sure that I was right, Sarah, and I was
quite certain that I should escape punishment. And it was so awful:
that seemed the very awfullest part of it!
'I know what you are thinking, cousin,' she went on again, as Sarah
did not speak, 'You are thinking that my dream was but the logical
conclusion of my thought. I suppose I can't deny it. I suppose I
have committed murder in my heart, though my hands have been holden. I suppose that in that other world where thoughts will be deeds, I
shall be among the murderers! And there was something so dreadful
in being quite sure I was right, and not one whit sorry!
'Oh, Sarah, Sarah! If she had but asked me to forgive her! If she
could but ask me to forgive her! But it is too late now!'
'It is never too late!' said Sarah, putting her arm round Tibbie,
almost as she might had she been drawing her to some other person,
And then they drove through the long road between the pine woods,
and took their last look at the silver sea. Tibbie had hold of
'We are leaving nature and God,' she said, 'and going back to the
crowds who trample her under foot, and come between us and Him.'
'Oh no,' said Sarah, 'there is more of God in the worst man than in
all this beauty. It is only through the man that God enters nature. He alone is made in his image. Don't you notice a strange blank in
any landscape without a human figure? It is like the early world
waiting for God to breathe in "the living soul."'
Glad wisdom is not gotten, but is given;
Not dug out of the earth, but dropped from heaven.
RUSSELL and Frederick
Broome had taken counsel together as to the future. He was to remain
in the Hallowgate.
'Your grandfather will want you some day,' she said. 'It cannot go
on like this for ever. The very end must come,' and she looked up at
him with her soft, motherly eyes. 'And he will surely want you then. You must be at hand. Therefore, why not stay under his roof? When
he does want you, it will be a comfort to him to find that you have
been under his roof longer than he knew!'
Sarah Russell was no mere dreamer. It is a curious fact how women
who are most intuitional, most open on the more delicate and
spiritual side of their natures, are often also most simply
practical in the practical affairs of life. Among theories,
Sarah Russell took the highest—in practice the simplest way.
Just because she invited the young man to surrender himself to what
many would consider a Quixotic and merely sentimental duty, she took
care that it should not in the least interfere with those stern
duties which call on a man to justify his very being in this
every-day world. Before a man can become a hero at a supreme
moment, he must have been a just and honest man for many years.
Therefore Miss Russell and Frederick Broome took counsel
together in the most business-like manner. Sarah had still a
monetary stake among her father's old business connections. To
these she introduced him. There would be no change—no hiatus
in his life. With the kind of work in which he had already
engaged he would go on, simply on a more hopeful basis. She
did not turn him out of his path, she only opened a door therein.
It did not seem strange to Sarah to have him in the house.
It seemed as if his absence would be strange, as if she had always
expected his coming, as if the spare room had been prepared for him
and no other. Other hopes that mighty have been there were
folded away as easily as the wrappings in which a gift is sent us.
Only she brought down the Bible with the initials in it, and
put it into Frederick's hand, saying—
'That was meant for your father. Now you take it.
I have written in it your name, and the date of New Year's Day.'
Frederick asked no question. He took it without a word.
He knew that there was more beneath than any answer would give.
He could almost guess that his name and the date of their meeting
was written beneath initials, with a date of parting, and of what
And so Frederick Broome had at last a home in God's world.
It was well for him, too, that it was a home not without foundation,
in that dreary past which had often seemed so unmitigatedly bitter
to his hot young heart. All this good had been going on
parallel with all that evil. Into the morass had been thrown
the 'Eucalyptus' which had grown among its polluted soil even for
its healing. Just at the juncture when his parents and their
sin had grown definite and undeniable, there had also come a
revelation which made all easy to bear for their sakes, and easy to
forgive them. Could he have been quite sure long ago of all he
knew now, it might have given despair in place of the dim
air-castles of hope that he had indulged in. But now it did
not matter at all. His worst fears had been realised, but in
the heart of them he had found a joy and a comfort beyond his
To go out and to come in—cared for and welcomed—to fall into
easy, friendly conversation that feared no interruption and required
no strain, was such a delightful novelty to Frederick, that had he
been left to his own inclinations he might have rested too
thoroughly in it. But one wiser than he in the ways of the
world and of the human heart was watching his interests. Very
likely had Sarah gone on living alone in the Hallowgate, she would
have lived in very deep retirement. There are two kinds among
recluses. Those who hate much and those who love much; those
who fail to satisfy themselves with any dainty of life's feast, and
go on gnawing their own heart with insatiable hunger; and those who
get so much nourishment from everything that they ask but little.
There are those who find so little in the heart of anything that
they spurn all as hollow; there are those who find so much, that
they have not time to probe many. Mrs. Stone, and the servant,
and a few poor people, and perhaps one or two little children, would
have made up a quiet world for Sarah's quiet heart, with just cousin
Tibbie flashing across it like a comet. She had had her living
past—that past which makes books and pictures into genuine society,
and which leaves women never less lonely than when they sit
stitching in utter solitude. But Sarah was a Christian woman,
in that deep and true sense of Christianity which means power of
projection into other lives, and acute realisation of their highest
possibilities and best surroundings. She did not expect
Frederick Broome to begin where she had left off; nay, she quite
understood that if he could really do so, it would be no sign of
sympathy between their natures, but of deadliest difference.
Two warriors may be alike without armour; but one may have doffed
his after victory, the other may have never put his on to fight!
There must be a road into society opened from the quiet house
in the Hallowgate. There must be that sowing of acquaintance,
from a hundred seeds of which one true friend may be gained.
There must be strong personal interests established, with all the
many forms of the world's progress. Sarah herself took to
reading the political leaders of the Times, and to diligently
overtaking forms of scientific truth which had developed during the
years that her eyes had been fixed on the far hills of eternity,
looming bright over the thick mist that all those years had hung
over the intervening flats of time. It is a strange thing that
when that far gaze does return to nearer things, it is but stronger,
and quicker, and more fearless for its long inattention. God's
glory is the one glory that does not dazzle, but purifies.
Moses, when he came down from the mount, veiled his face because the
people could not bear its light, but doubtless through that veil he
saw them more clearly than he had ever seen them before.
Sarah enjoyed the new life. Whatever was good for
anybody else was always better still for her.
'It is such a blessing to be pricked up in the march of
life,' she said 'one grows lazy and falls behind, and that is so
ignoble! One stands still oneself, and forgets the world is
Tibbie, to whom she said this, shook her head gravely.
'I don't understand it at all,' she said; 'all these years I have
been keeping up with everything—politics, science, and social
science. Often and often I have felt that I would not name
certain of my own views and sympathies to you, for fear you would
think them upsetting rather than progressive. And, lo and
behold, the day comes when your attention is directed to these
points, and you instantly pass far beyond me—easily accept much that
staggers me, and boldly step over where I hesitate. You must
have been walking on all the while, but in a green, covered alley,
where no sun wearied you and no wind ruffled you, and where you
never stood still to look before and after, and long to go back.
And when at last the alley ends, you are far ahead, and the whole
prospect breaks upon you at once, and you know that it is infinitely
better than all you left at the other end.'
It was true. Sarah had that key of love to God and man,
which the Master said sufficed to unlock the gates of eternal life,
and let light flow through upon every question of mind and matter.
