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Title: The triumph over Midian
Author: A. L. O. E.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "The triumph over Midian" ***


Page 236.]


                           TRIUMPH OVER MIDIAN.

                               A. L. O. E._

       _Author of “The Shepherd of Bethlehem,” “Exiles in Babylon,”
                        “Rescued from Egypt,” &c._


                         EDINBURGH; AND NEW YORK.


[Illustration: PREFACE]

In attempting to illustrate the history of the victory of Gideon, I am
conscious that I am entering on well-trodden ground. Others have gathered
the lessons and examined the types with which that portion of the
Scripture-field is so richly studded. I lay claim to little originality
of thought on the subject which I have chosen. A humble task has been
mine; that of endeavouring to show that the same faith by which heroes of
old _out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to
flight the armies of the aliens_, is still, as the gift of God’s grace,
bestowed on the lowliest Christian. Writing, as I have done, under the
depressing influence of domestic sorrow, and the languor of weak health,
I feel how very imperfectly I have executed my task; but I humbly
commend my little work to Him who despiseth not the feeble, and whose
blessing on the humblest instrument can make it effectual in His service.

                                                               A. L. O. E.


[Illustration: CONTENTS]

        I. THE RETURN,                                9

       II. BROKEN BUBBLES,                           19


       IV. THE LITTLE MAID,                          49

        V. THE DEATH-BED MESSAGE,                    62


      VII. A SERMON BY THE FIRESIDE,                 85

     VIII. THE SISTER’S VISIT,                       96


        X. OPENING THE CASKET,                      122

       XI. TIDINGS,                                 133

      XII. LECTURE IV.—FAITH IN TRIAL,              145

     XIII. A PROMISE,                               154

      XIV. SUSPICIONS,                              169

       XV. EVIL TONGUES,                            183

      XVI. LECTURE V.—FAITH CONFIRMED,              196

     XVII. DISCLOSURE,                              203

    XVIII. MERCY AND SELF-DENIAL,                   214

      XIX. REFRESHMENT,                             227

       XX. LECTURE VI.—FAITH VICTORIOUS,            235

      XXI. BONDAGE,                                 243

     XXII. THE NIGHT,                               252

    XXIII. A SISTER’S VOICE,                        259

     XXIV. A TRIUMPH,                               277

      XXV. LECTURE VII.—FAITH CROWNED,              288

     XXVI. CONCLUSION,                              298






“Home, once more at home!” how joyful sounded the exclamation from the
lips of Edith Lestrange, and how brightly sparkled her eyes as she
uttered it, as, with a step light as a fawn’s, she revisited each spot
which five years’ absence had only made more dear. With joyous impatience
she ascended the broad oaken staircase of Castle Lestrange, to flit like
a fairy from room to room, lingering longest in the old nursery, where
she had known childhood’s pleasures, with not a few of its sorrows—and
the playroom, in which her toys were still stored. There was the doll
that had been to her as a companion, to which the lonely little heiress
had whispered many a trouble; the pretty picture-books, the miniature
tea-things of delicate china, that had been such sources of amusement. It
was a pleasure to Edith, from recollections of “auld lang syne,” to touch
and handle these childish treasures, though at the age of eleven she
deemed herself no longer a child.

Then to the newly-returned traveller how great were the delights of the
garden and the park,—the one bright with the flowers of spring, the
other donning its light green robe, while in the sheltered mossy dells
fragrance of violets filled the air. Edith almost wondered that the
light-footed deer should bound away on her approach: her heart felt so
full of joy and kindness, that it seemed strange that any living creature
should fear her. The heiress of Lestrange took pleasure in visiting the
cottage of her father’s steward, where the familiar faces of Holdich and
his wife were as the faces of old friends, bright with hearty welcome.
Her canary, cared for by Mrs. Holdich during her absence, was tamer than
ever, and its quivering notes of delight seemed to its youthful mistress
an echo of the music of happiness which sounded within her own soul.

For Edith did not return to the castle of her ancestors as she had left
it five years before—a feeble, fragile invalid. She no longer painfully
dragged her weary limbs along, with languor oppressing her spirits;
springing and elastic was the step which now bounded over the mossy
turf. The cheeks that had been almost as colourless as the snowdrop,
had now a faint dawn of colour upon them, like that on the opening buds
of the apple-blossom. Edith was still a delicate plant, like an exotic
reared in a hot-house, but an exotic skilfully tended, expanding its
petals in healthful life.

“Oh, how true it is that there is no place like home!” exclaimed Edith,
as she sauntered up the broad avenue, with sunshine on her path, and the
blue cloud-flecked sky smiling above her.

The observation was addressed to her cousin, Isa Gritton, who was
spending a day at the Castle, a short time after the return of Sir Digby
Lestrange and his daughter. Isa was a young lady whose age might be about
two or three and twenty, and who might therefore have scarcely been
deemed a suitable companion for one so youthful as Edith, had not the
little heiress possessed a mind so early matured by the discipline of
trial that she was scarcely regarded as a child by those who intimately
knew her. Isa Gritton was a tall and graceful girl, with auburn hair, and
eyes like those of the gazelle—large, soft, and expressive: mirroring
each passing emotion, whether it were that of mirth and gladness, or, as
was now the case, a shadow of painful thought.

“Do you not feel with me,” said Edith, “that there is a charm in the very
name of _home_?”

[Illustration: THE COUSINS.]

“I did so once,” replied Isa, with a sigh; “but for the last two years,
since the loss of my dear father, I cannot be said to have had a real

“But you have one now, dear Isa,” said Edith; “and oh, how glad I am
that your brother chose to build one at Wildwaste, so near us. Why, even
I—who never perform great feats in the walking line—will be able to
manage the distance on foot; it is barely a mile, I hear. I dare say that
Mr. Gritton kindly chose the site of his house there on purpose that you
might be near your uncle and cousin. To meet you often, very often, will
be such a pleasure to me; I shall feel as if I had at last what I have so
often longed for, a sister to share all my sorrows and joys. I will soon
return your visit, and you shall show me your brother’s new house. Has he
not built a charming retreat, with a pretty garden and shrubbery round

Isa Gritton laughed: but there was a little bitterness in the laugh.
“Tastes differ,” she replied; “and Gaspar having been his own architect,
he doubtless admires his work. But my ideal of beauty is hardly realized
by a house that looks as if a geni had transplanted it bodily from
one of the smaller streets of London, in all the newness of yellowish
brick as yet undarkened by soot, and had dropped it on the edge of a
morass—not a tree within half a mile of it—where it stands staring out
of its blindless windows as if wondering how it came there, with nothing
to remind it of London but the great soap manufactory, which is the most
conspicuous object in the view, the smoke of which might do duty for that
of a whole street in the city.”

“How could Mr. Gritton build such a house, and in such a place!”
exclaimed Edith in surprise; “I could not fancy you in a home that was
not pretty and picturesque. I have no clear remembrance of Wildwaste save
as a wide flat common sprinkled with gorse, for I seldom or never visited
the hamlet when I was a little child.”

“You will scarcely care to visit it often now, except out of compassion
for me,” said Isa, smiling. “Mr. Eardley tells me, however, that
Wildwaste, bad as it is, is greatly improved from what it was some years
ago, when it had nothing in the shape of a school.”

“Mr. Eardley—then you know him?” cried Edith, brightening at the mention
of the pastor whom she reverenced and loved.

“Yes,” replied Isa; “though, Wildwaste not being in the parish of Axe, we
do not belong to his flock. Mr. Eardley had heard, through your steward’s
wife, I believe, that we wanted a girl to help in the house. He called to
recommend to us a young protegée of his own, a black-eyed gipsy-looking
little creature, who blushes scarlet when she is spoken to, and seems to
be afraid of the sound of her own voice. I think, however, that with a
little training Lottie Stone will suit us very well.”

“Do you not like Mr. Eardley?” said Edith, looking as if assured that the
answer must be in the affirmative.

“Very much; I wish that he were our clergyman instead of Mr. Bull, who
must be nearly eighty years old, and who—but I don’t think it well to
criticize preachers.”

“We attend the service at Axe—we drive there, for it is much too far
off for a walk,” said Edith Lestrange. “You shall come with us every
Sunday—that is to say,” she added, with a little hesitation, “if you
don’t mind leaving your brother. Papa does not like more than three in
the carriage.”

“Perhaps I ought not to leave Gaspar,” said Isa, gravely; and she added,
but not aloud, “if I were not with him, I fear that he would not go to a
place of worship at all.—No, Edith,” she said to her cousin, “I am afraid
that I cannot accompany you to Axe on Sundays, but I have promised Mr.
Eardley to bring Lottie twice a week to the little cottage-lectures which
he gives in the dwelling of Holdich the steward.”

“Then we shall always meet there,” observed Edith. “I have such a sweet
remembrance of those cottage-meetings, though I was such a little girl
when I went to them that of course I could not understand all that I
heard. I felt as if there were such peace, and holiness, and Christian
kindness in that quiet home-church, where young and old, and rich and
poor, gathered to hear God’s truth, and pray and praise together. And
Holdich himself is such a good man,” continued Edith warmly: “it is not
merely that he does not mind openly confessing his religion—whatever
people may think of it—but that he lives up to what he professes. Papa
went on the Continent, you know, rather in haste, and there had been a
little confusion in his affairs, and no time to set them right. Papa was
always so generous, and those about him had abused his confidence so

“Yes, I heard something of that,” observed Isa, who, like the rest of the
world, was aware that Sir Digby’s ostentatious extravagance had plunged
him into pecuniary difficulties, and that change of air for his invalid
child, though the ostensible, had not been the only cause of his retreat.

“But Holdich has brought everything into such beautiful order,” continued
Edith,—“he has quite surprised papa by the way in which he has managed
the estate. He has cared for his master’s interests as much, I think
_more_ than if they had been his own. Papa used to suspect people who had
the name of being very pious, but he said this morning at breakfast, ‘A
man like my steward, who brings his Christianity into his daily dealings,
does more to convince infidels of the real power of faith than all the
learned books that ever were written.’ I treasured up the words to repeat
them to Holdich’s wife. I think that she and her husband are the happiest
people that I know, and especially now that their son is doing so well as
a schoolmaster under Mr. Eardley.”

“The subject of the new series of cottage-lectures is to be Gideon’s
Triumph over Midian,” observed Isa.

“And the first is to begin at seven this evening,” said Edith. “Papa has
given me leave to be always present—at least when the weather is fine;
and some of our servants will go too. They are not all able to get to
church on Sundays, for Axe is five miles from the Castle.”

The cousins, slowly sauntering up the avenue, had now reached a grassy
mound at the end of it, on which a tall weather-cock stood, and which
might be ascended by a flight of marble steps. Having mounted these
steps, a very extensive and beautiful prospect lay before Isa and Edith,
while a rural seat invited them to rest and enjoy it.

“I have looked upon many lovely views in Italy,” observed Edith, as her
eye wandered with delight over the scene; “but, to my mind, there is none
to compare with this. I always missed that dear little spire seen in the
distance yonder, where I knew that Sunday after Sunday the real truth was
preached in my own native tongue by a servant of God. It always seems to
me with Mr. Eardley as if he were like the disciples, who went to their
Master and had their directions in the morning straight from His lips;
and that in the evening, when his labour was over, he would go and ‘tell
Jesus’ all that he had done, and all that he had tried to do—receive the
Lord’s smile and His blessing, and then lie down to rest at His feet.”

“It seems so with some clergymen,” said Isa. “When they feed the people
with the bread of the Word, we feel that they have just taken it from
the hands of the Lord—that He has given thanks, and blessed, and broken
it; so that we look from the servant to the Master, and realize that the
ministry of the gospel is hallowed service indeed.”





“So you especially enjoyed your stay at Florence,” said Isa, after the
conversation had taken a less serious turn.

“I was very happy there; it was so beautiful, and we knew such very nice
people. I should have liked to have stayed there much longer.”

“And why did you not remain there?” asked Isa. “Did not Sir Digby enjoy
Florence too?”

“Very much indeed, until—until a lady came to stay there who spoilt all
his pleasure in the place.”

“How was that?” said Isa.

“Why, the lady was witty; at least people said so; but if her kind of
talking was wit, I wish that there were no such thing in the world. All
her delight seemed to be to gossip and make her friends merry; and so
long as they laughed, she did not much mind what they laughed at. You
see,” continued Edith in a confidential tone, “her mother had lived in
the Castle, and she talked a great deal about that. Now, of course, it
was quite right and noble in papa to let strangers come here while we
were away—and there had been difficulties, as you know—but he did not
like its being talked about to every one.”

Isa could easily comprehend that her proud uncle had been very sensitive
on the subject of the letting of his ancestral mansion.

“And then,” pursued Edith, “she mixed up what was true with what was
not true; and how could strangers tell whether she spoke in jest or in
earnest? She said that papa had been harsh and violent to his servants;
and that was shamefully false!” exclaimed the girl, with a flush of
indignation on the face usually so gentle and calm—“he had been only too
indulgent and trustful. In short, this lady made Florence so unpleasant
by her gossip, that papa could bear it no longer. He said that he would
never willingly be for a day in the same city with Cora Madden.”

“Cora Madden!” repeated Isa, with a little start; and Edith, who had been
looking up at her cousin, saw with surprise a stern, gloomy expression
pass over her countenance like a shadow.

“Do you know Miss Madden?” inquired the baronet’s daughter.

“Do I know her?” repeated Isa slowly, with her hazel eyes bent on
the ground. Then suddenly she raised them, as she uttered the abrupt
question, “Edith, do you know what it is to hate?”

“Hate? no, not exactly,” replied the gentle girl; “but there are some
persons whom I do not like at all—some with whom I feel angry at times. I
was angry with Miss Madden one day when she was laughing at Mr. Eardley,
and mimicking his manner. I thought her doing so was so silly, so wrong.
Besides, rudeness to one’s friends tries one’s patience a great deal more
than unkindness to one’s self.”

“Cora reminds me of the description of the wicked in the Psalms,”
observed Isa—“‘_They shoot out their arrows, even bitter words._’ She
cares little where the darts alight, or how deep they may pierce.”

Edith, who had a very tender conscience, was very doubtful whether such
an application of a text from Scripture was consistent with Christian
charity. Without venturing, however, to reprove, she merely observed in
her gentle tone, “I am sorry that I spoke of Cora at all. It was breaking
a rule which I had made.”

“What is your rule?” asked Isa.

“Never to speak of those whom I cannot like, except to God,” replied

“And what do you say of them to God?”

“Oh, if I speak of them to God, I must speak _for_ them,” answered little
Edith; “I dare not do anything else, for the Lord has told us to love
our enemies, and we could not bring malice into our prayers.”

“Yours is a good rule, darling,” said Isa, and she turned to imprint a
kiss on the forehead of her cousin. “Let us speak no more of Cora Madden,
and may God help us to obey the most difficult command contained in all
the Bible!”

To explain why the command appeared such a hard one to the young
maiden—why the very name of Cora called up bitter remembrances to her
mind—it is needful that I should let the reader know something of the
previous history of Isa Gritton.

Like her cousin Edith, Isa had early lost her mother, and had been the
only daughter in her father’s home; but otherwise there had been little
resemblance between the early childhood of the two. Edith, a crippled,
suffering invalid, had been the unmurmuring victim of nursery oppression;
and in her splendid mansion had had more to endure than many of the
children of the poor. Isa, on the contrary, fondly tended by a devoted
nurse, herself strong, vigorous, and full of spirits, had found her
childhood flow pleasantly past, like a stream dimpling in sunshine and
bordered with flowers. Isa had scarcely known what it was to feel weary,
sick, or sad. Her father called her his little lark, made only to sing
and to soar. She was beloved by all who knew the bright, playful child,
and her affectionate nature disposed her to love all in return. The
religion which was carefully instilled into Isa partook of the joyful
character of her mind. Isa was troubled by no doubts and few fears. The
thoughts of heaven and bliss which were suggested to her, were congenial
to the spirit of the child. Isa looked forward to the joys of Paradise
without letting imagination dwell either on the dark valley or “the
narrow stream.” Her idea of death was simply a peaceful removal to a yet
brighter and happier home.

There were some spiritual dangers attending this existence of ease and
joy. The very sweetness of Isa’s disposition dimmed her perception of
inward corruption. If she was tempted to make an idol of self, it was an
idol so fair that she scarcely recognized it as one. Sometimes, indeed,
Isa’s conscience would accuse her of vanity as she lingered before her
mirror, surveying with girlish pleasure the smiling image within it, or
recalled words of fond admiration, or committed some little extravagance
in regard to dress, for Isa at that time had a weakness for dress. But
the accusation was made in a whisper so soft, that it scarcely disturbed
her serenity. It affected her conduct, however; for on the day when Isa
first received a regular allowance of her own, she made on her knees a
resolution which never was broken—not to spend money on the adornment
of her person without devoting an equal sum to the relief of the poor.
Thus early the love of God combated the love of the world; a bridle was
placed upon vanity, which was still but a bridle of flowers; for Isa felt
as much pleasure in helping the poor as in wearing a new robe, or in
clasping the jewelled bracelet round her soft white arm.

Isa’s brightness of spirit did not pass away with childhood; it rather
increased, as the bud expands into the perfect flower. But in life’s
school Providence has appointed various teachers, and few of God’s
children pass many years upon earth without coming under the discipline
of disappointment, bereavement, and care. Isa was to know all three. The
first came to her when the blooming girl felt herself at the very summit
of earthly bliss, when a halo of happiness was thrown around every object
near her. Isa believed herself to be the most blest of women in being
beloved by Lionel Madden. Young and inexperienced as she was, Isa’s fancy
invested her hero with every noble and sterling quality; she believed
all that she desired, and the bright bubbles blown by hope glittered
with all the prismatic tints of the rainbow. The bubble suddenly broke!
Lionel became cold, alienated, shortly after the arrival of his sister,
who seemed to have taken an instinctive dislike to Isa. What had been
said against her Isa never exactly knew; but whatever poisoned shaft
had destroyed her hopes, she knew that it came from the quiver of Cora.
What marvel if bitter, resentful feelings arose towards the author of
her deep, though hidden, anguish? As Isa’s gaiety was suddenly changed
into gloom, so her kindly loving nature for awhile seemed altered into
one sternly vindictive. Like Satan intruding in a paradise of peace, and
blighting its flowers by his presence, hatred, and even a lurking desire
for vengeance, suddenly arose in a soul which had previously appeared to
be formed only for happiness and love.

[Illustration: CHANGED AFFECTION.]

But had Cora really injured Isa? Nay; the malicious enemy had done
more to shield the young maiden from misfortune than her most tender
friend could have done. Cruel may be the hand which tears to pieces the
half-formed nest which a bird is building on a hedge by the wayside, but
it is well for the bird if it be thus constrained to choose a higher
and safer bough. Lionel was unworthy of the affection of a faithful,
confiding young heart. It was well for Isa that her bubble was broken,
that her cherished hopes were scattered to the winds. She did not think
so, she could not feel so; even Lionel’s very worldly marriage, which
took place a few months afterwards, did not fully open her eyes to this
truth. Isa deemed all that was unworthy in the conduct of young Madden
the result of the influence of his sister; and regarded Cora not only as
her own evil genius, but that of the man whom she had loved. Startled and
alarmed by the fierce passions which, for the first time, struggled for
the possession of her heart, Isa looked upon Cora as the cause not only
of misery, but of sin also. Isa’s self-knowledge was deepened by trial,
but it was a self-knowledge that mortified and pained her. She found
that she was far from what she had hoped to become, from what the world
believed her to be; she was no calm angel soaring above earth and its
trials, but a weak tempted woman, who found it hard not to murmur, and
almost impossible truly to forgive.

And yet Cora had been but an instrument in a higher Hand, and to Isa
an instrument for good. We may praise God in another world even more
for the malice of our bitter enemies, than for the tender love of our
friends. Jacob’s paternal affection would have shielded his best-beloved
son from every touch of misfortune; but it was the hatred of Joseph’s
brethren, the malice of his false accuser, that led him—through the pit
and the prison—to exaltation and to honour. Satan himself became, through
God’s over-ruling goodness, an instrument of blessing to Job; his cruel
assaults led to deeper experience in the man whom he sought to destroy,
more close communion with God, and doubtless more exalted blessedness
hereafter. No enemy, human or infernal, has power to do us aught but
_good_, except by leading us into sin. Could we realize this, our wounded
hearts might find it less difficult to forgive the wrongs which are
“blessings in disguise.”

Not a year after the stroke of disappointment had fallen upon Isa, she
had to endure that of sudden bereavement. A few—very few—days of anxious
watching by a parent’s sick-bed, and Isa found herself fatherless as
well as motherless in the world. Very heavy lay the burden of loneliness
upon the young orphan’s heart. It is true that Isa had a half-brother
yet living, but Gaspar was many years older than herself, and Isa had
seen very little of him, as the greater part of his life had been passed
in Jamaica. Still the affections of Isa clung fondly around the nearest
relative left for her to love, especially as she knew her brother to be
in broken health; and she resolved that to watch over him and minister to
his comfort should be the object thenceforth of an existence from which
all the brightness appeared to have departed.

Even with thoughts of Gaspar, however, were linked associations of
mystery and pain. Isa had never imparted to any one a care which to her
young spirit was more oppressive than sorrow itself. She had never told
how, when the shadow of approaching dissolution lay on her father, when
the delirium of fever had passed away, he had fixed his glazing eyes
upon his daughter, at that midnight hour the sole watcher beside him.
The dying man had seemed anxious to disburden himself of something that
weighed on his mind; he struggled to speak, but his parched lips could
scarcely frame articulate words. Isa strained her ear to catch the almost
inaudible accents, bending down so low that she could feel the dying
man’s breath on her cheek. A few scattered sentences were gathered,
deeply imprinted on her memory by the solemnity of the time when they
were uttered.

“Gaspar—you will be with him—something wrong—the _Orissa_—not her money
lost—he should deal fairly by that orphan—tell him from me—” But whatever
was the message intended, death silenced the lips that would have sent
it, and Isa was left to ponder painfully over what could be “wrong,” and
how Gaspar could have not “dealt fairly” by an orphan, at least in the
opinion of his father.

The remembrance of these dying words, the dread of some painful
explanation with Gaspar, alone threw a damp upon the earnest desire with
which Isa looked forward to her only brother’s return to England. Her
affectionate spirit yearned for the sympathy of one bound to her by the
tie of blood, and she longed once more to possess a settled home. About a
year after Mr. Gritton’s death, Gaspar arrived from Jamaica. Isa was at
the time residing with a friend in London, and her brother took a lodging
near her. Being a good deal occupied with business during the day, and
too much an invalid to venture out in the evening, Gaspar did not see
much of his sister,—far less than Isa desired. Her brother’s manner
towards her was gentle and courteous, his kindness won her gratitude, his
broken health her sympathy. Isa wished to devote herself to the care of
her brother, but he preferred delaying the time when they should reside
together in a settled home, until he should have built a house into which
he could receive his young sister. During this period spent in London,
Isa either found no opportunity of speaking to Gaspar on the subject of
their father’s mysterious message, or she put off making the effort
till a more quiet season, when her brother might have recovered his
health. She could not bear to risk exciting him when he was so delicate,
or offending him when he was so kind. Isa gladly availed herself of any
excuse to delay the performance of a duty from which she intuitively

Isa felt grateful to her half-brother for selecting as the place of
their future residence a spot near Castle Lestrange. She had paid many
a delightful visit to her uncle’s lordly mansion, both before and after
the death of his wife, and she deemed it a proof of Gaspar’s considerate
affection for herself, that he should purchase a site for his house but a
mile from the dwelling of those who were her relatives, but not his own.
Isa could have wished, indeed, that it had not been on the Wildwaste side
of the Castle, as memory recalled a flat expanse of common surrounding a
miserable hamlet, and an unsightly manufactory; but she had not visited
her uncle’s home for nearly six years, and many changes might have taken
place during that period. Isa also encouraged herself with the thought
that a little paradise might stand even in the midst of a barren heath,
like an oasis in a desert; and that as Gaspar had chosen to build a house
instead of buying one, it was evident that his was a taste which could
not be satisfied by any ordinary attractions in a dwelling.

During the time when Gaspar was building, Isa never once saw her
brother. He took a lodging above the single shop in Wildwaste, that he
might superintend operations. He kept a sharp eye over the workmen who
were brought from London, not suffering them, it was said, to mix with
the cottagers around, or spend their evenings at the small county inn.
There was no doubt that Gaspar Gritton was eccentric, and Isa was aware
of the fact; but she was disposed to look at her only brother in the most
favourable light, and persuaded herself that she rather liked a dash of
eccentricity in a character; it redeemed it from being commonplace.

Isa was very impatient for the completion of her new home, and would, if
permitted, have entered it before it was sufficiently dry to be a safe
residence for her. Buoyant hope had again sprung up within her young
heart, long cast down, but not crushed by affliction. Life might yet
have joys in store for the bright girl. Isa would be, as she thought,
everything to her brother; his nurse, companion, and friend. She would
make his home a fairy dwelling, where everything on which the eye might
rest should be graceful and pretty. Isa knew that her brother had
sufficient means to procure every comfort; and though her own patrimony
was but slender, she hoped, dispensing Gaspar’s alms, to become a
benefactress to all the poor around them. Again the fairy bubble was
glittering before Isa, and if its colours were now less splendid, and it
rose to less lofty a height still the emblem of earthly hope was not
without its beauty and brightness.

It was on a day in March that Isa joined her brother. She had enjoyed
her journey by train; the sunshine had been brilliant, her companions
agreeable, and her mind was full of pleasant expectation. Isa’s pleasure
was damped by the little disappointment of not finding Gaspar ready to
welcome her at the station. It was with a sensation of loneliness that
she took her seat in a hired open conveyance to be driven to Wildwaste
Lodge. The sunshine was now overclouded, a fierce north-east wind was
blowing, from the chilling effects of which the young lady from London
tried to protect herself in vain. The horse was lame, the drive seemed

“Are we far from Wildwaste Lodge?” asked Isa at last of the driver,
as they skirted a dreary common of which she fancied that she could
recognize some of the features.

“That be’s the house,” replied the man, pointing with his whip towards a
narrow three-storied dwelling, looking staringly new, without sheltering
shrubbery or even hedge, with no blinds to the windows, no porch to the
door, nothing that could redeem its aspect from absolute vulgarity. Could
this be the rural retreat to which Isa had given the name of home!


Disheartened and chilled felt Isa as her conveyance passed through the
wretched hamlet, where groups of untidy women and barefooted children
stood staring at the unwonted apparition of anything in the shape of a
carriage. She scarcely liked to look again at the house, as the lame
horse stopped at the dark green door. Gaspar did not come forth to
welcome her; he dared not face the cutting wind which had chilled his
sister to the heart. Cold and numbed after her journey, Isa—when a deaf
elderly woman had answered the knock—descended from the conveyance;
herself saw her boxes carried into the narrow hall by the driver, paid
the man and dismissed him, and then hastened into the parlour, where
she found her brother. His reception, though not uncourteous, was by
no means calculated to dispel the chill which had fallen on the spirits
of Isa. Gaspar was so full of his own complaints that he had scarcely
leisure to observe that his sister was tired and cold. After conversing
with him for a while, Isa arose to explore the other apartments of the
house. She suppressed a little sigh of disappointment as she ascended the
uncarpeted stair.

The interior of Wildwaste Lodge was, if possible, more unattractive than
its outward appearance. Gaspar had reserved the ground-floor for himself,
and no one had a right to complain if in his own peculiar domain he
preferred simplicity to ornament, and neglected the little elegancies
which Isa deemed almost essential to comfort. But Isa was deeply
mortified when she entered her own apartments, which were immediately
over those of her brother, and found them furnished with a regard to
economy which amounted to actual penuriousness. A few chairs, not one of
which matched another, and which seemed to have been chosen at haphazard
out of some broker’s shop; a table of painted wood, one of the legs of
which did not touch the uncarpeted floor; and a shelf to serve as a
bookcase: these formed the entire furniture of the young lady’s boudoir.
There was not so much as a curtain to the window. Isa, weary and chilled
after her journey, felt inclined to sit down and cry from mortification
and disappointment. Little joy could she anticipate from a life to be
passed with one who from the first showed such disregard for her pleasure
and comfort.

Isa’s misgivings were painfully realized. There are some persons who are
pleasing in society, agreeable when only met on casual occasions, with
whom it is very annoying to be brought into closer contact. It is trying
to the temper to transact business with them, still more trying to dwell
under the same roof. The character of such persons seems to be made up
of angles, that on every side chafe and annoy. A graphic writer[1] has
humorously described them as unpruned trees. “Little odd habits, the
rudiments of worse habits, need every now and then to be cut off and
corrected. We should all grow very singular, ridiculous, and unamiable
creatures, but for the pruning we have got from hands kind and unkind,
from our earliest days.... Perhaps you have known a man who has lived for
forty years alone; and you know what odd shoots he had sent out; what
strange traits and habits he had acquired; what singular little ways he
had got into. There had been no one at home to prune him, and the little
shoots of eccentricity, of vanity, of vain self-estimation, that might
have easily been cut off when they were green and soft, have now grown
into rigidity.”

Mr. Gritton, from living much alone, had become a man of this kind. The
most unsightly branch on the unpruned tree was that of penuriousness.
Isa had had little opportunity of knowing her brother’s infirmity until,
when she became a resident in his house, it affected her daily, her
hourly, comfort. Herself generous and open-handed, fond of having the
conveniences and elegancies of life around her, yet esteeming as the
greatest of luxuries the power of giving freely to others, Isa could
not understand, far less sympathize with, the love of money for money’s
sake, which was the leading characteristic of Gaspar. It seemed to her
so grovelling, so mean, that Isa had to struggle against emotions not
only of irritation but of contempt. She was also deeply wounded to find
that Gaspar’s affection for his only sister was so subordinate to his
avarice. The young lady, accustomed to luxury and refinement, had the
utmost difficulty in persuading her brother even to allow her to find
an assistant to the ill-tempered elderly woman whom he had engaged
as a general servant. Though Isa succeeded in gaining her point, Mr.
Gritton would only give such wages as would be accepted by none but an
inexperienced girl like Lottie Stone. The efforts which it cost Isa to
carry out even this small domestic arrangement made her aware of another
unpleasant fact—that Gaspar had a peevish, irritable temper, more trying
to one residing constantly with him than a passionate one would have
been. The dying charge of her father lay now like an oppressive weight
upon the heart of poor Isa: her new insight into the character of Gaspar
gave to their parent’s words a more forcible meaning, and she dreaded
more and more the idea of being compelled by a sense of duty to open the
subject to her brother.

The first weeks of Isa’s residence at her dreary home would have been
weeks of positive misery, but for the cheering prospect of the speedy
return of her uncle and cousin, and the comfort which she derived from
the visits of the pastor of Axe, whose fatherly interest in her young
servant had first led his steps to her dwelling. Smiling April came at
last; and with it—more welcome to Isa than the nightingale’s song—Edith
Lestrange returned to the Castle. It was now arranged that Isa should
pass with her cousin a portion of each of those days on which an evening
lecture should be held at the steward’s cottage, and return to Wildwaste
in the baronet’s carriage at night. It was something to Isa to be thus
sure of at least two pleasant days in the week; though the contrast
between the refined elegance of Edith’s home and the dreary discomfort of
her own, increased the sense of bitterness in the soul of Isa.

But that sense of bitterness seemed for a time to pass away, and
domestic trials to be forgotten, when the cousins entered together
the flower-covered porch of the dwelling of Holdich, to unite with
their poorer brethren in the simple cottage service. Edith’s heart was
overflowing with thankful delight at being permitted again to worship in
that place where some of her earliest impressions of religion had been
received. Isa felt that here at least the carking cares of life might be
shut out: she might lift up her soul, as in happier days, unto her Father
in heaven.

The subject chosen by Mr. Eardley was the history of the triumph of
Gideon, the hero and saint, over the hosts of Midian. It was his object
in this, as in former courses of lectures,[2] to draw simple practical
lessons from the narratives contained in the Word of God; and as such
lessons are required by us all, I shall weave the brief addresses of the
clergyman, though in separate chapters, into the web of my story.

    [1] _Vide_ “Autumn Holidays of a Country Parson.”

    [2] _Vide_ “The Shepherd of Bethlehem,” “Exiles in Babylon,”
    and “Rescued from Egypt.”





For forty years after Deborah had celebrated the triumph over Sisera
in her glorious song, the land of Israel had had rest. This period of
tranquillity receives such brief mention in the Scriptures, that we are
in danger of forgetting for how long a time God granted the blessing of
peace. And thus is it in our own lives, my brethren: times of trouble
stand out, as it were, like rugged crags, shutting out from memory’s view
the vines and the fig-trees, the olive-yards, the green pastures and
still waters, with which our gracious God for long may have blessed us.

Seven years of trouble to Israel succeeded the forty years of repose:
not _causeless_ trouble—such is never known in the experience either of
Israelite or of Christian. But we do not always search out the actual
cause of affliction. With God’s ancient people the punishment was clearly
traced to the sin. When the Midianites, like a swarm of locusts, came up
against them, destroying and wasting, driving the inhabitants of the land
to hide in dens of the mountains, strongholds, and caves, it was because
the stain of idolatry lay upon Israel; and mercy, to save the sinners,
required that justice should chastise the sin.

The Midianites, who were thus made an instrument of punishment to Israel,
were, like themselves, descendants of Abraham, but by his union with
Keturah. When Moses guided God’s people towards Canaan, the Midianites
drew down vengeance on themselves by their too successful efforts to
lead Israel into sin. Then perished the wicked prophet Balaam amongst
the enemies of God’s people. But Midian, though punished, had not been
destroyed; and now, after the lapse of nearly two hundred years, we find
it a very powerful nation, against whose numerous hordes the Israelites
seem to have made no attempt to defend their homes—so completely was the
warlike spirit crushed in the descendants of those who had triumphed
under Moses and Joshua when they fought the battles of the Lord.

When the Israelites were in trouble, then they cried aloud to the God
of their fathers, and He heard and answered their prayer: not yet by
sending a deliverer—the sense of sin must be deepened before the judgment
be removed. A prophet was sent to the people, with a message, not of
promise, but of reproof:

“Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought you up from Egypt, and
brought you forth from the land of bondage, and I delivered you out of
the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you,
and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land. And I said
unto you, I am the Lord your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites in
whose land ye dwell: but ye have not obeyed My voice.”

The great and glorious deliverance of Israel from Egypt we may regard
as a type of the redemption of Christ’s Church from the dominion of
Satan—the triumph achieved once and for ever by the mysterious sufferings
of our Saviour, His sacrifice offered upon the Cross. This is the
_central truth_ of the Christian religion. But though Egyptian darkness
be left behind—though Christians be received into the enjoyment of
privileges purchased by the death of their Lord—their backslidings, like
those of Israel, often draw upon them heavy troubles, resembling the
devouring hordes of Midian.

I am not, my brethren, speaking of the afflictions and bereavements
which are the common lot of all. During the forty years of blessed
peace, sickness and sorrow must have been known in homes of Israel, and
faithful servants of God have wept over new-made graves. Such trials are
crosses appointed by a heavenly Father—crosses which each and all must
take up at some period of life, if life be not early cut short. But I am
speaking of troubles directly or indirectly brought on us by our sins:
the Midianites who destroy our peace, and bring upon us miseries from
which more earnest faith, more perfect obedience, might have preserved
us. We are accustomed to speak of this life as “a vale of tears;” but let
us search and examine whether the valley owe not the greater part of its
desolation and gloom to foes to our peace whom _we might have kept out_,
and over whom faith may yet give us a victory glorious as that of Gideon.

To explain my meaning more clearly, let me draw your attention to a few
of what we may call chiefs—leaders of hordes of troubles, Midianites
in the heart, that trample down our happiness and destroy our comfort
in life. I shall mention four names but too familiar—Disappointment,
Discontent, Dissension, Distrust. Let us see whether the sufferings which
they inflict are not more severe and perpetual than those brought upon us
by what are called visitations of Providence; whether many griefs which
we term “crosses” are not rather burdens laid upon us by enemies to the
soul, to whose yoke we should never have stooped.

The first Midianite chief whom I shall bring before you is
Disappointment—the intruder who cuts down the green crop of hope, and
leaves a famine in the soul. Whence is it that even the Christian
is constantly subject to disappointment? Is it not from habitual
disobedience to the divine command, _Set your affections upon things
above, not on things beneath_? We eagerly fix our heart on some worldly
object—ambition, pleasure, or gain: like children, we build our houses of
delight on the sand within reach of the tide, which must sooner or later
sweep them away, and then sit down and weep when the flood rolls over the
spot which we had unwisely chosen. Let each of us who in the bitterness
of disappointment has mournfully repeated the words of the Preacher,
_Vanity of vanities, all is vanity_, see whether the idol in the heart
has not been the cause of the Midianites’ invasion; and whether that
faith which builds on the Rock of Ages, beyond the reach of desolation
or decay, may not yet overcome the power of disappointment to harass the
soul. Hopes fixed upon Christ know not disappointment; treasures laid
up in heaven can never be lost; ties formed by faith endure throughout
eternity; the less our joys are of the earth, earthy, the less danger
there is that the spoiler can ever wrest them away from our grasp.

