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h, not the roses, father, not the roses !" cried Effie,
in a burst of grief, when she saw her father in U the act of throwing the “stinking red things," as he called them, out of the window; and Effie clung tighter to his arm. .
The frown upon the brow of Edward Brook grew darker, but his eyes softened as they rested for a moment on the roses in his hand. By-and-by the frown relaxed; with a suppressed sigh, he dropped the roses back into the jug; and, sinking into one of the rickety chairs, he leaned his elbow on the window-sill, and his chin upon his hand, and sat looking at them.
Both were silent, and now the flowers began, in their silent way, to speak.
The rescued roses, leaning over the side of the jug, looked down into his face, and talked to him about a little cot standing amid green and sunshine, whose windows were framed round with blossoms like themselves, and of a fond, sweet face, itself a rose, that looked brightly after him as he went, in joyful strength, to his daily work, and watched as brightly at the same spot for his return. Alas! that roselike face had grown pinched and pale under want and sorrow and starvation, produced by his misconduct, until its last forgiving smile faded in death.
His eye drooped beneath the steadfast gaze of the roses as they told him all this, and fell upon the rest of the flowers he still grasped in his hand; among them was a sheath of valley-lilies. Ah, sure enough they were the very flowers that he and his dead wife planted on a tiny baby-grave when they visited it for the last time before leaving the rural churchyard for dingy London. They said then they would return once a-year to plant fresh flowers upon it; but they never went, and weeds and nettles now grew there instead.
The valley-lilies were picked out, and dropped into the jug beside the roses.
A bunch of bright geraniums came next. They were his mother's pets. When he was a lad, how he would toil in his little garden, before and after work, that he might have a cluster of those coral blossoms to place, as a birthday offering, beşide her breakfast-cup; and how her mild eyes would look fondly on him from beneath her bands of snowy hair, and the dear face smile blessings on her “bud of promise,”
as she called her boy. Could that mother see her “bud of promise" now? The geraniums were put back to keep the roses and lilies company.
Thus every flower told him something of a better past, before the demon drink, with its train of besotting vices, had made him the broken, despicable thing he was; and, one by one, flower after flower was replaced in the jug, till, instead of foaming with its usual Saturday-night contents of gin and beer, it was once more filled with bloom and fragrance, and nothing remained in his hands but some sweet-briar that had formed the background of the nosegay. “Anyhow," said Brook at length, “ you don't want these, Effie, do you ? They are nothing but thorns."
“ Yes, please, father dear," said Effie. (She had caught sight of a drop, very like a tear, which fell and quivered upon one of the blossoms.) “Yes, please, father dear; they are Jesus Christ's own flowers. He for whom nothing in the whole world was sweet and good enough, wore thorns Himself, that sinners like me and you, dear father, might wear the flowers. Think how He must have loved us ! so much, oh, so much, that if He had not died already He would gladly leave His throne in heaven, and die again to save the very poorest of us from saying one bad word, or even thinking one bad thought. Only think, dear father, how He must hate sin and love the sinner. Don't throw the thorns away, dear father.” And, gently drawing them from his hand, she replaced them in the jug, and, seating herself upon his knee, she wound her arms around his neck, and kissed as much of his forehead as was visible above the rough hands in which his face was buried.
That little kiss sealed the victory, and, folding her in his arms, he hid his face upon her neck, and wept such tears as he had never wept before.
“ Effie, my little Effie," he sobbed forth, “I am a wicked, drunken wretch, unfit to live or die !"
“That's just why Jesus died for you, father dear," replied Effie. “He loves you so that He will pardon everything if you will love Him back a little-only just a little. Go to Him to-night, and tell Him you will try, won't you, father ?”
“No, no, Effie. He may love innocent little lambs like you; but a bad man like me--a cruel husband and fathera drunkard and an outcast-I tell you, child, if I were to speak His holy name He would strike me dead-dead in my sins ! He won't forgive me, Effie.”
“Hush ! hush, father !” said Effie. “All the naughty things you ever said are not so naughty as saying that Jesus won't forgive. God is love, dear father.”
“But He is justice, too,” answered Brook; " and, if He would, He can't.”.
“He can't tell stories, father; and you know He said, 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance;' · Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out; “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as wool.”
But Brook was not to be comforted, and he only shook his head, and answered, “It's no use, Effie; there's no goodness in my heart. I can't say one good word, nor think one good thought.”
“He knows that, father,” persisted Effie. “No one can unless He helps them. Only tell Him that you love Him; or if you can't do that, tell Him that you want to love Him, and He will teach you how, and make you feel and think and do just what He wants you to. Oh, father, to-morrow is a new Sunday: go to Jesus to-night, tell Him you are tired of sin, and ask Him to make you begin a bright new life with the sabbath—won't you, father dear, for my sake ? for poor little Effie's sake?”
Brook still shook his head, but he said nothing, and Effie saw she had too nearly gained her point to give it up; so, like a true little woman who knew the power of coaxing, she wound her arms about him tighter, and kept on, “Won't you? won't you, father dear? not for poor Effie's sake ?” till he said at last, “Effie dear, don't talk any more just now. I couldn't pray if I tried; but I tell you what, Effie, when you have said your little prayers to-night you may say them
over again for father. I am too bad for Him to hear; but you are one of His pet doves, Effie, and He may listen to
Effie knew there was “ a time to speak, and a time to be silent;" she knew, too, that, if her father would but go to God, he would find out his mistake much better than she could make him, and so, with one fond kiss, she got off his knee, and, reaching down the little piece of candle which was stuck in an empty gin-bottle, she was about to light it, when Brook, rising from his chair, took it from her hand, “No, Effie,” he said, “I don't want a light to-night;" and putting it back upon the shelf he retired behind the ragged screen which divided his sleeping-place from the rest of the room.
Effie's night toilet was soon made, and, throwing herself on her knees by the side of her wretched pallet, she thanked God fervently, and besought that her father might yet be led like a little child to his heavenly Father's feet, and prove another example of redeeming love.
As she knelt there, with the moonlight streaming over her, her eyes raised to heaven, and her face bathed with tears, she heard a step behind her, two hands were tenderly laid upon her cheeks, and her head raised gently back, a kiss was pressed upon her forehead, and a tear fell and mingled with her own. Effie did not speak nor move; she knew it was her father.
Soon after, she was on her pillow, wrapt in happy sleep; but, had she been waking, she would have heard behind the ragged screen the sobs and sighs of a contrite heart, and caught the murmur of that all-conquering prayer, “ God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Next morning Effie laid the breakfast with especial care; the flowers were treated to fresh water, and the jug was placed on the table as a centre ornament; not a word was said of what had taken place over-night, only her father kissed her tenderly before he sat down. The meal was a happy one, though they spoke little ; but