She feared nothing in God's world, because all there was in his
hand; and she knew that dark places were only mines of treasure, hid
till the fit time of forth-bringing, and mysteries but the angels
set to guard Edens from unworthy intrusion. Not that she
thought herself strong enough to descend all mines, and explain all
mysteries,—only she could think of them as we think of the
undiscovered coal-beds and uninvested machines of the next
generation; with only a glad rejoicing that there will be no lack of
new wealth for those who come after! Sarah Russell was not
afraid to go forward, because with her all going forward was in the
name of God. She had no fear that a chain wrought by God can ever be
broken—that the truth as it lived in the past can ever be detached
from the truth of the future—
God's infinite Last.
What she could not understand, she could trust; what she could not
see with her mind's eye, she could feel with her heart's emotion.
Much which seemed to others a desertion and loss of sacred things
seemed to her but their final removal from the darkness of the
quarry, and the chip of the labourer, to shine as polished
corner-stones in the Father's house, taken from our touch because
their beauty was complete and fit for its final purpose!
But the Sabbath was a day which Sarah Russell kept sacredly
for that quiet home-life which she felt was such a wondrous treat to
her companion, just as it was her own most congenial atmosphere.
That was the day when they two, so strangely joined in the calm
after such a tempest, drew very near together, and let their hearts
talk, often without much audible voice.
They would go to church together in the morning. To a
quiet, old city church, with windows painted in pictures from the
parables, and with a churchyard laid out in flower-beds, and bright
with a fountain, and cheery with birds. The old, white-haired
rector preached much from the Sermon on the Mount, and chose the
hymns greatly with a view to the minds and voices of the crowd of
little charity children who composed the largest section of his
congregation. There might be greater men preaching near, there
might be more elaborate services, but somehow Miss Russell and
Frederick always found their way to that old brown church, whence
they ever came out rested and happy, and ready to help others,
whether by ringing a door-bell for a tiny child, or by that
'effectual, fervent prayer' which stretches a Hand where our own
hands cannot reach.
Then they would go home to the early dinner, which (though
always cold, that the servant might have had no needless work to
hinder her from worship or reading) was ever the nicest dinner of
all the week. And then, after a little rest and a little talk
over the sermon—the quiet old vicar's homely words often led them
into strange tracks—they would sometimes start off to visit in the
poor little east-end street to which the dead paralyzed man had
first introduced Sarah.
Sarah liked to go there on the Sabbath, because Frederick
could go with her, and the men were at home. They used to have
happy times in those cramped, dark rooms. There was no
'preaching.' Sarah never dreamed of speaking to the poor,
except as to her friends, as indeed they were. She felt so
keenly that modern Christianity has wandered entirely away from
Jesus' opinion that it is the rich man who finds it hard to enter
into the kingdom of heaven, that she was often inclined to think
that it has also lost his idea of that kingdom itself, and simply
lifted the Judaic idea of an earthly monarchy, with quite other
beatitudes than those of love and service, to another level—setting
a carnal dream in a spiritual place, mistaking the sword that cut
off Malthus' ear for the sword of the Spirit, and betraying Jesus,
as perhaps Judas did, in the hopes of enhancing a power He did not
claim, but which it longs to share!
But they would take flowers to some old person, or Sarah
would read a hymn in a sick room, and give sanitary advice beyond
what the oppressed hospital doctor could afford to his hundreds of
patients. Or Sarah would tell some of the children about
Joseph, and Samuel, and David, and Ruth, and Esther, and then
perhaps about Grace Darling going out with her lifeboat, or the
Dutchman who spared the life of the Spanish soldier who was in
pursuit of his own, or the little boy who saved his native town by
putting his finger in the hole in the dyke. Or Frederick would
have a talk to some of the men and lads about America, and it would
not seem so far off, and they would begin to think they would take
courage and emigrate. And then, as they grew friendly, they
would tell him something about what the atheist lecturer said, and
they and Frederick would enter into a talk, and his words would find
wonderful entrance, because they found he did not think they had no
right to think of such things, but had thought of them, too, and
offered them only help, little or great, which he had proved for
Then they would return to the Hallowgate, and perhaps before
they went to their tea they would take a leisurely walk round and
round the solitary old square, with its lonely tree and its
chirruping sparrows. There was always something to say to each
other. Those two had always something to say, whether they
spoke or were silent. They never got to their end. They
There was one who watched them unseen. Mr. Halliwell
had never been quite the same since he had spurned that letter on
New Year's Day. To reject is often the first step towards
longing. To have had a chance and lost it is often the first
preparation towards finding another chance for oneself.
Ever since that morning, the poor old man had caught himself
listening for the postman's knock and the rings at the bell.
The incident, unhappy as it was, had brought that sense of life and
action which is stirring to the most benumbed existence. He
did not bring himself to wish that he had acted differently, but
only that something would happen again.
He had scarcely gone near his windows for years, but now he
took to sitting at them and watching the people who came into the
square. He soon found out which was the lady who was his
tenant. His solicitor had written to him that she, like
himself, was alone; and the first two or three times he had happened
to see her (during Frederick's illness) she had been by herself, and
her loneliness had seemed to make his own more sociable. But
now she had always this youth with her! Mr. Halliwell had not
the least idea who he was. He had certainly no clue to the
truth, and such a history was quite beyond the possibilities of an
imagination that had always been cramped in utter selfishness.
There was somebody whom she had not been obliged to spurn.
Nobody but himself was doomed to utter desolation. How
pleasant it must be for them both in those pretty rooms which he had
secretly surveyed on Christmas Eve! He felt himself a very
poor, miserable, ill-used old man.
He might at least have read the letter. He might,
perhaps, have answered it. He wondered this. He wondered
He began to wonder how he should die. And where he
should be found lying, whenever his housekeeper noticed that his
accustomed signs had ceased.
He wondered whether there would be a paragraph about him in
He began to have a horrible feeling that, die when he might
and how he might, he would go on, living in just the same way in
that lonely room, for a time that might best be described as an
One night he almost wondered whether he were really still
alive, and what the difference could be when he was dead.
Sorrow working slow.
At length this humble spirit gave.—CRABBE.
AND so the year
rolled round, through its seasons, as seasons show themselves even
in a city square. The hyacinths and crocuses that Sarah had
planted about the great tomb in the little churchyard gave place to
forget-me-nots and calcelarios, and then there were strawberries and
cherries and plums on the dinner-table, and then the Virginian
creeper about the dining-room window blushed and vanished until at
last there was once more the cheery cry,―
Holly, holly, holly, ho,
Holly, bays and mistletoe!
On Christmas-Day, instead of the accustomed bouquet, the
daintiest sprig of holly was sent up to Mr. Halliwell.
And then it was New-Year's Day again.
It was to be kept as Frederick Broome's birthday. He
knew no real birthday.
'Therefore you can choose one,' said Sarah, 'and you cannot
choose a better one than this. Life comes new to everybody
to-day; and every one is full of good wishes and new hopes.'
'And it is the day I came here,' Frederick answered; 'and it
is a date with which—my poor father—connected something.'
The house was very full of cheerful bustle. In the
course of a few days there was to be an entertainment given to the
poor people connected with Tibbie's Whitechapel soup-kitchen, and
all through the morning packets which Sarah had ordered for this
occasion kept coming in. Mrs. Stone was flying about busily.
Mrs. Stone had caught some of her mistress' spirit, and was quite a
different woman to the draggled, spent creature, come to the end of
all her hopes, who in some dim reviving of old associations and
ambitions had led the way to the Rood Hotel in the Hallowgate, not
much more than fifteen months before.
'Ah, even magic lanterns is different from what they used to
be,' she said, as she stood at the hall table, sorting some slides
that had just arrived from the opticians. 'They are wonderful
improved from them we got in my schooldays. Things do get
better, and I'm thinking those that say they don't, had better take
notice whether it ain't their own eyesight that's a-going.