And whence cometh Discontent, who robs his slave of all his peace?—for
peace and discontent cannot abide in the same soul. Can he who says to
his most bountiful God, not only with his lips but from his heart, “I am
unworthy of the least of Thy mercies,” ever know discontent? Must not
the peevish, envious, rebellious spirit be ever kept far from his gates?
We should deem so; and yet, Christian brethren, do we practically find
that it is so? Are we not too often inclined to compare our lot with that
of others, and, if not openly, yet secretly, repine, as if Providence
had done us a wrong? No true servant of Christ can desire to have his
portion here; and yet does not the inheritor of heaven too frequently
murmur because not all the good things of earth are showered upon him
in addition? How different his spirit from that of the apostle! He who
had _suffered the loss of all things_, yet could affirm, _I have learned
in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content_. Had we also learned
this lesson, we should find it less impracticable to obey his command,
_Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say unto you, rejoice_.

“You have not your due,” were the words which I once heard a wife address
to a husband who had been deprived of some advantage which she considered
to have been his right. “Nay, God be praised that I have not my _due_,”
he replied. “What is my _due_ as a sinner before God? what is my due from
a world which I have renounced for His sake? Had I chosen my portion in
this life, then only might I complain of not receiving my due!” Here was
a man whom discontent could not rob of his heritage of peace.

To pass on to Dissension, the third enemy to our happiness, who invades
many a home, and makes goodly dwellings miserable abodes,—to what shall
we trace his invasion? Is it not written in Scripture, _By pride cometh
contention_?—would not the _soft answer_ that _turneth away wrath_
often prove as a strong bar to keep him from entering our habitations?
But here I must guard myself from being misunderstood. It is possible
that dissension may come where the fault lies on one side alone. The
Christian may be—not unfrequently is—called to brave opposition, and draw
upon himself the anger of men by defending the truth, or taking up the
cause of the oppressed. The command, _Live peaceably with all men_, is
qualified by _if it be possible_; for in some cases it is _not_ possible
to preserve harmony without giving up principle. Under such circumstances
the sacrifice of peace is a sacrifice for God, and the cross is one which
is borne for His sake. But in the majority of cases dissension follows
on the footsteps of pride, and is the leader of malice, hatred, and all
uncharitableness. Then, indeed, is he the true Midianite who pours gall
into the very springs of enjoyment, who casts his venomed arrows on every
side, and maketh a wilderness of that which might have been as the Garden
of Eden. _Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and
hatred therewith._ Could we, through the grace of God’s Spirit, purge
from our souls all malice, all bitterness and wrath—could we love one
another as Christ hath loved us, what heart-burnings, what heart-achings
might be spared, and how often would the brightness of heaven appear to
be reflected even upon earth!

Disappointment, Discontent, and Dissension have, as we have seen, much
to do with the train of sorrows which have given to God’s fair world the
name of “a vale of tears.” But I believe that the most dangerous enemy
of all to our peace, the one who has most often pressed his iron yoke
on the hearts of my hearers, is the fourth whose name I have mentioned,
Distrust of the love and wisdom of God. This assertion may cause surprise
in those who are unconscious of a doubt; but examine yourselves closely,
my brethren, observe what has most often clouded your brows, saddened
your spirits, drawn the deep sigh from your hearts. Has it been regrets
for the past? Has it been the trials of the present? Has it not rather
been care for the future, fears of what the morrow might bring? Would
not perfect obedience to the injunction of our blessed Redeemer, _Take
no thought for the morrow_, sweep away at once more than half of the
troubles that weigh on our souls?

And why take thought for the morrow? We too often appear to forget
that the future lies in the hand of One “too wise to err, too good to
be unkind.” We act as if we could not, or would not, believe that _all
things work together for good to them that love God_: we are needlessly
restless, anxious, unhappy, and exclaim in our trouble, “How heavy a
rod the Lord lays upon me!” Nay, poor weak unbelieving heart, thou
art smitten less by the rod of thy Father, than by the scourge of the
Midianite within. If faith could drive out mistrust, if thou couldst in
deed and in truth cast thy cares upon Him who careth for thee, then—even
here—might God give thee _beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness_. Perfect trust would
bring perfect submission, and the peace that passeth understanding.

Gideon, the future deliverer of Israel, first appears before us in
Scripture engaged in threshing corn beside the wine-press in order to
hide it from the rapacious Midianites who held possession of the land.
From the necessity of concealment he cannot employ, after the custom of
the East, his father’s oxen to trample out the wheat; he must himself
wield the flail with the strength of his own right arm. Gideon is
employed in a task of lowly toil, unconscious at first of the presence
of the heavenly Being who has descended to earth, and who is now beside
him under the shadow of the oak at Ophrah. And here for the present we
will pause, and defer till our next meeting the consideration of God’s
merciful promise to Gideon, and the effect which it produced on his soul.
If we regard Faith under the emblem of a tree, we have hitherto viewed
it as such tree may appear in winter, when there is not a blossom on the
bough or a leaf on the spray. There is no outward evidence of life; and
though we hope that spring will draw up the sap, and clothe the bare
branches with beauty, we see no present sign of the change. Such may
have been the state of Gideon’s faith when he thought on the sufferings
of his miserable country. The flail of the Lord was upon it, but we know
from the result that it was not to crush—not to destroy the wheat, but to
separate the chaff from the grain, and so render the latter more fit for
reception into the garner of the Lord.





“Good-bye, Isa dearest, we shall often—very often meet,” were the parting
words of Edith that night.

Wrapped up warmly for protection from the cold air, Isa descended the
steps beneath the lofty portico of the Castle, and entered the luxurious
carriage which her uncle had placed at her command. As she sank on the
soft cushions, a dreary, aching sensation came over her heart; she felt
as if she were leaving brightness, happiness, beauty behind her, and
going to an abode of trial—almost privation—which she could hardly regard
as a home.

“It is wrong, very wrong in me to feel thus,” Isa murmured to herself.
“If visits to the Castle make me discontented, the fewer they are the
better; but it seems to me that my only happy time now will be the time
spent with Edith. I have nothing at the Castle to wear my spirits, or
chafe my temper, my cousin is so sweet, my uncle so kind,—when under
their roof I seem to be able to shut out disappointment and care. Ah!
that word disappointment, it reminds me of the cottage-lecture which I
heard this evening. Are the Midianites in possession of my heart? Are
my crosses—what I have deemed crosses—rather burdens laid upon me by
enemies, under whose yoke I should never have stooped?”

As the carriage rolled on through the darkness, Isa pursued the train
of her reflections. Disappointment, Discontent, Dissension, Distrust,
the Midianites in the soul—was she now harbouring them in her own? Isa
could not bear to let her mind dwell long upon the first; even now, after
the lapse of years, when she had had too good cause to believe that
the idol which she had raised in her heart had been of clay, Isa dare
hardly own to herself that Lionel had been unworthy of her love, and
that his love had not been enduring, because it had contained no element
of immortality. Shrinking from close self-examination on a subject so
tender, Isa passed on to that of Discontent; painfully aware as she was
that that spirit was struggling within her breast, that she was tempted
to regard her present lot with emotions of bitterness amounting almost to

“Saints have been content in poverty, serene in suffering, joyful in
tribulation,—they have made even dungeon-walls echo to their hymns of
praise,” thought Isa, “and here am I, with youth, health, competence,
kind friends, blessings unnumbered and undeserved,—here am I, cast down,
irritable, murmuring, and depressed, because I dwell in a house which
does not suit my taste, but which is a thousand times more comfortable
than those inhabited by most of my poor fellow-creatures. I am annoyed
at a little petulance from an invalid brother, while many, better
than myself, have to endure harshness amounting to cruelty, hatred,
persecution, and scorn. How have I merited that my trials should be so
much lighter than theirs? Have I any cause to murmur? have I any right
to complain? Is it well that I should compare my lot with that of the
few, instead of that of the many, and give place to ungrateful discontent
instead of thanking God that He has bestowed upon me so much more than
my due? Why should my thoughts dwell on Edith’s happiness instead of on
the misery that I see yet nearer to me in the squalid homes of Wildwaste?
I must go more amongst the poor; yes, in so doing I shall not only
obey God’s command, but find weapons against the intrusion of sinful

“Dissension! I can scarcely say that there is that in my home, though
there is, I fear, but little of true affection; and words of impatience
and looks of coldness make life’s road seem very rough!” The simile
was probably suggested to Isa’s mind by the jolting motion of the
carriage, for the smooth gravel drive through the baronet’s grounds was
now exchanged for the rough road across the common, which was seldom
traversed except by the carts, which had left deep ruts in the boggy
soil. “But what was the cause of that intensely bitter feeling which
arose to-day—which always arises in my mind at the bare mention of Cora
Madden? Why should the remembrance of her be sufficient to drive away
the holiest and happiest thoughts? Surely the Midianites are within,
hatred, malice—nay, I almost fear the spirit of revenge! I sometimes
feel such an intense—such an unholy longing for retribution to come upon
that woman, that she should taste some of the bitterness of the cup of
misery which she has caused me to drink! And are such longings consistent
with Christianity? do they not arise from the influence of the spirit of
evil? While such emotions are harboured in my heart, can there ever be
peace within? God help me, for my strength is as weakness against such a
Midianite as this!

“And Distrust”—here Isa’s meditations were suddenly brought to a close by
her arrival at Wildwaste Lodge. The loud, authoritative knock which broke
in such an unusual manner the stillness which had pervaded that dull
tenement brought Lottie Stone running in haste to the door. She was a
shy, black-eyed little maiden, who looked up in timid awe at Sir Digby’s
tall footman in his splendid livery, but greeted her young mistress with
a smile of rustic simplicity.

“Has your master gone to rest yet?” asked Isa.

“Not yet; he’s a-waiting for you in the study.”

Isa entered her brother’s almost unfurnished apartment. One dull candle
threw faint light on bare walls, and a table and chairs that would
have looked shabby in a farm-house. On one of the latter (there were
but three) was seated Gaspar Gritton. He was a man still in the prime
of life, but the sallow complexion and stoop consequent on protracted
ill health, made him look several years older than he in reality was.
Gaspar had been rather handsome in youth, and still his features, though
contracted, were good; but his eye was dull, and the whole expression of
his face unpleasing: it was marked by dissatisfaction and peevishness,
and more so than usual as Isa entered his study.

“I wish that you would tell those fellows not to startle one by such
thundering raps,” said the invalid brother.

“I am sorry that the knock disturbed you; its loudness was certainly
disproportioned to the occasion,” replied Isa, good-humouredly, as she
seated herself by her brother; “I will tell John to announce my return in
a more modest manner next time.”

“I don’t know why you should come in a carriage at all. You might have
walked home with Lottie and Mrs. Bolder after the meeting was over; the
night is perfectly fine. I expected you before half-past eight, and
now it is almost eleven.” Gaspar took a pinch of snuff to soothe his
aggrieved feelings, this being the sole luxury in which he habitually
indulged; his doing so happened unfortunately to be particularly
disagreeable to Isa.

“My uncle kindly wished me to stay the evening with himself and Edith,
and to pass every day on which lectures are given with them at the
Castle,” said Isa.

“Gadding—always gadding; girls are never satisfied at home,” observed
Gaspar with a sneer.

Isa felt irritated and inclined to make a retort, but she suppressed the
words on her tongue, and replied as cheerfully as she could,—

“You cannot wonder at my liking to meet with some of my nearest
relations; and were I to see absolutely nothing beyond our Wildwaste
domain, I might grow as antiquated and whimsical as Robinson Crusoe
himself. But I fear that you have passed but a dull evening without Isa
to sing or read to you, Gaspar.”

The ungracious brother made no reply; he only applied again to his little
brown box.

“Sir Digby asked me if you would not join his circle,” continued Isa;
“but I told him that you did not yet venture to expose yourself to the
night air. Was I right? You will, of course, call upon him some morning;
you will find him a pleasant acquaintance.”

“I am not hunting after acquaintances; I’ve neither health nor spirits
for society,” replied Gaspar, rising languidly from his chair; “and as
for these grandees of the Castle, I should not find them much in _my_
line, however much they may be in yours.”

The brother and sister, after a cold “Good-night,” retired to their
several apartments, Isa asking herself as she ascended the chilly
staircase whether it were his fault or her own that she was disappointed
in Gaspar.

She found her little servant Lottie awaiting her in her room, ready to
perform the offices of lady’s-maid, in which the young rustic took great
pride and pleasure. Lottie Stone was a source of amusement as well as
of interest to Isa; in her simplicity and ignorance she was so utterly
unlike any of her class whom the lady had met with before. The girl,
painfully shy before strangers, had a naive frankness with her young
mistress, which was almost like the confidence of a child. Isa by no
means discouraged this confidence, which gave her much influence over the
young being placed under her care. The rustic knew little of manners, and
was once detected in the act of snuffing the candle with her fingers. Isa
in vain tried to teach her to understand the thermometer by which the
valetudinarian regulated the heat of his room, and seemed to have no idea
of the difference between hot weather and cold. Gaspar used angrily to
declare that Lottie was certain to leave the window open whenever a sharp
east wind was blowing. In defiance of etiquette, if anything playful
were said at table, Lottie Stone was certain to laugh; and she would
stand, dish in hand, to listen to a lively anecdote related by Isa to her
brother, quite oblivious of the fact that the viands were growing cold.
Gently and smilingly Isa corrected the mistakes of the inexperienced
Lottie, and tried to soften down the displeasure of Mr. Gritton, who was
far less disposed to show indulgence. Much might be excused, she would
observe, in a girl so perfectly honest and truthful: the grain of the
wood was so good, that it was worth taking the trouble to work it, and
the polish would be added in time. Isa encouraged Lottie to open her
heart to her without reserve: but for this kindly intercourse between
mistress and maid, the life of the young girl would have had little of
brightness, as Hannah, the only other servant, was both ill-tempered
and deaf. “Miss Isa” was all in all to Lottie, looked up to, beloved
and obeyed with affectionate devotion. Lottie’s happiest time was the
half-hour spent at night with her mistress; for while she brushed Isa’s
long silky tresses, the lady entered into conversation with her. When
Miss Gritton first trusted her beautiful hair into Lottie’s inexperienced
hands, she had something to suffer as well as to teach; but pains and
patience had their usual effect, and it was only when the little maid was
speaking of something of special interest that she tried the philosophy
of her kind young mistress.

[Illustration: ISA AND LOTTIE STONE.]

“So you were at the lecture to-night, Lottie. I hope that you were
attentive to all that the clergyman said.”

“I did try to be so, Miss Isa; there were things as I couldn’t make out;
but Mrs. Bolder and me, we was talking it over all the way home, and was
looking for the Midianites in the heart.”

“And did you find any?” asked Isa.

“Mrs. Bolder, she was a-saying that it’s very hard to keep out distrust
when things go so contrary in life. She has a deal of trouble, has Mrs.
Bolder, now that her husband’s laid up and crippled with rheumatics, and
she’s all the work of the shop upon her; it’s a’most too much for her,
she says. She can’t help wondering why God should send such sickness
and pain to her husband, who was al’ays a good, steady-going man, and a
tea-totaller,”—Lottie uttered the word almost with reverence; “if he’d
been given to drink it would have been different, you know.”

The saddened tone of Lottie as she uttered the last sentence reminded
Isa of what Mr. Eardley had told her of the early trials of this more
than orphan girl. A brutal father, addicted to intemperance, had made the
hovel in which Lottie had passed the first years of her life, a den of
poverty and woe. Then this father, unworthy of the name, had absconded,
deserting an unhappy wife and two children, the elder of whom, a boy,
from physical infirmities and dulness of mind, was yet more helpless
than the poor little girl. Mr. Eardley had been for years the earthly
protector of the family; he had procured employment for Deborah Stone,
had had her children taught in his school, had, as we know, found a place
for Lottie as soon as she was able to take one, and had often put such
work in the way of her brother as the poor lad was not incapacitated from

“And did you find the Midianite Distrust in your own soul also?” asked

The mournful tone of Lottie changed to a cheerful one as she made reply,
“Oh! as mother says, who’s to trust God if we don’t, when He has
helped us through such a many troubles, and given us such kind friends?
Only—just—sometimes,” she added more slowly, “when I thinks of poor
father, then a feeling will come; but I s’pose it’s wrong—God is so
good!” and she sighed.

Isa perceived that the shadow of the poor girl’s great trial lay on her
young heart still.

“You can always pray for your father, Lottie.”

“I do, Miss Isa, I do, morning and evening, and so does mother; and
surely God will hear!” cried the girl, brightening up at the thought. “He
knows where bees father, though we don’t; and maybe He will bring him
back to us at last.”

There was something touching to Isa in the clinging affection of the
young creature towards a parent whom she could not honour, and whom she
had so little cause to love.

“And did you find any Discontent lurking within?” inquired the lady,
returning to the point of conversation from which she had diverged.

“Discontent!” repeated Lottie, opening her black eyes wide at the
question; “O Miss Isa, how could I—with meat every day, and a whole
sovereign every quarter? That would be ungrateful indeed! Ah! if you
knew how we lived here at Wildwaste when I was little, in the cottage
that’s been pulled down—close by the ‘Jolly Gardener’ it was, where the
school is a-standing now! We’ve been half the day—mother, brother, and
I—without breaking a bit of bread; and we might have been the other half
too,” added Lottie, naively, “had not Mrs. Holdich been so kind, and the
tall gentleman from the Castle, bless him! he brought us nice things from
his own table under his cloak.”

“Do you speak of Mr. Madden?” asked Isa, with a little tremulousness in
her tone.

“Yes; the best, the kindest gentleman as ever lived—barring Mr. Eardley,”
said Lottie, warmly. “He was al’ays teaching the children good, and
looking arter the poor.”

“Lionel Madden,” murmured Isa, dreamily; it was the first time for years
that that name had passed her lips.

“Oh no, not he!” exclaimed Lottie, in a tone more emphatic than her
hearer liked, for it conveyed more distinctly than words that Lionel was
one of the last persons likely to play the philanthropist in the manner
described. “It was not he, but his brother. Mr. Lionel! he never gave to
nobody, nor did nothing for nobody as ever I heard of; only,” added the
girl, with a little laugh, “he switched my brother over the head with his
riding-whip once, to make him stand out of his way.”

Isa did not care to keep up the conversation; she took up an
elegantly-bound book which lay on her toilette-table, to convey a hint
of silence to her little maid-servant. The volume was a collection of
sacred poetry, and the lady’s eyes rested long and thoughtfully upon the
well-known verse on which their gaze first fell as she opened the book.
It appeared like a comment on what she had heard that evening on the
subject of Disappointment.

    “Good when He gives, supremely good,
      _Nor less when He denies_;
    E’en trials from His sovereign hand
      Are _blessings in disguise_.”

So, whether she acknowledged the fact or not, had it been in God’s
dealings with Isa Gritton.





Isa awoke on the following morning with a feeling of oppression on
her heart, a vague impression that something had been neglected which
ought to have been done, and she connected that something with the
lecture which she had heard on the preceding day. Several minutes
passed, however, before she could trace back the links of thought to the
actual cause of her uneasiness, as it lay out of the general course of
reflection suggested by the subject of the lecture. Then Isa recalled the
words which at the time that she heard them had painfully reminded her
of a death-bed scene, perhaps the saddest recollection left on a mind
which had had of late much experience of sorrow. “The Christian may be
called to draw upon himself the anger of men by defending the truth, or
upholding the cause of the oppressed.”

“It is more than two years,” reflected Isa, “since I received a sacred
charge from the dying lips of my dear father; and that charge I have
never obeyed. For more than two years may an orphan have been suffering
wrong on account of my brother, and during all this time I have let
the sin rest on his soul. I first put off an explanation till I should
meet him; then, when we met, I shrank from doing my duty. I quieted
conscience with every kind of frivolous excuse; he was too delicate, too
sensitive, too busy, it would be better to delay speaking till we should
be alone together in some peaceful home. We have been alone together, we
have passed hours, days, weeks in each other’s society, with nothing to
hinder me from speaking, except my own cowardly dislike of saying what
might probably offend. Surely cowardice like this is another Midianite
in possession, and I shall never know real peace till I have wrestled it
down. Whenever the remembrance of that charge comes over my mind, it is
like a cloud darkening the sunshine, and throwing a chill around. God
help me to fulfil at length a neglected duty! I will speak to Gaspar
before this day has passed over.”

To some strong natures there might have appeared little that was
formidable in the task before her, but to Isa it was peculiarly painful.
Brought up as an only daughter, tenderly nurtured from her cradle, she
had hardly known what it was to have to encounter even a grave look
or a hasty word,—Isa had never learned to _endure hardness_. Fond of
pleasing, both from natural kindliness of heart and love of approbation,
Isa never willingly gave offence; with her to inflict pain was to suffer
it. Isa delighted in deeds of kindness and works of beneficence; to
comfort the sorrowing, or rejoice with the happy was congenial to her
womanly spirit; but to restrain, rebuke, oppose—the sterner duties which
are sometimes assigned to the most gentle of the sex in the battle-field
of life—cost Isa an effort which can only be appreciated by those of a
disposition like her own.

Isa’s heart throbbed uneasily with the feeling that the explanation
so long dreaded, so long put off, was at hand, as she sat in the
apartment which she called her boudoir, but which was always used as a
breakfast-room. The bronze urn was hissing on the table, on which was
spread a somewhat meagre repast. Awaiting her brother, who was late, Isa
placed herself by the window, and gazed forth on the prospect before
her. There was little to charm in that prospect, even on a bright spring
day. A tract of common spread in front, dotted with golden patches of
blossoming furze; but the picturesqueness of heath land was marred by
the low-lying hamlet which was the foreground of the landscape. The
cottages, or rather hovels of Wildwaste, wore an appearance of squalor
and decay, which was not softened by the charm which moss and lichen and
clustering ivy can throw around even ruins. They appeared rather falling
to pieces because originally ill-built, than because they were ancient.
The only tenement at Wildwaste which looked in perfect repair, and with
some pretension to beauty, was the neat little school-house, erected by
a Madden, but not, as Isa had soon learned from Lottie, either by Lionel
or by Cora. “How pleasant,” mused Isa, as she watched the little clusters
of cottage children entering the low-browed porch—“how pleasant to leave
behind such a memorial of a passing visit to a place as that young Arthur
has left!” and as she thought of her brother, with his ample means yet
penurious disposition, she felt painfully how far better it is to possess
the heart to give than the money.

The soap manufactory, lying a little to the right of the prospect, a
huge unsightly square-windowed pile of brick and mortar, was a yet more
conspicuous object than the hamlet of Wildwaste. It stood not two hundred
yards from Isa’s home, so that when the wind blew from that quarter she
dared not open the windows to let in the breezes, so polluted were they
by smoke and evil scent. The only redeeming feature in the landscape seen
from the lodge was the park which skirted the road beyond the common, the
beautiful park above whose light leafy screen rose the gray turrets of
Castle Lestrange. There, indeed, beauty and peace might dwell; thence no
ruder sound would be heard than the cuckoo’s note or the nightingale’s
song. Isa’s eyes, overlooking nearer and less pleasing objects,
constantly wandered to those verdant woods, those lofty picturesque

Gaspar entered the sitting-room with a complaint on his lips against
“treacherous weather” on that clear April morn, for he was never weary
of contrasting the climate of England with that of Jamaica, much to the
disadvantage of the former, though the heat of the latter seemed to have
dried up and withered his frame. He seated himself at the table, and
began cutting the stale loaf (bread at the lodge was always stale), but
interrupted himself with the observation, “How one misses the papers of a
morning! Isa, I wish you’d ask your uncle, the baronet, to send over the
_Times_ every day.”

“I should hardly like to ask that favour,” replied Isa, leaving the
window, and joining her brother at the breakfast-table.

“And why not?” inquired Gaspar peevishly; “are you afraid of robbing the
servant’s hall?”

“No,” said Isa, as she occupied herself with the tea-caddy; “but my
uncle would naturally think that we might take in a paper for ourselves,
instead of putting him to the inconvenience of sending a mile every

“I’m not the idiot to throw away my money on what may be had for the
asking; you have so much foolish pride,” muttered Mr. Gritton. “I feel
myself out of the world where I can’t get a glimpse of the money-market
or the shipping report.”

That word “shipping” served as a cue to Isa. While sitting by the window
she had been revolving in her mind how she should introduce the subject
of her father’s dying message to Gaspar. Isa was convinced that her
long silence had been sinful, and having “screwed up her courage to the
sticking point,” was on the watch for an opportunity of saying what she
had determined should be said. Too anxious to make some commencement to
be able to do so without the appearance of effort, Isa abruptly remarked,
in a tone that betrayed a little nervousness, “Is not your interest in
the shipping chiefly on account of the _Orissa_?”

“The _Orissa_?” repeated Mr. Gritton in accents of surprise; “why, all
the world knows that she foundered nigh four years ago, passengers saved,
cargo lost, and the greater part uninsured.”

“Had you anything to do with the vessel?” asked Isa, timidly feeling her

Gaspar looked a little embarrassed by the question. “Yes—no,” he replied,
almost with a stammer. “I might have had a stake in that vessel—I
thought of having—’twas lucky I had not; there had been such a run for
certain goods in the West Indian market, that the cargo was expected to
bring double its value. But—but you know nothing and care nothing about
matters of business,” he added, stretching out his hand for the cup of
tea which his sister had poured out. “Has the post brought any letters
this morning?”

Isa did not suffer the current of conversation to be thus abruptly
turned. Merely shaking her head in reply to the question, she nerved
herself to go one step further. “Who was the orphan whose property was in
some way or other connected with the _Orissa_?”

“Orphan! what do you mean? Who on earth talked to you about an orphan?”
Isa felt—for she dared not look up—that her brother’s eyes were keenly
scrutinising her face.

“Better have the whole truth out at once,” thought poor Isa, who, in
her nervousness, was emptying the milk-jug into the tea-pot. “The fact
is, dear Gaspar,” she said, speaking with rapidity and a sensation of
breathlessness, “I have been anxious for a long time to talk to you about
some words uttered by our beloved father a very, very short time before
we lost him. When he was almost too ill to speak, he said”—Isa pressed
her forehead as if to collect her thoughts—“he said, ‘Gaspar—you will be
with him—the _Orissa_—not her money lost—tell him from me;’ the dear lips
had not power to finish the sentence.”

“Did my father say anything more than these words?” asked Gaspar, who saw
from the quivering of Isa’s lashes and the trembling of her lip that she
at least attached some importance to the fragmentary message.

Isa pressed her hands very tightly together; she could hardly articulate
the broken sentences—“He said, ‘_something wrong_—he should deal fairly
by that orphan’—I can remember no more.”


Gaspar rose abruptly from his seat and walked to the window. Isa felt the
brief silence which followed almost unendurable, and yet was thankful
that she had been enabled to speak out the whole truth at last. After a
few seconds Gaspar returned to his seat, and with a rapid—Isa fancied a
slightly tremulous utterance—thus addressed his sister:—

“Isa, your ears deceived you—your memory is at fault—or—or there was
a wandering of mind at the last. You shall know exactly how the case
lies. A young lady, known to my father and myself, had some thousands of
pounds which she wished to invest, four years ago, during my short visit
to England. My father was consulted on the business. There was a sudden
demand for a particular kind of goods in the West Indies; money invested
in them might double itself if no time were lost; the girl was eager
to increase her property—natural enough,—I was employed in making the
arrangement—ship went down—goods uninsured—she had staked her property,
and lost it. This was no fault of mine; you might blame the captain or
the crew, or the winds and the waves; I was never blamed by Cora Madden

“Cora Madden!” ejaculated Isa.

“You know the whole truth now,” said Gaspar; “let us never come on the
subject again.”

Isa felt bewildered by the sudden disclosure of the name of the orphan
in whom she had taken such painful interest; so much so, that she
could hardly tell at that time whether the explanation of Gaspar were
satisfactory or not to her mind. When the name of Cora was uttered, Isa’s
surprise had made her for a moment look full in the face of her brother,
and that face—which had been almost ghastly—had become suffused with a
colour which she had never before seen upon it, and the eyes of Gaspar
had instantly sunk beneath the gaze of her own. Isa hardly noticed this
in the excitement of the instant, but it afterwards often recurred to her
mind, with an ever-strengthening persuasion that her brother had _not_
told her all.

The subject of the death-bed message was dropped, but Isa felt during
the remainder of that morning that her brother’s nerves had been shaken,
and that his spirits were utterly out of tune; and she could not but
refer this to its natural cause—the conversation at breakfast. Nothing
pleased Mr. Gritton: the tea was bitter, cold, undrinkable; the room full
of draughts; Lottie a useless idiot, and Mr. Eardley little better for
having ever recommended her. Isa came in for her full share of peevish
reproach, almost more difficult to be borne than angry rebuke. It was
a great relief to the young lady when her companion at length quitted
her boudoir to go down to his accounts, though Isa well knew that these
accounts would afford a new cause of grievance, and that all her care to
manage household affairs with strict economy would not prevent pettish
remarks on the extravagance of the Saturday bills.

“I shall not be able to endure this kind of life long,” murmured Isa to
herself, as she returned from ordering dinner, having had to encounter
the ill-temper of Hannah, who, while her master inveighed against
reckless extravagance, complained on the other hand that there were “some
ladies as think that their servants can live upon nothing.” “I was never
made to bear all this constant fret and worry,” sighed the discouraged
Isa; “this perpetual effort to please, without the possibility of
succeeding in doing so.” Isa was, like so many others, tempted to
think that the post in which Providence had placed her was not the one
that suited her; that she would _do_ better, _be_ better in another.
Disappointment, discontent, distrust, had not been driven forth from her
heart. Again Isa seated herself by the window which commanded a view of
the towers of Lestrange, feeling disinclined to settle to any occupation,
to take up her work, or to finish her book.

A visit from Edith made a delightful break on the dreary solitude of Isa.

“I have come with a message from papa, dear Isa,” cried the baronet’s
daughter, after an affectionate greeting had passed between the cousins;
“he has charged me to carry you back captive with me to the Castle, to
remain there as long as we can make our prisoner happy. Oh, don’t make
resistance—lay down your arms and surrender at once!” The pleading eyes
seconded well the playful petition of the lips.

A prisoner! nay, to Isa the invitation came like an offer of freedom
to one in irksome bondage. Her countenance lighted up with pleasure. “I
should gladly surrender to so generous a foe,” she replied, “only—my

“He will let me carry you off, I am sure that he will,” cried Edith.

“I will go and ask him,” said Isa, hastily rising and quitting the room.

Edith, left thus alone, looked around the boudoir of her cousin with
mingled pity and surprise. “Poor Isa, is this her abode? so small, so
wretchedly furnished, so dreary and bare. And what a view from the
window!” added the heiress, as she sauntered up to the casement; “the
very look of those tumble-down cottages would make one miserable; and as
for that hideous manufactory, it would spoil the fairest landscape in
the world. No wonder that Isa was not able to echo my words when I said,
‘There is no place like home.’”

Isa soon returned with her brother’s permission for her to accompany her
cousin, a permission which he could hardly have withheld. Edith knew not
how ungraciously it had been accorded, how bitterly Gaspar had remarked,
“I knew that you would never care to stay quietly here with an invalid

“Had he been like a brother to me,” was Isa’s mental comment when she
quitted the room, “no pleasure would have drawn me from his side.”
Nevertheless Mr. Gritton’s observation gave pain to his sister, and so
did the distressed look on the face of Lottie, when hastily summoned to
help her young mistress in her preparations for quitting the Lodge.

“O Miss Isa, I hope you’ll not be long away; we’ll be just lost without
you;” and Isa saw that moisture rose in Lottie’s black eyes.

Isa returned with Edith to the Castle, where she was graciously received
by her stately uncle. Two beautiful rooms, exquisitely furnished, one
opening into the other, had been assigned to her; none in the Castle
commanded a more beautiful prospect. Swiftly the hours rolled by amidst
varied occupations. Cheerful was the afternoon saunter in the park with
Edith, and the little dinner-party in the evening, when Isa met with
congenial society. Pleasant on the following morning was the drive to the
distant church, and very refreshing to the spirit the sacred service,
conducted with none of the lifeless formality which cast such a chill
over Isa’s devotion in the church which she had attended with Gaspar.
Delightful was the evening converse with Edith; converse on high and holy
themes. Then, on the Monday morning, Isa much enjoyed visiting with her
sweet young cousin some of the dwellings of Sir Digby’s poorer tenants,
bearing little delicacies to invalids from the baronet’s luxurious table.
All these employments were in themselves innocent and good, and to Isa
would have afforded unmixed gratification, but for a feeling which would
intrude itself on her mind, that she was where she liked to be rather
than where she ought to be—that even her holiest pleasures were rather
of her own taking than of God’s bestowing. Whenever Gaspar or Wildwaste
were mentioned, a slightly uncomfortable sensation was experienced by
Isa. Well she knew that her presence was more needed in the dreary Lodge
than in the stately Castle; more by the peevish invalid than by the happy
young girl; a brother, an only brother, had a stronger claim on her
care than a cousin. Isa suspected, though she cared not to search for
confirmation of the suspicion, that Self-indulgence was another Midianite
in possession of her soul.

So passed the time till Tuesday brought the little meeting in the
cottage of Holdich, which the cousins attended. The first face which
Isa caught sight of on entering the crowded room was that of her maid,
Lottie Stone, beaming with an expression of honest pleasure at seeing her
mistress again. Isa and Edith were a little late in joining the meeting,
the former had therefore no opportunity of speaking to Lottie till the
lecture and prayers were over.





We left Gideon at his lowly task, threshing corn by the wine-press to
bide it from the Midianites. The Israelite lifted up his eyes, and,
behold, One stood before him, clothed in human form, and yet nor man nor
angel; for from the words which He afterwards uttered, such as no created
being dare have breathed, we recognize in Him the eternal Son of God. As
the Lord appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre, to Jacob by the ford
of Jabbok, to Moses on the height of Sinai, so appeared He now to Gideon
beneath the oak-tree of Ophrah. Unconscious of the divinity of his Guest,
Gideon still appears to have received with reverence the greeting of the
mysterious stranger, as though aware that He came as a messenger from the
Most High.

“The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour!” was the salutation
of the Holy One to the son of a despised and persecuted race.

“Oh my Lord,” exclaimed Gideon, “if the Lord be with us, why then is all
this befallen us? and where be all the miracles which our fathers told
of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? But now the Lord
hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hand of the Midianites.”

How often must such thoughts have passed through the mind of Gideon
before they thus found vent in words. Faith, sorely tried by present
trouble, was trying to draw from memories of the past hope for the
future. God, who had crushed the pride of Pharaoh, and led His people
forth from Egyptian bondage, would He not now save and avenge? There
had been miracles of old; such mercies as had been experienced by the
fathers, might they not also be reserved for the children? Was the Lord’s
arm shortened that it could not save; was He unmindful of the groans of
His people? Oh, why had He forsaken Israel, and given His heritage unto

“And the Lord looked upon Gideon, and said, Go in this thy might, and
thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have I not sent

Let us dwell for a few moments on the words, _The Lord looked upon
Gideon_. Thrice in the Scriptures do we read of a look from Him who
beholdeth all things in heaven and earth. In one sense the omniscient
God is for ever gazing down upon His creation; from Him ocean depths are
no hiding-place, and midnight darkness no screen. The eyes of the Lord
are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. But on some special
occasions God’s glance has in a peculiar way been directed upon man, as
the sunbeams that shine on all may be concentrated in the focus of a
burning-glass to kindle or to destroy. The Lord _looked_ from the pillar
of cloud upon the Egyptians, and they were troubled—they felt God’s wrath
in that gaze; the Lord _looked_ upon Gideon, and in that glance was new
courage and strength; the Lord _looked_ upon Peter, and beneath that gaze
of divine compassion and love his heart was broken and melted, and fast
flowed his penitential tears. Have we ever known the power of that look
in our hearts, to crush our sins, to encourage our faith, to bring us in
deep contrition to the feet of our merciful Lord?

Gideon, like Moses before him, seems to have shrunk from the post of high
honour to which he was called by God; like Moses, he thought of his own
unfitness instead of the almighty power of Him who can employ—and often
does employ—feeble instruments to accomplish the most noble and difficult
works. “Oh my Lord,” he cried, “wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold,
my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”
Before honour is humility; had Gideon been great or wise in his own
eyes, we may well believe that God would have passed him by, to choose
one of a lowlier spirit to be the leader of Israel’s hosts.

“Surely I will be with thee,” said the Lord, “and thou shalt smite the
Midianites as one man.”

Still Gideon appears to have hesitated; perhaps a doubt lingered on his
mind as to the nature of Him who spake as having authority, but who as
yet had wrought no miracle to prove his divine commission. “If now I have
found grace in Thy sight,” said Gideon, “then show me a sign that Thou
talkest with me. Depart not hence, I pray Thee, until I come unto Thee,
and bring forth my present, and set it before Thee.” And the Holy One
said, “I will tarry till thou come again.”

