Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

a-taking of me. I do believe mother thinks I'm going to die, and wants to get me ready. I wonder what it all means.

“Nonsense, Mattie !” said Lucy, already turned a little aside from her own sorrow by the words of the child.

6 You must put on your hat, and come out with me.”

“My bonnet, miss. Hats are only fit for very little girls. And I won't go till you read this poetry to me-if it be poetry.” Lucy took the book, and read. The verses were as follows :

As Jesus went into Jericho town,
'Twas darkness all, from toe to crown,
About blind Bartimeus.
He said, Our eyes are more than dim,
And so, of course, we don't see Him,
But David's Son can see us.
Cry out, cry out, blind brother, cry;
Let not salvation dear go by.
Have mercy, Son of David.
Though they were blind, they both could hear-
They heard, and cried, and He drew near;
And so the blind were saved.
O Jesus Christ, I am deaf and blind ;
Nothing comes through into my mind;
I only am not dumb.
Although I see thee not, nor hear,
I cry because thou may'st be near :
O Son of Mary, come.
I feel a finger on mine ear;
A voice comes through the deafness drear :
Be opened, senses dim.
A hand is laid upon mine eyes ;
I hear and hearken, see and rise-
'Tis He: I follow Him.

Before Lucy had finished reading the not very poetic lines, they had somehow or other reached her heart. For they had one quality belonging to most good poetry-that of directness or simplicity ; and never does a mind like hers-like hers, I mean, in truthfulness -turn more readily towards the spiritual, which is the region after all out of which that which is natural comes, than when a cloud of mist enwraps and hides the world around it, leaving only the sky, visible overhead. She closed the little book gently, laid it down, got Mattie's bonnet, and heedless of the remarks of the child upon the poem, put it on her, and led her out. Her heart was too full to speak. As they went through the shop

"A pleasant walk to you, ladies," said the bookseller.

" Thank you, Mr. Kitely,” returned his daughter, for Lucy could not yet speak.

They had left Bagot Street, and were in one of the principal thoroughfares, before Lucy had got the lump in her throat sufficiently swallowed to be able to say a word. She had not yet begun to consider where they should go. When they came out into the wider street, the sun, now near the going down, was shining golden through a rosy fog. Long shadows lay or 'fitted about over the level street. Lucy had never before taken any notice of the long shadows of evening. Although she was a town-girl, and had therefore had comparatively few chances, yet in such wide streets as she had sometimes to traverse they were not a rare sight. In the city, to be sure, they are much rarer. But the reason she saw them now was that her sorrowful heart saw the sorrowfulness of the long shadows out of the rosy mist, and made her mind observe them. The sight brought the tears again into her eyes, and yet soothed her. They looked so strange upon that wood-paved street, that they seemed to have wandered from some heathy moor and lost themselves in the labyrinth of the city. Even more than the scent of the hay in the early morning, floating into the silent streets from the fields around London, are these long shadows to the lover of nature, convincing him that what seems the unnatural Babylon of artifice and untruth, is yet at least within the region of nature, contained in her bosom, and subjected to her lovely laws; is on the earth as truly as the grassy field upon which the child sees with delighted awe his very own shadow stretch out to such important, yea portentous length. Even hither come the marvels of Nature's magic. Not all the commonplaces of ugly dwellings, and cheating shops that look churches in the face and are not ashamed, can shut out that which gives mystery to the glen far withdrawn, and loveliness to the mountain-side. From this moment Lucy began to see and ieel things as she had never seen or felt them before. Her weeping had made way for a deeper spring in her nature to flow -a gain far more than sufficient to repay the loss of such a lover as Thomas, if indeed she must lose him.

But Mattie saw the shadows too.

Well, miss, who'd ha' thought of such a place !" she said. “I declare it bewilders my poor brain. I feel every time a horse puts his foot on my shadow as if I must cry out. Isn't it silly? It's all my big head-it's not me, you know, miss."

Lucy could not yet make the remark, and therefore I make it for her-how often we cry out when something steps on our shadow, passing yards away from ourselves! There is not a phenomenon of disease—not even of insanity--that has not its counterpart in our moral miseries, all springing from want of faith in God. At least, so it seems to me. That will account for it all, or looks as if it would; and nothing else does.

It seems to me, also, that in thinking of the miseries and wretchedness in the world we too seldom think of the other side

We hear of an event in association with some certain individual, and we say~" How dreadful ! How miserable !” And perhaps we say—“Is thereớcan there be a God in the earth when such a thing can take place ?” But we do not see into the region of actual suffering or conflict. We do not see the heart where the shock falls. We neither see the proud bracing of energies to meet the ruin that threatens, nor the gracious faint in which the weak escape from writhing. We do not see the abatement of pain which is paradise to the tortured ; we do not see the gentle upholding in sorrow that comes even from the ministrations of nature-not to speak of human nature-to delicate souls. In a word, we do not see,

and the sufferer himself does not understand, how God is present every moment, comforting, upholding, heeding that the pain shall not be more than can be borne, making the thing possible and not hideous. I say nothing of the peaceable fruits that are to spring therefrom ; and who shall dare to say where they shall not follow upon such tearing up of the soil? Even those long shadows gave Lucy some unknown comfort, flowing from Nature's recognition of the loss of her lover; and she clasped the little hand more tenderly, as if she would thus return her thanks to Nature for the kindness received.

