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with a solemn and untroubled eye; and there was almost the faint light of a grateful smile on his cheek, as he said to the worthy surgeon, “ You will partake of our fare after your day's travel and toil of humanity."
In a short, silent half hour, the potatoes and oat-cakes, butter and milk, were on the board; and Gilbert, lifting up his toil-hardened, but manly hand, with a slow motion, at which the room was as hushed as if it had been empty, closed his eyes in reverence, and asked a blessing. There was little stool, on which no one sat, by the old man's side. It had been put there unwittingly, when the other seats were all placed in their usual order; but the golden head, that was wont to rise at that part of the table, was now wanting. There was silence; not a word was said; their meal was before them; God had been thanked, and they began eat.
THE SAME, -CONCLUDED.
While they were at their silent meal, a horseman came galloping to the door, and, with a loud voice, called out that he had been sent express with a letter to Gilbert Ainslie; at the same time rudely, and with an oath, demanding a dram for his trouble. The eldest son, a lad of eighteen, fiercely seized the bridle of his horse, and turned his head away from the door. The rider, somewhat alarmed at the flushed face of the powerful stripling, threw down the letter, and rode off.
Gilbert took the letter from his son's hand, casting, at the same time, a half upbraiding look on his face, that was returning to its former color. “ I feared,” said the youth, with a tear in his eye, “I feared that the brute's voice and the trampling of the horse's feet would have disturbed her.” Gilbert held the letter hesitatingly in his hand, as if afraid, at that moment, to read it; at length, he said aloud to the surgeon:
66 You know that I am a poor man, and debt, if justly incurred, and punctually paid when due, is no dishonor.” Both his hand and his
voice shook slightly as he spoke; but he opened the letter from the lawyer, and read it in silence.
At this moment his wife came from her child's bed-side, and looking anxiously at her husband, told him not to mind about the money, that no man, who knew him, would arrest his goods, or put him into prison. Though, dear me, it is cruel to be put to it thus, when our bairn* is dying, when, if so it be the Lord's will, she should have a decent burial, poor innocent, like them that went before her.” Gilbert continued reading the letter with a face on which no emotion could be discovered; and then, folding it up, he gave it to his wife, told her she might read it if she chose, and then put it into his desk in the room, beside the poor dear bairn. She took it from him, without reading it, and crushed it into her bosom; for she turned her ear toward her child, and, thinking she heard it stir, ran out hastily to its bed-side.
Another hour of trial passed, and the child was still swimming for its life. The very dogs knew there was grief in the house, and lay without stirring, as if hiding themselves, below the long table at the window. One sister sat with an unfinished gown on her knees, that she had been sewingt for the dear child, and still continued at the hopeless work, she scarcely knew why; and often, often, putting up her hand to wipe away a tear. “ What is that ?" said the old man to his eldest daughter : “What is that you are laying on the shelf ?” She could scarcely reply that it was a ribbon and an ivory comb that she had brought for little Margaret, against the night of the dancingschool ball.
And, at these words, the father could not restrain a long, deep, and bitter groan; at which the boy, nearest in age to his dying sister, looked up, weeping in his face, and letting the tattered book of old ballads, which he had been poring on, but not reading, fall out of his hand, he rose from his seat, and, going into his father's bosom, kissed him, and asked God to bless him; for the holy heart of the boy was moved within him; and the old man, as he embraced him, felt that, in his innocence and simplicity, he was indeed a comforter. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away,” said the old man; 6 blessed be the name of the Lord.”
+ Pron. sowing:
The outer door gently opened, and he, whose presence had, in former years, brought peace and resignation hither, when their hearts had been tried, even as they now were tried, stood before them. On the night before the Sabbath, the minister of Auchindown never left his Manse,* except as now, to visit the sick or dying bed. Scarcely could Gilbert reply to his first question about his child, when the surgeon came from the bed-room, and said, “ Margaret seems lifted up by God's hand above death and the grave: I think she will recover. She has fallen asleep; and when she wakes, I hope, I believe, that the danger will be past, and that your child will live."
