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up she went across the room and knocked loudly against the wall. There was a corresponding knock from the other side in answer to hers, and soon the latch of the outer door of the cottage was lifted, and Mrs. Farmer's kind motherly face appeared on the threshold.
"Oh, Mrs. Farmer, how kind of you to come so quickly! Baby is so ill, and Tom's not come home, and I don't know what to do;" and with these words Mary placed the child in the woman's arms and burst into a passion of tears.
"Get a bath ready and fill it with hot water quickly," said Mrs. Farmer, as she proceeded to undress the now unconscious infant, struggling in a fit of convulsions.
Mary dashed the blinding tears from her eyes, and got everything ready that was necessary in a few minutes, begging the woman who was holding her darling, "not to let her die," as she did so.
"It will break Tom's heart, I know it will! his whole life seems bound up in his child. Oh, why doesn't he come? He promised me he'd be home by Christmas Eve."
"Tom cannot control the winds and waves, my dear, and such a gale as has been blowing since morning may keep him far from land. Ah, my pretty one! Is it getting better, then? Bless its sweet blue eyes!" exclaimed the woman softly, as the baby's little cramped limbs relaxed and the heavy eyes opened slowly. She took her out of the warm water, wrapped her in a blanket hot from the fire, and placed her in her mother's arms.
Mary's tears fell fast again as she received her child. "Oh, dear Mrs. Farmer, how can I thank you sufficiently for saving my darling's life!"
"Hush, Mary. No thanks are due to me. I have not saved your child's life. Thank God for giving her back to you as He has done; but, Mary, you must forgive me if I tell you the truth. I do not think your little one is quite well yet. You must keep her very quiet, my dear, and I'll just send over to Dr. Astley and tell him to look in;" and the woman tied on her bonnet at the small glass over the chimney-piece, talking in a low tone as she did so: "I know he's up at Mrs. Glynd's, for I saw his spotted dog in her front garden as I came by just now, so I dare say I shall catch him;" and so saying, good Mrs. Farmer went out, casting one anxious glance round at the little pale baby, as she closed the door behind her. A great gust of wind nearly carried her off her feet, but she battled bravely against the gale, and hurried on down the lane. "That little one will never live to see another Christmas Day, I feel sure; and I'm truly sorry for poor Tom and Mary, for their hearts are indeed bound up in that child, to the exclusion of all better things; they've no consolation elsewhere. If it should be God's way of drawing them to Him, I shall look upon little May in her coffin with a far happier feeling than I looked upon her to-night in her cot."
The Christmas bells rang out merrily when they could be heard above the roaring of the wind.
A dog's bark was heard, and a man's footstep coming up the lane. Mrs. Farmer stopped. "Oh, sir!" exclaimed the woman, as the young doctor appeared in sight; "you'll pardon me stopping you, sir, I know; but Mrs. Anson's little girl is in a very queer way just now, and I thought maybe you'd not mind stepping in to look at her."
"Certainly not, Mrs. Farmer. You just caught me at the right moment; in an hour's time I shall be off up to town to spend my Christmas with my family."
The doctor, a kind-hearted young fellow, saw at once that no human aid could avail now; in plain words, the child was dying. He took her tenderly from her mother's arms, who was now crying bitterly, and motioning Mrs. Farmer into a chair, placed her in her lap, that poor Mary might be saved the agony of her dying struggle.
"Oh, save her! save her, Dr. Astley! For God's sake, save her!" almost screamed the mother, clutching the doctor's arm frantically, in her grief and despair.
"Hush, my poor girl," said the young doctor gently. "It may be for His own sake that God is now about to take your little one to Himself. Look up to Him. He alone can comfort you now!"
A man's heavy step was heard running up the front path, and the door of the cottage was burst violently open, and Tom, soaked through and through with rain and spray, without a hat, and his hair blown roughly over his head with the wind, dashed into the little room.
"What's this I hear? It can't, oh, it can't be true; my baby can't be dying!"
"Hush-h-h!" exclaimed the doctor, seizing the halfcrazed sailor by the arm and forcibly keeping him back. "You will startle the child! Be calm, my good man, for your little one's sake. Bear it bravely. All has been done that can be done for her now."
Mary went over to her husband, and he held her closely to him, as together those four stood awed by the solemn presence of death.
Ding dong! ding dong! ding dong! ding dong! The wind carried the sound right past the very window this time, and poor Tom, as the sound reached his ears, thought of that Christmas Eve, just one year ago, when Ruth had tried to persuade him to go to church, to thank God for giving him that precious babe that was now about to be taken from him.
One little struggle, and all was over. No more pain or crying now. Baby was dead, for ever "safe in the arms of Jesus."
And soon Tom and Mary Anson felt that though they had lost their child, they had found a full and perfect recompense in the dear Redeemer. At first both had been very rebellious, and had said many bitter things of the great and eternal God who had seen fit, in His infinite wisdom, to afflict them so heavily on that sad Christmas Eve; but gradually their hearts were softened by the blow and the blessed Lord, who had never been known while little May was with them, was now, in her absence, an
acknowledged and welcome guest in their hearts. The dusty unused Bible was taken from the top shelf of the cupboard, and the bereaved parents sought diligently for the passages relating to the resurrection and the raising of the dead.
Oh, what comfort Mary found in reading that holy book when sitting alone in her little cottage, her husband far away on the "wild raging sea," and her first and last and only child laid to sleep in the village churchyard. The words inscribed on the small stone at the head of the tiny grave, read as follows :—
Born Christmas Eve, 1870. Died Christmas Eve, 1871.
"Take her not home so soon, O blessed Lord,
Baby's second birthday was the happiest to all in that seaside cottage. It was a heavenly one to little May, and the beginning of a new life to Tom and Mary. Jesus had come to them, and they were now safe and happy in that love which never changes, and can never fade away.
WRITTeN For An Aged Lady.
I AM nearing the wonderful Great Beyond,
And through all its billows and spray:
But e'en in my weakest time
I cannot see much of that distant land,
Or the passage from shore to shore;
And He'll take me safely o'er:
My Saviour, my Helper, my Guide;
Or the smoothest rippling tide.
It is little I know of the Great Beyond,
Though I'm nearing it day by day;
To speak of the home and the way:
'Tis the path my Saviour trod:
For His footprints lead to God.
I am old and poor, and my numerous friends
In the race have left me behind;
But I've One who is ever kind:
Though I often Him forget;
And bids me never to fret.
And my poor old eyes look up to Him
With a joy no tongue can tell,
And am sure that all is well.
I forget that I'm here at all;
And He holds my heart in thrall.
Ah! well will it be when I reach that land,
With my health and my strength renewed;
And with Christ's own spirit imbued.
So great will my happiness be;
And that will be all things to me.
h. D. 1.