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- The Old Stone House - 41/41 -

After tea they sat together on the piazza; the night was warm, and the full-moon shone through the haze, giving the landscape a magical softness and beauty. Tom and Gem were there also, and at, Tom's feet were the three dogs, Turk, somewhat sobered, Grip, less hilarious than formerly, but Pete Trone, Esquire, as vivacious as ever, investigating every corner of the garden as though he never saw it before, and coming back after each foray with increased importance, the air of a philosopher who had discovered all the secrets of the moonlight. Friends came in and joined the family circle. Rose Saxon, Edith Chase, who had become one of Bessie's firm friends, and Walter Hart. An hour or two of pleasant conversation ensued, and Tom delivered some bright sayings, retiring within the shadow, overcome with boyish embarrassment when the company applauded him. Finally, when the visitors had all gone, Aunt Faith rose; "I hope you will stay to prayers, John," she said; "it is late, but the bright moonlight seems to postpone the hour of sleeping."

"Yes, Aunt Faith," replied Mr. Leslie; "we will stay, and Sibyl can play the hymn."

He read a chapter from the Bible, then they all sang a hymn and knelt a few moments in prayer. With affectionate farewells, they parted for the night, Sibyl and her husband going home through the moonlight, and the others separating to their respective rooms.

As Bessie stood before her dressing-table, brushing out her thick curls, she noticed the lines about her mouth, and the hollows in her temples. "I am growing old," she thought, with a half-smile, "and yet, I am only seventeen. How long this year has been; it is like a lifetime. But yet, it has been a precious year; it has taught me hope and peace, I shudder when I think how I felt a year ago."

Going across the room, she lifted a little curtain which hung before a picture; the frame contained only a fragment of paper, and through the glass the faint pencilled words of Hugh's last message could be seen. "Bessie, try to be good, dear. I love you." Bessie read the words over several times, and then, dropping the little curtain, she fell on her knees by the bedside, and prayed Hugh's prayer. "Lord I believe; help Thou mine unbelief. Lord, be merciful to me a sinner."

Seasons of despondency came to Bessie Darrell; often her pillow was wet with tears; often she was obliged to mourn over her shortcomings, often she prayed in deep contrition for forgiveness of sins,--sins belonging to her quick impulsive nature, besetting sins with which she must struggle to the last. But she never lost her faith, she never ceased to look forward to the other country. Through trouble, through care, through sickness, through affliction, through life, and through death she held fast to the hope that abideth forever. Busy and active, she gave her time first to her Aunt Faith, then to Tom and Gem, and afterwards to the poor and afflicted. She worked hard, and in the very labor she found peace at the last; she tried to make others happy, and, in the end, she found happiness for herself.

Aunt Faith sat by her table, thinking. She was thinking of her loved ones, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters, her husband, and last of all, of Hugh. "For the past month my strength has seemed to fail; it may be that I am nearer home than I know," she thought.

"But all my times are in Thy hand, dear Lord, and whether I go soon, or whether I must tarry many years longer, Thou knowest. Only grant me Thy constant aid, for without Thee I can do nothing." She knelt in prayer, prayed for her children as well as herself. Many tears had she shed over them, many times of trial and apparent failure had darkened her way since the five orphans were given into her charge. But the promise was sure, and although this life may not be long enough for the harvest, although the laborer may see only the bud here on earth, that bud will surely blossom and ripen into fruit in heaven.

"He that goeth on his way weeping, and beareth forth good seed, shall doubtless come again with joy, and bring his sheaves with him." Psalm CXXVI.

The faithful laborer toils on In spite of present sorrow,-- He heeds not toil, he heeds not storm, But labors for the morrow; To him the harvest comes in overflowing measure, To him the fields pour out their overflowing treasure.

He that goeth on his way Bearing seed, though weeping,-- Shall doubtless come again with joy Loaded from the reaping, Loaded with the precious sheaves of faith, and hope, and love, Bearing them, rejoicing, to his Father's house above.

There is quiet now in the old stone house. One of its inmates has gone from earth; one has gone to another home, and those who are left under the roof are all sleeping. The soft moonlight shines on the gray walls, caressing them as though it loved them. Dear old house! thy rooms are haunted with memories of happiness, and hallowed with memories of sorrow. We leave thee regretfully, and turn back again and again as we go, for a last


The Old Stone House - 41/41

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