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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 28



I was awakened and nearly smothered this morning by a pillow thrown directly at my head. Somewhat unaccustomed in the respectable, old maid's life that I lead, to such a pleasant little method of salutation, I jerked myself upright, and stared. There stood Faith in her night-dress, laughing as if she would suffocate, and her mother in search of her was just knocking at the open door.

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"She insisted on going to wake Cousin Mary, and would'nt be washed till I let her; but I stipulated that she should kiss you softly on both your eyes."

"I did," said Faith, stoutly; "I kissed her eyes, both two of 'em, and her nose, and her mouth, and her neck; then I pulled her hair, and then I spinched her; but I thought she'd have to be banged a little. Wasn't it a bang, though!"

It really did me good to begin the day with a hearty laugh. The days usually look so long and blank at the beginning, that I can hardly make up my mind to step out into them. Faith's pillow was the famous pebble in the pond, to which authors of original imagination invariably resort; I felt its little circles widening out all through the day. I wonder if Aunt Winifred thought of that. She thinks of many things.

For instance, afraid apparently that I should think I was afflicted by one of those professional visitors who hold that a chance relationship justifies them imposing on one from the beginning to the end of the chapter, she managed to make me understand, this morning, that she was expecting to go back to Uncle Forceythe's brother on Saturday. I was surprised at myself to find that this proposition struck me with dismay. I insisted with all my heart on keeping her for a week at least, and sent forth a fiat that her trunks should be unpacked.

We have had a quiet, home-like day. Faith found her way to the orchard, and installed herself there for the day, overhauling the muddy grass with her bare hands to find dandelions. She came in at dinner-time as brown as a little nut, with her hat hanging down her neck, her apron torn, and just about as dirty as I should suppose it possible for a clean child to succeed in making herself. Her mother, however, seemed to be quite used to it, and the expedition with which she made her presentable I regard as a stroke of genius.

While Faith was disposed of, and the house still, auntie and I took our knitting and spent a regular old woman's morning at the south window in the dining-room. In the afternoon Mrs. Bland came over, babies and all, and sent up her card to Mrs. Forceythe.

Supper-time came, and still there had not been a word of Boy. I began to wonder at, while I respected this unusual silence.

While her mother was putting Faith to bed, I went into my room alone, for a few moments' quiet. An early dark had fallen, for it had clouded up just before sunset. The dull, gray sky and narrow horizon shut down and crowded in everything. A soldier from the village, who has just come home, was walking down the street with his wife and sister. The crickets were chirping in the meadows The faint breath of the maple came up.

I sat down by the window, and hid my face in both my hands. I must have sat there some time, for I had quite forgotten that I had company to entertain, when the door softly opened and shut, and some one came and sat down on the couch beside me. I did not speak, for I could not, and, the first I knew, a gentle arm crept about page 23 me, and she had gathered me into her lap and laid my head on her shoulder, as she might have gathered Faith.

"There," she said, in her low, lulling voice, "now tell Auntie all about it."

I don't know what it was, whether the voice, or touch, or words, but it came so suddenly,—and nobody had held me for so long—that everything seemed to break up and unlock in a minute, and I threw up my hands and cried. I don't know how long I cried.

She passed her hand softly to and fro across my hair, brushing it away from my temples while they throbbed and burned; but she did not speak. By and by I sobbed out :—"Auntie, Auntie, Auntie!" as Faith sobs out in the dark. It seemed to me that I must have help or die.

"Yes, dear. I understand. I know how hard it is. And you have been bearing it alone so long? I am going to help you, and you must tell me all you can."

The strong, decided words, "I am going to help you," gave me the first faint hope I have had, that I could be helped, and I could tell her—it was not sacrilege—the pent-up story of these weeks. All the time her hand went softly to and fro across my hair.

Presently, when I was weak and faint with the new comfort of my tears, "Aunt Winifred," I said, "I don't know what it means to be resigned; I don't know what it means!"

Still her hand passed softly to and fro across my hair.

"To have everything stop all at once! without giving me any time to learn to bear it. Why, you do not know—it is just as if a great black gate had swung to and barred out the future, and barred out him, and left me all alone in any world that I can ever live in, forever and forever."

"My child," she said, with emphasis solemn and low upon the words,—"my child, I do know. I think you forget—my husband."

I had forgotten. How could I? We are most selfishly blinded by our own griefs. No other form than ours ever seems to walk with us in the furnace. Her few words made me feel, as I could not have felt if she had said more, that this woman who was going to help me had suffered too; had suffered perhaps more than I—that, if I sat as a little child at her feet, she could teach me through the kinship of her pain.

"O my dear," she said, and held me close, "I have trodden every step of it before you—every single step."

"But you never were so wicked about it! You never felt—why, I have been afraid I should hate God! You never were so wicked as that."

