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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 28



I can only repeat and re-echo what I wrote this noon. If anybody knew what to say!

Just after supper I heard the door-bell, and, looking out of the window, I caught a glimpse of Deacon Quirk's old drab felt hat, on the upper step. My heart sank, but there was no help for me. I waited for PhŒbe to bring up his name, desperately listening to her heavy steps, and letting her knock three times before I answered. I confess to having taken my hair down twice, washed my hands to a most unnecessary extent, and been a long time brushing my dress; also to forgetttng my handkerchief, and having to go back for it after I was down stairs. Deacon Quirk looked tired of waiting. I hope he was.

O, what an ill-natured thing to say! What is coming over me? What would Roy think? What could he?

"Good evening, Mary," said the Deacon, severely, when I went in. Probably he did not mean to speak severely, but the truth is, I think he was a little vexed that I had kept him waiting. I said good evening, and apologised for my delay, and sat down as far from him as I conveniently could. There was an awful silence.

"I came in this evening," said the Deacon, breaking it with a cough, "I came—hem!—to confer with you—"

page 10

I looked up. "I thought somebody had ought to come," continued the Deacon, "to confer with you as a Christian brother on your spiritooal condition."

I opened my eyes.

"To confer with you on your spiritooal condition," repeated my visitor. "I understand that you have had some unfortoonate exercises of mind under your affliction, and I observed that you absented yourself from the Communion Table last Sunday."

"I did."



He seemed to expect me to say something more; and, seeing that there was no help for it, I answered,—"I did not feel lit to go. I should not have dared to go. God does not seem to me just now what he used to. He has dealt very bitterly with me. But, however wicked I may be, I will not mock Him. I think, Deacon Quirk, that I did right to stay away."

"Well," said the Deacon, twirling his hat with a puzzled look, "perhaps you did. But I don't see the excuse for any such feelings as would make it necessary. I think it my duty to tell you, Mary, that I am sorry to see you in such a rebellious state of mind.

I made no reply.

"Afflictions come from God," he observed, looking at me as impressively as if he supposed that I never heard the statement before.

"Afflictions come from God, and however afflictin' or however crushin' they may be, it is our duty to submit to them. Glory in triboolation, St. Paul says; glory in triboolation."

I continued silent.

"I sympathise with you in this sad dispensation," he proceeded.

Of course you was very fond of Royal; it's natural you should be, quite natural—" He stopped, perplexed, I suppose, by something in my face. "Yes, it's very natural; poor human nature sets a great deal by earthly props and affections. But it's your duty as a Christian and a church-member to be resigned."

I tapped the floor with my foot. I began to think that I could not bear much more.

"To be resigned, my dear young friend. To say 'Abba, Father, and pray that the will of the Lord be done."

"Deacon Quirk!" said I, "I am not resigned. I pray the dear Lord with all my heart to make me so, but I will not say I am, until I am,—if ever that time comes. As for those words about the Lord's will, I would no more take them on my lips than I would blasphemy, unless I could speak them honestly,—and that I cannot do. We had better talk of something else now, had we not?"

Deacon Quirk looked at me. It struck me that he would look very much so at a Mormon or a Hottentot, and I wondered whether he were going to excommunicate me on the spot. As soon as he began to speak, however, I saw that he was only bewildered,—honestly page 11 bewildered, and honestly shocked: I do not doubt that I had said bewildering and shocking things.

"My friend," he said, solemnly, "I shall pray for you and leave you in the hands of God. Your brother, whom he has removed from this earthly life for His own wise—"

"We will not talk any more about Roy, if you please," I interrupted; he is happy and safe."

"Hem!—I hope so," he replied moving uneasily in his chair; "I believe he never made a profession of religion, but there is no limit to the mercy of God. It is very unsafe for the young to think that they can rely upon a death-bed repentance, but our God is a covenant-keeping God, and Royal's mother was a pious woman. If you cannot say with certainty that he is numbered among the redeemed, you are justified, perhaps, in hoping so."

I turned sharply on him, but words died on my lips. How could I tell the man of that short, dear letter that came to me in December,—that Roy's was no death-bed repentance, but the quiet, natural growth of a life that had always been the life of the pure in heart; of his manly beliefs and unselfish motives; of that dawning sense of friendship with Christ of which he used to speak so modestly, dreading lest he should not be honest with himself? "Perhaps I ought not to call myself a Christian," he wrote,—I learned the words by heart,—"and I shall make no profession to be such, till I am sure of it, but my life has not seemed to me for a long time to be my own. 'Bought with a price' just expresses it. I can point to no time at which I was conscious by any revolution of feeling of 'experiencing a change of heart,' but it seems to me that a man's heart might be changed for all that. I do not know that it is necessary for us to be able to watch every footprint of God. The way is all that concerns us,—to see that we follow it and Him. This I am sure of; and knocking about in this army life only convinces me of what I felt in a certain way before,—that it is the only way, and He the only guide to follow."

But how could I say anything of this to Deacon Quirk?—this my sealed and sacred treasure, of all that Roy left me the dearest. At any rate I did not. It seemed both obstinate and cruel in him to come there and say what he had been saying. He might have known that I would not say that Roy had gone to Heaven, if,—why, if there had been the breath of a doubt. It is a possibility of which I cannot rationally conceive, but I suppose that his name would never have passed my lips. So I turned away from Deacon Quirk, and shut my mouth, and waited for him to finish. Whether the idea began to struggle into his mind that he might not have been making a very comforting remark, I cannot say; but he started very soon to go.

"Supposing you are right, and Royal was saved at the eleventh hour," he said at parting, with one of his stolid efforts to be consolatory that are worse than his rebukes, "if he is singing the song of Moses and the Lamb (he pointed with his big, dingy thumb at the ceiling), he doesn't rebel against the doings of Providence. All his affections page 12 are subdued to God,—merged, as you might say,—merged in worshipping before the great White Throne. He doesn't think this miser' ble earthly spere of any importance, compared with that eternal and exceeding weight of glory. In the appropriate words of the poet,—

'O, not to one created thing
Shall our embrace be given,
But all our joy shall be in God,
For only God is Heaven.'

Those are very spiritooal and scripteral lines, and it's very proper to reflect how true they are."

I saw him go out, and came up here and locked myself in, and have been walking round and round the room. I must have walked a good while, for I feel as weak as a baby. Can the man in any state of existence be made to comprehend that he has been holding me on the rack this whole evening? Yet he came under a strict sense of duty, and in the kindness of all the heart he has! I know, or I ought to know, that he is a good man,—far better in the sight of God to-night, I do not doubt, than I am. But it hurts,—it cuts,—that thing which he said as he went out; because I suppose it must be true; because it seems to me greater than I can bear to have it true.

Roy, away in that dreadful Heaven, can have no thought of me, cannot remember how I loved him, how he left me all alone. The singing and the worshipping must take up all his time. God wants it all. He is a "Jealous God." I am nothing any more to Roy.