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My heavenly home is rich and free,
My heavenly home! Not long to wait,
My heavenly home! It stands secure,
My heavenly home! Oh make me long
My heavenly home! That peaceful rest
[lice Edmonds, eldest daughter of John and Mary Edmonds, was born blind. This was a great blow to her parents, especially to her father, who being a complete stranger to religion, chafed and fretted under the disappointment which had darkened his newmarried life. To all his wife's entreaties that he would be resigned to the will of God, he angrily inquired why his child had been selected to endure so dire a calamity. His wife, on the other hand, to whom the affliction was not less harrowing, submissively bowed her head, nor once did she dispute the righteousness of Divine Providence. With more than maternal solicitude she watched over her little blind first-born, and prayed to become more and more fitted to be the light of her eyes.
Husband and wife, though of the same way of thinking when they were married, were not now agreed. Upon religious matters there was a great gulf fixed between them. A dangerous illness, only a few months after her marriage, had resulted in the wife's conversion; and when her baby was born she received her as a solemn trust from God, and the more solemn when she found that her little one had been born blind. Her husband endeavoured to forget his disappointment in applying himself to business more zealously than ever. It was his aim to make money as fast as he could; and he succeeded, if not to the height of his own ambition, greatly to the envy of those in the same trade. He was in his business from morning till night, and, as a rule, his counting-house was the only place he attended on the Lord's day. He did not interfere with his wife's "churchgoing," as he termed it; but as for him, his work was to make money, and to allow no day in the week to pass by without making it yield its increase.
Meanwhile little Alice grew into a beautiful little girl of seven years old, docile, gentle, loving, and intelligent. She never missed what she had never enjoyed; and when her mother would sometimes sigh that she was not able to see the flowers in their beautiful garden, and the glories of earth and sky, she would say, with a smile, "You are my eyes, darling mother! your talk must be as good as eyes to me, because I can, in my own way, see what you describe. And then, you know, I can hear the birds sing, and smell the fragrance of the flowers, and feel the wind blow on my face, and listen to the murmur of the fountain, and I am very happy! And then when we go to church, how beautiful the singing is, and the reading and praying, and altogether; but why does not father come with us, mother?"
It was a question which the mother found it most difficult to answer, and she was silent. There was no diminution of affection between her husband and herself; but in respect to the higher aspirations of life, after having been married eight years, they were as far apart as ever.
One of the chief delights of little Alice was one of those Bibles prepared for the blind, by means of the embossed or raised letters, which they are enabled to read by touch almost as fluently as others can by sight. Very pleasant had it been to the blind girl to listen to Bible stories from her mother's lips; but when she was told that in a short time she would be able to read all these herself, her joy was unbounded. Never did master have a more diligent scholar than Alice proved; and her father one day said that if he had been as diligent in making money as she had been in learning to read, long ere this he would have made his fortune.
Alice did not fail to observe that, whenever her father spoke about money in this vein, her mother could not restrain a sigh. "John, dear," she would sometimes say, "we have more now than you ever expected to realize when we were married; more than we know what to do with."
"Nonsense!" he retorted; "in a few years all that I have now will be doubled; and in a few years more that will be doubled: and then"
"And then what, dear husband?"
There was no answer; but doubtless the prosperous man of business was, like the rich fool in the parable, seeing larger premises erected in which to bestow his goods, and himself a more successful and wealthy man than ever. The influence of many of these conversations on the mind of little Alice was not salutary. She had very early the perception that her mother was pained because her father did not go to church, and what was painful to her mother could not but be so to herself. Subsequently she discovered that, while her mother was desirous above all things of living, "so as to prepare for heaven," her father did not think about heaven at all, but only cared about money, which he could not take with him beyond the grave. To the little blind girl this discovery was as great a shock as was that of her own blindness to her parents. Here was one who had two eyes, and could see very well, but who was completely blind to heaven; and what was the use his seeing anything else?
It happened, at the time that these thoughts were agitating her heart, that a poor relation of her father's fell into trouble, and principally because of her father. John Edmonds had lent "Cousin Richard," as Alice used to call him, a small sum of money, which was out at heavy interest. It pleased the lender, however, in a moment of caprice, because a certain instalment had not been paid up, to demand the entire sum, and all the interest that had accrued. Cousin Richard, in dismay, came round to consult with Mrs. Edmonds as to what was best to be done. Pay the money he could not, and ruin stared him in the face. He had always been a great favourite with little Alice, and now she was one of the first to discover that he was in distress.
"What is the matter, Cousin Richard?" she said, creeping up to him and feeling his face with her sensitive fingers; "why, you have been crying!"
"I have come into trouble which you cannot understand, little one," he answered, kissing her.
"What is it 7 " she asked, quickly; "is it money?"