« AnteriorContinuar »
looked up in his face and said, 'Yes, father, I will,—I .will always take care of you,' and sure, Jane, that was a promise.
"Then I minded how when mother lay a dying she said, 'Susan, it's nearly over with me here; but the dear Saviour has given me a good hope through his precious blood. It's borne in on me strongly that your father isn't dead, he will come home, and I trust to you, child, to keep a home for him; -who knows but you may win him back. He was a good husband to me and a good father before that drink took such hold on him: never forget that, Susan lass.'
"So, Jane, it seemed as if my duty -was clear, and I told Edward I had made up my mind to stay and keep a home for father. He was angry, and we parted; but after a bit he came to me and said, 'Susan, I can't do without you; I am earning good wages now, and could keep you comfortable, and we'll spare a bit and a scrap now and then for your father, and you shall go and see after him when you like.' But father was going on worse then ever then, and I couldn't find it in my heart to bring the disgrace on Edward's good name, so 1 wouldn't listen to his words; and now I have no right to complain."
"Is that your father's step?" said Jane, as a heavy tread was heard in the narrow passage leading to the court?
"No, it's noways likely he'd be home yet: but, Jane, I have something to be thankful for, he has been kinder to me lately, and not stopped out so much of nights; and yesterday he said, may be he could piece my old shoes,—you knew he was a good hand once. When he got to work he seemed so pleased, and said, 'I haven't lost my trade yet; who knows but I may be seeking work afore long?'"
"Well, dear, I'm glad you've some comfort; and there is always this," Jane touched, as she spoke, the little Bible on the table by the window. Susan did not answer save by look and smile.
As Jane passed out she saw, though indistinctly, in the dusk, two men standing in the street in earnest talk, one she knew to be Susan's father, the other was strangely like Edward Morris. But she told herself she must have been mistaken, and passed quickly on.
Six months more passed away. It was now New Year's day. The weather was bleak and cold. The Lancashire town where these things happened looked very wretched with half-melted snow, no longer white, but black with soot and dirt.
"Susan, my girl, 'tis time for supper, and I think I've earned a good one to-day anyhow."
"How late you are: where have you been, father?"
"At work," said Susan's father; "doesn't this look like it?" and he threw some money on the table; "it's a pleasant sound I can tell you, to hear the jingling of shillings, and know I've won them honest, but it seems strange to me yet."
Susan was not now sitting by the fire, she was busy preparing supper; it was not the same room where we last saw her, but a larger and brighter one, and there were marks of more careful tendance and greater comfort. Susan moved briskly about, but with a face still sober and grave, though its expression was pleasant and almost cheerful. But her father was more changed: you would scarcely have known the strong, active, working man, as the half stupid loiterer who had entered his daughter's home two years ago; many months of active work and determined selfrestraint had told, not on character only, but through it on face and bearing.
"But you haven't told me why you were so late," said Susan, as she took up the money with a happy, grateful look; "you didn't stop at work till now, surely?"
"Well, I can't rightly say I did; what do you think of my going home to tea with a friend, and leaving my girl to take care of herself?"
"With a friend?" Susan asked, wonderingly, for John Wilson kept aloof from companionship. He felt himself as it were on his trial, and whilst shrinking from his old associates, did not feel himself worthy to seek the friendship of the good and steady among his fellow-woikmen.
"Yes, with a friend; and he's a friend of yours too, and what's more to the purpose he walked home with me to see you, and you must give him welcome for the sake of all he's done for me. Here he is," as Edward Morris entered the room.
Susan did not scream or turn pale, she came forward simply and put her hand into the one held out to claep it. The first to speak was John W7ilson.
"Take her, Edward," he said, "to be to you as good a wife as she has bfen daughter to me: I needn't wish you better, and 'tis you have a right to her anyhow."
"I don't understand," faltered Susan. "How is this, father?"
"Edward must tell you, my girl. I'm going out for a bit till supper is quite ready," he said, smiling; "but, Susan, if I've not been quite so bad a father to you lately you must thank him for it. Many and many's the time he has got me away from drink, and talked of better things, and used his good name to get me work; all for your sake, Susan, though I didn't know it till a week or two back."
Wilson left the two, so long parted, together, but there was too much to say for words to come easily. Susan learned, however, that when she had sent Edward away, and bade him give up all thoughts of her, he had determined that if she would not let him help and comfort her in the way he would have chosen, he would yet not forsake either her or her father.
