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- A Day Of Fate - 20/66 -


serving--not being served--is God's patent of nobility. We should not despise the lowliest, for none can stoop so far as He stooped."

Every few moments her low, sweet voice had, as an accompaniment, distant peals of thunder, that after every interval rolled nearer and jarred heavier among the mountains. More than once I saw Miss Warren start nervously, and glance apprehensively at the open window where I sat, and through which the lightning gleamed with increasing vividness. Adah maintained the same utterly quiet, impassive face, and it seemed to me that she heard nothing and thought of nothing. Her eyes were open; her mind was asleep. She appeared an exquisite breathing combination of flesh and blood, and nothing more. Reuben looked at his mother with an expression of simple affection; but one felt that he did not realize very deeply what she was saying; but Mr. Yocomb's face glowed with an honest faith and strong approval.

"The Master said," continued Mrs. Yocomb, after one of the little pauses that intervened between her trains of thought, "'What I do, thou knowest not now.' There He might have stopped. Presuming is the subject that asks his king for the why and wherefore of all that he does. The king is the highest of all; and if he be a king in truth, he sees the furthest of all. It is folly for those beneath the throne to expect to see so far, or to understand why the king, in his far- reaching providence, acts in a way mysterious to them. Our King is kingly, and He sees the end from the beginning. His plans reach through eternities. Why should He ever be asked to explain to such as we? Nevertheless, to the fishermen of Galilee, and to us, He does say, 'Thou shalt know hereafter.'

"The world is full of evil. We meet its sad mysteries on every side, in every form. It often touches us very closely--" For a moment some deep emotion choked her utterance. Involuntarily, I glanced at Adah. Her eyes were drooping a little heavily again, and her bosom rose and fell in the long, quiet breath of complete repose. Miss Warren was regarding the suffering mother with the face of a pitying angel.

"And its evils _are_ evil," resumed the sad-hearted woman, in a tone that was full of suppressed anguish; "at least, they seem so, and I don't understand them--I can't understand them, nor why they are permitted; but He has promised that good shall come out of the evil, and has said, 'Thou shalt know hereafter.' Oh, blessed hereafter! when all clouds shall have rolled away, and in the brightness of my Lord's presence every mystery that now troubles me shall be made clear. Dear Lord, I await Thine own time. Do what seemeth good in Thine own eyes;" and she meekly folded her hands and bowed her head. For a moment or two there was the same impressive silence that fell upon us before she spoke. Then a louder and nearer peal of thunder awakened Zillah, who raised her head from her mother's lap and looked wonderingly around, as if some one had called her.

Never had I witnessed such a scene before, and I turned toward the darkness that I might hide the evidence of feelings that I could not control.

A second later I sprang to my feet, exclaiming, "Wonderful!"

Miss Warren came toward me with apprehension in her face, but I saw that she noted my moist eyes.

I hastened from the room, saying, "Come out on the lawn, all of you, for we may now witness a scene that is grand indeed."

CHAPTER XII

ONE OF NATURE'S TRAGEDIES

I had been so interested in Mrs. Yocomb's words, their effect on the little group around her, and the whole sacred mystery of the scene, that I had ceased to watch the smoking mountain, with its increasingly lurid apex. In the meantime the fire had fully reached the summit, on which stood a large dry tree, and it had become a skeleton of flame. Through this lurid fire and smoke the full moon was rising, its silver disk discolored and partially obscured.

This scene alone, as we gathered on the piazza and lawn below it, might well have filled us with awe and wonder; but a more impressive combination was forming. Advancing from the southwest, up the star-lit sky, which the moon was brightening momentarily, was a cloud whose blackness and heaviness the vivid lightning made only the more apparent.

"I am an old man," said Mr. Yocomb, "but I never saw anything so grand as this before."

"Mother, mother," said little Zillah, "I'm afraid. Please take me upstairs and put me to bed." And the mother, to whom the scene in the heavens was a glorious manifestation of the God she loved rather than feared, denied herself of what was almost like a vision, for the sake of the child.

"It's awful," said Adah; "I won't look at it any longer. I don't see why we can't have nice quiet showers that one can go to sleep in;" and she disappeared within the house. Reuben sat down on the piazza, in his quiet, undemonstrative way. Miss Warren came down and stood close to Mr. Yocomb's side, as if she half unconsciously sought the good man's protection.

