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- Marguerite Verne - 10/71 -
This fact gave Phillip Lawson much relief of mind, as the young teacher could still have a care over the household, and give advice to the two younger children under her charge. The young student having received his degree at the N. B. University next turned his thoughts towards the law.
While spending a few weeks at home to assist in the farm-work, he received a letter from an old friend of his father. Nothing could exceed the joy of this young man as he read and re-read the kind-hearted proposal from one of St. John's most able and popular lawyers, praying that the son of his old friend engage to enter as a student in his office.
"The Lord will provide," was the earnest comment of the reader, as he folded the missive and laid it away between the leaves of his wallet.
But means were necessary as well. Phillip had, much against his inclination, to raise money by a mortgage upon the farm. He had often heard it said that a property once mortgaged was never redeemed, and the thought gave much concern. But the old maxim, "Where there's a will, there's a way," was ever rising uppermost in his mind, and he was doubly resolved to make the trial.
A few weeks later the student is at his desk, poring over the dry documents and legal lore. On his brow is determination and disregard of difficulties.
Phillip Lawson soon became a general favorite. His generous nature and frank manners won the esteem of his fellow students, and also that of the senior members of the firm.
"Lawson will make a mark some day--he has it in him," was the first remark passed upon the student as the eagle-eyed solicitor glanced at the son of his friend, whose thoughts were intent upon the copy of Blackstone before him.
Things went on prosperously at the homestead; and as the student had succeeded in increasing his means by giving evening lessons to a class of young men, he felt comforted and assured that in the end all would come out right.
But a heavy blow had suddenly fallen upon the Lawson family--typhoid fever came into the household and prostrated the noble-minded Julia upon a bed of suffering.
Uncomplainingly she had watched her pet sister through all the stages of this dread disease, until the child had been pronounced out of danger. It was then that outraged nature asserted itself and the worn-out system was not equal to the strain--she succumbed to the raging and delirious fever an object of deep and tender pity.
"God help me," cried Phillip Lawson, in despairing tones as he read the letter conveying the news in as mild a form as possible. "If Julia lives I shall never be separated from her again," were the reproachful thoughts that forced themselves upon the affectionate brother.
Need we speak of the agonizing hours spent in the dread suspense that followed.
In the midnight watches as the hours dragged slowly by, the young student was silently learning to "suffer and be strong." And it was well that these lessons took deep root in good soil, for within a few weeks Phillip Lawson knelt beside the dying bed of his beloved sister, and in heart-broken accents commending her departing spirit to the loving Saviour.
Ah, such a scene is too sacred for intrusion; but it is only by such means that we can realize the true value of our esteemed friend.
And as the last sod had been placed upon Julia Lawson's grave, and the flowers that she loved strewn over it by loving hands, we cannot move from the spot.
It is scenes like those that teach us what we are, so long as there is the least impress of the Divine in our nature will we look to those scenes as mile-stones on our journey through life.
Kneeling beside the sacred spot the grief-stricken brother was utterly unconscious of our presence. With tearless eyes he gazed upon the mound that held the remains of her he loved so fondly.
Who will not say that in that dark hour there hovered near a band of angelic beings, and foremost in that band the angel mother whose breath fanned the pale brow of the mourner and quieted the soul within?
Ah, yes; it is not heresy to think thus. Phillip Lawson surely felt such influence as he arose and in tones of quiet resignation murmured, "Father thy will be done." Then picking up a half blown rose that had fallen upon the ground, pressed it to his lips exclaiming, "fitting emblem of the pure and innocent young life cut off ere it had blossomed into womanhood."
And the hollow sounds that greeted the mourner as he wandered listlessly from room to room apparently looking for some object, some vague uncertainty, something indefinable.
What solemn stillness reigns around where death has been! The painful oppression, the muffled tread, the echoes that haunt as tidings from the spirit world, borne on invisible wings, confronting us at every step.
To the most matter-of-fact mind these things are indeed a solemn reality. Death has power to change our every-day thoughts to others ennobling, beautifying and divine! But we do not sink under the weight of affliction. God has seen otherwise for us. He heals the wounds and bids us go on amid life's cares administering to those around us with increased diligence, happy in the thought of doing what is required of us.
Throughout the inexhaustible stores of poetry and song is there anything more exquisitely touching than the lofty and inspired dirge wailed out in tremulous tones--in memoriam--and the healthful words,
"Ring out the grief that saps the mind For those that here we see no more; Ring out the feud of rich and poor, Ring in redress to all mankind."
But to return to the Lawson homestead.
Very soon all was bustle and preparation. The young student had rented the farm and by selling off the stock had raised means to secure a home for the children in the city, and ere a few weeks had passed around we find them comfortably situated in a convenient tenement in the suburbs of St. John.
But a stouter heart than our young friend might well have groaned under the weight of difficulties that pressed upon him.
What with the management of his household, the hours of office work, and the hours devoted to his classes, and hours of anxiety and care, the young student was oftentimes depressed and wore a look beyond his years; but he never once swerved from his duty, and trudged manfully onward his eyes ever bent upon "the strait and narrow path." Lottie the pretty child, full of life and hope with her sweet winning ways imparted warmth and sunshine to the snug home; and the merry high-spirited Tom, a blue-eyed youth of fourteen, gave life and freshness to the surroundings.
It was indeed a pretty sight that greeted a visitor as he entered the plain but neatly-furnished parlor, in this quiet home. It is the hour between tea-time and that prescribed for evening work. It is the only hour of leisure during the day, and it is generally devoted to the boy and girl at his side, the latter sometimes sitting upon his knee looking into the face that in these moments wore a smile that oftentimes belied the conflicting and agitated thoughts within.
Such was the history of Phillip Lawson previous to the opening of our story. A period of six years had elapsed since he commenced life in the city and now we find him an honoured barrister, with sufficient practice to meet the expenses of the pretty residence to which he had removed some months ago and to which we referred in the previous chapter.
We now see the reason which prompted Evelyn Verne in associating the young lawyer with "hayseed'" It is only shallow sordid natures as hers can indulge in such meanness, but thank heaven the venom has only a momentary sting, a resting place in proportion to the superficial source whence it springs.
In respect to other members of the Verne family it must be said that Phillip Lawson had received much kindness and hospitality within the walls of their princely residence, and if the spoiled beauty indulged in spiteful taunts it was because she saw in the young man that ability and soundness of principle which placed her set of worldings at painful disadvantage.
Montague Arnold with his waxed moustache, Adonis-like form and studied hauteur, minus the brains, amiability and that true politeness which constitutes the real gentleman cut a sorry figure when contrasted with Phillip Lawson.
Mrs. Verne was in every sense a votaress to the world's caprice, yet she was not devoid of insight. She could see the noble traits of character in Phillip Lawson; but she must bow to the mandates of fashionable folly.
Mr. Verne, deeply absorbed in stocks and exchanges, seldom took respite in the gaieties of the drawing-room; but in his business hours he saw enough of young Lawson to convince him of his character.
A slight circumstance happened one evening which had a tenfold effect upon Marguerite Verne; but the girl kept her own counsel, and cherished the thought as a happy talisman through all the months and years that followed ere events brought about the consummation of her fondest hopes. Mr. Verne was seated in the library. Brilliant rays of light were reflected from the highly-burnished chandelier. "Madge, my girl, come read awhile," exclaimed the former, as he espied his favorite across the hall with a delicate bouquet of hot-house plants in her hand.
"I will be with you in a minute, papa, dear," was the response, in a sweet, childlike voice, as the speaker ran up the broad staircase with elfin grace and gaiety.
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