Then—like his father Abraham, glad to entertain the heavenly Guest—Gideon
made ready a feast. He prepared a kid, and unleavened cakes, and brought
them forth to the Lord, who had graciously awaited his return under the
oak of Ophrah—a spot which became as a temple consecrated by His divine

The Holy One bade Gideon lay the food on the rock, and pour out the
broth. What man designed for a feast, God would receive as a sacrifice.
With the end of the staff which was in His hand the sacred Guest touched
the flesh and the unleavened cakes, and the stone on which they lay
became as an altar. Fire arose from the rock and consumed the offering
of Gideon, and the divine Being—who had thus accepted as God what was
presented to Him as man—vanished out of the sight of His servant.

[Illustration: THE SACRIFICE.]

The first emotion of the astonished Gideon seems to have been that of
terror. “Alas! O Lord God,” he exclaimed, “because I have seen an angel
of the Lord face to face.”

A gracious promise of love came in answer to that cry of fear; we know
not whether the divine voice sounded in the mortal’s ear, or but spoke
with mysterious power in his soul. The Lord said unto Gideon, “Peace be
unto thee, fear not; thou shalt not die.”

Then, in that holy spot where the Lord had deigned to appear in human
guise, Gideon built an altar, and called it _Jehovah shallum_, which is,
_The Lord send peace_.

And now, beloved friends, let us apply to our hearts the lessons
contained in this portion of the history of Gideon. Hath not the Lord
appeared unto us with a promise of help and deliverance, if we in His
might will struggle against the enemies within? He comes to us not only
in the house of prayer, not only in seasons of holy communion, but when
we, like Gideon, are following the common occupations of life. His eye
is fixed upon us in tender compassion, and His message to the lowly
Christian entering on the battle-field of life is this: _Go in this thy
might: have I not sent thee? I will be with thee._

Let us glean from the Scriptures some promises of this blessing of the
Lord’s peculiar presence with His people. To those obeying His command
to preach the gospel amongst all nations, how precious through centuries
of toil and peril has been the gracious assurance: _Lo, I am with you
alway, even unto the end of the world_. To those almost sinking under the
heavy trials of life, how full of comfort is the promise: _Fear thou not;
for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God. I will strengthen
thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand
of My righteousness._ Through life, even unto the grave, the power of
that promise extends, so that the Christian can add in lowly trust: _Yea,
though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no
evil: for Thou art with me_.

But who are they who can thus take to themselves the precious promises
of Christ? They who have come to Him in lowly faith; or rather, they to
whom the Lord hath come in the power of redeeming love. In the history
of Gideon we see a type of the Lord’s dealings with His people. He
is found of them that sought Him not; He comes to the sorrowful, the
oppressed, the tempted, and offers to them the free deliverance which
His mercy alone can bestow. We have nothing to give the sacred Guest
but the offering of a sin-stained heart, a heart wholly unworthy of His
acceptance, _till He touch it_, as He touched the offering of Gideon, and
the flame of divine love is kindled, and the sacrifice of a broken and
contrite heart becomes acceptable unto the Lord. Then, like Gideon, may
we raise our altar with grateful thanksgiving; and, while preparing for
the struggle with indwelling sin, feel assured that the Lord will “send

We are also reminded, by this transient visit of the Son of God to the
world, of His longer sojourn with the children of Israel, when for more
than thirty-three years the Redeemer waited on earth till the bitter
cup should be filled to the brim—till the great Sacrifice should be
offered—and then ascended to His Father in heaven, thereby granting
additional proof of His divinity to His adoring people. “The Lord send
peace,” was the name given by Gideon to his altar, and our Lord’s words
on the night before His crucifixion sound like a response to that name:
_Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world
giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it
be afraid._

But what is the promised peace? To Gideon his heavenly Visitor had spoken
of conflict: “Go in this thy might; thou shalt smite the Midianites as
one man.” In this command to Gideon, my brethren, we hear our Master’s
charge to ourselves, and learn what it is that can give us strength to
obey that charge. The Christian is promised peace, but it is such as may
be realized to some degree even in the midst of conflict; and it is that
peace which, after conflict, in its perfection crowneth victory.

The Midianites within must be conquered, and the might which conquers
is from God. If disappointment blight our hopes, discontent fret our
spirits, dissension mar our peace, distrust shrink from expected
trials, we must yet lift up our eyes unto the hills from whence cometh
our help—we must yet ask, and we shall receive, the grace which can
supply all our need, and enable us to rise above the infirmities of
the flesh, the weakness of our fallen nature. Let us trust fearlessly,
let us trust alone in the might of our Lord. As long as we remain in
presumptuous self-confidence, the Midianites rest in possession; when we
cast ourselves in earnest prayer at the feet of the Saviour, He maketh us
_more than conquerors_.

We contemplated Faith, when last we met here, as the tree which in winter
stands bare of foliage, black and leafless, yet with life within it. With
Gideon now that tree had felt the warm breath of spring—the Lord had
looked upon it, and the living sap had risen under the beams of the Sun
of Righteousness; the green leaves of hope were budding on the boughs.
Gideon had not as yet conquered his foes, but the Lord had promised that
he should do so, and the expectation of triumph was before him.

Christian brethren, let us also rejoice in help, and so gird ourselves
up for the struggle before us, taking as the motto on our banner, _Go
in this thy might_, and as the cordial to our weak fainting hearts the
promise, _I will be with thee_.




Isa stopped to speak a few words to Lottie after the short service was

“O Miss Isa, I do hope you won’t be away long,” cried the young girl,
looking up into the face of her mistress with a pleading expression; “we
do miss you so sadly!”

“Is my brother better?” asked Isa.

“Master shuts himself up a deal in his room, and don’t care to be
disturbed, and seems worried like—he do,” replied Lottie with rustic
simplicity, and in a tone from which Isa too readily gathered that
neither Gaspar’s spirits nor his temper had improved since her departure.
“O Miss Isa, I wish you’d come back!”

“Tell my brother that, without fail, I’ll come and see him to-morrow.”

“And stay with him?” asked Lottie, anxiously.

Isa hesitated for a moment, but she could not bring herself to say
“Yes.” There was to be on the following evening another of those
delightful little parties at the Castle, at which Isa anticipated that
she would enjoy one of the sweetest and purest of pleasures, that of
converse with the intellectual, the refined, and the good—converse that
gratifies at once the mind and the heart. Isa was little disposed to
exchange such pleasure for a dull, cheerless evening at the Lodge, spent
beside a peevish valetudinarian, who would neither appreciate nor thank
her for the sacrifice. No; she would make a compromise with conscience;
she would give the morning to her brother, and doubly enjoy the evening
from the consciousness of having performed an irksome duty. Isa sent
by Lottie a message to her brother, and then, only half satisfied with
herself, returned with Edith to the Castle.

Lottie walked silently for a little time beside Mrs. Bolder, the grocer’s
wife, who was always the young girl’s companion to and from the evening
meeting. Lottie broke the silence by a sigh.

“Oh, but the house has grown dull and lonesome!” she murmured. “Half of
the pleasure of going to the lecture was to talk it over after, and have
the hard things explained.”

“You don’t find old Hannah much of a companion, I suppose.”

“Hannah!” repeated Lottie dolefully; “she never speaks to me but to
chide; nor does master, for the matter of that. Oh, how I does miss dear
mother and brother! there’s no one near me as cares for me, now that Miss
Isa’s away. I’m afeard that the Midianite Discontent is creeping in after
all.” Poor Lottie, with her warm, impulsive, affectionate nature, found
even the “meat every day, and a sovereign a quarter,” insufficient to
brighten her solitary lot.

“We ought to have learned this evening how to get rid of the Midianite,”
observed quiet Mrs. Bolder, but in a melancholy tone, for she herself was
oppressed with cares, and had by nature little spirit to struggle against

“Yes,” said Lottie more cheerfully; “_I will be with thee_, that is a
wonderful word! I will repeat it over and over to myself, when I lie
down, and when I get up, and when I’m about my work. We should never feel
lonesome or sad when the dear Lord says, _I will be with thee_: with us
all through our lives; and then when the time comes for us to die, we
know that we shall be _with Him_.”

The same promise which strengthened a warrior of old for heroic deeds,
cheered and encouraged a little servant maid in her path of humble toil.
Lottie trod more lightly on her way when she thought of Gideon and his
heavenly Guest.

Mrs. Bolder, after she had parted from Lottie, turned towards the single
shop in the hamlet of Wildwaste, which was kept by herself and her
husband. The shutters were up, so she saw no light, but the door was upon
the latch, and she entered through the shop into the little back-parlour
where Tychicus Bolder, seated by the fire, was awaiting his wife’s return
from the meeting.

Sadly poor Miriam looked on what she called “the wreck of such a fine
man!” Over the hard-featured, smoke-dried looking face of Bolder,
wrinkled with many a line traced by care and pain, hung the white hair,
streaked here and there with iron gray. His beard had grown long, and lay
on his sunken chest; his back was bowed, his knees drawn up, as he sat
with his feet on the fender, with a black shawl of his wife’s wrapped
round his rheumatic frame. Bolder could not turn his head without pain;
but he bade his wife shut the door, come and sit beside him, and tell him
all about the parson’s lecture.

“Oh, how different it was in the days when it was you that went, and you
that had the telling—you who can talk like a parson yourself!” sighed
Mrs. Bolder, as she stirred the fire, which was getting low, as Bolder
had no power to stir it himself.

“Wife,” said Bolder solemnly, “you’ve been to a lecture, and I dare say
a good one, for I think more of Mr. Eardley now than I did in old times;
but I’ve had my sermon too, as I sat here by the fire, and my preacher
was one as spoke with more power than Mr. Eardley, or any other parson
under the sun!”

[Illustration: MR. AND MRS. BOLDER.]

“Why, who can have been here?” exclaimed Mrs. Bolder, glancing towards
the door.

“Sit down, wife, and I’ll tell you all,” said Tychicus Bolder. “When you
had gone out, and I was left alone with my pain—”

“I’m sure I’d gladly have stayed with you,” interrupted Miriam; “I went
because you told me to go.”

“I know it—I know it—I sent you. Well, as I sat here alone with my pain,
I began turning over in my mind what you’d told me of the last lecture,
of the Midianites in possession. Ay, thinks I, I have them all here,
every one of the four. There’s Disappointment; for wasn’t I a thriving
man, and looking to get up higher and higher in the world—leave this
place and take a larger business in Axe—till this sickness came, and
pulled me back, and made it hard enough to struggle on here!”

Mrs. Bolder mournfully shook her head.

“And isn’t there Discontent; for it has often seemed as if the pain, and
the weakness, and the helplessness were a’most more than man could bear!”

“I’m sure that no man could bear them more—” Miriam stopped in the midst
of her sentence, less from a doubt as to its perfect truth than because
she saw that her husband did not wish to be interrupted; so she relapsed
into her usual position—that of a listener.

“There’s Dissension, for I feel ready to quarrel with all the world; and
Distrust, for I can’t bring myself to think that I’ve not been hardly
dealt with. Now if, as the parson said, all these enemies are most like
to come, like the Midianites, to a soul where there’s been an idol set
up, where was the idol in mine? You see, wife, pain and loneliness set an
old man thinking.”

“You never had an idol,” said the wife; “in the midst of such a drunken,
disorderly, quarrelsome set as we have here in Wildwaste, you took the
pledge, and kept it too—never a drop of the poison wetted your lips;
there’s not many a man would have kept steady, standing all alone as you
did. And then you didn’t worship Mammon; no man can say of you that your
money was not honestly earned—every penny that you took in.”

“Bating a few overcharges,” muttered Bolder; “on the whole, I did keep my
hands pretty clean.”

“And you was so religious, too; knew your Bible so well, could have done
for a preacher yourself. If a parson made a mistake, or wasn’t quite
sound in the doctrine, you was the man who could set him right; you was
such a judge of a sermon!”

“I thought myself so,” said Bolder.

“I can’t make out the reason why God sends you all these troubles,”
pursued the admiring wife, “unless it be as He let them come to Job,
’cause he was better than any one else, and God wanted to try his

“Now, wife, it’s all very well that you should think this,” said Bolder,
in his peculiar tone of decision, “I was ready enough to think it myself;
but when I came this evening to turn the matter over as I sat here alone,
I could not look at things just in the same light as before. I found
this soul of mine all full of what the parson calls Midianites; I had
not noticed one of ’em when I was in health and prosperity, but when
troubles came, then came they, like the birds of prey round a sick sheep
as it lies in the field. Then I set to thinking what idol I could have
set up when all things seemed going well with me;—no, don’t interrupt
me, Miriam—I was certain there had been something wrong. And then an
old anecdote came into my mind, which I’d heard many years back, but
which I’d never really understood—I mean with my heart, not my head. It
was about a young parson who was talking on religion to an old pious
ploughman as they walked together in a field. Says the parson, ‘The
hardest thing is to deny sinful self.’ ‘Nay, sir,’ said the ploughman,
‘the hardest thing, I take it, is to deny _righteous_ self.’ Why, here,
thinks I, is the key to the whole matter. Here have I been living in
Wildwaste, counting myself an example to all the people around, thanking
God, like the Pharisee, that I was a deal better than other men, sitting
in judgment even at church, setting up a great idol of self. And so God
has let the enemies come in, just to show me that I am not the saint that
I took myself for, just to set me crying to Him for help, to bring me to
say, what else I had never said, _I abhor myself, and repent in dust and

Mrs. Bolder, who had been accustomed to look up to her husband as a kind
of infallible pope in his home, one whose wisdom should never be doubted,
whose opinions should never be disputed, could not at once alter her
long-cherished ideas, but only ventured to express dissent by a little
mournful shake of the head.

“I was always ready enough to judge others,” continued Bolder, “but it
was a new thing for me to judge myself. I was quick enough to see God’s
justice in punishing other men, but when the rod came upon myself, then
his dealings seemed hard. I could almost exult when the publican’s house
was burned and he ruined, or when the poor guilty wretch was smothered in
the bog;—that was righteous vengeance, said I. But when my own comfort
was touched, when trouble came to my home, I could neither see mercy nor
justice, and fierce, rebellious, unbelieving thoughts swept, like the
Midianites, right over my soul.”

“Mr. Bolder,” said the anxious wife (she never ventured to address him by
his Christian name), “I shall never like to leave you so long again, for
I’m sure and certain that being alone is bad for your spirits.”

“Wife, I was no more alone than Gideon was when the angel came to him
under the oak. I told you that a powerful preacher had been here, and
I told you nought but the truth. The Lord has been preaching to this
proud heart; and if you wish to know the text, it was this, _Unless ye
be converted, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter
the kingdom of heaven_. There be many mansions there, but not one for
the self-righteous Pharisee. I had thought myself a long way on the road
to heaven, and I found I’d to go back every step of the way, and begin
at the beginning. If it had not been for what God has shown me, through
sickness and trouble, of the evil lurking in my heart, I might have gone
on blind and self-confident to the last, and never have had my eyes
opened at all—till the terrible Day of Judgment.”

It is doubtful whether Tychicus Bolder’s words convinced his wife, but
at least they silenced her, and she could feel that the change which had
passed over the proud, opinionative man was a change for the better; he
was more patient and resigned under suffering, and far less disposed
to pass a sweeping sentence of condemnation on all his neighbours in
Wildwaste. When Bolder began to judge himself, he became less ready to
judge others; humility and charity are twin-sisters, and constantly
walk hand-in-hand. Tychicus himself regarded that evening of quiet
heart-searching as a crisis in his life; the Lord had visited his soul,
and had left a blessing and a promise behind.

And is not this the history of many a human heart? The great enemy,
ever on the watch to destroy, forms temptations of the very virtues of
men, leading them, as it were, to make a raft of their own honesty,
temperance, respectability, alms-giving, so that, trusting on that to
stem the flood, they may not seek refuge in the only Ark that can bear
them to a heavenly shore. The Almighty, on the other hand, making _all_
things to work together for the good of His people, even their very
failures and imperfections, shows them the hollowness and rottenness
of all on which they rested, that they may not trust their soul’s
safety to anything but the merits and mercies of Christ. Praise, even
from the lips of his heavenly Master, seems to have led St. Peter into
presumption, so that the _Blessed art thou_ had soon to be followed by
the _Get thee behind me, Satan_; while through the guilt of a three-fold
denial the apostle was led, by God’s grace, to earnest repentance,
distrust of himself, and more fervent love to his pardoning Lord. Thus
God still enables a David to slay Goliath with his own sword. But for
the visitation of the Midianites, grievous and evil as it was in itself,
Gideon would perhaps never have been blessed with the visit of the angel
of the Lord.





Isa did not fail to keep her promise. Finding that Mrs. Holdich was about
to visit Wildwaste on the following morning, Isa availed herself of her
escort; for the people of the hamlet were so rough, that the young lady
disliked crossing the common alone. Rebekah Holdich carried with her a
remedy for rheumatism, which she hoped might relieve the sufferings of
Bolder. The steward’s wife was the general doctress of the neighbourhood;
to her, as to their natural friend, came all who had sorrow or sickness
in their homes, just as any labourer in difficulty or distress was sure
to seek the advice and help of her husband.

Isa Gritton entered into conversation with Rebekah, who was a woman of
education and refinement beyond what might be expected from one in her
station of life.

“I find,” observed Isa, “that you were the first friend of my little
maid Lottie, that it was you who taught her to read, and first led her to
think of her soul, or rather to know that she had such a thing as a soul.”

“I was very sorry for the poor little child; she had a most wretched
home,” replied Mrs. Holdich.

“Is it true that her father was of such a very violent temper?”

“So violent when he had been drinking,” said Rebekah, “that I have seen
the poor child disfigured for weeks from blows received from her father;
and as for her unhappy mother, there is not a doubt that she would have
been actually killed by Abner Stone in one of his drunken fits, had not
Mr. Madden nobly saved her life at the peril of his own. The ruffian was
going to dash out her brains with a poker.”

“And Mr. Lionel came forward——”

“Oh, not Mr. Lionel,” said Mrs. Holdich with a smile; “I am not aware
that he ever entered a cottage; it was his younger brother, who is now
labouring for God in the Holy Land, he who built the pretty school-house
at Wildwaste, who saved poor Deborah’s life. The beautiful carvings from
Bethlehem which you saw in our cottage were sent to me by him.”

“What has become of Lottie’s father?” asked Isa, after having walked on
for some minutes in silence.

“No one knows,” replied Rebekah. “Abner Stone suddenly disappeared from
this part of the country, after a gentleman had been found lying on the
road, having been knocked off his horse by a highwayman. It is more than
suspected that Stone did the deed, but fled on hearing some one come up
to the spot.”

“It is strange,” observed Isa, “that Lottie could speak with tenderness
of such a parent; her eyes filled with tears when she expressed her hopes
that God would one day bring him back.”

“Her mother will never hear a word spoken against him,” said Rebekah.
“Poor Deborah Stone is a true, faithful wife, and I believe prays night
and day for the return of a husband whom she has loved through such
trials as few but herself could have borne. I cannot help thinking,”
pursued the steward’s gentle wife, “that there must have been some good
even in Abner when he was sober; it is the fatal habit of drinking which
makes a savage even of a kind-hearted man.”

“Lottie was looking sad yesterday evening at the lecture,” observed Isa.

“Maybe the poor child frets after her mother and brother,—they were never
separated before; they have clung together through sorrow and hardship,
and Lottie may feel lonely at first away from her home, though it is but
a poor one.”

“It is not easy to arrange for the family to meet,” said Isa. “Mrs.
Stone has to earn her own living, and Axe is at least six miles from

“I hope that you will not mind my mentioning it, Miss Gritton,” said
Rebekah, in a deferential tone, “but our little open cart is going on
Saturday to Axe to bring our Ned to pass the Sunday with us,”—Mrs.
Holdich’s eye brightened as she spoke of the expected visit from her
son—“and if Lottie could be spared, I am sure that she would be most
welcome to a place in it, to go and see her poor mother.”

“A good and kind thought,” replied Isa. “She might stay over Sunday at
Axe, and return in the baker’s cart on the following morning.”

“If you could kindly spare her,” repeated Mrs. Holdich, almost as much
pleased at the prospect of the lonely Deborah having the comfort of a
visit from her child, as in the expectation of welcoming her own.

“Leave of absence will be easily given,” observed Isa, “especially as I
am not living at Wildwaste at present; so the services of our little maid
are less required, as she was engaged upon my account.”

Mrs. Holdich turned towards the shop of Bolder, after accompanying Miss
Gritton to the door of the new brick tenement, which appeared to Isa yet
more bare and destitute either of beauty or comfort every time that she
returned from the wood-girdled Castle of Lestrange.

Lottie was waiting at the open door to receive her mistress, having been
eagerly on the watch for her return.

“Would you like to go home to your mother, Lottie?” said Isa.

Instead of the sparkle of delight which Isa expected to call up in the
black eyes of her little maid, an anxious look of inquiry filled them.

“O Miss Isa! I know I bees awkward, I did break another saucer last
night—but—but won’t you give me a little longer trial?”

Isa was amused at the confession, made with evident effort, for the blood
rushed to the face of the simple girl as she spoke. “I had no thought of
sending you away, Lottie,” said the young mistress, kindly; “but if you
would like to pass a couple of days with your mother, Mrs. Holdich will
give you a seat in her cart which is going on Saturday to Axe.”

It was pleasant to Isa to see the sudden transition to joy on the
countenance of her little servant; Lottie clapped her hands like a child
to whom a holiday is promised. With a heart warmed by the sight of the
innocent happiness which she had given, Isa Gritton opened the door of
her brother’s study, and entered the dull apartment with a light step and
radiant smile, like one whose presence could make “sunshine in a shady
place.” Gaspar was seated by a fireless grate; though shivering with
chilliness, he would not indulge in a fire in April. He certainly looked
even more sickly than usual, and Isa felt her cheerfulness damped at
once as, without rising, her brother held out two cold fingers to her,
with the dry observation, “So you can actually leave the delights of the
Castle for an hour, to see if your brother be dead or alive!”

“Nay, dear Gaspar,” said Isa, expostulatingly, as she seated herself by
his side, “if I thought that you needed my society—that I could be a
real comfort to you—” she stopped short, being too candid to make empty
professions, and not having made up her mind how far she could truthfully

“I don’t care for words, I like deeds,” observed Gaspar, coldly; “women
always can talk.”

The fresh, bright colour which Isa had brought in from her walk over
the common, deepened a little on her cheek, but she had resolved to
be patient and cheerful, and let her visit give nothing but pleasure.
Though it might be scarcely necessary to tell Gaspar that she had given
a holiday to her young maid, it occurred to Isa that it might be well to
show him the deference of asking his consent.

“Lottie would be very glad to see her mother,” observed Isa after a short
silence; “she is a poor, shy little bird, that has never before left
the nest; Mrs. Holdich has arranged to make all easy for her going on
Saturday to Axe, if you’ll kindly give her leave for two days.”

“I shall do no such thing,” replied Gaspar, peevishly; “I don’t give a
girl wages for going to see her mother.”

Isa was a little annoyed, but without betraying that she felt so,
observed, “I am sure that Hannah would manage nicely without her for
so short a time. You know, Gaspar, that you yourself thought a second
servant unnecessary here.”

“I do so still,” said Mr. Gritton, taking a pinch of snuff; “but as long
as I keep two, I’ll have the services for which I pay.”

“But, Gaspar, I hope that this time—as a personal favour to myself—you
will graciously grant leave of absence. I have given Lottie hopes, or
rather permission to go to her mother; it would vex me were she to be

Lottie herself had just opened the door, having come to ask Miss Isa if
she would not take some refreshment after her walk. She caught Isa’s last
sentence, and stood with her hand on the door-handle, quite innocent of
any intention of eavesdropping, but too anxious to hear her master’s
answer to think of anything else.

“Oh, you’ve given permission, have you! then I don’t see why you should
take the trouble of asking mine,” said Gaspar, ungraciously. “Let her
go, it is nothing to me; I don’t care if she stay away altogether, an
awkward, clumsy gipsy-girl, not worth the salt that she eats.”

Lottie retreated, closing the door behind her, and ran hastily up-stairs
to indulge in a good hearty cry. Isa saw the poor girl retiring, and was
annoyed at the mortification so needlessly inflicted on a warm young

[Illustration: LOTTIE’S GRIEF.]

Gaspar having, though so uncourteously, yielded the point in question,
his sister changed the subject of conversation. She drew from her bag a
copy of the _Times_.

“I did not forget your wishes, Gaspar; but my uncle would be glad to have
the paper back, as he has the _Times_ bound at the end of the year.”

Gaspar took the periodical without thanks, and prepared himself for the
enjoyment of its perusal by a copious pinch of snuff, scattering the
brown powder as he did so over the printed sheet. Isa knew that the
baronet was very particular about his papers, and mentally resolved never
again to ask for a loan of the _Times_.

Gaspar pushed his chair round towards the light, and settled himself
to read, taking no further notice of Isa, who sat undecided whether to
remain or to leave him to the occupation which he evidently found more
interesting than her society. Isa had stored her memory with little
anecdotes and small scraps of news which she thought might amuse the
recluse, but Gaspar showed no wish to enter into conversation. His sister
thought with regret of the time when they used to meet in London under
the roof of a friend, when her brother had appeared to her to be all
courtesy and kindness.

“Does he love me less because he knows me better?” was the disheartening
thought which crossed her mind.

Mr. Gritton read for some minutes in silence, and Isa was thinking of
rising to depart, when, looking over his newspaper, her brother suddenly
addressed her.

“Isa, have you ever met that woman?”

“I do not know of whom you are speaking,” answered Isa.

“Cora Madden, of course,” said Gaspar. “I repeat—have you ever met her?”

“Yes; several times, years ago,” replied his sister.

“And did you ever speak to her; did you come upon the subject of—of—what
we were speaking about the other morning?”

“Certainly not,” answered Isa; “I have never seen her since my loss; of
our dear father’s last words I have spoken to no one but yourself; I was
not even aware of the name of the orphan to whom he referred.”

Gaspar fixed on his sister a gaze so keen and suspicious that it aroused
in her bosom an emotion of indignation. “Were you intimate with her,
or with any of the Maddens?” he inquired, in the tone of a lawyer
cross-questioning a witness. Isa shrank as if his rough hand had touched
a scarcely healed wound.

“I was never intimate with Cora,” she replied; “it seemed to me that she
disliked me, but I never knew till now that she had any cause to do so.”

“She had no cause—none—none,” said Gaspar, almost stuttering in the
eagerness of his denial. “I told you and I tell you again, that you
utterly mistook the meaning of that message from my father. I could not
help the ship going down—I had always dealt fairly by Miss Madden.”

There are occasions when something in the manner of a speaker serves not
only to neutralize the force of his words, but actually to impress on
the hearer a strong contradiction of the meaning intended. Such was the
case with Gaspar’s. Isa had had a suspicion that her brother had wronged
Cora in some pecuniary matter, but his manner of denying it changed
suspicion into conviction, and it kindled her indignation to believe
that he was now adding falsehood to fraud. The very air of the room grew
oppressive to Isa, the presence of Gaspar was painful, and when Mr.
Gritton, after his stammered-forth declaration, became again absorbed
in the _Times_, making the rustling paper a screen between himself and
his sister, Isa rose, unwilling to prolong so unpleasant a visit. The
parting between brother and sister was cold and constrained; Gaspar saw
that he had not satisfied Isa, and mingled resentment, fear, and shame,
struggled together in his breast. Isa gave a long-drawn sigh of relief
when she found herself again in the open air, and could turn her back
upon Wildwaste Lodge.

“I am certain that wrong has been done,” thought Isa, as she slowly bent
her steps towards Bolder’s dwelling, “but it is not for me to repair it.
Cora has been sent poverty, doubtless, as a well-merited chastisement;
let me banish the subject from my mind. But why is it that my interest in
the orphan’s cause has so much cooled since I have learned that orphan’s
name? Why is it that even with my distress and shame on account of my
unhappy brother there is mingled—dare I own it—something that resembles a
feeling of gratified revenge! Here, indeed, is a Midianite in the soul!
Cora is the only being upon earth whom I regard with actual aversion, but
I knew not till now how such aversion could warp my sense of justice—of
right! Oh! what revelations God makes to us of the evil lurking within
our own hearts, which the world had not suspected, which we had never
suspected ourselves!”

To Isa’s self-reproach was added another emotion as painful,—the fear
that duty might call for some effort on her part to set right what was
wrong, to work on the conscience of her brother, to try to induce him
to retrace his steps if he had wandered from the path of rectitude.
Isa trembled at the very thought of what might lie before her; never
previously had duty worn to her an aspect so repulsive. Isa knew that
she ought to endeavour, by self-denying kindness, to strengthen her
influence over Gaspar; that it should be one of the chief objects of her
life to win his confidence and his love; instead of doing this, she could
not help perceiving with mortification that, since coming to Wildwaste,
she had been steadily losing ground in the affections of her brother.
He thought her selfish, worldly, indifferent to his comfort. Could it
be that she was indeed so? Were her most pure and innocent earthly
enjoyments becoming a snare to her soul?

Such distressing reflections kept Isa very silent as she retraced her
steps towards Castle Lestrange by the side of Rebekah Holdich. The
steward’s wife had too much delicacy to intrude conversation where she
saw that it would not be welcome; she perceived that the short visit
to the Lodge had had the effect of damping the spirits of Miss Gritton.
Rebekah’s own heart, on the contrary, was filled with gladness, on
account of the change which she had found in one who had once appeared
to her hard and unimpressionable as granite. Tychicus had ever seemed
to Rebekah an opinionative, self-righteous man, and though she had
pitied his sufferings, and had done what she could to relieve them, her
compassion for the invalid had not been strengthened by personal regard.
But on this day Rebekah had found Tychicus softened, humbled, subdued.
She had heard him for the first time own that it had been good for him to
be afflicted, for he had learned more of himself and of his Saviour in
trouble than he had ever known in prosperous days. The furnace was doing
its work; and while Mrs. Bolder plaintively lamented that her husband
must be “down in heart, to do himself such injustice,” her friend was
secretly rejoicing that the Pharisee as well as the publican may be led
to cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner!”

“I remember,” thought Rebekah, “what Mr. Eardley once said to my boy when
he stood watching a caterpillar spinning a very beautiful cocoon. ‘God
sets that little creature a task to do, and diligently and skilfully he
does it; and so God gives us good works to perform in His name and for
His sake. But were the insect to remain satisfied for ever in the silken
ball which he is weaving, it would become not his home but his tomb.
No; forcing a way through it, and not resting in it, will the winged
creature reach sunshine and air. He must leave his own works behind, if
he would shine in freedom and joy. And so it is with the Christian. If he
_rest in his own works_, whatever they may be, he is dead to God and lost
to glory; he is making of what he may deem _virtues_ a barrier between
himself and his Saviour.’ Yes,” mused Rebekah; “God be praised that poor
Bolder is making his way through the silken web; he is feeling the need
of other righteousness than his own.”

As soon as Isa arrived at the Castle, she tried to put away all
remembrance of her painful visit to Wildwaste, but it haunted her during
the greater part of the day. In the evening, however, when a circle of
friends gathered around Sir Digby’s hospitable board, her efforts were
more successful. Isa was naturally formed both to attract in society
and to enjoy it; she delighted in “the feast of reason and the flow of
soul;” her spirits had the elasticity of youth, and as she sat at the
head of her uncle’s table, with everything that could please and gratify
around her, Isa felt that life might still become to her a bright and
joyous thing. Her soul was as a well-tuned harp, giving out cheerful and
harmonious music, till a few sentences overheard of the conversation
between two of the guests jarred on her as if a discordant string had
been suddenly touched, and brought the shadow of past trial over the
brightness of present enjoyment.

“You know Lionel Madden, then?”

“A little; his wife I have known for the last thirty years. I hear that
their union is by no means a happy one; but what else could be expected
when she married only for the sake of a handsome face, and he for that of
a handsome fortune?”

“They say that Miss Madden made the match.”

“She certainly did,” was the reply. “Cora had lost almost all her own
money in some unlucky investment, so was resolved that her brother at
least should keep a carriage. But in the case of the Maddens the driving
fell to the share of the ladies, and the bride found that, as two suns
cannot shine in one orbit, so two sisters-in-law cannot yield one whip,
and poor Cora was, metaphorically speaking, very speedily left on the

Isa felt her cheeks glow at this incidental mention of those whose fates
had been so closely linked with her own, and, perhaps to cover her
emotion, said in a very low voice to Mr. Eardley, who was seated beside
her, “Do you not count the light gossip which sports with the characters
and concerns of the absent, amongst ‘the Midianites in the soul’?”

“I should count as such everything that mars the charity or spirituality
of Christians,” replied the clergyman. “Such things are, indeed, like
Midian, a great host; not one giant foe to be overcome once and for
ever, but a legion that incessantly harass, whether in the circles of
society, or in the sacred central point of home.”

The last word recalled to Isa’s mind the image of an invalid brother,
left in dull loneliness; and a slight scarcely audible sigh, told of a
secret emotion of self-reproach and misgiving.




On Friday evening Mr. Eardley, in the cottage of Holdich, went on with
the history which he had chosen as his theme.


We are to-day to examine faith in a further state of development. If only
the green leaves of hope appear, if—as with the barren fig-tree in the
parable—there be no fruit, or promise of fruit, hope itself becomes but
self-deception. _Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which
I say?_ asked the Saviour; _If ye love Me, keep My commandments._ Faith
must blossom into obedience, as we see the fruit-trees in our orchards
now bursting into brightness and beauty. Yes; obedience is the blossom,
and the essence of its fragrance, _self-denial_. In heaven obedience
is ever a source of delight; but in a world of sin like this, it must,
sooner or later, involve a sacrifice of the human will to the divine.
Sweet to our Lord is the fragrance which rises like incense when the
lips of his servant—tempted and tried—can echo the words once breathed
from His own to His Father in heaven, _Not as I will, but as Thou wilt_.

Gideon had received a promise from the Lord: it was linked, as God’s
promises ever are, with a command. That night the Lord thus spake to the
son of Joash: “Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock
of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father
hath, and cut down the grove that is by it; and build an altar unto the
Lord thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take
the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the
grove which thou shalt cut down.”

Many difficulties lay in the way of the execution of such a command,
and obedience to it must be fraught with great danger. We should not
have marvelled had we found that Gideon had pleaded to be spared a part
at least of the painful task assigned him. He was not of the tribe to
which pertained the service of the sanctuary; he had, under ordinary
circumstances, no right to offer such a sacrifice to God. His own
father was an idolater: was it for Gideon to destroy what a parent had
set up, to draw down upon himself, as might be expected, the severe
displeasure of that parent, and perhaps involve Joash in the peril to
which he himself would be certainly exposed? Then—as Gideon might have
anxiously reflected—as it would be impossible for him by the strength of
his single right hand to cut down a grove, destroy an altar, and build
another as God had commanded, where was he to find comrades trusty enough
and bold enough to help in the perilous work?

Gideon is not represented in the sacred narrative as a man likely to
rush heedlessly upon an enterprise of difficulty and danger, and such
thoughts as I have suggested are likely to have passed through his mind.
They would have led many in his place to frame excuses, or at least
to interpose delays. But we hear not of Gideon doing either. A direct
command had been given; simple, unquestioning obedience followed. Gideon
took ten men of his servants, and did as the Lord had said unto him.
Conscious of danger to be apprehended, not only from the Midianites and
the men of his own city, but even from the household of his father, the
son of Joash chose the night-time to accomplish his task. Under the
cover of darkness, when other eyes were closed in sleep, Gideon and his
companions felled the trees of the grove, cast down the altar of Baal,
and raised another to Israel’s God. They led thither the appointed
sacrifice, slew the bullock, and set fire to the wood, from whence the
smoke of the burnt-offering rose towards heaven. That was a busy, an
eventful, and must have been an anxious night to Gideon. By so decisive
an act, he had indeed drawn the sword and thrown the scabbard away.

[Illustration: THE ALTAR RAISED.]

The deed was done, the match was laid to the train, and Gideon must have
awaited in anxious expectation the explosion which was certain to follow.
The morning’s light revealed the work of the night; the idolatrous men
of the city beheld the altar of Baal laid low in the dust, and from
mouth to mouth passed the question, “Who hath done this thing?” If
Gideon had entertained any hope of concealment, that hope was a brief
one; either one of his comrades had turned informer, or some lurking spy
had witnessed his act, or, as seems more probable, he had already won
such a character for uncompromising fidelity to his God, that suspicion
instantly fixed upon him as the man who had dared to cut down the grove,
and destroy the idol-altar. “Gideon, the son of Joash, hath done this

Then rose the furious cry for blood from the enraged worshippers of Baal.
They demanded the life of the man who had dared to insult their god.

