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Ohn Adams sat ajone by his fireside. The hearth was strewn with ashes, and the fire dying out; but he made no attempt to replenish it, though a chill wind was blowing off the sea, and the night was cold. He had that morning seen the body of his wife laid in its last resting-place in the breezy hillside church, with the sparkling blue sea beneath and the still blue sky above.
It was fifty years since they stood side by side at the altar of the old grey stone church and plighted their troth. Now she had been taken, and he was left. Tender hands led the old man back to his lonely cottage home, and when he had begged his kind neighbours to leave him, they had done so with reluctance, saying they would see him again in the morning.
John Adams drew his arm-chair to the f1reside, and sat down in the silent pathetic grief of old age. A few tears rolled unheeded down his furrowed cheeks. Why should he weep? He had outlived the burning passions of youth, and the deeper and more lasting impressions of middle age. He had surely but a short time to wait before he, too, heard the Master's call, and he left this earth to dwell in his Lord's presence and join his beloved wife.
As he sat with his head bent forward, and his soft white hair falling on his rough blue fishing-jacket, the long years that had gone seemed but as a dream. The events of fifty years ago were fresher in his memory than the things that had happened yesterday. All the past rose up before him. He saw himself again a young man, the strongest and handsomest in all the village. The very scent of the hawthorn and lilac seemed in the air. They were in bloom all round him, as he waited, on a warm spring evening, to meet Margaret Davie, and ask her the all-important question, the answer to which would either shed the sunlight of happiness on his path, or leave him desolate. He was not a man who could love lightly, and Margaret, having won his heart, must keep it, whether she took him with it or let him go on his way alone.
Margaret Davie was a quiet girl of deep, if undemonstrative, feelings. She had allowed John Adams to walk with her to and from church on Sunday, to carry her pitcher of water from the well, or to do any of those thousand and one little offices which love sees so quickly and is so ready to perform. From these things he had judged he might hope to win her for his wife, and he was right. She did love him, and she told him so with all the warmth of her heart shining out of the depths of her blue eyes. She was more real to him as he saw her again, in his thoughts, with golden gleams in her sunny brown hair, in the gladsome strength of the unimpaired health of her girlhood, than she had been as she lay before him yesterday, with the withered hands crossed on her breast, and the white hair smoothed against her wrinkled cheek.
Then there was another day, marked with a white stone, their wedding-day. It had not been as soon as they thought, for the season was a bad one for the farmers, and Margaret's father had losses. She would not leave home while her family were in trouble, for the share she took in the work was a great help to them all.
A year later everything was better, and then John Adams took her to the pretty cottage he had had such pleasure in getting ready for her. How bright and happy she had looked, as she stood by his side in the church and gave her life into his keeping. Neither of them had ever, even for one moment, regretted the day that had made them one. They had trials' and troubles, and sometimes found it hard work to get enough to feed the hungry little ones that gathered round them. But let what would befall, they were all in all to each other. Margaret might have a hard day's work, but she was never too tired to have home bright and cheerful for John, and to greet him with loving smiles. In the long years they passed together each saw and knew the faults of the other; but love shed a tender light on whatever failings there were. If John was cross or contradictory, Margaret would say to herself, "Well, the good man's tired out with his work. I'll get the children off to bed, and let him have his pipe alone in peace." Or if Margaret was fretful or impatient, John would pat her shoulder lovingly and say, "You're worried with the children; come out and have a bit of a walk with me, lass."
A walk together by the sea, under the crimson-tinted sunset sky, with the grey shadows of evening falling round, sent away all ill-feeling, and Margaret would return home thinking that John was not only her husband, but her friend also, in the highest and truest sense of the word.
There was another day more important to John than those on which their marriage and the birth of their children were recorded in the old Bible. It was the day on which John himself was born again. How well he remembered every incident connected with the day. He had been out fishing, as usual, but was obliged to return earlier than he had intended, on account of the stormy weather. There was a special service to be held that night in the church, and as he had nothing else to do, he went to it. The preacher, who was a stranger to him, was an earnest-hearted sincere Christian, and he spoke of the love of Christ, and of the great necessity of being at peace with Him, in a way that touched more than one heart among the rough fishermen before him. Never had the question of the Philippian gaoler been more earnestly asked than it was by John Adams, as he stood before the preacher after the service was over and the congregation had departed. There can only be one answer to that question, and the speaker's reply was the same as Paul's. Not all at once did John find peace. He had been a steady, honest, hardworking man, but now he saw that good works could not save him, and for some time he could only see himself as a sinner condemned before God; but after many days he realised that Christ's blood was all powerful to wash away his sins, and that he was pardoned. Then how anxious he was that his wife should be a partaker of the glorious light that had shone into his own mind. God had prepared her heart, and she received the glad tidings eagerly. What an increased delight they had now in their children, when they studied to bring them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. When their youngest was taken from them, their grief was robbed of its sting by the knowledge that they had given their treasure into the hands of the Saviour; and though the mother's tears almost blinded her, as she gathered the first pale snowdrops to put into her darling's waxen white hands, they were without bitterness.
Another day rose up before John Adams, standing out distinct and clear in the vista of departed years. He had been sitting in that same room, and upstairs his wife lay unconscious on the bed, her spirit hovering on the border-land between life and death. The doctor had looked grave when John had fetched him for the second time that day. When he asked if there was any hope, he had answered, "I will do all I can; you must ask God to spare her." Then he passed up the narrow wooden stair, and left John kneeling on the red brick floor, looking through the diamond-paned window at the sea glistening in, the sunshine. Would the sunlight ever bring joy to him again, he thought, if his wife was taken from him. Then he thought of the prophet Ezekiel, and how God had forbidden him to mourn when the desire of his eyes was taken from him at a stroke. He prayed earnestly for grace to be enabled to say, "Thy will be done," and he rose from his knees comforted.
God was very gracious to him, and his wife recovered. It was with a deep and humbling sense of joy that they partook of the sacrament together, the first Sunday when Margaret was pronounced sufficiently recovered to attend church.
John's memory passed on through long peaceful years, his wife growing day by day dearer to him, and he saw in her slowly silvering hair more beauty than when each stray sunbearr called out a golden gleam.
There was a time when their eldest-born, their joy and pride, had caused them trouble. The quiet western village was too quiet for him, and his father's daily toil on the sea too slow. He wanted to see large cities and other lands. He left his parents and his cottage home, and sailed far away. The mother and father waited and prayed, and not in vain. Long afterwards they received a letter from a foreign country, telling them of their son's death, of how he wished he could have seen them once again, just to say "good-bye." But that could not be. He died far away from home and kindred, but happy in the knowledge that his sins were forgiven him for Christ's sake. The page in the old well-worn Bible that recorded the births, marriages, and deaths of the family was well filled up. The ink was hardly dry in which, with a trembling hand, John had written down the date of his wife's death; one line was left, to record his own name by the side of Margaret's. As he thought over the events in his long life, the old man looked up and said reverently, "Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life," and soon "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
The stars grew faint and pale as the rosy flush of coming day broke in the east . By-and-by the light brightened into perfect day, and the anxious ones hurried to the cottage to tend and cheer the old man. No need to cheer him. God had called him to the rest prepared for him, and for him an everlasting day had dawned. As they laid him gently on his bed, someone said with a sob, "The dear old man and woman are together now ; well,' they were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided.'"
L. S. P.