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he had received from his comrade's death, and go out to seek the terrible destroyer which had that morning made poor Mary Larkins a widow, and her children fatherless. She wishes she had even a newspaper to engage her husband's attention, and make the time hang less heavily. But just then there was a knock at the door, and, opening it, she saw Miss Stewart, the daughter of a lady at whose house she occasionally worked; Miss Stewart's brother also was William's teacher at the Sunday school, so the trials and privations of Sarah Murray were well known to the whole family; and that morning at breakfast, amidst their own enjoyment of new-year's blessings, they had planned a little treat for that desolate home.
"Good morning, Sarah," said Miss Stewart. "I have come to wish you a happy new year, and to bring you a little gift if you will accept it;" and opening a basket she carried, she playfully let Sarah peep at the treasures within.
"Please come in, miss, do," said Sarah, with a brightening face; it was so seldom that a new-year's gift came to her door.
James Murray was still sitting in an absorbed way, with his back to the door, and did not turn or appear to notice the visitor; and she, a little timid at first at sight of him, went up to the table, and, again lifting the lid of the basket, began to spread out its contents. First there was a nice new book, sent by Mr. Stewart to William, as a reward for good behaviour at school. Then some numbers of the "Cottager," with their large, pleasant pictures.
"I thought Mr. Murray would like these," Miss Stewart said, and crossing the room she offered them to him with a gentle grace which a rougher man than he would have found it difficult to resist. He took them with a gruff "Thank ye," and began at once to look at the pictures, whilst Miss Stewart returned to her unpacking. A small Christmas cake came next, then a packet of tea, three mince pies, and a few oranges and apples.
But though the basket was now emptied, the pleasant surprise was not over. Miss Stewart had a parcel as well as the basket, and opening it she produced a warm woollen shawl, as a present from her mother to Mrs. Murray; and lastly, from an envelope in her pocket, she took out two square pieces of cardboard, and laid them on the table.
"These are tickets for the temperance tea-meeting tonight," she said. "I thought you and your husband would like to go. William will be at the school tea, so you will not have to leave him at home. There will be very interesting speaking after tea. Mr. Murray," she continued, turning again to the silent figure by the fire, " I shall be so pleased to see you there, for I am sure you would enjoy it, and enjoyment of that kind leaves no sting behind."
Still there was only a muttered response; and Mrs. Murray, whose heart was brimming over with thankfulness at the young lady's kindness, felt sadly pained that his conduct should appear so uncivil. Still she hoped that it was not really so, for she saw in his face signs of unusual emotion, and as soon as Miss Stewart took her leave, and he turned to the light, there were traces of tears having been roughly wiped away, and his lip quivered as he spoke.
"I'd do a good deal to please a nice-spoken young lass like that," he said. "I expected she'd have given me a fine dressing down for going to the public-house, and if she had I ha' given her as good again. People has no business to come into other folks' houses and go meddling with their concerns. But she called me Mr. Murray—maybe she don't know I only gave you three shillings last week. I didn't feel as if I exactly deserved to be called Mister, for I haven't been quite as respectable as I might be; but I don't see why I mightn't hold up my head with any cf the men, if only I could give up the drink."
"And will you go to the meeting to-night, James?" asked his wife, almost trembling with joy, for she had heard no words like those from his lips for years past.
"Well, I don't know. It'll make me look small enough to go and sit down amongst all the decent folks with this shabby coat But never mkd; I think I will, to please her; and if you put on that grand shawl that she brought you, Sarah, folks can't throw it at me that my wife has scarce a rag to her back."
That was a happy new-year's day to Sarah Murray. There was the joy of seeing William's delight when he came running home again, and found his father sitting quietly at home, reading the " Cottager," and then spied Miss Stewart's presents. And after the scanty dinner—to which, however, the mince pies made a very pleasant addition—there was the unusual stir of getting ready for the tea-meeting—a great polishing of well-worn boots, and brushing of threadbare clothes, and even the purchase of a paper collar for James Murray by his wife, to "smarten him up a little."