The Almighty raised up a protector for Gideon. It was the altar of an
idolatrous father which he had cast down, and we might have expected the
fury of Joash to have been turned against him; but the hearts of all men
are in the hand of the Lord, and we find Joash suddenly in the character
of a defender of his son’s bold act. Many a prayer may have risen from
the depth of Gideon’s soul when he beheld his father, a descendant of
Abraham, debasing himself by worshipping Baal. His own noble deed seems
to have had the effect of opening the eyes of his parent to the folly of
bowing down to an idol that could not protect his shrine from insult.
With spirit and courage Joash faced those who would have sacrificed to
vengeance the life of his son. “Will ye plead for Baal?” he cried; “will
ye save him? He that will plead for him, let him be put to death whilst
it is yet morning; if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one
hath cast down his altar!” and Joash called Gideon Jerubbaal, “let Baal
plead,” in mockery of the false god to whom he himself had once bowed

We are not directly told what was the effect of Joash’s speech on the
men of his city, Abiezer, but we can easily gather what it was from the
recorded fact that on Gideon’s blowing a trumpet they were the first to
rally around him; they who had demanded his blood now acknowledged him as
their leader. A spirit of patriotism appears to have been suddenly roused
in Israel, and the people, in throwing off the bonds of superstition
and idolatry, rose also to shake off the fetters of their earthly
oppressors. Messengers were sent by Gideon throughout Manasseh, and to
Asher, Zebulon, and Naphtali. From the slopes of Hermon and Tabor, from
the shores of the Lake of Gennesareth, from the banks of the Jordan,
from that northern portion of Canaan in which, in after times, the
Saviour spent the years of His boyhood, hastened the liberators of Israel
at the call of their Heaven-appointed chief. Nor was the enemy idle.
The Midianites, the Amalekites, and the children of the East gathered
together, and pitched in the valley of Jezreel. That valley and the
country adjacent are full of historical associations of deep interest.
Jezreel appears to have been in the centre of the great plain of
Esdraelon, or Megiddo, which is bounded on the north by the mountains of
Galilee, on the south by those of Samaria, and in which flow the water of
Kishon, “that ancient river” which swept away Sisera’s hosts. Well might
the triumphant song of Deborah here recur to Gideon, to brace up his soul
for the coming conflict. He saw around him the warriors of Zebulon and
Naphtali, the tribes who, under Barak, _jeoparded their lives unto the
death in the high places of the field_. Joash himself may have been one
of the heroes who had _willingly offered themselves_ to oppose the might
of Sisera, and may have heard from the lips of the prophetess the strain
of triumph which closed with the words, _So let all Thine enemies perish,
O Lord: but let them that love Him be as the sun when he goeth forth in
his might_.

And now we behold the young Manassite, who was so lately threshing corn
alone by the wine-press to hide it, a general at the head of an army of
thirty-two thousand men. Such success, such a blessing had followed on
faith shown in obedience! And here let us leave Gideon, and apply to
ourselves the lesson conveyed in his marvellous story.

Every command of our heavenly Master, my brethren, is as a
treasure-casket, to be opened by the key of obedience grasped in the
hand of faith. The casket may to our eyes look hard and repulsive, the
tempter may seek to persuade us that we shall either find it empty, or
filled with bitterest gall. But _wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and
He shall exalt thee. The blessing of the Lord it maketh rich, and He
addeth no sorrow with it._ Look at Noah, employed during _a hundred and
twenty years_, amidst the mocking and scorn of a most wicked generation,
in building an enormous ark in obedience to God’s command. What did he
find at last in it to reward his labour of patience, his obedience of
faith. Present deliverance from death for himself and his family, and
the sceptre of a renovated world! Remember Abraham and his anguish when
he received the mysterious command to sacrifice his son—the son whom
he tenderly loved. Did not the tempter urge him in that awful hour to
cast away his obedience, to turn from a command which to human nature
appeared so hard? The hand of faith might tremble, but it refused not the
awful task; and what lay enclosed within the dreaded command? A treasure
compared to which earth’s crowns are but baubles, and all its riches
dust. The promise of a Saviour to spring from Abraham’s line, in whom all
the families of the earth should be blessed!

We also have before us commands enclosing blessings reserved for those
to whom grace is given to obey God’s will through the power of faith. In
the difficult task appointed for Gideon we may trace an emblem of that
set before every individual who bears the name of Christian. There is
first the altar of Baal to be thrown down; _self_ must be dethroned from
its shrine, the heart’s idolatry must be renounced; and who can say that
to yield up self-will is not as difficult a duty as that which Gideon
performed on that eventful night at Ophrah? There is also the grove to be
cut down, a type of those things lawful and even beautiful in themselves,
but which become to us snares if they stand in the way of duty, if they
hide from us heaven’s light. God hath given to us all things richly to
enjoy; but if the gifts make us forget the Giver, if they cause us to
neglect appointed duties, they are as the goodly trees by the altar of
Baal, whose wood was to be used as fuel, and not reserved for shade.

Thirdly, there is the altar to be raised, the appointed sacrifice to be
offered. I need scarcely remind you, my friends, that in this sacrifice
there is _nothing of atonement_—the blood of Christ, and that _alone_,
has power to cleanse from sin, or to reconcile the sinner to God; yet
is the Christian permitted, yea, _commanded_, to offer himself a living
sacrifice, _holy, acceptable unto God_. As Gideon was not of the priestly
tribe, and yet was given special grace to perform the priestly office,
so the Lord deigns to make of His ransomed servants _a royal priesthood_
as well as _a peculiar people_. Christ’s sacrifice was the Sacrifice of
Atonement; the sacrifice of His saints is that of thanksgiving. _The
offering of a free heart will I give Thee, O Lord, and praise Thy name._

To each one amongst us to whom a present Saviour has been revealed by
faith, the word of the Lord hath come as to the son of Joash. We may
have rejoiced in the _promise_, but have we obeyed the command? Let
us be honest with ourselves, my brethren; if the altar of Baal be yet
standing, can we hope to drive the Midianites out of the land? Faith, if
_real_, must appear in obedience; _show me thy faith without thy works,
and I will show thee my faith by my works_, saith the inspired apostle.
I commend the subject to your earnest attention. Let each search and
try his own heart, and compare his life with the law of his God. Let
each remember that even _every thought_ must be brought captive to the
obedience of Christ, through the aid of the Holy Spirit, without whom we
can do nothing pleasing to the Lord. I cannot better close our meditation
on this subject than by repeating the words of our Redeemer in His Sermon
on the Mount:—_Whosoever heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them,
I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and
the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat
upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And
every one that heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them not, shall
be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and
the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat
upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it._




After the close of the service, Isa, as before, spoke to her little
black-eyed maid, and inquired after the health of Gaspar.

“Master has caught cold in his eyes, and he says it’s east wind, and
shuts himself up. He can’t read, nor write, and he seems very dull-like,”
said Lottie, whose own sunburnt face was bright with the anticipated
holiday before her.

Isa sent a message to Mr. Gritton, and after exchanging a few words with
Henry Eardley, left the cottage with Edith Lestrange. The little heiress
thought her cousin unusually silent as they walked back to the Castle.

“Edith, dear,” said Isa at last, “I am going to return to Wildwaste

“Not to stay there, I hope,” cried Edith.

“Yes, to stay there,” replied Isa, suppressing a sigh. “I feel that poor
Gaspar needs me; I think that my right place is home.”

“Perhaps it is,” said Edith, reluctantly. Unwilling as she was to part
with her cousin, Edith’s own views were clear on the subject; the nearest
relation had the nearest claim—nothing would have induced her to leave
her own father when he needed the comfort of her presence. Edith thought
it wrong to try to prevent Isa from doing what she would have thought it
right to do in her place.

The baronet was not, however, so forbearing. When his niece announced
to him her intention of leaving the Castle on the following day,
he playfully but strongly opposed her resolution. Sir Digby justly
considered that Isa’s companionship was both a pleasure and an advantage
to his child, while her lively conversation and intelligence made it
also agreeable to himself. Sir Digby felt that his graceful niece was
an ornament to his Castle, and would fain have ignored altogether her
connection with “a low man retired from business, who had disfigured the
neighbourhood by sticking up on the heath a cockney villa, which only
wanted a swinging sign to be mistaken for a newly built public-house.”

“Having you safe here in ward in this our Castle, we shall certainly not
let our prisoner go, save on parole to return within two hours,” said the
baronet; “Edith, I commit the charge of our captive to you.”

“But what if I am a warder not to be trusted?” asked Edith, with a smile;
“what if I connive at the captive’s escape?”

“Seriously, Isa,” said Sir Digby, “you cannot think of going back so soon
to that—that damp and not very cheerful locality;” the baronet did not
know how to designate the dwelling itself by any term combining courtesy
with truth.

“Indeed, I must return to my brother,” said Isa.

“You will stay over Sunday, at least. I have an idea—I believe that you
like attending the service at Axe.”

How greatly Isa enjoyed the Sundays spent with the Lestranges the baronet
knew not. The devotional spirit which breathed through the church service
was refreshing and reviving to her soul. To Mr. Eardley Isa looked up
as the most faithful of pastors and the holiest of men; she met him
not unfrequently at the Castle, and the deeper the knowledge that the
young maiden gained of the sterling qualities of his character, the
more she wondered that her eyes had ever been dazzled by unsubstantial
tinsel, and the more grateful she felt to God for having preserved her
from the effects of her own folly. Isa would probably have yielded to
the temptation to “stay over Sunday,” but for the reflections which the
story of Gideon had suggested to her mind. The grove, emblem of things
in themselves lawful and desirable, which become snares when they stand
in the way of duty, might not Isa find its counterpart in the pleasures
of Castle Lestrange? Isa thought of the throwing down of self-will, the
sacrifice of inclination, and so resisted the kind pressing of her uncle,
and the more powerful pleading of her own wishes.

Edith ordered the carriage on the following morning to take her cousin to
Wildwaste; she would herself accompany her thither. Isa would have liked
to have asked her young companion to stay and spend the day at the Lodge,
to brighten its dulness with her society; but in Gaspar’s nervous and
irritable state, Isa feared that a visitor might annoy him, especially
on a Saturday morning, which was always given to accounts. Edith, with
instinctive delicacy, removed any difficulty on the part of her cousin,
by saying that she would not this time remain to pay her visit, but drive
on beyond Wild waste to return the call of some neighbouring family.

“While I am at Wildwaste, however, I should like just to look into the
little school,” said Edith, as she and her cousin were driving from
Castle Lestrange.

“I have been into it two or three times,” observed Isa,—“I mean into the
room in which Mrs. Collins teaches the girls; I have never yet ventured
amongst the boys—the young savages who look so ragged and wild.”

“Oh! they are polished gentlemen compared to what they were when Mr.
Arthur first took them in hand; so Mrs. Holdich has told me,” laughed
Edith. “They were like a pack of wild dogs, delighting to torment and
worry every creature unfortunate enough to come within their reach, from
poor little unfledged sparrows to Mrs. Stone’s son, whom they actually
hunted into fits!”

“And Mr. Arthur found some one to bring them into a little better order.”

“Nay, he set about taming them himself; he used to go every morning to
play schoolmaster; the ragged little urchins thought it a grand thing to
be taught by a gentleman like him. How good does constantly come out of
what we call evil!” cried Edith. “Papa did so much dislike letting the
dear old Castle to strangers; but if he had not done so, Wildwaste would
never have had the blessing of an Arthur Madden.”

“He must have had a kind, generous spirit,” observed Isa rather dreamily,
for every reference to the Madden family sent her thoughts back strangely
to the past.

“A brave, noble spirit,” cried Edith; “for I have heard that he stood
so alone in his labours; instead of his family encouraging and helping
him, he was laughed at and opposed—at least by his elder brother and
sister. They would, I fancy, as soon have thought of going steadily to
work as ‘hands’ in that great soap-manufactory, amongst all the smoke
and horrible scent, as of teaching dirty, ragged little ‘roughs’ their
A B C in a shed! I cannot imagine Cora Madden touching one of the
Wildwaste children with the point of her parasol; and from what one hears
of her brother Lionel—but I am getting into evil-speaking,” said Edith
interrupting herself. “There is the pretty little school-house, which
it must have been such a pleasure to design and build. Papa says that
when Arthur Madden returns to England he will certainly ask him to pay
a visit to the Castle, for such public spirit ought to be countenanced.
But I dare say that Mr. Madden wants no praise—no honour from man—that
he serves his heavenly Master in the spirit expressed in my favourite
verses;” and in her soft, almost childish accents, Edith repeated Bonar’s
beautiful lines,—

    “Up and away like the dew of the morning,
      Soaring from earth to its home in the sun;
    So let me steal away gently and lovingly,
      Only remembered by what I have done.

    “My name, and my place, and my tomb all forgotten,
      The brief race of life well and patiently run;
    So let me pass away peacefully, silently,
      Only remembered by what I have done.”

Before Edith had concluded the verses, the carriage had stopped at the
entrance to the little school-house, on the side appropriated to the

“The hive seems to be empty,” observed Isa, as she alighted. “I thought
that work was always going on at this hour, but I hear no hum of voices
from within.”

A feeble wail was the only audible sound. After tapping gently at
the door, Isa entered, followed by her cousin, into the neat little
school-room, which usually presented a scene of cheerful industry. Its
only occupants were, however, the schoolmistress and the babe which
she rocked in her arms. The poor woman looked haggard and pale from a
sleepless night, her face bore the stamp of anxious care, and vainly she
attempted to soothe the little sufferer, that seemed from its wasted
appearance not to have many more days to live. Mrs. Collins rose on the
entrance of the ladies, still continuing to rock her sick babe.

“Pray do not rise, Mrs. Collins; I fear that your dear child is very
poorly,” said Isa, looking with gentle sympathy on the suffering infant.

The schoolmistress sank down again on her seat, and drew a heavy sigh as
she answered, “The doctor thinks I shall lose her: I did not close an
eye all last night: I really could not hold the school this morning: it
is the first time that ever I sent the children away, but Mrs. Bolder
has taken charge of even my own little boys—I could not bear the noise
for poor baby.” Mrs. Collins spoke apologetically, as one who fears that
she is neglecting a duty. Isa’s expression of sympathy encouraged her to
proceed: “I am afraid that I shall have to tell the girls not to come
to-morrow: my husband cannot undertake them as well as the boys, for
neither of the rooms would hold all together.”


“Have you to teach on Sundays as well as on week-days?” asked Edith.

“Only for an hour before morning service, and another in the afternoon,
Miss Lestrange. I’m sorry to give it up even for one Sunday, for few of
the children ever see the inside of a church; and but for the school, as
Mr. Bolder used to say, they would grow up like heathen.” Mrs. Collins
was still rocking the baby, that, to her great relief, was at length
dropping asleep in her arms.

“Shall I come to-morrow and take your class?” asked Isa. “I have had
little experience in tuition, but I could read to the girls, teach
them hymns, and question them out of the Bible, while you sit quietly
upstairs nursing your poor little child.”

The look of gratitude in the eyes of the anxious mother said more than
her words, as she eagerly accepted the young lady’s offer.

“And I will see if there is not something that I can send to do the dear
baby good,” said Edith, resolved to drive back and consult Mrs. Holdich
on the subject.

The cousins left the school-room with a pleasant consciousness that they
had lightened a heavy burden. To Isa, especially, the feeling was sweet.
What she had heard of the labours of Arthur Madden had raised the thought
in her mind, “Oh, that I could _go and do likewise_; that I too could
leave a blessing behind, and be ‘remembered by what I had done!’” At once
a door of usefulness was opened before her. Why should she not every
Sunday relieve the hard-worked schoolmistress, and let the weary mother
enjoy amidst her children what would then be a Sabbath indeed? Isa had
for a few weeks taught a Bible-class in London; she liked the work, it
gave interest to life, it took away the sense of weariness and emptiness
which will sometimes creep over the spirit even of the lovely and young.
Isa knew the task of tuition would be far lighter to her than it had
been to the young man whose example was before her: she would go where
she would be welcomed, amongst children already trained to some degree
of order: she would have no opposition or ridicule to fear; for Gaspar,
so long as she made no demands on her purse, was contented to let his
sister do very much as she pleased. That brief visit to the school-room
had to Isa changed greatly the aspect of life at Wildwaste. Her Sundays
at least would not be joyless; she was permitted to do the Lord’s work,
she might hope for His presence and blessing. She had made a sacrifice of
inclination by returning to Wildwaste, and she was beginning to see that
even in that dreary place God might give her rich cause for rejoicing.

“Yes; I shall be happier even here, trying to please my heavenly Master,
than at Castle Lestrange, with the feeling ever arising that I am seeking
to please self alone.”

It was this thought that made Isa Gritton bear patiently the dull
monotony of the home to which she had returned, and the wayward
fretfulness of him whose society now replaced that in which she had found
such delight. Though Gaspar’s temper was more than usually trying, not
once did a peevish tone betray irritation, not once did a frown furrow
Isa’s fair brow. For hours, on the evening after her return, Isa sat
reading aloud to her brother a work upon commercial statistics, in which
she herself took not a shadow of interest. Certainly her mind wandered
much from the book, and when at length she wearily closed it, Isa could
not have recalled a single sentence which it contained. But she had been
serving an invalid brother and not pleasing herself; and if this duty was
less attractive than that of feeding the Saviour’s lambs, it was equally
that which He had assigned her, and it was fulfilled for His sake.

Mankind applaud great acts of munificence, costly offerings presented
like those of Solomon in open day, in the sight of all; but by far the
greater number of the sacrifices which God accepts are made, as it were,
like Gideon’s, in the night-time, in the obscurity of domestic life,
where no praise is looked for from man. There is deep truth in the
well-known lines of Keble,—

    “The trivial round, the common task,
    Afford us all we ought to ask—
    Room to deny ourselves, a road
    To lead us daily nearer God.”





Early on the Saturday afternoon Lottie Stone, with her little bundle in
her hand, tripped lightly over the common towards the cottage of Holdich,
which lay embosomed within the woods of Lestrange. She was on her way
to her parent’s home, and pleasure winged her steps. There are few joys
more keen and pure than those experienced by a young girl, like Lottie,
returning to the family whom she loves, after her first absence. What
though Mrs. Stone’s dwelling-place was but a single room over a shop,
with a tiny attic chamber for her son; to Lottie there was still a charm
in the word “home,” for love and peace abode there. She clapped her hands
for joy as the open cart in which she was seated rattled down the narrow
paved street of Axe, and she caught sight of the ungainly figure of her
only brother standing before the shop. Out sprang Lottie almost before
the horse was pulled up, and in another minute she was locked in the
arms of her mother.

How much had Lottie to tell; how fast she talked, how merrily she
laughed, as she sat at her mother’s little deal table spread with unusual
dainties—buttered muffins, and toast, and water-cresses from the stream.
The washerwoman had “cleared up and made all tidy” for the reception
of her daughter; and her son had decked the homely room with bunches
of cowslips and daffodils. Deborah’s care-worn brow seemed less deeply
wrinkled, and her thin anxious face often relaxed into a smile, as her
merry child talked over her first eventful month of service, playfully
describing what at the time of occurrence had seemed to her anything but
sources of mirth,—her own petty troubles and ignorant blunders. Lottie’s
hearers drew from her recital that Hannah was a somewhat formidable
task-mistress, that “Master” was not very easily pleased, that crockery
at the Lodge had a peculiar tendency to slip out of clumsy fingers, but
that “Miss Isa” was the kindest of mistresses, and that a smile from her
seemed to smooth every difficulty away.

“Bless your dear heart, how your poor father would have liked to have
heard you!” exclaimed Deborah Stone, as the merry girl at length stopped
to take breath.

For the loyal heart of the deserted wife remained true in its allegiance.
Perhaps memory had softened the past, perhaps it overleaped the years
of bitter suffering on the one side and tyranny on the other, and
Deborah only thought of her husband as what he had been in the days of
his wooing. However that might be, conjugal affection remained firm and
bright like its pledge, the circlet on the wrinkled bony finger, the sole
piece of gold which its owner possessed, and which no strain of poverty
would ever induce her to part with. When Deborah knelt down in the
evening to offer her simple little prayer with her children, very fervent
was her supplication for one absent but never forgotten: where Abner was
she knew not, what Abner was she had proved by bitter experience, but
still, “true as the needle to the pole,” the hopes and affections of the
injured woman still pointed towards her lost husband.

Sunday was an especially happy day to Lottie, it was such a pleasure to
go to what she deemed her own church, hear her own pastor, meet again
with her own companions in the Sunday school which she used to attend.
She was only disappointed when the baronet’s carriage drew up to the
church-porch, not to see in it the bright fair face of her dear young

“A letter for you, mother,” said Mrs. Stone’s son, as he entered on the
Monday morning the little room in which Lottie, humming a lively air, was
helping her parent to clear away the remains of their early breakfast. As
Mrs. Stone’s receiving a letter of any kind was a quite unprecedented
occurrence, Lottie turned with some curiosity to see what the missive
could contain. It had come by a cross-country post, for her brother
pointed to the stamp-mark upon it, “Southampton.”

“A letter for me?—why, who would write!” exclaimed Deborah, gazing with
a look rather of anxiety than of curiosity on the address, “To D. Stone,
Wildwast,” traced in a straggling, hardly legible hand, with “Try Axe”
written below by the postmaster, showing that her correspondent could
not be aware that—years ago—she had changed her abode. It was no wonder
that Deborah did not recognize that rude handwriting, as she had seen it
but once before, when, in the parish register, she had scrawled her own
signature beneath that of her newly-wedded husband.

“O mother, do open it!” cried Lottie; “who knows whether it mayn’t bring
us news of poor father.”

It was the same thought that had made the hand of Deborah tremble as she
had taken the letter from her son. She tore open the envelope, and with
anxious eyes glanced at the signature at the end of its enclosure.

“It is—yes—oh! the Lord is merciful!” exclaimed the poor wife, with
something like a sob. Long experience of hardship and sorrow had so
strengthened her nature to endure, that it was very seldom that Deborah
gave any expression to outward emotion; but no one could have looked at
her at that moment and not have read in every line of her countenance
that the depths of her soul were stirred, that the few scarcely audible
words which escaped her lips came from the inmost recesses of a heart
where sorrow had so long fixed its abode, that when joy came it startled
and overpowered, like the visit of an angel.

[Illustration: THE LETTER.]

“Mother, read more; oh! read every word!” cried Lottie, whose only
emotions seemed those of hope and delight; while her brother looked
bewildered and scarcely able to comprehend that that piece of paper,
blotted and soiled, on which his mother’s tears were falling, actually
contained the writing of his father.

It was some little time before the trembling, excited woman could, with
the help of her children, make out the scrawl, which read as follows:—

                                                ANCOR INN, SUTAMTON.

    DEAR WIFE,—I landed here last month. I bin vry ill 6 weeks; i
    bin in det, an cant git away _till i pais_, so send me _five
    punds_ afor thusday in a letter, or i shall git in _gret
    trubel_; don’t tell no one abuit me, most of all not mister
    Erdly, cause id be had up for that scrape—mind don’t tell _no
    one_, but send mony _quick_; i hop to be a beter husband an
    father; it was all along of the drink; so no more fum yur loving

                                                        ABNER STONE.

“Five pounds—how can I send him five pounds—I’ve not five shillings in
the world!” cried Deborah, glancing around her, as if to see whether any
article in that scantily furnished room could, if sold or pawned, bring
anything like such a sum, the fifth part of which she had never possessed
at one time since her marriage.

“Five pounds!” repeated her son dreamily, as he slowly moved his fingers
one after the other, apparently to aid his dull brain in making some
mental calculation.

“We must send, oh! we must send the money!” cried Lottie, clasping her
hands. “Dear Mr. Eardley might—”

“I couldn’t ask him for another penny,” exclaimed Deborah, “he has done
so much already, and he has so many alooking to him; and then your
father forbids me to tell him a word.”

“If only Mr. Arthur were in England,” sighed Lottie.

“You earns wages,” said her brother abruptly, as if he had suddenly
lighted on some fountain of wealth.

“My quarter’s wages won’t be due till next June,” replied Lottie.

“Could your master do anything?” suggested Deborah; “it is said about
here that he’s rich.”

Lottie shook her head with a very significant expression. “He may have
plenty of money,” she said slowly, “but I’m sure he don’t like to part
with it; there’s nothing to be got out of he.”

“Here’s the baker’s cart come for you, Lottie,” cried her brother, who
had sauntered up to the window.

Lottie hurriedly snatched up her bonnet and shawl. “I mustn’t keep him;
but oh! mother, if I could only think of any way to help father—” a loud
summons shouted from below cut her short in the middle of her sentence,
and quickened her movements.

“Pray, child, pray; God Almighty will show us some way:” there was
scarcely time for the parting kiss and blessing; Lottie hurried down
into the street barely soon enough to prevent her impatient escort from
driving away without her.

Very different were the feelings of the young servant girl on her drive
from Axe, from those with which, two days before, she had entered the
quaint little town. She replied at random to the jesting observations of
the baker’s boy, she seemed unable to understand the meaning of the words
that fell on her ear, for her mind was so full of conflicting emotions
that outer things could make no impression upon it. Lottie scarcely knew
whether she was happy or unhappy, whether her inclination was to laugh
or to cry. Her prayers had been answered—her lost father was found; here
indeed was joy and cause for thanksgiving: but he was ill, in debt,
needed money, and where was that money to be procured?

“I would work my fingers to the bone!” muttered Lottie to herself, as
the cart rolled lightly along the dusty high road, “but no working would
bring more than the one pound due in June;” and thoughts of the new
boots which would then be absolutely needed would intrude on the little
maid’s mind. “I can’t go about Mr. Gritton’s house barefoot; and then he
says that I am to pay for all that I break, and, oh! the things _will_
slip out of my hands! Would my dear young lady help me? but I must not
tell even her that I want money for my poor sick father. Shall I say
that mother’s in trouble for rent?” The honest soul of Lottie recoiled
from the artful suggestion of the Tempter, and she shook her head so
emphatically in reply to it, that the baker’s boy, who had been watching
with amusement her earnest look of thought and her moving lips, burst
out into a laugh which startled her into a consciousness that she was not

“I say, Lottie Stone, what did you see in that thorn bush to make you
shake your head at it so fiercely?” cried the lad.

“I was only a-thinking,” replied Lottie.

“A penny for your thoughts,” said her companion.

But the answer was such a heavy sigh, that the good-humoured lad saw that
the little maiden was in no mood for jesting, and as she turned her head
sorrowfully away, he left her in peace to pursue her reflections.

It was perhaps well for Lottie that she had not much time for meditation
after her arrival at the Lodge. Hard work has served to relieve many an
anxious heart, and Hannah took care that her little assistant should have
her share, and much more than her share, of the labour of the house.
Lottie Stone had to pay by double work for her two days’ holiday at Axe.
Yet while she washed, and scrubbed, and tidied the rooms, the thoughts of
the poor young girl were constantly recurring to her father, and she was
revolving the difficult problem how it would be possible to procure five
pounds to send to her father before Thursday.

While Lottie was laying the cloth for dinner, she could not help hearing
the conversation going on between her master and his sister, relative to
one of the children of Isa’s Sunday class.

“I am certain that she is consumptive, and that Wildwaste is too damp
for the poor little thing. I hear that the doctor has said that her only
chance is to go to the hospital at Bournemouth.”

“I’ve no faith in doctors,” said Gaspar, applying to his snuff-box.

“If I myself had the means of sending her,” pursued Isa, “I would never
trouble you on the subject; but the expenses will be heavy, and my purse
is light, and—”

“It will always be light if you go picking up every case that comes
before you. You may throw away your money if you choose, but I shall
certainly not throw away mine;” and, rising, Gaspar walked to the window,
to put an end to the conversation.

The words which she had heard fell like cold vapour upon the heart of
Lottie. “My poor dear mistress, though she is a lady, has a light purse;
she cannot do what she wishes; she is obliged to beg her brother for
money, and he refuses to give it. Ah, there is no use in my asking help
from her! She has the will to do good, but not the power; master has
the power, but not the will. People say as how he is rich; it don’t
look like it, when he’s so angry at the candles being used so fast. I’m
sure if I were rich—;” and here the little maid’s thoughts flowed on
fast in a channel into which they had often wandered before—how much
good _she_ would do if she were rich—how much she wished that she had
plenty of money—how strange it was that some should be rolling in wealth,
while others had scarcely bread enough to satisfy hunger. There are many
through whose minds, as through Lottie’s, such a current of reflection is
wont to run; but the little servant-maid suspected that there was danger
in giving it free course.

“I do believe that Mr. Eardley would say—could he know of what I am
thinking—that I am letting those Midianites, Discontent and Distrust,
into my foolish little heart. It do seem as if I was beginning to think
everything wrong in God’s world, ’cause I can’t do what I want for
father. If I can’t ask Miss Isa to help me, is there not One above whom
I _can_ ask, and who has both the power and the will to do me good? I
needn’t be hiding nothing from God; He knows all already. He has made
poor father give up the drink, and has brought him back to England,
and has helped him over his sickness, and now He can set him free from
his debt. I must pray very hard, and pray in faith, and _pray without
fainting_, and sure the answer will come at last.”

And so, while she pursued her household labours, as well as when she
knelt by her bed-side at night; when the duster or the broom was in her
hand, as well as when her Bible lay open before her, the simple-minded
Lottie lifted up her heart to her Father in heaven, and found comfort and
hope in resting her cares upon Him.

On the evening of the following day, Lottie accompanied her mistress to
the meeting at the cottage of Holdich.





A very remarkable trial was now to test the faith of Gideon. We left him
in the proud position of the leader of an army of thirty-two thousand
men; and we can imagine how the heart of the patriot would swell with
thankfulness and joy, as the prospect of delivering his country by their
means brightened before him,—how he would welcome the arrival of each
brave band, and count up the increasing number of his forces.

Further encouragement was given to Gideon by miraculous signs vouchsafed
to him by God in answer to prayer. “If Thou wilt save Israel by my hand
as Thou hast said, behold,” cried Gideon, “I will put a fleece of wool in
the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all
the earth beside, then shall I know that Thou wilt save Israel by mine
hand, as Thou hast said.”

Early on the morrow the chieftain arose, and sought the fleece where he
had laid it. He found it heavy with moisture, though the ground lay dry
around it; and Gideon wrung out from the dripping wool a bowlful of water.

Yet Gideon ventured to beseech God to grant a reversal of this miraculous
sign, in further confirmation of his faith: “Let not Thine anger be hot
against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray Thee,
but this once with the fleece. Let it now be dry only upon the fleece,
and upon all the ground let there be dew.”

Even as Gideon had prayed, so was the sign vouchsafed; the soft dew lay
on the earth around, while the fleece remained dry.

It has been remarked that in the fleece of Gideon we may see not only a
sign, but also a type of Israel, the chosen people of God. The living
water of divine truth, the dew of a peculiar blessing, rested upon
the children of Abraham when the rest of the world was as a dry and
thirsty land. Now—alas for those who rejected, who still reject their
Messiah!—the sign is reversed. As a dry fleece the Jews remain in the
midst of Christian nations, a marvel to the world; the dew which falls
so richly around them rests not on them as a people. Oh, may God hasten
the time when the Jews also shall receive the water of life; when they
_shall look on Him whom they pierced_; and when God shall make use of
them as His chosen instruments for the conversion of the heathen! Looking
forward to that blessed time, St. Paul—himself a Jew—exclaims, _What
shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?_ Let us pray then,
my brethren, for the dew of grace to fall upon the dry fleece, that
Jerusalem, the city of the great King, may once more become the joy of
the earth.

Gideon, strengthened by signs from heaven, and surrounded by the hosts
of Israel, might now fearlessly and confidently await the conflict with
Midian; but he was not only to do God’s work, but to do it in God’s
appointed way. _Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the
Lord of hosts._ The Lord thus spake unto Gideon: “The people that are
with thee are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands,
lest Israel vaunt themselves against Me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved
me. Now, therefore, go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying,
Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from
Mount Gilead.”

In making such proclamation, Gideon was obeying a command given through
Moses (Deut. xx. 8), though it is possible that he might have omitted to
do so without the special direction from above. Startling was the effect
of the proclamation, and it needed strong faith in Gideon not to falter
when the force of Israel began to melt away like a snow-ball, till more
than two-thirds of the whole number had deserted the camp. Truly many had
been called, but few were chosen. Where were those who had so readily
obeyed the call of the trumpet, and quitted their homes for the field of
war? Of how many might it be said, _Being harnessed and carrying bows,
they turned back in the day of battle._ They were not to share the glory;
they had faltered in the moment of trial. Oh, brethren, may it never be
so with us! May _the fear of man_, which _bringeth a snare_, never make
us shrink back from the duty before us. What must have been the shame of
those who had come to the gathering of the hosts of Israel, and who had
then departed without striking one blow, when the rocks and mountains
rang with the shouts of their conquering brethren, and the victory in
which they might once have shared was won without them! _No man having
put his hand to the plough_ (or, to the sword), _and looking back, is fit
for the kingdom of heaven._

The force under Gideon had now dwindled from thirty-two thousand to ten
thousand men. Human wisdom would have deemed these all too few to oppose
the multitudes of Midian encamped in the valley before them; but not so
judged the God of hosts. The Lord said unto Gideon, “The people are yet
too many; bring them down unto the water, and I will try them for thee
there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with
thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whomsoever I say unto thee,
This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.”

Gideon, in obedience to the command, brought down his forces unto the
water, leaving the selection of the chosen band of heroes unto Him who
readeth the thoughts of the heart. Doubtless the Israelites were thirsty
from their long march in the heat of that sultry clime; by far the
greater number threw themselves on their knees by the water, stooping
down eagerly to drink; three hundred only lapped from their hands the
cooling draught. And the Lord said unto Gideon, “By the three hundred men
that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand;
and let all the other people go every man unto his place.”


Mysterious command, and yet was it instantly obeyed. Gideon dismissed the
greater part of his forces, not to their homes, but to their tents. They
had yet their appointed part to take; they would complete the victory;
they would follow up the pursuit. It is not given to all to be foremost
in peril or in fame. Some are called to do great things, to suffer great
things for God; others have a humbler part to perform: they have to
follow up the successes of their brethren; not to shine conspicuously
as Christian heroes, but to do their duty steadily as Christian men. It
is very possible that some bold spirits amongst Gideon’s ten thousand
may have been tempted to repine at being excluded from the glorious
privilege of those who were to bear the brunt, and win the highest
renown. And now the zealous servant of Christ, kept back by sickness or
some other dispensation from active usefulness for his Lord, finds it
hard to realize the truth, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
He fain would be in the scene of action; he fain would join in the
glorious strife. Must he look on while others labour? must he stand
still while others fight? My brethren, the place which our great Leader
assigns to us is the right place, however humbling it may be to our
pride. The submission of those who retired to their tents may have been
as acceptable to God as the courage of those who remained to perform the
perilous duty before them.

The truth which is especially brought to our notice in this remarkable
portion of the story of Gideon, is the necessity that God should be
given the glory of every high and holy work which He enables His people
to perform. Israel was not to say, “Mine own hand hath saved me.” Weak
instruments were purposely chosen, that the honour of success might
pertain unto God, and not man. And how often has the same lesson been
taught in the history of the Church! Not the mighty, not the noble or the
learned were appointed at the first to proclaim the gospel of salvation.
When the lowly and illiterate, when fishermen from Galilee were chosen
as leaders of the hosts of the Lord, who could not but own that their
success was due to the power of the Spirit? It is right that we should
employ all lawful means to further God’s work, but let us beware that we
rest not in means; let us especially beware that we use no means that are
not sanctified by His blessing. Had the ten thousand valiant men been led
forward by Gideon against the foe, what would their number, what would
their courage, what would their zeal have availed? Doubtless shameful
defeat would have followed presumptuous self-confidence, and he who had
rested on an arm of flesh have found that he had leaned on a broken reed.

Christians are now not unfrequently placed in a position which may remind
us of that of Gideon, when he found his forces melting away in the face
of a formidable foe. In the midst of active labours for God, one is
smitten down by sickness, his work is still to be done—the power to do
it seems taken away. Another, active in works of charity, suddenly loses
the means of which he has made such liberal use, his resources dwindle
like the army of Gideon, and he is tempted to cry, “O Lord, wherefore
hast Thou crippled my usefulness? what I had, was it not devoted to Thy
service?” My brethren, if the blessing of God be left behind, we may rest
trustfully in the assurance that He will care for His own work. He can
make a few victorious over the many. His blessing on a cruse of oil and
a handful of meal made them a surer source of supply than the granaries
of the wealthy. God hath not forsaken, He would only humble and prove His
servants, and teach them through trials of faith to look for success only
to Him.

Were it not for our past experience that flowers must fade to make
way for fruit, how sad would be the sight of the fading blossoms on a
tree—the petals strewed in the dust, their brilliant beauty departed!
But we know that what is more precious is left behind; that on the bough
remains the green germ of the fruit which shall renew the beauty of the
tree, and give to it a value beyond what it possessed in the smiling days
of spring. So see we faith in trial. Outward advantages may be taken
away, sweet hopes may fall and wither, but if the fruit-tree be thriving
and deep-rooted, harvest glory is yet to come. Job—stripped of property,
children, health—might lament the day of his birth, and believe that his
season of active usefulness was departed for ever; but through his very
trials and losses he passed to greater glory and joy, and has become a
fruitful source of blessing to the Church of God through many generations.





“I am sure that Mr. Eardley was thinking of Mr. Arthur Madden this
evening when he spoke of active labourers for God being smitten down by
sickness,” observed Rebekah Holdich to her husband, after the little
congregation had dispersed from the cottage.