Low under her breath she answered "Yes,"—this sweet, saintly woman who had come to me in the dark as an angel might. Then, turning suddenly, her voice trembled and broke :—"Mary, Mary, do you think He could have lived those thirty-three years, and be cruel to you now? Think that over and over; only that. It may be the page 24 only thought you dare to have—it was all I dared to have once—but cling to it; cling with both hands, Mary, and keep it."

I only put both hands about her neck and clung there; but I hope—it seems, as if I clung a little to the thought besides; it was as new and sweet to me as if I had never heard of it in all my life; and it has not left me yet.

"And then, my dear," she said, when she had let me cry a little longer, "when you have once found out that Roy's God loves you more than Roy does, the rest comes more easily. It will not be as long to wait as it seems now. It isn't as if you never were going to see him again."

I looked up bewildered.

"What's the matter, dear?"

"Why, do you think I shall see him—really see him?"

"Mary Cabot," she said abruptly, turning to look at me, "who has been talking to you about this thing?"

"Deacon Quirk," I answered faintly,—"Deacon Quirk and Dr. Bland."

She put her other arm around me with a quick movement, as if she would shield me from Deacon Quirk and Dr. Bland. "Do I think you will see him again? You might as well ask me if I thought God made you and made Roy, and gave you to each other. See him! Why, of course you will see him as you saw him here."

"As I saw him here! Why, here I looked into his eyes, I saw him smile, I touched him. Why, Aunt Winifred, Roy is an angel!"

She patted my hand with a little, soft, comforting laugh.

"But he is not any the less Roy for that—not any the less your own real Roy, who will love you and wait for you and be very glad to see you, as he used to love and wait and be glad when you came home from a journey on a cold winter night."

"And he met me at the door, and led me in where it was light and warm!" I sobbed.

"So he will meet you at the door in this other home, and lead you into the light and the warmth. And cannot that make the cold and dark a little shorter? Think a minute."

"But there is God—I thought we went to Heaven to worship him, and——"

"Shall you worship more heartily or less, for having Roy again? Did Mary love the Master more or less, after Lazarus came back? Why, my child, where did you get your ideas of God? Don't you suppose He knows how you love Roy?"

I drank in the blessed words without doubt or argument. I was too thirsty to doubt or argue. Some other time I may ask her how she knows this beautiful thing, but not now. All I can do now is to take it into my heart and hold it there.

Roy my own again—not only to look at standing up among the singers—but close to me; somehow or other to be as near as—to be nearer than—he was here, really mine again! I shall never let this go.

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After we had talked awhile, and when it came time to say good night, I told her a little about my conversation with Deacon Quirk, and what I said to him about the Lord's will. I did not know but that she would blame me.

"Some time," she said, turning her great, compassionate eyes on me,—I could feel them in the dark,—and smiling, "you will find out all at once, in a happy moment, that you can say those words with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength; it will come, even in this world, if you will only let it. But, until it does, you do right, quite right, not to scorch your altar with a false burnt offering. God is not a God to be mocked. He would rather have only the old cry: 'I believe; help mine unbelief,' and wait till you can say the rest."

"It has often grated on my ears," she added, "to hear people speak those words unworthily. They seem to me the most solemn words that the Bible contains, or that Christian experience can utter. As far as my observation goes, the good people—for they are good people—who use them when they ought to know better are of two sorts. They are people in actual agony, bewildered, racked with rebellious doubts, unaccustomed to own even to themselves the secret see things of sin; really persuaded that because it is a Christian duty to have no will but the Lord's, they are under obligations to affirm that they have no will but the Lord's. Or else they are people who know no more about this pain of bereavement than a child. An affliction has passed over them, put them into mourning, made them feel uncomfortable till the funeral was over, or even caused them a shallow sort of grief, of which each week evaporates a little till it is gone. These mourners air their trouble the longest, prate loudest about resignation, and have the most to say to you or me about our 'rebellious state of mind.' Poor things! One can hardly be vexed at them for pity. Think of being made so!"

"There is still another class of the cheerfully resigned," I suggested, "who are even more ready than these to tell you of your desperate wickedness——"

"People who have never had even the semblance of a trouble in all their lives," she interrupted. "Yes. I was going to speak of them. Of all miserable comforters, they are the most arrogant."

"As to real instant submission," she said presently, "there is some of it in the world. There are sweet, rare lives capable of great loves and great pains, which yet are kept so attuned to the life of Christ, that the cry in the Garden comes scarcely less honestly from their lips, than from his. Such, like the St. John, are but one among the Twelve. Such, it will do you and me good, dear, at least to remember."

"Such," I thought when I was left alone, "you, new dear friend of mine, who have come with such a blessed coming into my lonely days,—such you must be now, whatever you were once." If i should tell her that, how she would open her soft eyes!"