This is the kind of life I always thought I'd like—plenty to do, and
somebody that's pleased when you do it. I really think we'd
need take care what we wish for—we're so likely to get it; though
I've wished enough for my old man, an' I don't think I'll ever have
him here, but I shall have him some day, when we've both grown wise
enough apart to know how to hit it off together. For if I'd
had my Miss Sarah once upon a time, I've no doubt I'd not have
valued her; I'd ha' gone off over some fancy about that poor
gentleman upstairs, or some tantrum or other. It's better to
have things taken away than to be let keep 'em and spoil 'em!'
Little did that merry household imagine—as one after another
ran to and fro, admitting now a hamper of apples, next a cake, then
a basket of crockery—that a tall figure stood on the second floor
landing, its high grey head craned forward to catch a glimpse of the
arrivals, its unused, dulled ears strained to listen for—it scarcely
At last there came a great box of biscuits. Now Mr.
Halliwell's housekeeper had volunteered to order these for Miss
Russell, because she knew a place where they could be got at once
cheap and good. The people of the biscuit shop knew the woman
as Mr. Halliwell's housekeeper, and so of course asked no address.
The porter brought the box with a thundering knock and a ring.
'For Mr. Halliwell,' he shouted, as he shoved it in, too busy
with his deliveries to pause for a single moment.
At the instant some door in the house slammed sharply.
Sarah, who was standing in the hall, started.
'What is that, Mrs. Stone?' she said, 'for there is nobody
Mr Halliwell's life was so utterly soundless that in this
sense he was always openly counted 'nobody.'
'It must have been the wind, ma'am,' Mrs. Stone answered.
'It was a sound I have never noticed before,' said Sarah,
quite satisfied, however, by the explanation.
But she was right for all that; it was a sound she had never
heard before. It was the sharp shutting of Mr. Halliwell's
dining-room door, as he hastily retreated at the sound of his own
name. So it had come: he did not know what, but the mysterious
something which he had mysteriously expected. As he stood
there listening for his housekeeper to enter the other room with
some letter or written message, he was no old man, in spite of his
eighty years. Hope and fear and passionate longing can quicken
agèd pulses and fire old blood.
The eternal soul sometimes rises strong enough to lift with it even
the dragging weight of the decaying body.
But the housekeeper did not come up. Then he thought
perhaps she would bring him something when she brought his dinner.
But there came his cover and plate and wine-glass, and nothing
There was nothing to do but to wait. He knew he had
heard his name; he was sure there was something coming to him.
He must wait.
Youth lays great stress upon its waiting-pains. The
young man thinks that he exhausts the agony of creation in the night
when he awaits the answer to his offer of marriage. He
reflects slightly on his grand-parents: they are waiting for nothing
except for Death, and that will probably come too soon! The
very school-boy, notching a stick to keep count of the days before
the holidays, envies 'the governor, who can do what he likes, and
doesn't have to wait!' Ah me, and the only difference is that
the old people wait for years instead of hours, for decades instead
of days,—wait, and wait, and wait, and never expect to do much more
than wait in this plane of existence. When we have to wait a
quarter of an hour, we walk about and ask questions and look at the
clock, but when we have to wait hours, we take our work or a book,
and nobody notices that we are waiting at all. The young await
a letter, a message, a date; they miss the friend who departed
yesterday and will return to-morrow. The old wait for a life's
unravelling; and the friends they long after went away before the
hot young hearts around began to beat.
But to this old man of eighty-five winters, there had come
something of youth's brief, passionate suspense. He had had no
practice in patience; he had never waited in all his long life, had
simply dashed through whatever came in his way, until he had found
himself shut up in himself, with nothing more to wait for. He
had none of the intricate interests of old age, none of that full
tree of life, on which some bud is always blossoming so that no day
is sterile. This one new forlorn hope assumed to him the undue
proportion which a birthday has to the little cherub who spends
three hundred and sixty-four days in looking forward to the kisses
and gifts of one!
As he paced his chamber in his feverish feeble excitement, he
suddenly remembered that it was this very night, more than forty
years before, that he had so paced this very room, waiting while
life and death fought out their battle on his hearth. The very
mood of eager expectation was the same. It seemed as if the
door might open, and the old nurse announce,—
'It's a beautiful young lady, sir;' only to be followed by
his own married sister telling him―
'The mother is dying; nothing can save her. But bear
up; she was always but a fragile creature. You have your
child, and thank God she seems a thorough Halliwell!'
Poor little wife, who had only lived with her proud husband
one short year, and then had vanished as if she had never been, her
very Christian name denied to the child who had cost her life.
Mr. Halliwell had chosen her because she was so meek and gentle, and
he thought himself faithful to her memory, because he had never
found another woman meek and gentle enough to take her place.
But never, all those forty years, had he yearned towards her as he
yearned to-night. Oh, if she could only come! She would
not blame him; no, she would comfort him, and help him, and satisfy
him without a single word of blame. During their one year of
married life, she had so smoothed out many and many a trouble,
without one word of blame. She had understood and accepted his
'fiery spirit:' it never struck him that it might have been the
fiery chariot that bore her to calmer regions, where even the sun
does not scorch!
Yes, New-Year's Day was his little Miriam's birthday.
This was the date when the old house had once been always full of
mirth and festivity, echoing with music and the patter of dancing
feet! What had Miriam wanted that he had not supplied?
Had he not, for her sake, often filled the house with guests when he
would have preferred solitude? Was she not a woman, and did he
not give her a woman's paradise of dress, and leisure, and gaiety?
Did he ever deny her anything except what was bad for her?—to wit,
her wish to attend classes after she was grown, her desire to mix
herself up with all sorts of outrageous ways of work among poor
people; her longing to have for her bosom friend a queer girl who
had to get her own bread by writing, and who was crazy, as Mr.
Halliwell always considered such people must be; and last, but not
least, her love for a certain briefless barrister, whom Mr.
Halliwell had summarily forbidden the house. That love, at
least the father consoled himself, could not have been very sincere,
or she would not have gone wrong afterwards with that blackguard of
a backwoodsman, John Syme Denison.
Oh why will not a lark be happy when you give it a gilt cage,
and a lump of sugar, and a lovely fancy nest? And when you
won't let it out in the summer sunshine among the flowers, why will
it bolt away the first time the cage door is left open, though it be
when snow is on the ground and in the sky? And when you pick
it up dead at your garden gate, is it any wonder that you say, 'What
could the creature, have wanted?'
But this evening, though the old angry puzzled questions
would come again and again, still along with the yearning for the
mother, there would come a vision of the daughter Miriam, as she
would come gliding into this very room to be forgiven for such
childish sins as digging in the old graveyard in her best frock.
(Poor thing, she had been kept in best frocks all day long!)
He remembered just how she used to shake back her black curls, and
hold up her face, pleading, 'Father, forgive me! father, forgive
me!' There was a strange, deep pathos in his mingling of the
images of the mother and the daughter, whom he had never seen nearer
together than when one lay in her cradle, and the other in her
He kept stepping out upon the staircase and listening.
There was a good deal of bustle and going to and fro in the early
part of the evening, but at last he heard Miss Russell and the young
man come upstairs together and go into the drawing-room, and then
all sounds subsided into the quiet hum of somebody reading aloud.
It went on for an hour or two, and then he heard Mrs. Stone set the
supper-tray in the dining-room, and the reading ceased, and two
people went downstairs, and there was profound silence for a time;
and then they came up again, and paused at the staircase window for
a while, and spoke earnestly to each other; but though the old man
could distinctly hear their voices, he could not catch what they
said, till they turned to each other, and said 'good-night,' and
then he heard that Sarah added―
'And once more, many happy returns of the day to you!'
What! was this once more a birthday in this house? In
his eager turning towards the past, Mr. Halliwell absolutely forgot
that at least it was New Year's Day, and that this benison might
imply no more.
He had heard the servants go to bed before. The day was
closing in, leaving his mystery unfathomed. It could not,
could not be. No, there was one more hope. Miss Russell
did not go to her chamber at once, but returned to the drawing-room.
Something might come to him yet.
Sarah Russell was only going to indulge in an hour's solitude
before going to bed. She did not fall into the too common
mistake which, when human voices enter our lives, forgets to keep
those silences in which God speaks. We cannot know and love
our brothers except as we know and love our one Father. She
better understood the meaning of the precept, 'Commune with your own
hearts, and be still.' She knew the secret of that great
mystery, 'God with us'—that hidden chain of wondrous links which,
known or unknown, binds the weakest, and the dullest, and the worst,
to eternal strength, and wisdom, and purity. To know this,
Sarah realised, was to join the band of God's elect, those 'called
forward,' that His light may shine on weaker ones behind through
their living human veil; those called up, that they may tell of the
Dawn to those still in the Valley; those fitted to help and serve
with human hands, because they are themselves helped and served by
the phalanx of angels which ascends to the secret place of the Most
Poor Mr. Halliwell waited for a little while, till at last he
could bear it no longer. What right had they to keep back
letters or messages that came to him? He was almost sure that
they had taken in whatever came, but he might have been mistaken.
They might have told the messenger that it was no use his leaving
anything. They might have sent away whatever it was. It
might be impossible to tell what had become of it; it might be
utterly too late to recall it! The very thought made him
frantic. He had lived for twenty years in utter silence, but
now, at last, the idea that he had involuntarily missed something,
made unendurable the prospect of the few years of life that could
possibly remain to him.
He would just go down and inquire about the matter of Miss
Russell. She had not been in the house so very long; probably
she did not know how profound and lengthened had been his seclusion;
his appearance would not be so wonderful to her as it would be to
his solicitor or his housekeeper. At the very moment that he
felt ready to dare any amount of astonished comment, he was also
glad to take the way which should expose him to least. Sarah
had not been wrong in her estimate of the imprisonment of habit.
Sarah, sitting by her slowly dying fire, was suddenly aware
that the feeble uncertain step she had heard once before was again
making its way over the stair. It did not startle her this
time. Her little kindnesses, and the one solitary recognition
they had received, had made the unseen presence in the house more
human, and less 'eerie.' But her heart leaped with the
thought, would he go into the spare bedroom, thinking it still
unoccupied, and would he see and intuitively recognise his grandson?
And then the question arose again—Should she go out to meet him, and
stretch a neighbourly hand to draw his solitary soul once more into
social light? But before the question was even formed, there
came upon her door a rap—the rap of a thin, trembling hand, so sharp
and sudden, that a rat in the wainscot started, and ran down among
Sarah paused a moment, and then did not rise, but simply
called, 'Come in.' It would be better to speak in the cheerful
room among the pictures than on the chilly, blank staircase.
The weak, hurried hand fumbled at the door, and then there
stepped in a tall old man, with a grey beard and sharp eyes, and a
haughty shut face, like a closed portcullis, behind which an eager
starved crowd is waiting for bread. He seemed no stranger to
Sarah. He was so exactly like her idea of him that evening
when she sat listening to his wandering through the empty rooms.
And then she knew whence had come the familiarity which had puzzled
her: she recognised from what that idea had been reflected on her
brain. She had made the picture of her unknown landlord of the
lineaments of her fellow-traveller from America, just as she might
had she then known that they were grandsire and grandson.
She rose as the old man entered.
'Mr. Halliwell, I presume,' she said. 'I am so glad to
see you,' and drew a chair up to the front of the hearth.
He put his tremulous hand upon its arm, but he did not sit
down, his proud courtesy and the reserve, which was not the habit of
twenty, but of eighty years, contending with his impatience.
'Madam,' he said, 'I must apologise for my unexpected
appearance at so unseemly an hour, but I have reason to believe that
to-day something was brought or somebody came here for me. I
have waited till now expecting to hear more of it, but not having
done so, I resolved to appeal to you. I seem to know you
better than anyone else in the world nowadays,' he added with
half-conscious pathos; 'and I thought I would appeal to your charity
to save me from being troublesome to anybody else. Do you know
anything of this, madam, or will you inquire to-morrow?'
Sarah reflected. What was his immediate meaning, she
could not in the least understand, the porter's mention of his name
having utterly escaped her observation.
'Did you expect anything?' she asked brightly.
'Yes—no,' he answered; 'at least—only—there was something
came for me some time ago, that I thought I might hear more about.'
'Oh, yes,' said Sarah quite cheerily. 'I remember that
time, and there has been something waiting ever since. Shall I
fetch it, Mr. Halliwell?'
She looked straight at him with her soft kind eyes. If
she had been a little more like him—a woman just a little less
utterly forgiving and self-forgetful, he would have shrank from her.
'Oh, if you will be so good!' he said.
'Then you must sit down,' she answered; 'and I will put a
little more coal on the fire, so that there shall be a bright blaze
in a few minutes.'
She went off and knocked at Frederick Broome's door. He
had not yet gone to bed, and he opened it promptly.
'The hour is come, Frederick !' she said. 'Your
grandfather is in the drawing-room; he is asking if nothing has come
for him to-day, and I have told him that there has been something
waiting for him for a long time. You must come at once.
You must be very patient with him. And he is so like you.'
Frederick said never a word. His mouth set just a
little, and then quivered. He stepped out upon the landing,
and went towards the drawing-room door. As he opened it, Sarah
slipped her hand through his arm, and so they went in together.
The old man was sitting over the fire, close over it with his thin
hands spread out so near the rising flame, that it almost glowed
through them. He turned his head sharply as they entered, and
a hungry pained expression flitted over his face. Everybody
but him had somebody. He never dreamed that this was his
'somebody,' held in trust for him. Probably Sarah had taken
the lad's arm, conscious only of a wish to make him feel her full
sympathy and support, but it was really a stroke of the deepest
policy. It made the poor old man feel the value of what he had
not got just the moment before it was offered to him.
'This is your grandson, Mr. Halliwell,' said Sarah softly.
'John Syme Denison sent him to you, the only possible way in which
he could try to make atonement. Frederick will tell you all
about it. He has been waiting to see you since this day last
year. He came from America on purpose.'
What did Mr. Halliwell say? He stood up, and laid a
hand on each of the lad's shoulders.
'This is your mother's birthday,' he said. 'My pretty
Miriam!' and then he dropped down upon his chair, one hand raised to
his face, and one grasping Frederick's wrist. And tears came,
which he had kept back for twenty years! Only one or two.
Kept-back tears so concentrate themselves! Slow tears, drawn
up through his whole nature, and hot with the wrath and pain in
which they had so long been boiling.
Sarah slipped from the room. She was rejoicing, as the
angels do, over one more note tuned in this vast instrument of life,
and in that very rejoicing her own soul rose at once to a sphere of
music and beauty. Angels are not all outside this world.
This world would fall to pieces but for some who remain in it—the
five righteous men who save Sodom—the little leaven that shall some
day spread to the whole lump, the white hand, as it were, of
humanity, stretched out to receive the gifts which other angels pass
down from the Father.