“Mr. Arthur—I hope there’s nothing the matter with him!” said Holdich,
with a look of concern on his manly countenance. “The last news was that
he had been ordained at Jerusalem.”

“But I grieve to say that worse tidings came this morning to Mr. Eardley
in a letter from Mr. Arthur’s youngest sister, who has been nursing him
in a dangerous illness. The doctors say that the climate does not agree
with his health; he was ordered to England directly—he and his sister
were to start by the very next steamer.”

“It will be a real pleasure to see them again,” observed Holdich. He was
a man rather of deeds than words, so the simple sentence expressed a
great deal more than it would have done from the lips of another.

“But Mr. Arthur may never arrive, he may sink by the way,” faltered
Rebekah, who was of a disposition naturally tender, and not very hopeful.

“Wife, he is in God’s hands,” said Holdich; “sick or well, on sea or on
land—he will be given what is best for him.”

“Ah,” thought Rebekah, “my husband is always one to see behind the fading
blossoms the germ of the fruit. His is a faith that can bear wind and
storm; he can trust not only himself, but (what I find so much harder to
do) those whom he loves, to his God.”

Mrs. Bolder, as usual, carried back to her suffering husband an account
of the cottage-lecture.

“There’s a word of comfort for me,” observed Bolder; “maybe I’m like
one of these nine thousand seven hundred Israelites sent back to their
tents. They were not to be trusted to gain the victory, lest they should
boast that their own strength had won it. God kept them in the background
to keep them humble; but they were not rejected—no! Nor is many a poor
sinner like me, though shut up from active work—we shall yet be allowed
to join in the shout, _Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through
our Lord Jesus Christ._”

Lottie Stone had returned to the Lodge that evening with a very heavy
heart. Her mind was far less occupied with the lecture than with the
tidings which she had heard of the dangerous illness of one of her
earliest benefactors. Already perplexed and distressed as she was on
account of her father, this new trouble had come on the little maid as a
shock. The words in which Mrs. Bolder had communicated the news to her,
“Have you heard that Mr. Arthur Madden is dying at Jerusalem?” had struck
like a knell on her heart. Already that young tender heart was bleeding
from home anxieties and troubles of which Lottie could not speak even to
the kind mistress for whose counsel and sympathy she yearned, and now
this second blow seemed almost crushing. Her father in difficulties,
out of which she could not help him, returning after the absence of
years to his country, but sick, tied down by debt, unable to reach those
who loved him; and now the generous friend of the family dying in a
far-distant land—thoughts of all this were a most oppressive burden of
sorrow to Lottie. Her mind was so full of its troubles that she was more
than usually awkward and inattentive in service. She was unpunctual in
bringing in tea, the milk-jug was empty, the plates forgotten, the water
had never been boiling. Isa was a little displeased, Mr. Gritton was
angry, and his peevish chiding increased the confusion of poor Lottie
Stone. In her nervous haste in removing the tea-tray she knocked over a
letter-weigher which had lain upon Gaspar’s table. It fell with a clatter
which made the invalid start, and the various weights were scattered
hither and thither, some on the boards, some on the piece of brown
drugget which covered the centre of the apartment.

“The girl must have been drinking!” exclaimed Gaspar angrily, while poor
Lottie went down on her knees to gather up the weights. Isa, pitying her
confusion, said, in order to draw away the attention of Gaspar, “I have
not yet told you of Edith’s kindness; she has promised to send my poor
consumptive girl to Bournemouth.”

“I feel no interest in the matter,” replied Mr. Gritton; “I wish that,
instead of hunting up cases outside the house, you would manage to keep a
little better order within it.”

Lottie rose from her knees after her search, and timidly placed the
weigher on the mantel-piece. She had recovered all the weights belonging
to it but one, the smallest of the set, and that, in the dim light thrown
by the solitary candle on the table, she had not been able to find.
Lottie was nervously afraid lest her master should examine the small
machine and find it imperfect.

“I will hunt for the little round thing in the morning, when no one is
watching me,” thought Lottie, “and I’ll never rest then till I find
it.” The letter-weigher was the only elegant article which Gaspar’s
study contained; it had been a birth-day gift from his sister, and had
particularly attracted the admiration of Lottie, who, in her simplicity,
had taken the gilded ornament for gold. The loss of the little weight was
to the young maid a sensible addition to her heavier troubles.

“If I can’t find that little gold bit, what on earth shall I do?” thought
Lottie, with the fear before her mind of having to replace an article of
value unknown; “I dare say that it is worth half a sovereign, and master
may say that the whole thing is spoiled by its loss. How shall I ever
pay for it out of my wages, and just at a time when I would do anything
to win more money for father? I’ll get up early, so early to-morrow, and
search every cranny in that room before any one else is about in the

Lottie Stone could hardly sleep that night from the many anxious thoughts
which haunted her brain. She arose before dawn to hunt for the weight,
crept out of her little chamber, and softly descended the stairs to the
study. She opened the shutters, but the stars were glimmering yet in
the deep blue sky, there was not sufficient light for her need. Lottie
lighted a candle and began her search, under the table, the chairs, the
fender, in every likely and unlikely place she hunted, but “the little
gold bit” was not to be found.

“I’ll move the table right to the wall, and pull up the drugget, maybe
it has rolled under there,” said Lottie to herself, exerting all her
strength to move the deal table, with Gaspar’s heavy desk upon it, to the
other side of the room.

To draw up the drugget was an easier task, and scarcely had it been
removed when, stuck between two of the boards which had been covered by
the cloth, Lottie to her great relief caught sight of the bright little

She ran up to the spot, and tried to pick up the weight, but a foot had
trodden on it and pressed it in firmly. Lottie pulled harder, and to her
extreme surprise found that in moving the weight she also moved one of
the planks between which it was jammed, while a previously imperceptible
line crossed the breadth of three of them. Accident had discovered to
Lottie a most carefully concealed trap-door in the floor, in the spot
which was usually covered both by the drugget and the table. With some
little trouble Lottie managed to raise it, and with wondering curiosity
she peered down, still on her knees, into the dark vault below, into
which there was a means of descent by a ladder. Stories that had been
current in the hamlet then recurred to the mind of Lottie, stories of
the caution and mystery used in the building of Wildwaste Lodge. She
had never heard that there were cellars beneath it, and a concealed
trap-door would be a strange kind of opening into one intended to contain
only wine. As Lottie bent over the dark recess, candle in hand, the
little gilded weight which she had recovered slipped from her hold, and
fell down into the vault below. It was needful again to search for it,
and perhaps the young girl was not sorry for an excuse to explore a
little further. Slowly and softly Lottie descended the ladder, carrying
the candle in her hand. When she had reached the bottom, she found
herself in a brick-built vault; the air felt damp and chill, moisture
stains gleamed faintly on the walls. On the further side was a door,
close to which the little weight had rolled. Lottie went and picked it
up, and then pressed her hand against the door; it was not locked, but
slightly ajar, and yielded to her pressure. Lottie could not resist the
temptation of entering the inner vault. It had brick walls and floor
like the first, but was not, like the first, perfectly empty. There
were low shelves, on which was ranged all the family plate which Mr.
Gritton had inherited from his father, silver candlesticks, salvers, and
tureens, with curious old coins in cases, all looking dull and tarnished.
There were also yellow canvas bags ranged in order. Lottie put down her
candle, and, by a strong impulse of curiosity, raised one: it was very
heavy in proportion to its size; she loosened the string round the mouth
and glanced in—it was full of golden sovereigns! The black eyes of
Lottie dilated—she could scarcely breathe—the hand which held the canvas
bag trembled. The foolish young daughter of Eve had by her indiscreet
curiosity put herself into a position of sore temptation, she had given
the Enemy an advantage; he who had dared to breathe his deadly whisper in
Eden, was present to tempt in that dark deep vault.

“What a world of wealth is buried here, wealth useless to its owner,
useless to all the world! A few yellow pieces from one of those canvas
bags would never be missed, while they would bring help to a long-lost
father, bring him back to his home, fill the heart of a mother with
delight.” Nay, even the impious suggestion followed: “This discovery has
not been made by chance. Providence has guided you here to give you the
means of helping your parents in the time of their greatest need.”

Well was it then for the tempted girl that prayer had become so habitual
that she intuitively turned to her God for guidance, as a child might
turn to a parent. Then her pastor’s words recurred to her memory, “Let
us especially beware that we use no means that are not sanctified by
God’s blessing.” It was Lottie’s duty, indeed, to make every effort for
her parents, but God’s work must be only done in God’s way. His blessing
could not rest on ill-gotten gold, and without that blessing what could
come but misery and shame? Lottie’s faith was in trial; she was called
on to abstain from following the only course by which it seemed possible
for her to rescue her father. It was not by low covetousness, but by the
strong warm affections of the heart that the Tempter was seeking to draw
the simple child into guilt. It was a short, a painful struggle, and then
faith rose victorious. “Oh, no! how can I do this thing, and sin against
God!” exclaimed Lottie aloud, and not trusting herself to look again at
the bags of treasure, she turned suddenly round—and confronted her master!

Lottie started violently at the unexpected meeting with Gaspar; she then
stood as if spell-bound, with her black eyes rivetted on his; she seemed
to have no power to withdraw them, no power to utter another word. The
sight of Mr. Gritton’s sallow, shrunken countenance, looking to her
corpse-like in that dimly-lighted vault, exercised on the girl a kind of
fascination, such as that which is attributed to the serpent’s gaze.


Gaspar had been roused from sleep by the sounds made by Lottie in the
search for the gilded weight. He never enjoyed the deep refreshing
slumber of a mind at rest; the miser was haunted by the fears that are
natural to one whose treasure is on earth, where thieves may break
through and steal. Alarmed by the noise which he heard at an hour so
unusually early, Gaspar had risen and partially dressed, his anxiety
being increased by the recollection that he had forgotten to lock the
door of the inner vault when last he had visited it, as he frequently
did, in the night-time. It was an infirmity of Gaspar, perhaps
originating in the shock caused to him by the loss of the _Orissa_, to
feel that his money was never so safe as when immediately under his eye;
it was a satisfaction to the slave of Mammon to sleep over his buried
treasure. Mr. Gritton was, however, nervously sensitive to the danger
of keeping large sums of money in an unguarded dwelling, especially in
such a lawless neighbourhood as that of Wildwaste. He must hide from all
the knowledge of the existence of hoards which would tempt the burglar.
With this view Gaspar had caused vaults to be constructed with a special
view to concealment: no one in Wildwaste knew of their existence. Mr.
Gritton did what he could to appear before men as a gentleman of very
narrow means; and though he had not succeeded in this, he had until now
perfectly preserved the secret of a treasure kept under his house.

It was with annoyance and alarm that Gaspar now found his secret
discovered. He could not doubt the honesty of Lottie, whose words he had
just overheard; he was relieved to find that his vault had been entered
by no more formidable intruder; but he anxiously revolved the means
of preventing the discovery from spreading further, and stood sternly
regarding the trembling girl for what appeared to her a fearfully long

“You have taken nothing?” he asked at length; to Lottie his voice sounded
hollow and terrible, breaking the painful silence.

“Oh, no, sir—you can search me—I never thought—;” the girl checked
herself in the midst of her sentence—“no, I mustn’t say that, for I was
tempted; but it was for my father.”

“I never heard that you had a father living,” said Gaspar.

“He is living, and in great distress, at Southampton.”

“Hear me, girl,” said the master sternly. “I believe—I know that you
are honest, but I have no means of knowing that you are discreet; after
what has happened I cannot suffer you to stay for one hour longer in
this house.” Seeing that Lottie looked aghast at this summary dismissal,
Gaspar added more gently, “I am going to exact from you a most solemn
promise that you will never utter to any being a word of what you have
seen this day, or of the cause of your being thus hastily dismissed from
my service.”

“I must tell my mother,” faltered Lottie, “or she will think that I have
done something wrong; I never hide nothing from her.”

“You must not tell your mother, nor your lady, nor any one,” said Gaspar.
“I will make it worth your while to keep silence.”

“I don’t think that I could keep it,” said poor Lottie.

Mr. Gritton laid his hand on one of the canvas bags, unloosed it, and
took out five pieces of gold. “See here, Lottie Stone,” he said sternly;
“if you will not make a solemn promise to tell no one, I will at once
give you up to justice as a person found lurking, at a strange hour and
under suspicious circumstances, in a place where treasure is kept.” He
marked that Lottie’s rosy cheek blanched at the threat, and went on, “If
you will pledge yourself to the strictest secrecy, you shall take home
these five golden sovereigns; and if in the course of a year I find that
nothing has transpired either of the cause of your leaving, or of the
existence of these vaults, I will give you five sovereigns more.”

A flash of joy beamed on the countenance of Lottie. So intense was her
desire to possess the very sum which her master offered to place in her
hands, that to obtain it she would have been ready to sacrifice anything
but her conscience.

“O sir!” she exclaimed, “I will—I do promise. I will never say one word
about this place, or what I have seen, or why you send me away—I will
rather die than speak!”

“You promise before God?” said Gaspar solemnly, before he placed the
money in the hand of the excited girl.

“I do, I do!” exclaimed Lottie, and her fingers closed over the gold. She
felt that she had saved her father.

“Now go up, pack your bundle, and be off,” said Gaspar; “and never set
foot in Wildwaste again; and remember that guilt lies on your soul if you
keep not your promise to the letter.”

“May I not stay till I can bid good-bye to dear Miss Isa?” pleaded Lottie.

“You may not stay an hour; I do not choose that you should see her;
take your money and your clothes and be gone. Leave the candle; I will
stay behind to make sure that all is right—and to lock the door,” added
Gritton, under his breath; “I will not neglect that precaution again.”

Lottie, tightly grasping her dearly-won treasure, mounted the ladder,
and re-entered the study through the trap-door. She hastily replaced the
little weight on its gilded stand, and then ran upstairs to make her
brief preparations for quitting Wildwaste for ever. Lottie soon put up
her bundle, for her earthly possessions were few, and with it in her hand
descended the staircase. Tears gushed from her eyes as she reached the
door of Isa’s chamber; Lottie could not help lingering there for a minute
to breathe a prayer for the young mistress so dearly beloved. “Oh! shall
I never serve her again, never listen to her sweet kind voice, never comb
out her long soft hair! What will she say of me, what will she think of
me—will she not call me the most ungrateful girl in the world?” Lottie’s
heart swelled at the idea, and it was with a low stifled sob that she
turned away from the door.

She found her master in the hall, himself unfastening the bolts of the
outer door. Mr. Gritton was impatient to have the girl out of the house,
and beyond the temptation of communicating with any one in the hamlet.

“Your father is in Southampton—you had better join him there,” observed
Gaspar. “Remember your solemn promise of silence made in the sight of

Lottie turned as she crossed the threshold, “O sir—pray—at least—let my
dear mistress know that—”

Gaspar would not listen, he closed the door in her face, and Lottie
found herself alone with her bundle and her gold in the chill crisp air
of early morning. A dim line of red in the east showed where the sun
would shortly rise, but as Lottie hastened through the hamlet there was
not the sound of a human voice to break the stillness; Wildwaste was
still asleep; in the great manufactory the busy hum of labour had not
yet begun. But on the common, where the night dews lay heavy on fern and
furze-bush, the lark, an early riser, was already mounting on quivering
wing, and pouring out his song of joy to greet the advancing morn.





Lottie had proceeded more than half of her way to Axe before her mind
could realize her strange position, and the difficulties in which it must
involve her. Her first thought had been of her father, her next of her
young mistress; but every step that Lottie now took seemed to open to her
a new complication of troubles. She had lost her place, and how could
she expect to find a new one while she was utterly unable to explain why
she had so suddenly left the last? What should she say to Mr. Eardley,
who had taken such fatherly care to provide for her welfare? Poor Lottie
became so utterly perplexed by her troubles, her first secret weighed
on her frank honest nature as such an intolerable chain, that she could
hardly think of physical weariness or discomfort, though the distance to
Axe was long to be traversed by a fasting girl; and ere Lottie came in
sight of the quaint little town, a shower which wet her clothes through
and through.

The world was beginning to show signs of being astir as Lottie entered
the High Street of Axe; tradesmen’s boys were taking down their shutters,
the milkmaid was passing with her pails; the rain had ceased, and the
clear morning sun was gleaming on the windows of the houses.

“Why, Lottie Stone, what ever brings you here at this ’ere hour of the
day?” exclaimed Mrs. Green, the cobbler’s stout wife, over whose little
shop Deborah had her lodging.

Lottie muttered something, she knew not what, as she hurried through the
shop. She ran up the steep dark staircase, and entered the room of her
mother, whom she found in bonnet and shawl, with an old carpet-bag in
her hand, as if about to set out on a journey. Deborah started at the
unexpected entrance of her daughter, all wet with the rain, and flushed
with excitement and the fatigue of a long, weary walk.

“O mother, here, here’s for father!” exclaimed Lottie, eagerly holding
out the five sovereigns which Mr. Gritton had given her.

“It is from God!” cried Deborah; “He has sent it—praise be to His
goodness! Lottie, I’ve scarce a minute to tell you of it, for I must be
off to catch the train, but I’m a-going to Southampton myself.”

“To Southampton!” echoed Lottie in surprise.

“Yes; there was another letter yesterday, not from my poor Abner,
but from his landlord: your father’s worse again—very ill; I’ve been
a-borrowing, and begging, and scraping, and I’ve just got money enough
for the journey; but these here five pounds have come as a blessing from
Heaven! Mrs. Green has promised to do the ironing, and to tidy up things
while I’m away—”

“She need do nothing; I’m here, I’ve left my place,” said Lottie.

“Left your place!” exclaimed Deborah, dropping on the table the five gold
pieces which her daughter had brought.

“Left your place!” repeated Mrs. Green, who had followed Lottie up the
stairs, and who now turned a very inquisitive look on the money which had
so unexpectedly and unaccountably been added to her neighbour’s little

Mrs. Stone had no time for questioning, though Lottie’s few words had
laid a fresh burden of care on her grief-worn spirit. On Mrs. Green’s
informing her that “she’d better be off sharp, or she’d miss the train,”
Deborah caught up her money and her carpet-bag, bade a hurried good-bye
to her daughter and her son, and hastened off to the station. Mrs. Green
remained in the little room, determined, as she said to herself, “to get
to the bottom of the business.”

“I say, Lottie,” she observed to the weary girl, who was taking off her
wet bonnet and cloak, “was it you as brought them ’ere sovereigns to your

“Yes,” said the unsuspicious Lottie, wishing heartily that the stout
landlady would go and leave her to rest and collect her thoughts.

“You’ve hardly earned ’em yet as wages, I take it.” The shrewd, sharp,
questioning look of the woman put the young girl on her guard.

“How did you manage to get them, eh?” pursued Mrs. Green, peering into
the face of Lottie with an expression of suspicion which covered that
face in a moment with a scarlet flush of indignation.

“I can’t tell you—what is it to you?—I got them honestly, you may be sure
of that,” stammered forth Lottie, as she pushed back the black hair from
her heated cheeks.

“Did your master give ’em to you? he’s not the kind of man for that sort
of thing, or the world does him injustice.”

“Mrs. Green, would you be so kind as to leave us for a little,” said
Lottie desperately; “I am very, very, very tired, and—;” she knew not how
to finish her sentence.

The cobbler’s wife did not seem in the least inclined to go. She shook
her head gravely, looked hard at the girl, and then shook her head again.
“Better be open at once, Lottie Stone, you know I’m your friend; I know
all about your father, poor man! If you’ve been a bit tempted, and—”

[Illustration: LOTTIE AND MRS. GREEN.]

“The money is honestly mine—every penny of it—how dare you say such
things?” exclaimed the indignant girl.

“Well, then, you’ve only to tell the simple truth how you came by it;
there’s nothing to flare up about,” said Mrs. Green, putting her stout
arms akimbo.

“I’m not going to tell nothing; I want to be left quiet,” cried Lottie,
who felt much inclined to burst into a passion of tears; while her simple
brother looked on in surprise, rubbing his shock of hair, as he was wont
to do when perplexed.

A third time Mrs. Green shook her head; solemnly, ominously she shook
it. “Well,” she muttered, “if girls will behave like that, after all the
schooling, and praying, and preaching, and—;” the rest of the observation
was unheard by the Stones, as their landlady had left the room as she
uttered it, slamming the door behind her. Lottie knew by her manner that
the cobbler’s wife was offended; and was convinced that within an hour
the story of the five sovereigns would be spread all over Axe, as was
already that of Abner’s arrival at Southampton, Deborah, in her efforts
to procure money for her journey, having found it impossible to obey her
husband’s injunction of secrecy.

“Lottie, how _did_ you get all that money?” asked her brother, as soon as
Mrs. Green’s heavy clumping step was heard descending the stair.

“Oh, don’t you be a-worritting me too, Steady!” exclaimed Lottie, calling
the lad by a name which Arthur Madden had given to him in the class, and
which had clung to him, from its appropriateness, till it had almost
superseded his own.

Steady was not wont to “worrit” any one, and least of all the sister
to whose brighter intelligence he had habitually looked up through his
clouded boyhood, and whom he heartily loved. He was easily silenced, but
not easily relieved. He sat down by the casement to his usual occupation
of cutting pegs, but ever and anon a heavy sigh came from the poor
youth’s breast.

“You’re troubled about father?” asked Lottie, who was laying out the
rough-dried linen which she was about to iron for her mother.

“I warn’t a-thinking of father, but of that money,” replied the lad, in
his slow, measured drawl: he had difficulty in putting even the most
simple thought into words.

“Steady, surely _you_ know me, _you_ can trust me!” cried Lottie, with a
swelling heart.

“I does trust you,” said the lad emphatically, “but other folk won’t;”
and with another sigh he relapsed into silence.

Very sadly Lottie pursued her occupation of ironing. “Oh,” thought she,
“I wish that I could smooth away all these difficulties, as I press
down the creases out of this linen! Father ill—Mr. Arthur dying—mother
away—and then this dreadful, dreadful promise! Oh, that I never had made

“Here’s Mr. Eardley a-coming,” said young Stone, looking out of the

For the first time the sound of her pastor’s name was unwelcome to
Lottie, for the first time in her life she dreaded an interview with
the clergyman. What could she say to him, how explain to him what must
appear so mysterious and strange?

Mr. Eardley crossed the road, and did not, as Lottie earnestly hoped,
pass the door of the cobbler’s shop. She heard his foot on the stair, his
tap at the door of the room. Lottie laid down her iron, courtesied on
the entrance of the clergyman, and remained with her eyes fixed on the
ground, her fingers nervously twitching the linen which lay on the table
beside her. She was not sufficiently collected to think of offering her
pastor a chair.

“Lottie, I am sorry to hear that you have left your place,” said Mr.
Eardley. “You seemed to be so happy and contented when I spoke to you
last Sunday, that I hoped that you would remain for many years at the
Lodge, and become in time a valuable servant.” Mr. Eardley’s address was
fatherly and kind, but Lottie’s only reply was in the big tears which
rolled slowly down her flushed cheeks.

“Come, my child, speak frankly to one who has your true welfare at heart.
Did you displease your lady? or had you some little difference with your

Mr. Eardley paused for an answer, but no answer came.

“O Lottie, speak out!” cried her brother, who had a child-like faith in
the wisdom as well as the kindness of their pastor.

Mr. Eardley was both perplexed and distressed by the strange reserve
shown by one whose disposition he had hitherto found clear as daylight.
He had heard in an exaggerated form the story of the money which Lottie
had brought from Wildwaste, and very painful suspicions began to arise
in his mind. Yet the clergyman shrank at first from saying a word that
might appear like a charge of dishonesty against one whose character had
hitherto been without a stain.

“What did your lady say to your leaving her?”

“Nothing,” was trembling upon the lips of the girl, but Lottie pressed
them together, and kept silent. She was aware that if by answering
questions she were led into telling anything, she would gradually be
drawn into telling all; it was only by preserving silence that she could
possibly preserve the secret which she had solemnly promised to keep.

“Lottie, why don’t you speak?” cried Steady in real distress.

“Miss Gritton appears to be so gentle and kind,” pursued the clergyman.

“She’s an angel! I’d die for her!” interrupted Lottie, fairly breaking
down, and bursting into a fit of loud sobbing.

“Do you not think that, if you have displeased her, she might be
persuaded to overlook a fault, and take you back?” suggested Mr. Eardley,
glad that at least the girl’s obstinate silence was broken.

“I can’t go back!” sobbed Lottie.

“And wherefore not?” inquired Mr. Eardley.

“Lottie, do, do speak,” pleaded her brother.

The poor girl was in bitter distress. A false idea of honour has led many
a duellist to face the fire of an enemy, but never did the most nervous
spirit more shrink from such an ordeal than did that of the little
servant-maid from that which she now had to pass through. Influenced by
the highest sense of honour—conscientious respect for a promise—Lottie
stood the mark of questions, each of which seemed to strike her in the
tenderest part. She had more than filial reverence for her pastor: to
stand well in his favour, to do credit to his care, had been one of the
highest objects of her ambition; to grieve, displease, disappoint him,
was misery to which she could hardly have believed it possible that she
should ever be exposed. Mr. Eardley, on his part, found the interview
very painful. He had regarded Lottie Stone as one of the most promising
girls under his pastoral charge; she was so simple-minded, affectionate,
and pious; he could have trusted her with money uncounted; were she to
prove ungrateful and unworthy, in whom could he henceforth trust? The
clergyman was very patient and tender, but he was also very faithful.
For more than an hour he stood in that little room, plying the silent,
miserable girl with questions that put her to the torture, appealing
to her reason, her affections, her conscience; exhorting, reproving,
entreating—doing all that lay in his power to overcome her inexplicable
reserve. Mr Eardley saw that Lottie’s character, that most precious
of earthly possessions, was at stake; that if she continued silent, a
merciless world would believe the worst. He explained this again and
again; and Lottie, in anguish of soul, felt how true was every word
which he uttered. And yet, had she not promised before God? was it not
better to endure suspicions than to incur sin? Not all the efforts of her
pastor, backed by the entreaties of her simple-hearted brother, could
force the poor girl from the position to which conscience had fastened
her, like a baited creature fixed to the stake.

At length, disappointed and disheartened, Mr. Eardley took his leave,
promising, however, soon to return. Lottie wrung her hands in silent
misery as she heard the door close behind him. “There,” she thought,
“goes the kindest, most generous of friends, wearied out at last, and
thinking me an ungrateful and wicked girl. Oh, I could have borne
anything better than this!”

Lottie was not to have even a breathing-space of relief. Not five minutes
after the departure of Mr. Eardley, the baronet’s carriage drove up to
the door of the cobbler’s shop, with Isa and her cousin within. Its
approach was announced to Lottie by her brother’s exclamation, “Here
comes your mistress a-looking arter ye now!”

“I think all this will drive me mad!” cried Lottie, pressing both her
hands to her burning temples.

Isa had been much surprised, and even alarmed, on being informed by
Hannah at an early hour that morning that “that there girl Lottie” had
“run away without saying a word to nobody; taken her bundle, and gone
clean off.” Isa could in no way account for the sudden departure of
her young servant, except by imagining that she had taken offence at
something, and that perhaps something wild and gipsy-like in her nature
corresponded with her somewhat gipsy-like appearance.

“To go without saying a word to me, kind and indulgent as I ever have
been, seems so strange, so ungrateful,” observed Isa to her brother, when
she mentioned to him at breakfast a fact of which he had had much earlier
notice than herself.

“No accounting for the vagaries of a raw, untutored village rustic,”
observed Gaspar, applying to his snuff-box; and he was ungenerous enough
to add, in order to cover his own confusion, “You had better count up the

“I could answer for Lottie’s honesty,” said Isa.

So could Gaspar Gritton, for he had seen it put to the proof; he had seen
the “raw, untutored village rustic” withstand a temptation under which
he, an educated man, calling himself a gentleman, had basely succumbed.
But Gaspar felt himself placed in a position of difficulty. He would
probably have at once told his sister all the circumstances connected
with Lottie’s dismissal, had it not been for Isa’s having spoken to him
on the subject of the _Orissa_. Gaspar shrank from avowing to one who,
as he knew, suspected _his_ honesty, that he actually had a large sum of
money concealed in a vault.

“What could have induced the girl to take such a step?” said Isa,
following the current of her own thoughts. “Hannah is as much in the dark
as ourselves.”

“Really,” observed Gaspar peevishly, “the subject is not worth the
trouble of considering. Such an insignificant cipher may go, or stay, or
hang herself; it matters not the turn of a straw to us.”

A feeling of indignation swelled the heart of Isa, and it cost her an
effort to give it no outward expression. Isa was not one of those who
regard the humbler members of a household as mere pieces of furniture,
to be discarded when faulty, or neglected when worn out, without a
thought or a care. She looked upon them as fellow-Christians and
fellow-immortals, over whom the position of master or mistress gives
an influence for which an account must one day be rendered. Added to
this, Lottie’s simplicity, warmth of heart, and the knowledge of her
early trials, had engaged in her behalf the kindly interest of her young
mistress. Isa’s anxiety on account of her run-away servant was not only a
matter of conscience, but a matter of feeling also.

After some minutes of silence, Isa exclaimed, as if she had suddenly
found a clue for which she had been searching, “It must have been your
words to her yesterday evening.”

“What words do you mean?” asked Gaspar.

“You said that she must have been drinking. Such a sentence, though
lightly spoken, would wound her deeply, for she would think it an
allusion to the well-known vice of her father, whom, poor child, she
loves so dearly.”

“Really,” observed Mr. Gritton, with a short, harsh laugh, “we must be
careful now-a-days where we blow thistle-down, lest it should wound some
sensitive maid-of-all-work!” He was not sorry that Isa should suggest
some cause for Lottie’s sudden flight that was remote from the real one.

“I cannot rest till I know all, and have seen the poor girl,” thought
Isa; “I will go over to the Castle at once, and ask Edith to take me in
the carriage to Axe.”





“I will not go in with you, Isa dear,” said Edith, as the carriage
approached the little country town. “Lottie will speak to you more freely
if no one is by. I hope that we shall be able to carry back with us to
Wildwaste your runaway little gipsy maid.”

“I am sure that we shall,” replied Isa. “Lottie is an affectionate girl,
and loves me. I must chide her a little, but gently; she is one with whom
a short reproof will go a long way.”

“And all your scourges are made of feathers, like those in the
fairy-tale,” said Edith with a smile, as the carriage rolled up to the
door of Mrs. Green’s shop.

Courteously declining the guidance of the cobbler’s stout wife, Isa
lightly ascended the stair to the lodging above. She entertained not
the slightest doubt of succeeding in bringing back her truant; her only
subject of consideration was how far reproof should be blended with
kindness. Lottie’s strange conduct had given her mistress just cause of
offence; it must not be overlooked, though in Isa’s heart it was already

The lady tapped at the door, and entered the room where Lottie stood
trembling. Her face was buried in her hands; but Isa could see the red
burning flush on her neck. The girl’s attitude was so expressive of
humiliation and grief, that her gentle mistress forgot at once all her
intended rebuke.

“My poor Lottie, what has happened?” There was nothing but kindness and
sympathy in the voice which uttered the question.

The tears trickled through Lottie’s brown fingers; but she did not remove
her hands or raise her head.

“What has happened?” repeated Isa, addressing herself to the lad, who had
risen from his seat on the entrance of the lady.

Steady tugged hard at the button of his jacket; his nostrils dilated;
he looked first to one side and then to the other, an image of dull
perplexity. He jerked out the answer, “She won’t tell no one;” and then,
unable to bear another interview like that which had just passed between
his sister and Mr. Eardley, the poor lad shuffled hastily out of the room.

Isa went up to Lottie Stone, and gently laid her hand on her shoulder.
“If you have had anything to pain and distress you, open your heart to
me. I am not angry with you, Lottie, though you did wrong to leave the
house without giving notice. I am willing to take you back if you tell me
frankly the cause of your going.”

“I can’t tell,” replied Lottie in a choking voice.


“Something that was said distressed you, perhaps. Was it what your master
spoke about drinking, when you threw down the weights last evening?”

Isa’s question suddenly opened for the young maid a little door of
escape. The lady had found out a cause for Lottie’s strange conduct
when she herself could give none. Would there be any harm in leaving
Miss Gritton to think, and to lead others to think, that the whole
strange affair had arisen from a burst of passionate feeling, caused
by an accusation which had been both unjust and cruel? A disingenuous
girl would have gladly availed herself of the lady’s mistaken view, and
have left her to form her own conclusions from it. But Lottie had the
straightforward simplicity of one in whose spirit there is no guile. She
shook her head on Isa’s repeating her question, and her mistress remained
more perplexed than ever. Isa felt, as Mr. Eardley had felt, surprised,
discouraged, and at length a little displeased. Lottie would neither
apologize, nor explain, nor consent to go back to her place. No sentence
could be wrung from her lips but a repetition of “I can’t tell,” “I can
never go back;” and yet her manner expressed fervent, grateful affection
towards her young mistress. Isa was convinced that the girl’s obstinate
reserve was not that of indifference or of pride.

“Lottie, you quite grieve me,” said Isa at length, as she turned to
depart, lingering at the open door with her fingers on the handle, to
give the girl an opportunity of calling her back.

Lottie clutched her own black hair with both her hands, and tore it,
as if physical pain could relieve the anguish of her heart. She turned
suddenly away to the window, to escape as far as she could from the
presence of her lady. Edith, waiting in the carriage below, chanced to
glance up at the moment, and caught sight of a young face clouded with an
expression of such misery as she had never seen on a countenance before.

In the meantime, Mr. Eardley, having resolved, if possible, to clear
up the mystery, and at least ascertain whether poor Lottie were not
unjustly accused of dishonesty, walked over to Wildwaste Lodge. He was
much disappointed at not finding Miss Gritton at home, but asked for an
interview with her brother.

“Master ain’t very well, he don’t see visitors,” said Hannah, who,
grumbling at being left to do all the work of the house, had come
out from the kitchen smoothing her soiled apron and pulling down her
tucked-up sleeves.

“I have walked from Axe, being anxious to speak on a matter of some
importance,” said the heated and weary clergyman. “Pray, ask Mr. Gritton
to have the kindness to see me but for five minutes.”

Ushered into the study, Mr. Eardley almost immediately entered on the
object of his visit. Gaspar was embarrassed; he had not contemplated the
difficulties which must arise from Lottie’s faithful adherence to her

“Really, sir, I can’t be answerable for—I can’t be expected to know
anything about the doings of a girl like Lottie.” Gaspar took a large
pinch of snuff to cover his embarrassment.

“But what I am most anxious to ascertain is this: has anything been
missed here, is there the slightest cause to suspect the young girl of
dishonesty?” Gaspar could not meet the gaze of the clear eyes that were
fixed upon him.

“No; she’s no thief; she’s awkward, ignorant, but honest—yes, perfectly
honest.” The words were spoken as if with effort, and again Gaspar had
recourse to his snuff-box.

“That is a great relief to me; that is what I wanted to ascertain. I
thank you, Mr. Gritton,” said the clergyman, rising; “I need not longer
intrude on your time.”

As Mr. Eardley was about to depart, Isa returned from her fruitless
expedition to Axe. To her the presence of the vicar was ever welcome, and
more than usually so at the present moment. She eagerly related to him
all that had happened, as far as her knowledge extended, emphatically
confirming Gaspar’s testimony as to the perfect honesty of poor Lottie.

The interview did not last as long as either Henry Eardley or Isa would
have wished, as Hannah came clattering in with the tray to prepare for
early dinner. It would have been an act of common courtesy to have asked
the weary minister to stop and partake of the meal. Isa glanced at her
brother, without whose assent she dared not give the invitation which
was upon her lips, but Gaspar did not choose to understand the look;
hospitality was foreign to his nature, and to his sister’s mortification
he suffered the tired guest to depart unrefreshed.

Henry Eardley left the Lodge with a joyous feeling of a more complicated
nature than would have arisen only from satisfaction at having been
relieved of painful doubts in regard to a member of his flock. His
thoughts were by no means absorbed by the case of Lottie, though he went
out of his way to let it be known in the cottage of Holdich, and in
various dwellings in Axe, that the young maid had not been dismissed for
any fault, and that she had taken nothing with her that was not honestly
her own.

Mr. Eardley did what he could to clear the character of Lottie from
the imputation resting upon it; but it is as easy to force back an
overflowing river into its usual channel as to stay the flood of calumny
when once it has spread far and wide. The vicar could not throw light on
the mystery of Lottie’s hasty flight from Wildwaste, or her possession of
a considerable sum of money for which she would not account.

“Folk may talk till they’re black in the face,” said Mrs. Green to
her neighbour the baker, “but they can’t talk away them five bright
sovereigns as I seed with these eyes. Girls can’t make gold pieces out
of old tea-leaves; and if any one gave ’em to her, why don’t she say so
at once?”

Young Stone returned to his lodging that evening with a black eye and a
great swelling on his brow.

“O Steady, you have had one of your falls!” exclaimed Lottie, with
affectionate sympathy.

