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WOUNDS AND BALMS.
HEN I reached the little gray house of the
"If there's anything that aspirates me,"
she said, severely, "it's to have people so desultory about getting ready for funeral and wedding cerements. I'm always punctuous, and I don't see why other people can't be."
Mrs. Warren was standing by her dead daughter, holding Jack by the hand. That hardy and slippery urchin had somehow been captured and thrust into a new suit of clothes, and had not yet recovered from his astonishment and discomfiture. He glanced at his mother out of the corner of one eye, and sniffled; gave me a kind of leer with the other, and grinned; looked down at his clothes, and wriggled, as if he would fain cast them as a serpent does his skin; and, finally, contemplated the door in a way that made it evident he was calculating the chances of escape.
His mother's face of quiet sorrow went to my heart. "I am just beginning to realize that I must give her up," said she to me, piteously. "So far, she has been like an angel in the house, filling it with peace and restfulness; but when she is gone, what is to take the vacant place?"
There are questions which only He who spake as never man spake, can answer. Certain of His words came to my lips, in such wise that they seemed to utter themselves. without help of my volition. "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come unto you.'-'And I will pray the Father, and He will send you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.'"
"I know it," she answered, in a low, self-communing tone. "I know the Everlasting Arms are always ready to catch us when our earthly props fall away, if we will but let them. Yet the human supports are very sweet, too! But thank you, Miss Frost; I will try to remember those words. when-when it comes to the final parting."
She watched me silently, while I combed out and arranged her daughter's long, shining hair,-that wonderful human growth!--so beautiful in its tint and texture, so indestructible in its nature,-keeping lustrous and lifelike long after the head that it adorned has crumbled into dust, and often outliving both the affection that treasured, and the memory that enriched, it!
"How is your son Samuel?" I asked, at length, desirous of diverting her thoughts into some brighter channel.
"He is a great deal better, thank you. He would make us bring him in to bid his sister good-bye, this morning. It was pitiful to see his wan face hanging over hers." The mother's lip quivered.
"And Mr. Warren?" I hastened to inquire.
"He is nearly sick with grief. Maggie was his idol, you know. I am quite distressed about him. He comes in and looks at her awhile, and then goes out and wanders. around the place, or sits in the garden, perfectly silent and motionless, for hours. He is there now. Cannot you go and speak to him, Miss Frost? It is time he was roused. He has not yet dressed himself for the funeral ;-indeed, I do not even know that he means to go."
I made a gesture of dismay. The idea of intruding upon the grief of a man that I knew and understood so little, was exceedingly distasteful to me.
"I wish you would go," she urged. "I think he likes you. It is certain that he has listened to you more patiently than ever he did to anybody else, and that he has not been able to get some of your words out of his head. Do go!"
Thus entreated, I went, though not without extreme reluctance. "What shall I say to him?" I murmured to myself, as I caught sight of his motionless figure at the farther end of the garden.
BONA. "Take no thought how or what you shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what you shall speak."
He was sitting on a fallen tree, with his back toward me. It is wonderful how much misery can be expressed by mere attitude;-his head was bowed, all the lines of his figure drooped, his very garments had a weary, dejected, grief-worn aspect. He must have heard my footsteps, but he neither moved nor turned his head, not even when I stopped within an arm's length of him. A genuine embarrassment overcame me. I was about to steal noiselessly away, when I felt-by chance, I was about to say, but I have expunged that word from my vocabulary-my little prayer-book in my pocket. The touch was like an inspiration. Opening it at random, my eyes fell upon the thirtyeighth Psalm, and I began to read, in a voice that shook like an aspen leaf,
"Put me not to rebuke, O Lord, in Thine anger, neither chasten me in Thy heavy displeasure. For Thine arrows stick fast in me, and Thy hand presseth me sore.'”
I saw that the words struck him powerfully,-not so much by any start. or gesture, as by the greater immobility, the fixed attention, of his form. I went on, therefore, with increasing confidence, "For my wickednesses are gone over my head, and are like a sore burden, too heavy for me
to bear.' 'I am brought into so great trouble and misery, that I go mourning all the day long.' 'I am feeble and sore smitten. I have roared for the very disquietness of my heart.""
A groan burst from him, like an echo of the words, and so deep and powerful that I started in alarm. Recov ering myself instantly, I proceeded,
"My lovers and neighbors did stand looking upon my trouble, and my kinsmen stood afar off." "
He murmured some unintelligible words.
"As for me I was like a deaf man, and heard not; and as one that is dumb, who doth not open his mouth." " He nodded his head, as if in assent.
"For I will confess my wickedness and be sorry for my sin.'
A kind of hopeless shiver ran over him, and a deep sigh escaped his lips. Still turning the leaves at random, I alighted upon the twenty-second Psalm, and read on without any apparent pause. When I came to the sentences," Our fathers hoped in Thee-They called upon Thee, and were holpen.—But as for me, I am a worm and no man, a very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people," he dropped his head heavily into his hands, and a long, struggling moan of incontrollable agony testified that the Word of God is, in truth, "sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of joints and marrow." The sound smote me with poignant pain and pity; not wittingly or willingly had I pressed so heavily upon his hidden sore. I began to look, trembling, for balm wherewith to dress the wound, and the thirty-second Psalm came opportunely to hand. The better to make him feel that his place was still secure in the sympathetic chain of human brotherhood, I laid my hand lightly on his shoulder as I read,-knowing that there is often a subtler sympathy in touch than in any word spoken afar off; and having lost, for the moment, that consciousness of moral re
pulsion which had hitherto made it so difficult for me to approach him.
When the Psalm was finished, I waited silently for the paroxysm to cease; then I said, quietly, "It is nearly time for the people to gather, sir, and Mrs. Warren says you are not dressed yet. Of course, you will not let Maggie go from you, without accompanying her as far on the way as you can.”
And without seeking to extract any reply, or to look in his face, I went back to the house. A moment after, I heard him enter, and go up stairs.
In a short time the undertaker arrived, and brought into the death-chamber that long, narrow box, which, whether it be rich or plain, shows more clearly than anything else in the world, perhaps, how limited are the world's possessions, how bounded the world's hopes. If this life were all, and to end thus and there—who would care to live it?
So I thought, and so I said to Mr. Warren, who, I found, was standing by me, looking into the coffin with a face of utter loathing.
"You really believe in another life, then?" he asked, but in a listless, aimless way, as if the answer could in nowise concern him.
"Believe! I think I can say with Job, I KNOW that my Redeemer liveth, and that though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God."
He shook his head,—more, it appeared, in hopelessness than contradiction. "Look abroad in Nature; everything dies."
"Yes, sir-to live again.”
"Um-do you believe that the beasts live after death?" "There is no conclusive evidence against it, that I know of. The fact from which I chiefly draw an inference to the contrary, furnishes as strong a presumption in favor of man's immortality."
He began to look interested. "What is it?"