Incessant lightnings played from some portion of the cloud, zigzagging in fiery links and forkings, while, at brief intervals, there would be an exceptionally vivid flash, followed more and more closely by heavier and still heavier explosions. But not a leaf stirred around us: the chirp of a cricket was sharply distinct in the stillness. The stars shone serenely over our heads, and the moon, rising to the left out of the line of the smoke and fire, was assuming her silvery brightness, and at the same time rendering the burning mountain more lurid from contrast.

"Herbert, Herbert, now I know how brave you were," I heard Miss Warren exclaim, in a low, awed tone.

I saw by the frequent flashes that she was very pale, and that she was trembling.

"You mean your brother," I said gently.

With her eyes fixed on the threatening and advancing cloud as if fascinated by it, she continued in the same tone, that was full of indescribable dread: "Yes, yes, I never realized it so fully before, and yet I have lain awake whole nights, going, by an awful necessity, over every scene of that terrible day. He stood in his place in the line of battle on an open plain, and he watched battery after battery come down from the heights above and open fire. He stood there till he was slain, looking steadily at death. This cloud that is coming makes me understand the more awful storm of war that he faced. Oh, I wish this hadn't happened," and there was almost agony in her tone. "I'm not brave as he was, and every nearer peal of thunder shakes my very soul."

Mr. Yocomb put his hand tenderly on her shoulder as he said:

"My dear, foolish little child--as if thy Father in heaven would hurt thee!"

"Miss Warren," I said earnestly, "I have too little of Mr. and Mrs. Yocomb's faith; but it seems impossible that anything coming from heaven could harm you."

She drew closer to Mr. Yocomb's side, but still looked at the cloud with the same wide-eyed dread, as if spellbound by it.

"To me," she resumed in her former tone, that only became more hurried and full of fear as the tempest approached, "these awful storms are no part of heaven. They are wholly of earth, and seem the counterparts of those wild outbreaks of human passion from which I and so many poor women in the past have suffered;" and a low sob shook her frame. "I wish I had more of good Mr. Yocomb's spirit; for this appalling cloud seems to me the very incarnation of evil. Why _does_ God permit such things?"

With a front as calm and serene as that of any ancient prophet could have been, Mr. Yocomb began repeating the sublime words, "The voice of Thy thunder was in the heavens; the lightnings lightened the world."

"Oh, no, no!" cried the trembling girl, "the God I worship is not in the storm nor in the fire, but in the still small voice of love. You may think me very weak to be so moved, but truly I cannot help it. My whole nature shrinks from this." I took her hand as I said warmly, "I do understand you, Miss Warren. Unconsciously you have fully explained your mood and feeling. It's in truth your nature, your sensitive, delicate organism, that shrinks from this wild tumult that is coming. In the higher moral tests of courage, when the strongest man might falter and fail, you would be quietly steadfast."

She gave my hand a quick, strong pressure, and then withdrew it as she said, "I hope you are right; you interpret me so generously that I hope I may some day prove you right."

"I need no proof. I saw your very self in the garden."

"How strange--how strange it all is!" she resumed, with a manner that betokened a strong nervous excitability. "Can this be the same world-- these the same scenes that were so full of peace and beauty an hour ago? How tremendous is the contrast between the serene, lovely June day and evening just passed and this coming tempest, whose sullen roar I already hear with increasing dread! Mr. Morton, you said in jest that this was a day of fate. Why did you use the expression? It haunts me, oppresses me. Possibly it is. I rarely give way to presentiments, but I dread the coming of this storm inexpressibly. Oh!" and she trembled violently as a heavier peal than we had yet heard filled the wide valley with awful echoes.

"Not even a sparrow shall fall to the ground without your Father. We are safe, my child. God will shield thee more lovingly than I;" and he drew her closer to him.

"I know what you say is true, and yet I cannot control this mortal fear and weakness."

"No, Miss Warren, you cannot," I said; "therefore do not blame yourself. You tremble as these trees and shrubs will be agitated in a few moments, because you cannot help it."

"You are not so moved."

"No, nor will that post be moved," I replied, with a reckless laugh. "I must admit that I am very much excited, however, for the air is


A Day Of Fate - 20/66

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