The lad’s face was working with suppressed emotion. He sat down heavily,
and passed his hand through his mass of shaggy light hair before he
replied in his slow, peculiar drawl,—

“Bat Maule says—says he—you took fifteen pounds from your master’s desk,
and he was a-goin’ to send you to jail, only Miss Isa begged and prayed,
and so he let you off.”

It was a long speech for the lad to utter; his drawled-out words fell on
Lottie’s ear like the drip, drip of water, which is said at length to
produce madness in the victim on whose head it descends.

“And what did you say?” exclaimed the miserable Lottie, starting up from
her seat.

“I didn’t say nothing, I knocked him down,” replied Steady; “but he did
the like by me.”

The lad pressed his rag of a handkerchief against his bruised and swollen
forehead—the stain of blood was upon it.

“Hurt for me!” moaned Lottie, whose courage was beginning to give way
under her complicated trials.

“I wish you’d clear up about that money,” her brother went on, “’cause
I can’t knock down all them folk as talk, and I can’t stand hearing ’em
call you a thief.”

Lottie went up to the lad, threw her arms round his neck, and sobbed on
his shoulder.

“Don’t take on so—don’t take on so,” said poor weak-witted Steady, almost
beginning himself to cry in his rough sympathy with his sister. “I trust
you, Lottie, you ain’t no thief; but why—why won’t you clear up?”

And still that painful silence had to be maintained, that cruel promise
had to be kept. A hundred times was Lottie on the point of breaking it,
but simple faith kept her firm in temptation. To break her word would
be to disobey her Lord; it was better to suffer than to sin. “But oh!”
thought Lottie, “it’s a blessing that mother is away; how could I have
kept any secret from her!”

Poor Steady’s rude championship of his sister had been worse than
useless; it only, as was the case with any violent excitement, brought
on one of his sudden attacks, which, though very brief in duration, were
always distressing, and very painful to witness. Sleep, however, soon
removed from the afflicted lad all consciousness of earthly trouble;
but for Lottie there was no rest throughout all the night. She heard the
church-clock strike every hour as she lay on her pallet-bed, almost too
wretched even for tears.

“But oh,” thought the poor girl, “it’s such a comfort that there is One
who knows all; He knows that I did no wrong, except—except in letting
curiosity lead me on, and touching that bag of gold, and thinking those
wicked, covetous thoughts. But He has forgiven me—I feel that He has,
though He lets me suffer for my folly. It seems as if all my friends
and my comforts were being a-taken from me together. Mother away—father
ill—Mr. Eardley and my dear lady vexed and displeased—all my neighbours
turning against me—even poor Steady scarcely knowing what to think of
me, though he will never desert me. It is just as Mr. Eardley said in
his lecture, all my blossoms are falling from the tree.” The idea linked
itself on to others connected with Gideon when his faith was in trial,
when, just before the struggle with the foe, he was constrained to
deprive himself of the help of those on whose support he had counted.
“It must have seemed strange and hard to him,” mused Lottie, “to have
had the greater part of his friends sent from him, with all these fierce
enemies gathering in front. Now it seems as if my Midianites were getting
stronger than ever, and I more helpless against them. There’s dreadful
Disappointment, and worse than Discontent, and I seem at Dissension with
all my neighbours, though I never willingly did them wrong; and as for
Distrust, ’tis just crushing me down, for I can’t see any way out of my
troubles, and it looks as if the Lord had forsaken me. And now those of
whom I would have said, ‘They will always comfort and care for me and
trust me,’ are those who cause me most grief and pain. They are still
good, patient, and kind; yet I have, as it were, to send them from me,
and struggle with temptation alone. But God gave victory to Gideon in a
way that man would not have thought of. It was not to make him really
weaker that he was deprived of his friends; I suppose that it was to make
him rest more entirely on God. Perhaps that is why a poor child like me
is left so desolate now. I look to this side, and to that side, and no
one seems able to help me; and then, when there’s hope nowhere else, I
look up straight to my God. I should like to hear more of what happened
to Gideon. I think that I could walk to Mrs. Holdich’s cottage on Friday
with Steady, who goes whenever he can. It would be dreadful, indeed, to
face all the people; do they not look upon me as a thief! And yet,” said
the poor girl, half aloud, raising herself on her elbow, as the first
morning ray glimmered through her casement, “I should like to show to
all that I am not ashamed, that I dare show my face before my accusers.
I should like Mr. Eardley to see that I prize his holy words—for, oh!
I need them—I need the comfort and strength which only religion can
give. It would be a pleasure, too, to look on the face of my sweet young
mistress; I would not speak to her—oh, no—but I do so long to see her;
and I would quietly slip away as soon as the prayer was done.”

The resolution thus taken seemed to calm the mind of Lottie, or perhaps
Nature at last was claiming her rights, and sorrow of mind gave way to
overpowering weariness of body. Deeply and peacefully the young girl
slept, with her hands folded as if in prayer.

Lottie rose with a brave spirit, though a heavy heart; she was resolved
to seek comfort in a clear conscience toward man and a humble confidence
in her God, however painful might be the struggle before her. Lottie did
not sit down in idle sorrow, though she shrank from quitting her lodging;
for wherever she went she would have to encounter suspicious looks and
cruel taunts. The young maid read her chapter, and said her prayers with
her brother, and after giving him his simple breakfast, set resolutely
to work to prepare, as she said, for her parents’ return. The room was
thoroughly washed and scrubbed—even the window-panes cleaned; and when
the little place had been made the picture of neatness, Lottie turned to
mending her brother’s garments, in which many a darn and many a patch
showed the skill of her busy fingers. The most trying event of the day
to Lottie was a second long interview with her pastor; but she again
resisted the almost overpowering temptation to pour out her whole heart
to him, and to tell him all that had happened. It was a satisfaction to
find that Mr. Eardley had no suspicion of her honesty, notwithstanding
the mystery regarding the money; and that Miss Gritton had never doubted
that honesty for a moment. Lottie saw that the clergyman was now rather
perplexed than displeased by her reserve; and when, with her honest eyes
looking full into his, she assured him that if he knew all he would not
blame her silence, it was a relief to the poor child to feel that he had
not lost faith in her word.

Friday brought no tidings from Southampton. Lottie felt keenly “the
sickening pang of hope deferred,” and she had now but little occupation
wherewith to fill up the tedious hours. The day passed slowly and
wearily, till it was time to start for the cottage-meeting. Glad was
Lottie to leave Axe, though only for a space so brief; the cottage
of Holdich was connected in her mind only with thoughts of holiness
and peace, and she was thankful to be permitted still to kneel as a
worshipper there.





The Lord is mindful of His own, He remembereth His people. He may,
indeed, permit faith to be put to sharp trial, but His love supports
His servant through it. If, as in the case of Gideon, God removeth
earthly friends; if He take from us the prop of human aid, He can supply
other props, and even from the enemy’s camp. When friends are silent,
encouragement can come from the lips of a foe. A Balaam, eager to curse,
has been made an instrument to bless.

Strong as was the faith of Gideon, we cannot wonder if a feeling of
misgiving arose in his mind when he looked on the handful of men to which
his force had been reduced. How was it possible that they should meet
the shock of battle with the multitudes of Midian? They were brave and
resolute men, they would follow him to the death; would it not be indeed
_to the death_; had he not been selecting victims for slaughter rather
than warriors for conquest? We must conclude that some such thoughts as
these troubled the spirit of Gideon, from the very circumstance of God’s
finding it needful thus to strengthen his faith:

“Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine
hand,” said the Lord. “But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah
thy servant down to the host: and thou shalt hear what they say; and
afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to go down unto the host.”

It could not have been personal fear that weighed upon the soul of
Gideon; his anxious care must have been for the safety of others, for
the success of the effort to free his country, or formidable would have
appeared the adventure which he was called to undertake almost alone.
But Gideon appears to have had no hesitation or fear in trusting his own
life to God’s providential care. We picture to ourselves the leader, with
his single attendant, silently treading the path towards the enemy’s
camp, lighted by the glimmering stars in the dark blue midnight sky.
How wide spreads the camp of Amalek and Midian, how innumerable seem
the dark tents within which are slumbering foes, “like grasshoppers
for multitude,” with their camels tethered around, “as the sand by the
sea-side for multitude!” Nor are all amongst the host sleeping: Gideon
hears the sound of voices in converse as he approaches the tents. The
man of God stands still, as conscious that what he will hear will be a
message from God to himself.

[Illustration: GIDEON LISTENING.]

“Behold, I dreamed a dream,” said one of the Midianites to his companion,
little guessing on whose ear his words would fall; “and, lo, a cake of
barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and
smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along.

“And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else, save the sword
of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God
delivered Midian, and all the host.”

The message from the Lord had been given, and Gideon required no more.
There, close to the unconscious enemy, he worshipped; then returning with
renewed faith and hope to the warriors of Israel, he cried, “Arise, for
the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian!”

Brethren, are we to look for such encouragements now? The age of
miracles, it may be said, is past; we must rest upon what has already
been revealed, nor seek for wonders and signs to encourage our feeble
faith. Yet, without interrupting the course of nature, God has His own
way of giving strength to the weak and joy to the sorrowful. An instance
of this, which occurred during the fearful Indian Mutiny, suggests itself
to my mind. Two ladies and a child were prisoners in the power of the
cruel enemy, who had destroyed the brother of one of them by blowing
him from a gun. Great must have been the anguish of mind, the fears of
these captive ladies—they were encompassed, as it were, by the hosts of
Midian; could faith endure the fiery trial? The child fell sick, medicine
was asked for, and the captors gave it wrapped up in a soiled piece of
paper. Who would have guessed that through the enemy of our name and
of our faith would be sent medicine not only for the body but the soul?
With wondering joy the ladies discovered that the scrap of paper was
a leaf torn from an English Bible, and containing such a portion of
Scripture as was most exactly suited for their comfort and refreshment.
With what emotions must the poor prisoners have received such a message
from God as this, conveyed through the enemy’s hand: _I, even I, am He
that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man
that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and
forgettest the Lord thy Maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and
laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day
because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and
where is the fury of the oppressor? The captive exile hasteneth that he
may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread
should fail_ (Isa. li. 12-15).

Doubtless these captive Englishwomen received those blessed verses as
a promise from God, even as Gideon did the Midianite’s relation of his
dream, and in their dreary prison bowed their heads and worshipped.
The ladies were delivered from the fury of the oppressor; the captive
exiles were loosed; and surely with them, as with Gideon, would faith be
confirmed, not only for the present time of peril, but through all the
succeeding years of life.

When we regard faith, as we have been doing during this course of brief
lectures, under the emblem of a fruit tree, we must remember that it is
no standard rearing itself aloft in the pride of its strength, but a
plant in itself but feeble, which must lean on the Rock of Ages; which,
even when its branches are fullest of swelling fruit, needs the props,
the supports which God’s grace only can give. Without these supports how
the branches would lie low on the earth, their fruit be defiled with its
dust! How constantly in the history of God’s people do we find strong
consolation given at the moment when faith is most ready to fail! To
Jacob, a lonely, benighted wanderer, is sent a bright beam of heaven.
Does he fear to encounter an angry brother? the angel of the Lord meets
him and blesses. Joshua, ere commencing an arduous campaign, receives the
promise, _I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee_. To David comes the
assurance of his final triumph from the lips of the very enemy engaged
in hunting for his life: _I know well that thou shalt surely be king,
and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand_. But
I need not multiply instances of which the Scripture records are so
full; now, as when He dwelt upon earth, our gracious Saviour says to the
anxious, afflicted spirit, _Be not afraid, only believe_; and to His
disciples entering on the conflict with sore temptation, _Let not your
hearts be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me_.

Rest, therefore, ye afflicted servants of God, on the promises made by
your heavenly Master. The night of trouble may be around you, enemies
may be before you, difficulties may press you from without, temptation
assail you from within; but this is no proof that God has forsaken you.
Are you looking to Him, trusting in Him; are you ready, like Gideon, to
go forth in His strength to fight His battle against every besetting
sin? Then fear not, for He is on your side; _heaviness endureth for a
night, but joy cometh in the morning_; nay, more, the Lord giveth _songs
in the night_, even before the darkness passeth away the tried one, like
Gideon, may worship God and rejoice. The believer goes from strength to
strength, even as day by day on the bough the fruit ripens and swells
towards perfection. There is a growth in grace, an increase in love and
in submission, which is visible even to the world.

_The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: He is their strength in
the time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: He
shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in





“I am certain,” reflected Isa Gritton, as she retired to rest on that
night, “that Lottie Stone bears a clear conscience, whatever her reason
for silence may be. How her poor face, worn and anxious as it looked at
first, brightened when she heard of the support which God gives to the
faith of His people in time of need. I wish that I had had an opportunity
of speaking to her after the service was ended, but when I rose from my
knees and looked for her, she was gone. I trust her—yes, I will trust
her. Is there not a certain degree of faith which Christians should
extend one to another, as it is the property of charity that it _thinketh
no evil_?”

Lottie and her strange conduct had been much on the mind of Isa, and when
she came to breakfast on the following morning it was with the intention
of proposing again to drive over to Axe for a second interview with her
truant little maid. But thoughts of Lottie were driven away for the time
by a subject of closer personal interest.

When Isa entered the breakfast-room a little later than usual, she found
Gaspar there already, pacing up and down the apartment with a letter in
his hand, which had come by the early post. He looked restless, excited,
and angry, and Isa saw that no light cause of annoyance disturbed him,
before he broke forth with the angry question, “Is this your doing, Isa;
have I to thank you for this?” and thrust into the hand of his sister the
note which he had just received.

The epistle did not look at all formidable; it was brief, written on
tinted paper, and in a lady’s handwriting. It was no formal law document,
yet had it been read with much the same emotions as a summons to the bar
of justice might have been. With anxiety, mingled with interest, Miss
Gritton read as follows:—

                                                    LONDON, _May 1_.

    SIR,—I have just received information which has greatly
    surprised me, to the effect that the £4000 which I had been led
    to believe had been invested in property lost in the _Orissa_
    was actually invested in the cargo of the _St. Christopher_,
    which safely arrived at its destination, and, as I am given
    to understand, realized a profit of fifty per cent. I shall
    place the affair in the hands of my lawyer unless I receive
    a satisfactory explanation from yourself. As a personal
    interview is desirable, I shall go immediately to Axe, which
    is, I understand, in your neighbourhood, and either appoint
    an hour for meeting you at the hotel, or, as I am acquainted
    with your sister, call on Miss Gritton and see you in her
    presence.—I have the honour to be, &c.,

                                                        CORA MADDEN.

“Gaspar, I had nothing to do with this; Cora has learned nothing from
me,” said Isa, as she returned the note to her brother.

He looked at her with a keen, suspicious gaze; but she met it with that
frank, open glance which carries conviction of truthfulness even to the
sceptical mind.

Gaspar pressed his hand to his brow, which was furrowed with deep lines
of perplexity and care. “It must have been through the captain,” he
muttered to himself; “and yet I thought—but no matter, she’s on the scent
now, wherever she took it up. Isa, you must stand by me,” nervously added
Mr. Gritton; “you must help me through this difficulty.”

“How can I help you?—I do not fully understand even the nature of the
difficulty,” said Isa. She paused to give her brother an opportunity for
explanation, but he only had recourse to his snuff-box. Isa pressed him
no further; she had a painful conviction, as she looked upon her unhappy
brother, that he was unable to give any explanation which would satisfy
her own sense of honour.

[Illustration: GASPAR’S ALARM.]

The state of the case may be briefly laid before the reader. Gaspar had
already invested largely himself in the cargo of the _Orissa_, when he
had received directions in regard to the money of Miss Madden. Unwilling
that her interests should clash with his own, the _Orissa_ being the
fastest sailer on the line, and the hope of large profits depending much
on being first in the market, Gaspar had placed the property of his
client in the _St. Christopher_, intending to apprise the lady that he
had been unable to ship in the vessel which had first started. While yet
in the Channel, the _Orissa_ had foundered in a storm, with Gaspar’s
investment in her hold. The loss of so much property had been a great
shock to one whose soul was bent upon gain; Gaspar had been overwhelmed
by the unexpected misfortune, when the Tempter had suggested to him a
means by which the loss might actually be converted into profit. Few
knowing anything of the circumstances of Cora’s investment, still fewer
having any interest in the subject, it might be possible, by an exercise
of craft, to make it appear that the lady’s property had been in the
_Orissa_, and that Gaspar’s own had been embarked in the ship which had
safely arrived.

Gaspar had at first shrunk from the wicked suggestion. Though he was
not a very scrupulous man, there was yet a sufficient sense of honour
left within his breast to make him aware of the enormity of the crime to
which he was tempted. But _the love of money is the root of all evil_,
and with Gaspar it had become an absorbing passion; he was also proud
of the possession of that miserable cunning which some deem cleverness,
but which is foolishness indeed in the sight of a holy God. Conscience
and a feeling of honour,—these were the barriers which, for a short
time, had resisted the pressure of strong temptation; for Gaspar _had_
a conscience, though by covetousness long-indulged its power had been
greatly weakened. But the barriers had given way, and Gaspar having once
grasped unlawful gain, and added to his stores the gold which rightfully
belonged to another, soon experienced the natural consequence of
yielding to sin. His heart had become hardened, his nature debased, and
he had fallen more and more completely under the dominion of the vice
of covetousness which he had once suffered to subdue him. A hard and
merciless task-master he had found it! While haunted with a perpetual
dread of disgrace, and fear of losing his ill-gotten wealth, Gaspar
could not enjoy it. He was poor in the midst of riches, miserable in the
possession of that for which he had sold his conscience. Notwithstanding
every precaution, Gaspar’s secret had oozed out, and fears of
exposure—ruin—shame—rose up before him like phantoms.

“She may be here this very day,” were the first words from the miserable
man which broke the oppressive silence. “Isa, you must not quit the
house—you must remain beside me—you know Miss Madden, and may influence
her mind.”

“I influence Cora!” exclaimed Isa; “I know her, indeed—perhaps too
well—but ours was never the intimacy of friendship!” The young lady
spoke with some emotion, for every recollection connected with Cora
was bitter. It is true that Isa no longer regarded her separation from
Lionel as a misfortune. Since she had come so near to the place of his
former sojourn, light had been thrown on his character which had revealed
something of its selfishness and hollowness, and upon the young maiden
purer hopes were dawning than even those of first love; but still, of
all beings upon earth, Cora Madden was the one whom Isa regarded with
most fear and aversion. She looked upon Cora as an impersonification of
malice; as a dangerous woman; the bearer of the apple of discord; one who
delighted to turn into ridicule all whose standard of duty was higher
than her own. Isa had struggled to keep down the feelings of restraint
which swelled in her heart, and, like Edith, never to speak of her enemy
save to her God; she had tried to banish Cora even from her memory; but
now it appeared that she might be brought into close contact with Miss
Madden, and in a way most painful. Isa could not close her eyes to the
fact that her brother stood in a humiliating position, and innocent
as she herself was, she must yet share his humiliation. She must see
scorn—just scorn—on that haughty lip whose sneer had already stung her
like a scorpion; she might have to ask indulgence from one to whom she
could with difficulty accord forgiveness. All Isa’s natural pride rose
up in arms against this. Why should she endure the shame when innocent
of the guilt? Let Gaspar abide the consequences of his own conduct,
whatever that conduct might have been; she would leave him to make what
explanation, arrange what compromise he could; she would go to the
Castle, where no word of reproach, no glance of scorn would ever reach
her, where she would be welcomed by relatives whose behaviour had never
brought a blush to her cheek. This was Isa’s thought for a moment, but it
was instantly put aside as selfish, ungenerous, unkind. Her brother, at
this time of all others, had need of her sympathy, counsel, and support.
She might help him to struggle not only against outward difficulties,
but the inward enemies—the Midianites—that had brought him into this
strait—that had struck at his honour, and destroyed his peace. Might not
the disclosure which had covered him with shame be a means of loosening
his fetters? The social worship of the preceding evening, the prayers
which she had heard uttered by one whom, of all men, she most honoured,
had braced the spirit of Isa. The whole history of Gideon was to her as a
commentary on the text, _Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His
might_. She would, in her maiden meekness, stand at the post where God
had placed her, stand against the spiritual foes of her soul; she would
not sink under disappointment, yield to discontent, or harbour distrust
of her Lord. She would ask for strength, and look for strength, and
believe that strength would be given.

Isa’s first struggle was against the feeling of contempt inspired by the
conduct of Gaspar. If it were wrong to desert her brother, was it not
also wrong to despise him; and yet how closely did her very pity seem to
be allied with scorn! Now that for the first time Gaspar turned to her
for sympathy, he must find it; not sympathy with his wretched grasping
at gain, but with him in the pain and perplexity into which that grasping
had brought him. Mr. Gritton was in a miserable state of indecision,
and Isa was the sole confidante of his troubles; as she already knew so
much, he almost unconsciously let her know all. Now he clung to the hope
that what Cora suspected she would find it impossible to prove, that he
might safely abide even the issue of a lawsuit: then all his thoughts
were turned towards a compromise which might save his honour without
too far trenching on his interests; much might be done in a personal
interview; an inexperienced woman might easily be induced to compound
for the restoration of part of her property, by yielding up her claim to
the residue. After long, restless pacing up and down the room, revolving
various plans and expedients, Gaspar threw himself on a chair by his
sister, and nervously opened to her his views, concluding by saying in an
embarrassed tone, “You will explain—you will soften—you will induce Miss
Madden to listen to reason.”

“Gaspar, dear Gaspar, suffer me to speak freely and openly to you,” said
Isa, whose mind had been as actively engaged as that of her brother as
she had sat silent by the casement, with her untouched work lying on her
knee. “When we have gone out of the straight way, surely, surely our
first care should be to retrace our steps; if any wrong has been done,
should it not be set right without further delay?”

“I want your help, and not your advice,” muttered Gaspar.

“Yet hear me,” said Isa earnestly, for she felt that something more
precious than her brother’s interests, more dear than even his
reputation, was at stake. “I know that you have been unhappy—I have seen
it; your better, your nobler nature, has been oppressed by a burden
which—which you may now throw off and for ever. Oh, deal frankly and
fairly by Cora Madden! Give her what is her due, principal and interest,
even to the utmost farthing: poverty is no evil, want itself is no evil,
compared with the gnawing consciousness of possessing that which cannot
have God’s blessing upon it.”

Gaspar pressed his thin bloodless lips together, as if suppressing a
groan. He felt his sister’s fervent appeal—it found an echo in his own
conscience; but he was not yet prepared to throw down his idol, to burst
from the yoke which galled. Mr. Gritton rose hastily, without replying,
and resumed his restless walk. Isa could but guess the nature of the
struggle going on within, and silently pray that God might strengthen the
faith of the tempted one, and give victory to the right.

If not the most painful, that was certainly one of the most tedious
days that had ever been passed by Isa Gritton. Gaspar was irritable,
nervous, wretched; vacillating as a pendulum, never in the same mind for
twenty minutes together. He appeared to be constantly on the watch;
never left the house, stood often gazing forth from the window, and
nervously started at every unusual sound. There seemed to Isa to be a
spell on the hands of her watch, they moved so slowly; she could not
pursue her accustomed occupations, for Gaspar was unwilling to have her
out of his sight, and was perpetually interrupting her with snatches of
conversation. But the long day closed at last—closed in mist and rain;
a dull white fog blotted out the landscape, and ere the hour of sunset,
twilight closed in. Isa tried to beguile the evening by reading aloud,
but even the work on commercial statistics entirely failed to interest
Gaspar. His mind was abstracted, his ear painfully on the strain for
other sounds than those of his sister’s melodious voice. Glad was Isa
when the hour at length arrived when she could retire, and prepare
herself, by devotional reading, prayer, and then rest, for whatever the
morrow might bring.





The Sabbath morning rose clear and bright, Nature looking all the fairer
for the tears which she had shed on the previous night. As Isa Gritton
was completing her toilet, Hannah brought in a note. Isa instantly
recognized the handwriting; and as this missive had evidently not passed
through the post, but been brought by a messenger, the young lady, with
some anxiety, broke open the envelope and read its contents:—

                                                 _Saturday Evening._

    DEAR MISS GRITTON,—I was on the way to Axe, but felt so ill
    with feverish headache that I could not proceed beyond this
    wretched little inn (the Black Bear), which, as I hear, is not
    ten minutes’ walk from your house. Could you come over and see

                                                        CORA MADDEN.

“Who brought this?” inquired Isa of Hannah.

“Mrs. Taylor, the landlady of the ‘Black Bear.’ She’s a-waiting below,
and she says that she wants to see you partic’lar.”

Isa hastened down-stairs, and found in the hall the landlady of the
roadside public-house, which had been dignified with the name of an inn
on the strength of the single guest-chamber which it held above the
tap-room. Cora Madden must have felt ill indeed before she accepted such
shelter. The landlady was a woman of a coarse and vulgar stamp, deeply
pitted with small-pox, and with a strong scent of spirits about her. Isa
felt repugnance at the idea of paying a visit at her house.

“The lady writ that last night,” said Mrs. Taylor, not waiting to be
questioned, but speaking loud and fast and without a pause; “but it
warn’t convenient to send it over, for Tom hadn’t come in, and Jim hadn’t
just his legs; and ’twas lucky I didn’t, ’cause we did not know what it
was, and now it’s all come out red as fire.”

“What has come out? what do you mean?” asked Miss Gritton.

“The small-pox, miss; quite full out—not a place on her face where you
could lay a sixpenny bit. It’s very unlucky it’s in my house, but the
chay put up in the stables last night, and the man’s a-going to put the
horse to—”

“Stop!” exclaimed Isa; “let me understand you. Do you mean to tell me
that Miss Madden is lying ill of small-pox in your house?”

“But won’t stop there long—couldn’t think of it. I’ve six children, and I
nigh died of small-pox myself these thirty years back, so I know what it
be; and it’s a great shame, it is, to come a-sickening in the midst of a
family, and get an inn the name of being infected. But she’s a-going at
once back to Portal, or on to Axe, afore she’s an hour older.”

“A moment—listen!” cried Isa, interrupting with difficulty the loud
incoherent rattle of the landlady; “are you going to send away a lady ill
of the small-pox, without so much as knowing where she can find a place
of shelter?”

“I guess there be lodgings to be had somewhere; if not at one place at
another; they’ll drive about till they find ’un; she can’t stay with me:
I’ve a large family, and thirty years back come Michaelmas I—”

Isa Gritton pressed her hand to her forehead, trying to collect her
thoughts, distracted by the vociferous talking. A new difficulty had,
most unexpectedly, risen before her; a sudden emergency, and—as something
seemed to whisper within—a call for the exercise of Christian mercy
towards one whom she had regarded as a foe.

The sound of Mrs. Taylor’s loud voice drew Gaspar Gritton out of his
room. “Who is here? is anything the matter?” he cried.

“It cant be expected that I should turn my house into an hospital, and
frighten away customers and—” Mrs. Taylor would have pursued her remarks
had she had any listener, but Isa, anxious and troubled in countenance,
had drawn her brother into the study.

“Gaspar, Cora is at the ‘Black Bear,’ ill with small-pox. The landlady is
going to send her away at once to find a shelter where she may. Oh, were
the complaint anything but small-pox, it would seem but common charity to
offer her a refuge here!”

“And lay her under obligation; ay, ay, I see—lay her under deepest
obligation—I see, I see; the best thing that could possibly be done!”
cried Gaspar.

Isa was startled at her brother’s eagerness; her words had been the
intuitive expression of the feelings of a generous spirit, but she had
not seriously contemplated bringing a small-pox patient into her home.
Gaspar saw his sister’s cheek turn pale, and became aware that the step
proposed must be attended not only with great personal inconvenience, but
serious hazard to his young and beautiful sister. Unlike her brother,
Isa had never yet had the malady, and regarded it with considerable
dread. It was not only the peril to life, and the minor risk of permanent
disfigurement, which made Isa shrink from exposing herself to infection,
but the quarantine to which she must be subjected while nursing a patient
in small-pox would be, especially at this time, a very serious trial. It
would be like a sudden calling back of winter when the blossoms of spring
were opening to sweetest fragrance and brightest beauty. Even the dull
comfortless days at Wildwaste had been gemmed with some moments of such
exquisite happiness as had almost served to brighten the whole; and now
must the door be closed against even Edith and Henry Eardley, because it
had been opened to receive Cora Madden? Gaspar read strong repugnance to
the sacrifice in the expressive countenance of his sister.

“No, no,” he said; “you might take the infection. Miss Madden must try
her chance somewhere else.”

“Let me consider for a few moments, Gaspar. Detain the woman, I must ask
counsel ere I decide;” and Isa hurriedly sought her own room, to sink
on her knees and implore guidance and light on the tangled path opening
before her.

There were a few words which Isa had heard from the lips of the vicar of
Axe, which she had laid up in her heart for a time of perplexity like
this:—“When you are in doubt as to what course to pursue, when reason
appears to be lost in a mist, and you cannot clearly discern the narrow
path of duty, ask conscience two simple questions,—‘Were my Lord in
visible presence here, what would He bid me do? what may I venture to
believe that He would have done in my place?’ Such questions, honestly
put, and in a spirit of prayer, will draw forth such a reply as will
clear off the mist, and be as the voice saying, _This is the way, walk ye
in it, when ye turn to the right hand or to the left._”

Isa obeyed the direction now; bending her head over her clasped hands,
with the prayer, “Oh, guide me, Lord, by Thy counsel!” she asked
conscience the two simple questions. Familiar words of Scripture recurred
to her mind,—_Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye
also so unto them_. What would she desire if, like Cora, she were
ill, desolate, and alone, driven from the shelter even of a miserable
wayside inn, and sent to seek from house to house a place in which to
lay—perchance a dying head? And what would have been the conduct of the
Merciful One towards such a sufferer, however erring, however guilty?
Would He have paused to consider whether she were a foe or a friend?
_Christ pleased not Himself_, and He _hath left an example that we should
follow His steps_.

Isa rose from her knees, and calling the servant, whom she heard
spreading the breakfast in the adjoining apartment, she at once gave
orders for preparing for the reception of a lady ill of small-pox. Isa
would give up her own sleeping-room to Cora, and have Lottie’s little
pallet-bed placed in the boudoir for herself. Leaving Hannah wondering
and grumbling, Isa returned to her brother and informed him of her
decision. Gaspar, glad that it was such as might further his own selfish
interests, sent off Mrs. Taylor to make arrangements for Cora’s removal
to Wildwaste Lodge.

Isa had won another silent victory over the Midianites within, over
Selfishness, Vanity, and Fear. One sacrifice had given her strength for
another. Under the influence of that faith which worketh by love, Isa
made every preparation for the comfort of Cora that she could have made
for that of a cherished sister, giving her own efforts to make up for the
shortness of time and the incapacity or unwillingness of her servant.
Not more than half an hour elapsed before a chaise drove up to the door,
where Isa Gritton stood ready to welcome Cora Madden. The driver feared
to help out the invalid, who—swathed in blankets, a miserable, disfigured
object—would have been forced to descend without aid, and drag her
tottering limbs into the house, had not Isa’s hands been stretched out
to support—had not Isa’s slight arm been thrown gently around her. Cora
crossed the threshold, and feebly walked up the staircase, resting upon
the woman whose peace she for a time had blighted, whose prospects she
had done her utmost to destroy! Self-denying kindness may be shown to a
friend from natural affection—to a stranger from intuitive pity; but when
shown to a bitter enemy, it is one of the strongest proofs that the love
of Christ which constraineth hath been shed abroad in the heart.

“You are indeed a good Samaritan; God will bless you for it!” murmured
Cora, as she sank upon her comfortable bed, while Isa gently beat up the
pillow to support the aching head of her guest. Never had a blessing from
any other lips gone so warm to the heart of Isa; it was a blessing wrung,
as it were, from an enemy; it was as the encouraging word heard by Gideon
on the night when he stood in the camp of the foe.


Gaspar had sent from the hamlet a messenger for a doctor. He came
before noon, and pronounced that Miss Madden had not been injured by her
removal, and that with care she was likely to do well. He prescribed
absolute quietness, and forbade her speaking much on any subject,
especially such as might excite her. But it was easier for the doctor
to give the order than it was for Isa to enforce it. Her patient little
merited the name. Cora was eager to speak on business; and Isa could
scarcely soothe her into silence by entreating that she would wait a few
days, and that then she might have an interview with Mr. Gritton himself.

Gaspar had made the unusual effort of walking over to the steward’s
cottage, to speak to Mr. Holdich about a nurse to assist his sister.
Rebekah at once volunteered to go herself, if her husband’s consent were
obtained, and to Isa’s great relief appeared at the Lodge just as the
doctor quitted it. Not only were her experience and willing help a great
comfort to the young lady, but the presence of a gentle, pious woman,
sympathizing and kind, was a real pleasure to Isa. Much cheerful converse
they had together in the boudoir, with the door open between it and the
room in which Cora lay sleeping. Rebekah had many a pleasant anecdote to
relate to an attentive hearer, of Edith and of one dearer than Edith.
Never had Isa listened to tale of romance with half the interest with
which she did now to the account of the difficulties which had to be
overcome, and the efforts to be made by the vicar of Axe, to introduce
a knowledge of vital religion into that remote and benighted part of his
parish which surrounded Castle Lestrange.

The tidings of Cora’s illness and its nature was not long in reaching the
little country town of Axe. Mrs. Green stood at the door of her shop on
the Monday morning, exchanging gossip with her neighbour the baker.

“If ever there was a parson like ours!” she observed. “Always at work,
Sundays and week-days; and as anxious about his folk as if they were all
his children. He was here again, not an hour ago, to look after that
little thief upstairs; but I chanced to say to him, ‘I s’pose you’ve
heard, sir, as Miss Madden’s lying sick of small-pox at Wildwaste Lodge?’
and he looked as if he’d heard sudden of the death of his father, and
repeated, ‘Small-pox—Wildwaste Lodge!’ as if the words was a knell.”

“I dare say Mr. Eardley’s sorry for the poor lady; she was his
parishioner some years ago when the Maddens lived at the Castle.”

“He must have taken an uncommon interest in her,” said Mrs. Green with
a smile, “for he forgot all about what he’d come for, and was off for
the Lodge like a shot. He’s not one to be afeard of infection; he sat up
all night with poor Bramley, when he was a-dying of the fever. Maybe he
thinks that if Miss Madden’s in a bad way, she might like to have a word
with a parson.”

“She was one of the worldly and gay,” observed the baker, shaking his
head. “I don’t believe that she and Mr. Eardley had ever much to say to
one another; but she’s the sister of his friend Mr. Arthur, and the vicar
may care for her for his sake.”

Had the duty of spiritual visitation been all that had led Henry Eardley
to bend his rapid steps towards Wildwaste, he must have returned to Axe
disappointed. Cora had passed a favourable night, and suffered little but
from the extreme irritation caused by her malady. When Isa softly glided
to her side, and whispered that the clergyman had called to inquire for
her, and to know whether she had any wish to see him, Cora replied with a
characteristic sneer, “I’m not dying; and if I were, I would send for the
undertaker as soon as the parson.”

And yet it was with no feeling of disappointment that Henry Eardley went
on his homeward way. He turned from the dull, unsightly brick building
on the common, as one loath to leave the earthly paradise in which has
been passed a golden hour of life. His interview with Isa had indeed been
but brief, but it was one which left memories behind which would remain
fragrant in his soul to the close of his mortal existence.

“Priceless jewel enclosed in yon dull casket!” said Henry Eardley to
himself, turning to give a parting glance at Isa’s home. “May Heaven
watch over that precious one’s life, and shield her from the danger to
which her noble, unselfish devotion has exposed her.”

That prayer welled up from the depths of the vicar’s soul. It was for one
of whom he for the first time dared to let himself think as possibly the
future partner of all his joys and his sorrows, his guardian angel, his
treasure. Henry Eardley had been fascinated by Isa when meeting her at
the Castle; but a painful misgiving had rested on his mind as to whether
she, the bright ornament of society, flattered and admired, were suited
for, or could ever endure the life of lowly active usefulness which
that of a vicar’s wife should be. From the time when he had first given
himself to the ministry, Mr. Eardley had made a firm resolve, that should
he ever ask a woman in marriage, she should be one who would be his
helper, and not his hinderer, in doing his Master’s work. A pastor and
his wife should be as the two hands of a watch—the one moving in a larger
circle and with more visible activity than the other, but both fixed on
the same centre, both moved by the same spring, united in the same work,
and pointing to the same truth. With this conviction on his mind, Henry
Eardley had almost resolved to shun the society of the baronet’s niece
as a dangerous pleasure; such a bird of paradise, he thought, would
never brook the lowly perch, the secluded nest. But when he saw Isa pale
from watching by the sick-bed of a comparative stranger, for whom the
beauteous had risked the loss of beauty, and the youthful that of life,
all such misgivings passed for ever away. Henry Eardley felt that if he
dare but aspire to the hand of Isa Gritton, even were the malady which
she had braved to rob her of all her loveliness, he would be of all men
on earth the most blessed. That which the maiden had feared would divide
her from him whose regard she most valued, was but as a golden link to
bind them together for ever.