Wilson had no remembrance of Edward's face from their momentary meeting in Susan's little home, and Edward had picked up a seemingly chance acquaintance with him. Feeling himself shunned by all, he had been much pleased by Edward's kindness, who thus soon gained an influence over him, which he had tried to use for good. More than once he had persuaded him to go with him to church, but Wilson never spoke to his daughter of this, as he was more than half ashamed of the change. Then came the faint desire for work, and when with Edward's help this was obtained, a great step was made on the upward road. The church-going had lately become frequent and open, and Susan had more than once found her father earnestly reading her mother's treasured Bible; once she saw that it was open at the story of the Prodigal Son. At length Edward had told Wilson of his love for Susan, and asked and gladly obtained his consent to his seeking once more to win her.
This was told in broken sentences, and half intelligible words; nothing seemed to have been really said, when Wilson again entered the room.
When supper was half over, Jane came in. "I couldn't help coming, Susan," she said, "to tell yon how glad I am. I daresay you won't believe it, but I've known all about it almost from the time I frightened you and myself by that silly story the girls got up of the lass that was to have taken your place. I got to know how things were; but you see, Edward Morris, I did keep the secret, though you said I couldn't."
"Yes," said Edward, laughing, "I give in; I believe now there are two or three girls who can keep a secret: but I'll tell you what, Jane, there's never one to my thinking that can help telling, when the secret is out, that they knew all about it afore."
When supper was over and Jane gone, Wilson took the Bible from its place and said, "Children, before we part to-night let us thank God for his great mercy to us all." Susan felt as if in a dream, as she knelt by Edward's side, joining in words of prayer spoken in the voice which once she bad heard only in oaths and profanity. It was a happy dream, and one from which she did not need to wake.
In time it changed somewhat. There was a quiet wedding, and Jane was bridesmaid. There was a little cottage home, where Edward and Susan lived, and a room close by which she always kept neat and pleasant for her father; but very often he sat by their fire and rejoiced in their happiness, and by and by played with his little namesake and grandson. Susan and Edward were very happy; the blessing of their stedfast adherence to duty was granted them in full measure; and love, tried by suffering, was strong to cheer and sustain them in the life before them. Best of all, they knew that, through the grace of God, their happy home on earth was as a nursery in which they were being trained and prepared for a happier home in heaven. In this hope Wilson, too, was a joyful partaker. Never, spite of all it had cost them, did they for one moment regret that they had tried to obey a higher will then their own, and not snatched a happiness which seemed withheld from them. And the heart's desire for which they had waited was doubly precious, that it came so directly from the hand of God.
AN ENIGMA FOR THE NEW YEAR.
I AM just born. New Year's day is a favourite birthday in my family, which is a very large one. I feel vigorous and healthy. I am fair and comely, but, unbke most other kind of offspring, we are often strongest and fairest at birth. The helplessness of infancy is either unknown or scorned among us; and hence, perhaps, in our pride and self-sufficiency is one reason of the early decease of so many of my race.
Some of the noblest of my brothers, the loveliest of my sisters, lived but a few months, or a few weeks, or a few days—some, alas! only a few hours. Some born of sunbeams and smiles have withered ere sunset; some born in the pews of churches and chapels have not lived to reach the door; many have faded before the first look of unkindness, and many have expired with the first contradiction.
Time alone can prove the nature of my constitution, for the experience of my family is not encouraging. Of the many relatives who entered upon existence with the dawn of eighteen hundred and sixty-six, how many are dead and buried and forgotten! Or if remembered, their memory is unsavoury, and there is ever reluctance to encounter the ignominy of their decay. I believe in ghosts: there are times when many of my murdered relatives stalk through the chambers in which they were born, and trouble the peace of convicted culprits; and a low wail for their cruel doom often struggles through the loudest and merriest festivities of New Year's eve.
May the close of the present year tell a different tale of me!
There are enough of us born to-day to effect a mighty change in the world if we can but be kept alive; and really we cannot help feeling great hope for ourselves. We surely deserve a little care, for we intend nothing but blessing and prosperity wherever our lot is cast.
One of us has gladdened a mother's anxious heart, and lighted with renewed affection the face of the son who tells her of the welcome arrival. One has sprung up in the poverty-stricken home of the drunkard, and given promise of better things. Perhaps nowhere have more of my race been killed than in homes cursed by drink, and yet here is one more come on a trembling venture, born of sad experience and bitter self-reproach.
For my own particular self I may say (since no power of evil is unmatched for strength and numbers by co-existing good) my name is Legion. 1 came forth this morning with the wife who longs better to fulfil her ministry in the hallowed relationship typical of heavenly things; with the mother who knows the influence of example on the susceptible mimics around her. I am strong just now in the daughter's heart who would fain repair past shortcomings