A millstone and the human heart are
driven ever round:
If they have nothing else to grind, they must themselves
NEXT morning Miss
Russell found that Frederick had retired with his grandfather to
those secret precincts at the top of the house.
He sent down a note saying that his grandfather wished she
would come up and see them, and she sent back an answer that she
would do so, by-and-by, as soon as she got through some of her
business below. She had businesses, though she might have
postponed them. But Sarah had a curious belief in duality both
in nature and metaphysics. It was only an intuition; she could
not have argued it out. Only she felt that the God who had
made 'male and female' hand done so in the carrying out of a far
wider law of 'two and two.' It was an intuition which did not
limit love or sympathy. She believed that everybody might be
one of a great many 'twos,' just as God is God to every soul.
She only felt that three was an essentially temporary number, in
which one only exists by reason of some really dual relation to one
of the remaining two, into which it will presently be absorbed.
'I could take the whole world into my confidence,' she was
accustomed to say smiling, 'if I might take it one by one, without
somebody else sitting aside and feeling "You are false now, because
you are speaking somewhat differently from what you spoke
yesterday," as if one had not a right to modulate one's spiritual
voice according to the spiritual age, health, and auricular organs
of one's auditor.'
She felt that there were questions and answers that would
pass more easily between the grandsire and grandson if they were
left by themselves, though she knew also that when Frederick and she
were next alone together he would tell her everything.
Still she did not let the invitation pass unaccepted.
At tea-time she bade the house-keeper put another cup and saucer in
Mr. Halloween's tea tray, and then she went up herself.
The old gentleman received her with his queer fossilised
politeness, that kind of courtesy which, as women say of rich
dresses, 'stands alone,' and is scarcely a graceful drapery of
mobile human life. On this very solemn, near-drawing occasion
his civilities would not allow the tea and toast to be the mere
necessaries they were, but inquired over the flavouring of each cup,
and passed the macaroons, with as much ceremony as if he had been at
a kettledrum, and only knew his companions through formal letters of
But Sarah saw that he looked much older than he had when he
sought her presence only the night before. The fresh air that
had blown into his soul had scattered the ghastly preservation of
its coffined years. A few hours had suddenly done what should
have been done gradually.
Sarah owned to herself—what was the gentlest thought possible
as it lay in her heart, but almost impossible to frame into words,
without seeming hard—that the old man would not be long in his
place, and that it was best for everyone that this was so. For
a new impulse will not at once alter the habits of eighty years.
There are many sincere and sacred reconciliations, after which it is
nevertheless best that the reconciled should live apart, with kindly
thoughts passing to and fro, uncaricatured by inadequate expression.
There are some friends whom we love better in their absence.
They are good, but they hinder our goodness. They crowd up our
souls. We must have space even that we may stretch out our
hands to each other. That is why God withdraws grand-parents
when the grand-children come on the scene. He takes the
fathers higher that their sons may grow up.
Sarah invited him to make himself free of her house whenever
''Yes,' he answered, looking at her pathetically. 'Yes,
I will. I am much indebted to you for the offer. But I
shall not trouble you much. I have got out of the habit of
going up and down stairs. It is quite time I stayed chiefly in
my own room now.'
Sarah thought that he himself felt the end was not far off.
He spent a great deal of time writing instructions to be delivered
to his solicitor, who at first he curiously shrank from seeing, but
eventually sent for, and the two had a long interview.
And life went on quietly, just as if nothing had happened.
The little drops of daily existence compose an ocean of such serene
force that the greatest event is but a pebble thrown in one wave
Frederick regularly spent his evenings with his grandfather,
and Sarah sometimes joined them, but generally after a few minutes
returned to her own quarters.
Mrs. Stone had her moral to draw from the incident.
'If you wait long enough you'll get to the bottom of
anything,' she said. 'And in a general way, when you do, there
ain't so very much there. It's always the way. When I
was out in Ameriky, it got about that I had a lot of valuables in my
chest o' drawers, because I was so particular to keep 'em locked up
that prying bodies shouldn't see I'd no under-linen to speak of, and
that mostly in holes. Shut up any place, an' the rats 'll run
about, and by-and-by there'll be word of a ghost. Keep
yourself to yourself, an' folks 'll give you credit for adultery and
murder. I 'spose it was the mystery I'd made of my first love
affair that made my poor man so black about it. Why, haven't I
myself just laid trembling to think of that poor old gentleman, that
I could really have knocked down with a feather? And no more
mystery, after all, about him than about most of the people in my
old court, only they made no mystery about it. It's all
people's different way of taking things. I shouldn't wonder
but my old man himself was no worse than many another woman's
husband, that she praises up like a lord and an angel. I'm
afraid I've always marked up my goods under cost price, instead of
sticking on a fair profit. So now I'll make it up on Miss
Sarah, for though she makes me think better o' the world than I ever
did before, I'll stand out there ain't such another as her in it,
hunt it over how you may.'
Tibbie, too, came and sat by Sarah's fireside, and heard all
the history. She said nothing, but looked so unutterably sad,
that Sarah could not bear it, and took her hand and asked her what
was wrong, and what she was thinking about?
'I'm trying to be thankful that other people get their "day
of salvation," though I never can,' said Tibbie, with her great
mournful eyes raised to her cousin's face.
'Tibbie, darling,' said Sarah, it is there for your taking.
Be at one with yourself, and you will be at one with God and his
'I'm broken in two,' said Tibbie, with a ghastly attempt at
her old droll manner; 'and a broken thing cannot join itself.'
'Wish to be joined, and then wait,' Sarah whispered.
'I read stories between the lines of all you have told me,'
Tibbie burst out with sudden change of subject and mood. 'You
have only admitted that you "knew" John Denison. I know that
you loved him, and that a Halliwell wrecked your life in one way as
a Halliwell wrecked mine in another. I knew there was a story
of that kind about you the moment I saw you. I saw at once
that you had the "God-satisfied" look on your face, and that's
always the last line of a tragedy of some sort, except when it is on
a very young face, and then it is the first line of a tragedy that
is to come. It must be divine tragedy though—a soul lifted up
to draw others after it. God does not comfort one when one
fancies one falls in love, and fancies one is crossed therein, and
fancies one is sick, and fancies one is neglected, like Jane.
You see when I preach sermons, Sarah, I can't help taking personal
'Therefore those are the worst troubles of all,' said Sarah
quietly, 'because they must remain so utterly uncomforted.
Poor Jane! But she must have a real sorrow somewhere.
God is too good to leave any life without one. Maybe she only
uses all the others to hide it. Jane doesn't know you have any
real sorrow, Tibbie. None of us can say these things to
everybody, but we can all give each other credit for leaving much
unsaid. If we respect our friends' confidences, let us also
reverence their reserves.'
'God, let me love my fill and die,' I
THERE came a day,
a sweet, spring day, when Mr. Halliwell lay down to die.
Not as he had fancied—not alone, on his hard old sofa, with
no ministering hand, no whispering voice.
Frederick was there, and Sarah, and an old, old doctor, the
same who had come to that Hallowgate house in the days when the
little Miriam was playing about, or rising into her proud,
It was just a quiet, quiet passing away, something like the
end of one of those long days when the latest twilight mingles with
the first dawn of another day.
He had scarcely spoken for days before. He had nothing
to say. His eighty years had been spent for nought. He
was no sage in the new wisdom that had come to him. He knew
only, as the wailing babe knows, who suddenly finds itself hushed by
a love that it can neither comprehend nor appreciate. He was
entering the kingdom of heaven by the lowly gate where all must
enter. But then one should be farther in than the entrance by
the time one has seen eighty years.