“Better go back, Lottie; ye were dead tired last time,” said Steady to
his sister on the evening of the next lecture, as she sat down by the
road-side to rest, on her way to the steward’s cottage.

“I was not half so tired as my heart felt afore I went to the meeting,”
replied Lottie. “Thought I, if I don’t get some help with this burden of
trouble, I’ll just lie down and die. All the people looking so strangely
at me, and speaking so cruelly of me—no news from mother—no news of poor
father—and now my dear young mistress nursing a lady in the small-pox,
and I away! Oh, if she catches it!” Lottie started up as if the idea had
inspired her with fresh energy, “I will go and nurse her; nothing shall
stay me; she shall see that I ain’t ungrateful.”

“Maybe she won’t catch it,” observed Steady.

“I pray God with all my heart and soul that she may not!” cried Lottie.
“I should like,” she continued, more quietly, as she plodded along the
dusty highroad with her brother—“I should like to have nursed Miss
Madden, not ’cause I care for her, but for the sake of her brother, Mr.

“He was the best friend as ever we had,” observed Steady.

“He taught us about heaven—he helped us in trouble—he worked so hard to
put out the fire when the flames were a’most catching our cottage. And to
think of his lying dying far, far away in Jerusalem!” The black eyes of
Lottie Stone were brimming over with tears.

“Mind—you’ll be run over!” exclaimed Steady, suddenly pulling his sister
to one side, out of the way of an open carriage which was coming up
rapidly behind them. The Stones had been walking in the centre of the

Full as she was of her own mournful thoughts, Lottie did not even look at
the carriage as it whirled past; but she was startled by a voice from it
suddenly exclaiming, “Stop, coachman, stop! Yes; that is Lottie Stone,
with her brother!”

Lottie uttered a low cry of delight as she glanced up and recognized the
face—emaciated, indeed, and very pale—of the benefactor of her family, as
he bent smiling from the carriage to greet those whom he had not seen for
years. Arthur Madden and his sister Lina had a few hours before arrived
at Axe, having hastened thither immediately upon reaching England, from
hearing tidings of the illness of Cora. They had been relieved from
anxiety on her account by Mr. Eardley, from whom they learned that
the invalid was in a fair way to recover. Medical men had strictly
forbidden Arthur to expose himself in his weakened state to any hazard of
infection; and Lina, his devoted nurse, was thankful not to be obliged to
leave him, as the clergyman informed her how tenderly Cora was watched
over by Isa Gritton.

[Illustration: THE RECOGNITION.]

Arthur and Lina had taken up their quarters at a quiet hotel at Axe. A
message from the former to the vicar had brought Mr. Eardley instantly to
see them. With hearty joy and fervent thanksgiving, Henry wrung the thin
hand of his friend.

“The accounts of you had been so alarming that I had hardly ventured to
hope to see your face again in this world!” cried the vicar.

“The voyage did me much good; and the sight of dear familiar faces will
do me much more,” said Arthur. “I long to be again amongst my old pupils
at Wildwaste, and to meet with honest Holdich once more. Do you still
hold your little week-day services in that honey-suckle-mantled cottage,
which is connected in my mind with some of its pleasant recollections?”

“I hold one there this evening,” replied Mr. Eardley.

“Then we will go to it,” cried Arthur Madden; “it will so remind us of
_auld lang syne_. Nay, no remonstrance, Lina,” he added gaily, as he read
an objection in the face of his anxious young nurse; “it will _not_ tire
me, it will _not_ give me a chill; it will make me feel ten years younger
to find myself amongst my poor friends again: and I should like our first
meeting to be in that place, where we used to worship together. I will
ring and order an open carriage to be here early enough to give us half
an hour for greetings before the service begins; at least, if it be not
inconvenient for you to start so soon,” said Arthur, addressing himself
to the vicar, “for you must come with us in the carriage, and tell us
on the way the thousand things which I wish to hear of Wildwaste and its

There is nothing so healthful as happiness. The keen enjoyment which
Arthur felt in returning to the place where he had first laboured for
God, where he had first realized what a blessed thing it is to win souls
for Christ, was as a powerful tonic to his enfeebled constitution. Never
had his eye looked brighter, or his voice sounded more cheerful, than
during that drive from Axe, as he recognized familiar landmarks, and
questioned his friend, Mr. Eardley, as to the fortunes of those whom he
had known before quitting England.

“I remember that Wildwaste is not in your parish. Has it the same aged
minister still?”

“Yes; but I hear that Mr. Bull is about to resign his cure. He is now
unable to perform even the shortest service.”

“I hope and trust that an earnest, hard-working man may be put in his
place,” said Arthur.

“God grant it!” was the vicar’s response.

“And old Tychicus Bolder, the teetotaller,” inquired young Madden after
a pause; “does he still declaim as fiercely as ever against the evils of

“The rod of affliction has been heavy on poor Bolder. He suffered so
greatly from rheumatism last winter that it was feared that he might
altogether lose the use of his limbs; but he has rallied wonderfully
during the last few days, and he expressed a hope, when I last saw him,
that he would be able to get to church again in the summer.”

“He seemed to me,” observed Lina Madden, “one of the most proud,
uncharitable, and self-righteous men that I ever had met with; but I
suppose that we shall see him much changed.”

“He is much changed indeed,” replied Mr. Eardley; “for to poor Bolder
suffering has not been sent in vain. He used to look around him for
subjects of censure, now he has learned to look within; and what he did
before to be honoured of men, he does now for the sake of his God. Human
nature regards sickness and pain as enemies; but it is through such
enemies that a message of love and mercy has come to Bolder.”

“And little Lottie Stone, my first acquaintance in Wildwaste, how fares
she?” asked Arthur Madden. “Methinks I see her now, in my mind’s eye,
the gipsy-like child, with her earnest black eyes, wrapped up in the old
scarlet cloak, and—why, surely, there is Lottie herself!” he exclaimed,
and calling to the coachman to stop, Arthur Madden, as we have already
seen, greeted the young Stones with pleasure, which was more than
reciprocated by them.

With the young hope is buoyant, and the sense of happiness keen. The
sight of her benefactor living, convalescent, looking bright and kind as
ever, seemed to Lottie’s warm young heart an earnest that, like her late
anxiety upon his account, all her other troubles would soon pass away.
Her mother would come back—her father would live to be a blessing and
comfort in his home—her own character would be fully cleared—Miss Gritton
and her dear pastor would smile upon her again—and Heaven would guard her
sweet lady from taking the infection of the fever. Mr. Eardley looked on
that beaming young face, and his reflection was much the same as that of
Isa had been, “There is no sense of guilt weighing on the conscience of
that child; truth and innocence are written upon every feature.”

“If you, too, are going to the lecture, Lottie, we’ll spare you the long
walk,” said the smiling Lina.

“Yes; up with you, Lottie, beside the coachman,” cried Arthur. “Steady
will follow; I’ll be bound he’ll be in time. I never knew him late at my
class; he was one on whom I could always depend.”

The few words of kindly praise called up a grin of pleasure on the
sun-burned face of the dull-witted but true-hearted lad, who went
plodding on his lonely way almost as happy as his sister.

The rapid motion of the vehicle on which she was mounted was very
exhilarating to Lottie. She felt herself metaphorically, as well as
literally, lifted on high from the dust, relieved from oppressive
weariness, given rest and enjoyment while at the same time borne swiftly
onwards. When the carriage stopped at the honey-suckle covered porch,
Lottie sprang down from her lofty seat light as a squirrel. She had
no fear now of encountering cold looks, suspicious glances, as groups
from the neighbourhood dropped into the meeting. Every eye was fixed
upon Arthur Madden; no one seemed to have a thought but for him and his
sister, so lately arrived from the Holy Land. Lottie missed, indeed,
amongst the throng her young mistress and Rebekah Holdich, who were both
absent from fear of conveying infection; but her prayers for them both
rose now with a feeling of joyous confidence, to which the poor girl had
been a stranger since making that promise of silence to Gaspar, which had
been the source of such pain and distress.





We are to contemplate this evening, my friends, in one of the most
marvellous triumphs ever granted to faith, a most striking emblem of the
victory of the gospel over the opposition of earth and hell. We will
first consider the historical narrative before us: then see how in it
is prefigured the success attending the preaching of the apostles and
disciples of our Lord; and, finally, draw encouragement for ourselves in
our conflict against the Midianites in our own souls.

Gideon, after returning to his camp, made immediate preparations for a
night attack upon the foe. But these preparations were of a nature to
cause surprise amongst his three hundred devoted men. They were not to
string the bow or to grasp the keen sword; they were to go forth into
the midst of the armed multitudes of Midian as sheep amongst wolves,
without—as it seems—either weapons of offence or armour for protection!
Gideon divided his little band into three companies, and he put a trumpet
into every man’s hand, with an empty pitcher, and a lamp was placed
within each pitcher. And the leader said to his followers: “Look on me,
and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it
shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do. When I blow with a trumpet, I and
all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all
the camp, and say, _The sword of the Lord and of Gideon_!”

So Gideon, and the three hundred men that were with him, came unto the
outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle night watch, and they
blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands.

Loud and terrible was the sound that thus startled the hosts of Midian
from their slumbers on that eventful night—the blare of the trumpets,
the crash of the vessels, while suddenly the glare of a hundred waving
torches lit up the darkness! From this side and that side the sound
is echoed, the flash is reflected, while loud bursts the shout that
strikes terror into the Midianites’ souls,—“_The sword of the Lord and
of Gideon!_” Smitten with panic, confused by the noise, dazzled by the
glare, the multitudes of Midian are but embarrassed by their own numbers,
they cannot distinguish friend from foe,—they snatch up their weapons,
indeed, and use them with frantic vigour, but every man’s hand is turned
against his own fellow—warriors strike right and left, but their fierce
blows fall on their own companions in arms! One wild instinct to save
life by flight possesses all that vast host; men rush hither and thither
with frantic speed, careless of trampling over the corpses of countrymen,
comrades, brothers!

The chosen three hundred, the “forlorn hope” of Israel, had thus, through
the power of Israel’s God, discomfited and put to flight the armies of
the aliens; but their brethren were to join in the pursuit. Warriors
gathered out of Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh, and pressed hard on the
flying foe. Gideon despatched messengers throughout all Ephraim, calling
on the men of that neighbouring tribe to seize on the fords of Jordan,
to intercept the flight of the Midianites over the river. His directions
were obeyed; the warlike Ephraimites joined in the effort to free their
country from the foe; they pursued Midian, and brought the heads of two
of its princes, Oreb and Zeeb, to Gideon on the other side of the Jordan.

In the marvellous success granted to the efforts of a handful of men
who, strong in faith, though armed only with trumpets to sound, and
torches to display, we see most clearly foreshadowed the triumph of the
gospel in the days of the apostles and their immediate followers. The
whole world lay in wickedness, shrouded in deep moral darkness, like the
hosts of Midian in night, when the Saviour came down unto His own, to
be despised and rejected of men. Satan appeared to hold the human race
under a yoke which no effort could break. Rome, that towered supreme
amongst the nations, that held in subjection even the chosen land of
Israel, was wholly given to idolatry. Incense offered to false gods
rose from unnumbered shrines, benighted myriads worshipped vain idols
in blind superstition. And what was the force chosen by God to oppose,
to discomfit the powers of earth and of hell, to overthrow heathen
altars, to raise the banner of the Cross against Satan and his hosts,
against the kings and princes of this world? A little band of apostles
and disciples—a few fishermen and their companions—mostly poor, mostly
unlearned, were to engage in this the most mighty struggle which the
world had ever known! Not as the followers of Mohammed, with the sword to
sweep their enemies from the earth; the early Christians had, as it were,
like Gideon’s men, their _torches_ and their _trumpets_. The trumpet,
symbol of preaching,—the loud clear declaration of the glorious truth
that salvation is offered freely to men through the blood of an incarnate
God. _If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself
to the battle?_ saith the Apostle Paul, who himself gave a blast, the
echo of which still resoundeth throughout the world! And the torches
which these early Christians displayed were the examples of their pure
and devoted lives—shining through, dispelling the darkness around them,
according to the word of their Lord, _Let your light so shine before men,
that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in

But the treasure was borne in earthly vessels, and those vessels were
broken and shattered, that the light might more clearly be seen. “The
blood of martyrs was the seed of the Church.” All the apostles, with the
single exception of St. John, who was persecuted and banished, died a
violent death for the sake of the gospel. But their lights did not perish
with them: no; they were lifted on high to shine in glory, enlightening
generation after generation, with a brilliance which shall never pass
away. Thus was it that our religion triumphed over the enemy by the flash
of the torch and the blast of the trumpet. The victory of Gideon was as a
rehearsal of the infinitely more glorious triumph of the gospel of Christ.

And now, dear brethren, to apply to our consciences the lesson before us,
let us examine into the work of faith and the power of faith in our own
souls. What do we know of conflict, what do we know of victory over the
Midianites in our hearts, even our own besetting sins? Have we left those
sins quietly in possession to degrade and enslave our souls, or have we
sought to fight the good fight? If we have attempted to throw off the
enemy’s yoke, how have we prepared ourselves for the battle? Our own
good resolutions, our trust in our own strength, our pride of conscious
virtue, these may have been as the forces that gathered at first around
Gideon, but not to those are the victory given. The triumph must be that,
not of human strength, but of God-bestowed _faith_. It was when St. Paul,
struggling with inward corruption, exclaimed, _O wretched man that I am,
who shall deliver me from the body of this death?_ that he was enabled to
add, _Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus

Again, the weapons with which we assault the enemy in his camp may find
their emblems in the torches and trumpets carried by Gideon’s band.
There is the loud alarm of conscience, sounding clear and distinct in
the soul, giving no uncertain sound. There are the precepts and promises
of Scripture, scattering the darkness around—_Thy Word is a lamp unto my
feet, and a light unto my path_; while often painful dispensations, the
shattering of human joys, the crash of the earthen vessels, make that
Word to shine to us with a brilliance unknown in the days of our joy.
But instead of the shout of Gideon, the Christian’s voice is raised in
prayer. It is the cry to the Lord for help that puts the Destroyer to
flight. Thus may we discomfit our spiritual foes, _more than conquerors_
through Him that loved us,—

    “His grace our strength, our guide His word;
    Our aim, the glory of the Lord!”

How was it with the patriarch Abraham when his faith had to endure one
of the severest conflicts recorded in Scripture,—when he was commanded
to offer up the son whom he loved? Dark was the night around him, his
natural affections were enlisted on the enemy’s side; but conscience
sounded the call to obedience, while faith firmly grasped the promise,
_In Isaac shall thy seed be called_: so dashing down, as the earthen
vessels were dashed, any doubts or misgivings that would have obscured
the light of that promise, Abraham triumphed because he believed, and
received the reward of his faith.

In such an instance as this, to return to the simile of the tree, we see
the ripe fruits of faith. The sun of God’s grace has shone so brightly,
the dew of His Spirit has rested so fully upon it, that we behold it at
length in all its sweetness, richness, and beauty. Christian brethren, be
content with nothing short of this. We see too many with whom it appears
as if their graces never would ripen. There is a crudeness, a hardness
about their religion, which, if it do not make us doubt its nature, at
least takes from it all its charm. Faith cannot be fully developed where
the softness of humility, the sweetness of charity, are unknown. It is of
the man who not only yields obedience to the commandments, but delights
in the law of the Lord, that it is written, _He shall be like a tree
planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his
season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth it shall





“Look at them out of the window! no, indeed! If they are so anxious to
see their sister after a four years’ separation, let them come to her in
her chamber of sickness,” was Cora’s reply to an affectionate message
from the newly-arrived travellers conveyed to her through Isa. “Since
strangers are not afraid of infection,” she continued with a sneer, “it
shows that the danger may be braved even by those who have not, like
Arthur Madden, a reputation for heroic self-devotion.”

“Still the bitterness—still the satire: can trial and sickness teach
her nothing?” thought Isa, as she left the room to send, in softened
form, the ungracious message of Cora to her brother and sister, who were
waiting in front of the house which they were forbidden to enter. Isa
had already explained to Cora how great would be to Arthur the useless
risk of a meeting, she had therefore felt it unnecessary to reply to a
sarcasm which was at once so ungenerous and unjust.

Cora, against the remonstrances of her gentle nurses, had insisted on
rising and dressing. She was impatient of all restraint, and opposition
only made her irritable. The first moment that she found herself alone,
she walked up to the toilette-table and looked into the glass. For
several minutes Cora remained motionless, mutely staring into the too
faithful mirror, as if the frightful image which it contained had the
transfixing power of the Gorgon; then she slowly turned from it, with her
soul overflowing with bitterness. Miss Madden had possessed a certain
share of good looks, which her vanity had magnified into beauty; now
all had passed for ever away. Time, indeed, would remove much of the
disfigurement which made a once handsome countenance hideous, but Cora
knew too well that in her case time would never entirely efface the marks
left by the small-pox. Perhaps no woman in Cora’s position would have
been insensible to a trial such as this, but to one who had sought all
her happiness from the world, to whom its smile had been sunshine, the
trial was well-nigh intolerable. The loss of her personal attractions
was to Cora a greater affliction than that of her property had been.
Therefore was it that the heart of Cora was as a well of bitterness, full
to the brim and overflowing in rebellion against God, and malice against
her happier fellow-creatures.

And was there no gratitude towards the generous girl who had not only
drawn, as it were, a sponge over the record of injuries past, but at the
cost of a painful sacrifice had acted the part of a sister towards her?
Did no feeling of tenderness arise in the bosom of Cora when she looked
on the bright lovely face which might so soon, for her sake, be marred
like her own? It might have been so, even with Cora Madden, had she not
chosen to regard the conduct of Isa, as well as that of Gaspar, as the
result of interested calculation. “They knew well enough,” she muttered
to herself, “that once under their roof they had me at an advantage.
Isa lavishes attentions on me as men pour water on gunpowder, when they
fear to be shattered by its explosion. It was folly in me to consent to
receive such hypocritical kindness; I wish that I had driven at once to
Axe. But I have the wit to penetrate their designs, and the spirit to
defeat them.”

With this impression on her mind, Cora, on Isa’s re-entering her
apartment, at once addressed her in a tone of formal politeness,—

“I shall also have to trouble you, Miss Gritton, with a message to
your brother. As soon as I have sufficient strength to go downstairs,
I shall request an interview with Mr. Gritton, that we may come to an
understanding on the unpleasant subject which I mentioned to him in my
note. Doubtless,” continued Cora with a sarcastic smile, “he will be
glad of an opportunity of showing me with what a tender regard for my
interests he, as my agent, always has acted.”

Isa could make no reply; she did not trust herself even to look at
the countenance of Cora, but at once quitted the room to convey the
message to her brother. Scarcely had the door closed behind her when the
attention of Cora was attracted by the sound of loud cheers rising from
the direction of the little school which had been built by Arthur in
Wildwaste, the manly voices of workmen blending with the shriller huzzas
of the young.

“What can the idle villagers be shouting for?” said Cora to herself as
she approached the window, and, concealing herself behind the muslin
curtain, looked down on the scene below. She saw the whole population of
Wildwaste—men, women, and children—gathered around an open carriage to
welcome back the benefactor of all. Even old Bolder, forgetful of his
infirmities, had dragged himself into the sunshine, to greet with hearty
joy the friend of the poor. Cora caught a glimpse of the face of her
brother, beaming with pure happiness, as he bent forward to recognize
familiar faces in the crowd. Cora turned away with an expression of scorn
on her lip, but a pang of envy at her heart. To whom would her presence
bring joy? from whom could she look for welcome, either in this world
or in the next? She had dwelt, like her brother, near Wildwaste; she
had enjoyed the same opportunities as Arthur of instructing the ignorant
and feeding the hungry. He had helped the poor—she had despised them; he
had found his happiness in doing his Master’s will—she had sought hers
in following her own. _Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness
for the upright in heart_; but on all that Cora had most prized was the
mournful sentence inscribed, _Vanity of vanities, all is vanity_. Malice,
worldliness, and pride now tormented the soul of Cora; these spiritual
foes had come to her first as the Midianites to Israel in the time of
Moses, not to alarm but to seduce. She had welcomed and harboured the
tempters till they remained as masters and tyrants within: she now felt
their yoke to be galling indeed.

The spirit of Gaspar Gritton was also acutely sensible at this time of
the degradation of its bondage. The idea of the approaching interview
with Miss Madden oppressed him with a humiliating feeling of fear. Nor
was Gaspar free from care on the account of his sister. Isa’s gentleness
and unselfishness had had their natural effect in thawing that cold
ungenial heart, and an undefined terror arose in it that he might, by
pursuing his own interests, have sacrificed the life of the only being on
earth whom he loved.

“Isa, you do not feel ill?” said Gaspar that evening to his sister, whom
he had been for some time watching in anxious silence. Isa was sitting
in the study, apparently engaged in reading, but it was long since she
had turned the page; her head was leaning on her hand, a vivid colour was
on her cheek, but her appearance denoted languor and weariness, and, when
Gaspar spoke, her large soft eyes had heavily closed, as if for slumber.

“No, not exactly ill,” replied Isa, with a languid smile; “I have but a
little headache, and feel as if I wanted rest.”

“God grant that you have not taken the infection!”

“I was just thinking that if I should take it—and it is very possible
that I may do so—it would be well for me to speak a few words to you
before we are separated by illness or—or that in which illness might
end.” Isa had been silently praying for courage to make one effort
more—it might be the last—to persuade her unhappy brother to act a just
and honourable part. “I have told you our father’s last commands, oh,
let me join to them a sister’s entreaties. Gaspar, act towards Cora
Madden as you will wish that you had acted when you both stand before the
judgment-seat of God.” Isa spoke with emotion, and the feverish flush on
her cheek grew brighter than before.

“What would you have me do?” asked Gaspar, in a low, agitated voice.

“What conscience bids, what God’s Word directs,” replied Isa,—“make

Gaspar rose and strode once or twice up and down the apartment with his
hands behind him; his brow furrowed with an anxious frown. Presently
he stopped short before his sister, whose soul was rising in silent
supplication for her tempted brother.

“Isa, you ask too much. To refund that money would be to acknowledge that
it never ought to have been mine.”

“But how will you then dare to meet face to face with one whom, I fear,
you have wronged?”

“I’ll not meet Cora Madden—I’ll leave this place—I’ll go abroad!” said
Gaspar hurriedly, giving voice to a thought which had often recurred to
his mind.

“And leave me?” cried Isa reproachfully.

“You will be with relations who care for you; you will be in the Castle,
or—;” Gaspar stopped short, for a terrible thought flashed across him as
he looked at the drooping form of his sister, that she might find a yet
safer resting-place from sorrow and disgrace in the grave.


Startled by the idea, as by a spectre, Gaspar insisted on Isa’s at once
retiring to seek the rest which she needed. She lingered, from the
feeling that she might not be able to rise in the morning; that the
languor and pain which she felt might be signs that the fatal fever was
already in her veins. Isa could not leave Gaspar without one more appeal
to the tempted one, whom—a secret foreboding voice seemed to whisper—she
was now for the last time addressing. Isa returned back from the door
to the spot where her brother was seated, softly laid her hand on his
shoulder, pressed her feverish lips on his brow, and then murmured, “O
Gaspar, fly not from duty! Whither can we go without having God and
our conscience still beside us?” After uttering this last warning, she
hastily quitted the room.





“O my Lord, do Thou direct and bless us. I cast all my cares upon
Thee.” It was with this prayer in her heart that Isa laid her aching
head on her pillow on that night. Cares had thickened around her: the
danger of disease, disfigurement, perhaps an early death, was looming
before her, yet Isa was not unhappy. Though scarcely able to frame a
connected prayer, never had the maiden approached the mercy-seat with
more childlike confidence than she did now. As the Christian goes from
strength to strength, Isa’s late victory over malice, resentment, and
self-will, had left a sweet sense of repose in the love and the wisdom of
God. Isa had risked her happiness for the sake of conscience; or rather,
she had placed her happiness in the hands of her Lord, where she felt it
to be safer than in her own. He would guard her from sickness, suffering,
and sorrow, or bless her in the midst of them all. God had given her—of
this Isa now felt a sweet assurance—the heart of one whose affection to
her outweighed the world. Even if it were God’s will that she should not
again on earth meet her Henry, the union of those who are one in Christ
is not for this life alone. Isa, and him whom she loved, had alike given
themselves unreservedly to their Lord: in life or in death they were His,
and no really good thing would their heavenly Father withhold from His
children. Isa’s faith had greatly ripened during the last few days. She
felt the sunshine on her soul—she felt the refreshing dew of God’s grace;
and a mellowed sweetness was the result—while peace mantled her soul
like the soft down on the peach, from whose surface the drops from the
bursting thunder-cloud trickle harmlessly away.

Very different was it with the unhappy Gaspar. Little rest was to be his
during that night. He was in an agony of irresolution: Isa’s words had
not been without their effect. Sometimes he resolved to meet Cora with
an open confession, and throw himself on her generosity to shield his
character from reproach, while he made all the reparation in his power
for the injury which he had done her. Then stronger than ever came the
impulse to fly the country. He had enough of property on the premises
to enable him to live in comfort in some part of Europe where his
antecedents would be unknown. If he could not keep his plunder in England
from the grasp of the law, he would bear it thence, beyond reach of loss
or of shame. But would he be beyond the avenging arm of Divine Justice?
Might not that arm be raised at that very moment to smite him in the
person of his sister; to make her—the pure, the innocent, the generous—a
victim for the crime of her brother?

The sound of footsteps in the sick-room above him made Gaspar restless
and uneasy: prognostications of evil disturbed him. When he fell at
length into a state of slumber, through his dreams sounded the measured
toll of the death-bell: a funeral seemed moving slowly before him, the
black plumes of the hearse nodding over the white-bordered pall. Gaspar
awoke with a start of terror, raised himself on his elbow, and gazed
around him. To his disordered fancy, it seemed as if the light, which was
always kept in his chamber at night, were burning blue; the shadows which
it cast on ceiling and wall took strange shapes, which appalled him, he
knew not why. The dimly-seen portrait of his father above the mantelpiece
seemed to Gaspar to look on him with stern and threatening eyes: as he
gazed, he could fancy that they moved, and, wild as he knew the fancy to
be, the idea made him strangely shiver.

Hark! was there not a moving of bolts and bars in the study adjoining,
and a stealthy footstep heard on the creaking floor? Had Gaspar’s secret
been betrayed? Attracted by rich hoards of plunder, were robbers
entering the house? Mr. Gritton strained his ear and listened; till at
length, unable longer to endure uncertainty, he started up from his couch
and opened the door which divided his sleeping-room from the study. All
there was perfectly dark, perfectly still: if there had been any sound,
it must have been but caused by the night wind shaking the shutters or
moaning under the door. Gaspar could not, however, return to his bed: he
dressed, and, as he did so, marvelled to find his fingers trembling as if
from palsied age.

Taking his candle to light him, Gaspar then proceeded to the vault which
contained his treasure. He had perhaps no very definite purpose in
visiting it, except that of removing a small sum required for household
expenses; yet there was a floating idea in his mind of ascertaining how
large a sum in gold he could convey away packed in so small a space as
not to excite suspicion. Lottie’s accidental discovery of the vault had
made her master more than usually on his guard against betraying his
secret to others. He therefore carefully closed the trap-door behind him
before descending the ladder, and as carefully closed the door which
divided the outer vault from the inner, when he had entered the latter,
the treasure-cave of his wealth.


There stood the miser, in the midst of his hoards of silver and gold—a
lonely, miserable man. Those bags heavy with coin, won at the price of
conscience and honour, had no more power to give peace to his soul than
their hard, cold contents could afford nourishment to his frame. The
place felt damp, the air oppressive. A deathly chill came over Gaspar
Gritton. He had strange difficulty in unfastening the string round one of
his canvas bags. His fingers shook violently as he did so: he overthrew
the heavy bag, and had a dull perception that money was clinking and
falling and rolling around him in every direction. Gaspar stooped with
a vague intention of picking it up, but was utterly unable to find or
even to see the coin; and equally impossible was it for him to regain
his former standing posture. A strange numbness came over the unhappy
man: thought and feeling were alike suspended, and he lay for hours in a
senseless state on the damp, brick-paved floor, besprinkled with gold.

Some degree of consciousness returned at last; but it was that strange
consciousness which may exist in a trance of catalepsy, such as that
which now enchained the faculties of Gaspar Gritton. He lay as one dead,
in the position in which he had fallen, unable to stir a muscle or to
utter a sound—unable to give the smallest outward sign of life. And yet
the mind was awake, alive to the horrors of his situation. Gaspar was
buried in the midst of his treasures, in the living grave which he had so
carefully prepared, so jealously concealed. Men would search for him, and
never find him. But would they even search? Gaspar recalled with anguish
the intention of sudden flight which he had expressed to his sister. She
who cared for him—she who loved him—she who, under other circumstances,
would never have rested until she had found him—would naturally conclude
from his own words that he had fled from fear of exposure, and would
not even make an attempt to discover the place of his retreat. It would
never be discovered till perhaps ages hence, when the edifice above had
crumbled away—the foundations might be dug up, and a nameless skeleton
found surrounded by heaps of money and treasures of silver plate. Gaspar
had meditated flying from duty, and stern judgment had arrested him on
the threshold. In the gloomy, silent vault the sinner was left alone with
God and his conscience. The candle which Gaspar had brought with him
burned down, flickered in the socket, went out. All was darkness, all
silence, all horror! It was as if the fearful sentence had already been
passed upon him who had been enslaved by the love of money,—_Your gold
and silver is cankered, and the rust of them shall be a witness against
you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire; ye have heaped treasure
together for the last days._





Lottie had not been alarmed by not hearing from her mother, well knowing
that, though Mrs. Stone was able to read, she had never penned a letter
in the course of her life. Lottie talked cheerfully and hopefully to
Steady on the evening following that on which the last meeting had been
held, as they sat together by the little window after the work of the day
was over.

“Now that Mr. Arthur has come back, it do seem as if everything were
a-brightening,” said she. “He’s getting over his sickness wonderful,
and I don’t believe as father’s was ever half so bad. Father will be
a-coming home too; and Mr. Arthur will speak a word for him—I’m sure that
he will—and get him work at the factory again, or maybe at the Castle.
Mother won’t need to work so hard, and we’ll have a nice little cottage
of our own, and not have to live in a lodging over a shop.”

Brightly glowed the reflection of the setting sun on the windows of the
opposite side of the street; and Lottie’s black eyes, as she gazed on it,
seemed to have caught the cheerful gleam. But even as she looked, the sun
sank below the western horizon, the ruddy light gradually faded away, and
the gray hue of twilight succeeded.

“There be mother!” suddenly exclaimed young Stone, rising quickly from
his seat, as with weary step a lonely woman turned the corner of the
street, bending as if under a heavy burden of years or sorrow, and never
once lifting her drooping eyes towards her home as she approached it.

“Mother—alone! Oh, where—where has she left father?” exclaimed Lottie,
starting up and running to meet her.

Deborah found the door open, and Lottie there with a look of eager
inquiry on her face. But no word was uttered; for the sight of her
mother’s countenance, and the scraps of shabby mourning which she wore,
took from the young, warm-hearted girl all power of speech. She followed
Deborah upstairs, thankful that Mrs. Green chanced to be at the moment
out of the way.

“How’s father?” asked the son, who had met his mother on the staircase.

Deborah made no reply, but entered the room, sank wearily on a chair, and
buried her face in her hands. She was a woman who seldom wept; but now
her whole frame shook with convulsive sobs. Lottie knelt down beside her,
looking up with anxious grief and fear into her mother’s face. She could
with difficulty catch the meaning of Mrs. Stone’s scarcely articulate

[Illustration: THE MOTHER’S RETURN.]

“Thank God, at least I was in time to see him, to be with him, at the

Then the widow raised her head, stretched out her arms, and drew sobbing
to her heart her two fatherless children.

Yes, the long-cherished dream of hope was over; the erring
husband—forgiven, loved, and watched for—had returned to his native
shore to die. Stone had seen his injured wife, and breathed his last
sigh in her arms. Had he died a penitent? Deborah fondly clung to the
hope; and when she had a little regained her composure, repeated to her
children again and again every faintly-breathed sentence from the lips of
the dying man that could possibly be deemed an expression of penitence or
an utterance of prayer. Who could have borne to have quenched her hope,
or who would dare to say that the daily supplication of wife and children
for a wandering sinner had not been answered at last?

As Deborah had hardly had one hour’s uninterrupted sleep during the
preceding week, she was almost overpowered by physical weariness as well
as by mental distress; and Lottie had little difficulty in persuading her
to go to bed at once. This was the poor widow’s only place of refuge from
the intrusion of her neighbours; for no sooner was it noised through Axe
that Mrs. Stone had returned home after attending the death-bed of her
husband, than some impelled by sympathy, some by mere curiosity, visited
her humble lodging, tormenting the weeping Lottie with questions, or
well-meant attempts at offering consolation. She was thankful to close
the door at last upon all, and with a very heavy heart prepare to go
herself to rest.

“Shall we have just a bit of a prayer together, Steady, as we always
have?” said the poor girl, with a faltering voice. It had been the habit
of the brother and sister thus to pray, from the time when they had knelt
as children together in their cottage home at Wildwaste, perhaps to be
startled from their knees by the noisy entrance of a parent reeling home
from the ale-house. Steady was very quiet, almost stolid; he had had no
outburst of sorrow on hearing of the death of his father; perhaps those
miserable days at Wildwaste had left deeper memories on a mind more slow
to receive or to part with impressions; he had certainly never been
buoyed up with the same joyous hopes as his sister had been, and was
therefore less sensitive to disappointment. The lad knelt down without
reply, leaving, as usual, to Lottie the uttering of the simple prayer, to
which he was wont to add the closing Amen.

“Pray God bless and keep dear—;” Lottie could go no further. Alas! who
has not felt how the first omission of a dear familiar name in prayer
brings vividly to the soul of the mourner the reality of that separation,
which, as regards this world, is softened by no hope. Lottie could only
sob, while her brother, slowly and very briefly, concluded the little

Lottie rose on the morrow with the feeling that there was a great blank
in her life; and yet it was not in the nature of things that she should
sorrow as long and as deeply for such a parent as Abner had been, as
for one who had faithfully fulfilled the duties of husband and father.
She resolved to devote herself more than ever to her mother; and was
almost glad, for her sake, that she herself had been obliged to leave
Wildwaste. The return of Arthur and Lina Madden from Palestine had
diverted the attention of gossips from the subject of Lottie’s mysterious
sovereigns, and as it was widely known that she had been seen on the box
of a carriage in which not only Arthur but Mr. Eardley had been seated,
slander itself was forced to own that “the gentlefolk, anyways, seemed to
know as how Lottie had come honestly by that money; though ’twas a pity,
it was, that she made such a mystery about it.”

In the afternoon the unwelcome step of Mrs. Green was heard on the stair.
It was her third visit on that day to the widow’s little room, as she
had twice before bustled up “just to see if she could do nothing for the
poor soul,” as she said, but in reality to pick up scraps of gossip to
retail to the baker’s sisters and the linen-draper’s wife. This time,
however, Mrs. Green came up eager to impart news rather than to hear it.
Unceremoniously seating herself in the darkened room of sorrow in which
were the newly-made widow and her fatherless girl, she said to Lottie,
who was preparing the simple afternoon meal, “I say, Lottie Stone, I
think that there new house at Wildwaste is somehow bewitched! Here’s you
a-running away from it, you can’t or you won’t say why; and now there’s
its own master suddenly disappeared, and no one knows what’s become of

“Disappeared!” echoed Lottie, in surprise.

“Ay; no one’s seen nothing of him since last night, and all Wildwaste’s
in a commotion. He’d been to bed, too, that was clear; and no one saw
him leave the house in the morning; and Hannah says that she could take
her oath that the chain was up on the house-door when she went to it at
seven. But Mr. Gritton’s not in the Lodge; it’s been searched from top to

“He’s been lost in the bog—like that miserable Dan Ford,” said Deborah,

“No, not that,” replied Mrs. Green; “the bog’s not in a dangerous state
just now; we’ve had so much hot sunshine, that you might ride a horse
across the common from one end to the other.”

“Is my dear lady much frightened about her brother?” asked Lottie, who
had been listening with breathless interest.

“Not half so much frightened as one might expect, Hannah says; nor half
so much surprised at his disappearing. It seems as if she’d a notion
where he has gone, though she does not choose to tell what she knows. But
Miss Gritton ain’t very well, they says; depend on’t, she’s in for the
fever. There’s nothing in the world so catching as small-pox.”

Lottie’s heart sank within her.

“Mrs. Bolder thinks,” continued Mrs. Green, “that Mr. Gritton has just
gone off to Lunnon to be out of the way of infection; but it’s odd enough
that he should have gone away without his hat, for that’s hanging up in
the hall; and its odder still that he should have been pulling about the
furniture like a madman. Hannah told Mrs. Bolder, though she did not say
a word of it to trouble Miss Gritton, that she found the study in strange
disorder—the table pulled out of its place, the very drugget rolled up!”