James entered heartily into the preparations—too heartily to feel that he had any time at his disposal for the publichouse—and sometimes thinking, with a sigh, ot the respectable suit of clothes he and William might have worn that afternoon if his visits to the "Swan" had not been so frequent .
Soon after four o'clock they all started, William to the school-room, his parents to the Temperance Hall. At the school-room Mr. Stewart was attracted by the unusual brightness of Will Murray's face, and coming up to him, was greeted with the eager words, "Oh, Mr. Stewart! all you told us last Sunday about prayer is true." And dien, out of his full heart, the boy poured forth his news about his father's altered conduct, adding simply, " I don't suppose he's got a new heart yet; but don't you think it looks as if Jesus was going to give him one? We've never had such a happy new year before; and please, sir, the mince pies were nice at dinner."
The temperance tea-meeting was considered a great success, even by those to whom the charm of novelty was wanting; but to Sarah and James it seemed as if there never could have been anything like it before. The beautiful decorations, the substantial, refreshing tea, and then the speeches full of anecdote and illustration, and practical wisdom, and Christian feeling, seemed all alike wonderful to them. Some of the speakers had once been drunkards, and they told of the struggles thev had had before they could overcome the terrible habit, and how, amidst all their fierce fighting against themselves, and against the influence of bad companions, their stronghold had been prayer to God for His merciful help. And then, as the large assembly broke up, a gentleman stood in the doorway, offering cards of prayer to any who chose to take them. James Murray stretched out his hand for one, and when he got home he read, first to himself and then aloud to his wife, the words that, in clear type, were printed there -. "Oh God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, give me thy Holy Spirit. Amen." On the other side there was a short prayer, intended for the use of reformed drunkards; and as he read it there were tears in his eyes, and he said, in a broken voice, " Oh, Sarah, that'll suit me well! I do want to begin the new year quite different. Indeed I have begun it different already; for it's long enough since I've gone through a .whole day, as I have this, without a drop of anything stronger than that good tea passing my lips. But it'll be hard work to keep it up without God helps me; so I'll try what that prayer will do if I say it right straight away from my heart."
And he did not try in vain; his own simple cry to God for help, and the loving aid of a praying wife, brought to him strength for the conflict which began that day in his heart; and at the end of three months there was not a more comfortable household in the neighbourhood than in what had once been a drunkard's home.
William Murray bought an illuminated copy of his favourite text, and hung it over the mantelpiece in their kitchen; and if his mother ever got anxious about anything he would smilingly point to the beautiful words, and her heart would grow strong and trustful again as she read the gracious promise: "If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it."
Fne fine evening in the early spring, a large familygroup were gathered round the blazing fire in the neat and cheerful cottage of old Giles Falkner. It was the last gathering they were likely to have for the next morning the youngest daughter and her baby boy were to leave home, to join her husband in the far west of America.
Many a tear was shed as they sat and talked; yet the young wife's face had more of joy than of sorrow in it, and there was more of hope than of regret in her voice.
Later in the evening they were joined by their much loved minister, who, on his way from his Young Men's Class, had come round for a last good-bye. He was warmly welcomed by all; for was ke not their best and oldest friend?
"I could not let you go, Mary, without another word together, and another prayer for your safe journey, your happy meeting with John at the other side. I don't like to part with you, for I have watched over you since I took you in my arms long ago, a little infant, and prayed God to bless you. I catechised you many a time, and I had the great joy, best of all, of leading you to the Saviour for pardon and peace. He will be with you, dear child—with you who go, and with us who stay—and to Him we may well trust you."
After all inquiries as to plans and preparations, and seeing the baby and the warm travelling coat so carefully prepared for him, he asked for the Bible, and read a few verses of John xiv.—some of our Lord's parting words with his disciples: "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
He went on to say: "I have been thinking much to-day of Mary's going, and how different it would be, both for