He liked them to read to him. He used to ask for the
Sermon on the Mount, and the story of Jesus and the sinful woman.
Sarah knew why he liked that. A life, beside whose purity his
own honour was not to be named, would not have spurned his Miriam.
'I don't suppose He'd have had anything to say to me,' he
said once. 'I should have been among the Pharisees, and He
couldn't see any good in them, and no wonder.'
And only fancy how pitiful Jesus would have been to a
Pharisee who smote on his breast and said, 'God be merciful to me a
sinner.' Sarah told him that.
He only shook his head.
He died just so. At the very last Sarah saw his lips
move a little, and she bent down to catch the sound. It was
'Miriam—little Miriam.' And the fingers which he had
kept closed over Frederick's hand unclasped, and stretched out a
little—and then all was over.
'It is so little, it is so blank,' said Frederick drearily,
as he and Sarah left the chamber.
'He died full of love and forgiveness for another,' said
Sarah. 'Not one of us can do more than that.'
When the funeral was over, and the will was opened and read,
it was found that Mr. Halliwell had left the Hallowgate House and
all his fortune to his grandson Frederick Broome.
In the young man's behalf, it presently devolved upon Sarah
to open and go through the rooms on the top flat of the
dwelling—those wide, low attics into which all the household goods
of the Halliwells had been ruthlessly tumbled on that dreadful day
when the daughter of the house had broken the pride of the family
Tibbie went with her, and, as a matter of form, the family
solicitor accompanied them, but he soon left them to themselves.
It was a sad, sad business. The first thing on which
their eyes fell was a little basket of mouldy dust, a single
stiffened stem revealing that it had been full of blooming flowers
on the day when it was pushed from sight. Books lay around it,
books which had been in common use when the cloud fell on the
household. A prayer-book, with a marker at the marriage
service (Oh, poor, maddened Miriam!), a 'Language of Flowers,' Mrs.
Rowe's 'Letters,' a copy of Byron, another of Moore's earlier
poems—a little writing-case, containing blotting-paper, on which
could be discerned the signature of 'Miriam Halliwell,' and the
address of 'J. S. Denison, Esq., Poste restante'—a little bit
of coarse, poorly executed embroidery, with the rusty needle still
sticking in it.
There were the family pictures—oil-paintings of stiff,
decorous Halliwells, actually in the very lace and jewellery which
Sarah and Tibbie presently found stowed away in oaken chests and
little iron boxes; engravings, too, always of scenes where
conventional morality and refinement rose to the surface of some
stagnant pool of worldliness and vanity; pictures of the piety of
kings, whose vices were rampant on their very physiognomies.
They had to go through all this débris
carefully, with a view to its ultimate destiny. Frederick had
laid it down as law that Sarah's rooms were not to be disturbed or
invaded in any way, making but one exception, that if there was a
portrait of his poor mother, it should be placed in his chamber, to
which Sarah added another, that those of his grandparents should be
hung in the dining-room. Still, the rooms which Mr. Halliwell
inhabited were capable of much improvement; the furniture which he
had used for twenty years was now almost past use; and the idea was
that the chief apartment of the second floor could be fitted up as a
library, with the pictures, ornaments, and best goods of the old
household, and that in the meantime the remaining apartments could
be furnished as well as possible with the remainder. They were
not going to shrink from anything because it had painful
associations, but to use it so that, whenever it left their hands in
course of time, it should carry only pleasant ones. In this
way we are all of us either witches or exorcists, whether we realise
it or not.
Plate, linen, jewellery, and lace, about which Sarah could
expect no definite instruction from Frederick, she intended to
examine and cause to be cleaned or repaired, and then stored, since,
though Frederick might regard such things with very manly
indifference, he would probably some day have somebody belonging to
him who would regard them with very feminine interest and affection.
Sarah looked forward to these things. The vision she had once
indulged in, of a pretty romantic maid companion, the dream she had
put aside for the sake of poor Mrs. Stone, could come back now in a
far sweeter and nearer form. It was God's interest, paid when
we put the least gift into his treasury, even as when we drop in our
It seemed a strange commonplace ending to the sad Halliwell
history—those two alien women turning over the relics that life and
death had made so solemn. All tragedies end so. A
flowery grave in the sunshine, a new furnished house, these are all
the signs of our departure very soon after we are gone. And
there is a beautiful truth in the stern necessity. Even our
very seeming end is a beginning—how much more so in reality!
Her task was not so painful to Sarah as it would have been
had she approached it with a less pitiful tenderness for those
departed. No labour of love is ugly. The healer's touch
does not recoil, because it goes deeper than the disease, and
reaches the humanity. To minds like Sarah's, nothing is common
or unclean; the humblest duty is part of the ritual in the great
temple of the Lord; the least service to any human creature is done
to the God by whom alone he has being.
As for Tibbie, she had rather shrunk from joining in this
task. She knew why. Tibbie at least understood her own
heart. Her first feeling had been that, after all, it was a
queer instance how
The mills of God grind slowly,
Yet they grind exceeding small,
that she, the despised and hated of the Halliwell, should now be
called in to help at the finale of the race, to efface the
signs of its disaster, and hide away its weaknesses.
'I should have thought I could have no greater punishment
than that that woman should do as much for me!' said Tibbie; 'and
there's no returning good for evil in that spirit,' she added.
'Very well,' said Sarah, 'then come and help me, feeling that
you need not glorify yourself as doing a good action. Do it
because it is right to be done without any question of your own
merit and demerit.'
So while Sarah was going through a box of lace, too trying to
Tibbie's impatient fingers, Tibbie had taken the overlooking of a
great box of rather heterogeneous contents—little pictures, shells,
bits of china miniatures, old pamphlets, and the like. She had
made one remark as she opened it.
'I seem to know these things; I think they must have come to
Mr. Halliwell from his sister's house, after her death.'
And then she kept silence. And Sarah, busily occupied
smoothing out the points of a rich lace flounce, kept silence too,
and did not notice that her cousin's movements suddenly ceased, and
that she sat before the big chest, quite still, with something in
Suddenly she rose with a cry! With one of those flashes
which reveal that Thought has nothing to do with Time, Sarah, as she
started up in sympathy, remembered the cry with which the blind to
whom sight is restored often greet the first permitted ray of light.
Tibbie stood erect with a passionate glory on her face—a
glory like that of the sun, when after a stormy day he breaks out
and gilds the wrecks the storm has made.
In her right hand she held out a letter, yellow with age and
crumpled. 'Read it, Sarah, read it!' she cried, and then she
sat down on an old leather box, and covered her face with her hands.
The letter was in a woman's hand—strong and plain as it was,
there was 'woman' in every stroke. It ran—
knows what worlds I would give if I might call you so! Oh, if
you and I were together in the world, loving each other, living for
each other, we could never have lost our Robert as I, at least, have
lost him now.
'I lost him before he died.' [The words seemed like an echo
to Sarah: in truth, Tibbie herself had used them.] 'I lost him
when I parted him from you. I see it now. We gain what
we give others. We lose what we take from them. He never
hated me, Tibbie—it could not have been harder if he had—but he went
away from me—away, away—whole worlds away, while I was sitting by
his bedside. I did not think he would die! Till it was too
late, I thought he would recover and, own that I was right.