Lottie was hardly able to stifle the sudden exclamation which rose to her

Having unburdened herself of her news, Mrs. Green suddenly remembered
that her kettle would be boiling over, and bustled out of the room.
Lottie waited impatiently for a few seconds, till she was certain that
the landlady was out of hearing, and then with energy exclaimed, “Mother,
mother, I must be off to Wildwaste; I’m sure and certain I’m wanted.”

“I’m sorry you ever left your good place there, Lottie; maybe they
would not take you back now,” said Deborah sadly. As Lottie had had the
small-pox in her childhood, her mother did not fear her catching the

“Whether they will take me back or not, mother, I must go,” said Lottie
emphatically; “master’s lost—maybe I’ll find him!” and hurriedly,
as if every moment were precious, she took down from their peg her
straw-bonnet and cloak.

“It’s getting on in the day, my child, and a walk to Wildwaste is a deal
too long for you now. To-morrow I’ll get the baker to take you in his
cart—at least a good bit of the way.”

Lottie clasped her hands with a look of anxious entreaty. “Don’t stay me,
mother, don’t stay me. If Wildwaste were twice as far off, I’d walk all
the same. I can’t stop till to-morrow; I should not close an eye all the

Deborah had never before known her young daughter’s mind so resolutely
bent upon any course; she saw that some very urgent motive indeed
was drawing Lottie towards Wildwaste. She believed this motive to be
affection towards her young mistress, and gave up opposing the wishes
of her child; only insisting on her taking with her a small bundle of
clothes, and refreshing herself by a cup of tea before she started. In
less than a quarter of an hour Lottie was hastening on her way towards

“It’s all clear to me,” murmured the girl to herself, as she rapidly
walked along the street; “master has gone down into that dismal place to
look after his money, and somehow he has locked himself in and cannot
get out; and no one thinks of looking for him there; and so he’ll be
starved to death, or maybe go right mad in that horrible vault. Hannah
is hard of hearing—if he called ever so loud she’d never hear him in the
kitchen; and my lady is upstairs, so his voice would never reach her. It
makes one’s blood cold to think of his trying to get help, and shouting
and calling, and never a soul going near him! I must go and tell those
who are searching where to look.” Lottie had been walking very fast, but
she slackened her pace as a difficulty occurred to her mind. “But I must
not tell any one of that vault—no, not even Miss Isa; have I not solemnly
promised to keep the secret? I must go down myself all alone to that
gloomy place. But what if master should be hiding there on purpose; or
if some one should come on a sudden and find me down there amongst all
the silver and gold, might I not be taken for a thief? I have suffered
so much already, I could not abide any more of these cruel suspicions;
and maybe I’d be sent to prison this time, and that would break mother’s
heart altogether.” The simple girl was so much startled by the images
of terror called up by her excited fancy, that for a moment she felt
inclined to turn back. “Suppose I tell Miss Isa—only Miss Isa; that would
keep my character clear; and it cannot do harm for her to know where her
own brother hoards all his money. But that promise—that fatal promise!
What would the Lord have me to do? It is so miserable to be able to ask
advice of no one, not even of my own dear mother! I seem going right
into the darkness—but then, as Mr. Eardley would say, I’ve the trumpet
of conscience, and the light of the Word, and the Lord Himself will guide
me, and make me triumph over all difficulties, if I put my firm trust in
Him. It seems so wonderful that the glorious King of Heaven should think
of or care for a poor ignorant child like me!”

The shades of evening were gathering around her before the weary Lottie
trod the well-known path over the common that led to Wildwaste Lodge.
She looked up anxiously at the windows as she approached the house; she
was uneasy regarding the health of her dear young mistress. When Hannah,
after tedious delay, answered Lottie’s timid ring at the door-bell, her
first anxious question was, “Oh, tell me, how is Miss Isa?” Lottie had
to repeat it, for the old servant seemed more deaf, as well as more
ill-tempered than usual.

“She has a headache—natural enough, turning herself into a sick-nurse
for a stranger as gives more trouble than thanks. And she’s a worritting
after master, who has disappeared, no one knows how. But what brings you
back, like a bad halfpenny, Lottie?” added the peevish old woman; “you
chose to take yourself off without warning, leaving all the work of the
house on my hands, and now you may just keep away—there’s no one as wants
you here!” and Hannah almost shut the door in the face of the girl.

“Let me in—for just this night—oh, let me in. I’ve walked all the six
miles from Axe; I can’t go back in the dark all alone!” pleaded Lottie,
whose brow and lip were moist with toil-drops, and who felt the absolute
necessity of searching the vault without the delay of another hour.
“Hannah, I’ll work like a slave; I’ll do anything that you bid me; just
speak a word for me to my mistress, pray her to let me stop, at least—at
least till the morning.”

“How can I be worritting Miss Isa, with asking any-think for the like
of you,” said Hannah ungraciously, opening the door, however, a little
wider, so as to give admittance to Lottie. “You may go there into the
kitchen—everything there wants cleaning and looking arter, for not a
minute have I had to myself this blessed day, what with the fetching and
carrying upstairs, downstairs, and all the stir about master, which has
turned the house upside down. There—you get water from the pump, and fill
the kettle, and wash up the plates, while I go up with the medicine;
there’s Miss Madden’s bell ringing like mad!”

Lottie retired to the kitchen, but neither to rest nor to work. After
listening for a few moments to the slow step of the old servant as
she mounted the stairs, grumbling at every step, the girl seized her
opportunity, and darted into the study. The table had not been drawn back
to its place, the brown drugget lay as Gaspar had left it; but though
Lottie knew the situation of the trap-door in the floor, she could not at
once discover it, either owing to the opening being so well concealed,
or from her own nervous haste causing confusion in her mind. Having at
last, rather by feeling than by sight, found the portion of the planks
that could be moved, Lottie lifted the trap-door and again timidly gazed
down into the darkness below. Before she ventured to descend she paused
and listened, to make certain that Hannah was still upstairs. She heard
the woman’s heavy step in the room above, and then, feeling that every
minute was precious, Lottie hastily descended the ladder. Not having
brought a light with her, and the vault being utterly dark, the girl had
to grope to find the handle of that inner door which Gaspar had closed,
but not locked, behind him. Lottie pressed against the door, but felt
that something within resisted her efforts to push it open. She used more
strength, pressing with knee and shoulder; the resisting body, whatever
it might be, yielded a little under her efforts. There was an opening
sufficiently wide to admit the girl’s hand. Lottie sank on her knees, and
put down her hand in order to feel what was the nature of the obstruction
which the darkness prevented her from seeing, and uttered a shriek of
horror upon touching a clammy human face! A frightful conviction flashed
on her mind that her master had been murdered for his money, and that it
was his corpse which lay within the vault.

“Oh, they’ve killed him!” she exclaimed aloud in accents of terror,
starting to her feet, as she uttered the exclamation of fear.

“Killed whom?—in mercy speak!” cried the agonized voice of Isa from
above. Miss Gritton had chanced to enter the study in search of some
papers, and was with astonishment bending over the open trap-door, when
she caught the sound of the terrible words from below. Isa could scarcely
see the top rounds of the ladder, so obscure had the twilight become; she
knew not whither it might lead, or what horrors might lie at the bottom,
yet she hesitated not for one instant, and almost before the sound of her
terrified question had died away, she was at the side of Lottie in the
utter darkness of the vault.

“Master has been murdered!” gasped the young maid. Gaspar could hear her
exclamation distinctly, but was unable to speak a word in reply.

“Gaspar—O my brother!” cried Isa, in a tone of piercing distress.

That cry from the lips of a sister broke the spell of the strange trance
with which Gaspar Gritton had been bound. During all the long hours of
his terrible imprisonment he had been unable to stir or to make the
least sound; and though he was conscious of Lottie’s presence when she
touched him, and could hear her voice, he had still remained as it were
dead, helpless as a corpse in his living grave. But to Isa’s call, to his
inexpressible relief, Gaspar was able to answer; the hitherto paralyzed
limbs stirred with life, and with a murmured “God be praised!” he awoke
from what appeared to him like a dream of unutterable horror.

[Illustration: FOUND IN THE VAULT.]

But Gaspar’s powers were in a very feeble state; he was unable at first
even to move far enough from the door which divided him from his sister
for it to be opened sufficiently wide to admit of her passing through.

“Oh, for a light!” exclaimed Isa; then hearing Hannah’s step in the
study above, she called out loudly, “Bring light—help—quick, quick—your
master’s dying down here in the vault!”

Some minutes of terrible anxiety followed; Isa dreaded to see what light
might reveal, for the idea of murder, first suggested by Lottie, was
uppermost in her mind. Hannah had rushed towards the hamlet to summon
aid; Isa sent Lottie up the ladder for a light; the girl had hardly
procured it when the hall of the Lodge was filled with a party of
workmen, whom Hannah’s loud call for assistance had brought to the house.

By the help of the men’s strong arms, Mr. Gritton was carried up from his
gloomy prison-vault, and laid on his bed. Thankful indeed was Isa to find
that her brother was unwounded, and apparently unhurt, though in a very
weak and nervous condition. She neither questioned him, nor suffered him
to be questioned, but she marked the glances of surprise and suspicion
exchanged between the workmen, who had seen what they were never designed
to see, and learned what they were never intended to know. Gaspar’s
secret was a secret no longer, except as regarded his way of acquiring
the hoards of treasure, of which an exaggerated account spread through
all the hamlet before the morning.

Having thanked, rewarded, and dismissed the workmen, Isa sat for hours
watching by her brother, and listening to a confession from his lips
which filled her heart with mingled grief, shame, thankfulness, and hope.

There are some men whom judgments only harden—a thunderbolt might
shatter, but it never would melt them—Gaspar’s nature resembled not
such. He felt on that solemn night much as Dives might have felt had his
tortured spirit received a reprieve, and been permitted once more to
dwell upon earth. He had been given a glimpse, as if by the lurid light
of the devouring flame, of the utter worthlessness of all for which man
would exchange his immortal soul. The impression might become weakened by
time, but upon that night it was strong. Gaspar unburdened his soul to
his sister; he told her all, even to Lottie’s discovery of the treasure,
and besought Isa’s counsel in the difficult strait into which his
covetousness had brought him.

Confession—reparation! From these Gaspar shrank, as the patient from the
knife of the surgeon. Could no milder remedy be found, could there be
no compromise with conscience? Isa dared suggest none, though she would
have given all that she possessed on earth to save her brother from
the bitter humiliation of acknowledging to Cora Madden the base fraud
which he had committed. The strength of Isa’s faith and obedience was
brought to painful proof on that night. If she had yielded but a point,
if she had counselled delay, if she had administered an opiate to the
tortured conscience of her brother, as all her tender woman’s nature,
ay, and all her woman’s pride, pleaded for her to do, Gaspar would,
like Felix, have put off the hated duty for a more convenient season,
and the precious moment for action would have passed away for ever. But
Isa had the fear of God before her eyes; she had a keen perception that
this was a crisis in the spiritual life of her brother, that his soul’s
interests for eternity might hang on the result of his decision on that
night. Her voice had aroused him from the death-like stupor of the body,
her voice was to be also the means of quickening the lethargic soul. The
whisper of delay in his case could but be the breathing of the enemy who
would lure him to destruction. Isa reminded Gaspar of the resolution of
Zaccheus, when he had received the Lord into his home and his heart: it
was not “I will give,” but _I give_; it was not “I will restore,” but _I
restore_. Gaspar was irresolute, undecided, but his good angel was beside
him to help his weak nature in the great mental conflict. It was almost
midnight before that trying interview ended, and the brother and sister
separated, the one to sink into a troubled slumber, the other to return
to the chamber of Cora, intrusted by Gaspar with the responsible and most
painful charge of making for him that humiliating confession which he
himself had not the courage to make.




With a very slow step, aching heart, and knees that trembled beneath
her, Isa reascended the staircase. One apparently insuperable difficulty
had been overcome,—Gaspar had consented to make full reparation. Isa
could feel thankful for this; but she had now a breathing-space for
consideration, and with inexpressible repugnance she now recoiled from
the task set before her. It had been hard to banish from her heart
resentful emotions in regard to Cora; it had been hard to Isa to receive
an enemy into her home, to tend her as a sister, to risk health and
life in her service. But there had been nothing to wound pride in all
this; on the contrary, Isa had stood in the elevated position of a
benefactress, as one enjoying the noblest kind of revenge by repaying
injuries with kindness. The consciousness of this had brought a feeling
of gratification. But her position was painfully altered now. Isa
must humble herself in the presence of a woman whom she neither loved
nor respected; she must, as the representative of her brother, confess
guilt—ask for forgiveness—plead for mercy! Isa stopped half-way on the
stairs, supporting herself on the banister, for every fibre in her frame
was trembling with strong emotion. She had ventured, as it were, to the
outskirts of the camp of Midian, and felt that she lacked courage to
strike the final blow for freedom. A silent cry for help arose to heaven
from the depths of a suffering heart.

Cora was one to whom it would be especially painful to make a confession
such as that which burdened the soul of Isa. Miss Madden had been brought
much into contact with the world, had imbibed its spirit, and adopted
one of its most dangerous ideas,—namely, a disbelief in the existence
of faith as a ruling motive. Notwithstanding the noble example of piety
which she had had before her in her own brother, Cora had persisted in
regarding all men as governed either by self-interest or the love of

“Sir Robert Walpole said, and said truly,” Cora had once lightly
observed, “that every man has his price; only some will have it told down
in hard cash, and others are quite contented with the paper-money of

Thus Cora refused to see the reflected glory of the Saviour in His
people: however brightly their light might shine, she believed that it
was fed from an earthly source, and eagerly caught at every instance of
inconsistency in the servants of God to confirm her theory that they only
wore piety as a mask, and, in fact, were much the same with the show of
religion as the rest of the world were without it.

It was this fallacy more than anything else that had hardened the heart
of Cora, and made her justify herself in her own indifference towards
spiritual things. She would draw down all to the same low level as
herself, and thus hope to escape condemnation in a crowd. Cora’s chilling
disbelief in the practical influence of faith had been shaken when she
had first been admitted into the home of Isa Gritton while suffering from
an infectious complaint. The ice which the world had encrusted round her
heart had given some signs of melting. Then the idea that the Grittons
were, after all, only acting from self-interest, had almost restored her
frigid scepticism; she would not recognize the reality and the power of
that faith which worketh by love. The sudden and strange disappearance
of Gaspar had confirmed Cora in her impressions. “He flies me because he
fears me,” was the reflection of the proud woman; and the insolence of
her spirit had broken out even in the presence of the anxious sister.
“Perhaps Miss Gritton has an idea not only whither, but for what cause,
her brother had so suddenly vanished from this neighbourhood,” had been
Cora’s sneering remark.

And yet, with all her bitterness and worldliness of spirit, Cora was
capable of more generous feeling. She was a woman, and, like a woman,
could cherish disinterested affection. Cora keenly felt her own isolation
in life, that isolation which she feared that her personal disfigurement
would now render perpetual. She had cut herself off from the proffered
affection of Arthur and Lina; she had quarrelled with Lionel’s wife; she
had many acquaintances, but was painfully aware that she had never made
one true friend. Cora, especially during her illness, had often yearned
for the love of a gentle, sympathizing heart, and something of gratitude,
something of admiration, had drawn her towards Isa Gritton.

“How ill Miss Gritton looks to-night; I fear that she is sickening for
the fever,” Mrs. Holdich had observed, on Isa’s quitting the room to
go and search for papers in the study, at the time when, as the reader
knows, Lottie was exploring the vault.

The observation had inflicted a sharp pang on Cora; she was startled on
realizing the possibility that Isa’s life might indeed be given for her
own, and a contrast would suggest itself between the comparative value
of those lives. Isa, as Cora knew from Rebekah Holdich, was the light of
her brother’s home, the gentle benefactress of the poor, and, as Cora
was at that very time experiencing, a generous friend to those who needed
her aid. In her, more than in any one else, Cora had caught a glimpse
of the beauty of holiness; in her, more than in any one else, Cora had
been almost forced to recognize the power of faith; and at that moment
the proud, cold woman felt that there was one being on earth whom she
could love, one whom she could not endure to see fall a sacrifice to her
generous kindness to herself.

Cora’s bitter but salutary reflections were interrupted by the noise and
excitement below, which followed the discovery of Gaspar Gritton in the
vault. The loud call of Hannah for assistance was distinctly heard in
the upper rooms occupied by Miss Madden; and Cora sent down Mrs. Holdich
in haste to ascertain the cause of such an unusual disturbance. Rebekah
did not return for a considerable time, and Cora grew so impatient that
she could hardly restrain herself from hurrying downstairs. Mrs. Holdich
came at last with the information that Mr. Gritton had been found in
an insensible state in a vault, that he had been removed to his own
apartment, and that his sister was carefully tending him there. This
was all which Cora could learn from Rebekah, and it did not satisfy her
thirst for information; she determined not to retire to rest until she
had seen Isa Gritton. To beguile the time, Cora went up to Isa’s little
bookcase, hoping to find there some light reading to amuse herself with.
One volume, from the elegance of its binding, attracted Miss Madden’s
attention, and she drew it forth from its place. It contained no work
of fiction, as Cora had hoped and expected, but a selection of hymns.
At another time Cora would have replaced the book, with perhaps an
expression of scorn; but she was in a softened mood on that night, and
her eye was attracted by the marking and double-marking on the margin of
many of the pages. Chiefly from curiosity, but possibly from a better
motive, Miss Madden carried the book to the place where she usually sat
on her soft-cushioned chair, seated herself, and began to read in a
desultory way.

One of the hymns which had been most strongly marked by Isa was the
well-known one commencing with the line,—

    “And dost thou say, Ask what thou wilt?”

This hymn was an especial favourite with Isa, who knew it by heart; but
the proud, selfish woman who now perused it, in the stillness of night
and the seclusion of a sick-room, seemed to be introduced into a new
world of sensation as she read the lines, which express a Christian’s
most fervent desire:

    “More of Thy presence, Lord, impart,
      More of Thine image let me bear;
    Enthrone Thyself within my heart,
      And reign without a rival there.

    “Grant this request, I ask no more,
      But to Thy care the rest resign;—
    Sick, or in health, or rich, or poor,
      All shall be well if Thou art mine.”

“Can it be that any human being really feels this?” thought Cora, half
closing the volume. “I cannot believe it. And yet Isa Gritton has acted
as if she felt it. But no, no—she is at this moment playing the part of
an accomplice of her money-loving brother. Her faith may make her like
such a book as this, mark it, perhaps cry over it; it may give her that
gentleness and kindliness which have half won me over to love her in
spite of myself; it may—yes, it may possibly have some effect in taking
away the fear of losing beauty, or even life; but when it comes to the
question of its requiring such integrity of conduct as would involve
loss and disgrace, faith will find it expedient to confine itself to
sentimental devotion, and the saint will come forth from the closet to
act in the world—as the children of the world always act.”

A gentle hand noiselessly turned the handle of the door, and Isa glided
into the room. She was surprised to see Cora still awake and sitting up
at the midnight hour.

“I thought that I should have found my patient asleep,” she observed.

“I could not have slept till I had seen you; I wanted to hear about your

Isa rather sank than seated herself upon a chair; a cold shiver ran
through her frame; she knew not if the overpowering sensations which
oppressed her arose only from the reaction after painful excitement, or
if she were indeed sickening for a terrible complaint.

“I may be delirious ere morning,” thought Isa; “I must speak now, or I
never may have power to speak. May it not be deemed providential that I
am given an opportunity of confession by this midnight interview with

“Miss Gritton, you look sadly ill,” said Cora, with more of sympathy than
Isa had ever before heard in her tone. “Are you very anxious regarding
your brother?”

“I am very anxious indeed,” replied Isa faintly, glancing at the closed
door which divided the ladies from the room in which Mrs. Holdich was
resting, to be sure that no ear but Cora’s should hear what she was
bracing up her courage to say. “Miss Madden, I have come charged with a
message to you from Gaspar.” Isa paused, for she was very breathless;
her heart fluttered—she had a strange difficulty in articulating her
words; she dared not look up and meet the keen gaze which she was
certain was fixed upon her. “My brother believes—feels sure—that there
is no evidence which could be produced in a court of law which could
bring home to him that—that of which you have been led to suspect him.”
Another very painful pause; Isa pressed her hand to her side to still
the throbbing of her heart. “But,” she continued with an effort, “Gaspar
knows—owns—that though man cannot convict, there is a higher tribunal
than man’s, and before it he cannot plead his innocence. It was indeed
not your property which was lost in the _Orissa_—your money is in the
hands of my brother, and shall be restored, principal and interest;
you shall have ample satisfaction as far as gold can give it. And oh,
Cora—Miss Madden—will not this compensation suffice? will you not forgive
all the past, and spare the reputation of him who thus throws himself on
your indulgence? will you not shield from reproach one who is ready amply
to redeem the wrong committed under strong temptation, and show your
generosity by burying this unhappy affair in silence and oblivion?”

Isa clasped her hands as she spoke in the fervour of her pleading; her
eyes suddenly raised met those of Cora, and to her surprise beheld them
brimming over with tears.

Cora rose from her seat. “O Isa,” she exclaimed, “fear nothing from me!
Had the wrong been tenfold, I have learned from you how to forgive—and
much besides!” And with a burst of emotion, which all her pride could
not restrain, Cora threw her arms around Isa, who found herself, to her
great astonishment, pressed to the heart of one who had been her bitter,
malignant enemy.

[Illustration: THE CONFESSION.]

The victories of faith are not only over inward foes: when the ways of a
man are pleasing to the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace
with him. Isa, in her gentleness and Christian sympathy, her uprightness,
her obedience to the call of duty, had done more to lead her proud,
erring heart to repentance than all the sermons which had fallen on the
ear of Cora like seed on the trodden wayside. Cora had never realized
how far she herself was from being a Christian, till she had seen
exemplified in one of her own sex and station what a Christian should be.
It was in the hour when Isa felt humiliated, covered with shame for the
errors of a brother, that she had forced from proud lips that tribute to
her character which was in itself an acknowledgment of inferiority such
as no being had ever before wrung from Cora Madden. Isa had won a noble
triumph—she had conquered the heart of her foe.




There was much excitement in Wildwaste relative to the occurrences
of that night. Various rumours spread, with more or less of truth
in them, concerning Gaspar Gritton, and the strange way in which he
had been discovered lying in a lifeless state in a mysterious vault
full of treasure. As Lottie was reinstated in her place, and Cora was
convalescent, the services of Mrs. Holdich were no longer required; the
steward’s wife—after changing her infected garments—returned to her
home, where she was besieged by curious inquirers. Rebekah smiled at the
strange exaggerations which had spread around, like widening circles
on a lake into which a pebble has been thrown. It was true, she said,
that Lottie had performed an important service, had been the means of
preserving her master’s life, for which she would be liberally rewarded;
but as regarded the vault and its mysterious contents, Rebekah maintained
a placid silence. She had a note from Isa to convey to the Castle, in
which Arthur and Lina Madden were now residing as the baronet’s guests.
The result of that note was, that Holdich appeared that afternoon at
Wildwaste Lodge, equipped for a journey to London, part of his equipment
being a pair of loaded revolvers. Crowds of workmen and their families
thronged before the Lodge, curiously watching the door through which were
borne iron boxes, very heavy in proportion to their size, and believed to
contain treasures of plate and bullion sufficient to buy up the village.
With emotions of intense relief and deep thankfulness Isa watched from
the window the departure of the cart for the station, with the sturdy
steward seated on one of the boxes within it, keeping faithful watch over
his dangerous charge. It was not only because in that lawless part of the
country the Lodge would scarcely have been a safe residence when known to
contain a treasure, that Isa rejoiced in its departure; it was because
she looked on that ill-gotten gold much as our ancestors looked upon the
barrels of gunpowder buried in a vault beneath Parliament-house by an
insidious and cruel foe. It had been placed there not to enrich, but to
destroy; not as a blessing, but a curse;—_an enemy hath done this_. From
the days of Achan unto our own, there is a woe for him who heapeth up
riches unrighteously won.

No one from the Lodge appeared at the steward’s cottage on that evening,
and he himself was absent on his mission to London; but Edith Lestrange
and her guests came from the Castle to attend Mr. Eardley’s closing
lecture on the “Triumph over Midian.”


The men of Ephraim, as was mentioned at our last meeting, had encountered
some of the fugitives of Midian, had slain two of their princes, and
brought their heads to Gideon. But the Ephraimites, men of a warlike
tribe, were angry at having been appointed but a secondary part; they
were indignant at the chief honour, as well as the chief danger, of the
struggle having been assigned to Gideon’s three hundred heroes.

“Why hast thou served us thus,” they fiercely exclaimed to the leader,
“that thou calledst us not when thou wentest to fight the Midianites?”
They came full of jealous resentment; and instead of rejoicing in the
triumph, chafed at not having sooner been permitted to share it.

_Only by pride cometh contention; with the lowly is wisdom._ Gideon,
humble in the midst of his marvellous success, experienced the power of
the soft answer to turn away wrath. He said unto the indignant warriors,
_What have I done now in comparison of you? Is not the gleaning of the
grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? God hath delivered
into your hands the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb: and what was I
able to do in comparison of you? Then, adds the sacred narrative, their
anger was abated towards him._


But it was not with the proud sons of Ephraim, but with his own band,
the chosen of God, that Gideon completed his victory by following up the
pursuit beyond Jordan. They held a commission from the Most High, and
exchanging their trumpets and torches for weapons of war, _faint, yet
pursuing_, they pressed on. Weary and hungry were the brave warriors of
Gideon; they lacked refreshment to renew their failing strength, but that
refreshment was cruelly withheld, first by the men of Succoth, and then
by those of Penuel, from whom Gideon had craved the much-needed supplies.
These inhabitants of Succoth and Penuel, sons of Israel unworthy of the
name, afterwards received the punishment due for their indifference to a
holy cause—their base inhospitable neglect of those bearing the burden
and heat of the conflict.

And can we find none even in a Christian land whose conduct closely
resembles that of the men of Succoth and Penuel? The missionaries of the
Cross are engaged in a long and arduous struggle to carry the banner of
their Lord into the strongholds of heathen error. They are a small and,
as regards numbers, a feeble band; they need support and sympathy from
those who dwell at ease in their peaceful homes. For them their heavenly
Leader deigns to ask the aid of their brethren. In the words of Gideon
we seem to hear the Lord’s _Give, I pray you, loaves of bread unto
the people that follow me, for they be faint_. And how is that appeal
received by the greater number of those who call themselves Christians?
Some, indeed, rejoice to bring out their offerings; they deem it an
honour to be permitted to give from their stores and refresh the fainting
powers of those who are foremost in fighting the good fight of faith. To
these how sweet the Saviour’s promise to His disciples: _Whosoever shall
give you a cup of water to drink in My name, because ye belong to Christ,
verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward_.

But shall not the multitudes who give no aid to the servants of God, who
share the guilt of Penuel and Succoth, fear to share their punishment
also? It is lack of faith that hardens the heart, that closes the hand;
for who could refuse to give—give largely, give to the utmost of his
power—if he really _believed_ that at the last day those who have turned
a deaf ear to the appeal of the weary, shall hear from the lips of the
Eternal Judge the terrible words, _Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of
the least of these, ye did it not to Me. Depart from Me, ye cursed!_

Faint, yet pursuing, Gideon and his band followed on the track of Zebah
and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian. These, with about fifteen thousand
men who had escaped from the slaughter which followed the sounding of
the trumpets, had reached Karkor, and believed themselves there to be
secure from further attack. _Faint, but pursuing._ Thus, in his life-long
warfare against sin, presses on the Christian from grace to grace, till
God receives him to glory. He must not sheathe the sword of the Spirit
while one evil passion remains unsubdued; he must not relax his efforts
till the Almighty himself perfect the victory within him, and call him
to inherit the kingdom above. We may have much to discourage us, much to
try our courage and patience; it is not by one effort, however great,
that the yoke of Midian can be broken, that faith can finally triumph
over corruption within. _Let patience leave its perfect work_; however
long and arduous may be the pursuit, God can uphold, strengthen, and
bless us, as in His name and for His sake we struggle on, _faint, yet

Complete success crowned the efforts of Gideon. He came up with the men
of Midian, discomfited all their host, and took captive their kings Zebah
and Zalmunna. As they were not of the doomed races of Canaan, the leader
of Israel would have spared these foes, had they not been stained with
the blood of his brethren, whom, by the Midianites’ own confession, they
had slain at Tabor. Gideon was by law the avenger of this blood. The
sacred record gives us a striking glimpse of the way in which justice
was satisfied in that remote age—the brief investigation, and the prompt
execution by the hand of the near of kin, according to the commandment of
Moses: _The murderer shall surely be put to death; the revenger of blood
himself shall slay the murderer; when he meeteth him, he shall slay him_
(Num. xxxv. 18, 19). Gideon inquired of Zebah and Zalmunna, “What manner
of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor?” evidently alluding to some
well-known act of violence. And the princes made answer, “As thou art,
so were they; each one resembled the children of a king.” And he said,
“They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother: as the Lord liveth,
if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you.”

Gideon then commanded his first-born to fulfil the stern duty of the
avenger of blood; but the youth shrank from the office. “Rise thou, and
fall upon us,” cried the bold sons of Midian to Gideon; “for as the man
is, so is his strength.” By the hand of their conqueror, therefore, Zebah
and Zalmunna met the fate which their crimes had deserved.

The victories of Gideon, his great services rendered to his country, had
won for him the enthusiastic admiration and gratitude of the people whom
he had freed from the enemy’s yoke. Nothing was deemed by his countrymen
too great a reward for the hero who had delivered them. Let him who had
saved Israel become the head of the nation, the first of a dynasty of
rulers. The men of Israel said unto Gideon, “Rule thou over us, both
thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also; for thou hast delivered us
from the hand of Midian.”

But Gideon’s had been the triumph of faith, not the proud struggle of
ambition. He desired no crown; he would mount no throne; the Lord God of
Hosts alone should be the King of Israel. “I will not rule over you,”
said Gideon; “neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule
over you.” It is to God alone that belongeth the power and the glory; it
was God who had smitten down Midian, and Gideon, great in humility as in
his faith, gave the honour to God. Rich was the blessing that followed,
as recorded in the page of Scripture, _Thus was Midian subdued before the
children of Israel, so that they lifted up their heads no more. And the
country was in quietness forty years in the days of Gideon._

We have seen in the history before us the tree of faith budding, bearing
fair blossoms, and then its fruits gradually ripening into perfection.
We now see, as it were, those precious fruits gathered and laid as an
offering upon the altar of the Lord. The Saviour _shall come to be
glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe_; the
harvest is His, His servants lay its treasures at His feet.

And what is the practical lesson, my brethren, left on our minds by
the record of the perils, the exploits, and the success of Gideon? Can
we trace in it any likeness to the experience of our own soul? Have we
received the angel’s visit, heard the promise, obeyed the command? Have
we thrown down the idolatrous shrine in the spirit breathed in the words
of the poet,—

    “The dearest idol I have known,
      Whate’er that idol be,
    Help me to tear it from its throne,
      And worship only Thee.”

Have we trusted to God alone to strengthen us for the conflict with sin
by the grace of His Holy Spirit, and with His Word in our hands have we
invaded the enemy’s camp, and pursued him with earnest self-denying zeal?
Have we fought and conquered our Midianites by the power of living faith?

Or, to change the metaphor, has faith been with us as the blighted tree,
on which the sunshine falls in vain, which stands a bare form, a lifeless
thing, when spring clothes all around it with verdure? Has the Lord of
the vineyard said of it, _Lo, these three_, or ten, or twenty _years I
come seeking fruit, and finding none. Cut it down; why cumbereth it the
ground?_ Oh, my brethren, that faith which is shown not by deeds, that
faith which works not by love, is _not_ the faith which is firmly rooted
in the Rock of Ages. A cold assent of the reason is not faith, a lifeless
profession is not faith; that is faith which beareth good fruits—that
which, like the faith of Gideon, overcometh the enemy.

We have to pursue our Midianites to the Jordan, but not beyond Jordan.
At the fords of the “narrow stream of death” the last enemy will perish
for ever. Into the bright land beyond, Disappointment, Discontent cannot
enter; for there is the fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore.
Dissension is unknown where every look and thought are love; nor can
the shadow of Distrust fall in the realm of eternal light, for the
servants of Christ shall _see Him as He is_, and dwell with Him in bliss




Months had rolled away, months crowded with incidents of interest to the
personages in my story, and now Edith and Isa stand again on the summit
of the grassy mound by Castle Lestrange, which overlooks a landscape so
wide and so fair. They behold Nature no longer clad in the light-green
drapery of spring, spangled with blossoms, but in the rich full foliage
of summer, which the setting sun is bathing in golden glory. Edith’s
blue eyes are gazing on the magnificent sky, where the bright orb of
day, while sinking down on a throne of fiery clouds, is throwing upwards
widening streams of light where rosy clouds, like islands of the blessed,
softly float in clear blue ether. Never, even in Italy, had Edith
witnessed a finer sunset; it seemed like a glimpse granted to mortals
below of the coming glories of heaven.

“How resplendent is the sky!” exclaimed Edith, after a pause of silent

“And how beautiful the earth!” added Isa.

“Ah, on the eve of your bridal day, dearest, the prospect may well look
fair in your eyes, but still it owes its chief beauty to the radiance
above it.”

[Illustration: A FAIR PROSPECT.]

“I think that it must always be so to the Christian,” observed Isa. “The
very crown of earthly happiness is to think that it is not all earthly;
that our Lord, who has joined our hearts together, will also join our
hands; and that the union which He makes will endure when that sun itself
is dark!” Isa’s eyes glistened with tears as she spoke, but they welled
up from a deep fount of joy.

“Just look towards Wildwaste!” cried Edith; “they have finished that
triumphal arch of evergreens and roses at which Lottie and her brother,
and all the children of the hamlet, have been working so hard since
daybreak. I never thought that Wildwaste could put on an appearance so
bright and so gay. Every cottage has its garland, and I should not wonder
if the manufactory itself burst into an illumination to-morrow.”

“I suspect that the enthusiasm and the rejoicing,” said Isa gayly, “is
less on account of the wedding than to express the joy of the hamlet
at Arthur Madden’s being appointed to succeed Mr. Bull. Old Bolder was
speaking so warmly on the subject this morning. ‘There will be good days
for Wildwaste yet,’ he said, ‘now that we’ve a pastor who will work, and
pray while he works; who loves his people, and will make them love him!
We’ll not have all the drunkenness and riot which have made Wildwaste a
blot on the land! I’ve felt better ever since I heard the good news,’ he
added, rubbing his hands; ‘and I’ll make a shift, I will, to throw away
my crutches, and get to church the day that Mr. Arthur gives his first

“Every one welcomes their young clergyman as the benefactor of the
place,” observed Edith.

“Lottie would be almost sorry to leave Wildwaste,” said Isa, “were she
not going with me to Axe, where she will be close to her widowed mother,
and able often to be with her.”

“The only person for whom I feel sorry in the midst of all this
rejoicing,” observed Edith, “is your poor brother, Mr. Gritton. He will
miss you so sadly, when all alone in that dreary house at Wildwaste.”

“I suspect that he will not be long alone,” said Isa.

“What!—is it true then?” asked Edith quickly, glancing up into the face
of her companion; “but surely, surely it must grieve you to think of
having Cora Madden as a sister!”

“Some months ago it would have grieved me inexpressibly,” replied Isa
gravely. “I should have deemed such a connection a heavy misfortune; but
Cora is changed, so much changed, since her illness.”

“I hear that the small-pox has left deep traces—”

“Yes, on her character,” interrupted Isa. “Cora is much softened, I hope
humbled; there is so much less of asperity in her manner, of sarcasm in
her tone. Is it not strange, Edith, that she of whom I once spoke so
harshly when you and I stood here conversing together, should seem now to
turn towards me with the affection of a sister?”

“You have indeed been a sister to her, dear Isa; often have I wondered
at your courage in braving infection, and your unselfishness in enduring
quarantine, and all for one whom you dis——whom you could not love. But
yours was the courage, the self-devotion of faith, and God guarded you
from the danger.”

“God has indeed crowned me with loving-kindness and tender mercies!”
exclaimed Isa, whose quick eye had caught sight at that moment of a
well-known form advancing up the avenue. All her cares and fears, all her
difficulties and trials, had now been exchanged for exceeding joy; every
cloud in her sky, like those round the sun, had become a golden mansion
of light.

Shall earth be called only “a vale of tears,” and all its hopes be
compared to a withering leaf? Is happiness below but a fading vision? Not
so; for even here the Almighty can throw sunshine around His children,
and sweeten their cup with drops from that fountain of bliss whose full
stream shall refresh their spirits above! But for whom is such happiness
prepared? Not for the fearful and unbelieving, not for the selfish and
self-willed, but for those who, like Gideon, have obeyed God’s word and
chosen His service, and rendered faithful obedience to Him whose mercy
hath redeemed them. The Christian must not look for the victory without
the struggle, nor hope for peace while the smallest sin retains dominion
within the soul; it is on the night of conflict that dawns the morn of
success; to God’s faithful warriors, _faint, yet pursuing_, was given the
triumph of faith over Midian!

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