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"If you can let us have it back, William," said John, "in a day or two, as you say, you are heartily welcome to it."
"Back!" said his brother-in-law, "yes, and something more too! I would not ask it of you if I did not want to be the first to meet my poor boy when he steps on shore."
The money was taken out of the teapot in the little cupboard and put into his hand, accompanied by a sigh from his sister and a confident look by John.
"You know, wife, that he is a good man, and means what's right and true."
"Yes," said Mary, "he means it; but you know, John, that more than once he has meant more than he has been able to fulfil."
"Well, well," replied John, "do not let us be sorry about doing a kind thing, and let us hope and pray that we may yet make up what has been spent upon the poor children. Oh! let us be very thankful, Mary, that they have been spared to us."
Nevertheless, as the days went by, and no William returned, both grew anxious, and even more so about his safety than their money. Day succeeded day, and there was nothing heard of him. Dark, cold winter set in, and there was no work to be had, and one by one John's little sticks of furniture had to be sold to provide bread. At last there came the "distress," and his home was stripped, not by the landlord, who was a just and worthy man, but by his agent, who was notorious for his petty tyranny, and who had a special spite against the Dykes on account of their religion, which he hated. And so, as we have said, to-night John felt his burden almost heavier than he could bear. There was a gloom over everything, and for the moment both husband and wife were forgetting God and thinking only of themselves and their own troubles. It had always been John's custom to pray with his children before they went to bed; but to-night he was prayerless, or, at least, voiceless. His wife could not help thinking harshly of her brother, who had added to their trouble, and he himself could not forbear thinking of Mr. Randolph, who had taken his goods, after having been paid regularly for so many years. Therefore there were silence and depression, and angry thoughts.
It was their custom at prayer time each to repeat a verse of Scripture and sing a hymn before kneeling down. The children were thus thoroughly interested in this simple service, because they felt they had a part in it. To-night the youngest of the group, who would have been bright and blooming even in her hunger, but for the shadow she saw on her father's and mother's face, said, in words which she could not pronounce distinctly, " Shall we say our verse?"
The words had a startling effect upon her father's stricken heart, and he said tremulously, "What is your verse, little one?"
The child could not yet speak plain, but the verse she repeated brought into John's mind the words, "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise." Her verse was this: "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee." John burst into tears, which he vainly endeavoured to conceal by clasping his hands to his eyes. "We have been wrong," he said, presently; 'we have been bearing our own burden instead of casting it upon Him who has graciously promised to bear it for us, and in His own good time to relieve us. Let us pray." Such a prayer had never been offered in the cottage before. And, cold though the night was, and supperless though they were, even the children went to bed comforted, and were covered with what poor wraps, or rather rags, could be found for the purpose.
John Dykes and his wife had seen the last spark of the fire out, and were preparing themselves for sleep in the darkness where they sat, when they were startled by a knock at the door. Upon opening it, what was John's astonishment to see Mr.Randolph.
"I am very sorry for this, Dykes—very sorry," he said, before John could utter a word; "I would not have had it occur for ten times the amount of your rent. I only came
s down this evening to go through the accounts, but I no sooner heard what had been done than I came to you at once."
"You are very good, sir," John stammered out; "the Lord is very good," he added, more confidently.
"Every stick that has been taken out of your house shall be put back into it before I sleep to-night. Is that cart coming?" he cried to his coachman.
Yes, indeed it was; and with it something good to eat and drink, something to bring back light, warmth, and gladness to the little cottage. A cheerful fire was soon sparkling on the hearth, and John and his wife with grateful tears were seeing their "things" put into their places again. It took an hour or more to do this, and the children came down to be revived by the pleasant warmth and the food which they so much needed. During all this time Mr. Randolph never stirred from the place. He was in an indignant mood when he entered, but when he saw the last thing in and a meal upon the table, his severity relaxed, and not waiting for further thanks, he drove away. John could scarcely eat a morsel for very gratitude; but when the children had made a hearty supper it seemed only natural that they should gather together again for family worship. Once more the "little one" lisped her verse, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee," and once more John's tears flowed plenteously as he offered fervent thanks to God for unexpected deliverance.
William's absence in London was soon explained. The vessel was behind her time, but in his anxiety he could not return home until he knew her fate. Too sick at heart to communicate with his friends at home, and afraid to think even of the anxiety John and his wife were suffering, he sought for work in the neighbourhood of the docks, hoping in a week to make up the sum he had borrowed. This was not possible, and when at last his son did arrive, it was not with a "fortune," as he had fondly imagined would be the case, but as a poor sailor, thankful for the commonest lodging-house into which he could creep.
"So, you see," said John to his wife one night, when things had all righted themselves, "it was the Lord who delivered us, and perhaps—no, not perhaps, I am certain of it—if we had gone to Him sooner, He would have borne our burden for us."
Safe at Home.
GAY the hillside showed with heather,
Not a child lay on the shingle,
Not a net was spread to bleach,
Lounged along the yellow beach.
While the women, gathered round,
To the northern fishing-ground.
Only one was left behind them,
One too old to cast a net,
Keen of sight and hearty yet.
Right upon the broken cliff,
Searched for sail of nearing skiff.
When the sun was sinking westward
Ere the crimson touched the sea,
Sailing homeward merrily;
Sunk beneath his eyebrows wide,
As he laid the glass aside.
"Ned," he cried, "ran, tell your mother
That the boats are just in sight: Bid her get the supper ready,
Father will be home to-night: Tell her I've gone down to meet them,
But I know she's sure to come— For your father's there, and Willy,
And 'tis Jack's first coming home."
Home ran Ned to tell his mother
That the boats had come once more; And from cot to cot the tidings
Quickly ran along the shore.
All the children hastened down,
And put on her Sunday gown.
The same group that watched the sailing
Soon were gathered on the sand, Ready with their eager welcome
When the boats should come to land. Nearer came the white sails, nearer,
Plain without a glass to see; Little boats and larger vessels
They have counted twenty-three.
"If I'd Peter's glass," said Neddy,
I could make out father's sail;
Where 'twas torn that last great gait; I should see the 'Polly' painted
In white letters on her prow; Jack has done them up so freshly,
For good luck he said, you know."
"Ah! my boy, 'tis long the waiting,
Waiting for their coming back; But 'tis longer to your father
And to Will and little Jack; I can fancy Jack is laughing,
Clapping both his hands for joy; Bless him! but he wants his mother,
He was always mother's boy.