Just at the very last when I could not help knowing, I humbled
myself (as I thought it then, it is my own poor comfort now!) to ask
if he had anything to say about you, and he said, "No, nothing to
say; only you were in every thought." And his last words to me
were, "God forgive you, mother, you don't know what you've done.
God forgive you, mother." And I think he will never call me
mother again!—never, never, not through all eternity! I might
have had two children; I shall have none!
'Oh, how I have longed for you since! I would have gone and
fallen in the dust at your feet, only that I have wounded you so
cruelly, that it seems wounding you anew even to hope for
forgiveness. Oh, Tibbie, Tibbie! I am writing this
letter because it is a relief to let my heart cry out in the
silence; but I do not think I shall ever dare to send it. Oh,
if I could only hear you say you had forgiven me—nay, if a, hope
could whisper in my heart that you had forgiven me, though I should
never hear you say so, I should be so happy!
'I have lived as a proud woman, and nobody will know that I
die biting the dust. Oh, Tibbie, Tibbie, when I am where Dives
was, and you and Robert are where Lazarus was, will you two speak to
me first? for I should not dare to speak first to you. I don't
suppose you will ever see this letter, so, to relieve my own heart,
I will dare to sign myself―
'Oh, if I had only known!' cried Tibbie, as the sound of
folding paper warned her that Sarah had finished its perusal.
'If you had only been able to believe, darling,' said Sarah,
'then you would have gone to her, and your faith would have turned
to knowledge. But there is time for everything in eternity.
You see it is never too late. Oh, darling Tibbie, I am so glad
for your sake and for hers!'
'For hers!' said Tibbie, looking up with a convulsed face.
'Yes, for her's,' Sarah answered solemnly, with that far-away
look in her soft eyes which seem to see where angels rejoice over
repentant sinners, and poor Diveses watch for the undoing of their
evil examples. Yes, for hers. What God has joined can
never be put asunder. And love is God's joining.'
'But we never loved each other!' said Tibbie.
'Wherever hatred was, love might have been, and will be,'
answered. Hers had already changed to love in that letter.
It may be only love in longing. But there never was a longing
yet which God will not satisfy.'
'If I had only known!' sighed Tibbie again.
'And, you see, God always does know,' Sarah went on in that
quiet voice that was like the very soul of music. 'He is just
in his mercy. We can only be just by mercy. He knows the
secrets of all hearts; we can only be always as pitiful as if we
'Ay,' said Tibbie, 'all those years since she wrote that
letter I have gone on cursing and condemning her; while even if she
had never written it God would have known what was in her heart.'
'Yes, and He would have known even if she herself had not
quite understood,' Sarah rejoined. 'Tibbie, darling, is not
the dawn that has broken on your own life spreading over many
things? We are in the loft behind the organ, where the bellows
are creaking among dust and pulleys; but when we have listened for a
moment at one chink don't we catch an idea of the harmony that is
going on at the other side? Need we ever forget it? Let
us wander in God's boundless gardens whenever we may, and from the
flowers He gives us for ourselves let us concentrate this drop of
sweetness to refresh ourselves whenever day grows dark awhile, that
God knows, and therefore He loves, that God loves because He knows.
Tibbie, Tibbie, darling, don't you see the sunshine stealing into
all the dark places?'
Tibbie looked up. Sarah forgot that there was no
sunshine in the dreary room; there was something so like sunshine on
Tibbie's face! 'I see it,' she cried; 'I see it. I think
I see it; I shall see it gradually. I know it is there.
I see! I see!'
They did no more work that evening.
Next day, Tibbie did not come till afternoon. The
sunshine had not passed, it had settled.
'I should have been earlier,' she said, 'but somehow I
thought I should like to go and see Jane. Sarah, there is
something I want to tell you—you only, of all, the world—for I know
whatever you think off it, you will not spoil it for me. Last
night, I dreamed of Robert. It was so curious. I was in
Jane's drawing-room, and he came and sat down beside me, and talked
to me a great deal; but I don't remember what he said, except that
he seemed to know and love you, and that he gave me some message
from his mother. I seemed to remember everything about his
death, but not to be at all surprised to see him. And, though
he looked so glad, and young, and strong, I did not feel at all old
or faded beside him. It made me want to go and see Jane's
room: it was so strange that he should seem to come to me there,
where we had never been together, and where I had never cared to be.
And I am so very glad I went. You can't think how nice poor
Jane was! Of course I did not tell her, because she knows
nothing at all of the story, but she was so gentle and pleasant.
I can't help fancying she had been crying. I'm afraid Jane
didn't have the best chance in life after all; you see she was the
delicate one of the family, and got coddled and shut up. And
because she couldn't join me, I'm afraid I wouldn't join her as much
as I might. You can't think how pleasant she was to-day; and
how pleased to see me!'
Sarah did not suppose Jane was very different. The
greater change was in Tibbie herself. She, too, had come round
to stand on 'the angels' hopeful side'—that higher step whence we
see the best of those below us, and whence only we can help them
O God, my little twilight room,
It grows Thy Kingdom Come:
And parting dies outside the door
Of Universal Home!—ANON.
'I HAVE asked
Jane whether she would like me to go and live with her,' Tibbie
announced to Sarah, not many days later, 'and she says she will be
very glad. Jane is really very feeble now, and I shall make
the house livelier for her.'
'But will you be able to bear it yourself?' Sarah asked.
It seemed impossible to imagine breezy, active Tibbie shut up in
that perfumed, shaded house.
'Oh yes,' Tibbie said. 'I can bear most things—when I
choose. God gave me the power to do so; but I wouldn't have
the will. And I shall go to and fro to my poor people in the
East, and I shall come here a great deal; and whenever I am in
Jane's drawing-room, I shall remember how I dreamed that Robert came
to me there!'
Sarah did not shrink from thinking that that dream had
something to do with Tibbie's self-sacrificing plan. She knew
well enough that what are often called 'fancies' are much more real
influences than what are mistaken for facts, and that much of the
reality of life has its secret root in some mystic memory or dream
or hope. God created the world; spirit makes matter; feeling
goes before action; faith organizes fact. As angels stand with
drawn swords to warn Balaams from paths of mercenary falsehood, so
other angels stand to beckon Pauls and Philips into ways of
self-sacrifice and service. None of Sarah's beliefs were
fossils buried in the past: they were all sweet flowers, that were
growing to-day, and will be growing to-morrow. For her the
Bible had not closed, the Anointed of God had not withdrawn to a
distant throne, the ladder between earth and heaven had not been
To her the whole world was, as it must have been to the old
Hebrew seers, a mirror wherein the figures were but the reflections
of something elsewhere and higher. Nature was the same as she
had ever been, only that she had surrendered a few more of her
secrets, and Nature herself was, to Sarah, but the reflection of
God, and the science that unravelled her mysteries but the
contemporary of the Revelation that unsealed His. While there
was yet plenty of work for the microscope and telescope, she did not
think that the seeing eye and the understanding heart had come to
the end of the treasures stored for them. And she felt that
to-day, as of old, God spake with a still, small voice, heard only
by the ear for which it is meant, though others may feel the wind
and see the earthquake which sometimes accompany it. To
Sarah's thinking a soothing dream, a sweet thought, a sudden good
impulse were as likely to be charged with a heavenly message as any
book or sermon.
Tibbie had her reward. The ways of life that, taken by
themselves, had been so unprofitable to Jane, mingled with others,
were very wholesome for Tibbie. She spoke more softly after
dusting delicate china, she grew more sociable after she got into
the habit of dressing for dinner; she planned more little pleasures
for other people, after she was forced to notice little luxuries
which she scarcely cared to share herself. Do not say that
these changes were brought about solely by the change that had come
over her whole life. The proper work of a new impulse is to
propel us into a groove where we shall form new habits. A
child does not learn to read when it wishes to do so, but the wish
sends it to school, and makes it attentive there.
