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- Barriers Burned Away - 60/81 -
"The harbor is near. This rough weather cannot last much longer."
"Mother, do not leave us; we cannot spare you," ever pleaded her son.
Contrary to her expectations, however, she rallied, but continued in a very feeble state. Dennis was able to resume his duties in the store, and he hoped and tried to believe that the warm spring and summer days soon to come would renew his mother's strength. But every day she grew feebler, and Dr. Arten shook his head.
The Bruders were very kind, and it was astonishing how much Mrs. Bruder, though burdened with her large family, found time to do. If Mrs. Fleet had been her own mother she could not have bestowed upon her more loving solicitude. Mr. Bruder was devotion itself. He removed his easel to an attic-room in Mrs. Fleet's house; and every hour of Dennis's absence heard him say: "Vat I do for you now? I feel no goot unless I do someding."
Some little time after Mrs. Fleet was taken sick a mystery arose. The most exquisite flowers and fruits were left at the house from time to time, marked in a bold, manly hand, "For Mrs. Fleet." But all efforts to discover their source failed.
The reader will guess that Christine was the donor, and Dennis hoped it--though, he admitted to himself, with little reason.
Mrs. Fleet had not much pain. She seemed gently wafted as by an ebbing tide away from time and earth, Kindly but firmly she sought to prepare Dennis's mind for the change soon to take place. At first he could not endure its mention, but she said, earnestly: "My son, I am not dying. I am just entering on the true, real, eternal life--a life which is as much beyond this poor feeble existence as the sun is brighter than a glow-worm. I shall soon clasp my dear husband to my heart again, and, oh, ecstasy! I shall soon in reality see the Saviour whom I now see almost continually in vision."
Then again she would turn toward her earthly treasures with unutterable yearning and tenderness.
"Oh, that I could gather you up in my arms and take you all with me!" she would often exclaim. Many times during the day she would call the little girls from their play and kiss their wondering faces.
One evening Dennis came home and found a vase of flowers with a green background of mint at his mother's bedside. Their delicate fragrance greeted him as soon as he entered. As he sat by her side holding her hand, he said, softly: "Mother, are not these sprays of mint rather unusual in a bouquet? Has the plant any special meaning? I have noticed it before mingled with these mysterious flowers."
She smiled and answered, "When I was a girl its language was, 'Let us be friends again.'"
"Do you think--can it be possible that _she_ sends them?" said he, in a low, hesitating tone.
"Prayer is mighty, my son."
"And have you been praying for her all this time, mother?"
"Yes, and will continue to do so to the last."
"Oh, mother! I have lost hope. My heart has been full of bitterness toward her, and I have felt that God was against it all."
"God is not against her learning to know Him, which is life. Jesus has loved her all the time, and she has wronged Him more than she has you."
Dennis bowed his head on his mother's hand, and she felt hot tears fall upon it. At last he murmured: "You are indeed going to heaven soon, dear mother, for your language is not of earth. When will such a spirit dwell within me?"
"Again remember your mother's words," she answered, gently; "prayer is mighty."
"Mother," said he, with a sudden earnestness, "do you think you can pray for us in heaven?"
"I know of no reason to the contrary."
"Then I know you will, and the belief will ever be a source of hope and strength."
Mrs. Fleet was now passing through the land of Beulah. To her strong spiritual vision, the glories of the other shore seemed present, and at times she thought that she really heard music; again it would seem as if her Saviour had entered the plain little room, as He did the humble home at Bethany.
Her thoughts ran much on Christine. One day she wrote, feebly:
"Would Miss Ludolph be willing to come and see a dying woman? ETHEL FLEET."
Mr. Bruder carried it, but most unfortunately Christine was out, so that her maid, ever on the alert to earn the price of her treachery, received it. It was slightly sealed. She opened it, and saw from its contents that it must be given to Mr. Ludolph. He with a frown committed it to the flames.
"I have written to her," she whispered to her son in the evening, "and think she will come to see me."
Dennis was sleepless that night, through his hope and eager expectation. The following day, and the next passed, and she came not.
"I was right," exclaimed he, bitterly. "She is utterly heartless. It was not she who sent the flowers. Who that is human would have refused such a request! Waste no more thought upon her, for she is unworthy, and it is all in vain." "No!" said Mrs. Fleet in sudden energy. "It is not in vain. Have I not prayed again and again? and shall I doubt God?"
"Your faith is stronger than mine," he answered, in deep despondency.
"God's time is not always ours," she answered, gently.
But an angry fire lurked in Dennis's eyes, and he muttered to himself as he went to his room: "She has snapped the last slender cord that bound me to her. I could endure almost anything myself, but that she should refuse to visit my dying mother proves her a monster, with all her beauty."
As he was leaving the house in the morning, his mother whispered, gently, "Who was it that said, 'Father, forgive them, they know not what they do?'"
"Ah, but she does know," said he, bitterly. "I can forgive nearly everything against myself, but not slights to you."
"The time will come when you will forgive everything, my son."
"Not till there is acknowledgment and sorrow for the wrong," answered he, sternly. Then with a sudden burst of tenderness he added: "Good-by, darling mother. I will try to do anything you wish, even though it is impossible;" but his love, through Janette's treachery, suffered the deepest wound it had yet received.
Christine of her own accord had almost decided to call upon Mrs. Fleet, but before she could carry out her purpose while hastily coming downstairs one day, she sprained her ankle, and was confined to her room some little time.
She sent Janette with orders for the flowers, who, at once surmising their destination, said to the florist that she was Miss Ludolph's confidential maid, and would carry them to those for whom they were designed. He, thinking it "all right," gave them to her, and she took them to a Frenchman in the same trade whom she knew, and sold them at half-price, giving him a significant sign to ask no questions. To the same market she brought the fruit; so from that time they ceased as mysteriously as they had appeared at Mrs. Fleet's bedside.
But Dennis was so anxious, and his mother was now failing so rapidly, that he scarcely noted this fact. The warm spring days seemed rather to enervate than to strengthen her. He longed to stay with her constantly, but his daily labor was necessary to secure the comforts needful to an invalid. Every morning he bade her a most tender adieu, and during the day often sent Ernst to inquire how she was.
One evening Christine ventured to send Janette on the same errand and impatiently awaited her return. At last she came, appearing as if flushed and angry.
"Whom did you see?" asked Christine, eagerly.
"I saw Mr. Fleet himself."
"Well, what did he say?"
"He bite his lip, frown, and say, 'Zere is no answer,' and turn on his heel into ze house."
It was now Christine's turn to be angry. "What!" she exclaimed, "does his Bible teach him to forget and forgive nothing? Can it be that he, like the rest of them, believes and acts on only such parts as are to his mood?"
"I don't know nothing about him," said the maid, "only I don't want to go zere again."
"You need not," was the brief reply.
After a long, bitter revery, she sighed: "Ah, well, thus we drift apart. But it is just as well, for apart we must ever be."
One morning early in May Mrs. Fleet was very weak, and Dennis left her with painful misgivings. During the morning he sent Ernst to see how she was, and he soon returned, with wild face, crying, "Come home quick!"
Breaking abruptly from his startled customer, Dennis soon reached his mother's side. Mr. and Mrs. Bruder were sobbing at the foot of the bed, and the girls were pleading piteously on either side--"Oh, mother! please don't go away!"
"Hush!" said Dennis, solemnly. Awed by his manner, all became comparatively silent. He bent over the bed, and said, "Mother, you are leaving us."
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