They were all prepared for death; but now they were found unprepared for life. One wept that had till then locked up all her tears within her heart; another gave a short palpitating shriek; and the tender-hearted Isabel, who had nursed the child when it was a baby, fainted away. The youngest brother gave way to gladsome smiles; and calling out his dog Hector, who used to sport with him and his little sister on the moor, he told the tidings to the dumb, irrational creature, whose
eyes, it is certain, sparkled with a sort of joy. The clock, for some days, had been prevented from striking the hours; but the silent fingers pointed to the hour of nine; and that, in the cottage of Gilbert Ainslie, was the stated hour of family worship. His own honored minister took the book:
He waled a portion with judicious care:
And let us worship God, he said, with solemn air. A chapter was read; a prayer said; and so, too, was sung a psalm; but it was sung low, and with suppressed voices, lest the child's saving sleep might be broken; and now and then, the female voices trembled, or some one of them ceased altogether: for there had been tribulation and anguish, and now hope and faith were tried in the joy of thanksgiving.
The child still slept; and its sleep seemed more sound and deep. It appeared almost certain that the crisis was over, and that the flower was not to fade. Children,” said Gilbert, “our happiness is in the love we bear to one another; and our duty is in submitting to, and serving God. Gracious, indeed, has he been unto us. Is not the recovery of our little, darling, dancing, singing Margaret, worth all the gold that ever was mined? If we had had thousands of thousands, would we not have filled up her grave with the worthless dross of gold, rather than that she should have gone down there, with her sweet face, and all her rosy smiles ?” There was no reply, but a joyful sobbing all over the room.
* Manse, the parsonage, or ininister's house.
“Never mind the letter, nor the debt, father,” said the eldest daughter. “We have all some little things our own-a few pounds—and we shall be able to raise as much as will keep arrest and prison at a distance. Or if they do take our furniture out of the house, all except Margaret's bed, who cares? We will sleep on the floor; and there are potatoes in the field, and clear water in the spring. We need fear nothing, want nothing ; blessed be God for all his mercies.”
Gilbert went into the sick room, and got the letter from his wife, who was sitting at the head of the bed, watching, with a heart blessed beyond all bliss, the calm and regular breathings of her child. “This letter,” said he mildly,“is not from a hard creditor. Come with me while I read it aloud to our children.” The letter was read aloud, and it was well fitted to diffuse pleasure and satisfaction through the dwelling of poverty. It was from an executor to the will of a distant relative, who had left Gilbert Ainslie fifteen hundred pounds. “ The sum,” said Gilbert, “ is a large one to folks like us, but not, I hope, large enough to turn our heads, or make us think ourselves all lords and ladies. It will do more, far more, than put me fairly above the world at last. I believe that, with it, I may buy this very farm, on which my forefathers have toiled. But may God, whose Providence has sent this temporal blessing, send wisdom and prudence how to use it, and humble and grateful hearts to us all.”'
“ You will be able to send me to school all the year round now, father,” said the youngest boy. “And you may leave the flail to your sons now, father," said the eldest. hold the plow still, for you draw a straighter furrow than any of us; but hard work for young sinews; and you may sit now oftener in your arm-chair by the ingle. You will not need to rise now in the dark, cold, and snowy winter mornings, and keep thrashing corn in the barn for hours, by candle-light, before the late dawning."
There was silence, gladness, and sorrow, and but little sleep in Moss-side, between the rising and setting of the stars, that
6 You may
were now out in thousands, clear, bright, and sparkling over the unclouded sky. Those who had lain down, for an hour or two, in bed, could scarcely be said to have slept; and when, about morning, little Margaret awoke, an altered creature, pale, languid, and unable to turn herself on her lowly bed, but with meaning in her eyes, memory in her mind, affection in her heart, and coolness in all her veins, a happy group were watching the first faint smile that broke over her features; and never did one who stood there forget that Sabbath morning, on which she seemed to look round upon them all with a gaze of fair and sweet bewilderment, like one half conscious of having been rescued from the
of the grave.
NATURE'S FARE WELL.