After she and Jane lived together, Jane's household and that
in the Hallowgate mingled more than they would otherwise have done.
Jane took a fancy to Frederick Broome. He was young and
good-looking and wealthy, and all those three attributes made her
interested in his spiritual welfare. She was dreadfully afraid
that Sarah had never exacted sufficient 'evidence' of his safety.
There was one text that seemed left out of Jane's Bible—as it is out
of a great many people's—to wit, 'By their fruits ye shall know
them.' She could not accept that testimony of a pure,
unselfish life, without that deadly digging down among its roots,
that would be most dangerous if its growth were not far matured, and
which can never be beneficial. It was not enough for her that
Frederick Broome faithfully walked in ways, where the Master himself
would have trodden had He been a rich young man, living in the
London of to-day; that he was with the poor and desolate not with
the mere hand of a benefactor, but with the heart of a brother; that
he did not shrink from those who had sinned like his mother and
suffered like himself, but held their restoration and welfare as a
sacred trust, for the fulfilment of which his own blessings had been
given him; that his means, to their utmost extent, were always at
the command of any who could offer a fresh form of spiritual or
physical help or healing to a suffering humanity. All this was
not enough for Jane, who forgot Jesus' denunciation of the Scribes
and Pharisees who 'shut up the kingdom of heaven against men,' and
that in the road to Eternal Life he set no creed, but two precepts.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all
thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and,
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.'
She did not find it very easy to 'speaks her mind' to him.
Real life in the soul, like real life in the affections, has a
dignity of its own, which wards off any impertinent touch. It
is as hard to ask some people if they love God, as it would be to
inquire if they loved their mother or their wife. The very
difficulty that Jane felt did her good. It made her realize
the sacred delicacy of the soul as she had never realized it before.
Still she found an opportunity at last. She and
Frederick were pacing up and down her little garden one fine summer
evening. He had been telling her of some plans he had been
looking over, for the object of giving better dwellings to the
poorer classes. Not very long before, in the days when she and
Tibbie were wont to spar, Jane would have said at once that these
benevolent schemes were not 'the gospel,' but somehow she did not
say this now, and her thin sharp voice was really almost tenderly
modulated as she did say,―
'Nobody can doubt that you are earnest and good, Mr. Broome.
You would spend yourself for others but others must think of you.'
(Poor Jane! as if people could ever think of others, till infinitely
higher thoughts had been bestowed on them, for the almsgiving or
martyrdom which is not charity, is that which is done for our own
sakes—perhaps even for our 'owns salvation !) Are you quite
sure that all is right with you? Do you simply believe in
'All is right with me,' said Frederick very quietly, for I
know that God is my Father. And he added, unconsciously
raising his hat from his brow, nobody can know and believe in such
an one as Sarah Russell, without believing in what Paul called that
mystery—"Christ in us, the hope of glory."'
That was all he said. And Jane found nothing to reply.
But it made her think. Was it possible that there could be
sermons without words? And since only God knows when and how
each is to be brought into the light, was it possible that our best,
if not our sole way of joining in His work, was by keeping our lives
so clean and bright that haply His light may shine through us?
Little did Frederick Broome guess that his reply tremblingly given,
stirred Jane far more deeply than anything had ever done before.
Was it possible that all the words she had gone on repeating
all her life had beneath them another and a deeper meaning which she
had never sounded? that they were not a mere incantation to be
muttered over life, but a living principle to be poured therein?
She thought over these things in her poor confused way, as she lay
on her couch, hour after hour, muddling over her crochet hooks and
worsteds. And while she did so, she thought she might as well
knit up some socks and cuffs for Tibbie's orphans and sick old
Jane's furthest advance in knowledge was a dim realisation
that she did not know quite everything, that the scheme of the
universe might possibly be something not to be wholly bound up in an
inflexible catechism or condensed in a limited creed. She grew
more silent on what she would have termed religious topics.
Secretly, she felt herself a little 'unsettled;' but while disposed
to bemoan the loss of her 'assurance' and 'sweet frames of mind'
could not help feeling that the very loss was somehow a gain, and
that though it would be better to have more than she had now, she
would not wish to have back what she had before. And when she
dared no longer to spend hours in thinking over her own spiritual
privileges and perfections, and the general desolation and depravity
of the rest of the world, she found she would be glad of some other
employment, and took to regularly working for Tibbie's mission-room,
and resumed some correspondence for which she had had 'no time,' for
years, and presently undertook the secretary's work in a little
agency for the benefit of young servant girls. It is wonderful
how much more work would be done in the world if we could just begin
to realise the full truth of Jesus' words, 'Not every one that saith
unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he
that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.'
As for Sarah and Tibbie, they were always friends, as people
are who have sacred secrets between them. Each had the key of
the other's life. Their words meant more to each other than to
other people. They each understood the retrospective
significance of each other's actions and ways of thought.
Tibbie knew where Sarah had learned her boundless patience and hope.
Sarah knew what gave Tibbie so much sympathy with angry, wronged
people, who had suffered their good to be overcome by evil. In
each other's presence those two enjoyed the sweet restfulness which
comes in the assurance of understanding love.
As for poor Mrs. Stone, she carried her convictions that she
had 'marked her life under cost price' so far, that as her husband
receded into the past, the mist of intervening time magnified him
almost into a hero, until at last the only saving clause in the
panegyric was, 'though I'll not deny he had his faults,' not seldom
without the qualification, 'and I had a temper in those days, as has
been subdued since, I hope and trust.'
'It's as good as a story, ma'am,' she said, one evening when
Sarah and she had been talking over the past; 'd'ye remember that
night when we drove into the Hallowgate, and the bells were
'It was you who brought me to the Hallowgate. Don't
forget that, Mrs. Stone,' Sarah would say.
'An' who was it spoke to me, an' helped me with my parcels?'
Mrs. Stone rejoined. 'Things do fall out queer, that they do.
How would it ha' been, if you'd not spoken to me? Then you'd
not have come here, and Mr. Broome would have been turned away, and
most likely he'd be in his grave, and the poor old gentleman would
have died in his bitterness.'
This was all the story known to Mrs. Stone. She did not
know that years of prayer lay beneath it—that Sarah had received her
answer from the other side on a chain of little neighbourly
kindnesses done upon her own. Oh, when we turn away from some
duty, or some fellow-creature, saying that our hearts are too sick
and sore with some great yearning of our own, we may often sever the
line on which a divine message was coming to us. We shut out the
man, and we shut out the angel who had sent him on to open the door.
Mrs. Stone hit the truth very nearly, when she went on,—
'I can't help thinking that there's a plan working in our
lives, and if we keep our hearts quiet and our eyes open, it all
works together, and if we don't, it all fights together, and goes on
fighting till it comes right somehow, somewhere. We mostly
kick about and raise such a dust we can't see anything else.
I've been an' gone an' done that all my time, and now I can scarcely
keep from going on a-doin' it, at the remembrance of it! Do
you mind the psalm you read that first night, because you said we
were tired? Said I to myself, "That lady's got the 'still
waters' in her heart." And there's the church bells beginning
again—the very same as they did then.'
And Sarah leaned back in her chair, and closed her eyes and
listened. The old, longing prayer had died from the chimes.
With her, henceforward, all prayer was all thanksgiving.
'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my
life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.'