« PreviousContinue »
Its work? To pierce the failing sense with its sharp cry. To reach after the flying consciousness, and startle it back to its place and its function. To recover lost identity out of dreamless void. To return the naked soul to the castoff garmenting of the body. To bring Winnie back from the gate of death to the gate of life, that Love, standing there, in the person of Paul, might seize her and draw her in. So said I.
But Science, in the person of Dr. Heartwell, said something else. He averred that Winnie was not dead, after all,-only in a swoon. That consciousness, struggling up from temporary anesthesia, was met half-way by the bird's shrill cry, and startled at once into vigorous action. That wonder and joy, together, kindled anew the failing spark of the spirit, and sent the ebbing life-current back to the heart.
What, after all, is the difference?
For Science did not attempt to explain the whippowill's temporary forgetfulness and abdication of all its well-known habits. Nor why it happened just at that moment and at that spot.
Here, finally, Faith (still in the person of Dr. Heartwell), had somewhat to say. That science always has to stop something short of the Soul and its Maker. That no probe ever yet found spirit, though it made the opening through which that etherial tenant escaped. That no dissecting knife ever laid open its structure or its laws. That far below the point which science reaches and explains, the finger of God works on, invisibly, inscrutably. That any science which does not admit this, and grow humble with the admission, and glad, finally, to put its feeble hand into that of faith, is only a learned ignorance.
But this talk came afterward!
Commonplaces thrust themselves into the tenderest, as in the grandest of earthly scenes. Between Winnie and Paul came Aunt Vin's prompt spoonful of stim
ulant. Meekly Winnie swallowed it. As if it had been
Then her eyes closed wearily, her head still resting upon Paul's arm.
She sleeps!" he "Clear the room.
Dr. Heartwell bent over her, scanning her well. Then he came toward us. "There is hope! whispered. His gesture said the rest. Leave her in quiet."
Is joy harder to bear than sorrow? It would seem so. For no sooner had we reached the "out-room," with the door shut, than sobs and tears broke forth. The long tension of nerve and spirit gave way. Some wept silently in a corner; others threw themselves into the nearest arms and shed their tears in common.
A sudden crash startled us. Amazed, we beheld the articles on the table flinging themselves on the floor, without hands. Would the night's wonders never cease?
Alice, coolest of us all,-perhaps because the vivid glories of her inner world of imagination make all outer events seem tame in comparison,―stooped and dragged forth from the débris—Jack Warren!
The boy had crept under the table for his own private "cry." Thinking himself not sufficiently concealed, it had occurred to him to pull the table-cover further over from beneath. Near the edge were books, a vase, a cardreceiver, a candlestick. These fell with a crash, not less startling to the author of their destruction, than to us, the astonished spectators.
Now, the full reaction came. From joyful tears to joyous laughter the way is easy, to hearts exhausted with deep emotion. It takes but little to set them upon that path. Jack's misadventure sufficed for us. And the laugh let us
down easily into sober gladness of heart.
Then Dr. Heartwell, standing on the hearth, ordered us all peremptorily to bed.
"For there is plenty of nursing and watching yet to be
provided for," said he. "It will be days before Winnie is past danger. You, Francesca Golden, must be ready to take that queer old nurse's place in the morning; she will need rest by that time, though she is made of steel. Tonight, there will be but little to do. Winnie will sleep
(is that what you
most of the time. And if 'Aunt Vin' call her?) wants help, she has it at hand. Mr. Venner is a fixture in that room, for the present, I suspect! Mrs. Divine," with a wide, bottomless yawn,- "where shall I find a shakedown'
So, Paul Venner and Aunt Vin kept the rest of that night-watch.
They were very quiet, peaceful days that followed. Winnie was too weak to talk or to listen. But her face was full of a deep content, a quiet joy, that could wait for utterance. Much of the time she slept, recruiting so the waste of disease.
It was a week before Dr. Heartwell would let us talk of the past. When the full explanation came, it was no longer needed. Mutual love, mutual trust, had carried them far past that point. They felt the blessedness of faith in each other, "without sight."
Each would have assumed the whole blame of the misunderstanding. "Forgive me," said Winnie, "I ought to have known you better."
"Forgive me," said Paul, "I ought not to have trusted a flower, nor a circumstance. In such a matter, a man should ask and wait for the spoken word, the unmistakable yea or nay."
Easy to see it now! For moments like these are the mountain-tops of life, giving one a clear outlook before and behind. Happy they who find wisdom there, to carry with them down to the valleys!
So I left them. For home needed me, now, more than they. Sufficient, henceforth, each to the other.
ERE beginneth the end, Francesca. The end of the old life, the beginning of the new. For all life's ends are beginnings, till its final end begins the Endless.
I have sent them all out,-Ruth, Alice, Essie, Flora, fluttering down the staircase in their snowy draperies like a flock of white doves; the last moments of Winnie Frost shall be given to you. If that white-robed vision which I beheld, just now, in the ancient mirror over the modern toilet-table be really she, for I have my doubts! It was so different from anything I have seen there before, so softly radiant with happiness, as if diaphanous and lit from within,— that I failed to recognize it for an acquaintance.
Yes, let me write it down and ponder it well,-I am happy! Not through any seeking, planning, or expectation of my own, but by the gracious gift of God. That is what makes it so sweet; because it is so manifestly of His providence, so straight from His hand. The cup of earthly pleasure which we mix for ourselves hath ever its great drop of bitterness at bottom; but "His blessing maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it." The happiness that He gives; springing out of sorrow and ripened out of pain; holding the promise of the life that is to come, as well as of that which "now is;" is happiness indeed!
Best and beautifullest of it all is it to feel how tenderly
God has been leading me hither, all these days; that the error, the separation, the pain, the complete relinquishment of hope, were only so many necessary steps to this end. Beyond all question, Paul and I needed just the lessons that we have learned. Without them, our present joy would lack its subtlest, most enduring flavor; our future relation be robbed of its most quickening and preservative element. The fact is profoundly suggestive. Perhaps the most wondrous of all the wonderful revelations of the Last Day, will be that those very burdens and trials under which we were most restive, which seemed absolute hindrances to our power of being or of doing good,—the cups which we prayed most earnestly might pass from us, and which, if Christ had been a Deliverer from present trouble instead of future woe, He would surely have removed;-that these were the very steps by which we climbed, with His help, to our place in the heavenly habitations.
It is good to be able to take this lesson, this realization, into coming times of trial. For happiness, I know well, is no lasting condition of human life; save, perhaps, as an inward spring; never as an outward circumstance. Hearts that rest upon God will have their inward sun shining behind and gilding all earth's clouds; but the clouds will visit them none the less with needful shadow and rain. Life will be a battle-ground and a conflict all the same, with inevitable foes of sin and mortal calamity standing in array; though Divine and earthly love combine to arm and to strengthen us for the fight.
Not for earthly bliss merely, or mainly, therefore, do we join hands; but for mutual help, comfort, elevation; mutual strengthening of heavenly hope and faith; mutual encouragement in a life of earnest striving toward the right. And so long as we keep faith with each other in this point, we may look hopefully for God's blessing on our union. Along the borders of the path that tends toward higher things, He will graciously cause the human