To get out of the crowd on the pavement Lucy turned aside into a lane. She had got half-way down it before she discovered that it was one of those through which she had passed the night before when she went with Thomas to the river. She turned at once to leave it. As she turned, right before her stood an open church door. It was one of those sepulchral city churches, where the voice of the clergyman sounds ghostly, and it seerns as if the dead below were more real in their presence than the half-dozen worshippers scattered among the pews.

On this occasion, however, there were seven present when Lucy and Mattie entered and changed the mystical number to the magical.

It was a church named outlandishly after a Scandinavian saint. Some worthy had endowed a week-evening sermon there after better fashion than another had endowed the poor of the parish. The name of the latter was recorded in golden letters upon a black tablet in the vestibule, as the donor of 200l., with the addition in letters equally golden, None of which was ever paid by his trustees.

I will tell you who the worshippers were. There was the housekeeper in a neighbouring warehouse, who had been in a tumult all the day, and at nightfall thought of the kine-browsed fields of her childhood, and went to church. There was an old man who had once been manager of a bank, and had managed it ill both for himself and his company; and having been dismissed in consequence, had first got weak in the brain, and then begun to lay up treasure in heaven. Then came a brother and two sisters, none of them under seventy. The former kept shifting his brown wig and

taking snuff the whole of the service, and the latter two wiping, with yellow silk handkerchiefs, brown faces inlaid with coal-dust. They could not agree well enough to live together, for their father's will was the subject of constant quarrel. They therefore lived in three lodgings at considerable distances apart. But every night in the week they met at this or that church similarly endowed, sat or knelt, or stood in holy silence or sacred speech for an hour and a half, walked together to the end of the lane discussing the sermon, and then separated till the following evening. Thus the better parts in them made a refuge of the house of God, where they came near to each other, and the destroyer kept a little aloof for the season. These, with the beadle and his wife, and Lucy and Mattie, made up the congregation.

Now when they left the lane there was no sun to be seen ; but when they entered the church, there he was--his last rays pouring in through a richly-stained window, the only beauty of the building. This window-a memorial one--was placed in the northern side of the chancel, whence a passage through houses, chimneys, and churches led straight to the sunset, down which the last rays I speak of came speeding for one brief moment ere all was gone, and the memorial as faded and grey as the memory of the man to whom it was dedicated.

This change from the dark lane to the sun-lighted church, laid hold of Lucy's feelings. She did not know what it made her feel, but it aroused her with some vague sense of that sphere of glory which enwraps all our lower spheres, and she bowed her knees and her head, and her being worshipped, if her thoughts were too troubled to go upwards. The prayers had commenced ; and as she kneeled, the words “He pardoneth and absolveth,” were the first that found luminous entrance into her soul; and with them came the picture of Thomas, as he left the court with the man of the bad countenance. Of him, and what he might be about, her mind was full ; but every now and then a flash of light, in the shape of words, broke through the mist of her troubled thoughts, and testified of the glory-sphere beyond ; till at length her mind was so far calmed that she became capable of listening a little to the discourse of the preacher.

He was not a man of the type of Mr. Potter of St. Jacob's, who considered himself possessed of worldly privileges in virtue of a heavenly office not one of whose duties he fulfilled in a heavenly fashion. Some people considered Mr. Fuller very silly for believing that he might do good in a church like this, and with a congregation like this, by speaking that which he knew, and testifying that which he had seen. But he did actually believe it. Somehow or other-I think because he was so much in the habit of looking up to the Father-the prayers took a hold of him once more every time be read them; and he so delighted in the truths he saw that

he rejoiced to set them forth—was actually glad to talk about them to any one who would listen. When he confessed his feeling about congregations, he said that he preferred twelve people to a thousand. This he considered a weakness, however ; except that he could more easily let his heart out to the twelve. He took for his text the words of our Lord :

Come unto me, all

ye that labour and are heavy laden.” He could not see the faces of the strangers, for they sat behind a pillar, and therefore he had no means of discovering that each of them had a heavyladen heart : Lucy was not alone in trouble, for Syne had been hard upon Mattie that day. He addressed himself especially to the two old women before him, of whose story he knew nothing, though their faces were as well known to him as the pillars of the church. But the basin into which the fountain of his speech flowed was the heart of those girls.

No doubt presented itself as to the truth of what the preacher was saying ; nor could either of them have given a single argument from history or criticism for the reality of the message upon which the preacher founded his exhortation. The truth is not dependent upon proof for its working. Its relation to the human being is essential, is in the nature of things ; so that if it be but received in faith-that is, acted upon-it works its own work, and needs the buttressing of no arguments any more than the true operation of a healing plant is dependent upon a knowledge of Dioscorides. My reader must not, therefore, suppose that I consider doubt an unholy thing; on the contrary, I consider spiritual doubt a far more precious thing than intellectual conviction, for it springs from the awaking of a deeper necessity than any that can be satisfied from the region of logic. But when the truth has begun to work its own influence in any heart, that heart has begun to rise out of the region of doubt.

When they came from the church, Lucy and Mattie walked hand-in-hand after the sisters and brother, and heard them talk.

He's a young one, that !" said the old man. “ He'll know a little better by the time he's as old as I am.”

“Well, I did think he went a little too far when he said a body might be as happy in the work’us as with thousands of pounds in the Bank of England.”

“I don't know,” interposed the other sister. “He said it depended on what you'd got inside you. Now, if you've got a bad temper inside you, all you've got won't make you happy.'

“Thank you, sister. You're very polite, as usual. But, after all, where should we have been but for the trifle we've got in the Bank ?"

“You two might ha' been living together like sisters, instead of quarrelling like two cats, if the money had gone as it ought to," said

« ForrigeFortsett »