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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 28


The days are slipping away now very quietly, and—to her I am sure, and to me for her sake—very happily. She sutlers less than I had feared, and she lies upon the bed and smiles, and Faith comes in and plays about, and the cheery morning sunshine falls on everything, and when her strong hours come, we have long talks together, hand clasped in hand. Such pleasant talks! We are quite brave to speak of anything, since we know that what is to be is best just so, and since we fear no parting. I tell her that Faith and I will soon learn to shut our eyes and think we see her, and try to make it almost the same, for she will never be very far away, will she? And then she shakes her head smiling, for it pleases her, and she kisses me softly. Then we dream of how it will all be, and how we shall love and try to please each other quite as much as now.

"It will be like going round a corner, don't you see?" she says.

You will know that I am there all the while, though hidden, and that if you call me I shall hear." Then we talk of Faith, and of how I shall comfort her; that I shall teach her this, and guard her from that, and how I shall talk with her about heaven and her mother. Sometimes Faith comes up and wants to know what we are saying, and lays poor Mary Ann, sawdust and all, upon the pillow, and wants "her toof-ache kissed away." So Auntie kisses away the dolly's "toof-ache "; and kisses the dolly's little mother, sometimes with a quiver on her lips, but more often with a smile in her eyes, and Faith runs back to play, and her laugh ripples out, and her mother listens—listens—

Sometimes, too, we talk of some of the people for whom she cares; of her husband's friends; of her scholars, or Dr. Bland, or Clo, or poor 'Bin Quirk, or of somebody down town whom she was planning page 92 to help this winter. Little Clo comes in as often as she is strong enough to see her, and sends over untold jellies and blanc-manges, which Faith and I have to eat. "But don't let the child know that." Auntie says. But more often we talk of the life which she is so soon to begin; of her husband and Roy; of what she will try to say to Christ; how much dearer He has grown to her since she has lain here in pain at His bidding, and how He helps her, at morning and eventide and in the night-watches. We talk of the trees and the mountains and the lilies in the garden, on which the glory of the light that is not the light of the sun may shine; of the "little brooks" by which she longs to sit and sing to Faith; of the treasures of art which she may fancy to have about her; of the home in which her husband may be making ready for her coming, and wonder what he has there, and if he knows how near the time is now.

But I notice lately that she more often and more quickly wearies of these things; that she comes back, and comes back again to some loving thought—as loving as a child's—of Jesus Christ. He seems to be—as she once said she tried that He should be to Faith—her "best friend."

Sometimes, too, we wonder what it means to pass out of the body, and what one will be first conscious of.

"I used to have a very human, and by no means slight, dread of the physical pain of death," she said to-day; "but, for some reason or other, that is slowly leaving me. I imagine that the suffering of any fatal sickness is worse than the immediate process of dissolution. Then there is so much beyond it to occupy one's thoughts. One thing I have thought much about; it is that, whatever may be our first experience after leaving the body, it is not likely to be a revolutionary one. It is more in analogy with God's dealings that a quiet process, a gentle accustoming, should open our eyes on the light that would blind if it came in a flash. Perhaps we shall not see Him,—perhaps we could not bear it to see Him at once. It may be that the faces of familiar human friends will be the first to greet us; it may be that the touch of the human hand dearer than any but His own shall lead us, as we are able, behind the veil, till we are a little used to the glory and the wonder, and lead us so to Him. Be that as it may, and be heaven where it may, I am not afraid. With all my guessing and my studying and my dreaming over these things. I am only a child in the dark, 'Nevertheless, I am not afraid of the dark.' God bless Mr. Robertson for saying that! I'm going to bless him when I see him. How pleasant it will be to see him, and some other friends whose faces I never saw in this world. David, for instance, or Paul, or Cowper, or President Lincoln, or Mrs. Browning. The only trouble is that I am nobody to them! However, I fancy that they will let me shake hands with them. No, I am quite willing to trust all these things to God.

'And what if much be still unknown?
Thy Lord shall teach thee that,
When thou shalt stand before His throne,
Or sit as Mary sat.'

page 93

I may find them very different from what I have supposed. I know that I shall find them infinitely more satisfying than I have supposed. As Schiller said of his philosophy, 'Perhaps I may be ashamed of my raw design at sight of the true original. This may happen; I expect it; but then, if reality bears no resemblance to my dreams, it will be a more majestic, a more delightful surprise.' I believe nothing that God denies. I cannot overate the beauty of his promise. So it surely can have done no harm for me to take the comfort of my fancying till I am there; and what a comfort it has been to me, God only knows. I could scarcely have borne some things without it."

"You are never afraid that anything proving a little different from what you expect might—"

"Might disappoint me? No; I have settled that in my heart with God. I do not think I shall be disappointed. The truth is, he has obviously not opened the gates which bar heaven from our sight, but he has as obviously not shut them; they stand ajar with the Bible and reason in the way, to keep them from closing; surely we should look in as far as we can, and surely, if we look with reverence, our eyes will be holden, that we may not cheat ourselves with mirages. And, as the little Swedish girl said, the first time she saw the stars: 'O father, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what must the right side be?'"