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God" diffused through the home; and gradually he began to take an interest in Mr. Gray's visits, when he "dropped in " at tea-time, and finally was induced by him to go' to a temperance meeting and sign the pledge.
This had occurred some ten months before the Christmas Eve of which I write; and my readers can understand how, from that time, under Janet's good management, the home became brighter and more comfortable. Her only remaining anxiety was that James was so satisfied with the result of his temperance pledge that he rested there, without ever looking up to the Saviour who had done so much for her, and in whose friendship she was daily finding increasing satisfaction.
But her thoughts of the past were cut short now by the sound of familiar steps and voices, and going quickly to the door, she opened it, and looked out . The boys, who had been in a state of very unusual excitement all the afternoon, had asked leave to go and meet "father" as he came from work, and now, in the dim light, she could see them clustering round him, and all trying to help in carrying a bulky parcel.
"There's mother!" was the cry of the young voices, as Janet's head was seen outside the door. "Go in, mother, please go in and sit down;" and as Janet lingered, Teddy, the youngest, ran forward, and, taking his mother's hand, dragged her rather unceremoniously back into the kitchen, and coaxed her into her chair, whilst Jack, following, seized a small round table and placed it in front of her, as a barricade.
"Now, father, all's ready, come in," the two boys shouted, standing like sentinels on each side of the chair, whilst Janet laughingly wondered what was coming.
James had meanwhile taken the string from the parcel on the door-step, and now he and Benjamin solemnly bore it in between them and placed it on the table before Janet .
"Take off the paper, mother!" screamed the boys; but as Janet's trembling fingers almost failed her, the little hands tore it away and disclosed to view—a good-looking sewing-machine! Whereupon time was given to Janet to recover herself, by the three boys joining hands and executing a kind of war-dance round the room in the exuberance of their glee.
"What does it mean? It can't be for me," said Janet, at length looking at her husband.
"No mistake about that, my girl, all bought, and paid for, and brought home for the best wife and mother in all B." said James, with a deeply-moved face. "You don't think I haven't been watching how you've slaved for us all and made the home pleasant whether you had things to do it with or not! And months ago the boys and I began to plot about this, and I just threw my pipe away, and put the price of the baccy into this bag, and I've been lucky with overtime, and the money for that has gone into the bag too, and the lads, bless 'em, have brought me many a copper for 'mother's fund;' and it's astonishing, when you begin to put by, how it mounts up; and so that's your Christmas-box, and I hope you'll like it."
Then the boys clambered round their mother, and kissed and huggetl her till she was nearly suffocated, but came out from it all with a face very red indeed, but very radiant, and James, to stop her broken thanks, declared himself famishing for tea.
What a happy meal it was! The young voices chiming in so merrily with the rattle of cups and saucers; and it was scarcely over when a tap at the door was succeeded by the entrance of Mr. Gray, who was always a welcome guest. Of course the sewing-machine was exhibited, but Janet soon found that he had been in the secret, and had recommended the purchase of this particular kind. "It is like one my wife has used for a year, and she likes it exceedingly," he said, "so I can teach you how to work it;" and he quickly explained to his delighted audience the different parts and their use.
"He'll be preaching a sermon about it next thing," said James, in a laughing undertone to his wife. "I believe he could make a text out of a fire-shovel." But Janet's attention was so taken up with the wonderful machine that she did not hear him. She had brought a piece of calico, and was admiring the neat row of stitches Mr. Gray had quickly placed upon it, and now wanted to try it for herself. She began therefore laboriously to guide the work and turn the handle according to his directions; but, as the material came from under the cloth-presser, there was no trace of sewing, only an irregular line of holes made by the point of the needle. Janet looked at it with disappointment.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"You have pulled the thread out of the eye of the needle," Mr. Gray said, "so there is no connection between your work and the machine."
James came and looked on with interest. "Ay, Janet," he said, "you'll have to look sharp after the thread, or you'll have your labour for your pains, my girl."
"Many times that very thing has taught me a lesson," Mr. Gray said. "I have seen my wife working away so busily until she came, as she thought, to the end of a seam, and then she found that there was not a single stitch in the whole thing, because she had not noticed that this little link was wanting. And it seems to me that this mistake is often made in something 'far more important than the sewing of an earthly garment. God gives 'to every man his work' for eternity, and many go on through life as satisfied that they are doing it well as my wife was whilst she was plodding away with her machine; everything in appearance, both to herself and others, was the same, but the testing-time was when the work was examined."
"You're going on a little too fast for me, Mr. Gray," James said, respectfully, but with a shade of discontent in his tone. "It's easy enough to see whether the machine has done its work—anybody can tell that, but it isn't so clear about the other work, for people have such different opinions about it. Now I thought I'd done a considerable spell at it when I took the pledge, etcetera, but, from words you've dropped at different times, I don't believe you're satisfied."
"Very thankful, so far as it goes, my friend," said Mr. Gray heartily, " but not satisfied, certainly. Your reformation has put within your reach the possibility of doing good work for the Master, just as the possession of this sewing-machine makes good work for her family possible for your wife. But you must both look well to the connecting-thread. You see," he went on, turning to the machine, " that the threading of the needle is so necessary because it connects the work with the supply of thread on the reel. And so it is with our union to Christ. He says, 'Severed from Me ye can do nothing;' and we need only try to keep God's law in our own strength to find out that we can no more do it than a dead man could do a day's work."
"Then being honest and sober and steady don't count for anything?" said James.
"They count for all the earthly blessings that are naturally connected with it," replied Mr. Gray—" respectability, self-respect, and home happiness; but they do not fulfil God's law. He asks for your love, James. Can you not understand how precious that is to the Great Father? You know so well that nothing less would content you in wife and child. And this love, which is impossible while we keep away from God, springs up freely in the heart when we are brought nigh by the blood of Christ, and see how He has loved us in giving up His only Son to shame and death to be our Saviour. Then we understand the force of the words, 'This is life eternal, to know Thee, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.' When we know and believe this love, we cannot but yield our love to Him in return. Then He threads the needle for our life-work, connects it with all His resources of grace and strength, that we may live soberly, righteously and godly; makes us partakers of the Divine nature, and gives us a son's claim on all a Father's riches, and a son's hope of a welcome to the Father's home at last."
Mr. Gray had warmed with his subject, and now he paused, almost ashamed of the fire with which he had spoken; but on James's face there was a look of awakened and eager interest, as of a man who suddenly sees the end of a clue that is to lead him out of a labyrinth.
"You've done one thing for me, Mr. Gray," he said; "you've made me wishful to read the Bible for myself. There's something in what you've said that wants looking into. I think I've been making a mistake in my work. God helping me, I'll get the needle threaded."
M. C. F.
"(Infoarir, pilgrim, ©itfoarirT
Onward, youthful pilgrim,
Onward, manly pilgrim,
Strong of heart and true,
Passed triumphant through;
Swerve not left nor right,
In the fiercest fight.
Onward, weary pilgrim,
Though thy heart may groan-
Strength beyond thine own
And bear thee safely on
And victory is won.
Once more, dying pilgrim,
Gird thee for the strife;
Comes eternal life.