Page images
PDF
EPUB

was well aware that this last meaning was alien to his thought, but I was glad that he could not look at his rose, henceforth, without being reminded of it. For, though I expected no swift miracle of conversion to be wrought in him, no one could tell what planting, or what watering, it might please God to bless with slow-perhaps almost imperceptible—yet steady increase.

VI.

THE REACTION.

[graphic]

WENT home through the ripened glory of the morning; noticing-with those sharpened and concentrated senses that city-refugees sometimes bring to lovely rural pictures-the vivid, lustrous green of the turf, the bright hues and delicate odors of the flowers, the sharp, clear outline of verdure and rock, the soft, pure depth of

the sky, the infinite beauty and diversity of form and color that enriched my way. For the first time in many days, my heart was singing within me. I felt well pleased with my night's work: out of that shadow of death, there seemed to have been born unto me new hope and meaning in life. I even fancied that Bona walked hand in hand with me all the way, and that Mala had departed for a considerable time.

Mrs. Divine met me at the door, and inquired, in her ringing, cheery voice, "Well, how is Maggie Warren this morning?"

"She is dead," I answered, briefly.

Her face grew grave and sympathetic at once. But Mrs. Prescott, busy in the kitchen, caught the words, and delivered herself of a quick, caustic commentary,

"It's a mercy to her and the neighborhood! That miserable Warren will have one child the less to bring up in infidelity."

E

MALA (ironically, through my lips). Thank you, madam. Shall I convey your consolatory message to the afflicted family?

MRS. PRESCOTT (with heightened color). Just as you please. I ain't afraid to stand to it that the less family that man has, to train up in the way they shouldn't go, the better.

I (in a cold, hard tone). If that rule operated universally, is is perhaps easier for us to discern the houses which Death would visit, than those which he would spare. Thousands bring up their children in practical infidelity, having less excuse than Mr. Warren has. He teaches what he believes. They believe one thing, and teach-by implication—another.

BONA (softly, to me). Are you "speaking the truth in love?"

I took no notice of her inquiry, but went up to my room, with a mortal fear chilling my heart. Nor was it groundless: I found waiting there, ready for my shoulders, the same old burden which the little excitement of last night, and the hope of doing a good deed, had enabled me transiently to throw off. Wearily I took it up, and a great discouragement came over me. And Mala, of course, took delight in pushing me over the brink of the moral precipice upon which I trembled.

"You expected a great deal from this 'doing something for Christ,' as you so nicely phrased it,-have you found it?" she asked.

I admitted to her and myself, that I had not.

MALA. You even fancied, this morning, that a life of this sort of work would bring you, first healing, then happiness;-do you think so still?

I confessed that such a fancy, if I had ever had it, had vanished utterly, leaving not so much as the shine of its wings in the distance.

MALA. And all that very good and proper talk, where

with you so abundantly favored Mr. Warren,-is it the faithful expression of your feeling now?

Moodily I acknowledged that if Mr. Warren were then before me, the chances were that he might utter what blasphemy or infidelity he chose, without much danger of interruption,

MALA (triumphantly). Perhaps you will take my advice next time, and

"Miss Frost, your breakfast is ready."

I looked up. Mrs. Divine was standing in the door,—a striking impersonation, I thought, of steady, homely, healthful Common Sense.

"Thank you," said I; "but I am afraid I don't want any, Mrs. Divine."

She looked at me narrowly, then asked, abruptly, “What did Mrs. Warren give you for lunch last night?"

"Indeed, I do not know.

66

I never looked at it." Umph! I thought so. I suppose the world doesn't look very bright to you this morning?"

"No, ma'am, I believe it does not."

"And a good reason why! You've been up all night, hard at work; you've been through with the trying scenes of a deathbed; and you've eaten nothing to keep your strength up. I was reading in one of your books last night, that 'mind is superior to matter;' but the writer forgot to add that mind and matter have a good deal in common. At least, as long as mind is tied to matter, it can't do much business without consulting its partner. And when a person's tired and hungry, or faint, his views of life ain't apt. to be bright-or correct. Come down stairs, right away, and eat a good breakfast; and then go to bed, and get a good sleep; and if things don't look brighter after that, we'll see what's to be done next. One thing you may put down for certain, child-that there's no trouble so deep that there isn't some remedy strong enough to reach it."

I submitted to her guidance like a child. And after the

66

sleep had been duly sought, found, and let go again, things" certainly did look brighter. I wondered at my late miserable subjugation to Mala, and called Bona to my side.

"Tell me, if you can," I said, humbly, "why it was that I fell so completely and helplessly into Mala's hands, just now, when I was so fully persuaded that I had escaped from her, for a time, and was hopefully entering upon a new and better era of my life."

"The cause was complex," returned Bona. "In your temporary exaltation of mind, you fancied yourself so secure that you forgot to watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. Mrs. Prescott's harsh, though not altogether unjust remark, jarred rudely upon your awakened sensibilities. You were physically exhausted, and as Mrs. Divine told you, body and mind act and react upon each other. Finally, if you want the whole truth, you are still thinking of, and striving for, present, rather than eternal peace, earthly distraction more than heavenly consolation." "Oh, Bona!" I murmured, reproachfully

"It is true," she answered, steadily. "I will not say anything about the curiosity, or the sad unrest which helped to induce you to go to the Warrens,—perhaps human motives can never be quite pure. Your chief mistake was that you thought to earn present peace by doing Christ's work, much as a man means to earn his daily bread by carting sand or laying bricks. Whereas, he who would do our Lord faithful service, must set himself thereto as a sculptor does to Art; thinking of daily bread, pleasure, fame, only as things which may come to him through his work, but are never to be confounded with its object. Art is dearer to him than they all; and his work in her service is less a labor than a love; less a means to an end, than a self-forgetting worship!"

"Was not my work at the Warrens well done, then? I faltered.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »